This month’s Athlete Interview is with Marc DeCaul. Marc is a former ITU racer but now with a family and limited time to train and he has to get creative with his training. Enjoy the interview with Marc!
D3: Marc, where do you live? And when did you start working with D3?
MD: I live in Grenada, a small island in the southern Caribbean. I started working with D3 with Mike in early 2017.
D3: What does a normal day look like - work, family time, etc?
MD: I break my day up into segments - training, work, kids/family/wife. I try to achieve a lot each day so I try to make sure whichever segment I am in, I am truly focused on it. I find that better than always working on all things. My typical day starts not very early, I'm much more of a night owl. I get up and get myself ready for my daily workouts and get them out of the way. I find once I get into other things, I get too busy and end up having to skip workouts which I hate. It also gets hotter as the day goes on so it's harder to workout later.
Once the workouts are done I get started on work. I don't like to work long hours and I have worked hard to be as efficient as possible, with little distractions, and just trying to be as productive as possible. I get a lot done in a short amount of time. For instance I mostly only answer work emails once a day. I see them on my phone so I can respond if there is something urgent or quick but apart from that I have a time when I do them and then move on.
MD:Work ends when I have to pick the girls up from school, mostly at 4pm depending on whether they have dance, tae kwon do, tennis, or music. We (me, the girls, and my wife, when she finishes work) then spend the afternoon hanging out, we sometimes go ride our bikes, go to the beach or pool, sailing the Hobie cat, Kayaking, playing Monopoly or just watching a Disney movie. About 6:30 I get the kids fed, showered, brush their hair, read a story and put them to bed at about 7:30. Then have dinner with my wife and then we relax before bed, often watching Netflix. There are days where I don't get all my work done in the day and jump back on my computer and put in a few more hours of work after dinner.
D3: Are the weekends the same - same routine?
MD:The weekends are similar except I work less and hang out with the family more. I will head out with friends with kids of similar ages and we all go to the beach most of the time.
D3: Do you have to travel for almost all your races?
MD:I more or less always have to travel internationally to race. At one point I was the organizer of a big event here in Grenada with internationals coming in but as the race director I never got to compete at the event. I wasn't able to put it on in 2017 and lost the momentum for a few years. I scheduled to start the event again in 2020 but that didn't happen obviously. There are a few races here in Grenada currently, but they are fairly small and not having races for a few years has meant that the level of competition and depth of field is quite low so they don't really satisfy my drive for competition very much. There are a few youngsters that I am coaching that are getting quite fast so the racing is getting a bit more interesting locally.
D3: How did you get started with triathlon? ?
MD: I did a few races locally as a kid. There was very little in the way of organized sport on the island growing up, not events nor people with experience or knowledge to do any coaching. I however loved riding my bike, it was just a cheap MTB but I rode every chance I could. Not for sport or training particularly. It was just a method of transport and freedom, a way to explore and I loved going fast. I was asked in school what I wanted to be and I said I just wanted to ride my bike. Not that I thought it was a profession, I just want to do it.
I left home at 16 to live in the UK for a couple years of high school and then on to college. I did my first race in the UK the first summer and got hypothermia in the swim. I had never experienced water that cold. I couldn’t put my head in the water. I think the swim took me nearly an hour, just doing doggy paddle for 1500m. I finished the race but I shivered the entire time. I didn’t race again for 3 years.
It was finally when I got to college, they had the UK college champs and they were in a pool and I figured I could handle that. For some reason, I went into the event thinking I was a medal contender. I finished 63rd out of 64 athletes (male and female). Most of the field were UK pros. I did not take it well. I couldn’t believe that I did so bad. I spent that entire night, maybe 6 hours analyzing the results, comparing every timing point to every other athlete and working out percentages. I worked out that had I been 5% faster in 1 of the disciplines (I can’t remember which now but it was the one I was the worst at likely) I could have gained x places. I signed up for another pool based tri 2 weeks later with the goal of just improving that and I did. I then set another achievable goal of 1 thing to improve and raced again 2 weeks later. I did that all summer and at the end was much more competitive.
I went to triathlon expo in early 2003 and Steve Trew was doing a talk. He had coached one of the female Olympians and written a couple books on training. As usual I had zero perspective on where I stood, I knew where I was planning to stand, and that was what I saw about myself. I went to speak to Steve after his talk to ask him to train me. You can imagine the look on his face when he asked who I was and my experience. I explained I had basically been racing sprints but intended to go to the world champs that year. He suggested I buy his book and get some of the basics and some more experience. I insisted and eventually he caved and invited me to a training camp in Malta. I think he thought I wouldn’t make the commitment but I did. That is when things changed again.
There were a couple elites that Steve coached that came to the camp. That is when I found out that there were pro athletes and all they did was train all day. I got to live that life for 2 weeks in Malta. Wake up and train and eat until it was bed time. That was when I decided that I was going to race full time. That year I didn’t make top 5 at any of the qualification races for worlds but I was close. I did qualify for Euro champs in Czech and I ended up qualifying on the roll down for worlds. That year they had the qualification for 2003 and 2004 and 2004 was so early in the year. 2003 was on short notice and I hadn’t been training. 2004 I believed I was going to win, I put in so much work but my tire went flat in transition, loose valve core. I didn’t have a spare so I only did the swim. I was very upset. I don’t think I was as fast as I thought I was though anyway.
From there I basically started making my plans to race full time. I knew everyone trained in Australia over the winter so I started looking in coaches. I found out about a coach name Bill Daveron on the Gold Coast. Like my usual unaware self, I called him to explain my plan and his role in it. He had a similar response to Steve Trew but ultimately complied and agreed to let me join his squad and organized a homestay for me. That November I moved to Australia and started training full time. It was about my 3rd or 4th run with Brad Kahlefeldt that I found it he was ranked number 1 in the world and I realized I had once again skipped a few steps. At that point I still had no idea about the process. I was laughed at 60 mins into a Sunday run when I remarked “wow, you guys run for long, I have never run this long before”. I spent 6 months there doing the work. I was still very green though, I definitely took on too much too soon. Their philosophy was to do lot’s of training and I couldn’t always recover. In fact I think I was permanently over trained.
Basically somewhere in there my goals were short course elite ITU races, going to Commonwealth Games and qualifying for the Olympics. I was a bit more realistic about what it would take and knew where I really was. From Australia I ended up in Ontario, Canada training under Barrie Shepley. I was racing ITU draft legal races and went to the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and then Central America and Caribbean Games later that year. I also raced at the PanAm Games in 2007. I was very strong on the bike, could control the bike pack. My run was not great but my real issue was my swim. I was not really good enough to get out the water in the packs so my run didn’t really matter. By 2007 I started being able to handle the training and learning how to really push myself and what I was capable of. I started making big inroads on the swim and was able to stay with a pack by late 2007. I had also gained a bit on the run. I ran 17:12 for a 5km road race on a rolling course. Not fast enough to make me a threat to anyone but I wasn’t slow. Unfortunately though, it was my last season and I had to stop right when I was finally starting to adapt and make progress.
Around 2017, I really missed racing and the competition though and got in touch with Mike in 2017 to give me some direction.
D3: Do you train with partners?
MD: I pretty much never train with partners but I definitely miss having people to train with. It would make it so much harder to miss a workout, it would certainly help on the days that it doesn't seem to be going well and most importantly, the social aspect just makes it more fun. Unfortunately there isn't anyone here that wants to train to my level and for me to balance family, work and getting enough sleep at night, I tend to train at times that don't work with other people's schedules. I do get people to join me for some of my long runs sometimes. There are about 3 or 4 people that will run with me but they are not consistent. Often I get at least 1 of them to show up on a Sunday morning.
D3: What is your favorite workout?
MD: I don't know if I have a favorite workout really, but I know it is probably on the bike. I do enjoy long group rides but the group part is hard to achieve here. Generally though I like workouts with short, tough intervals or big climbs. I think I'm just a husky deep inside and just need to be worked.
D3: Name one area where you've improved while working with D3?
MD: I think my discipline has improved the most with D3. The direction has been so important. I want to do the work. I just need the structure and being told what to do each day. I'm like a robot with a directive and I go to bed and can't wait to get up the next day and execute the command. I think this is especially important as I train alone, I have no group to meet, no set time I have to be at the pool or the track, and no one relying on me. In general I really struggle with not completing a goal, I stick at tasks way longer than I should just to see them through. I am unable to let go of my mind if I haven't done the workouts in TP. Before D3, I would create the structure but it was open to subjectivity from me. If I was tired, I could wake up and rather than getting going and realizing I just needed to warm up, I would justify that I needed a break and change the workout or just not do it. I would be motivated still but didn't have the discipline to always stick to it. Of course I have to have total trust in Mike because whatever he says to do, I do.
D3: What does a typical training day look like?
MD: A typical training day during the week is normally either a bike and gym day or a run and swim day. I try to get them done back to back as best as possible because as the day goes on the less likely I am to be able to get the second workout done. I try to prioritize the workout that I need to do before it gets too hot the most. Even the pool swims can be brutally hot later in the morning. I do most of the bike rides on the trainer, it's just more time efficient and I can ride the exact numbers in ERG mode. There are no flat roads here, the hills tend to be quite steep but short, so it is impossible to stay in the right zones. I do my runs on the roads in my neighborhood rather than having to drive somewhere to run to save time. The exception may be for the long runs on a Sunday as I have a bit more time and the change of scenery is a plus. I swim in an odd shaped hotel pool 5 minutes away,
D3: Thanks so much for talking Marc and good luck this upcoming season!