It is week's like this that make you realise how much you love coaching. Race season is here. Time to see the fruits of the athlete's labour.
As a coach I am learning all the time. I have many years of experience, my British Triathlon Level 3 qualification and more recently my IRONMAN Coaching Certification. The training camps I have delivered. The years teaching swimming before Triathlon and of course working in the sport of triathlon for several years.
However, coaching cannot be learnt from a book. I am always looking for ways to improve, be better. If I am better, then my athletes will be better. Sometimes it is not even my coaching which needs to improve, but actually how to deal with certain situations. Did I handle that right? Could I do anything better? How can we improve on that?
No one is more critical of me... than me! But... I have to back myself... just as an athlete does.
That is how I want my athletes to race too. What did I learn? Could I do anything better? Triathletes need to be accountable for their performances. Just as coaches are. We are accountable for our performances AND those of the athletes... especially when things do not quite go to plan...
Coaching is about preparing the athlete for their main event. This can take years. An athlete will only reach their true potential after years of training. You won't rock up and be an all star in a month. It takes time, dedication, determination, perseverance and years to achieve.
So the juniors learned a lot but made mistakes. Hey they are juniors and this was their first race of the season.
I have got to give the kids credit, they executed their races really well. They went out and delivered swims that put them in the race. It was draft legal racing.
You cannot win a race in the swim, but you can certainly lose one. They did pretty well through transition 1... although they both learned there are things you can do which will really help. Getting yourself into a good position out of T1. Making time up in T1. Little things.
On the bike it is important to think about what is happening in the race or on race day. What is the wind doing? Who else is in your group? Is there a group coming up from behind? Who is doing all the work, and when? This is racing. This is about developing race craft. They are learning.
We have practiced mounts and dismounts in training - a lot, but when you are racing, you still need to think clearly. Dismounting after the line is a mistake. We learn and move on. Its not something to dwell on. It was first race of the season... crikey Jonathon Brownlee mounted before the mount line in the Olympics (2012)... it happens.
This is actually why I encourage all the triathletes I coach to race quite often. So you can go through those things you can screw up and make sure you have a 'race head' on when you race. In the heat of battle it is easy to forget something, or to forget to do something. It can be simple like: forgetting pins for your numbers or... it can be race ending like, forgetting your run shoes.
Often at races people make mistakes.
It might be doing a lap short on the run, or running with your helmet on (yep the whole 10k!), or missing a buoy in the swim. We all do them. Its part of racing. It is so important to practice before your big event... by racing.
So, what can I take away from watching the juniors? Quite a lot actually. Much of it will be delivered across F4L sessions in the coming weeks... some might appear at races... some things you may not even notice, but they will be there.
What else has been happening?
Well, Darth Vader laid an egg! (Luke, Obi Wan and Vader are all growing nicely - ready for a Sunday roast at some point!)
Anyone that follows F1 will know that Lewis Hamilton has just sealed the F1 World Drivers Championship. This has been pretty sensational, watching how Lewis has developed as champion this season. He seems to be on another level at the moment, both on the track and off it. Watching his rival Sebastien Vettel's title challenge collapse whilst Lewis, with his team, has stepped up is amazing. When he overtook Vettel in Texas last weekend, the commentator described it as, "Lewis simply looked like he got bored of being in second place!"
Ok, back to Triathlon:
I have been working in some schools delivering the sport of Triathlon. Here in WA there is an event coming up which enables school children to enter and have a go at the sport. Its a fairly big deal. For the good athletes, there is the opportunity to qualify for the WA State Team. For others though there is the chance to have a go at the sport.
Working with the schools in the last few weeks has been, fun, enlightening and inspiring. Giving school kids the chance to be coached in a sport which didn't involve a ball in their school has been awesome... I am already planning how to make a bigger contribution next year in schools. Obviously we would love some of these kids to move into the club environment. Our local club, Phoenix Triathlon Club WA, has started more kids sessions. Its brilliant seeing these kids engage with their coaches, enjoying the sport. It is also nice to be able to simply sit and watch my daughter take part.
And speaking of IRONMAN... IMWA is coming... I am still feeling motivated (not for an a full Ironman) but just to train, keep fit, maybe dabble in the odd race here and there. I am desperately trying not to carry a spare tyre to all training sessions. The athletes we have racing in Busselton, are all looking lean and mean. Got a few races before that too: Challenge Shepperton, Left Bank - we have a biggish group heading here, Power Station and of course the juniors racing at the schools events.
And so, now, race season in WA has arrived... which means we are swimming on a regular basis open water. Perhaps a blog on how to practice open water swimming in a pool might be coming soon...