For two years I was a self-coached triathlete with some success, but felt like I had plateaued. When I signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I was determined to race a fast Ironman, and I needed a coach to get me to that next level. Brian came highly recommended by several of my friends and training partners. It may seem like an odd pairing – he lives and coaches athletes in San Diego and I live and train in Spokane, Washington. But anyone who has set about the daunting task of hiring a triathlon coach knows there are countless online coaches spouting credentials and achievements even when it’s impossible to authenticate their success. Immediately, Brian seemed genuinely excited about my goals, he understood my experience and fitness level, he was willing to give me all the personal attention that I needed, and he quickly learned my strengths and weaknesses.
I’ll never forget the first week of bike workouts that Brian gave me. It was January in Spokane, which meant workouts on my trainer. He had me pedaling harder and faster than I had ever gone before, and I thought for sure I was going to puke…it was awesome. I’m the type of athlete who loves the challenge of a really tough workout, especially on the bike. I love testing my limits and proving to myself that I can reach a new level of discomfort. As I sat there on my trainer, sweating buckets, groaning and dry-heaving over my aero-bars (to the amazement of my husband), I knew instantly that Brian was the coach for me. Over the next 6 months, my husband would often hear me say, “That was the hardest workout I’ve ever done in my life.” His response was “I thought you said last week’s workout the hardest workout you’ve ever done.” I’d reply, “Well it was until today.”
One thing that I really appreciate about Brian’s coaching style is his willingness and eagerness to explain the philosophy behind each training block. Since I’m not the type of triathlete who regularly reads Slowtwitch nor researches the latest training tools, it was really helpful to have someone explain why I am doing the workouts I do and what the graphs behind my Garmin and PowerTap actually mean.
Come June, I was stronger and faster than I’d ever been–not only on the bike but also in the pool and on the run. It was very exciting and I was prepared for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. But Ironman can be a fickle race, and although I PR’d by 25 minutes and had strong swim and bike legs, I was bitterly disappointed with my run.
The worst part was calling Brian after the race because I felt as if I had let him and myself down. Brian agreed that I could have put together a stronger run. He suggested that perhaps I had psyched myself out and lacked a little mental toughness on the run, but he also encouraged me to look at all the positives from the race and reminded me that I had reached 90% of my goal. This was a critical conversation and a turning point in our coach-athlete relationship, although I didn’t realize it then.
Looking back, I am so grateful that Brian wasn’t completely satisfied with my performance and that he challenged me to examine my own mental toughness. At the time, I was a little pissed--who was he to tell me that I had psyched myself out or that I lacked mental toughness? I thought to myself, I am mentally tough….aren’t I?
After several conversations with my husband, I decided to sign-up for Ironman Canada, just eight weeks away. When I asked Brian what he thought about another Ironman, he was really excited! Physically, there was little more work to be done, I was extremely fit. Mentally, my confidence was shaken, but luckily Brian’s confidence in me was still strong. Fast forward to August 27, the day before Ironman Canada. I Skyped Brian from a laptop in Penticton, British Columbia, and I told him matter-of-factly that I had promised myself to run the whole marathon, no matter what. Apparently, he took this to mean that I was utterly and completely prepared for the race.
With a no-regrets attitude, I went into Ironman Canada determined to prove to myself that I could put together a strong race from start to finish. I had a great swim (4 minutes faster than IM Coeur d’Alene) and a strong yet conservative bike leg. As I rode into transition, my bike computer recorded a temperature of 97 degrees. Ouch. This was going to be the hottest (and hardest) run of my life.
As I left transition I remembered the promise I made to myself. And so I ran, and ran, and kept running even when it hurt so badly that I wanted to cry. As the miles ticked away, I remembered that Brian had instructed me to concentrate on each step and think about my form. That helped to keep my mind from the nausea that was plaguing many of the athletes in the heat.
At mile 22 I hit a wall like no wall I’ve ever been up against. I sort of considered if I might die, and as I began to wobble and my vision blurred, I wondered whether I would collapse before the finish. In the past, I would have given up at this point, especially when two of the men alongside me stopped running and began puking. It took more mental strength than I’d ever exhibited during a race, but I didn’t stop, and I even finished strong. They say the last mile in an Ironman is effortless because the crowd and the finish line draw you in, but they’re lying. I remember every step of that last mile and every step was hard.
And it was TOTALLY worth it! My mental breakthrough on the run resulted in a banner day and I was thrilled! Not only did Brian help me achieve my physical goals, more importantly he helped me to overcome some mental obstacles. Brian told me he nearly cried when he saw that I had negative split the marathon; if that’s not real dedication from a coach, then I don’t know what is. I finished in 11.00.37, placing 4th in my age group, setting a new personal best, and missing a Kona slot by one person and three minutes.
After the race, many friends and acquaintances have asked how I’ve dealt with coming so close to Kona yet ultimately falling short. Sure, it’s bittersweet, but I can honestly say I am content with my race and have no regrets because I pushed my body to the absolute limit (and I never thought I’d be able to say that!). With my renewed self-confidence and a little more training, I think I will make it to Kona…some day. In the meantime, I am very grateful for my good race, my great coach, and my continued love of the sport. Thank you Brian!
I met Brian through the Triathlon Club of San Diego. After doing sprint triathlons for a couple of years, I became more involved with cycling because of the low-impact yet high physical challenges it offered. I mentioned to Brian that I was considering doing a 620 mile charity ride, the Million Dollar Challenge, to benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation. When Brian shared that he was starting a coaching business, I knew he would be the perfect person to help.
I had a year and I needed a plan to get me from the 60-80 miles a week I was currently riding, to a week of 620 miles, from San Francisco to San Diego. Now I know, for most, a year to prepare for a 620 mile ride probably sounds like overkill. Most people get themselves ready in about 20 weeks. But I’m not built like most people and Brian didn’t bat an eye at the challenge. I was born with a bone malformation called SMD-K which has caused me numerous physical issues over the years, so I knew I had to be very conservative with my training if I wanted to pull this off.
One of the benefits of living with physical challenges all my life is the developed understanding that I can do a lot more than I think I can if I prepare properly, listen to my body and in so doing, avoid injury. Brian completely understands this philosophy; in fact, his coaching business is built on this belief. I knew I was in good hands when I asked for his help.
After meeting with Brian, he gave me a very detailed plan tailored to what I needed for my particular ability level and goal. We communicated often, road together, and adjusted the plan as needed to accommodate any physical issues that arose.
One great thing to know about Brian is that he thinks it’s really cool when girls are tough enough to work themselves to the point of puking. You should know it’s not his plan to make you puke; rather, he really wants you to push at a level that will make you want to push again, not a miserable level that makes you avoid a workout. However, feel comfort in knowing he is a guy you can barf on with confidence, as he will look at you with a twinkle in his eye and no doubt brag about you and your accomplishment to anyone’s ear he grabs. He’s that kind of coach.
Fast forward one year later. The 620 mile ride was by far the most difficult thing, physically, I have ever done. I struggled daily from the second day to the seventh. However, with eleven hours on a bike, I had a lot of time to reflect on the training I had done. I knew, without a doubt, that I had done everything I could to prepare for this ride and there was no way I could have pulled it off without Brian’s help. If I had been left to my own devices, I would have been grossly unprepared and most likely disappointed with my results.
Instead, I accomplished a week of riding that included 30,000 feet of climbing, all with a physical structure that makes for lively doctor talk around my x-ray images. On my final day of riding, I knew I would see Coach Brian somewhere along the route from Newport Beach to San Diego; again, he’s that kind of coach. Sure enough, he was there to greet me at the bottom of Torrey Pines for the last climb before joining the group in La Jolla. He was smart enough to bring me candy and fed me all the way up as I was more than ready to be done with this crazy goal of mine.
Thanks Coach Brian for not shying away from coaching this little one and for all your cheerleading along the way! You were critical in my personal success and for that I am grateful.
Rachel (Gordon) Wills
I signed up for Ironman St. George on peer pressure. I didn't look at the course profile. I clicked on "Pay Now" unknowing of what the future would bring. Most of those peers ended up dropping out, but that's not something I can do. $550 was an investment that I was going to see through to the end.
I met Brian through mutual friends on the Great Western Loop. I was first his coach (swim technique), before he became mine. We became riding friends and he learned of my Ironman ambition. He asked me if I had a plan (no) and if I would let him coach me for the run portion (um, yeah! - I have no idea what I'm doing). After a couple of emails and personal sessions, he realized I had no plan, and he became my Ironman Coach.
Then he started a business and I was his first subject (cough, client). I knew Brian was going to be a thoughtful coach. After knowing him for awhile and following his blog, I knew this was going to be a scientific approach but with the "life happens" attitude. After seeing the first week in my inbox, I knew I was ready. He had analyzed all of my prior race results and documented training up to this point.
I imagine at this point he was wondering what he was getting into. But he had an athlete who has a "don't quit" attitude and was up for the task. I am NOT a runner. The daunting task of that marathon freaked me out. I had battled injuries in the past and had never really done any structured run training. Brian's conservative approach made sure I stayed injury free and also helped me mentally with the mileage buildup.
I tried not to look at the plan 5 months down the road. (WHAT? 30 miles in a week? I've never done that much in one month!) But the weeks were ticking by and before I knew it, I could not believe that I, a non-runner, was running 30 mile weeks, with relative ease.
St. George was not an easy task for me or him. Not only did I challenge him to push the envelope with mileage, but also with elevation. This isn't a flat course. Brian had me running repeats on Mount Soledad before work. He'd map it out and ride his bike next to me for the first loop and sometimes run next to me on the second. He had me riding 100 mile loops in east county, with 10,000 feet elevation gain. He had me swimming in the frozen 54 degree water at La Jolla Cove.
Looking back, it wasn't as miserable as it sounds. I got through it and those are the key workouts that I remembered back to on race day.
Brian is a leader, motivator and mentor. He is a coach and a friend. He got me to the line injury free and confident. I had confidence about my race plan, nutrition, and execution. All because of his instruction along our journey.
Race day came and went. You can read my blog for the full report. I had the fastest female amateur swim time in that 54 degree water. I stayed with my planned pacing on the bike and put up a solid day on that hilly course.
And to the amazement of everyone, (especially me), I ran the entire marathon. I attacked it much like my days on Mount Soledad. I passed countless athletes (something I've never done on the run before!) who either pushed too hard on the bike, had nutrition or pacing issues, or didn't train enough.
That wasn't me. And I couldn't be more grateful. I was running, smiling, and getting through those 26.2 miles. There were low moments, but remembering back to everyone who got me to where I was, I had to keep moving. For me, for them.
Brian came to St. George. He was all over the course giving me updates and listening to my stories. Having him and my family as my cheering squad meant the world to me. Crossing that finish line and hearing Mike Riley call me an Ironman really put it all into perspective. Without Brian, I may have not made it there.
I decided while in college that I wanted to make exercise my living. That prompted me to become a personal trainer after graduating with a B.S. in Exercise Science. I’ve been a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer for six years now and have trained hundreds of clients. I have my Master’s degree in Exercise Science and am now working towards my doctorate. I’d hope that at this point I’d know a thing or two about exercise. With all that being true I found the coaching by Brian during the lead up to my attempt at averaging over 20 mph at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred to be unparalleled in my experience and I couldn’t have reached my goals without him.
I am used to cringing while listening to “experts” explain “THE ONLY TRAINING PROGRAM IN THE WORLD THAT WORKS”, filled with physiological exercise myths, half-truths, and misguided, unsafe advice. It was refreshing working with Brian because he knows what he is talking about. Not only does he understand the physiology behind training, but he also knows that sometimes it’s better to do a workout that a person would enjoy more than the most physiologically advantageous one.
Previous to my structured training program I had always been a “go hard when you feel good, go easy when you don’t” kind of guy. I also am a very social exerciser. Brian took both of these personal traits into account while designing my training programs. I did have to do some rides alone, but Brian had me do my tempo workouts as part of a group ride which was a great idea I had never thought of doing. There were also options each week. I didn’t have to do a specific workout on Monday. That way I could do the more challenging workouts when I had more time, and the shorter less intense ones when I felt a little sluggish.
My favorite day of training came the weekend before my century. I had ridden 100 miles the weekend before so I was confident I could complete the distance. Now the question was, could I do it fast. I was scheduled to ride 60 miles on my own and at my goal pace. Coming from Southern California I was not used to checking the weather before my workouts because it’s bike riding weather every day in San Diego.
However, on this particular Sunday in Connecticut it was rainy. I waited until about 10am to start the ride and thought I had a good window to ride. I got exactly 0.4 miles into the ride before the skies opened up. It down poured so hard that when I pedaled through the puddles waves of water flowed into my shoes. I had planned to stop at a coffee shop for a quick break at the 25 mile mark. While there I checked my average speed and was happy to see I was at 19.1. The way out was into a pretty stiff headwind so I was confident that if I worked really hard on the way home I would be okay. I pushed all the way home and came in with an average speed of 20.1. I was ecstatic and called Brian right after to let him know. He told me I was ready for the HHH.
The race itself was great. I had some cramping towards the end but through the whole day I had that tough training day in the rain in the back of my mind. That one day was a symbol of all the hard work I had put in. I finished the 104 mile ride with an average speed of 20.1mph! I was extremely proud at the end. I knew that I had worked hard up to the ride, but throughout the whole process I didn’t feel like I was giving anything up, or overreaching. I always felt ready for that week’s workouts. Even though it is quite possible that I could have come up with this training program on my own, the fact that I always felt like Brian was on my side made everything easier. The support he gives, whether by phone, e-mail, or a training-session time trial up Mt. Soledad, was invaluable and a big part of my accomplishment. Thanks Brian!
Erin finds time for racing around her busy schedule as a graphic designer. (She's the one who designed our awesome logo and team uniforms.) She's also one of the Social Directors for the Tri Club of San Diego. Read about her 12-week half marathon training program with us.
After I told Brian I was planning to do the Run to Remember Half Marathon in Boston, he asked if I wanted a coach. My initial reaction? No way! After completing my collegiate swimming career in 2005, I had been a coached athlete for 13 years. I turned to triathlon to stay fit and maintain my competitive spirit, not to have a coach telling me what to do and when to do it.
After some consideration, however, I decided I would work with Triathlon Lifestyle Coaching for three months leading up to my race. Why not give it a whirl? Before even starting my 12 week training plan, Brian assured me that I would run well under a 1:57, my 13.1 PR. I didn't know my limits with running because I had never tried to reach them. As far as I was concerned, 1:56:99 would be a victory.
Every week for 12 weeks, my email inbox pinged with a weekly training plan from Brian. Nearly every week, the numbers, both in distance and time, seemed impossible to me. But nearly every week, I was able to meet or beat those numbers. Brian knew my limits better than I did and designed a plan specific to my wants, needs and abilities. I saw consistent improvement, felt a sense of accomplishment each week and, most importantly, stayed injury free. I never felt forced to run because I always looked forward to pushing my limits a little further each week. Each run was unique, so I never got bored.
Not every run was perfect. During my slumps, Brian always
had confidence in me, shared encouraging words to raise my spirits and
adjusted my training plan to put me back on track. After traveling 3,000
miles to run 13.1, I crossed the finish line in 1:47 and set a 10 minute PR.
I was thrilled with my achievement and was in the best running shape of my
My experience with Triathlon Lifestyle Coaching was fantastic. I learned how to push my limits and go beyond my comfort zone while staying healthy. While my training plan was only three months long, the training methods I learned while working with Brian will last a me a lifetime.
Nökö and her husband Ian are recent citizens of the U.S., immigrating from Finland and Scotland. For years they sailed around the world captaining and crewing yachts. Now they've settled on land for a spell, and in between work and throwing legendary dinner parties, they've discoverd triathlon.
This spring, in her second year of racing, she's had amazing success. At her first half ironman (Super Frog), she took third place in the amateur division. And at Wildflower, she placed 2nd in her age group and 11th overall on the hugely competitive Olympic course.
Below, Nökö describes her training with Triathlon Lifestlye Coaching...
It was December 2009 when I had my first meeting about my triathlon training and goals for
the future with Brian.
He had all my sports and previous triathlon information analyzed in front of him. Of course I’m a bit concerned about the verbal news telling me how I have trained so wrong and how we are going to change everything.
Well, that was not the news; he actually was very positive about my own workout program and how well I had done.
I told Brian which race I would like to be as my main race of the season and which other races I have planned to do. He threw in one half marathon to make me feel more comfortable to race my first 70.3 later on, and pointed out which work outs are more important at a given point in the season's plan.
You see, my bases for this hobby have being “train hard till you drop, and extra info about triathlon you can get from internet”. But if it REALLY would be that simple, I think everyone would be doing this and without injures. During that few hours meeting Brian found out what I really wanted out of my first real race season and informed me how much time and work it will take. We had to improve my running and get my biking stronger, plus keep up with the swim...that pretty much covers it, right?
My background in sports is swimming for 10 years when I was in school and a few years of waterpolo. Fitness wise it really does not warm me up much, as that was 25 years ago, but apparently I still had the technique left. I had done some road biking as a fun hobby with my husband, and running was pretty much a nightmare every time I even thought about it. People tell me that I’m a pretty competitive soul, fair enough, but I have never really raced against anyone else than myself.
I had no idea about techniques of how to race against someone on a bike or running-- meaning the psychological side of racing. And let me tell you, there are lots of things that will get me to the finish line easier and feeling not so guilty for fellow racing mates now days.
At that meeting Brian gave me my first week's work out plan and that’s how it all started.. There came tempo and interval work outs into my life, together with Great Western Loop brick work outs. And running track work outs that did not make me puke, but have made me so much faster. I had never even heard of tempo or interval workouts ..what, “do not go flat out till you bonk and then go home?”
Brian kindly offered to come out on a bike and to the track and tell me why and how we are doing these. A whole new window opened up for me and my sporty lifestyle.
Along the winter months Brian has educated me mentally how to deal with ups and downs of training days. Dealing with the long runs when you just simply do not want to do it and when I finally go out and run, I feel like I have a dive lead belt around my waist and the day is just simply way too gray in anyone’s standards. When my daily job gets the better of me and there is no more energy, he forgives me to miss a work out but he does have this (cannot put your finger on it) tone in his voice if you try to bail out of the next one. And suddenly I feel better cause I went and did my work out and life is so much better again.
As Brian has a back door to my training life--called "Garmin"--on the good days he always remembers to mention how well I’m doing and throws in a few mathematical facts to compare times with my previous ones. I really think that he checks my workout schedule everyday...he does not tell me so and I really do not want to know but hei...it makes me go out and do stuff as I know that if I do not...the (cannot put my finger on it) tone of voice will come some point soon!!
It was January this year when during our monthly lunch meeting, while he was showing me my work out history and times and graphics how things are going, he just casually mentioned that my half marathon should go to 1.40, taking the hilly course and how I am getting better. I just laughed as I thought that time would be absolutely absurd. Well I ran it 1:40:27.
My main race for the beginning of the season was Super Frog. Brian told me on that same meeting that I should be doing it to 5:10. Well, it ended up that the swim was pretty rough, but apparently I had a great bike...and my time was 5:06. What I’m trying to say here...he does not build “cloud castles” to your head about how you will do and really does not expect things from you that are not possible.
Brian is very realistic about your abilities and he will give you all “the tools” to make you better. He is always there for you rain or shine. There really are no words to thank you enough Brian. You have given me a new life style and I’m loving it!