Prior to reading any post in the thread “We Race As We Train” its imperative that the reader watch and listen to the Youtube video of Lionel Sanders reviewing his performance at the 2019 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. The context for the “lessons” stem from the statements made by Sanders in that video.

Lesson #2

Lets continue on with this concept that Lionel Sander’s finishing position of 22nd @ 2019 Ironman World Champs event was entirely due to an error in his hydration/nutrition strategy…

Lets think about this…

No two races are identical: no two races are exactly alike in course layout (i.e. elevation change, technicality, etc…), no two races are exactly alike in weather conditions (i.e. average temperature, humidity, wind strength, wind direction, wind gustiness, etc…) and even the same race in back to back years will not provide identical conditions so how is anyone ever to develop ‘an’ hydration/nutrition strategy?

Its bullshit to believe that its possible to have ‘a’ strategy… for anything!

But lets run with that thought for a moment… let’s explore what extent of dumb-assery is required in order to believe such bull.

If pro athletes know that no races are identical, and no two race days are identical, then what…

Are you suggesting that pro athletes are supposed to be meteorologists as well, forecasting the precise weather hour by hour so that they can adjust their one  hydration/nutrition strategy?  Are you suggesting that race morning, pro athletes adjust their hydration/nutrition strategy based on the predicted weather? Let me see… humidity is going to be 65% til 10am, then jumps to 75% which means I should hydrate by 50mL/hr more starting at 9:30, but then there is cloud cover expected at the same time which means the temperature could drop so that means I should hydrate by 35mL/hr less (so I don’t risk hyponatremia), then factor in the wind which is supposed to be still but then build to a steady breeze of 10kph from the south, with gusts up to 20kph… which means that since the first leg of the bike is with the wind I will need to hydrate a bit less, but the second leg is into the wind so I will need to hydrate more.  Seriously?

Am I to believe that Sanders’ is a horrible meteorologist and adjusted his hydration/nutrition strategy worse than Frodeno, O’Donnell, Kienle (and the other 18 pro men who were ahead of him) on race day? So instead of training… what? Lionel should be spending more time studying weather, improving his meteorological skills so that he can adjust his hydration/nutrition strategy to match that of the pros who are consistent champions?

Or..

Are you suggesting that pro athletes build an hydration/nutrition strategy to be dependent on refilling at aid stations exactly at the precise time when hydration/nutrition is needed? Are you suggesting that consistent champions gamble with their performance on race day by making themselves fully dependent on volunteers never fumbling a water bottle, never dropping a cup of water, or that volunteers are in the right place at the right time to hand water, or that aid stations are always set up perfectly and never run out of anything? Seriously?

Am to I believe that Lionel Sanders’ attempt to execute his hydration/nutrition strategy fell apart because a volunteer didn’t hand him a water bottle precisely at the right time and missing a refill on the bike… it was a volunteer that cost Sanders 21 spots at Ironman Worlds?

Let’s make this thing clear…

No athlete who is a consistent peak performer depends on an hydration/nutrition strategy working out perfectly. Every consistent champion knows that they have to train themselves to be able to compete and perform at their potential even when strategies do not work out perfectly… because they rarely do. In fact, they train not to dependent on any one single strategy.

Case in point… at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the finals of the 200m FLY, Michael Phelps goggles filled with water after diving off the blocks. He swam effectively blind. He swam counting his strokes. He swam to Olympic Gold and a World Record. Now that’s a champion!

How did he do that? Because Phelps trained without goggles and with water filled goggles, because when it mattered most… he was not going to depend on ‘a’ strategy of ‘hoping that nothing will go wrong b-c in his prior Olympics nothing did’.

Whether its suffering a minor jelly fish sting in the swim (Daniela Ryf), a flat tire (Chrissie Wellington), having to serve a drafting penalty (Chrissie Wellington), coming off the bike many minutes behind the leader out of T2 (Anne Haug/Patrick Lange) or missing water bottles while on the bike (Jan Frodeno), the best of the best do not expect everything to workout, they train in order to make everything workout and then win (while setting a course record) just to prove how little they depend on their ‘strategies’ working out perfectly on race day, and not just once, but championship event after championship event.

The whiners, the complainers, the victims … blame… and its typically their hydration/nutrition strategy they blame, because any bullshit excuse will do.

Long story short…

Its impossible to have ‘an’ hydration/nutrition strategy because no two race days are ever alike: its a losing game plan to have ‘a’ strategy.

What’s the solution?

Train so that your physiology doesn’t depend on ‘a’ strategy. Train to develop so much spare capacity that even if you miss a water bottle, a gel, any one or two parts of your strategy, that your entire performance isn’t compromised. Any athlete who fails to train in such a way is fooling themselves into thinking they are champion material, let alone consistent world champion material.

As for coaches…

If you are a coach and you defer to the hydration/nutrition strategy as the explanation for every time your athletes ‘fail’ to deliver a desired performance, the gig is up…  I call bullshit on your hydration/nutrition strategy excuse as its a cover for your inability to properly train and coach athletes.

Its been a great game… every time your athlete ‘succeeds’ its as a result of your brilliance as a coach, but every time your athlete ‘fails’ its your athletes incompetence in executing on their hydration/nutrition strategy… right.

Enough is enough.

Its misleading to advise athletes that performance comes down to depending any one single strategy when in reality it comes down to proper training.

3x Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander said…

“Anyone can win something once or do something once.  You can be opportunistic, but turning up at the biggest races in great form and putting in a great performance year after year is the toughest thing to do in sport [and in life].”

Why? Because conditions will be just right to allow an athlete to win – even to win a world champs – once, but conditions will never be just right twice… which means any athlete who wins, and wins, and wins, and wins… is no fluke, they are truly a champion. They have studied and trained to win any time, any where, against any one, period.  The rest… well they whine and complain – as victims always do – that this one aspect or that aspect of their strategy fell apart.

Exactly, victims fall apart, and champions simply don’t. What are you training to be?

Q: If Phelps didn’t win Olympic Gold / set a WR in the 200m FLY in Beijing as a result of his goggle issues, what would a triathlon coach have blamed it on?

A: Phelps didn’t execute on his hydration/nutrition strategy.

In a slowtwitch.com Q&A with 70.3 Ironman World Champion – Nice, France – Norwegian National Team Member athlete Gustav Iden was asked how he ever managed to obtain the hydration/nutrition he needed because… read the excerpt from the Q&A.

Again, Iden won 70.3 IM Worlds despite forgetting his gels, and despite his water bottle cage breaking off his bike. Exactly… champions figure it out on the fly.