Iâ€™m so sorry that this post took so long to get up. I wrote it once and then my computer ate it. Itâ€™s always hard to re-write something immediately when that happens! But here it is! My thoughts on working with Coach Marni.
When I committed to doing the Half Ironman, I spent a lot of time reading training plans online to get an idea of what it would take to cross the finish line. The more I read, however, the more confused that I felt. The training plans varied so much! One plan was 24 weeks long; the next was 12. One plan had me running 20 miles a week in the beginning; the next had me maxing out at 15. It was overwhelming, to say the least. And thatâ€™s when I decided that I really need a coach.
I found Coach Marni while working on a freelance project. I was writing an article about fueling for long bike rides and needed to interview an expert. A friend on Twitter recommended that I talk to Marni, who is a seven-time Ironman and a registered dietitian as well as a triathlon coach. After our interview, I approached her about being my coach (if you remember from my introductory post about Marni, we did a services swap; she agreed to coach me in exchange for promotion on the blog). We seemed like a good fit, as she is also a Florida woman (how I miss my home state!), and sheâ€™s a vegetarian like me.
Coach Marni gave me a 12-week pre-built plan that I followed for 15 weeks (I repeated some weeks). Hereâ€™s what one of the weeks looked like:
Posted with permission, of course.
So, not only did Marni give me a training plan to follow, but she also helped me tweak it. This is where I really appreciated having a triathlon coach. We went over my strengths and weaknesses, my work/traveling schedule, and my other limitations and made all the necessary changes to the plan.
Marni assured me that I didnâ€™t have to always follow the plan. She told me, â€œYou do not have to stick to the plan 100%; however, it is important to have a basic understanding of the periodization of workouts (each month) as well as how the workouts fall in the weekly training plan. Every workout has a purpose; each workout teaches the body how to adapt to training stress.â€ So when I had to skip a workout, I would usually contact Marni and ask her how to change the rest of my week. Should I skip the day entirely? Do it another day? If so, what workout should I eliminate? She helped me see the forest through the trees and focus on the workouts that mattered the most.
Marni believes in quality over quantity. It was very important to me that my coach felt this way. I cannot do â€˜junk miles;â€™ my body always falls apart when I run too much. Marni always told me to focus on â€œwhat you put into the milesâ€ and wrote in an e-mail that she expected me to give â€œ100% of my 100% for that given day.â€ I love the balance between pushing myself and listening to my body.
While Marni provided a lot of support and guidance during the actual training process, what I most appreciated was the coaching she provided about the actual race. Marni and I talked a lot about the swim because my primary concern was that Iâ€™d panic. The week before the race, she helped me formulate a game plan for the swim (such as where to position myself at the start) and told me what to do if I panicked (namely, flip over on my back and breathe deeply). We also went over pacing techniques, which helped a ton as I ran a very well-paced race!
But the Number One thing that Marni drilled into me was race-day nutrition. I decided to do exactly what Marni told me to do (after all, sheâ€™s the expert) instead of doing what I *normally* do for nutrition for shorter triathlons (which is kind of just winging it). She gave me a very specific plan to follow. Her advice was really priceless, as I never hit the wall during the race.
Hereâ€™s a brief outline of what she suggested for mid-race nutrition:
- Wake up with enough time before the race to eat breakfast. Eat the same thing you ate while training (I had a peanut butter sandwich with a banana).
- Take in some calories immediately before the swim (I ate some ShotBloks).
- Throughout the race, aim to take in 200 calories an hour through a combination of HEED sports drink, Gels, and ShotBloks.
- For the bike, bring three water bottles with 2 scoops of HEED each. Aim to drink two but all three is best. Also take two Gels for instant energy during the ride.
- If you have to pee coming off the bike, that is good. That means you are hydrated.
- Drink water or Gatorade at every water station during the run. Continue to follow 200 calories per hour rule.
Marni also recommended that I follow a walk/run protocol for the Half Ironmanâ€™s Half Marathon. She said to walk through each water station for 30 â€“ 60 seconds (sometimes I walked for 90). She also told me to take walks at each mile marker if needed. My favorite Coach Marni quote:
Walking is not failing. It is just postponing fatigue as much as possible.
Marni provided so much feedback during training (through phone calls, texts, and email). Not only was she an information bank, but she also helped motivate and inspire me. I couldâ€™ve found answers to a lot of my questions online, but I wouldnâ€™t have felt like the answer was tailored to ME. Working with a coach who knew me and my abilities, goals, and concerns really helped me feel more confident. Sometimes, I got feedback in the comments section of the blog that I wasnâ€™t doing enough â€“ even on the weeks that I was hitting all of my workouts! This was a little jarring because, of course, I wanted to do well (also, I felt like I was working out all the time relative to what Iâ€™m used to). I would take those comments to Coach Marni and ask, â€œAre you sure Iâ€™m doing enough?â€ She would always say yes, and she would remind me that her goal was NOT merely to get me across the finish line. Her goal was to get me there while feeling good. And she did, with a very strong quality-over-quantity plan. Her training plan worked wonders â€“ in hindsight, this was no surprise! Marni has coached hundreds of athletes of all different abilities. If anyone knows what they are doing, itâ€™s Marni.
I knew that I could finish strong with Coach Marni by my side.
Iâ€™ve had a few people ask me if I wouldâ€™ve preferred to have an in-person coach. While I think it would be even more helpful to meet with a coach for workouts, itâ€™s really hard for me to coordinate schedules with other people for workouts (between work, Henryâ€™s naps, etc.) So it wouldâ€™ve been nice, but I donâ€™t think it wouldâ€™ve been ideal for me. Iâ€™m an online gal and used to â€˜meetingâ€™ and working with people across the Internet.
Would I work with Coach Marni again? You bet. In a heartbeat. I would recommend her to ANYONE. You can learn all about Coach Marniâ€™s services here (she does coaching, sells pre-built plans/swim workouts, offers nutritional counseling, and more).
Have you ever worked with a coach? What was your experience like?