Coach Dave Sheanin discusses his upcoming race and his involvement in Athletes in Tandem. He shares his journey in triathlon, from his swimming background to his introduction to the sport in college. Coach Dave emphasizes the importance of technique in swimming and the need to constantly work on drills and corrections. He also talks about the challenges and rewards of racing with Athletes in Tandem. Coach Dave reflects on his coaching experience at CU and the lessons he has learned from working with athletes. He provides insights into assessing and improving swim technique, focusing on body position, kick quality, and catch technique. He also shares his controversial views on the finish of the stroke and the importance of maintaining a continuous power phase. In this conversation, Coaches Dave and Mike discuss various topics related to triathlon training and racing. They cover transitioning to a new stroke, the importance of transitions in races, favorite bike workouts, and mistakes to avoid in a race.
00:00 Introduction and Training Updates
03:00 Coach Dave's Journey in Triathlon
06:00 The Importance of Technique in Swimming
09:00 Coach Dave's Involvement in Athletes in Tandem
12:00 The Challenges of Racing with Athletes in Tandem
19:00 Coach Dave's Coaching Experience at CU
23:00 Lessons Learned from Coaching at CU
28:00 Assessing and Improving Swim Technique
32:00 Controversial Views on Stroke Technique
36:41 Transitioning to a New Stroke
39:26 The Importance of Transitions
43:13 Favorite Bike Workouts
46:08 Mistakes to Avoid in a Race
Hi, Coach Mike Ricci here from D3 Multisport with long time D3 Coach Dave Sheanin. Dave, how the heck are you?
Coach Dave (00:08.184)
I am living the dream, Mike, as always.
As always, as always. So what's new in your world in terms of training? You have anything coming up?
Coach Dave (00:16.879)
I am getting ready for my traditional December year end closer in Indian Wells 70.3. I like a cold water and a bike course that goes below sea level. It's a nice fast race and Palm Springs is a good place to be in December rather than Colorado.
Nice, you like that cold water I guess, huh?
Totally. Well, they have the snow last week, I guess that's right. So when did you get started in triathlon? I know you swim a bit in high school, right? And then I did pretty good like LA city or county type of meets and that kind of thing. Just swim in college too or back me up into high school and then bring me into college and how you started triathlon.
Coach Dave (00:53.855)
Sure. Yeah, maybe I'll start just a quick line, even before high school, was that I did all the typical ball sports as a kid, and I pretty much sucked at every one of them, but kept going back. So, you know, little league and football and all this kind of stuff. You know, baseball, I played right field every other inning. That kind of gives you a sense of what my skill was at the ball sports. And I always loved swimming and just came to it very late, but was really blessed with amazing
So I did my first year of competitive swimming my sophomore year of high school. And, you know, I don't remember exactly, but I don't know if I could have swum a 200 straight at that point. And, you know, a 50 free was just sort of lots of effort and enthusiasm and not a lot of technique and skill to start that season. But the coaches I had were unbelievable and they kind of set me on a path for the way I build my own coaching.
By the end of that sophomore year, I was LA City champion in the junior varsity for 50 free, and then I swam varsity junior and senior years, always in the finals. Didn't win any other individual championships, but always made top six in whatever events that I was in, and I attribute that all to the coaching that I had in school.
Nice, that's awesome. And that's a, gave you a little taste of success there. And obviously you're a pretty competitive triathlete at this point. And what I admire about you is it seems like you're still, A, you got the desire, but B, you seem to still get faster on the run and, you know, figuring things out with aerodynamics and, you know, you could swim, you know, 2000 yards a week and you probably do, and you're still coming out of the water and, you know, at the top, the front of the pack. So that's a.
Coach Dave (02:35.627)
Yeah, I put my time in with the swim. So I do swim once a week, most weeks, some weeks less, but typically once a week, just to kind of keep the volume up. And I'll correct you. I don't feel like I'm getting faster. And actually the times show that I'm not really, I'm getting slower, slower. And that's a key to success when you get into the higher age groups.
That's right. So do you use anything at home to help your swimming?
Coach Dave (02:58.243)
I do occasionally jump, I've got a Vasa ergometer in the home gym and I jump on that periodically more for just focused on some little corrections here and there with technique than really trying to keep up with the fitness, although that tool will work for both.
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. The faster masters that I've talked to, almost all of them will say they work on drills or some part of the technique all the time. Even more importantly than, you know, swimming the 4K swim or, you know, the whatever, 30 times a hundred or whatever the set is. They always tell me that it's about the technique, right? To keep refining it, because that's where you're gonna keep that advantage over people.
Coach Dave (03:39.835)
I totally agree. Honestly, I can say that probably 90% of the time when I'm swimming, I'm thinking about some element of my stroke and the other 10%, I'm trying to keep the interval in my head so that I can make sure I touch and go at the right times. But I really, every time my hand hits the water, I feel like that's an opportunity to get better, literally every stroke. So.
You know, I had a... I'm sorry, go ahead.
Coach Dave (04:06.751)
I was just gonna continue the story from earlier that when I got to college, I was, California swimming in the eighties was fast. I was not California D1 caliber and was a utility freestyler pretty much. Could have contributed on a team, but not anywhere near the top, and found triathlon pretty quick in the beginning of college. And that was another sport that
Coach Dave (04:34.987)
I wasn't great at to start with, but it gave me some opportunity to grow.
That's awesome. Yeah, I was gonna just go back to your swimming. I was gonna, I had epiphany a couple of years ago as my running was slowing down and my swimming was staying steady. And there were some faster guys coming into our age group since we share an age group. And I realized that these guys that are swimming, you know, 15, 16 minutes for an 800 or whatever, I was like, they're really not gonna get faster because they would have to put a heck of a lot of time in. So it's worthwhile to me to stay in the pool or stay engaged in swimming because that's an advantage that I'm not.
Coach Dave (04:41.251)
lose as I get older, right? Like there's definitely that advantage to knowing, you know, how much time you need to put it in the water and the technique like you talked about and just, you know, creates that gap that maybe people can't overcome even in a sprint distance race. It's just too much for them to make up.
Coach Dave (05:23.223)
Yeah, totally agree. Obviously the best way to go, if you wanna be a fast swimmer is to start when you're three or four years old and have elite level coaching all the way through. Harder for the adult onset swimmers who we're competing against in all of these age groups. But you can tell the difference between someone who's come up through the sport and someone who is relatively new to the sport. And you're right, it's tough to catch up, but.
It's the same advice really as to work on technique and don't worry so much about volume. And it's, you know, we coached at CU for several years together and we'd finish the workout. And the first thing that the kids would ask, this was before everyone had watches that counted this stuff. They would say, how many yards was that? And it's like, what difference does it make how many yards that was? Why is that the important metric?
Right, right. Yeah, I still get that with my master swimmers. How many yards you think that was? And I'm like, well, I know what it was supposed to be, but what did you get in? Right, so, well, when did you do your first triathlon? That must've been late 80s, right? Okay.
Coach Dave (06:20.523)
Coach Dave (06:24.939)
Yeah, 1988 at Benelli Park, California. So I think it's currently part of the LA Triathlon series. They do races there. I haven't raced there since the late eighties, but that was my first race. And yeah, there's a little story there if you wanna hear that disaster. So, you know, at that point, you were in the sport around that time too. And you know, there was no guidance. Nobody knew what the heck we were doing. And there were certainly some...
Yeah, let's hear it.
Coach Dave (06:52.955)
you know, DNA lottery winners who were dominating the sport. But for the rest of us, it was a lot of guesses. And there was a one book on triathlon at the public library that I would check out, you know, keep it for three weeks, renew it for another three weeks, bring it back for a couple of days and then check it out again. And that kind of guided all my training, but I had no idea. You know, there's no coaching and it was the sport was pretty new.
Coach Dave (07:16.559)
And I knew I was a good swimmer and I used to ride the bike around town to get around and kind of converted that into a little bit of training and running was never natural to me, but I didn't, I felt like enough, you know, to get through this race. And it was Olympic distance. And I don't remember exactly, but I'm sure I came out of the water, you know, at or near the front. And then
The whole race was downhill from there. Like I basically trained as a swimmer and people just kept riding past me and away from me on the bike and I couldn't figure out why because I'm young and fit and, you know, have been practicing for the sport. Um, and I, and I remember getting to the run. I have sort of two little videos in my head that still exists, you know, 35 years later is sort of me starting the run, which was, you know, probably jogging for 15 steps and then stopping and starting to walk.
And then I'm sure I walked the entirety of the rest of the 10K, except for the last 15 steps that I jogged through the finish line at that point. So total disaster. In those days, the host race food was just a picnic bench with some orange slices. And I remember sitting down at the bench and just starting to eat and somebody saying to me like, this is not a table to eat at. This is like to pick up your food and move on to somewhere else. But I was exhausted. I could literally go no further. And...
I'd raced with some friends and they went to the, the post-race barbecue while probably somebody was, you know, hand tabulating results to do awards. And I said, I'll just pack the bikes up and meet you guys over there. And the next thing I knew they were waking me up, I had a like yard sale of equipment in the parking lot and I was asleep in the back of my station wagon. So it was, I had nothing but potential, I would say for the sport at that point. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I was hooked.
That's awesome. That's awesome. So obviously you like hard things and you picked up Triathlon, which, you know, without any, a lot of advice you did pretty well, you know, get that going and everything. And now you're doing some AIT stuff, which is incredibly hard. And why don't you talk to that a little bit and how you got involved and what that's evolved to you. Because I know when I talk to you about it, I see this deep sense of appreciation for it. You're grateful that you get to do it. Whereas most people would look at it the other way that
someone should be grateful that you're telling them around, but you're actually happy to do it. And I see you pulling the stroller through the sand and going up old stage, which is, it has a 16% grade in there and all these things, and you've got this smile on your face. Maybe not going up old stage, but when it's over, you're smiling. It's pretty cool.
Coach Dave (09:43.532)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so AIT Athletes in Tandem is a Colorado-based charitable organization started by my friend Dennis Vanderheiden out of Fort Collins. But we do work all around Colorado races and even out of state as well. I met Dennis in 2010. He had just at that time became aware of Dick and Rick Hoyt at that place. So he didn't know that story and had seen...
a video of it and it just inspired him. It just completely spoke to him and said, I need to do something like this. Why is it just these two? Which it kind of was at that time. There's been some expansion of other organizations as well over the years. But I was getting ready to do the horse tooth 10K swim and they used to do, or I guess they probably still do an athlete meeting the night before and Dennis was friends with.
the race director with Joe and just came and spoke for a few minutes and just said, hey, I'm starting this organization. I don't really even know what it's gonna look like. But he had started it with Zachary, an athlete who he felt like he could race with and just kind of said, hey, if anybody is interested in helping out, he may have really been looking for donations more than.
been actual athlete help, but I went and talked to him afterwards and said, just keep me on the list. And so I think it was the next winter, or maybe it was later that year, we went to Naples, Florida for a hits race. And that was my first experience with athletes in tandem. So that was an open water swim. My very first time swimming, pulling a raft, we didn't have an opportunity to meet beforehand. And then a sprint race in Naples, very flat.
met a couple of athletes there locally. And my first partner was a young guy named John, who just was the greatest first partner you could have. He was not verbal with his disability, but he just laughed and clapped and rocked in the stroller the whole time. And I've got a picture of us coming to the finishing line with this, he's just, he's got this huge, he must've been mid-laugh, huge smile on his face. And I look at that photo,
Coach Dave (11:57.287)
almost every day it's down in the gym and it just inspires me to know that you're able to share the experience with him. And I've since done probably, I don't know, three or four dozen races, some open water swim, some tries, a couple of runs. And probably half of them have been with my partner PJ here in Colorado and he's who I'm typically going over old stage with at the peak, but I've had a couple different partners for that race as well.
Yeah, so just take me through, so you wear a harness for the swim, right, to pull a raft? Because this is 150 pound person, right? This isn't like 120.
Coach Dave (12:27.903)
Yeah, it's like, yeah, we've I've had athletes as big as 150 PJ is under 100 pounds. But by the time you add the equipment, you know, when you get on the bike, by the time you add the stroller, you're probably looking at you know, somewhere between 120 150 for a typical athlete that we're pulling. Yeah. Yeah, the power to weight ratio gets a little jacked up for me. I don't get any extra.
Yeah, it's a lot.
Yeah, thanks. I mean, it's rolling resistance once you get it up to speed, but going up a hill, it's all you, it's all power. Yeah. Right.
Coach Dave (12:54.599)
it's yeah, gravity pulls pretty hard on those things. So yeah, so in the water, it's pretty simple. It's just two like loop straps that go over each shoulder like an X and then we use a carabiner and hook a rope onto the back of the raft. The rafts are small, kind of flat, very stable rafts. The athlete that we're guiding will wear a vest or whatever, a safety vest, but nobody...
Coach Dave (13:22.987)
knock on wood, nobody with me has ever gone in the water. But you would feel that if that were to happen, the raft would get a lot lighter real quick. So yeah, PJ's great, he stays still in the water. He likes getting a little wet. He seems to appreciate it when he's wet by the time we get back in, but he doesn't wanna get out. So that's been helpful. And I would say in the water, typically if it's like normal, relatively speaking, reservoir conditions, flat, no wind.
Coach Dave (13:51.415)
it's probably only a 20% penalty or so on the amount of effort that's required in order to hit speed. If it's windy, that changes the calculation a little bit. And especially like going around buoys and stuff like that. I've been in windy conditions sort of the good way where you go to take a breath and PJ's next to me in the raft.
And then, other times the wind's blowing in our face and that 20% penalty gets a little bit harder at that point, but it's always pretty manageable. The swim really, I think is the lowest sort of, speed penalty for effort of the three sports for sure. Yeah.
drag. Yeah. And then it's a burly for the bike, right?
Coach Dave (14:34.591)
It's, yeah, it's a different brand, but it's basically just a very large trailer. It's big enough, it'll fit an adult, and he's an adult at this point, not a large adult, but we've had larger adults in there as well. And yeah, it's not like, it's not one of these like aerodynamic, lean back, whatever. It's more like, you know, take your stuff to the market and around town kind of trailer, but it's got a high weight limit that we can use. And it's locked onto the bike.
Coach Dave (15:03.583)
on the rear quick release, and then it's also tethered on just in case that were to fail. So, yep, that trailer. On the bike, on the flats, I would say it's probably something like a one and a half times as hard, maybe a 50% penalty, something like that. When you start going uphill, even small hills, areas you think are flat, when you put a trailer at 150 pounds behind you, it turns out that you notice every, a 1% grade is still an uphill.
Coach Dave (15:34.165)
And it's at least, I would say a double, 100% penalty, double the difficulty, yeah.
Right, right. So if it takes you 12 miles an hour to get up a three, four, or 5%, then you're probably going six or seven, five, six, or seven. Yeah.
Coach Dave (15:44.987)
probably something in that range. Yeah, we've seen the hardest race I've ever done with athletes in tandem. It's actually, Boulder Peak is always challenging because of that hill. With the hardest race, you may remember that 106 West race in Dillon, Colorado. So that, yeah, we started it, the lake swim was at 9,000 feet, right? And then the bike turnaround was in this little town of Montezuma at like 10,200 feet.
Yeah, Dylan, yeah.
I was going to say it was almost like a pass. I mean, it was pretty high up there.
Coach Dave (16:11.307)
It was pretty high up and I went back in preparation thinking that this might come up on this and went and took, looked to see what my minimum speed was during that course. And it was actually, go ahead, yeah. It was a little under two, it was 1.9. So yeah, when you get onto those really steep sections, you've got to be able to balance the bike, right? Cause if you stop on an incline like that, I had to stop once on old stage and I was really worried I wasn't gonna be able to get started again without rolling backwards.
And I guess three miles an hour.
Coach Dave (16:40.963)
So there's a certain amount of fear that just takes over that it's not a matter of like, I wanna stop and I can stop and take a rest. It's that I cannot stop once we're on the really steep stuff like that.
Right, right. And then for the run, right, it's just a regular stroller, but it's, you know, obviously an adult size stroller, but that's pretty hard. I mean, you're going from, you know, pulling to pushing, which is a total change in muscle groups, right?
Coach Dave (17:04.695)
Yep, it definitely is. And again, the hill, the surfaces make a difference. So, you know, pavement way easier than dirt, not just the normal penalty for running, but just the way the thing rolls. And certainly like some areas, you know, you'll be on areas of the course that have, say some single track on them. And you know, you can only get one of the three wheels in the track and the other two are kind of bushwhacking through. So...
Coach Dave (17:28.491)
So that can be challenging. And again, it's the same thing, the hills, both uphill and downhill are a little bit of a challenge on the run, uphill because you're really, you're pushing hard to move you and the stroller rather, and the athlete up the hill. And downhill, it kind of wants to get away from you a little bit because it's on wheels. And so...
It has a handbrake and I will oftentimes be on, you know, running fast and on the handbrake just to kind of make sure we stay together. Yeah, and same thing, we're tethered together as well as just me holding onto the trailer, but, or the stroller rather, but yeah, a nice flat paved course is a whole different experience than a dirt hilly course, that's for sure.
at the same time. Yeah.
Do you, are you sore the next day? Do you feel pretty sore?
Coach Dave (18:14.307)
Sometimes, some races definitely, other races. The thing is, you and I have talked about this and you talk about the amount of power and so on. I think that what there's kind of a disconnect a little bit is that it's not like my threshold changes, right? I put the same amount of power out, we just go slower. So it's kind of like the effect of doing a longer workout at threshold versus a shorter workout at threshold essentially. So yeah.
Coach Dave (18:40.179)
I can be sore in, you know, but it's in sort of the usual spots, right? That you would be after a long, hard workout. It's just that, yeah, it's just an Olympic, instead of taking two and a quarter hours, takes three and three quarter hours or four hours, something like that. That's kind of the math on it, you know?
Right, right. But just thinking about the torque, right? The torque on the cranks going up a hill that you're going three miles an hour, maybe your cadence is 20 or 30, right? That's a lot of power output and it's a lot of muscular endurance. It's like saying, go pick up 250 pounds off the ground 80 times in a row, because I mean, it's that slow, you know, low power. So that's why I was asking if you were sore, just because I noticed that, you know, just a ton of torque.
Coach Dave (19:2 4.739)
Yeah, a little more on the muscular endurance side of things than the aerobic endurance side of things. And the bike that I ride now, I've rigged it up with a super compact crank. And so, because you really have to sit, if you're standing, you really wanna be standing for minimal amounts of time because that trailer starts swaying and it kind of can knock you off your own balance a little bit. So I will, I'll try to sit as much as I possibly can.
It's a ton of fun.
Awesome. So just switching gears a little bit. I know you've been coaching CU since 2010. Is that right?
Coach Dave (19:53.659)
Coach Dave (19:58.399)
I started with you and yeah, 2010, 11 season, yeah. This is year 14, yeah.
So this is your 14th season.
That's crazy. Wow. So what's like one of your favorite memories or yeah, start with that. What was one of your favorite memories of, you know, 14 years coaching many, many different kids? I mean, hundreds of different kids, literally, literally.
Coach Dave (20:1 8.495)
Yeah, yeah. And you know, the joke that we used to say, Mike, all the time is that, you know, the kids are always 18 to 22 and we get a year older every year. So it's harder to chase them down now than it was when we first started doing that together. My favorite memories are always race day. You know, we won several national championships together. I, you know, I continued on with Brad, also a D3 coach, and we won several more.
So that eight year in a row streak. And I've got like these great snapshot memories of when we had the opportunity to watch our kids, break the tape and win those championships. And some of those championships, I would say, were sweeter than others, but all of them were sweet in their own way. And certainly, you know, the athletes who we took from.
being good athletes to national champions that we built over a series of years while we were there, those are really sweet. They're super talented kids who walked in and basically were destined to be national champions. They're fun to watch. They're really amazing talents, but you get a little more satisfaction from the ones that you don't.
Yeah, you don't think you're giving as much value as you do to a kid who comes in and maybe they're a 40 minute, 10 care, but they can't swim. And you teach them to swim and to get in that 25 minute range and they can score points for the team. And ultimately that's why you win, right? Because of something like that. Because you know that kid that finishes first or second is really not affecting the scoring too much, but those kids at the backend are the ones that really are determining where you end up.
Coach Dave (21:42.92)
Coach Dave (21:54.699)
Absolutely, that's exactly how it works. And you'll remember without, we don't wanna name names probably, but we had teams that were, some years you have multiple sort of superstar kind of athletes and other teams that were more like, I call them the grinder years, where nobody finishes in the top 10, but everyone finishes in the top 20. And that's the kind of thing that will win a championship, even if you don't have somebody up a superstar right at the front. So...
Coach Dave (22:18.243)
Yeah, those are the kinds of memories that really stick with me. And it's not only the national championship races, it's anytime these kids race and watching them just turn themselves inside out in a way that like, I've dug deep in races myself, but I've watched our athletes race in a way that I've never had that depth of will to go as hard as they go. Yeah, yeah, definitely.
Right, right. That's a lot of fun. That's a lot of fun. So, you know, you've been there a while. Do you have anything you could share? I mean, obviously you've taught a lot of those kids how to swim, you've taught them how to pace the bike, you've taught them how to run well, you've created right workouts and, you know, tapering all that stuff that a good coach can do. Is there any lessons that they have taught you over the years that you would like to share?
Coach Dave (23:04.439)
Of course, well, as you know, we have the secret sauce workouts. I can't possibly reveal exactly what we do in that program. But no, that's not true. I mean, it's the same that every program does, right? It's volume, intensity, quality and rest. And that's it. The secret sauce on this team is the kids themselves and how they interact with each other and what they're willing to do for each other. I barely even consider that to be coaching in a lot of ways, but...
Well, you're providing the place to do it, the platform and all that. And there's a certain level of acceptance of what you're going to accept and what you're not going to accept, right? And they feed off that. And the right kids are going to rise to the top and the kids that don't do well with hard coaching, they don't do well with it. And that's okay.
Coach Dave (23:49.067)
Yep. That's true. Yeah. Well, as you know, you know, the triathlon is a club sport at CU. And so we take all comers. And so, you know, at the, at the, we, Brad would talk about, you know, we, we organize the pool from this end is the fast end. And this end is the fastest end. You know, there's nobody slow, but, but we, but we have, you know, kids who will join the team who literally do not know how to swim. They can't put their face in the water. They can't, they can't swim at 25. They can't get across the pool on the first night.
And that's the first takeaway. And I think maybe the most important thing is just sort of the spirit for the sport, you know, that it's maybe, it's the spirit of youth. I don't know, but I know that when I was 18 years old, and if I had been in school that had a program like ours with the national championship pedigree and a lot of elite fast people who've gone on to become professionals and some Olympic hopefuls and so on.
Coach Dave (24:43.083)
I don't, if I didn't know how to swim, I can't even imagine stepping into the room. And I just love that we have young athletes who say like, this is for me, you know, yeah, I can't do any of this stuff. I'll figure it out, you know? And they always do. And so that spirit is something that you just don't see it outside of college. You know, D3 I think has created a great.
a family environment and a team environment, but it's not the same. It's not the same as collegiate club racing. And the, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. And so along those lines, like a sort of peripheral learning, but I kind of think of it as a second thing is just to suspend what you think is possible when you set your big goals, right? And...
Right. Well, there's so much more energy, testosterone. I mean, there's a lot of everything, right?
Coach Dave (25:32.091)
I work for Jim Collins professionally during the day. He's got a concept called the BHAG, the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. And it's, in order for something to be a BHAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, it's gotta be something that you're not sure you can actually achieve. It can't be something big, but that you know you can do. And I think that really fits what we see with these collegiate athletes. And honestly, and with the age group athletes I coach through D3 as well, is the idea of setting a BHAG and like showing up.
at the beginning of that training, hopefully show up on race day knowing you're gonna get it done, but showing up at the beginning of a training cycle and saying like, I don't know if I can do an Ironman or I don't know if I can do, you know, what a 10K swim or whatever it is that you're being told is exactly. And then going for it and getting through it and just the idea of sort of, yeah, suspending the possible and just going for it with some guidance, that's definitely a huge takeaway.
Right. Or this training block for, you know, yeah.
Coach Dave (26:29.819)
Um, and the last thing I'd say, just for lessons from CU in particular is just that there's a place for everybody in triathlon. I, um, and I get a little taste of this too, when I race with athletes in tandem, that I go from, you know, not always right at the very front of the race, but, you know, toward the front of the race, when I'm racing solo to oftentimes the back of the race, you know, like we might be four people, you know, um, over the course of the day and, um, the kinds of people that you meet at both ends, um,
Coach Dave (26:58.175)
and I assume in the middle are just, everyone's awesome. There's spirit for the sport. There's thanks for an appreciation for volunteers. And it's just, it's very inclusive. It can feel a little daunting maybe with the equipment that some people have and the speed. And obviously there's some monetary considerations to get into the sport, but it doesn't have to be like that. You can race on a borrowed bike and you know.
and you don't necessarily need to wetsuit at every race and pair of running shoes or pair of running shoes, right? And we can get it done. So it's just a constant reminder that getting people to their first triathlon reminds me of how awesome doing my first triathlon was, even though, like I mentioned earlier, it was kind of a disaster. It was still the start of something really big and important in my life.
That's something I always share with my athletes, especially when they're doing their first Ironman. I'm like, I've done this 10 times. Like I can't go across that line again for the first time. And, you know, watching them on the tracker or doing it in person, you know, going to a race and seeing them doing it in person, it's just fulfilling, right? You just, this whole thing of, you fill with joy of like, well, that's really cool. I helped that person do something that maybe they didn't think they could do, you know, nine months ago or a year ago. So that's a lot.
Coach Dave (28:06.603)
Yeah, it's still true. And working with age groupers, a lot of times, they're trying something new. They might be really successful in other areas of life or maybe they're great athletes, but not great triathletes and what have you, and you get to guide them to their first one. And like you said, you can't do it again, right? Cause you've already done it yourself, but you can do it through their eyes and it's really fun. Yeah.
Right, that's awesome. Okay, so I would say that you are the, you know, in-house swim expert at D3. So if I have a question, I go to you, or if I need a lesson for somebody, I'll send them to you. In general, you know, we kind of know this, but if you were to look at somebody, and you know they're swimming whatever, 215, 100, 230, 100, typically when you look at somebody, what are the first three things you look for with their stroke or?
body position or whatever it is, like how do you look at somebody and assess it and say, okay, if we fix this, this will also get fixed at the same time, but man, this guy really has to work on this one thing too. So, you know.
Coach Dave (29:08.331)
Yeah, well, so at that end of the spectrum, the first thing I look at is just sort of general comfort in the water. Whether they're fearful, sometimes you have folks who, they swim because they need to swim, but they're generally uncomfortable in the water. And that's sometimes that's something that we think about even before we get in the pool, right? When you've got folks who've had maybe some bad experiences in their past, the first swim lessons in a coffee shop as opposed to on the pool deck. But even for folks who are swimming,
Right, right. That's a great point.
Coach Dave (29:37.851)
and feel like they don't think they're afraid of it, you can still kind of see cues in their body and in their eyes when they come up at the wall or what have you, whether they're comfortable or not in the water. So I try to get like sort of their water zeitgeist, I don't know what the right word is that, but just overall comfort in the water, as it's just a very first assessment. And then...
Really for like a typical age grouper who's just looking to get faster, the three things really are gonna be, I look at body position overall, so head position, driving body position, but overall body position. I look at the quality of their kick, which I know is not typically considered important for triathletes, everyone wants to save their legs, but the kick provides the rhythm of the stroke, it's the cadence of the stroke. And so if that kick is not.
Coach Dave (30:33.343)
It doesn't have to be necessarily strong, but it has to be, or it has to be at least minimally propulsive, right? And it needs to be rhythmic. And then the third big thing I'll look at is the quality of their catch, the very front end of their stroke. What happens when their hand hits the water and they transition from recovery to that power phase is what that front end of that stroke looks like. And I think obviously there's, you know, there's a million different nuances that you can work through. But if we look at those three things, that body position, that quality of the kick and the quality of the catch.
Coach Dave (31:03.759)
It's one of those, yeah, easily, you know, that's just, that's the majority if we can work on those three things. We're gonna turn a 230 swimmer pretty quickly into a two minute swimmer. And then from there, you can start making the real gains to start dropping into the, you know, 130, 120 and so on.
You're covering 95% of it, right?
So my first swim coach in 19, what year was it? 94, 95, something like that, was an Australian guy. And how he ended up in Rhode Island, I have no idea, but he was there on the pool deck talking in his accent that I had never heard before. Like I'm from Rhode Island and accents are really bad, but Australian, I mean, that's pretty competitive with the East Coast accent. But he was a believer in a straight arm. So it was a straight arm, arm goes in.
lot of depth, lot of power. Being at whatever I was 24, 25 at the time probably didn't affect me. Doing that now would be a disaster for my shoulders and I wouldn't be swimming very much, right? So we've gone, now we know that drag trumps power, right? So we want less drag. And what is your thought? I'm just curious, because it always changes. What is your thought on the finish of a stroke? Because you talked about the front end and that's what I've always taught.
Coach Dave (31:59.587)
Hell yeah. Yeah.
But what do you think about the finish of a stroke? What, I mean, is it 2% of the power or 3%? Is it matter?
Coach Dave (32:25.547)
You know, so I take maybe what would be an unpopular position on this with, um, with swim coaches, but I think as a, as a, as, you know, I'm not coaching, um, not coaching pool swimmers to do a 50 free, right? So where you end, so if you're coaching 22 year olds to swim their fastest 50 free, they can probably get away with a straight arm stroke for a certain amount of time, you know, obviously the shape of the stroke has changed many times over the years, both started coaching this, but
It's fine. It's good. Yeah.
pool swimmers. Yeah. Right.
Coach Dave (32:52.155)
Um, I, I find the finish for triathletes is to be really not that important. Um, honestly, like once you get to the backend of that power phase, to get that finish in, you're really, you're relying on primarily triceps, which is a pretty small muscle to ask, you know, to ask, to do a big job of moving you forward. And so I think about that finish primarily just to set up the recovery and, and then, and then the front end of that stroke. And this is, you know, here's a little controversy or whatever. For the most part, I think, you know, distance per stroke.
as a standalone concept is baloney essentially, because it's a combination of your distance per stroke times your stroke rate, right? That determines your speed. And so you get this big focus. We see this all the time with the kids coming into CU is that they were high school swimmers and their coach just drove into them, you know, super long and maximize your distance per stroke and minimize your stroke count and so on.
And so you get kids who are good swimmers, they might be able to get across a 25 yard pool in nine strokes, 10 strokes. I mean, that's nine single arms, not cycles. But if they do that, they're swimming that 25 in 30 seconds or whatever, lots of gliding. Like it's not a sustainable stroke for speed. And as triathletes, we're typically wearing wetsuits. So you've got a little bit of material around your shoulders, which is of course getting better and better over time.
Coach Dave (34:14.307)
but it makes it hard to really to overextend at the front end and to overextend at that back end. And so I most of the time, the advice that I'm giving swimmers is to say like, you'll be faster if you add a stroke or two per 25. And I mean, you've seen the same faces that I've seen. Like what, you know, my coach told me I should be, have a lower distance, a lower stroke count rather, a higher distance per stroke. But the reality is, is that especially open water, it's not flat surfaces, you've got the wetsuit and so on. Like I'd rather you take,
a few extra strokes and get more power phase in than more finish really. So there's my controversial take on finishing a stroke.
Right. Oh, that's not, that's great. You know, funny you said that about, you know, distance per stroke when TTI had first come out, one of the guys we swam in our master's group with had gone for the weekend, one of the very first ones he came back, this was like 96 or, that would be 95 or 96, 94, 95. He came back and he's like, guys, I can get across the pool in 12 strokes, and blah, blah.
And he was one of the guys in the back of the lane. So he's looking for an advantage to get to the front of the lane. Right. And so the guy who leads the lane very sarcastically said, well, that's great. You can do 12 strokes, but as you said, if it takes you 30 seconds to get there, who cares? Like you need to be able to swim with some speed. Like it doesn't matter. So I totally get that.
Coach Dave (35:27.835)
Right. Yeah. I think there's some helpful sort of concepts and drills within TI, but I don't, maybe you can correct me. Like, have we, uh, have we seen any TI Olympians? I don't, I don't think that's, that's really what it's intended for. So no, no.
Love them all.
Right, right. You know, where I was leading you with the finish, and this is just my own belief, but I think that the shortened finish is actually gonna help you keep that front quadrant swim going. And I feel like I almost, that whole pulling on the rope thing, that's what I think about a lot. And I think about my hands crossing somewhere around my shoulders and just keeping that power going. It's just, it's like, it would be like pedaling two strokes and then coasting and then just keep it going, right? Like that's just an easy concept if you think about it.
Coach Dave (36:13.687)
Yep, exactly right. Yeah.
You know, that whole thing of one arm completely stretched out one direction and the other one with the finish, those days are over. Like we're onto the new and better science and concepts and studies and all kinds of things. And people just need to understand that old school swimming is fine, but if you really want to go fast, I mean, there's better ways to do it on less volume, right?
Coach Dave (36:26.499)
Coach Dave (36:34.731)
Yeah, and maybe I'll just share one thing, Mike, is that you were probably taught the same stroke I was, was this big inside outside S curve, we need to put an S curve in there. And as we moved to that, not a straight arm, but a straight pull pattern, right? So good high elbow catch and then pushing back basically straight toward your hip. Gosh, it's probably been 10 or 15, maybe 15 years at this point, but I made the conversion from the way I had been taught and was fast and...
I guess stroke, yeah.
Coach Dave (37:03.835)
and won races as a high school and college age kiddo to this as an adult, this straight arm pull. And it probably took me three weeks of really focused swimming just to be able to swim like a regular stroke pattern, not a full catch up. Like I could really only do one arm at a time. And then you go through the next little phase of that. And I assume you've probably made the same transition where you kind of lose your old stroke.
but you don't have the new stroke yet, you know? And so, you know, I was being able to whatever, go from, you know, hundreds on whatever, the 120 or 125 at that point in my life, you know, to like 135 and going backwards, you know? Like you lose 10, 15 seconds on a hundred and you can't get the old stroke back and you don't have the new stroke yet. And I just remember being panicked for weeks until finally like the time start dropping again, you start getting faster and then eventually.
Coach Dave (38:01.715)
you're into that new stroke. So it takes a commitment. And this is something that we see with, I'm sure you could tell more stories than I could with athletes all the time where they say like, you need to do X or whatever. And they say, okay, so I tried that for a 25 and it didn't work. Well, that's not really what I was talking about. But yeah. Yup.
Well, that's trust the process, right? Like just trust to the workout. And I'll tell you, I've been there where you're at the, you know, 135, 140 saying what happened to my 128s and 125s, but you know, making that change, you gotta have that long-term thought process and not this instant gratification of, I'm gonna do this for a week and I'm gonna be faster. That doesn't work, right? You gotta put the time in. Your body is just trained to do it a certain way and then you gotta untrain it and retrain it. So that's hard. Yeah.
Coach Dave (38:37.111)
Yep, yep, it is, it's trusting the process.
Exactly. Yeah. The untraining is hard and it requires kind of a leap of faith, right? That's the benefit of quality coaching. I wouldn't have attempted that if I didn't have a great coach who said to me, listen, here's this will make you faster. Here's why. And here's how.
Right, right. So I know you pride yourself on fast transitions. So I really wanna know, since we've competed so many times together and some of those races may have come down to transitions a few times, what are you thinking when you get out of the water? What are you thinking when you get off the bike? Is there any monster in your head? Or are you just, I know your motto is the fastest, the best thing about transition is not being in there.
you know, something to that effect, but you may want to say it. First law of transition, right?
Coach Dave (39:29.283)
Yeah, first of all, transitions don't be in transition, right? And actually I learned that mantra from that, or that saying from Ryan Bice, who we coached at CU, that was, he must've picked it up from a coach somewhere and it's just stuck with me all the time. So yeah, transitions, they count, right? And so when you're trying to figure out how to shave a minute off your race, 10 seconds a mile on a 10K is way harder than free speed in transition, right? And really like transition that is...
I love it.
It totally counts.
Coach Dave (39:56.191)
at its base is you're basically you're changing shoes and changing hats, right? It's not it's not complicated at that point. So I don't really use mantras, but I do. I'm kind of a checklist guy, right? So so when I am finishing the swim before I even get out of the water, I am going through the movie of what my what my transition is going to look like. So it's, you know, come out of the water and then what what's first, right? Goggles on your head, but don't take the cap off yet. Then unzip the wetsuit and so on. So I'm going through those steps and I visualize that step by step as I'm coming into transition so that once I get up out of the water, I'm standing up, I'm just, I'm mission focused at that point, right? So check, check. Just going through the checklist until I'm out of transition and on the bike, yeah.
Love it, love it. Yeah, I mean, that's the same exact thing I do. I think about, you know, wetsuit off, pull one leg out, step on the other one, I'm out, and then what am I doing? My helmet's on, glasses on, I'm gone, right? That's it, it's that simple.
Coach Dave (40:51.575)
Right, the mantra is, I get that works for some people. For me, I'm just so focused on the function that I don't need to pump myself up to do it. I just need to know what I'm going to do in order to get it done.
Right, right, right. No, that's great, that's great. And I know you've done a lot of, some great videos on transition and some good stuff. And I know that you actually even have a transition contest with the kids at CU, right? Like you see if you can beat them and you owe them ice cream if they beat you or something. Yeah.
Coach Dave (41:15.627)
Yeah. We've been doing this for years. We figured out that, you know, you and I used to race head to head in the sprint race while they were doing the collegiate Olympic race. And at some point, I don't know if it started back then or right shortly after you moved on, but right around that time, it's been going on for probably 10 years at this point, that basically I'll race the sprint, they race the Olympic, but transitions are exactly the same. And my deal with these kids is
through transition ties go to me, right? But if they can beat me and my combined transition times, I'll buy them, you know, Froyo from the local Froyo shop. And it's like, literally, some of these kids have made me pay, you know, it turns out you can get 30 or 35 ounces into one of those cups or whatever, at a dollar an ounce or whatever they're charging these days. So I'm racing 60 kids, there's no reciprocal bet on there. They don't have to buy me anything if I beat them, right? And so...
Coach Dave (42:13.483)
I'm just trying to minimize my losses with that. And in a typical year, I'll pay out somewhere between six and 10 out of maybe 50 kids who will beat me. At some point, they're younger and faster than I am. I can beat them at the rack, but I can't actually beat them running through transitions. But the point of it really is to make them think about it, is to make them think about, like, this is free right here. And as I remind them all the time,
Yeah, for sure.
Coach Dave (42:43.227)
I really should be buying, you know, if there's 50 kids racing, I should be buying 50 Froyos because I'm almost a 55 year old man. I've thrown my back out emptying the dishwasher. This should be easy money for them if they're thinking about it. But it requires a little work in order to beat Coach Dave.
Right, right, I agree.
I agree. I mean, I have examples of winning my age group and having the second fastest swim, bike and run. And the guy in front of me had the fastest and everything, but I got him by a few seconds in both transitions. And it all counts.
Coach Dave (43:11.779)
Absolutely. Yeah, I don't know what people are doing in transition, but it's costing places. That's for sure
Yeah. So, um, you know, you've, you've led some of our Zwift workouts with the D3 group and, um, you had the Michigan workout that you turned from a track workout into a bike workout, which is a lot of fun. I have that as one of my favorite workouts. Um, what is your favorite? I know you do a neutral calorie ride on Superbowl Sunday. You do some fun things. Um, what's your favorite bike workout? Like if it's intense, I mean, bike workout being indoor work.
Coach Dave (43:41.111)
Yeah, for indoors, well, I do like that, that modified Michigan track workout onto the bike. I think that that's pretty fun and a challenge. It's, well, it's, it is miserable, but it'll make you strong, that's for sure. So yeah, the Superbowl ride, a long time tradition with a couple of friends that we now do on Zwift. We did it even before Zwift was a thing and it's on indoor trainers is that we,
I'm glad it's modified because it's pretty miserable, to be honest.
Coach Dave (44:10.487)
watch the game and ride our bikes on the trainers for the first three quarters. And then basically eat as much as we can during the fourth quarter. And it ends up, we try to, you know, we call it calorie neutral. Whether it really turns out that way, I don't know. But that's been a fun tradition. And I think we're probably, we might be, this year might be the 16th year or something that we'll do it. Yeah, so we've been doing that for quite a while. So that's definitely fun. And honestly, you know, Zwift, I was a little,
I was going to say you're like 15, 16, something like that. Yeah.
Coach Dave (44:39.879)
suspicious of it, I guess, at the beginning, you know, I kind of felt like, okay, well, the serious workouts you do on the CompuTrainer or PerfPro or something like that, you know, I don't need a video game to play. But enough of my athletes were using Zwift that a few years ago, I said, all right, I really have to learn this. And I got just sucked into the, you know, just the game side of it and also the training real tool benefit side of it as well. And honestly, some of my favorite workouts are
I'm going for not necessarily KOMs in the games because I'm not quite that fast, but just trying to set PRs on the Alps or on the big climbs or what have you. And yeah, I like a little extended suffering time and the game provides that. And I think it's good training and it's certainly nice in the days where you can't get out and ride. We were blessed with the mountains out here but you can't ride them in October, November, December, January. So...
For you. Right. Yeah.
Coach Dave (45:35.479)
to be able to go get like a one hour climb in where you really feel like you're doing the work. Those are the kinds of workouts I really, I sort of dread and look forward to at the same time.
Right, awesome. Okay, so just to wrap up, I got a question for you. So we coach it for a while now. So any advice you'd have for one of your athletes of something not to do in a race that maybe you've had an experience with that maybe you've done it once or twice, or maybe just don't do this because I've done it and then it will, you'll have a miserable day if you do it.
Coach Dave (46:08.331)
I mean, Mike, there are a million things. My back is, we've been in this sport, I'm trying to figure out what mistake I haven't made at some time or another. And unfortunately I've made some of those mistakes more than once, right? So even this season, I had a race where I showed up at my bike, you know, from the swim in T1 and realized that my garment is in my bag, you know? So.
At least no one took it, right?
Coach Dave (46:34.439)
Well, no, it was probably in the bag in the car, you know, like it wasn't even in transition. I just never, never put it on. So so that kind of stuff is kind of fun and minor. I was sharing with you, like at an example of the Boulder Peak years ago before I was racing with athletes in tandem, there's a there's a speed limited descent on the on the back end. And so you want to you want to have your I think it's thirty five. But I think if you just already I think it's thirty. Yeah. But I think, yeah, if you just release the brakes and let it ride, you're going forty five probably.
Wait, wait, is it 25 or so?
And you can easily go 45, 50. Okay.
Coach Dave (47:04.715)
And I got out on the bike. I did have my computer at that time. I think this was pre-Garmin though. And got out on the bike and it's just, it's showing me no metric, zero miles an hour, showing me cadence, but no speed. And I can't figure out what it is. And I looked down, I realized in the dark in the morning, I just put the wheel on backwards. So the magnet that you needed was on the wrong side of the bike.
So I had to kind of make sure that I didn't pass anyone during that speed zone. I got passed by a few people. I'm sure I gave up a few miles an hour on that. So that's a good one. Now along the technology, same thing. This is maybe there's a good, those are sort of whatever these things happen and you kind of get through the race. But one that I think has good lesson is basically is calibrating yourself to multiple inputs so that you kind of know how to pace out your day. And especially at the longer races, this is more important. So,
Coach Dave (47:57.699)
You know, it's not just knowing power or heart rate or a combination of power and heart rate or what have you, but that RPE, which we kind of, you know, it gets second billing, I think, when people get deep into the sport because they really wanna know what their watts per kilogram are and, you know, can I hit a thousand watts and whatever. But being calibrated with your RPE is important. And I play a game where...
I'll be riding along even still and I'll say, ah, this feels like 215 watts or whatever. And I'll look down and see if I'm within a few watts of that, you know, and you want to get close to that because the story that I'll tell is that I, this was, this is now 15 plus years ago, but at Ironman in Canada was a mass start back in those days, you got, you know, 2000 or 2500 people in a bay and they just shoot off a cannon, right? And so they count you down, you know, five, four, three. So when I got to three, I hit my.
Coach Dave (48:49.007)
Polar watch to start it and the screen went blank and that was it for the day. And my whole plan was based on heart rate and power and I had none of it, none of it for the day. So, yeah, being, you know, being able to have a plan B. So some of these stupid mistakes, you know, they can really hurt you, right? You show up to a race without your helmet, maybe you can borrow a helmet or whatever. There are some things that could keep you from racing, right? You show up on your bike and you forgot to put the wheels on, you know, the front wheel sitting on the driveway.
That's the kind of thing that can actually keep you from racing. But most of the mistakes that we make, you can race, but you just need to figure out like what's the alternative way to get through this. Right. And so, you know, last, last year, this time last year, this weekend last year, I ran the New York City Marathon. And the night before the race at like nine o'clock as I'm going to bed the night before, we've got to be at the bus at 3.30 in the morning.
I happened to notice in the athlete guide that you can't wear a backpack or a hydration vest or whatever. Well, that was my entire fueling plan was my race vest. So I showed up in the morning and had to go with whatever was available on course and I got to finish, but it wasn't good. It wasn't good. So.
Coach Dave (50:05.275)
So, you know, making sure that you're working on the, you know, plan A, plan B, plan C is the checklist I was talking about earlier, you know, check, check and have ways to get through even if things don't go exactly as planned, whether it's because of something you control or something you don't, that's, you know, you race long enough and just about everything is going to befall you at some point. So having a backup is a good way to go.
I agree. Well, thanks so much for coming on. We really enjoyed talking with you, and I'm sure we'll have you on again. Good luck at Indian Wells. Let's hope you kick some butt down there. And we'll see you.
Coach Dave (50:37.187)
Thanks, yeah. Yeah, I'll try to make the best of the luck I get. I kind of feel like, you know, good luck is for the unprepared. I'll be prepared, but I'll take the luck that I get and turn it into whatever I can for speed.
I love it. Well, thanks for coming on, I really appreciate it.
Coach Dave (50:49.743)
Thanks, Mike, really fun.