Rise To The Top: Kevin Collington's Evolution

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An Athlete Evolved 

It is always nice to write about a successful evolution of an athlete, but the journey to date of Kevin Collington is one that holds lessons for all athletes, not just for the elite. Kevin is now in his third season with purplepatch, and has enjoyed a tremendous evolution as an athlete - with his latest success being a strong win at IRONMAN 70.3 Costa Rica last weekend.

Kevin’s purplepatch journey can be broken down into three main lessons.

  1. Dynamic: A training approach that demands evolution
  2. Consistent: Kevin’s daily approach and habits
  3. Gritty: Resilience and challenge management

Let’s investigate all three, but first, some context is important. Kevin arrived at purplepatch with a history of short-course racing in conjunction with a couple of seasons of professional IRONMAN 70.3 racing. In his very late twenties, our mission was to radically increase his competitiveness at the IRONMAN 70.3 event, as well as evolve him into an IRONMAN athlete over the longer-term.  

Training Evolution

The most important component of Kevin’s success was establishing that this was going to be a multi-year journey. Both Kevin and I realized that he had various areas that needed improvement in order to truly be competitive as a top pro. His most notable area of weakness was on the bike. I knew his great running ability would be moot if he couldn’t retain contact on the bike, or if the bike cost him so much energy that his run performance was stunted. Therefore, our main focuses on the bike were: 

  1. Strength-endurance and end of range: Emphasis on low-rpm work and very strong efforts, mixed with some high power at very fast rpm work.  
  2. Maximizing speed from the power available: Kevin immersed himself in the art of riding well, from pedaling dynamics to terrain management.
  3. High Variability: While we accumulated blocks of miles, the central focus was developing highly variable sustained high effort intervals.

We also made swimming a priority. This not only ensures that he is a front-of-the-pack swimmer in most races but also limits the physiological cost of the swimming effort. Kevin has benefited from being highly swim-fit, and this conditioning has carried over to his biking and running performance.

A second important lesson from Kevin’s improvements has been macro season management. We have been very careful in race selection and training focus. This season, we pulled back from chasing KONA and IRONMAN racing, only putting one full IRONMAN at the end of the season. This opened a chance to return to power and resilience development. By methodically creating his race plans, Kevin has been free to focus on development, selecting races that are most appropriate.

Kevin's Habits

The training and planning are only one part, the real success is always owned by the athlete. The fundamental traits he carries include:

  1. Pragmatism
  2. Patience (to embrace the journey)
  3. Detail orientated
  4. Task driven
  5. Ownership

Combining these qualities, Kevin has developed a sense of confidence in his progression and training, which is seldom drawn from a volatile mindset around either failure or success. This even-keel commitment to remaining focused on the details, combined with a patient and long-term lens of progression has accelerated Kevin's performance progression. Avoiding a reactionary mindset, Kev neither feels like 'a failure' following a bad day nor falls into complacency after posting massive numbers. 

Resilience and Challenge Management 

The story so far sounds utopian, but if you looked at his initial results this season, it would tell a different story. A couple of mediocre results in Asia to begin, as well as a DNF at IRONMAN 70.3 St. George, would prompt many athletes to panic, lose confidence, or question the plan and coach. Kevin avoided all of these energy sucking mindsets and doubled-down on the team-based ownership of results, the longer-term lens of performance, and the belief that race results would arrive due to the undeniable performance gains he saw in training. Despite three rough races, Kevin banked his mindset on data and facts.

  1. Training performance improvements in all three disciplines.
  2. An objective review of his races independently showed unique reasons within each performance for lower than hoped results.
  3. Sharpened focus on what he could control, rather than what he couldn’t.  

The net result was that the very next race he became IRONMAN 70.3 Pan-American Regional Champion, winning by holding his own on the bike, before smoking the competition during the run. He has since gone on a streak of much-improved racing, grabbing another win last weekend in Costa Rica.

He is an athlete evolved, but it didn’t arrive by accident.  

Keep up the good work, Kev.