Faces of purplepatch: athlete evolution

by: Matt Dixon

The Faces of Purplepatch

The Faces of purplepatch case study series highlights some of our athletes that had breakthroughs in performance and remarkable personal experiences. These stories also provides some lessons for all of us on season planning, training and tactical approachs.

At purplepatch, our quest is personal excellence and development, whatever the level. The common thread that ties our community together is the goal for personal development and performance improvement in sport and life.

It’s all about the journey.

Claire Young, British Columbia  

Athlete Challenge: Pragmatic athlete evolution.

Profile: Claire arrived to purplepatch as an accomplished age group athlete, but struggled to take her performance to the next level. Claire qualified to the Hawaii IRONMAN, but her past experiences there were full of frustration. In training, Claire struggled with an accumulation of fatigue, volatility in energy in training and a lack of overall control in her own planning and self-management. Never wanting to skip or scale a session, she had a propensity to push through all fatigue, in pursuit of breaking through to that next level.

The coaching: Central to Claire’s improvement was going to be the development and art of ‘being coached’. It is many athletes' challenge that honest reporting of fatigue would mean that the coach would trim the training load, which eats into the confidence of less confident athletes. This meant that an ‘education’ on the purpose and goal of the sessions would be central to the coaching, as well as creating clear and honest path of communication. In addition to this, we felt that Claire was inadvertently under-fueling relative to training demands, something that was important to correct to help offset the accumulation of stress, and allow optimal adaptations.

The intervention: In creating her program, we decided Claire required a strong hierarchy of session importance, highlighting the key sessions of the week, and outlining the more supporting sessions also, so that she could avoid chasing ‘hard’ across all sessions. We also implemented a framework to increase fueling habits around training, as well as overall caloric consumption. In support of the habit evolutions, we also built training around her needs, with a more strength-resilience focus in riding and running, to help ramp up the needed ‘robust’ demands of IRONMAN. Claire has a smaller frame, and needed a great emphasis on strength-endurance riding, and hill-based strength running.

The results: In a breakout year, Claire won her age group at IRONMAN Canada, then went on to achieve 9th in her age group at the Hawaii IRONMAN World Championships. The best result she has ever achieved, in the biggest race of her life. It was no accident, and wasn’t achieved through magical new training sessions, more load or some secret training camp. Instead, it was simply born out of a more pragmatic approach to her training, with a focus on creating consistency and athlete understanding on each session's purpose. Support this with enough fuel to allow recovery, and we saw a stronger and more confident athlete emerge, and performance arose out of this strong and enjoyable place.

Enjoy the journey. 

Matt Dixon