Raynard Tissink Triathlon Coach
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Up close and Personal Interview with Raynard

1. What are your tips for training towards a specific event (sprint/Olympic/70.3/IM)

The basic principals for training are the same no matter what the distance. You need a base to build from, so a certain period will be dedicated to endurance ( long rides and runs), then strength and speed will follow (hill work, intervals, etc) before you tackle your most important races. Naturally the amount of training required for a sprint will be far less than for the IM. The shorter the distance raced the less endurance is required, but far more speed, so the majority of your sessions will be dedicated to speed work. In my case, racing IM is my primary focus, so the majority of my training is endurance and strength based, so lots of long sessions and lots of hill and strength work.

2. What are best pre-race nutrition tips?

So many athletes I speak to have different eating plans the morning before a race. Some like to eat solid food, others only take in liquid foods, some hardly take in anything at all before the race. So it really is a personal preference the morning of the race, but definitly something that has to be experimented with well before the big race. Personally, I try eat as much as possible (I don't mind swimming on a full stomach), as I know I won't be eating anything solid for the rest of the day. So anything from oats to toast and banana satisfies my hunger, and then I take a meal replacement drink 45min before the start.

3. What works best for off-season, pre-season and in-season diets?

I am not a qualified nutritionist and would advise each individual to consult a nutritionist to help with designing a meal plan targeting their own specific needs.

From my personal point of view though, I try to follow as healthy a diet as possible and encourage the athletes that we coach to do the same. I am not pedantic about it, I enjoy letting my hair down and eating and drinking what I like occasionally. I think this is important to do, as it  doesn't 'alienate' you from normality. I think the 80/20 rule, is a good rule to follow for a balanced , healthy diet.

That is 80% of the time, make sure you eat well, cut out the junk, cut out the bad fats, high sugary foods, the alcohol etc. But 20% of the time, relax and forget about what you are allowed to or not allowed to eat.

In the off-season, it's more a case of trying to keep your weight down or at least stable. You will have cut down on your training regime, but will be used to eating as if you are still training the same.

Relax to a certain point immediately after your season has ended, but get into a healthy routine as soon as possible, so as to maintain optimum health and body weight.

Pre-season, you should be steadily working on building a base and your training time and  distances will increase. The intensity won't be much over 70% effort, but the hours spent on training will be longer. I like to eat a balanced diet of protein and fats, but do increase my 'slow releasing' or complex carbohydrate intake in this phase. In other words more whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruits for more sustained energy release throughout the day.

In-season, the training and racing intensities increase substantially, so I normally increase my protein intake to help with growth and the repair of body tissue.

As I mentioned earlier though, I am not qualified in this field.  This is what works for me.

I try to follow as healthy a diet as possible, most of the time. The greatest part of my meal consists of whole grain carbohydrates (eg. wholewheat pasta, brown basmati rice, whole wheat breads), protein (eg. Fish, chicken, nuts, eggs), good fats (eg. Olive oil, oliy fish), and fruit and vegetables.

4. How do you prepare for a race (mentally/physically/equipment wise/transition prep etc)

In order to prepare adequately for a race, you need to have realistic and attainable goals set long before you even begin your preparation for this event.

If your goal is unrealistic and out of reach, you will only feel disappointment at the end of the event.

Let's say you are a novice and your goal is to finish your first ever IM event. Don't go into the race saying I want to break a certain time barrier.

This is such a long and challenging race, that you will never know how you will feel or how fast you will be able to go until you are actually in the race. There are so many outside factors; like weather, nutrition, race route -  that will influence your overall race time. Yes, if you do the adequate training required for an event of this distance, and you train on the race route, you will be able to have an 'idea' of what you are capable of achieving, but none of those prior sessions will ever be the same as the actual race day. So, my advise for a novice would be to simply finish the event and to enjoy doing it. If you can achieve this, you will then be that one step closer to going faster the next time round. But if you come out of the event, and you've suffered through every minute of it, the chances are you will never do another one.

So once you've set a realistic goal,  be prepared to work for it. Work out a program that you are able to follow consistantly. A professional coach providing a training program designed to accommodate your needs will help make your journey that much easier and enjoyable to follow. They can also advise you with regards equipment, transitions, race day scenarios, nerves etc.

The most important aspect though, is to be excited about the challenge ahead of you. You need to want it,  you need the support of family and friends, and you need to enjoy the journey.

5. What are your top tips for equipment choice ahead of a big race? (Disc wheels vs deep section rims vs tri-spoke wheels - wetsuit - trisuit choices, types of sunglasses etc)

My equipment choices are as follows:

BIKE:
If you're looking at purchasing a new bike for an IM event, look no further than CERVELO. If you have the luxury of affording a road bike and a TT bike the P3 is without a doubt, the best available and the most popular TT bike out there. It's the only bike that can get me into as radical and far forward a position as I need to be in.

WHEELS:
In terms of wheels, depending on the wind direction, I will most always choose a disc over a deep section.
HED have also brought out a new front and rear tri spoke with extra deep rims, so if there is any doubt to the wind conditions, they will be the best all round wheel set.

WETSUIT:
I personally prefer to swim in a sleeveless suit, simply because my arms feel too restricted in a full sleeve suit. However, the majority of people use full suits, and I think that there is definitly an added advantage with the extra bouyancy and naturally when the water is a lot colder. So I been trying to get used to the new 2XU V1 full suit which is extremely flexible in the shoulders.

ENERGY DRINKS & GELS:
I've been using GU20 and GU Gels my whole IM career. I prefer the taste to anything else, as most other drinks are too sweet. The gels are also perfect size, not too big to carry 10 of them on you, and not too much volume that you end up only taking a mouthfull and throwing the rest away.

SUNGLASSES:
Oakley has been my choice of sunglasses since 1993 when I was lucky enough to sign up with them as a junior going to my first triathlon World's in Manchester. With a relationship going back 15 years, need I say any more. Simply the best.

RUNNING SHOES:
I've been with Puma for 3 years now. The brand as a whole is gaining popularity at the rate of knots across the planet, and every year they keep improving on there technical footwear. As a neutral runner I've never had much trouble in finding running shoes to suit me, but it is difficult to find really funky, statement making shoes. Puma is definitly a company that is all about making a statement. Just look at Usain Bolt and his golden spikes.

6. How do you plan your race strategy? How do you read the weather conditions to plan you strategy? Do you go more on feel than stick to a planned race strategy?

It is important to know what you are capable of. It's pointless trying to stick with the leaders if you're going to finish in 10hrs. But if you want to win, you have to be near the front all the time, and in my case I have to try get away to a sufficient lead off the bike to keep the fast runners at bay. So the strategy is simple, stay as close to the lead as possible in the swim, try build a lead of 10 min on the runners if possible, and run and pray they don't catch you.

7. What are your top tips when in a race (Specific to each distance as mentioned above)?

Sprint- head down and go till it burns.

Olympic - swim your butt off, draft on the bike and make sure you do no work so that you can recover, then run like there's no tomorrow.

70.3 - swim your butt off (it's not much longer than olympic), pace yourself through the first half on the bike, then build through the next half and finish the bike feeling strong and hopefully passing a few of the guys that went out too hard, then steady through the first 15km on the run and bring it home with everything you have left. Still a race short enough to push hard.

IM - start hard to find a good bunch in the swim (usually 800 – 1000m), then settle in for the rest of the swim. The bike is all about hitting your comfort zone early and maintaining your rhythem throughout while focusing on you energy levels and nutrition. Everyone is tired after the bike, but it is more mental than physical. Most people can still run pretty quick for the first 5km, and most do, but end up blowing. So start slow and build up pace the further you get into the marathon.

8. Please describe a few races where things have gone wrong and how have you dealt with them?

Things go wrong in almost every race, from flat tyres to losing your gels. In IM it is far easier to deal with them because you have time. But in short course racing it can mean the end of a good result or even your race. The first IM I won (Korea 2003), I punctured 1km into the ride, lost 10min because I couldn't inflate the tyre, eventually got going only to break a spoke in my front wheel and having to stop again to remove the spoke. But you just take all these things in your stride, because you know there is still a long way to go and hopefully some bad luck will strike the others as well:-)

9. How do you cope with travel and jet lag ahead of races?

Travelling sucks. It is probably the only thing I hate about being a profesional athlete. Airports are stressful, travelling with a bike is a nightmare, not to mention expensive if you're overweight. But it's one of those things you have to deal with. I try and get to my race as long in advance as I can to get over the jet lag. Rule of thumb is 1hr = 1day, so racing in Australia would be 7 – 9days before the race. This is one of the reasons why Hawaii is such a difficult race for South Africans, 12hr time change means 2 weeks in Hawaii at R10 000 – R12 000 a week for accomodation only, lovely.

10. What would your tip to be triathletes looking to change distances (ie sprint to Olympic or 70.3 to IM)?

The best advise I can give to someone trying a new distance for the first time is not to do anything different. Obviously you're going to do a longer race so your pace needs to slow down, but there is not a huge difference in the endurance required to move from a sprint to olympic, or olympic to 70.3. There is however a big difference in IM, but if you can finish a 70.3 comfortably, without changing too much in your training you should finish an IM if you slow your pace down. The only thing you would need to adjust in your training program to survive the change in distance would be your long run and bike. After you've completed the new distance for the first time and you've experienced the high's and low's of the race will you know which areas of your training to really concentrate on.

11. What are the ideal ages and physical considerations required when choosing to specialise on a distance?

Age is a number and has no bearing on one's ability at any distance. Take Dara Torres of the US olympic swimming team who swam the 50m at 41 years of age. The natural progression of any athlete is to start with the shorter distances when you're young and as you build in endurance and strength you move to the longer distances. This is clearly beneficial if you are a competitive athlete, but realistically, that's only 5% of the field. Some people only start the sport in their 50's or 60's, and obviously they're not going to start with an IM just because they are older. They too will want to start with a sprint and olympic to see what they are capable of and what their boundries are. It's human nature to want to push your body to it's limit, both in speed and in endurance.

12. What is your insight to overcoming hurdles in this sport like coming back from injury?

Injury is a part of every single athlete's life, bar none. Rest, treatment, rehabilitation is all a part of overcoming these hurdles. But the biggest hurdle in this sport specifically for professional athletes, is financial. For any athlete to race at a world class level requires a lot of support from a lot of different people, but most importantly from sponsors. I am in the very fortunate position of having phenomenal support and backing from all of my sponsors. Without them, I would not be where I am today.

The sport of triathlon, both in SA and around the world, has a long way to go before it reaches the publicity level of high profile sports such as rugby and cricket. This makes it very difficult for new talent to come through the ranks and race as true professionals. I believe that the IMSA event, has taken the sport to a different level in SA, and hopefully with time and eventual live TV coverage on race day, bigger sponsors and companies will see the enormous benefit of being associated with this ultimate endurance event.

Annah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017

After a great first year racing in the professional category in 2016, I was amped for the 2017 season. Feeling stronger and fitter and more in the "right head space" - I had done some great training over December spending many many many (and many more) hours on the bike - I loved it. My swim was starting to click, I was starting to understand the phrase "feel the water", and my running was strong

READ ONAnnah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017
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