One year ago I wrote a post titled “Overcoming my barrier to success.” I wrote about my experience at my first ITU race in Myrtle Beach, how I was well off the back on the swim, and how that would motivate my training in the winter months. As I had planned, I swam a lot in those snowy months, and made some real progress. My race results improved, slightly, but were inconsistent and more often than not, unsatisfactory. I often came out of the water too far back to have a meaningful impact on the race at the front, and it is clear that swimming still is my biggest barrier to success.
As this season wound down, I thought about what I will do different than last year.??Swim more. Well that’s one option. Put in more hard yards by myself staring at a black line.??Trials of miles; miles of trials.??Sort of a brute force option. I believe in the value of all those high mileage weeks I put in as a runner, perhaps I just need more of that in swimming?
I then considered what the best in the world are doing. How have they become the best triathletes in the world? Next to hard work, the next most consistent attribute appeared to be a daily training environment that demanded excellence. Much like Alberto Salazar and his group with Galen Rupp and Mo Farah in the running world, the best triathletes in the world are training together and under the scrutiny of talented coaches. Does this exist in triathlon in the US? I looked around and found a couple groups with foreign coaches that occasionally train in the US, like Darren Smith’s and Joel Filliol’s squads. There was also??Paulo Sousa??and his group, called ??The Triathlon Squad, whom train out of the San Diego area. I looked into it more, and even sat down to meet and speak with Paulo, and I like what I heard.
The mission of the Squad is to develop elite triathletes capable of competing successfully at an international level.?? Triathlon is a sport where athletes don???t reach their full potential and race their best until several years after starting to race at the professional level. Therefore, the purpose of this program is to provide a comprehensive, positive and supportive environment that prepares emerging elite triathletes for their highest performance ability in the coming years. Toward that end, the program provides an optimal training environment as well as the guidance necessary to develop the skills required for world-class performances in triathlon.
How am I going to become a better swimmer and triathlete???I decided to really go for it and begin working with ‘The Squad.’ About three and a half weeks ago I packed up my mini van in Tucson, and headed west for the first Squad camp of 2013. As you may expect, we did lots of training, eating, sleeping, and thinking about training. There was a great mix of athletes to train with, former swimmers, short-course, long-course, new pro’s and seasoned vets. Each of these athletes can push me in swim/bike/run in some capacity, and there is always much to be learnt when you get a group of highly motivated individuals together.
So there’s??that.??Training in a competitive group environment will surely help me progress. Equally important to my development, however, especially at this stage of my triathlon career, is the technical and mental aspects Paulo enforces.??In addition to getting the work in, Paulo puts a large emphasis on “focus” and “engagement” on each session, something that I need to work on. I am great at putting my head down and hammering, which works well for fitness and can be a good skill to have in endurance racing, but can make things difficult when trying to make changes to technique.
Camp ended on Thursday and I am now back in Simi Valley to spend the holidays with my family. After New Year’s I plan to drive back down to San Diego and get back to work with The Squad for at least a few more months until the racing season begins. Lots of work to do before then!