Maximizing Training Part II

December 15, 2016

Mike Ricci


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Fast forward to September and the next phone call I get is not the one I was expecting: he has been in a mountain bike accident and has punctured a lung, broken ribs and is lucky to be alive. (To be continued)… The news is not good. Looks like my athlete (let’s call him ST) will be out of commission for several months. We didn’t take any chances on training at all, sticking to exactly what the doctor’s orders were: nothing more than a little swimming and some spinning on the bike; trainer only.

Up until January 1st, that was it. In between the bike accident and mid-November ST decided to sign up for Ironman Florida. In his own words he just needed a goal and to prove to himself that he could still get out there and do this sport that he loved. By mid-January training was moving along nicely, maybe five or six hours per week. Everything was easy and light. Half Ironman CA was on the horizon in March, and I could see that the race was going to be a challenge. Without the benefit of riding outside and with most of the running on the treadmill, ST has his work cut out for him. So, he swam, biked and ran in the miserable March weather of SoCal to a 6:06. In reality this was a great race for ST, as a few weeks before he hadn’t even been training. Following Half IM CA ST was out in CA again, once to run the San Diego Marathon and then with me in tow, as we tackled the World’s Toughest Tri. ST did great in both races and finally his run was close to being up to speed. Now that we had his strengths back in line, it was time to focus on the bike. The next big race on the agenda was Half Vineman in August. Between the World’s Toughest and Half Vineman, ST put in some good hard bike workouts in the heat of the desert. He followed the plan to the letter, and with his hectic schedule (2 kids, full time job), his preparation was great.

The Half Vineman didn’t go as well as we hoped and all the doubts started creeping in about IM FL. ST was on the verge of just bagging the whole sport after Half Vineman. What he forgot was that 10 months earlier, he was lucky to be alive! We had a little chat and I just told him that some days you have it, and some days you don’t. Today was one of those days that he didn’t have it. Just forget it and move on. I knew if he could just keep plugging along, a nice personal best would be waiting for him at IMFL. Over the course of the next few weeks, nasty wind storms, flat tires, extreme heat and normal everyday stress reeked havoc on the training plan. Following the debacle at Vineman, this wasn’t good news. I got a phone call from ST the day he was supposed to be out doing his last long ride, a 100 miler. ST was telling me how the wind was blowing, it was hot, etc. He was going to ride 5 hours on the trainer! I gave my advice, then told him that on race day, you never know what the conditions might be. So, you might as well go out there and deal with it. A few hours later ST called me back, and told me how he had the best ride he’s ever had and his confidence was sky high for IMFL! Finally, we are on the right track!

Going into an IM you never know what will happen. A bad swim, a flat tire, too much something on the nutrition side can really derail your race. I helped ST set up his race plan and we went with it. It was a conservative approach that had worked for many athletes, many times before. On race day, I dropped him off at the start and he was in good spirits. The next time I saw ST he was headed out on the bike after a very strong swim to start the day. Since IMFL is a one loop bike course, I didn’t expect to see ST again for another 5:40 give or take. After some time, I walked my way over to the 3 mile mark of the run, to watch the leaders run on by. About twenty minutes earlier than I thought, ST came running by, and I was shocked. He shouted at me that he had ridden 5:20. Ok, I guess all the bike training did pay off. This coming from a guy whose previous PR was 6:12! The next time I saw ST he was headed out for his last out/back. He looked great and he had about 10 miles to go. He asked me what time he was in the range of. I looked at my watch, did some quick math and replied: “10:25!” He told me he was starting to fade and I encouraged him with: “when the WALL comes, run right through it.”

I made my way over to the Finish line and waited for ST to come barreling down the chute. 10:25 came and went I was starting to realize that he may have had some issues the last few miles. No sooner did that thought enter my mind, that he came around the corner with this entire family in tow! He crossed the line in 10:28! I was so proud of ST. All the work, all the struggles, the accident, all of it seemed to be worth it with the performance he was able to deliver at IMFL! Quick Facts: First IM in 2002: 13:08. 4th Ironman in 2005: 10:28 Time away from an IM Hawaii qualifying slot in 2004: 1:20. Time away from an IM Hawaii qualifying slot in 2005: 33 minutes. Now ST can smell Hawaii!

Moral of the story: Although this has been a long road, I am confident that our methods and strategy have been solid. There are some things we have done well, and some things we could have done better. All in all, an improvement of 2:40 in am IM and over three seasons is pretty nice. ST has done a great job of executing the workouts and communicating to me when things go sour. Of all the things that I have helped us I think our communication has been most important. Having someone you trust planning your training is essential, and me trusting that he will do his very best with each workout, allows me some flexibility in his training. All in all, I see big things for ST in the years to come as our ultimate plan of getting him to Kona becomes more of a reality.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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