Coaching 101 – Chasing Numbers

Talk to enough triathletes and you soon realise they share many things in common, their personalities, their drive, their passion, their love of coffee, gadgets and classy training outfits, but without a doubt the strongest connection between triathletes of all abilities is their love of numbers. Whether it be power, HR, time, distance, meters of climbing, weight or finish place it doesn’t matter what sort of triathlete you are most of us share the connection.

This was highlighted once again for me over the weekend. Within the scope of 24 hours I encountered multiple stories of people of all abilities driven by numbers.

  • There was Nigel Maycock and quest to compete the “day of the month” running challenge. Where he ran 1 km on day one, 2 on day two and so on. It sounds simple enough until you think of the last week 25, 26,27,28,29, 30,31km – ouch. But the other thing about triathletes is that they are stubborn and once they start things they have to finish J
  • Then we had James and Bozza having to ride around the block just so they could break the ton for their Saturday morning ride as if very hard 96 km was not a worthwhile ride unless 4km of junk was tacked on the end
  • Liz and Millie were enthusiastically running extra laps up and down Glynburn road just to reach a round number for their Sunday run even though they had braved the rain and the hills for 1-2 hrs prior!
  • Colin was keen to run an extra 1.7km in the afternoon after the tough Sunday run, just so he could tick over 100km of running for the week. 

My story of my own first 100km ride probably sums up where I was at the start of my career and what life was like before Strava and GPS. Arriving home with my magnet on the front wheel speedo measuring 99.5km, I stood on the front porch and spun the front wheel around just to get it to register 100km as I had to get ready to go to the Cricket – how times have changed!

As a coach I see this hunger as both strength and a weakness. A strength in that it is what allows us to achieve (How much drive we have), but also a weakness as sometimes we focus on the wrong numbers missing the cues that we should stop. In this case there were athletes who have failed to bounce back as well as they should or who have pulled up a  little lame because the lure of the number over road their ability to make smart calls to shut the session down or take a day off.

Yes a long ride or run offers many advantages, but be clear on the purpose of the session before you start. If it was not about riding 100km or running 20 then don’t become a slave to the miles. Instead focus on the numbers that matter- HR, sweat rates, power, grams of carb intake, cadence, perceived exertion, enjoyment rating. Too often we are too distracted by how far we swim, ride and run and forget to focus on the numbers that will really matter in making us a better triathlete.

Every session you do should have a purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to just have fun or recover, where numbers don’t really matter, but in most cases be clear before you start your session on what numbers you are need to be chasing and make sure you hit them. 


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