Rachel Cliff

My coaching journey started after I’d ‘had a go’ at a couple of triathlons and one duathlon, competing fairly well off my own back; my performance in the duathlon resulted in qualification for an Age Group duathlon in Romania. However, in competing in these first events it was clear that despite some underlying determination and drive, I had a lot to learn across the disciplines in terms of technique and skills.

As a treat, my husband researched a few online coaching options and also a local coach who only focussed on the mental side of sports competition. I wouldn’t want to knock these options having not tried them (nor sound ungrateful for my husband’s research) but once the seed of coaching had been sown, I knew that the best fit for me would be one-to-one focussed coaching; someone who actually could see what I was doing and give me advice on how to develop. From what I have learnt from Racepace (see below), I am not sure the other options could facilitate this.

I researched local coaches and that’s when I found Racepace. The testimonials were strong, one in particular addressed my work-life balance concerns, and so I put a call into Rodger.

It’s fair to say, on first speaking to Rodger I wasn’t sure. His passion absolutely shone through and I was concerned that my desire didn’t match his intensity. I was very much in the imposter zone and really felt that I didn’t warrant someone with such clear ambition investing time in me and that I’d let him down. Even the use of the word ‘athlete’ I found unnerving. I appreciate those statements perhaps says more about me than Racepace, but Rodger kindly suggested I come and visit him and discuss in more detail.

I visited Rodger the following week and he put me through my paces. I did a session on a watt bike (I’d never heard of one before) and then some structured running laps in the park. We then had a thorough discussion about availability for sessions, time to train and my family and work commitments and it was clear that he understood my priorities. I explained that I didn’t know how long my triathlon/duathlon journey would be but I wanted to be able to put in the best possible performance I could in Romania. Rodger has great insight and experience and just with a few encouraging comments he managed to start to break down that imposter feeling that I was shouldering; he got what I was about and I felt that I could trust him with that.

We agreed to start the sessions after I’d got through the ‘joy’ of Christmas (with two small children), as I knew I couldn’t focus prior to that. But during that time, Rodger invited me on a group trail run that he organised and I was able to meet another lady that he was coaching. That in itself helped cement his commitment to me.

I could go on and write a month by month synopsis of my experiences during my time with Racepace but that would take a while. So, in summary:

  1. Rodger was flexible to fit in with my timings/ availability and understood my time pressures. I gave him a rough timeline of when I could fit training in and he gave me sessions to complete accordingly. In particular, I really appreciate that in organising a group ride, he brought the group past where I was camping with my family to collect me on the way so that I could join.

  2. Rodger is incredibly encouraging, but also honest. He has articulated my potential and goals that he could see me achieving in terms of duathlon/ cycling which has given me a realistic bar to attempt to reach and introduced me to new potential disciplines. However, he also confirmed that given the limited pool time I am able to invest in that perhaps going down the triathlon route alone would not give me the same results.

  3. I have learnt a wealth of new skills and although I don’t have a frame of reference, I believe that these were picked up and cemented at a good rate – definitely fast enough to make a considerable difference for the race in Romania. These include;

    1. Running race pace and form (and breathing). I had a tendency to set off too fast on the run. Rodger has introduced many skills and training techniques to endeavour to eradicate this.

    2. Increased cadence on the bike. Use my raw strength less, take off a gear and spin more – same power less effort! I now come off the bike with much fresher legs for the run.

    3. Cornering and gearing on the bike in general. The track facility that Rodger has access to was invaluable for this.

    4. Transition - little did I know the merit of elastic bands!

    5. Using and racing with aerobars and then subsequently a TT bike

    6. Taking my Garmin off and racing on feel – so liberating

No doubt, I’ve forgotten something in the above as there is so much I’ve learnt………….

However, I can well and truly say that my journey with Racepace is one that I’ve very much enjoyed. After each Racepace training session, I came out tired but buzzing – whether that was with mental fatigue after learning a raft of new skills or after those sessions where I was worked hard physically. Each session felt developmental and not just one to keep my fitness up.

Rodger is committed and generous with his time (he got up incredibly early one morning to come and spy on me in a race; I am pleased I was able to execute what he had taught me!) and we struck up a great rapport. He didn’t pay lip service to me and was firm and honest when he needed to be, but equally delivered messages in a motivational way.

My improvements are measurable in terms of delivering a race performance and I am happy to say I am pretty sure that I have shed that imposter syndrome and now feel confident enough to call myself an athlete.

Rachel Cliff