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Art & Science Symposium Wraps Up

Sept. 25, 2008, 4:07 p.m. (ET)

The 2008 USA Triathlon Art & Science of International Coaching Symposium supported by Training Peaks concluded Tuesday in Portland with more than 150 coaches in attendance for the three-day event.

The gala on the final evening featured ultramarathoner and author Dean Karnazes as the keynote speaker. Other keynote speakers included John Naber, Antarctic Mike and Jim Ryun. Featured presenters included Inigo Mujika, Ph.D, Dr. Michael Kellmann, Ph.D, Randall L. Wilber, Ph.D, Bobby McGee, Dr. Nicholas Romanov, and Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS.

In addition to the speakers and presenters, attendees also had the opportunity to hear about the Olympic experience from the Laura Bennett, Julie Ertel, Sarah Haskins, Hunter Kemper, Matt Reed and Jarrod Shoemaker – the six athletes who represented the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics. Members of the USA Triathlon Sport Performance staff also discussed their Olympic experiences.

Topics included: Peaking and Tapering for Triathlon, Recovery Modalities, Training the Elite Endurance Athlete: Physiology “Checklist” Data, Mental Skills Preparation, Running Discussion, Metabolic Testing and the “Haul to the Great Wall.”

“Everything has been so valuable – from the keynote speakers to the presenters and the athletes, just to hear their experience of the Olympics was beneficial,” said Mary Pilbro, a coach and age group triathlete. “I tried to absorb everything I possibly could.”

While attendees gained inspiration from the vivid storytelling of the keynote speakers, they also gleaned as much knowledge as possible from the scientific side of triathlon.

“The presentation that immediately comes to mind as one with ideas I’ll implement in my own coaching is Bobby McGee’s presentation on working with athletes from a psychological standpoint,” said Susan Farago, a Level I coach. “That’s a really big piece of what it is that we do both as coaches and as athletes. I’m certainly going to go back to work with my athletes and myself to grow in that area.”

Day 1 Summary
Olympic gold medalist John Naber was the keynote speaker on the opening day, speaking about the “gold medal process.”

Naber, who won five medals at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, focused on eights points for success. The former swimmer and broadcaster drew information from his book, Awaken the Olympian Within, which contains essays from 27 Olympians about what their Olympic experiences taught them about life.

Naber’s gold medal process includes eight points: dream, attitude, goal, strategy, short-term steps, hard work, will power, and courage.

As the afternoon progressed, the focus shifted from art to science as vendors presented information about products that benefit triathletes and supplement coaching. The day concluded with a reception featuring the U.S. triathletes who competed at the Beijing Olympics.

Day 2 Summary
Mike Pierce, often referred to as “Antarctic Mike,” drew from personal experiences from the Antarctic and his lifestyle as he addressed the coaches. His key points included passion, vision, and challenges.

Here are a few key quotes from Antarctic Mike, who said his next challenge likely will be paddling Lake Superior, doing a bike challenge up a hill at Torrey Pines or running the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Alamosa, Colo., for 100 miles.

“A great coach, great friend, great motivator can help a new triathlete see the challenge in front of them in a different way.”

On why he is so passionate about Antarctica: “I need a taste of what my heroes went through.”

“Everybody has a goal, a dream, a threshold of what they want to do.”

“It’s important to push and have the right attitude and be optimistic, not only in sport, but also in life because triathlons will come and go.”

“Difficulty is all relative to someone else’s experience. I always put things in my mind that would minimize my difficulties.”

Presenters included: Inigo Mujika, Ph.D (Peaking and Tapering for Triathlon), Michael Kellmann, Ph.D (Recovery Modalities), Randy Wilber, Ph.D (Training of the Elite Endurance Athlete), and Bobby McGee (Mental Skills Preparation).

The day concluded with the Olympians speaking about their experiences and answering questions from the audience.

Here are some of quotes from the athletes:

“We all have different backgrounds and everyone has different things to work on. Hunter comes from running. Julie comes from water polo,” Laura Bennett said. “In the U.S., we think of it as we’re giving something up to do triathlon. Our society is finally starting to take it more seriously, and I think that’s one of the steps to making the sport better in this country.”

“It’s tough because sometimes all you see is the three medals, and that’s not what we get out of it,” Jarrod Shoemaker said. “I’ve only been in the sport four years. I made the Olympic team on my first try, but I still have a lot of learning to do. USAT has done a great job in giving the young athletes an opportunity to learn."

Day 3 Summary
Olympic silver medalist, former high school mile record holder and U.S. Congressman Jim Ryun kicked off the final day of the symposium.

Ryun’s speech delved into goals, creativity and inspiration in training for endurance athletes. Among the highlights of his speech was the detailed account of difficult workouts he did as a high school student in Kansas.

He addressed the issue of helping an athlete set goals and how to help the athlete attain those goals.

“Getting the athlete to take ownership is often the most difficult part of setting goals,” Ryun said.

He also spoke of his early running days, relating to triathlon coaches who face the challenge of teaching proper running form to athletes.

“I had the intensity. I had the interest. But I didn’t have the form,” Ryun said. He proceeded to describe the drills his coach had him perform to achieve optimal form.

The day also featured a spirited running discussion featuring Dr. Nicholas Romanov and Bobby McGee, Bob Seebohar, MS, CSCS, RD, CSSD (Metabolic Testing), “The Haul to the Great Wall” question and answer session with USAT Sport Performance staff members and the Gala dinner with Dean Karnazes.

Karnazes capped the event with his speech, providing entertaining stories from his running feats and the celebrity that has come with running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.

“It was good to put a personality to the person you see in the limelight all the time,” coach Richelle Lopez said. “Some of the stuff he touched on such as what motivates him, how he trains, why he does it, are pieces that I can take back and use.”