A Day In the Life of a Coach (or in this case, a few races in the life of a coach)
Those of you who know me or who have read some of my race reports or articles know that I get into the weeds quite a bit at times. What keeps me going in the sport, among other things, is always having the feeling that I could do better and I always dig deep in analyzing a race. Sometimes that even starts before the race is finished. I can remember clearly on my fourth race in Kona walking up the last long hill to the top of Palani and running the race through my mind looking for things not executed well. That was not my best race, by a wide margin, having had a very slow swim due to cramping so there was nothing lost in letting my mind wander 2 miles from the finish.
Having my finish position settled by seconds in many IronMan events, I always focused on ‘Free Speed’. I go to great pains to make my bike and myself as aero as possible, find the fastest way to fuel up at aide stations and look for ways to speed myself through transition. I started looking at my completion of my A race this year (IMAZ), another obsession made easier every year by the reduction of athletes racing at my age. Something clicked and I dug into the weeds of my transition times in Kona as my two toughest competitors in AZ have raced there many times. The results were a surprise.
I knew I was not the fastest transition wizard, but they were much worse than expected. In 2011 my total time, T1 & T2 was 8 minutes slower than the winner of the event who got through both in just over 8 minutes. I had the slowest total transition of the top 10, I finished 3rd that year. I remember that year that I changed my clothes from a skin suit to my bike gear, separate top and bottom, something I stopped doing in the following years. In 2012 I was 6 minutes faster through transitions (10:12), I wore my skin suit over my bike gear that year. I got a lot of chafe from that and went back to changing clothes the following two years and was 1-2 minutes slower.
Some of the other things that cost me time:
• how I carried my fuel supplies. In 2011 I was packing a lot more on myself and my bike.
• Stopping for a pee in the changing tent instead of getting things done while moving on the bike.
How all this plays out is highlighted by my 2012 second place result. I was 9 seconds ahead of 3rd place. Scott Balfour had out run me by 51 minutes, he frequently posts the fastest run split when he races in Kona. He caught up to me at the top of Palani, but I was able to find some extra speed for the last mile or so. I could not see him behind me as I made the last turn onto Alii. However, he must have found something more than I did on the final stretch on Alii as there he is in my finish photo. His transition time was 2:47 slower than mine.
And, when you do sweat the details you sometimes find a nice surprise. Cropping the picture of my finish to get a better look at Scott revealed my number one fan Ingrid, with glasses leaning forward and she was looking at me.
Coach Simon Butterworth is an 12 time Kona finisher! He continues to learn from every race he does and brings that knowledge to the athletes he coaches.