Playing the long game

Posted on July 22, 2014 by Rodge

Different coaches offer different things. Racepace Triathlon Coaching is first and foremost about coaching individuals. We don’t believe in pre-set training plans or standard, generic methods. Each athlete has a unique number of areas that we would hope to address. If the athlete is willing to ‘play the long game’ then over time these can be addressed to the best of both the athlete/coaches ability. I’m sure you’ll find Sarah’s blog an interesting read and in our view it’s a fair reflection of what can happen to an athlete if they are open to learning about more than the sport they strive to master..

Turn the clock back 3 years and I’m stood at the side of the pool at Virgin gym waiting to start my first triathlon taster session and, not knowing it at the time, the start of a journey that would pretty much change my outlook on life, allow me to meet and work with some amazing people and challenge myself in ways I didn’t even know existed. As I stood there at the tender age of 29 years young I was a very quiet individual, unsure of myself and what I was capable of. 

I had recently joined the gym after several years out of competitive sport having raced as a teenager in both swimming and mountain biking and spotted the fliers advertising the taster sessions. Having recently finished the Fleetwood triathlon I thought these sessions would be a good way to learn a few skills, meet new people and find out whether this was a sport I wanted to get into. The coach for the sessions was a chap called Rodger Wilkins who had set up his business Racepace with the aim of motivating, challenging and educating athletes to be able to perform at their best. The sessions were full of like minded people, some like me who were complete beginners and other who had already got a few triathlons under their race belts. As with most things I did around that time, I stayed to the back of the group, taking in the information being given to us but never really stepping forward.

When the sessions ended I contacted Rodger and asked whether he would be willing to take me on as an athlete for a short while to get me ready for my first attempt at Bassenthwaite triathlon. With the few sessions I had done fresh in my mind I set off with a lot of nerves, worried that I would forget everything. I finished the race in 9th and definitely hooked on triathlon. At this time I would say I was low on confidence, not really sure who I was or what I was doing. I had recently been made redundant from a job I enjoyed but involved a long commute so I had never really had the opportunity to spend time training. Luckily after a short time out of work I was given a position at a local business (10mins from home) and one where I got on with my colleagues and was able to train with more direction. 

After Bassenthwaite I made the decision, with the support of my partner, to start training with Rodger on a more permanent basis. The first few months whilst we got to know each other and to trust each other were interesting. I felt like I was being tested both physically and mentally in each session and that sometimes I didn’t understand what was being asked of me. Over time these worries were eased and I soon believed in the Racepace philosophies,and trusted that the sessions being planned were the best for me and that I would have to work hard and understood that things wouldn’t change instantly overnight.

Starting the 2012 season and although my fitness and strength had improved my confidence and self belief were still fairly low. I was turning up to races almost sick with nerves and really struggled to feel settled in the race. Although I did have some success in this year (qualifying for the 2013 European Championships being the main one) I feel this was due to the improvement in my physical ability rather than anything else. During the winter months of this year and into early 2013 myself and Rodger put a bit of work into changing my running technique. I competed in a few 5 and 10km running races and started seeing improvements in my times. My bike power was also improving and with this a bit of inner confidence started growing. I could feel and see that the work I was doing was having an affect on what I was able to do. 

The 2013 season soon came round and with each race I was learning more and with each race I was building confidence in not only myself but what I was doing. I felt more in control of myself and my races. I’m not going to say everything went to plan because it didn’t but again these instances were learnt from. On a personal level I was feeling ‘content’. I was enjoying life and felt relaxed. I was doing something I enjoyed and wanted to be my very best at and it was almost as if a switch had been clicked inside. I was able to approach different situations and not be worried sick about what to do or what other people where thinking, I was only able to control what I was able to do. 

My trust and belief in what Rodger was doing with me also increased in this season. People looking from the outside may not have understood the process we were going through and if I’m honest I too questioned it sometimes but having gotten to know Rodger over the last two years I trusted his judgement and knew he would never get me to do something without there being a reason or theory behind what we were doing. 

Once again over the winter season work was done on my technique and with my new feeling of contentment I was open to try pretty much anything. Inner confidence was growing, and at the start of the 2014 season I had a whole new perspective on racing.

So here we are, present day, the start of this season really could not have gone better. I’m turning up to races with a calmness that I’ve never experienced before. I know why I’m there and what I have to do but even better than that I know how to do it. I’m enjoying racing but I’m still there to race to the best of my ability and as long as I continue to do this my belief and confidence in what I’m capable of will grow over time. I will continue to push my boundaries both physically and mentally but never forgetting where I started and how far I’ve come. 

Sarah Jepson