Friday, October 31, 2008


I originally wrote about this last April, but I think it's worth revisiting, especially as athletes head into winter training.

Triathlon can get fancy and complicated in a hurry, with three sports, too many toys and gadgets, and new "secret" training methods in magazines or internet forums every week. After spending time and talking with a variety of coaches over the past few years, and through a bit of trial and error, I've moved in the direction of keeping things simple, with good results. One of the simplest principles that coaches and athletes can adhere to is:

As I wrote back in April, this idea came up on the pool deck one day with NTC coaches Neil Harvey and Patrick Kelly. It's something most of us intuitively know, but it seems to be rarely followed. Put simply, athletes have to be healthy (free from illness and serious injury) before they can train consistently, and they need to be training consistently before they concern themselves with performance (hard training, or racing). With the typical fall cold/flu season upon us, and a variety of racing opportunities through the fall and winter, it's common to see athletes chase performances in between bouts of illness, compromising their summer performances.

We did a fairly good job of sticking to this philosophy last year with the PTC squad, with some exceptions. In the one instance where we drifted away from our principles, we ended up with a predictable outcome: prolonged illness, compromised training, and reduced performance. It's not always easy to reschedule training, scratch races, or reduce training load; athletes don't like it, and coaches generally don't either. But the alternative is almost always worse.

Coaches and athletes who prioritize summer (triathlon) performances over 'off-season' results, and commit to health and consistency before performance, give themselves the best chance of improved performance in the short term (next summer) and long term (multiple seasons). Athletes and coaches who place a premium on the next race or training session, without considering the bigger picture, are likely to repeat the injury and illness patterns of previous years and wonder why their performance has plateaued.

Life will keep teaching you the same lessons until you learn them. The majority of athletes will repeat the mistakes of last year, and end up with inconsistent training and compromised performance next year. Those who adhere to the simple "health --> consistency --> performance" model will give themselves the best chance of improved performance next season. It should be clear to any athlete which position they want to be in when they stand on the start line next summer. The hard part is living by this model, but it's worth the effort. Start today.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Recent UofG success stories:

Last week, the Globe & Mail had an article on the Canadian University Report, which surveyed 43,400 undergraduate students across the country. The University of Guelph scored in the top 3 of medium-sized universities (12,000 - 22,000) in every category except one (ranked 4th for residences). Survey results here.

In a separate survey, the University of Guelph was ranked first (for the 7th year in a row) in the annual list of "Top 50 Research Universities" by Research Infosource.

On the cross-country circuit, the Men's and Women's Varsity Teams continued their win streak by repeating as OUA champions, and coach Dave Scott-Thomas was once again named OUA Coach of the Year. Both teams will look to defend their CIS titles at Laval in 10 days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Canadians on level playing field

Globe and Mail
October 28, 2008 at 9:53 PM EDT

Yesterday morning, the fresh faces of Canada's alpine ski team were paraded across a theatre stage in downtown Toronto, celebrating another new corporate partnership — this one with Panasonic — and champing at the bit for the World Cup season to begin.

These are exciting, encouraging times. Entering the fourth year of a five-year master plan devised by the former head of Alpine Canada Alpin, Ken Read, the skiers have plenty of corporate dough, they have money flowing in from the Own The Podium program and not coincidentally, they have a string of excellent results to celebrate stretching back through the Turin Olympics in 2006.


Full article here.


Some additions to the list of triathletes who have finished near the top of the cross-country results lately:

Matt Druken, 4th Midget Boys, GBSSA (6 seconds between 1st and 4th)

Morgan Bialkowski, 4th, Junior Girls, GBSSA

Sean Splisbury, 3rd, Senior Boys, GBSSA: Healthy Results

And last but not least, Dave Sharrat repeated as the OCAA Cross Country Champion over the weekend.

Congrats to all, and thanks to Len Gushe for the link to the GBSSA results.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Last weekend, the Coaches Association of Ontario hosted a series of presentations by four successful Beijing Olympic coaches: Wendy Dobbin (Softball: 4th), Pierrre Lafontaine (Swimming Team Leader: Bronze in Men's 1500m), Mike Spracklen (Rowing: Gold in Men's 8), and Joel Filliol (Triathlon: Silver for Simon).

Toronto Star columnist Randy Starkman sat down with the four coaches after their presentations, and published the transcript of their discussion.

While we're on the topic, here's a video piece on Mike Spracklen's program, published prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics:


Ian Donald (#539) on his way to 4th NCSSAA title

Sasha Boulton (right) kicks off her highschool cross-country career with a 4th place finish at GHAC

The highschool cross-country season is coming to a close, with the OFSAA Cross Country Championships this Saturday, in Sarnia. Not surprisingly, some of the top youth and junior triathletes in the province have found their way on to the podium in recent weeks, and will be looking to factor into the top finishing positions at OFSAA.

I'm not sure if there have ever been this many Ontario triathletes finishing at the top of so many regional cross country meets. Here's a quick summary of some of the top results. I've likely missed a few athletes, so feel free to contact me with the details. Here are the results I could find, in no particular order.

Taylor Reid, 1st, Senior Boys, ROPSSAA: C3 Club

Pauline Skowron 1st Senior Girls, ROPSSAA: C3 Club

Connor Hammond, 1st Senior Boys, WOSSA: London Runner

Alexander Hinton, 2nd Senior Boys, EOSSA

Ian Donald, 1st Senior, NCSSAA

Joanna Brown, 1st Senior Girls, NCSSAA: Bytown Storm

Lindsay Anderson, 5th Senior Girls, NCSSAA

Sasha Boulton, 4th Midget Girls, GHAC: Fun2TriClub

Kaitlyn Oliver, 1st, Junior Girls, YRAA: Speedplay Triathlon

Adrian Gavrilov, 5th, Midget Boys, YRAA

Taylor Forbes, 1st, Junior Boys, SOSSA: Hamilton Hammerheads

Austen Forbes, 2nd, Junior Boys, SOSSA: Hamilton Hammerheads

David Mackie, 6th, Junior Boys, SOSSA: Fighting Koalas and OREA Racing

Chelsea Mackinnon, 2nd, Junior Girls, SOSSA: Hamilton Hammerheads

Rui Xu, 1st, Midget Boys, SOSSA: Hamilton Hammerheads

Blair Morgan, 3rd, Junior Boys, EOSSA

Tristan Woodfine, 1st, Junior Boys, EOSSA: Bytown Storm

David Mackie races to a 6th place finish at SOSSA

These athletes have also garnered a fair bit of local media attention. Ian Donald and Joanna Brown are featured in the Ottawa Citizen. Chelsea Mackinnon was recognized at the Athlete of the Week for Westdale Collegiate in the Hamilton Spectator, and several athletes were featured in this Spec article on the SOSSA race. Not to be outdone, the Kingston Whig Standard reported on "Alexander Hinton and his band of brothers".

Local media attention is always appreciated; Thank you Hamilton Spec, Ottawa Citizen and Kingston Whig. Congrats to all athletes and coaches on their performances, and best of luck at OFSAA.

Monday, October 27, 2008


From the ITU:

Please follow the link below to view the 2009 ITU Uniform Rules. It is very important you do so as there are some changes from previous years (Sections 6.5 & 6.6).

This will also be available in the "Downloads" section of

Please send all questions to

Friday, October 24, 2008


Believe it or not, our next training day is only a week away. Since we decided not to host a training day during the busy holiday season in December, we scheduled two training days in November (2nd and 30th). For full details on the training day program, including registration, visit this link.

The big change from the last training day (other than Simon and Luke) is that we'll start cycling next weekend. Regardless of the weather, we'll ride inside, so athletes need to bring their bikes and stationary trainers. We have a small number of trainers for athletes to reserve on a "first come (e-mail), first serve" basis, but we ask athletes to bring their own trainer if they have one.

If you have already submitted your registration forms and signed them at the Oct 19th. training day, you simply need to e-mail me with "Nov 2 Training Day" in the subject line, to let me know that you are coming. I will send you a short reply confirming receipt if your e-mail, and confirmation of your registration. The fee for the training day is $20, as per usual.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


A proper post is in order to thank our Training Day volunteers and guests.

First off, thanks to Rachel O, Jenn H, Tyler B, Angela Q, and Dorelle H for volunteering their time to help with the registration and organization. Thanks also to Rich for the LCD projector, and Steve Q for taking pictures.

A huge THANKS to Simon and Luke for volunteering their time. I'm not sure if I made it clear on Sunday, but it was Simon who e-mailed with the offer to come to the training day, and then arranged to have Luke come too. If you follow Simon's blog, you'll know that he's given a lot of his time to visit schools, clubs and groups lately. He manages to fit these visits in between his sponsor commitments and training, although he's under no obligation to do so. He's a remarkable role model for young athletes, and an incredible ambassador for the sport. For those who weren't in attendance, Luke and Simon trained with the athletes for the AM swim workout, followed by a 75 minute Q&A session with Simon and 75 minutes of autographs (until every last person had met Simon and got an autograph). At the end of his talk, Simon brought out his medals (one from each pocket) and handed them to the crowd, trusting that they would come back to him at the autograph table (which of course, they did). Luke was peppered with questions about his training and racing over the lunch hour by the juniors. After lunch, we had a run session, consisting of a large six station circuit, and Simon and Luke made sure they trained (or played) with each group. They were so busy that neither one took a break for lunch.

During Simon's talk, I couldn't help but remember the people who posted comments on the CBC and Globe & Mail websites during the Olympics, knocking our athletes and questioning the value of the limited support that they receive; the 'nattering classes' as Bruce Arthur of the National Post called them. I wondered what they were up to while 150+ people enjoyed the opportunity to meet Simon and Luke, hold Olympic medals in their hands, and get inspired to live a healthy lifestyle and test their own limits.

In the days since the Training Day, I've run into a few parents and athletes around campus, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I've also received some great e-mails:

Thank - you so much for a terrific day yesterday. My kids and the rest of the Marlin kids had a terrific day training and learning with our Ontario Triathlon stars.
A Marlin parent asked me today how Simon's presentation was and the best way I could describe it was that there was something for everyone to take away or learn from it. Simon did a fabulous job of being technical enough to keep the interest of the serious competitors and keep it simple enough to hold the attention of the younger athletes. Just awesome.

Luke - Thanks for 'training' with Simon and our kids - it will be a day they remember forever.

I just wanted to say that it was great to listen to Simon's talk. The pool staff that were able to make it thought it was amazing

Thank you for setting up the Simon Whitfield training day -- the kids (and I admit it - parents too) were completely blown away.

Thanks for all your work in setting today up with Simon. My kids enjoyed themselves alot. Hard to beat having a two time Olympic medalist training along with you.

Once again, thank-you to our volunteers and coaches, and most importantly, Simon and Luke for their time and effort. Everyone thought it was an amazing experience which will not be forgotten.

[EDIT: I forgot to thank Stefan Timms for his time and effort too. Coach Timms is a former World Cup athlete, with a ton of triathlon knowledge and experience, and he is always willing to support the development of our youth and junior athletes. He's also the only coach fit enough to swim, bike and run with the juniors, so it's always an added bonus to have Stefan alongside the athletes. Thanks Stef.]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I haven't been to the Floswimming site lately, but it's an entertaining (and sometimes valuable) resource. I prefer the coach interviews, but viewers can also get new ideas for workouts. I definitely advocate 'borrowing' ideas and looking for inspiration from other coaches and other sports; as a coach, you just want to make sure that you acknowledge your source (thank you Kevin Mackinnon for the ball game we play all of the time), and make sure you know how the workout fits into your program, and why you are using it. Otherwise, you might as well use this to help you write your training plan.

Dorelle sent me the link for this workout on FloSwim. Maybe we'll give it a test drive in the spring.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yesterday we were thrilled to welcome two special guests to our first Training Day for 2008-2009.  Two-time Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield (big kid in the middle), and pro triathlete Luke Dragstra (yellow jacket and visor, playing goal) volunteered their time to swim and run and talk to the athletes and parents about their experiences in triathlon.  

I'll write a proper post in a day or two, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank Simon and Luke for volunteering their time (THANK YOU), and encourage everyone who attended the Training Day to visit Simon and Luke's sites to leave them a quick message of thanks.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


All of the athletes registered for the whole day (Swim, Simon's Talk, Run) or half day (Simon's Talk + Run), should have received an e-mail from me in the last two days with the Training Day schedule, directions, and a list of gear to bring. I've also e-mailed everyone who signed up for Simon's talk. Just in case your spam filter held up the e-mail, here are the basics.

Click on the two links on the right hand side menu, under the heading "DIRECTIONS TO THE PTC" for directions to the UofG, and the location of the Athletic Centre on Campus

Free on weekends at UofG

(it hasn't changed from previous posts)
8:15-10:00 Swim
10:00 - 10:30 Break
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:30 Run session
2:30-2:45 Wrap-up

Athletes should bring the following:
Swim Gear (if registered for the swim session: goggles, cap, towel, suit)
Running Gear (dress for the weather, we'll be outside for the run session)
Water Bottle
Camera (optional)

Athletes can bring their own lunch and eat in the gym, or in the pool gallery. There will be at least one coach in the gym for Lunch to supervise. Alternately, athletes can bring money to buy their lunch at the University Centre (3-4 min walk from the AC). We'll have at least one coach escort a group over to the University Centre.

That should cover the basics. To that athletes who are under the age of 18: bring a parent or a guardian to sign the waivers for you.

See you tomorrow

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


A few updates to the OAT COACH LIST, which is always available on the right hand side. As I've stated before, this is a list of NCCP certified triathlon coaches in Ontario who have agreed to have their contact information made available to the public. OAT does not endorse any particular coach, but we do value certified coaches, and we try to support and promote certified coaches whenever possible.

Other News:

Training Day planning is going well. I'll be sending out an e-mail this afternoon or tonight with details for the registered athletes. There are no planned changes to the Training Day schedule I posted last week.

Luke Dragstra has also agreed to volunteer some time at the training day. Originally from Bowmanville, ON, Luke trained as a member of the National Development Team at the National Triathlon Centre in Victoria, BC, before moving to long course racing. Drags spends most of his time in Europe and Asia, and brings a wealth of experience as a full time pro triathlete, so I'm excited to have him visit on the 19th.

The PTC squad is coming together, after a campus-wide cough/cold affected almost everyone over the last two weeks. Training has been light, with a focus on consistency, and we're enjoying the great running weather.


The following is from an older interview, but it's worth reviewing.

John: Today's coaches lack a few qualities. What quality do you see as the most important when coaching children under the age of 18?

Kwame: “When coaching young athletes, the emphasis should be on skill-building. If you listen to Pete Sampras in an interview, he didn’t start seriously consider becoming a professional until he was around 16. Even then, he was more focused on “building weapons” (skills) than on winning right away. He will tell you that this is WHY he became so great. So, all of these coaches and organizations that are focusing on winning at all costs and showcasing 11 year olds to professional scouts are completely missing the point. We play sports because sports are fun. Kids should be coached to create competency. If your child decides at 9 years old that he/she wants to be fireman, would you put them in an intensive firefighting training program? No, because this child will likely change their mind 6 times before they are 18. Same thing with sports. There are only 2 reasons that coaches, organizations, and parents would be that focused on winning and “showcasing” these children: Money and Glory. Period. These are not burdens that we want children being saddled with.”

Full interview here.

You can occasionally find some good info, or at least a few good ideas, at the IYCA website, or the IYCA blog.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Speed River maintains a great website, including regular video updates of interviews, training and racing. Check out a recent interview with head coach Dave Scott-Thomas, on the future of the Speed River program (especially the comment at 1:50). Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Great news! James Loaring and his wife Breanne welcomed their new daughter, Annika, into the world on Tuesday.  You can read all about it on James' blog. Congrats to the Loaring family from the PTC!


(ITU Worlds, back when everyone still raced in speedos)

I'm in the middle of finalizing Annual Plans for the coming year, so that's taking up most of my time. Instead of making athletes and parents wait for me to return e-mails, I thought a quick update would do the trick:

The original max registration for the training day was 40.  We hit that limit in two days.  After meeting with the pool supervisor, we decided we could safely add a few more athletes, so we increased the registration to 50.  All athletes were put on the registration list in the order that their e-mails were received. 

We're maxed for pool space, but not for Simon's talk, and not for the run session.  Simon's talk will be in a gym, and we're running outside (cross your fingers for good weather), so space is not an issue. Therefore, the 50 athlete cap will still apply to the swim, but we can have additional athletes at the afternoon run.  Currently, we have 63 athletes registered in all (double our biggest training day last year). The fee for Simon's talk and the run session will be $10.
We knew we had two options for the training day; 1) keep the registration #'s relatively small to maintain the quality of the training, or 2) allow more athletes to register in order to meet Simon.  Obviously, the opportunity to hear Simon speak and join in a workout or two with him easily outweighed concerns about workout structure.   We're still committed to running great workouts, but it will be a very busy day. 

The tentative schedule is:
7:45-8:15am Arrive and sign-in
8:15-10:00am Swim session (UofG Gold and Red Pools)
10:00-10:30am Swimmers change and have a snack break, others arrive for Simon's Talk
10:30-11:30am Simon's Talk + Q&A (this session may go to noon, we'll see how it goes)
12:00-1:00pm Lunch (bring your own lunch, or visit a campus cafeteria)
1:00-2:30pm Run Session (a large circuit program with a mix of games and short sets)
2:30pm Wrap-up

Registration forms are available here. E-mail them to me when they are complete.

I'll send out a confirmation e-mail next week (Wed or Thurs) with the final details.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


( Coach Neil Harvey, NTC Training Camp, Kona 2005)

A few odds & ends:

Quote from Don Burton, Head Coach of the Guelph Marlins and the UofG Gryphons swim teams: "When I was a young coach, I knew everything." We had a good laugh at that one.

I've added a link to some documents, on the right. Blogger doesn't allow document downloads directly from a blog post, but we can link to google docs, which is just as good.

First up, the OAT Coach List. This document will be posted on the OAT Website in the future, but I've posted it in the meantime. Several months ago, I e-mailed all NCCP Certified triathlon coaches in Ontario to ask if they wanted to be included on a published list of coaches. This is a list of the NCCP Certified coaches who replied with interest. This list was borne out of my frustration with people who advertise themselves as certified, when in fact they are not. To be fair, many coaches in this situation are simply the victim of administrative error; their attendance at NCCP courses was not properly entered into the NCCP database, so they are not officially certified, even though they should be. There are however, a few people out there who mistakenly believe that attending one NCCP workshop or seminar qualifies them as a certified coach. It doest not, but due to privacy laws, OAT (or TriCan, or the NCCP) cannot identify these 'coaches'. I recommend that athletes considering a new coach request a copy of the coach's NCCP transcript; it's a simple way of confirming certification. It's certainly true that certification doesn't automatically mean that a certified coach is better than an uncertified coach; there are many athletes who race successfully under the guidance of uncertified coaches. Certification does however give an objective indication of the professional development undertaken by the coach, and with the New NCCP Certification (NCCP Competition Coach) now available, certification means that the coach has been evaluated and found competent.

Ultimately, this issue isn't so much about the uncertified coaches who (perhaps unintentionally) are misrepresenting themselves, it's about the certified coaches who have actually done the work. If we value competent coaching, and the work it takes to become a certified coach, we should make sure that our certified coaches are recognized.

Before I end my rant, a few quick notes:

1) This is a list of certified coaches who wanted to be included in the list. If a coach is NOT on this list, it doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't certified, only that they haven't yet asked to be added to the list.

2) Certified coaches who want to be added to the list can e-mail me with their CC# and permission to review their transcript. I'll update the list quarterly, or as needed.

3) The OAT Coach List includes coaches who are certified as NCCP Level 1 coaches (the highest level ever offered for Triathlon), and/or NCCP Competition Coaches. The "Old NCCP" system of Levels is no longer offered. All future certified coaches will be certified under the New NCCP program as Community Coaches (designated as 'trained', not certified), or Competition Coaches (Intro, Development or High Performance). All current and future certified Competition Coaches are evaluated to determine coaching competency, while Community Coaches attend workshops, but are not evaluated (hence the term 'trained' rather than 'certified'). Level 1 coaches will not be 'grandfathered' into the new system; they must be evaluated to be certified.

4) To better understand the "New NCCP" certification, read this.

5) OAT does not endorse these coaches. We provide the list as a service to OAT members, and to the coaches who have completed their NCCP Certification.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Things have been busy in our first week back, primarily due to Simon's visit to our upcoming Training Day on the 19th. Training for the PTC squad last week could best be described up as sketchy, but we're off to a much better start this week.  In other news, The Record published a story on Karsten Madsen:

Triathlete aims high

October 04, 2008

“I want to go to the 2012 Olympics,” the 16-year-old said. “I know it’s a long shot . . . but nothing is impossible.”

Madsen is seriously dedicated to the sport — which sees athletes swim (750 m), cycle (20 km) and run (5 km) over a gruelling course, at the junior level. He’s been at it since he was a toddler, competing in kids races, training wheels still on his bike.

Full article here