Working with a Triathlon Coach

in Marni Says

I’m so sorry that this post took so long to get up. I wrote it once and then my computer ate it. It’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 that’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 she’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).  Here’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 didn’t have to always follow the plan. She told me, “You 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.” 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 ‘junk miles;’ my body always falls apart when I run too much. Marni always told me to focus on “what you put into the miles” and wrote in an e-mail that she expected me to give “100% of my 100% for that given day.”  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 I’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, she’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. 

eat well

Here’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 Ironman’s Half Marathon.  She said to walk through each water station for 30 – 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 could’ve found answers to a lot of my questions online, but I wouldn’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 wasn’t doing enough – 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 I’m used to).  I would take those comments to Coach Marni and ask, “Are you sure I’m doing enough?”  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 – in hindsight, this was no surprise!  Marni has coached hundreds of athletes of all different abilities.  If anyone knows what they are doing, it’s Marni. 


I knew that I could finish strong with Coach Marni by my side.  Smile


I’ve had a few people ask me if I would’ve preferred to have an in-person coach. While I think it would be even more helpful to meet with a coach  for workouts, it’s really hard for me to coordinate schedules with other people for workouts (between work, Henry’s naps, etc.)  So it would’ve been nice, but I don’t think it would’ve been ideal for me. I’m an online gal and used to ‘meeting’ 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 Marni’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?



  • Runner Girl Eats November 14, 2013, 6:41 am

    I think a coach would be great but I would definitely need an in person coach. I am just not as disciplined online :/

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs November 14, 2013, 7:42 am

    Great post! Thanks for the info — it’s good to know!

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun November 14, 2013, 8:06 am

    I have never worked with a coach but I can see all the amazing benefits working with one could have! I would love to work with a running coach one day, maybe once my wallet can afford it 🙂

  • Casey November 14, 2013, 9:06 am

    I know you had an arrangement with Marni, but how much do coaches usually cost on average?

    • Caitlin November 14, 2013, 9:08 am

      Not sure! It probably varies a lot given their involvement. Maybe others who have hired someone can weigh in.

  • Tanya November 14, 2013, 9:49 am

    Never worked with a coach, but am considering trying to find one. I’m a mid-pack runner who has done a few marathons, and I want 2014 to be the year I run an ultra. But I have no idea how to train to get there!

  • Jamie November 14, 2013, 11:31 am

    People left you comments that you weren’t doing enough? Some people are really lame. Why try to piss all over someone’s hard work? 🙁

  • Sharon November 14, 2013, 12:03 pm

    What a lovely post!! Congratulations completing your race goals.

  • Dione November 14, 2013, 1:45 pm

    My husband is getting ready to start training for Oceanside 70.3 in March. He hasn’t found a plan to work with his crazy work schedule and life at home with our 4 month old daughter. I’ve been mentioning Coach Marni to him and I think this is the PERFECT post to show him!!

  • Kim November 14, 2013, 4:21 pm

    I love that quote about walking during a run–so true!

  • Joy November 14, 2013, 6:00 pm

    It sounds like you had such a great experience with Marni. I’m glad you got to have a coach for such a big race.

    I recently worked with a running coach online for 6 weeks. The experience was good, but not all that I expected. In the future if I were to hire another coach, I would definitely ask a lot more questions up front (so I would know for sure what I was getting). My coach ended up being completely online–no phone conversations or in person meetings or video chat or anything.

  • Inspired Reader November 14, 2013, 6:15 pm

    Coaches are so amazing, aren’t they?? I really appreciated your perspective. Although, after reading both this post and Meghann’s training recap, the thing that shocks me the most is that people were commenting that you girls weren’t doing enough, that is just unbelievable. I think what you both accomplished is amazing and so inspiring! Thanks for being a great role model!

  • Lindsay November 14, 2013, 7:43 pm

    That’s an awesome post dedicated to your coach Caitlin. I believe that it is important to have a coach for all sorts of things, I have a group of personal trainers I work with, a nutrition coach and a business/life coach. They help me excel in all areas of my life. Now I need to add triathlon coach as I hope to do a few sprints next year, a my major goal is a half ironman in the next few years. (That’s the first time I’ve written that down! It’s on the internets! Now I have to follow through!)

  • Christina @ The Beautiful Balance November 14, 2013, 8:27 pm

    Your coach sounds awesome and what an amazing plan she drafted for you!

  • Amanda November 15, 2013, 11:04 am

    She sounds so cool!!!!!!!

  • Marni November 15, 2013, 7:13 pm

    It was MY honor to work with you! there’s nothing I love more than a motivated, hard working individual and I just loved watching how far you came. Of course, anything new is going to be hard and challenging but the most important thing is that you NEVER GAVE UP!! You rocked that course and smiled the entire time and I know your body thinks you rock as well. Keep dreaming big… are an inspiration!
    -Marni, your coach and friend

  • Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate June 20, 2014, 10:38 am

    I just found this post-thanks for this! I have my first half Ironman this weekend. I recently contacted Marni for the possibility of helping me train for my first Ironman. Havent fully committed yet, but I think she would be a great help!

Previous post:

Next post:

Healthy Tipping Point