February 4, 2015
One of triathlons elite coaches, Siri Lindley talks about her shaky beginnings in triathlon and how those experiences paved the way for success as a triathlete and eventually as a coach to some of the world’s best triathletes in this segment of our podcast. #TriathlonResearch #Triathlon ResearchRadio
Delveloping Skills as Athletes and Coaches in Triathlon
Sam Introduces Siri Lindley
Just One Problem
Shaky Beginnings and the Olympic Dream
The Greatest Thing?
Training in the Right Environment
Changes and Risks
Unexpected Advantages of Good Training
Engaging in Life More Fully
The Importance of Gratitude
Getting to Do What You Love
Being Part of a Squad
Drawing Out Your Strengths
Learning From Your Peers
Who’s Teaching Who?
Challenge Your Coach
Levels of Learning
Designing a Coaching Model
Choosing Able Athletes
What Brings Athletes to Triathlon
Choosing the Right Coach
Successful Coach-Athlete Relationships
Triathlon Training Camp
Mark Allen Outro
Welcome to Triathlon Research the Podcast that brings together the world’s best triathlon coaches, athletes, equipment experts and medical professional to give you the right information that you need to race pass your personal best and get more enjoyment out of your triathlon journey. Triathlon Research where we teach you how to train smart. Here’s your host Samuel Cook, Founder of Triathlon Research.
Hello Triathlon Researchers. This is Sam Cook the Founder of Triathlon Research and you are listening to another episode of Triathlon Research Radio. Today I’m very excited to introduce Coach Siri Lindley who is a former World Champion, actually once you are a world champion you are always a world champion. She is a world champion triathlete and most recently her claim to fame is coaching multiple world champions including Mirinda Carfrae and Leanda Cave. I am sure I have missed some of her accomplishments, so I am going to get straight to interviewing Siri and get the whole story so that you can learn from it. So without further ado, Siri welcome to another edition of Triathlon Research Radio.
Well thanks for having me Sam. It’s awesome to be a part of this and I am hoping everyone listening in can take away some inspiration.
Well, I definitely think that you are going to be quite inspirational as I think that’s your special gift to the sport. Siri, everyone I have spoken to who has ever worked with you is just absolutely inspired by your ability to create loyalty with your athletes and just really get the most out of people. So first of all just tell us a little about yourself and what you did in sport versus an athlete that coach and then after that we will get started on some other stuff.
Ok, sounds great. My journey in the sport has been really incredible. I am so grateful for everything that I have experienced which has gotten me here today. I grew up a really athletic but very shy girl, pretty insecure and I got into the sport of triathlon. It was after college, I was 23 years old and I went to watch a friend in a triathlon. I did not even know what one was but she said come watch me, it’s going to be great. So I went and watched and I thought, oh my gosh, this looks like the greatest sport ever. People of all shape and sizes, people of different ages, and I thought it looked amazing.
So at 23 I decided I wanted to take up this sport. The problem was I didn’t even know how to swim. I mean I knew how to float in a pool and play marco polo but I had no idea how to swim the length of a pool, so I definitely had a huge challenge on my hands. But there is just something about this sport that had me so fired up and so determined to become the best triathlete I was capable of becoming. Again, I was pretty shy and insecure so I didn’t ask for help and did things in a way where I made every mistake on the planet. But then as I started doing things right and finding people to guide me, I started finding my way in the sport and so by 1996 I had turned pro and had won my first national championship.
It was just an incredible journey getting here. It sounds easy just in the way I put it but it really took every ounce. I was working a 60 hour week job, training at 4 a.m. and then during my lunch hour and then at 6.00 p.m. So I have done the whole thing, a full time working girl trying to become a great triathlete. I have done all of that and I have realized how difficult that is, but I also realize that when you want something bad enough you are willing to do everything in your power to make it happen regardless of how difficult it might seem to everyone around you. So even though I was working 60 hours a week and taking on this dream of triathlon, I never complained about it or thought this is horrible, as I felt so fortunate that I had found something that literally just inspired me so much that I was willing to do whatever it took to make my dreams come through.
I have some stories that I will share probably at the camp in Boulder about when I started and just how bad I was at the sport and I can’t wait to share my stories about all the mistakes I made and how I finally learned how to do things properly. So eventually in 2000 I was training for the US Olympic team and I ended up being an alternate in Sydney. Probably the hardest thing ever was having this Olympic dream and being kind of a front runner as I was ranked number 2 or number one at the time in the world, and so I really assumed that myself and Barb Lindquist were going to make the Olympic team but both of us choked in those Olympic trial races.
But fortunately, I was an alternate and so I still went to Sydney to the Olympics. The strange thing is that when I didn’t make the Olympic team it actually was the greatest thing that could ever have happened to me and so I decided I really needed to make some changes. I went and started training with Brett Sutton who eventually became one of the greatest mentors in my life and I started winning world cup races. Three weeks before the Sydney Olympic games I did a race in Lausanne Switzerland and I actually won the race and behind me in second, third and fourth place was the Olympic podium and I won by about 2 minutes.
So, that was the only positive thing that came out of being in Sydney and having to watch the Olympics, although it’s of course incredibly inspiring it’s really hard when you want to be out there on the race course. But I had proven to myself that I did belong – although I had choked – so it’s my fault that I wasn’t on the start line. But I knew that I had gotten myself to a level that was good enough to have potentially done something great had I made it, and that’s kind of the only comfort I get from not making the Olympic team but I went on. I learnt so many things about myself in having that kind of failure even though that is not a failure but to me it felt that way. I got on this path of wanting to be the very best athlete I was capable of becoming and not looking necessarily at having to win, or having to make a team, or having to do this, but just expressing my passion for the sport by working hard and giving 110% every day and working hard at achieving excellence within myself and that led to me holding the number 1 ranking in the world for 2 years.
It was interesting, 2001 was the year I won the world championship and had the number one ranking. I honestly felt that I could end my career right there and then because I had achieved everything, aside from the Olympic. I had achieved every dream I had in the sport as an athlete and I felt so blessed and so grateful. I could have been ready to retire but I thought, I don’t want to be one of those one shot wonders that have a great year and then disappears and everyone thinks it’s a fluke. That kind of thinking came from the insecurity I had always had when I was younger and so I decided to put together one more year and try to win a lot more group races and hold that number one ranking and my goal then became retiring in 2002 as number one in the world and I was ready.
I realized now that the reason why I was so ready to retire was that I was ready to take on what I really feel has been my destiny, and that’s helping other athletes to achieve their dreams. I guess having started my coaching career and having had a good career as an athlete helped me take on some good athletes at the start. It has just been a most incredible time of my life these last 10/11 years where I have been coaching and working with such unbelievable athletes who have such huge dreams in the sport. You know, when they come to me and ask me to coach them, it’s like they are putting their dreams in my hands and saying your responsibility now is to help me achieve this and that’s such a great honor and I take that really seriously. It’s just been the greatest time in the world and I feel so lucky to do what I do. I am inspired every single day by these unbelievable athletes and I just want to be better and better every day. It really has been a great journey getting here and I am loving every minute
Well Siri, thanks for sharing that background. I just want to follow up on a couple points you made because we’ve been talking to world champions now for quite a while and you are just the latest one that has hit on the exact same points. Talk to me again about what you meant when you said that not making the Olympics was possibly the greatest thing that ever happened to you, because that just doesn’t seem to sit right for a professional athlete; and how did you learn to feel that way, because i don’t think that was a natural feeling.
You know it definitely was not a natural feeling and I wasn’t thinking that in the year 2000. But in looking back in hindsight I realized that it ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me. That’s because I had made it my quest in making the Olympics, and winning a medal was the be all and end all for me in the year before the Olympic trials in Australia. I felt like I needed to be there on my own with no support to prove how strong I am. I went to bed every night visualizing the perfect race and I was obsessed with my quest for wanting to make the Olympics and wanting to win a medal and when that didn’t happen, it was absolutely heart breaking.
I didn’t know if I was going to recover from it because I had made it the be all and my coach Brett Sutton at the time said get your butt back here to training camp, we are going to start training, we are going to do duathlon world championships. It was the last thing I wanted to do and I was just so upset about everything but he basically just forced me to go back to training camp and retrain in the snow and the cold. He sent me off to duathlon world championships and I ended up winning the silver medal there and nearly won gold. It really was just an awesome way to get back on course and get back out there again and to find some kind of reward for the hard work and everything that I had put in leading into the Olympics. There is a point I missed, right after I became alternate for the Olympic team, as I didn’t make the Olympic team. It was absolutely devastating for me and I just wanted to quit and roll up in a ball and cry but my coach got me to go back on the horse and that’s one world championship where I won the silver medal and it just made me feel like all the work leading into the Olympic trials was actually going to pay off in great ways.
The other thing I failed to mention was when I didn’t make the Olympic team I hadn’t yet gone to train with Brett but at that time I thought I needed to take a step up. I needed to go train in an environment where I am really being pushed every single day and Brett at the time had an amazing squad of athletes. It was actually Loretta Harrop, who was the number one athlete in the world. She told me how sad she was to see that I didn’t make the Olympic team because she knew how badly I wanted it. She said come train with us, come train with Brett he is amazing and I think it would be the best thing that ever happened to you.
It ended up being that I was scared to death, you know the thought of going to Europe and training with this coach that I had heard so many stories about and how hard the training was and all of this but I decided that I needed to find the strength and the courage to take a risk and go out there. So about 2 weeks after I didn’t make the Olympic team I went to Brett and started training with him and he was just amazing. I really do give him so much credit for training me to face my fears and address my weaknesses, not a weakness in swimming or biking or running, but a weakness in my mind, the things that were holding me back from achieving those big goals. So he scared me to death every day by giving me challenges that made me want to cry. They seemed so hard, but day after day I was able to get out there and accomplish whatever sessions he had given me and that really gave me a sense of confidence in myself, seeing that I am a lot stronger than I think I am, or a lot stronger than I thought I was, and that really changed my life.
After that 3 months of intensely hard training, it’s like nothing I could ever imagine I still can’t believe the stuff I was doing but his whole intention I believe was having me face things that were totally impossible for me to accomplish and I was accomplishing them and being successful at it every day and it really did start bringing me confidence in myself which is what I needed quite desperately. So I guess when you ask the question of how can not making the Olympic team be the best thing that could ever happen, it was the stimulus for me to making changes in my life, addressing my weaknesses and my fears and taking a risk to really make an effort to overcome these things which then allowed me to achieve so much more than I ever could have.
Had I made the Olympic team I wouldn’t have changed anything, I would not have kept doing things the way I was doing them and maybe would have gone to the Olympics and on a great day come in top ten. But by not making the Olympic team it just caused me to look deep inside myself and figure out what do I need to do to reach that next level. And in doing that, you know as I told you the story of when I watched the Olympics a few weeks before. Having been to the podium in Sydney it showed me that I would have never been able to get to this level had I just stayed where I was.
So, I don’t know if that makes sense, it makes perfect sense to me but sometimes in life a lot of experiences in general that are most upsetting and horrible can happen to you. Later on you will realize that so many amazing things came out of that, and I think that having had those experiences when something does go wrong, or I go into a hard period in my life, it helps me get through it with a lot more strength, and I think something great is going to come out of this, so it is really a great lesson that I have learnt and again it’s all because of this amazing sport. There are so many opportunities to learn about yourself and learn about life and for that reason I think that’s why it’s my greatest passion.
Well Siri, you really bring out a great point and I brought this up in the last podcast. You are a teacher, an educator and a tri coach but really a coach for people’s lives. When I spoke to Jamie Turner at our last camp it was striking when I interviewed him because I asked what your proudest moment is. It wasn’t any athlete winning a race although I am sure just like you he is immensely proud of watching Gwen Jorgensen dominate ITU this last year in the world championship. He said this kid came to me and told me he never made it as a triathlete, but it helped him become a pilot in the Australian air force and that made his day. That was striking to me and what you just said was that you just love helping people achieve their goals and we think it is about triathlon you know when we are doing it because triathlon seems to be our lives but it’s really just a way for you to be engaged in life more fully.
Absolutely. That just gave me goose bumps, Jamie’s story, because that is the amazing part of this. You have these stories where you can see how a person changes throughout their time in the sport, or they find themselves or they become more confident, which then allows them to achieve things in their life that they never thought they could. There again it’s such an honor. I take it so serious when an athlete comes to me because they really know how big my dream was and how much it meant to me. When you go to ask for help from someone, it’s a big responsibility and it is an honor and I hope that in some way I can change this person’s life for the better and have them leave their time with me having received something so much more than just a title or a medal or something like that, but something that’s really lasting and can make a difference in their lives. If I have the chance to do that, that’s pretty amazing so it’s so inspiring and just like I said before – triathlon we think is just about the sport, but I think for a lot of people it really is the vehicle through which they find themselves or their path in life. That makes it so much more powerful than just the sport.
Bobby McGee, I remember when I was working with him. I had these crazy and probably unrealistic dreams at the time and I was actually kind of embarrassed for a while. I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was thinking I wanted to get in and be a pro and in the late age in life when I started the sport I got really good, but I remember Bobby. I was watching the Olympics on TV where I would be awesome and he said don’t worry. No matter what happens you are going to win and it struck me when he said that cause he’s been that successful as a coach and how right he was about that.
Oh my God, yea, and I think you were telling me the story at the Golden Globe. I think it was George Clooney who got up there and said, everybody thinks a person that wins the Golden Globe is the winner and everyone else is the loser, and he said that’s not true. We all are going to win no matter what because you are taking a risk to step up to the plate and go after your dreams, and you are always going to be victorious by having taken that leap. Yes I love that Bobby said that to you because that’s exactly right. I am kind of going off track but that’s a great statement and it’s so true.
Well there is no such thing as the right track on this podcast because we are really just exploring the stories behind the sporters. It’s really what’s most important and we get hung up on the numbers and we get hung up on the data and all that, but at the end of the day when you line up on race day you are one of the fittest people in America just by virtue of the fact that you can finish the triathlon. You are doing well in life because you can afford to be a triathlete as it’s not a cheap sport and in that respect I think it’s hard for people to put it in perspective sometimes. That’s why people like you exist especially for pros because for them that really is their life and in America we have this epidemic as Tim Ferriss calls it – job description is self description and we put a lot into what we do and whether that’s good or bad we almost become our profession in a way, our identity and self worth is wrapped up in that. That’s a tough thing for pro-triathletes. I think sometimes to get or to teach that lesson is pretty amazing.
Again, I was given the opportunity to do the same thing. That’s the kind of stuff I want to share because doing great in the sport and by doing great I mean being proud of the things you want to do every day. It confirms also being able to enjoy it and being able to appreciate it. I am huge on the whole gratitude aspect of things and with my athletes, really looking at what they are doing and saying. This is so cool that I get to do this every day. So instead of I am going to do that run session, instead of going to go sit behind a desk all day, I get to go and do what I love and run hard and push myself. So it’s really being grateful for the abilities that they have and the opportunities that they have but I think that the gratitude and enjoying it and being happy really allows them to reach all new levels of performance, because if you lose sight of why you are doing it or you are being motivated by things like winning prize money or getting a title or doing this or that, I think is just not nearly as powerful as really being in the moment appreciating what you are doing and remembering how much you love it. I think that leads to much greater results and all those other things, the titles and monies and all of that just happens without your focus being on that.
Yeah, well we use to have this when I was in the military. We would sometimes have to travel in uniform and people would say thank you for your service. It always felt great in a way but after a while I really started to think and I would answer people saying I am getting paid really good money by you the taxpayer for doing something that I absolutely love to do. Sometimes it’s hard to give yourself that perspective but as a triathlete you are getting paid to work out and get in great shape and develop your body to the top .001% of the population. This is a luxury most triathlete in the sport would kill for as we go into our camps and all the people who invest a lot of time and money into just getting to the next level knowing that most of you will never get to that level. Some are chasing that and they definitely have a chance at it so that’s a great point about gratitude Siri, and I think that should be really helpful to the people listening.
Yea, I hope so and it makes it all that much more enjoyable, so I got it tattooed on my wrist, actually that and the word believe and those are very much the 2 words that have dominated my philosophies and the way I look at the sport and what I do and what my athletes are doing.
Well Siri, the other thing I wanted to go over with you just listening to your journey, the casual listener might not know who Brett Sutton is. Brett is one of the coaches in the world that pioneered the squad training concept in the world of triathlon. I know that there are other people: Jamie Turner, Darren Smith, and some other people, but I am not that familiar with the early history of squad training and triathlon is a very individual sport, but why would someone want to join a squad. Also, talk a little about the experience of the squad because when I started the triathlon I did my first Olympic and had a time of 3 hours or something and then I started working out. When I was a professor, when I was at West Point team and they were all running at close to 2 hours and some were going sub 2 hours on the Olympic team and I thought my goodness, and just out of sheer having a stint with them I got my time down quite drastically within a period of 6 months. So I am a huge fan of watching Jamie Turner and Gwen Jorgensen at the last camp just the power of the squad and that group and my background of the army I know the power of peer pressure and cohesion and things. How does that work in an individual sport? Talk a little about the history of the squad concept as you are a part of that tradition.
Yea, I mean it’s amazing and I do think Brett Sutton was the pioneer of the squad training and to me it was all very mysterious. I knew that all the top athletes were all training together with this coach who was ominous and scary but he was amazing. Brett has coached multiple world champions at every distance and he is incredible at what he does. His background, he wasn’t even a triathlete, he was a horse trainer and a boxer and one of the things I loved about him is that a lot of his teaching came from other sport and that’s how I do a lot of learning as well. It’s watching other sports and learning from how people are doing things in other sports but it was very mysterious and I was definitely curious and always wanted to be a part of what they had but before I went to Brett I just didn’t have the confidence to think that wouldn’t destroy me being beaten by everyone around me but what I realized was that it was something that I needed.
I mean sometimes you look at the first guy that ran the 4 minute mile, which showed people it’s possible and you can hear those stories, but when you are standing or training among a group of people that are performing at this incredible level you are seeing it with your own eyes that it’s possible. Then you are looking to see how hard everyone’s working and you realize ok, work hard and put your heart and soul into something and I can be that good too so really you are learning by example.
I learnt that being in a squad was just constantly pushing to the highest levels and I really did improve. I was training with people that I looked up to. Miranda Harrop was like my hero and here I was training beside her every day. It really inspired me to do everything I could to reach that level and ultimately I did and that was a huge confidence booster. Again, it’s that whole philosophy – I went there thinking: I am not good enough; I am not strong enough; I don’t have the kind of guts that these guys have, but day after day I am training just as hard as they are and seeing myself improving. It really was the turning point for me, as far as my belief in myself, which ultimately changed my career as an athlete and has given me the confidence to be a coach.
It really is an incredible experience and that’s how I think I am able to offer camps. I know this is the first camp I have ever done, the one coming up in Boulder. I think that’s our way of being able to offer squad experience to a certain extent. Granted there is a lot more learning going on, but being around like minded individuals that are passionate and who are not just learning from me they are learning from everyone around them. They are not just learning from the world champions you are learning from perhaps the athlete that hasn’t won any races but they show up and they work hard and they have a positive attitude and they are learning from everyone around you and that’s a powerful environment to be in.
Yea I think Brett was the pioneer and in creating squads for triathlon and taking an individual sport and adding another dynamic; that I think will really help people reach levels that they would not have reached. So I hope that all makes sense, but I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to the sport for professional athletes but also the idea of having camps and bringing people together and sharing your passion is also another way of doing that for people who don’t necessarily have the ability to take off for 3 months to train in a squad environment.
Well Siri, that’s a really great point that you bring up – I have actually found when I have done teaching and when I have brought a group of high achieving people together that you get more learning from your peers than you do from your teacher and it takes a very secure teacher to admit that. You are talking about that and I think that’s a great principle so could you go into that a little more. Why is it that people learn more from each other than the teacher and how does that make you feel as a coach?
I love it. I think that it is so powerful and I think the first thing that you have to be sure of is that you have chosen a group of people that want to learn from one another. That is where the screening of having certain athletes be a part of my squad comes in. I choose 15 athletes and that’s it. I make sure everyone has something to offer that’s positive. You wouldn’t want to bring anybody in that’s negative, someone who works as little as possible and do the bare minimum. I would never have someone like that in my squad. The athletes that I have in my squad I have chosen or they have chosen me and we have decided that we are going to be a great fit. Everyone has their hat that they have taken to arrive at, everyone’s path looks different.
I have always had the philosophy that there are 100 different ways to win a world championship and it depends on which one is going to be the most powerful and which one is going to be the winner. I don’t believe that there is this one way of doing things but I am learning from my athletes. I am there and I am the teacher, the coach or whatever it is, but we are all learning from one another. I think that if you want to create the most powerful experience for everyone, you have to constantly want to learn. This is not just learning from reading or talking to people or going and doing things that are going to teach me the things that I am looking for, but I am also learning from everyone’s experience and doing the same thing and seeing how they react and how they respond.
Certain people have different strengths, different ways of looking at things. It’s like you know when you are trying to communicate, say you are working on someone’s swim stroke and you can say something a hundred times over and it just doesn’t work and it doesn’t lead to them fixing their stroke but then you say it in another way and suddenly it’s just boom. It works and they fix their stroke and it all makes sense. So, I think when you are surrounded by a group and a squad and of course you want to make sure that you are picking properly and you want those people to be learning from one another, but there are different ways of telling a story or of communicating an experience that can really have an impact on someone and my way of speaking isn’t always going to make that impression or make that point. One of my athletes may say it in their vocabulary or in the way they see it and it’s going to make sense to someone and that’s how they are going to learn. You are just upping your opportunities of getting across the points you are trying to make and it’s incredibly inspiring and the vast wealth of knowledge that you get. In my squad you look at the athletes that I have world champions and world cup winners and you just see amazing athletes. There is so much to learn and I love the fact that I put them together so that they are not just learning from me but that there is so much if they go after it and try and learn from everyone around them they are going to get so much out of it. So it’s really special.
Siri, one of the great points that you had was the sense that you say something over and over and it doesn’t hit and then you find another way to say it and I remember going into class as a teacher and not knowing how I was going to get the point across. I was a history teacher at the time and it’s like the cadets or the people I was teaching just drew it out of me. it’s like they demand it and you have no choice but to show up and make it happen and you know I almost got the sense like an imposter syndrome which is well – who is learning more at the end of the day, did they just make me say that because I didn’t know I knew that. Do you ever get that sense when you are coaching?
Yea, I mean I love it and I always tell my athletes if you have a question about something ask me, challenge me, because I love having to dig deep into all my experiences and everything that I know. Or I love being challenged where you go, hey let me go talk to a few people about that and get you that answer. Yea I mean we challenge each other and I think that’s what makes my athletes better athletes and it’s what makes me a better coach. They are going to challenge you and they will present you with things that are really going to push you and that are what keeps me on my toes and always wanting to be better and learn more because they can bring some incredible insight into a situation and it’s so valuable.
But I think that even teachers should be willing to learn, we are not just here to teach but we are here to grow as well. I am here with the intent of making my athletes better athletes and stronger and fitter and faster. I want to be better and smarter and more creative and I want to be challenging myself as well and again it goes back to the whole squad environment. It’s just that when I stand with all 15 athletes in front of me and that’s really inspiring and motivating and it’s going to push me every single day to be the best that I can be. I don’t have the answers to everything and I realize that and I wish I did but I don’t and that inspires me to keep learning.
Yea well it’s great that you brought up the point that I think when we first get into teaching there is a sense that you have to know it and then after a while you just have to become comfortable with the fact that you don’t know it all and you will never know it all and the more you learn the more you realize how little you actually know about the entire subject.
Yea, there is just so much there; there are so many different levels.
I think that’s at the different levels of consciousness of an educator is exactly where the term sophomore comes from, wise fool, which means after your freshman year in college you think you know everything because you got through the hard part of starting life and little do you know you just got started and figure you know the rest of your life.
Well Siri, I would like to get a little bit of history on your current squad and how you came to assemble this amazing group of athletes that you are working with as it didn’t happen overnight. Could you just walk through a little bit of your story with the current squad that you are working with? How did you come to be in the business that you are now in? The coach that everyone wants to have coaching and who doesn’t have time to do any more than what she is able to do because of the people you have got on your team and what you are doing.
Well that’s such a huge compliment so thank you and I wish I could help everyone. When I first started coaching, I coached right after I retired and I knew that I wanted to do it the way that Brett had done it and that was: creating a squad, having a set up where we had everything that we need to to be the best that we could be, so I set up that squad environment here in Boulder Colorado and in the first few years when I was coaching an athlete Susan Williams an American came and we sat down. We had competed together as an athlete and we sat down and she said, Siri i really want to make the Olympic team for Athens.
At the time she was probably ranked 6th or 7th American so her chances were not great in making the Olympic team and I remember I sat down with her and she had just had a daughter that was maybe 2 years old at the time and this was in December and the Olympic qualifiers were in July and I said to her, Susan there is no way we can make this happen unless you literally leave home. We will go out to California, we will get some nice weather and we need to train doing everything as perfectly as possible for the next 6 months. She said I can’t leave my daughter and my husband and just take off to California and I said well then I really feel that’s what it’s going to take so if we don’t do that then I can’t follow through on getting you on the Olympic team so I can’t do it, I am sorry.
When an athlete comes to you and states their goal, I need to know with all my heart that I can get them there and if I can’t do that with all my heart then I will say no. But the next day she ended up calling me back and said I cannot believe I am doing this but I want so desperately to make the Olympics so let’s go. So we got a plane to California and moving for 3 months and she got her mom to move out to Colorado to stay with her daughter and her husband and Susan pack her bag and her car and we went out to California and we laid out a plan to get her on the Olympic team and that risk that she and I took proved so amazing cause she not only made the Olympic team which was a huge shock to everyone but we went to Athens and she ended up winning the bronze medal. So that ended up being the greatest story ever but it shows that when you have a huge dream, sometimes you have to do something’s that are really uncomfortable if you want to make that dream come through and we both had to do that.
After Susan won the bronze medal and we had that whole experience that shaped how I felt about taking on athletes and which athletes I wanted to take on as I mentioned before, I needed to know that with all my heart that I believe that we could do what they came to me to do and soon after in that same year Rennie joined the squad. I had been coaching Miranda for I think 9 or 10 years minus about a 8 month period of time and it’s been the greatest experience ever. We have grown so much together and achieved so much and she wanted to do ironman from the start. I remember and I was just like let’s be patient you don’t want to go to ironman right away let’s just stay short, do some half ironmans build up your great base and build up that hunger to want to do ironman before we go there.
When we stepped up Kona for the first time I had never done an ironman in my life she had never done an ironman. She had never run a marathon but at that point we had developed enough trust in one another, and I created a plan. I don’t want to do things the way that another coach has done. I want to create a plan that feels authentic to me, a plan that I believe in and that we believe is going to work. We came up with a plan to attack Kona and we had no idea whether we were going to be successful or fail miserably but we both believed in it and that’s something that I demand of all my athletes. If you are going to come here I need to know that you want one million percent to be here with me and that you believed in me and in us as a team. Rennie and I had that and somehow we came in second in our first attempt at Kona and had an amazing race and both of us was just over the moon, and looked at each other and thought this is like the beginning. We just were so excited and so passionate about Kona that we knew that this was the beginning of really amazing times for us going after this dream that we shared.
So obviously when Rennie did really well at Kona that brought longer course athletes who were curious about what we were doing. It brought along Leanda Cave who is an unbelievable athlete she is now a world champion I think in every distance and when Leanda joined the squad she was at a point where she thought that maybe she had done everything that she was going to be able to do in the sport and I told her no, I think you have got more in you and got her to believe in what I was thinking and then we were able to win the 70.3 world championships and then Kona that same year.
So that was pretty amazing and again that brought more interest to my squad for long course athletes. I guess with these examples, that’s what brings the athletes here, someone like Paula Findlay, she remembers me as an athlete in ITU. Her goal is the Olympics in Rio. She knows about Susan Williams winning the bronze medal in 2004 so those athletes come and they are curious and they say there must be something here that works so I want to be a part of it and then it becomes a process of sitting down with those potential athletes and seeing if they are not only a perfect fit for me but if they are a great fit for the team because that team environment is so important and knowing if you have athletes that are going to bring out the best in each other and challenge each other and push each other. I am all about positive energy and a great environment that’s motivating and I’ve just been really lucky to somehow attract these unbelievable athletes that have such great work ethic and passion for the sport. That’s why we have what we have here, and my hope is to have all of these athletes be like Rennie where they are here for 9/10 years because there is so much you can accomplish when you stay. There is lot of age group athletes and a lot of pro athletes but they take on a coach and if things don’t work out for the first year they look for someone else and I think that’s the biggest mistake because a lot times things just take time and the longer you are with a coach the more you can achieve and its having trust in that coach, in that programme and trust in you and that coach as a team so if you stick around and you believe that’s when great things really start to happen.
Yea well I think that’s just such a great mindset or frame to give people when you are picking a coach. Well you were just talking about how you select athletes but a lot of athletes have selected you. What advice would you give someone who is looking for a coach because we are in an instant gratification type of culture and people are looking for results now. In triathlon that just doesn’t happen right away. You don’t become a world champion in Year 1 you just don’t get there. How would you recommend that athletes look for coach like yourself for the next Siri Lindley out there, although there can be only one, the next great coach for them. How do they find people like you cause I don’t think there’s enough of you in the sport and that’s I think part of the thing you are trying to develop here as you start giving back to the community.
Yea, I hope that there’s going to be more people like that who feel this kind of passion. I feel the most important thing is that you agree with that coach’s philosophy that inspires you and you feel that could bring out the best in you and that they share your passion. You want to know that when you are getting a coach that they want to achieve your goals as much as you do and that they have your best interest at heart. Most importantly that you can communicate with them and ask questions and understand why you are doing certain things to have a relationship to know that you can communicate well, that’s so important and no matter what if you are both in it for the right reason and if you both want to achieve success as much as the other you are going to be in a great situation. But do the research and think about it and make sure that you are choosing the right person for you and if you do that you join into that partnership believing in it 100% and that’s what going to lead to the great success.
I am struck by watching great coaches and athletes who are world champions together. It’s like finding the perfect partner or spouse, it’s almost like a grab sheet to find – it’s a quest to find the right person for that relationship that brings the best out of you and not all of us are lucky to find all of that in sport.
definitely but it’s out there, you just have to work into it like you would a marriage. It’s creating a partnership that works and believing in each other 1 million percent. It’s definitely out there you just have to look hard and make the decision that feels really right to you.
And don’t give up in your search, right?
Absolutely, I mean things show up when you least expect it and I think just learning about what you want to get about the sport is important and being able to communicate that to your potential coach – this is what i want to get out of this so that they really know what your goals are, that’s really important.
that’s really what we are all after. I think we get hung up on which coach has the right plan, what workout do I need to do in what order, and what tools do I need to use and what are their secrets? And there really are no secrets if I am hearing you right from talking to you and Rennie, it’s know your athlete have open and honest communication and care put your athlete first and put them in an environment where other people can support them because you can’t do it all and just let magic happen.
That’s beautifully said, that’s exactly right Sam. yes.
I am going to end it on a high note because I don’t always get things right on so many things but I know that you are busy coaching and I just want to thank you on behalf of the triathlon research audience for taking the time away from your schedule and I am struck when I see coaches like you and Jamie and Turner and Bobby McGee, they are putting in 60, 80 hours a week just nonstop. They are always thinking about their athletes, always communicating, and no breaks. It reminds me of a commander in the army in Iraq, you just never stopped there was always something doing. I am also struck by how passionate you are and it doesn’t even feel like work even though you are working so hard and I think everyone should try to find something like that in life to go after in their profession.
Absolutely, it’s the ultimate blessing and one I would never ever take for granted that’s for sure.
Well Siri thank you again for just being so generous with your time and your advice. Finally people come to you every day and ask you to help them and you are so torn because you have to turn them away. Well how can people get more from you, Siri?
I would encourage anyone who is able to do it to come to our camp may 5th -9th in Boulder Colorado. It’s the first camp Rennie and I have ever done, we both just feel its time to give back to those people we simply have not been able to help. It’s going to be 5 days with us, an incredible learning experience and our intention is just to give everything that we have in that time period. So if you have an opportunity to come I hope you really really hope that you do. It’s going to be an awesome 5 days and we really can’t wait to share all that we have and know to make sure that hopefully its one of the best experiences of your life.
And Siri, a lot of people are intimidated by training with Rennie, you and a pro squad. How have you structured this with your team to militate against people being intimidated? At any age group or ability you train pros every day and you told me we want to work with the age groupers and anyone and everyone who loves the sport and has passion for it.
Absolutely, we want to work with everyone. Remember my story is I started triathlon and I didn’t even know how to swim so I want to help those people just as much or if not more than those who are already great. But this camp is going to be way more about learning rather than going out and training hard and training all day. We’ve planned it so that Rennie will be coming off of the St George 70.3 race so she be on a bit of a break. I will be just doing my thing but it’s not going to be a ton of training but you are going to get so much out of this you are going to learn so much and basically we are hoping that when you leave you are going to be so fired up and hungry to put into use everything that you have learnt. Its just going to be a lot of quality time with Rennie and I and definitely open to people of all abilities, that’s what we want. I want to encourage pure beginners and advance alike they are going to fit in and get a ton out of this. I really do hope we get a great turn out because Rennie and I can’t wait to give everything we have.
Well Siri, we have already got a good number of sign ups in the camp and the phones are full. If you do want to get into the camp we are doing a quick phone call if people want to get in to just make sure that we understand your goals in the sport and make sure we can help you meet them and then we will answer any of your question about the camp and get you into it if that’s right for you. And if not, we will definitely try to help you out on a couple of your biggest pressing questions on triathlon and let you continue on your journey and finally I just would like to thank the listeners. I don’t do enough of these podcasts because Susan is such an awesome Co-host I rather let her do most of them but I just want to come on and do this with Siri as whenever it’s a subject of heart and soul of triathlon I really just love doing these interviews and selfishly I took this one with Siri. When it comes to coaching and learning, I am not a coach just a passionate promoter of triathlon and a recovering triathlete myself who just loves to see people get what I got out of the sport and what Siri got out of the sport and is now helping people achieve. So thank you again for listening, thank you Siri for joining us and have an awesome season with Miranda and all of your athletes and it’s so cool that no matter what their result is they are going to be winners at the end of the year and thanks for spreading that attitude among your squad and hopefully that feeling catches on.
Thank you so much Sam you are awesome and this has been just a great opportunity. I really love being able to share my stories and stuff so thank you for letting me be a part of this. It’s been awesome.
Well thank you Siri , most importantly thank you listener of Triathlon Research Radio. Have a great training day today I hope you ride extra hard after listening to this or while you are listening to this. Check your power see if you had a few extra watts while you are listening to Siri. I think she gives you at least 20 watts.
Thanks Sam that’s really nice
I’ll see you later and signing off triathlon research
Hi its Mark Allen 6 time triathlon world champion. I hope you enjoyed today’s show, I recently participated in a triathlon research boulder summer camp and I spent time with athletes on the final day of the camp teaching them how to quiet their mind on race day to realize their full potential. To get a free copy of my new book the Art of Competition leave a review on iTunes and we will send you the book. All you have to do is email a copy of your review to [email protected] and triathlon research will send you the book.