I was recently asked to tell a little about where triathlon fits in my life. Interesting question when you think about it.
In a number of ways, sport for me has always been about a lifestyle choice. It was something I discovered in my early 'teens and never looked back on. I can't see myself not doing something active as part of my average daily routine.
My first competitive sporting activity was running in the Ottawa region in the early 80's. Interestingly enough, while I enjoyed longer distance activities more than middle distance, in retrospect it was the psychology and behaviour associated with long distance that enticed me that way rather than any physiological talent!
While running was my first sport, cross-country skiing was my first exposure to any structured training and I pursued this through high school eventually reaching long term Olympic Development Team levels in my last season as a junior. The technical challenges, the constant flux between aerobic and anaerobic demands and the esthetics were strong influences on me.
Triathlon entered the mix August 28, 1984 when I entered my first triathlon as summer cross-training. It was the National Capital Triathlon, back then a 2 km swim 50 km bike and 15 km run. I still remember my race number, #123. For the next few years, triathlon was my summer sport and skiing my winter sport.
A deciding moment in my ski-triathlon balance took place on a rainy August 28, 1988 (again) at the Montreal Olympic Distance triathlon. All was going well until a calculated risk gone bad ended in a crash on the bike. End result was a nasty fracture of my left forearm, two plates, twelve pins, some wire and associated nerve damage. Thus, my ski career ended as I couldnt handle the impact of the poling motion. However, my triathlon career was not affected, with swimming eventually prescribed as physiotherapy.
University was interrupted by an ambitions to train and compete in triathlon. I packed up and moved to San Diego over the winter of 1988-89. I restarted my studies at the University of Calgary for the fall of 1990. I enrolled in general physical education but by the end of first year I had moved into an honours program in Exercise Physiology. At that, I disappeared into anonymity in the faculty of science for my last three years.
During this time I continued to train and race triathlon in Alberta, mostly the generic 'standard distance' events. All my swim physiotherapy must have had an effect as my triathletes profile had changed from middle pack swim / strong bike / good run, to lead pack swim / strong bike / survival run. In 1994, I graduated (honours First Class) from my undergraduate program with a thesis demonstrating that wetsuits adversely affected swim performance potential due to constraints on ventilation and completed Ironman Canada.
I worked in the University of Calgary Human Performance Laboratory for the next 4 years looking at power output in cycling and other activities from a number of angles . I completed my M.Sc. in 1996 and I began doing sport science consulting for Biathlon Canada and Cross-Country Canada at this time.
A few academic courses that strongly influence my coaching philosophy were muscle physiology, research design and bio-statistics. I would characterize my coaching philosophy as one built on understanding the concepts involved as opposed to one I acquired on faith. Using a cooking analogy, I am not a recipe follower, but like programs based on what I know and understand. I have no problems serving up a training diet based on what is in season as opposed to what the athlete's taste or mood dictates. As such, periodization and systematic overload are highly developed components of my training program design process. That aside, skill coaching is probably the make or break aspect of any program.
While still at U of C in 1995, I began designing training programs and haven't looked back after getting athletes to two Olympics, multiple World Championships, not to mention a few first time 10 k runners, triathletes and lots of outrigger paddlers!
For myself, I began a battle with an asthma like condition three years ago. It is allergy and pollution triggered, so it has not been fun. As such, I have had to modify my training to accommodate this problem. Unfortunately, the onset of allergy season for me is late May to early June (see triathlon season), and from then on I am on borrowed time. To this I have taken up surfski paddling (an open ocean racing kayak a la Magnum PI) as an outlet. The open water minimizes the asthma like symptoms and the reduced muscle mass involved suits my reduced ventilatory capacity.
And now, I am looking to return to my roots in a way and get develop my triathlon coaching skills.