Monday, November 4, 2013

From the Coach's Perspective

Triathletes may not have a stage as big as the World Series, but we do have a World Championships that takes place in Hawaii every October. Two Tallahassee triathletes competed there this year, Colin Abbey and Kate Harrison. They both share a coach, Chuck Kemeny, who travelled to Hawaii to watch them compete. Kemeny himself raced Hawaii a few years ago, so he is familiar with the course, logistics, and excitement associated with an event as competitive as the World Championships. Here is a little of what he had to say about his experience on the coaching side of the sport, rather than the athlete side.
R-L: Shannon Coates, Colin Abbey, Kate Harrison
SG:  How do you think your experience racing Kona helped you as a coach to your athletes racing there? 
CK: Having raced Kona before allowed me to prepare them for the environment. Kona provides the perfect storm as far as race conditions go. You have very hot temperatures and humidity is always high. Knowing this, I was able to instruct them what parts of the course to ride/run and what time prior to race day. The time of day is important as you want them to get a feel for the heat and winds during certain sections of the course. 
Most importantly, I was able to prepare them for the energy of Kona during race week. During race week you get not only the athletes competing, but hundreds more elite athletes coming to watch. Collectively this adds up to a few thousand very elite athletes working out at all times of the day at varying intensities. Going there for the first time it is very intimidating as you start to question what you are doing and why people are working out so hard leading into the race. Reality is that the vast majority of the people putting in major miles at high intensities are not racing. I believe I was able to prepare them for this and keep their head in the game.

All Done! R-L: Shannon Coates, Chuck Kemeny, Colin Abbey

SG: What assistance were you able to provide on race day?
CK: I met up with my athletes in the morning prior to the race to make sure they were all set for the race. Coaches are not supposed to be on the course other than as a spectator so I was not able to advise them once the race started. My role race day was to track my athletes and support their families.
SG: What did you notice as a spectator that you missed out on as an athlete?
CK: As an athlete, you do not truly appreciate the sacrifices your family makes for you to be there racing. I was able to witness the highs and lows of both Colin's and Kate's families throughout the race. I was there to give them good and bad news throughout the race as we watched splits get updated on the athlete tracker. I know as a coach I was much more vested and worried throughout the race than I was when I raced it. Even though I knew that I had given my athletes the proper training and advice, it is what you cannot prepare them for that worries you.
SG: What was it like not competing?
CK: Not competing was wonderful. I was able to take in the race and the days prior to. I did not have to worry about my sleep schedule, what I was eating, or what I was wearing. I could not have asked for anything more from the race or my athletes. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of coach and supporter to my athletes and their families.
SG: How does it feel as a coach to have three people who competed in Kona (Kemeny also coaches former Tallahassee resident Shannon Coates, who also competed in Kona this year)?
CK: How does it feel? To put this in perspective, there are thousands of triathlon coaches. Hundreds of new coaches are certified each year. Most of these coaches will never have an athlete qualify for the Ironman World Championships. Statistically, less than one percent of athletes who compete in an Ironman get a chance to compete in the Ironman World Championships. Having three athletes qualify and complete the race in the same year is surreal to me.

Proud Coach! R-L: Chuck Kemeny, Kate Harrison, Colin Abbey

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