When I began my career shift last Fall, signing up for the USA Triathlon Level 1 Coaching Clinic was a no-brainer to me. I absolutely see a future in multi-sport coaching and becoming officially certified by the sanctioning body of the sport was a given. In the same way that I don't want to see a "fake" doctor and a non-certified plumber or car mechanic, I wouldn't want to be coached by someone who isn't certified or educated to do so. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that a USAT credential is a must. It's not. There are many amazing coaches and mentors out there who have experience, background and loads of schooling and credibility. For me, though, as someone coming up the athlete ranks, it was important to receive the official credentials in order to pursue a future business.
Getting into a USAT Coaches Clinic is tough in and of itself. They basically have one weekend a month and only allow 40-50 people to sign up. It's worse than getting into a damn Ironman. My fingers were literally on the on-line registration the second it opened up last December. Yep, I signed up for a March weekend training way back in December.
Tucson was great (but wouldn't want to live there). Shawn and I went out a few days early and stayed at the Marriott Starr Pass Resort. Gorgeous views of the mountains in the distance. As usual, we were spoiled with great pools, food and restaurants all on-site. Our favorite was actually the lazy river lap pool. Since no kids were tooling around, we actually took advantage of an empty pool and loops against the current--kinda like swimming circles in an endless pool! We are such dorks. But it was a great workout. God knows, you didn't go far very fast, but I'm kinda used to that sensation in the water.
We also visited tri store mecca trisports.com and rented a couple of Gurus for the day. We rode for a few hours in and around the Saguaro National Park region. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and I honestly lacked the confidence and hip ability to climb some of Mt. Lemmon. We did drive up a lot of it and watched the temperatures drop 20 degrees, as well as piles of snow accumulate on the side of the road. Someday I'll get back there and climb a portion of that little bastard. It's a rite of passage for any cyclist, I suppose. My bike fit wasn't all that great so I didn't want to take too many chances with Oceanside being two weeks away. You can see from the picture below just how freakin' huge the aerobars were! Almost funny huge. Frame size was ok, but maybe a smidge big. Bike fits remain a mystery to me. It's one of those things where you know IMMEDIATELY if it's not right though. Funny, we didn't think or worry about that as kids on our oversized huffys with uncomfortable seats.
The seminar itself was, well, to be honest...like most seminars. Some of the material was beginner material or information that seemed common sense or second nature. They did explain that the Level 1 Coaches Clinic is like that because there are total newbies, as well as experienced coaches in the room. Therefore, they have to take a broad approach on some of the lectures. What stood out, though, was the magnitude of the speakers we got to see. Krista Austin spoke about Physiology and and Overtraining. She coaches with Alberto Salazar's Nike Oregon Project and works with Meb Keflezighi among many other American standouts. You think she might have a thing or two to teach? Uh yeah.
Others were just as awe-inspiring including Bobby McGee who spoke so eloquently about the mental aspects of training and the proper way to run. He had me when he said that you have to "become a runner" and not just someone who is "running in a triathlon." Bob Seebohar, who specializes in Sports Nutrition and Periodization, was also amazing to see. The new buzz phrase is being "metabolically efficient" and we learned all about it! You could really see his passion and energy for the sport. We also had elite level coaches speak on cycling skills, swimming, and writing actual training periodization plans. The goal for the weekend was to walk away with several "golden nuggets" of information that perhaps I didn't know, or needed some clarification on, or got to hear for the first time. The seminar definitely met and surpassed those goals. Plus, I got to meet 40 other like-minded individuals who are at the same point I am. Some are already coaching, some are getting ready to launch business, and others were interested from an athletic performance standpoint. We walked away with decent material, a huge exam and a 200 page coaches manual that I now get to read and study.
While I do think other topics could've been addressed in more detail (training periodization and USAT benefits specifically), I'm glad I went and would recommend the seminar. If nothing else, you gain access to some elite coaches that wouldn't otherwise be available. Listening to their stories about Olympic athletes and pros was actually quite humorous and refreshing at many points. Why? Because they are just like us normal dweebs. They have the same (if not more) insecurities and baggage to carry around. They also have to be told how and what to eat, when to shop, when to sleep, where to run and how to bike. The only difference? The elite level coaches I saw are the ones that get paid to do it for them.
So now the work begins. I get a couple of months to do my exam and hopefully pass! I'm also in the process of deciding what type of coaching I want to pursue and when I want to do it...Do I want to stick with group dynamics ( I love it), individual athletes, on-line, or some type of combination of all? Who knows? Thankfully, there's no rush to figure it out. Whatever is supposed to happen just will. It always does.