This opportunity to be apart of a team that wins the Age Group National Champion doesn't come very often. I still remember seeing the results of the race and letting out a stream of excitement. As a coach, the messages I try to get across to every athlete are:
Achieve consistency, no matter what. Even if it means slower and less work.
Don't focus too much on the long term. Immerse yourself in the daily details to achieve consistency.
Rachel Creates Success
Rachel is very competitive and incredibly intelligent. She does her research. She knows the courses. She knows who she’s racing. She knows where every QOM is in Madison (A true Strava hunter!). Also, what I like about Rachel is that she does have an off switch with triathlon. She isn't afraid to have a beer and burger. I would say that she is 90% committed to being excellent and this is, in my opinion, the reason she is the best age grouper in the nation. When you immerse yourself too deep, too frequent, your chances for burnout go up. You essentially lose your life balance and Rachel has the right balance on life and triathlon.
Rachel Shows Up
In 2018 Rachel was 9th overall and 3 minutes away from the overall win at Age Group Nationals. At 2018 ITU World Championships she was 5th Overall (3rd AG) and less than 2 minutes away from the overall win.
These two results showed that big things are possible. The work that went into the 2019 offseason was not fancy. It was very routine every week.
The main focus for Rachel in 2019 was
1) Stay healthy running
2) Achieve consistency in training
3) race more competitive events.
I felt that because Rachel is still new to triathlon, we needed more underlying work that would provide her the ability to race harder and longer. We avoided big spikes in training hours and just focused on training. We only had two hard run sessions a week. The rest of the runs were ceilinged at 8:00 per mile, no faster. These changes allowed Rachel to remain healthy, unlike in 2018 when we pushed too much and dealt with reoccurring injuries.
If you are injured, you are not training. We would finish up hard Tuesday PM Bike/Run practice and Rachel never missed Wednesday AM swim workouts.
Communication Builds Champions
When training isn't going well, I hear about it. When something is bothering her, I hear about it. This level of communication is the foundation of success. There is no hiding workouts, thoughts, or agendas. That builds mistrust. I am open to Rachel training with other athletes and groups. If it allows her to be better, it makes sense. I am far from a controlling coach. I am the middle person who overlooks her stress levels. Communication is critical if you want success. Sometimes communication can be hard, but when she is standing on the top step, it's worth it.
Less is More; More is More.
Because Rachel's triathlon age is still quite young, I need to train her accordingly. Rachel has a good swimming and running background, but when combining all three at a high level, we needed to be careful. Less training is commonly better than more early. Doing more when the body isn't ready to accept it will result in fewer adaptations and more injuries. Rachel is also a very explosive athlete and in my experience, these athletes can be more injury-prone. Also, understanding Rachel's physiology allows me to balance her intensity buckets better. We don't need to do as much high intensity running as we do tempo/threshold running.
Once we found the least amount of work possible needed to achieve results, we did quite a bit of training at this threshold. It's not as if we are lazy, Rachel trains a lot and hard, but its enough for her at this time. The acceptable load of an athlete changes as they change. So find your optimal training dose, train as much as you can at it, and slowly increase. Less is more because it allows you to train more.
Always Close to Peak Fitness
With short course racing, I don't believe in extensive builds to achieve peak results. I am a firm believer that an athlete should be no more than 4-8 weeks away from a peak race in a four-month period. Short course racing is different than long course racing and the training is slightly different, as well as the mentality. When preparing for shorter events, you should always be developing different buckets of intensity and specificity while maintaining a substantial level of base work. When you get closer to a race you start to add more water in certain ones but never going full in on one. Plus, Rachel needed more experience racing and when naturally racing to win, she needs to be close to your peak form.
In the final period before Nationals, there was never a workout when we said "Yes, that's it, you are ready" as I feel those moments are risky. We didn't go seeking confidence in workouts. There was just the confidence that she was healthy, focused, and more experienced.
Also, I've never been a fan of formulating a big game plan before triathlons. I don't believe athletes remember them and they do more harm than good. Before the race, I sent her a message saying, "You know what you need to do and how to do it. You've done it and you've done it well. So tomorrow is about going out there and doing it again."
And she did. Better than anyone else.
In conclusion, I feel incredibly fortunate to work with Rachel. It's not often a coach works with the USAT National Champion. To win this race is a tremendous honor. If coaches are reading this, I hope you found this helpful and feel free to reach out if you have questions.