I feel like I actually started really training like a professional athlete when I first started training with Brett Sutton. Before that, and I see this a lot with others, I was doing my best and trying to find my way, and doing ok, top 5 in Ironman races. But what was missing was the singular drive, focus and confidence in doing exactly what was needed to get the best out of myself.
That is what Brett creates, the enviroment to become the very best you can.
Now for me, I wasn’t super fast or successful at swimming, cycling or running, but I could see there was an opportunity to be a professional athlete at long distance triathlon, as you don’t need to be super fast, you just need to go fairly fast for a long time.
The day I arrived in Leysin Switzerland and walked onto poolside with superstars of our sport all there waiting to start the session was one of the most exciting and intimidating experiences. Some of the athletes that were there that morning, Andrew Johns (one of the best ever Olympic distance athletes), Lisbeth Kristensen (Ironman winner, ITU Long Dist World Champion), Tim don (ITU olympic distance world champion, Ironman World Record holder), Liz Blatchford (ITU World cup winner, 2x3rd place Kona), Rebecca Preston (Multiple Ironman Winner), and other very successful athletes.
As a not very successful, not especially talented athlete, how were we going to earn enough to be a professional. Bella and I had to pay the rent, coaching, travel, and also eat!
Bella had trained with Brett before and was coming back after a short break. Her advice was with Brett’s help we will win enough money. So that was the plan.
I had complete trust in Brett as I could see what he had done with other athletes including Bella, and what he was saying to me just made complete sense, no bullshit, just the honest truth. I had to work hard, do as he said and I would get results.
One of the reasons I find it hard to enter races now with any aim of doing well, is when I look back and see the amount of hard work, week after week, month after month, that it took to get my best results. The training I do now is, well, not impressive!
But I loved it, it was what I had been looking for and dreaming of doing, training hard, no other distractions, with the best athletes and the best coach in the world! I started to do ok quite quickly, a large part to do with arriving very fit anyway. Without much structure Bella and I would train a lot on our own. Before joining Brett we would do more hours, I would often run 3hrs a couple of times a week and would always ride lots and long. And realised quite quickly that the swimming I was doing was not working, I needed to do more and harder. So would swim a fair amount, but not the right sessions.
With Brett and the squad, everything had a focus, no wasted time, good hard solid work, lots of days 3 sessions a day, everyday something. We did nothing else, when not training we rested!
A massive part to the whole set up was Brett, without his complete control of the athletes and the sessions, things would be very different. I have not met a coach quite like him before or since. There are other good coaches, of course, but Brett really is something different. I trusted him completely and did everything to the letter.
To just give the best example of what a special coach Brett is, and this is one the big difference between him and other coaches. Is the number of athletes that come to him with no or little results to speak of and he turns them into Champions, Bella is a great example of this, but during my time there to see what he did, with athletes like; Rebbeca Preston, Jocelyn Wong, Reinaldo Colucci, James Cunama, Tereza Macel, Dan Halksworth, Belinda and Justin Grainger, Myself, (many others from before and after my time too) There is a great story to all of theses athletes and if you see where they started and then the results they achieved, it is incredible, we always see in sport the Incredible World and Olympic Champions, often these are very talented and work very hard. But we are all limited, some have more ability than others, and what Brett does is get the most out of what you have.
Chrissie, is also included here too, she came to Brett having raced about 3 triathlons, from day one we could see she had something special! That was a privilege to be able to see her join our squad and what her and Brett did to build her into one of the worlds Best Ironman athletes ever.
Daniela and Nicola are also phenomenal stories and athletes, and came from being talented Juniors, to struggling seniors and then Brett helping them become 2 of the best ever!
All amazing athletes and one of the things I feel privileged to have been able to be a part of, training with and watching up close these incredible athletes working day in day out and then winning the biggest races in our sport.
If I haven’t bigged up Brett enough, just looking at the numbers is enough to see what a special environment it has been over the years.
4 olympic medals, 24 World Champions, 85×70.3 Champions, 86 Ironman Champions. I have to say Bella and I are very proud to be a part of those numbers.
Back to my experience, I want to keep it short, I will try not to ramble on.
I joined Brett and the squad in 2005, it took till 2008 for me to win Ironman South Africa and Ironman UK in that same year, that was what all the hard work was for and it was a very satisfying achievement, and it took time and a lot of work and complete dedication to everyday working towards that goal. Then to finish our careers with for me; 4 Iron distance wins and 13 top 3 results and Bella with; 16 Iron distance wins 33 top 3, and a ITU Long Dist World Championship win, was not too bad and we did manage to achieve our initial goal of feeding, clothing and housing ourselves 🙂
I am writing this partly as I think there are athletes out there like Bella and I, who feel they have enough talent and most importantly the desire and determination to be good at triathlon, but are struggling to find the right way. There is so much information out there, and lots of it is not good or useful. In our age of marketing and self publicity, often the quiet voices of experience are drowned out by the big noisy ships full of confidence.
My advise is try to use your bull shit meter.
1 more point I would like to make is myself and the rest of the squad all getting these unmatched results for 1 team.
No power meters
No heart rate monitors
No Lab testing
Not one of us knew what our FTP was!!
Very little massage, definitely not deep tissue.
No ice baths
Long distance athletes all had just 1 bike, our TT bike.
Raced and trained in the same shoes.