Lessons From The Best

Mike Neill riding a bike up Rock Store climb in California

Every now and then I reflect back on when I first moved out to Victoria to train back in the early 2000’s. I was a wide eyed triathlete in the first few years of an Ironman career that went on for a large portion of my adult life.

Victoria was triathlon heaven, especially for us Canadian triathletes moving from colder parts of the country (like Kingston, Ontario). Gold Medalists, Ironman World Champions, World Cup winners, XTERRA Champions, you name the event a triathlete could win and there was a good chance you would find them in Commonwealth Pool between 7:30 and 9am every weekday morning. Needless to say, being a top 10 Ironman guy was seen as being quite average :)

I learned many valuable lessons from the coaches and champions I had the privilege to train with back then. Here are a few of the things that I took away from those days.

1. The Best Athletes Don’t Take Days Off.

This is not as crazy as it sounds. Yes, the best take rest days. But even on those days off of training they wake up thinking about what they can do to make themselves faster. Whether it is massage, chiro, physio or simply sitting on a couch and forcing themselves to recover (which also takes discipline for the driven), everything is done with the goal of making their body’s better. This was a lesson I applied to my own training. I would wake up every day and think to myself “what can I do today to make myself a better triathlete”. Call it what you like; obsession, OCD, attention to detail. Whatever you call it, it is a necessity if you want to be one of the best.

2. Consistency Is Key.

Day in, day out. Week in, week out. Month in, month out. Year in, year out. There are no short cuts to getting fast. You must put in the work on a consistent basis. Many athletes came through Victoria who had a boat load of talent and they could really shine through a couple of training blocks, but the first sign of adversity had them falling out of consistent training. Yes, injuries happen and yes sometimes life gets in the way. These things can derail consistency through no fault of the athlete. But the truth is, sometimes being consistent means training through some really monotonous, mundane and quite frankly, boring workouts. 5 hour rides in the rain are not always (ok, never) enjoyable, but the best get out there and get them done. Consistency requires it!

3. The Best Don’t Tell You, They Show You.

Of all the truly great athletes I have met, raced against, and trained with there was one common thread that ran through them all; none of them ever felt the need to tell you how good they were.

The best don’t tell you how good they are, they show you. They toil away at becoming better and then when the big day comes along they show you. Most of the work a triathlete does goes unacknowledged. Especially back in the day before social media had athletes posting every workout. I guess if you want to be rewarded for every great performance you have in a workout you can do that now with Instagram and Facebook etc… but I believe there is a real power in simply doing the workouts anonymously without looking for accolades from your “followers”. Do the work and then go out on race day and let people know that, yes, you were doing the work and no one needed to be told about it.