If you’ve surfed my new coaching website then you’ll see a few pictures there. My web guy, Brian Johnson, chose them and I was surprised that he managed to capture some of the my favourite memories. Cool.
In one of the photos I am handing over a framed IMC finishers photo to John “Dr. J.” Hellemans. The Docta’ is a guy that I hold in very high regard and I consider him one of the finest people I’ve ever come across. So I was pretty stoked to be welcomed to the Wall-of-Honour that sits behind his desk.
Since I am kicking back and reminiscing, here are some key things that I learned from John…
I like my athletes to learn how to train by feel.
Heart rate monitors, powermeters, pace… all of these are meant to help the athlete dial in their subjective perception – learn how different efforts feel. Gizmos support our ability (and responsibility) to learn.
Know two things about Scott (Molina), he has spent more time overtrained than any other person that I know. [thinking…] …and, I suppose, he has won more races than anyone I know.
We were kicking around training protocols in 2003. My approach had concerned him a bit because I was pretty much always shelled (but happy). In my lactate tests, I had zero top end for over a year. Like all great coaches that I’ve known, even if he disagrees with a protocol, he has a respect for results.
I wouldn’t worry too much about that, in my view you were pretty close to full blown overtraining.
Offering me comfort when I DNF’d Ultraman in 2003. He had been worried that the race was going to finish me off after pushing very hard through IMC2003 fatigue to prepare.
Bear in mind that your constitution is better than most.
Remember that you have to do the training that is right
for you, not him.
Two reminders that we must match training protocol to the needs of the athlete, rather than the athlete fitting the needs of the protocol.
The first quote was explaining, in a way, why he still thinks that my approach to IM is risky.
The second quote was a form a reassurance, in a sense. I was a bit worried about the way a buddy was approaching his race. John’s advice was that ultimately we must do what we think is best for ourselves – I like that approach because sink/swim I have ownership for what I am choosing to do.
Are you sure that you don’t simply like working with him because he does what you say?
A doctor’s reminder that as a coach we must be wary of control factors in any advisory relationship. It caused me to think deeply about the plan I was offering a friend. I tried offering him “what I thought he needed” – turned out that didn’t work to well! So we took a break then went back to what my heart knows works. Hopefully, that will turn out to be what he needs!
But the #1 thing that Hellemans told me – I haven’t needed it yet but perhaps that is because I think about it so much. With regards to honour, drugs and cheating:
“Gordo, there will come a time when you have to choose”
Sitting here more than a year past my life best performance. I understand more fully what he may have meant.
I think that folks tend to lose their moral compass when they start to define success relative to others than themselves. It’s also a key to enjoying the work required for success. Whenever I have shifted a training emphasis from “enjoying what it takes to improve” to “doing the training required for a target performance” – things have become a lot tougher.
A good safety mechanism is working on holding our intent to ethically overcoming ourselves. There is a clear risk if we lack purity of intent because short cuts work, in the short term. In the long term, you lose a lot more than simply knowing that you ethically quit.
There is an element of irrational obsession required to achieve a high level in any field, particularly ultraendurance athletics where performance goes far beyond any reasonable view of health or well-being benefits. Of course, there is a counter argument put forward by many-a-compulsive athlete, such as myself, that the alternatives to excessive exercise aren’t all that palatable to me, or those around me.
Anyhow back to John. As a physician I think that it is fair to assume that he’s armed with a wealth of knowledge on both sides of the sports ethics fence.
As my own knowledge of the physiological requirements of a blazing fast Ironman have grown…
As my evangelical dedication to the training required to improve has borne fruit…
…I’ve come to realise that a well trained athlete in a thinly competitive sport such as Ironman triathlon can easily move from international class to world class with a single cycle of PEDs. Nothing new there as we have all seen what PEDs do to a world class athlete.
I suppose the difference is that I never thought that the dilemma could reasonably apply to me. I always figured that I’d be 30-60 minutes behind the best. Now I see that in my best shape, I was likely 5-15 minutes behind. That gives me a fuller appreciation of how it can be tempting.
Not related to John but that reminds me of something – Scott was telling me about something that bothered him the other day. Perhaps he’ll write about during Epic – I hope so because he’s pretty darn entertaining when he goes off about something that he feels strongly about.
What drives him a bit crazy is reading comments from folks that have never come close to achieving their athletic potential debating ideal protocols for relative mediocrity.
Greatness is there, if we’d simply wake-up and commit ourselves to working our butts off.
As you can see, I am still working on John’s internal calm while letting athletes make their own mistakes.
Who knows? Maybe it will work and we’ll learn something.
That’s another of my favourites.
Labels: ethics, triathlon