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I began doing triathlons in 1986, and I figured I was pretty much good to go. I was competing in both cross-country running and swimming in high school. The triathlon excited me because it seemed like a sport I would naturally be able to do. Swimming and running seemed like to only challenge. Afterall, everyone know how to ride a bike, right?
I’ve always said that you learn the most from your first triathlon. That was my experience at least. I was surprised how the swim and run were much harder than I expected. Oh, and I was clueless about generating any speed on the bike! Through brute force and volume I learned to race in triathlons confidently. It was difficult because I made it difficult, and figured that was the correct way to train. Eventually though I realized my training strategy was not getting me any further.
I thought about this recently when I spoke to an athlete that had figured out what he needed to get better at triathlon. He wanted help with swim technique, but not with his training. He said he got in all the bricks and other workouts that he needed to do. In our conversation it dawned on me that he thinks he know what he needs to do, but probably doesn’t. It’s easy to have blinders on and not see what is missing from your training to take your performance to the next level. I’ve been there. Hitting a wall in performance, and realizing you’ve exhausted every effort you can think of to reach your goals is humbling. I look back now and think what could have been if I had a coach earlier instead of committing years to doing it my own way.
What is holding you back in your performance? Do you even know? You might want to consider how much disappointment you might be avoiding by hiring an experienced coach.
Have you had personal experiences with a coach in triathlon or other sports that brought you to a new level of fitness and performance? Post your comments below.


Looking for a coach without an initiation fee or any long term commitments? Check out CoachMe Triathlon

This new service will start acceptiing athlete profiles 2/2/2011. If you are in the San Diego area and would like to have one on one training with me, enter “Jerald Cook” in the “I know my coach” question.

Date: Saturday, November 06, 2010

Distances: ½ mile swim, 12.5 mile bike, 4 mile run

I’ve said it many times before that the club races are amongst my favorite races, and today’s race was just as awesome. This was the final club race for 2010. The end of the year tends to bring out fewer athletes because the season has usually rapped up, and the weather tends to not be as favorable. Following a couple super hot days in San Diego, the weather was much more mild but extremely comfortable for racing. The turnout was pretty decent with many first time triathletes, new club members, and plenty of regulars.

It was dark when we arrived, but the sun came up shortly before race start. I was excited about being able to come race since it was 4 weeks after Kona and I hadn’t seen a lot of my tri club friends since the race. I thought about warming up for the race, since I was hoping to perform decently and it is tough to start a race without any warm up, but decided to relax and chat with people instead. The guy I was next to in transition (sorry, forgot his name already) is Marine that recently transferred to Camp Pendleton. He had done the Marine Corps Marathon last week, and this was his 4th triathlon, 1st club race. He had just started triathlons this summer and found out about the tri club after seeing so many tri club uniforms at the Mission Bay Triathlon. I think it’s awesome to see excitement in new triathletes like him. He was definitely jazzed about the race and I think his family enjoyed spectating.

My swimming has been coming along pretty well. I’m not sure how fast I was this time, but since I didn’t warm up I kept my effort at about 90%, quick but comfortable. I was glad that when I exited I could see the 4 people ahead of me. I passed one in transition, and then another right after the start of the bike. The lead cyclist created enough distance and was going fast enough that it took me about 3.5 miles to catch him. He said I scared him when I flew by. I didn’t realize it was Keith Butsko until I caught him. I created some decent distance on Keith, but was passed about ½ mile into the run, and then Matt Dixon passed me about 1.5 miles into the run.

One thing I like to do with these club races is some comparison tables. It helps me track my performance on the same course over time. I’m going to save the analysis for a later club race though when I am starting to ramp up the intensity. Right now I’m reminding myself daily about the purpose of the base training period.

Since I am beginning my 2011 Season today (Base Period), I thought I would throw up the events I did in 2010. I decided to include races, and events that are not races such as brevets because they hold similar significance to me. My “A” races for the year ended up being Kona and Ironman California, but I had some other great races. If I wrote a report for the event, I included the link to that report.




PCH Randonneurs Brevet Series, 200K


TCSD Duathlon


Dirt Devil Trail Race, 5K


TCSD Duathlon


Sunset Beach Safari Permanent, 227K


UCSD Tritonman, 500 yds, 12.5 mile, 3.1 mile


Dare to Race Grand Prix, Masters 40+


Dare to Race Grand Prix, Masters 30+


Desert International Triathlon, ¾ mile, 24 mile, 6 mile


MCRD St. Patricks Day, 5K


TCSD Duathlon


Tour de Murrieta Circuit, Masters 35+


Old Town to Warner Springs Permanent, 207K


Eldorado Park Twilight Series Criterium, Sr 4-5


TCSD Triathlon, ½ mile, 12.5 mile, 4 mile


Ironman California 70.3, 1.2 mile, 56 mile, 13.1 mile


TCSD Pine Valley Duathlon, 17 mile, 4 mile


SuperSeal Olympic Tri, 1.5K, 40K, 10K


Irvine Great Park Criterium, Sr 4-5


Mt Laguna Bike Classic, 101 mile


Lazy Lizard Lowdown Permanent, 213K


Coastal Cruise Permanent, 230K


TCSD Fiesta Island Time Trial, 20K


Encinitas Sprint Triathlon, 0.75K, 20K, 5K


TCSD Triathlon, ½ mile, 12.5 mile, 4 mile


Armed Forces Triathlon Championships, 1.5K, 40K, 10K


TCSD Fiesta Island Time Trial, 20K


Too Broke Olympic Race


San Diego Randonneurs Brevet Series, 300K


San Diego International Triathlon, 1K, 30K, 10K


Rainbow Prelude Permanent, 200K


San Diego Randonneurs Brevet Series, 200K


Carlsbad Triathlon


Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, 13.1 mile


Santa Cruz Randonneurs Brevet Series, 200K


TCSD Fiesta Island Time Trial, 20K


Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon, 0.5K, 30K, 5K


Sunset Beach Safari Permanent, 227K


Boulevard/Kitchen Creek Figure of Eight Permanent, 101K


TCSD Triathlon, 1 mile, 38.3 mile, 8.4 mile


Rainbow Prelude Permanent, 200K


TCSD Fiesta Island Time Trial, 20K


Disneyland Half Marathon, 13.1 mile


TCSD Aquathlon, 1000 meter, 3 mile


PCH Randonneurs Brevet Series, 400K


San Diego Triathlon Classic, 1.5K, 40K, 10K


Boulevard/Kitchen Creek Figure of Eight Permanent, 101K


TCSD Triathlon, ½ mile, 12.5 mile, 4 mile


Ironman World Championships, 2.4 mile, 112 mile, 26.2 mile


Sunset Beach Safari Permanent, 227K

Date: Sunday, June 13, 2010

Location: Fiesta Island, San Diego, CA

This race was an idea by Brendan Wolters. He had sent out an email to a few people and suggested we just get together and race. I hadn’t RSVP’d because I’ve been rather flaky (with myself) on my training plan lately, so I waited to see if I actually got myself out the door or not. I figured the worst case would be that no one decided to race and I would just do a brick workout on the island.

I woke up this morning around 5:30, and wanted to leave the house around 6. I had plenty of time. I prepped my bike, loaded my shoes and goggles and some food into a shoe bag, had a cup of coffee and after wasting some time actually hit the road around 6:10. I decided to ride to the island since it is only about 12 miles from my house and it is light out at 6 now. I got there a little early, so I rode another 5 miles on the island. People trickled in, and we ended up with about 7 people racing, but 2 chose to not swim.

The start/finish/transition was located at the same place as the tri-club races. The swim plan was to go out to from the beach to the island and back. This was the first time I used my Garmin 310XT to record my swim and this is what it tracked:

The total swim distance I recorded was 1.26 miles. Just by looking at my sweeping swim route on the way out (I wasn’t sure what I was sighting on), and the overall jagged course, it is probably safe to say that the course was approximately a mile. My time was just under 22 minutes, which is pretty much what I would expect for a mile course.

The bike was 6 large laps on Fiesta Island, which equates to about 24.6 miles.

Here is a summary from the bike portion. My effort felt strong, but not quite at race effort. My averaged HR was 138, and I would usually see it in the 150’s during an actual race of this length. My power and speed was okay, but not quite to what I’ve done in other races.

The last segment was the run, and it was about 6.6 miles (as planned). The plan was to run a big loop, and the small loop (which is usually the south loop). A couple people misunderstood this, being used to the club races and did the shorter loop, which totaled about 6 miles instead of 6.6. It didn’t matter. We were there for a good workout and some friendly competition to fire us up. It can be challenging to put forth a hard effort when training alone. My run was rather unremarkable. It was similar to the run I did last week at the Armed Forces Championships (as far as pace goes), but I did feel more relaxed.

I love the idea of racing for free. TCSD’s club races are fantastic because they draw a great mix of triathletes, and they are free! There is competition available for everyone at these events. I have a feeling that we will be doing some more of these unofficial events over the summer.

Following the event a couple of us went for a short ride. I just rode back home, so I got in another 12 miles. All in all it was a great way to start the day!

Date: 5 June 2010

Location: Point Mugu, CA

I know I haven’t written anything in a while, but I was rolling into this championship race at the same time as finals week. I was trying to front load some of the work I had to do before the race, and then still had to play catch up for a couple days after. Although my personal performance was remarkably poor (not too exciting to write about), this is still an incredible event and I feel fortunate to have even been a part of it.

This race is an invitation only race. Each branch of service, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, put together teams of 10 men and 6 women. This has been going on now since 1998, and this was my second consecutive year competing. The race is unique in that it is a small field of elite athletes, and it is also an ITU style (draft legal) race. Most of us do not regularly race in this type of event, and although this was my second time racing here I was still surprised by how difficult this type of race can be.

Unfortunately I wasn’t rolling into this race in top shape. I had applied for the race mid April, right after having decent races at Oceanside 70.3 and Superseal. Even before Oceanside I had started the downward spiral of reduced fitness and weight gain, which I’ve alluded to in previous posts. It is obvious to see this when I look back on the training log, but at the time it just seemed to be a couple of hiccups in the training plan. I decided to try to make the best of it though, and to give what I could in the race. Although I was slower in every leg, my swim and bike times only seemed a little slower than when I was in top shape, and they didn’t feel particularly “bad”. My running has been terrible lately, and feels horrible. Even at Superseal my running wasn’t very good, but this weekend I ran a minute/mile slower than at Superseal, and 1.5 minutes/mile slower than at other Olympic distance races I’ve done in the past 6 months.

So what makes this race so special? I think it is the collection of athletes that are there. Not only do we have our sport in common, but we are also members of the Armed Forces, and we are brought together from around the globe. Most of the athletes I do not see or race against regularly. There was only one other Navy athlete from San Diego, Tommy Brown, and then there were several Marines that I’ve been able to race with regularly. Several of the athletes I had met last year, but most of them I had not met before. Deployment schedules, changes in duty station, and service obligations often interfere with people’s ability to race. There are often people that are good enough athletes that just can’t make it.

My wife Molly was selected for the Navy women’s team both years that I have done this race. This year we were already familiar with the race and the caliber of athletes that were there, so I think we were much more relaxed. I’ve been particularly stressed lately, so this almost seemed like a vacation for us. I had brought study materials and had a paper to write, but ended up ignoring them which was a good thing. We both needed the break, and the chance to come out and race for free with some awesome athletes was a great experience. We arrived on Wednesday in Point Mugu, and stayed at the Beach Motel on base. The accommodations were simple, but comfortable. Molly and I weren’t the only couple that was racing, which was pretty cool. Chris and Laura Springer were also on the Navy team. It is cool to see couples adopting healthy lifestyles.

On Thursday we had team meetings and activities scattered throughout the day. The team met at 5:30 AM to head over to the pool before breakfast, then after breakfast we did a preview of the bike course. The course is flat with several 90 degree turns, and the quality of the roads varied from very smooth to fairly rough. It was good to get out and figure out the best lines to take for the turns, and where on each road to bike on. Since it is a draft legal race, the entire road was open. In non-drafting races you have to stay to the right to keep the left open for passing.

The swim is a triangle with two buoys in the water and one on the beach. It was a two lap swim, and we had to exit the water after the first lap and run around the buoy. It is amazing how tough this is. Sprinting out of the water, and then sprinting back into the water is a combination for max heart rate. The start of the bike is similarly tough in that I wanted to get on the wheels ahead of me. On the bike a little ahead of me was teammate Lee Boyer. Just behind me coming out of the water was Sam Dannenbring, but he had a fast transition and quickly caught up to Lee on the bike. With me was an airman and a marine, and we pushed to catch up to Sam and Lee (they were actually waiting for us). Immediately we started a pace line but Lee fell off from the start, and I fell off about a mile later. I realized that usually in a triathlon I’ll cruise the first 5-10 miles, keeping the power a little on the low side while my legs warm up after the swim. Then I’ll notice that my breathing is more relaxed and my legs actually feel good. This is the point that I bring up the power and hold it. In this race though I was way over my threshold power as soon as the bike started, and the next thing I knew I was gassed. I had to settle down for a while before I met up with Nicholas Brown who wasn’t feeling well on the bike. I tried pulling him for a little bit, then another airman and two marines met up with us and we started another pace line. Nick fell off after about a minute, and I held it with them for about 10 miles. My hands had completely fallen asleep at that point and when I tried to brake around a turn I couldn’t feel how much pressure I was applying to the brakes. I was trying to just feather them, but was feeling the bike jerk. I sat up for a minute and shook my hands out, and couldn’t catch back up to the pace line.

The run was just bad for me. I kept getting passed, and even got chicked by the lead female (and they started behind us). I finished 48th of 50 men, and one of them didn’t finish the swim. I had heard that he took a kick to the throat and had swallowed a lot of water so he had to get pulled out. It was a humbling experience in some ways, but my focus now really needs to be on getting ready for Kona. Kona is only 4 months from today, so I can’t afford to mess around anymore!

Results are here.

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