Mike Neill Riding Bike at 2017 ITU World Long Distance Triathlon Championship in Victoria

Lessons Learned From an Ex Pro

I had the great pleasure of training with some of the world’s best athletes when I moved out to Victoria, B.C. in 2002.

Ironman World Champions, Olympic Gold Medalists and World Cup Winners were all part of our training squad back in the early 2000’s. If you wanted to feel like a small fish in a big pond, The National Triathlon Training Centre was THE place to be. Coming top 10 or even top 5 in big races was acknowledged as good work, but when the winner of the race was also in your lane it was very easy to stay humble.

I learned a lot during those years, but a few things really stood out and continue to guide the way I prepare myself and my athletes to train, race and handle success.

#1 – Never get too high or too low

The best athletes just put in the work and reserve judgement. Training is training. Some days go well, some not so well and they can go either way depending on a number of factors. Not the least of which are fatigue levels and where you are at in your training cycle. If you are into the third week of a hard build you are not going to perform like you would after a solid period of rest and recovery. If you spend time judging workout to workout then you are going to absolutely fry yourself mentally. I watched this day to day judgement break a lot athletes spirits and ruin their confidence while the best just kept on putting in the work.

#2 – Know when it is time to get serious

I use to watch a World Champion flip a switch at the eight week mark out of a big race. This ability to focus is something I learned to emulate and encourage my athletes to do as well. Eight weeks out of a big race is when it is time to do EVERYTHING right; training, diet, sleep, massage. All of the little things should become big things in this final eight weeks. If you want to hit the start line with confidence and “knowing” that you are fully prepared a lot of it has to do with what happens in these final two months. I always feel as if I have already won if I have done everything in that eight week window and toe the start line with good health. Once the gun goes off it is simply time to execute what you already know you are capable of and are ready for.

#3 – Stay humble

This also relates to what was mentioned above. It was easy to stay humble in our training environment because the best athletes in our group were also the MOST humble. The best never tell you how good they are. They show you! Sure, they were confident, but they were confident because they put in the work and they knew how to prepare for the big days. See #1 and #2. They never felt the need to brag or boast. They would quietly put in the work and when the lights came on they would be prepared for the moment and would capture it. Maybe it was very much a Canadian thing, but we also had some great international athletes at the Centre who had the same qualities.

These are just three things that stood out to me in my time training as a “pro” here in Victoria.

They are guiding principles that apply to sport, but they are also very relative to the pursuit of any big endeavor in or out of the sporting world. If you can master them and adhere to them, you are sure to find success in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. And once you have that success you will be well advised to stay humble and keep working hard for the next moment.