SIMON: No, I was on the triathlon route before Ironman had really got rolling. I mean, the first Ironman was 78. The first major thing that most people recall from Ironman was seeing the Julie Moss video with her crawling across the line in Kona and she’d been leading in this torturous bit of, I think ABC footage where she just can’t control any of her bodily functions, she can’t stand up. People can’t help her, she’s crawling along the lead, right. People are willing it to make it to the finish line, the girl that’s in second place passes her and I’m like, “Wow! What’s this event? I’ve gotta find out more about.
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JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today has been in the triathlon world for quite a while. He’s been coaching triathlons since 1995. And I don’t mean that in a, he’s an old guy away, but in a, he has a lot of experience and a lot of things to share with us. He’s a level three coach in the UK. He’s also written course materials with level three certification, which is now kind of evolving into a new kind of sphere, which we’ll talk about. He’s a co-founder of TheTriathlonCoach.com, host of The High Performance Human Podcast, and he’s also won Coach of the Year six times in the UK. Welcome to the show, Simon Ward.
SIMON: Thanks, Jesse. Nice to be here.
JESSE: Thanks for joining me. I always love doing the kind of, as you say, across the pond episodes, because it’s early morning for me or mid-morning, and it’s kind of late afternoon, early evening for you. It’s just one of those things that I think we take for granted that we have the ability to sit here and video chat across the world, largely in different time zones. This is kind of neither here nor there regarding triathlon. But I often tell people that don’t seem to believe me that we live in the future.
SIMON: Well, I do live in your future.
JESSE: That’s very true, that’s very true. But just think about it. Think about like, I don’t know how much of a sci-fi fan you are. But you think about like sci-fi shows from even 20 years ago and you’ve got a handheld device where they’re speaking, video chatting with somebody who’s like that seemed so far off yet, here we are with that ability to do that right now.
SIMON: Yeah, missed the little flip things at least having Star Trek [??? 03:15] all that sort of stuff. But if only they had the transponder that will enable me to travel around the world by just standing in a little box and then a few seconds later, I could walk out. I’d have to get rid of all of that schlepping around the airport, all of the border controls, all of the eight hours of sitting in a metal tube. Yeah.
JESSE: Yeah, maybe we’ll get there one day. I think there are problems with the physics of that, and then also the philosophical side. But that’s a whole other kind of rabbit hole to get down.
SIMON: Yeah, and you get that thing that sometimes comes up in comedy shows where somebody comes out with their head under their arm and all the limbs in different positions as it pieces the atoms back together in a different order. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it, to compress time a little bit to get rid of the boring parts of travel?
JESSE: Yeah. Well, and since you, Coach athletes, I would think you probably don’t have much commute, right?
SIMON: Well, it depends. I don’t now in the current Coronavirus times because all of our sessions have been canned. I have started recently traveling back to the pool but the pool’s a half an hour drive for me. It’s on the other side of Leeds. But this is a lifestyle business for me. We were just talking pre-show about entrepreneurs and I like to think of myself as an entrepreneur because I embrace new ideas and new technology and I’m willing to try new things and I’m not afraid of failure.
But most of my business stuff has all been about creating a lifestyle for me that enables me to travel the world and do the things that I like doing whilst earning a living. And it also means then that most of what I do, I can write off as business expenses because it’s a legitimate business trip. So, now I have clients all over the world, I’ll like to pencil at least one trip a year to go and see them.
So, I might go to Dubai. I went to Dubai in February. I could go to Delhi, I might go to Sweden, I might go to see somebody in California. I’d be going to, right now, actually, probably on this day if everything was normal, I’d be flying off to Hawaii for the Ironman World Championships, which is always the second Saturday in October.
So, Hawaii’s become a regular business trip for me. I might go to Boulder to do some stuff for training peaks, so I might make that a month-long trip to go to Boulder first and spend some time there and ride my bike and then go to Hawaii and then come back.
Or I could go there in the winter and go skiing and do some stuff as well. So, it’s like combining work and travel. So, yeah. But in the truest sense of the commute, my trip to the office is about 15 steps.
JESSE: Yeah. Well, that’s the thing that I found a lot of people are realizing now. And I and my fiance have been work from home for years now. And a lot of people prior to Coronavirus, would say to us, I don’t know how you work from home, I don’t know how you get anything done. And then now that they’ve been forced in the situation, they’re like, I don’t know how I’m going to go back into the office. I don’t want to commute again, I don’t want, you know.
So, there’s ups and downs, obviously. But as you said, there’s a nice lifestyle component to it, where it’s like, yes, I wake up and I pretty much start working within five minutes of waking up, though my brain never stops. So, that’s a little different for me.
But I can also stop in the middle of day and hey, or like this morning, I’m gonna go out for my run, get that done and then come back, chat with you a little bit, go get some other work done after we’re done here. It’s not as compartmentalized and isolated like if I had to go to the office, and I just couldn’t do anything in the middle of the day. So, there’s a nice lifestyle component to it.
SIMON: Oh, you can definitely plan your own routine. I mean, my routine.I like to get started early in the morning. I used to be up at sort of 05:30, 06:00 because we used to swim at 07:00. So, I’m in the car at 20 past 06:00 with my coffee [??? 07:25] all that stuff stopped now. So, the rhythm of my life has changed a little. I probably get up about 07:00, I have a morning mobility and stretch routine I do by the time I’ve sort of done my teeth and all of that stuff and do my yoga and breathing everything.
That’s probably a half-hour, and I have a few little strength conditioning exercises. So, that’s probably a half-hour routine I have every day. I try not to look at my phone for at least the first hour once I get up. Then I’m downstairs, make my coffee, do a few more mobility exercises. So, maybe at 7:45 and then I start working. At the moment, I’m swimming at lunchtime.
So, in that four hours between eight o’clock and 12:00, 12:30, I can get an awful lot done. I try to get most of the work I have done for the day done by then because I function better. I’ve identified that I’m an owl and so I function better in the morning. So, if I’m going to leave any tasks till the afternoon, it’s usually just answering emails and things that don’t require as much thought processes, writing a program, or putting a blog post together or something. But I’ll probably do a bit of work on Saturday, I might do a bit of work on Sunday, but it all revolves around my cycling or going swimming or going for a run. Yeah. [crosstalk] Lots of little breaks.
JESSE: It’s interesting you say that because I’m pretty similar where it’s like, there’s something about lunch or little after lunch where it’s like, I really want to be done working for the day. And that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna do anything else. But like, I want all my major tasks out of the way. I want my workout done, I want whatever major project, you know, the thing about entrepreneurship, this is a pretty common thing at least in my sphere that I live, that you have one major task to do a day and that’s it.
There’s going to be little things; answering email, all that kind of stuff. But as far as like major brainpower devoted just one thing a day, get that done, because it’s all about results, right? It doesn’t matter how many hours you put in, it’s only about what you produce. So, it’s interesting you say that because I live pretty similarly.
See if I can wind us back to triathlon, though. I was interested, you’ve kind of wound triathlon life into what you do. If we got back to, I’ll say the 90s I’m guessing maybe you’ve been in the 80s; how did you get into triathlon to begin with? Was this just, you know, you saw an Ironman kind of building up in steam and picked up the bug or how did that transition happen?
SIMON: No, I was on the triathlon route before Ironman had really got rolling. I mean, the first Ironman was 78. The first major thing that most people recall from Ironman was seeing the Julie Moss video with her crawling across the line in Kona and she’d been leading in this torturous bit of, I think ABC footage where she just can’t control any of her bodily functions, she can’t stand up.
People can’t help her, she’s crawling along the lead, right. People are willing it to make it to the finish line, the girl that’s in second place passes her and I’m like, “Wow! What’s this event? I’ve gotta find out more about this.”
I had finished doing a business degree in 1986. I then went to Australia so I didn’t have a gap year. I sort of had a gap– Well, my gap year was a bit later on. I went to Australia. So, I’d seen that video and read about triathlon. There was a thing called the Beach Ironman, this is a surf lifesaving championship in Australia, which is swim, surf, ski, paddleboard, and then a little bit of running on the beach in between.
I was quite captivated by that and then I saw the, not the Ironman, the ITU World Championships in Perth, just while I was living out there. So, I thought wow, I’d like to do one of these when I get back. I’d finished my year in Australia, came back to the UK, I’ve been doing lots of bar work.
So, I got a job running this wine bar in Harrogate, local town to me, and there was a fundraiser thing that we have annually now in the UK called Children in Need, happens every year, every autumn. And so the pub were doing [??? 11:37] and I said I’m going to do a triathlon. So, burning platform, I was committed then. I found one that just happened to be actually, it’s about three miles away from where I live now, and I entered for that.
It wasn’t the traditional triathlon, it was you did a swim in the pool then you had a 15-minute break while you got your bike gear together. There was no digital stuff so you had a little piece of card that you took around to the start in each and somebody manually did a stopwatch, wrote down the start and finish time, calculate [??? 12:04] and then you took that piece of card to next one.
So, it was swim, run, bike. And then about three weeks later you’ve got a whole sheet of [??? 12:14] sheets through the post which had your results and no digital stuff at all and all manual. So, that was that. I did quite well. I think I came 25th out of about 500 people so not too bad on numbers training. So, I decided I was going to commit to doing triathlon the next year still.
You know, if you talk to people about triathlon, nobody had heard of it. The Brownlees weren’t even born then. You know who Brownlees are, they’re the brothers in the Olympic champions. So, the Brownlees weren’t even born then. The Olympics hadn’t even taken on triathlon. So, people go, “What, triathlon is that like Ironman?” So, people had just started to hear about Ironman.
I was working a conventional job then so nine to five selling storage equipment for factories and warehouses, but I’d always got this idea that I want to be a personal trainer. So, I was sort of working towards that and looking for the opportunity. And then I was made redundant. So, rather than seeing that as a bad thing, it gave me the opportunity to right, well, I haven’t got a job now so I’m not giving anything up. You know, in for a penny, in for a pound. Let’s see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll be back where I am now. So, that was in 1993.
So, I was continuing to do triathlons then, started working as a personal trainer and a fitness instructor. I was the first personal trainer in Leeds, one of the first that had a mobile business visitor. So, I used to go around with my van and all my equipment and visit people at their homes. I did my first Ironman in 1995, in Canada in Penticton. And then I wrote an article for a magazine then called Ultra Fit, which was jointly published in the UK and Australia. And it was like I would train for an Ironman and all of this.
And 220 Triathlon Magazine asked me if I’d write an article as well. So, I wrote this article, and they were gonna pay me 40 pounds. And so I said, “Well, look, can I have a little biog at the bottom and direct that towards a little classified ad at the back?” We’re still in the era really as the internet was just getting going but it was an academic thing then. It wasn’t really people like you and I using it, so everything was still snail mail and telephone. So, little biog and then I would get these letters from people saying “Oh, I’m interested in doing a triathlon. I’ve read your article. Can you coach me?”
And so we took off from there really, and that was it. And so I was busy doing my personal training and coaching people and I ran them side by side probably for 10 or 15 years until I decided to ditch the personal training and go all in with the triathlon coaching. On the back of reading a book called Essentialism. So, if you wanted to recommend a book to people, Essentialism this would be a good one to start with.
JESSE: No, it’s funny. So, I’m probably showing my age. I’m a similar age to the Brownlees. I can’t remember exactly when they were born but I was born 89. And so I’m probably showing my age here but there’s something– I will say romantic. But there’s something nice about not having the digital aspect of advertising with the internet and all those kinds of mediums. I’m familiar with, I’m more than proficient in those advertising mediums.
But it’s like, there’s something nice about a print magazine, which is it doesn’t seem like the response rate, or like people’s attention span really hones in on that so much anymore. It’s like attention span’s so short. I just feel like if I told people, hey, you had to call me or had to write me a letter, I’m never gonna hear from anyone now.
SIMON: You say that I mentioned to you a bit earlier about Dan Kennedy. Dan Kennedy did run this thing called Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle. He’s a copywriter. So, to share his ideas, he’s done lots of books, his books NoBS, No Bullshit. And he’s probably straight talking. He could be from Yorkshire if he was from England. So, he lives in Ohio, and I started to find out these things about Dan.
And I went to one of his conferences, I used to get these little magazines A4, it was like a comic. It used to come through– all of the envelope was with advertising promoting this conference, or that thing, or this [??? 16:34] coaching, so no space was wasted. And I used to look forward to that like I did when I was 10.
When I got my little comic like The Beano, The Dandy, or The Wizard or whatever comics, you had like the Marvel comic that came through. I used to devour that thing from cover to cover, reading the articles and circling little ideas that I could use in my business to sort of develop my mailing list or little things that I could– little circular letters that I could get for people to recommend me.
And I’ve still got all of those copies and I’m still going through them. And there was something about having a solid hard copy that I could sit down. I like the idea now when everything’s digital of not having to look at a screen and looking at real paper, real print in it. I like the idea that I can write notes on it, and then go back to it later.
As I say, I’ve still got all the copies in some folders in my office and I go back to them, I share them with people. I’ve got things that are photocopies that I send out. And I do wonder whether that sort of medium will make a comeback because everything’s got a lifecycle and some things go full circle.
I wonder now that we’ve almost made print media extinct, whether then somebody will take it on and go, you know what, I’m going to go old school, and I’m going to produce a newsletter that I’m going to send out to people in the mail. Because when you get a letter that’s not a circular from the bank or from a managing company, it’s quite nice, isn’t it when you get something that you can actually read that’s not demanding something of you?
JESSE: Yeah. Well, I think we’re probably already towards that trend because I know… So, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Hammer Nutrition, but they send out a magazine with and they’re promoting their products, but they send out a magazine, I don’t know if it’s quarterly, I think so with articles, and then advertisements for their products and that kind of stuff. And they already kind of cater to that. But then, on top of that, you see, like small bookstores are starting to come back after they’ve been kind of decimated with digitization, and Amazon and all that.
Now, these– I’ll call them boutique, but that may be a little bit obtuse. It’s a niche, right? It’s not tiny in the sense that nobody wants to go. It’s tiny in the sense that it’s not the prevailing way to get your book anymore. But it does have a market because I think there are plenty of people now they’re getting to the point where they’re like I just don’t want to stare at a screen anymore. You know, I stare at screens all day. I’m tired of staring at screens, I just want a physical book, and I don’t want to support you know Amazon or whatever it is so let me go to my bookstore.
SIMON: Well, equally, record stores I’ve been reading and making a comeback as well. You know, people are– [crosstalk]
JESSE: And vinyl, yeah.
SIMON: Vinyl record players like you and I probably had when we were– Well, I definitely had when I was a student. You know, I’m a record player there– [crosstalk]
JESSE: I had one when I was younger, yeah.
SIMON: A cassette deck and I had all my LPs which I got rid of and I shouldn’t have done but I got all my LPs and you could look at the cover, you could– you get the gatefold throughout the story about the band and how they made the album and then all of that went by the buyer. We’ve got CD ROMs. And then we’ve got Spotify and Amazon and iTunes and the iPod and all of that sort of stuff. But now, record stores and vinyl records are definitely making a comeback. And again, things go full circle, don’t they?
JESSE: Yeah, it kind of makes me wonder because you’ve been around long enough. Again, it’s not in a derogatory way but it gives you– [crosstalk]
SIMON: I’m 56, you might as well tell everybody.
JESSE: Well, I mean, it gives you a good perspective, just like when I talk about or to– you probably [??? 20:40] to pro triathlon, Barb Lindquist.
SIMON: Yeah, Barb, yeah.
JESSE: Yeah. So, Barbara’s a former coach, she’s a friend of mine. I had the fortune of learning from her for a number of years and be able to go to her clinics and stuff. And so she got to race as a pro late 90s, early 2000s, and live through the advent of, here we are Olympic triathlon started in 2000, she went 2004. But there’s been a lot of changes in that time, in terms of general recognition by people of what triathlon is like you said, oh, the Ironman, I still get that here.
I live in the Midwest, which is middle of the country here in the US, and I still get that from most people. If I say triathlon it’s, “Oh, Ironman.” Or even family members say, “Oh, are you training for a triathlon?” Like, no, I don’t think you understand like, this is a lifestyle. This is an all the time thing.
So, I’m just wondering, is there anything that sticks out to you starting from completely analog, writing down times on note cards race to where we are now with televise ITU, triathlon becoming more mainstream. It still hasn’t superseded cycling by any means. But you can watch it on TV now. So, anything that sticks out in that time frame, it’s really been a significant change in culture recognition, any of that stuff.
SIMON: Oh, yeah, definitely the Olympics, I think for triathlon, in 2000. They changed– triathlon was always non-drafting. So, there always had to be a gap. The ITU decided that they had to make it more spectator-friendly, obviously they were talking to the IOC about how to get it into the Olympics. So, they didn’t want people just disappearing on a bike for 25 miles in a train.
You know, I remember watching a televised triathlon in the UK which is just like watching paint dry because it was one guy out on the front on his own and they didn’t have the sort of multi-camera footage technology that they have now and streaming video like they have with the Tour de France maybe. So, it’d just be one video of one guy cycling. It’s not very exciting at all. For people like me, it was like, “Wow, look at that guy there. Look at how relaxed he is.” Like everybody else is like what else is happening?
So, in the Olympics, they changed the way the sport was run. And the drafting format and made it different for different athletes. There was a divergence from– I mean, if you look back to before Barb Lindquist, Karen Smyers was the– I think she was one of the first people to win Ironman world title and the ITU World Title in the same year.
Mark Allen did that, Greg [??? 23:35] did that. I think Chris McCormack might have done that. There aren’t many athletes. Or [??? 23:40] obviously and Allister, he’s got the potential to win Ironman, but he’s not done it yet. So, there aren’t many now that can look– But certainly, not at the same time. [??? 23:51] wouldn’t have been able to win the Ironman at the same time…Olympics.
So, there’s been a divergence in the type of athlete. So, definitely focusing on either ITU racing or long-distance racing. So, yeah, the Olympics definitely. Certainly, in the UK, the Brownlees and London triathlon and the Brownlees came at the same time. They were at the top of their performance peak if you like for that one. Certainly, Alistair was. He’d been dominant just before and after 2012.
So, as a package as well, two brothers, you know, being right there, Johnny getting penalized being denied a silver because of some overzealous official and sort of [??? 24:38] an uncut toenail if you like. So, the Brownlee’s definitely are a package, definitely catapulted triathlon. So, we’ve been on a cycling camp in [??? 24:48] getting out to go out on the bikes at nine o’clock. This guy’s there, they’re drinking, they’re only there for a drinking holiday. And they say, “Are you guys triathletes? “Yeah, yeah.” “Do you know them Brownlees? I like them Brownlees. Right?
These are guys that you just go in the pub that would probably watch the darts and the soccer and they’re talking about the Brownlees. So, this minor sport, and yet because of who they are, and the brother thing, [??? 25:15] sport. So, I definitely think that. Ironman, I couldn’t tell you when Ironman really started to roll. I had a tattoo when I did my first one.
So, that was 1995 and very, very few people did Ironman then. It was probably eight key races in various continents around the world. Now, there’s– goodness knows how many Ironman [??? 25:39] but it’s in the mid-2000s, late 2000s I really think it started to explode probably when private equity got involved, and they wanted to make a return.
So, there’s that as well, and it was, I think perhaps, as the marathon boom, started to tail off the next thing people wanted to do was to do an Ironman. So, it became a bucket list thing. So, it’s definitely a trend now that I’ve seen with coaching that you’ve got a lot of one and done people that come in.
Whereas there’s guys that were doing Ironman when I started that are still doing them now, nearly 25 years later, they’re still doing them because their life [??? 26:18] you mentioned earlier, it’s a lifestyle thing. You don’t just do triathlon, that’s your identity. And that’s how you live your life. So, yeah, I think those are significant moments, certainly in the UK. Yeah.
JESSE: Yeah. I certainly grew up with the– right in the advent of it coming to the Olympics. And I think the first one I watched was 2008. Keeping in mind that… So, I started running, and I ran through college and then got in triathlon afterwards. But I was pretty much– I like to say I lived under a rock.
I did my own thing. So, I ran, but like, I didn’t follow the big names of running. It was just like, I want to run, I want to be really good at it, but I didn’t care what everybody else is doing. So, then I started to get into kind of international sports at that time, I didn’t understand American football so I just didn’t care like everybody else did.
So, I think I first watched my first World Cup in 2006 when Italy won, and then 2008 with triathlon. And that, to me, and again, maybe because of the age I was and growing up in but that seemed like the thing to do, or the thing that was coming up. I mean, Ironman was around but because of the distance of it, it almost seemed, unattainable isn’t quite right. But as you mentioned there’s sort of like shot on the single person out by themselves. It’s not as exciting as draft legal, watching draft legal, racing draft legal.
So, that’s where it just becomes interesting to me to ask you since obviously, there’s an age difference, and you did your first Ironman when I was six so you’ve seen much more of the sport changed. Because I have my own perspectives about it, obviously.
And sometimes it’s easy for people like me, or people younger than me even to take for granted like all the technology we have, all the opportunities, the high visibility of the sport, the ease of finding a coach, all those things so much easier now after the sport has grown over the last what, we’re approaching what, 40 some odd years now. I think we’re getting close to 50. I can’t remember when the first official triathlon is supposed to be, in the 70s.
SIMON: 76, 76 I this. 76 around and it’s disputed. Different people say different things. But somewhere in San Diego the first Ironman was 1978. So, we’re coming around– we’ve done 40 years of Ironman, 42 years. This would be the first year where it’s not happened actually, first ever time when it’s [??? 29:39] a year. But we did have two back in 1982. So, they’ve always had one– [crosstalk] Yeah. Yeah.
JESSE: Get it in early and didn’t know about it. Have you seen and again, because I kind of live under a rock I don’t pay attention to it. But I know– So, as I was getting out of college trying to get into sport and become a pro, it seemed like there was a lot of money in triathlon. You know, even just– so a few hours north of me was [??? 30:13] with the biggest prize purse in the world at that time.
Winner was 250,000. [??? 30:18] the World Championships for how much prize money it was paying. And then [??? 30:24] fallen off, then there was Dextro Energy Triathlon Series of ITU. And then I’m not sure who’s in charge of that series now as far as corporate sponsorship, but it seems like it’s tailed off a little bit. Do you think we’ve plateaued? Or is there still room to grow?
SIMON: Yeah. I mean, we’ve got the professional triathlon organization, a Professional Triathlete Organization, which you might have seen as PTO. So, that’s interesting. I did a podcast with Dave Scott the other week Dave’s Dave’s been instrumental in setting up PTO.
But he talked about how he tried to set something up back in the 80s with the guys who were racing full time then and it just didn’t work because they were athletes trying to do it. They really needed professional management, which is what they’ve got now with the management team that they’ve got.
And it’s really almost like a union for the athletes. And they’ve been really good for the athletes’ during the coronavirus. You know, with the funding that they’ve gotten with the investment they’ve got and helping some of the lesser-known athletes to sort of stay afloat if you like.
For the top few, for [??? 31:29] Alistair Brownlee, Lionel Sanders, people like that, and that’s a small handful of people in it EU, which is the Olympic version of the World Triathlon series. And also Ironman, there’s a small handful who are living a nice comfortable living. Like you’d expect at the top of any sport. But if you think about tennis, or golf, or motor racing, even NASCAR, which is largely US, North American sports. But still, the leading drivers in NASCAR are earning millions a year and they’re internationally or they’re national heroes, national celebrities.
So, compared to the leading athletes in most sports, triathletes are not particularly well rewarded for the amount of effort. You think about, I think $150,000. I might be slightly wrong on the figure there for winning Ironman, but that’s eight hours and all the training. You can’t do many of those in a year. And then you compare that to somebody winning the US, well, they’re just playing the French Open Tennis now, but it just played the US Open.
There’s probably a billion dollar– a million dollar check for the winner. But even the guys that get knocked out in the first round probably get $50,000, so huge. And obviously, all of that’s down to TV coverage and media rights and everything else. So, yeah, there’s money in it.
But then there’s guys that I know that win Ironman 70.3 races and some of the lesser well known Ironman races that they’ll win 10 or 15,000 for crossing the line first, but then when they’ve paid their local tax that’ll come down to 10,000. And then they’ve had to travel to the events because there aren’t many of them who would get travel expenses and accommodation coverage.
So, that might cost them a couple of grand if they’re flying to America. So, they’ve got eight grand, but they’re probably not going to be at the race for another month. So, unless they’ve got some decent sponsorship coming in, winning and winning prize monies is important for them to pay the rent nevermind buying themselves a new Ferrari or a villa in the Swiss Alps.
JESSE: Yeah. I don’t know that there’s a lot of transparency on this but I know Cody Beals who’s a Canadian pro and he’s coming up on the full Ironman circuit now, he’s starting to really pick up steam. He’s been winning 70.3s for a number of years now. He did a post, a blog post, I can’t even think when. Maybe 2014 or so. He did a very transparent post on these are my earnings and expenses for this year. And it’s like as a full-time pro, I think he made, I don’t know, under 30,000 US for the year.
And that’s with winning races, having sponsors, just insanely low amount of money for how much work it is. You know, we’re talking about prize money and my parents watch golf, my nephew’s trying to be a pro golfer. And so I’ll– I can’t remember what tournament it was but I looked it up and the winner was, I don’t know, a three or $4 million and all the way down to like hundredth place, you still get like 30 grand for showing up.
JESSE: So, not that it’s easy to get there. But yeah, the depth of money in some of those sports is so much higher. And it seems like we should be able to get there on triathlon because it’s an affluent sport. I know when USA triathlon puts out their fingers or if you want to buy ads in any of the triathlon magazines are always like households that do this have an average six-figure income.
So, it’s like, it caters to a crowd with money yet somehow, we can’t quite get the pro side and the money there. So, if you and I were sitting down, Simon and we were gonna make a TV series, we were going to figure out how to make triathlon better to watch, and get more guys that are just going out to the pub drinking beer to watch it and we don’t have the Brownlees, how do we get them to watch it?
SIMON: You know, Professional Triathletes Organization would be thinking about this. You know, you need personalities, don’t you?
SIMON: And I know they’ve talked to the guy who runs UFC cage fighting. You look at that, they have celebrities, look at Conor McGregor who was a builder, plumber or something in Ireland, but now he’s this huge personality. He’s talking about fighting Manny Pacquiao, no doubt familiar with many millions of dollars. He’s not even a boxer. He’s just going to learn how to box for a few months. I mean, he’s pretty handy [??? 36:20] Lloyd Mayweather.
But still, it’s the value of that pay to view on HBO or whichever TV program. That’s what we need to do is how are we going to convince people to pay per view? How are we going to make it exciting? How are we going to get people to commit? It’s not necessarily about turning up to the events, although when they have the racing leads, it starts out of town, but then they end up cycling and running around the city and the streets are absolutely packed. You know, the whole city’s closed off, the streets are packed, and we always get really good turnout.
There must have been, when we had the Olympic final down in London, there was half a million people in Hyde Park. I mean, most of Yorkshire sort of they lock the gates when they left and the last person turned out the lights and we all went down to London to watch Alistair and Jonny race. So, we have the Tour de Yorkshire that comes here and that’s always well published.
So, there is spectator sports, but we need personalities, we perhaps need some marketing to hype those people up to maybe create a bit of friction amongst them, even if it’s manufactured. You know, look at– I can remember which one it is now. WWF I think it is but the wrestling and how they have the people in the ring, you know, calling out the others– [crosstalk]
Yeah, and it’s just– but people watch. It’s like a soap opera but people watch. Maybe a bit more accessibility, the athletes, they’re trying that now understanding what they go through, understanding what’s happening when they’re racing, maybe a little bit more insight into the athletes while they’re racing, maybe some real time stuff where we can see at this moment, Lionel Sanders heart rate is 119, it’s almost at its maximum, but he’s still getting dropped. What’s he going to do to make a comeback? You know, big dramatization. Yeah, difficult one.
JESSE: I think you’re right with the personalities. I think it also starts with the commentators. And maybe the issue is more that– It seems like the vast majority of triathletes I’ve met are often soft spoken, well-thought intelligent individuals that don’t have huge personalities, like Conor McGregor. Like you just don’t find that very often in this sport.
SIMON: No, I mean, there’s a few. You know, if you look at Lionel and talk about Lionel Sanders, Lionel [??? 38:51] his own YouTube channel, he’s so transparent…he’ll sit there the day after a race and go, “Man, yesterday was such a disappointment.” And he’ll just bare his absolute heart. And you’re sobbing, you’re getting the tissues and you’re like, “Oh, stop Lionel, stop.” And then he’ll come back and he’d go, “Okay. I’ve had time to think about this. What I said yesterday was, it wasn’t all that bad, but this is what I need to do now.” And it’s almost like he’s only Lionel soap opera.
He’s got a guy that follows him around with a camera all the time, so they’re always creating little videos. Next, we’re in the pain cave, as Lionel goes back to the drawing board to punish himself for last year’s demeanors and see if it go one step further. But you’re right, we do. Perhaps most people, the training is so hard 30, 40 hours a week that these guys haven’t got time to be getting on social media too often and– [crosstalk] [?? 39:44]
JESSE: I’m generalizing here, obviously, but I think it’s two things. One, a lack of time, and simply energy. Like after you’ve been training 30 hours a week, who has the energy to do much of anything, you know? So, there’s a little bit of that. But then also like what kind of personality has the ability to train that kind of training schedule? You know, like go back to Conor McGregor.
He is an explosive personality in an explosive sport. That all makes sense. You want to go tell him to sit on a bike for eight hours and pedal? I mean, I think he’d do it if he believed it would help him be a champion in the ring. But just for the purpose of becoming better at cycling, I don’t think that personality fits well in that category. So, I think maybe that’s part of it too.
SIMON: Yeah, maybe, maybe. Yeah. They haven’t asked me to be their marketing director yet anyway [??? 40:54]. I need to keep my light under a bushel really…not give them too many ideas.
JESSE: Maybe we should– Here’s a difficult part. Getting footage and being able to use it without having issues. I see people do this on… I was just watching a YouTube video when Mo Farah broke the one hour record.
SIMON: Yes, yeah.
JESSE: And [??? 41:20] sky commentating on it. But he had taken NBC ABC, whoever’s coverage it was, taken it, cut it up so you weren’t watching the whole thing uninterrupted. But he’s just playing their coverage and talking over it. But I’m like, well, that’s a copyright issue. If that wasn’t such an issue, like you and I really could just say, hey, let’s go grab whoever’s coverage and let’s cut this and commentate it and try to add some excitement to it and then get it going.
SIMON: Yeah, yeah, that might work. Yeah. You see, I think then that you– so there seems to be two different types of commentators that I’ve seen. I mean, I do some live commentary races where our goal really is to make people feel like they’re in their own adventure, that we make it great for them, we’re calling them across the line, we’re calling their name when they come out of transition, they write us little comments, and they’ve forgotten that they’ve written them six months previously.
So, we read them out and they’re like, “Man, you told them about my dad [??? 42:18], how did you know? “You wrote it.” So, that’s different. But on TV coverage, you generally have either a commentator, who is a professional commentator, but maybe that’s not his main sport. So, he does some background. So, it’s like getting your NFL commentator to go and commentate on the basketball. He’s good at there, but he’s not an expert. [crosstalk]
JESSE: Right. It’s like a Joe Buck. We give Joe Buck a lot of hard time here in Kansas City ‘cause with the World Series A few years back, he didn’t do a great job. But he does everything.
SIMON: Yeah. So, you get a commentator who does everything, he learns a bit about it, and he can talk, he is a good commentator, but he doesn’t perhaps have the insight into the athletes, he’ll have a little bit. And then you’ve got probably a triathlete who’s an analyzer like your ex-professional ballplayer, but he perhaps doesn’t have the commentary skills to get the excitement across.
He’s talking about all the technical stuff. What you need is somebody who’s got a great personality, [??? 43:21], you can talk about some other things, but also knows intimately about the sport, what’s happening. You know, why is he doing that? On the Tour de France coverage that we have here in Britain, there’s a guy called David Miller. David, he’s got a great personality. I mean, he’s had a bit of a checkered past because he got banned for drugs.
But when you listen to him talking about the races, he’ll tell you why. Why is that team not chasing? Oh well, they’re working with that team because they’ll know that this guy is gonna fade later on, on the road, and then they’ll come on for that. So, he can tell you what those riders are thinking because he’s just exited the sport a few years ago.
He knows the riders, he knows how everybody thinks, he knows what communications they’re getting. So, with him and the other guy that’s commentating, they make a great team because they tell you the story rather than just commentating on what you’re actually seeing on the screen. And I think that’s perhaps what some sports are lacking, they’re too technical, and so people don’t get confused by what they’re hearing.
JESSE: Yeah, I think we definitely get bogged down by that with triathlon because it can be so gear focused at times. Like, I got this new bike and it’s this new model and I got my Garmin watch so I can check my pace and all this is like, that’s great and everything, but it’s kinda like we touched on this, I think you made this graphic. It’s like that– You had this, I’ll call it the training performance pyramid where like the base, you’re like, no healthy living and then triathlon training on top of that, do you know what I’m talking about?
SIMON: Yeah, yeah.
JESSE: So, it’s like you had, like the gear stuff’s all the way at the top. It’s like just a little [??? 44:57]. Okay. We could add that but that’s not necessary to the essentials of what we’re doing here and I feel like that’s the same thing.
SIMON: I think also if you ever listened to coverage of Australia rules football or some Australian cricket, you get some commentators who are like they say things that you really want them to say that you might go “Wow, did he just say that?” Now, everything is so politically correct these days that you have to be really careful about anything you say because you’re gonna upset some movement or some group of people because you’ve said something.
But sometimes when you’ve got those commentators who say it as it is and use language that’s not in the UK, we call it BBC language is sort of the phrasing…proper and correct. But if you actually use some local vernacular without swearing, but just something that’s a little bit more colorful, then people will also tune in to listen to that commentator.
JESSE: Yeah. [crosstalk]
SIMON: You’ve always got to be very careful. Yeah.
JESSE: If we can get those all together, get the right commentator, get the insights into what’s going on with the race, get some more of those in-debt bios like Lionel does, but pre-race, you know? Like, I think about watching the Olympics, when Gwen won. I think Barb was on there with an interview. I’m pretty sure she was. I feel like I texted her when I came on.
But you get those interviews with people to cut into the race. So, it’s like, okay, maybe we’re on lap three of lap six on the bike section. And perhaps we’ve got a big gap between lead group and chase group, and it’s closing, but we’ve got a minute to swap between this. It’s like, adding a little bit of excitement by interjecting those stories and those interviews on top of everything. I feel like we could get this done, but who’s gonna get it done? And how’s it gonna get done?
SIMON: Well, I’ll give you an example. Let’s take the Rio Olympics. So, Allister and Johnny knew that coming out the swim, they’d be near the front, they wouldn’t be leading, but they’re near the front. And you know pretty much who’s going to be alongside them. They know who the good swimmers are, they know who’s going to be in the second pack, and therefore, who’s going to have to bridge across? So, you come out and then after a couple of miles, there’s this steep little hill. So, they have this tactic, right?
Let’s just smash it on the swim. Let’s try and get a group, let’s try and get in front. Right now we’re going to race through transition one, we’re going to get in the bike, we’re going to see who’s there. Right? Let’s try and get the group down to five or six people. Because there’s like four or five people that can run for that gold medal, but we know that two of them or three of them might not even be in that first group on the bike. So, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to get on the bike, and then we’ve got to absolutely hammer now to get up that hill, and we’ve got to hurt everybody.
We’ve got to hurt the people in our group, we’ve got to try and work together to get a gap because if we’ve got somebody that’s working together with us that’s not going to outrun us, they might still get a bronze medal so it’s in their interests to work with us to try and get a gap. Because if they were with those other people, they wouldn’t get a medal at all. So, they might finish eighth. So, let’s try and get a gap, and let’s hammer it. And if we can hammer it for the first four laps, we know that we’ll have a minute and we know that if we’ve got a minute getting off the bike, then we can outrun them. We’ve a minute of protection. Nobody’s going to catch a minute on us.
So, explaining what’s happening, why and then, okay, so you’ve got another guy in the back there, another English guy, why isn’t he working hard to get into the front group? Why doesn’t he want to get up there so he can get another? Well, he’s there as a teammate, he doesn’t want to work, he actually just wants to get in.
So, if they do get up to the front group, then he’s another person in there, but he’s not going to contribute to get up to the group. And actually, everybody knows that this guy’s desperate to win a medal. So, he’s going to work hardest to get up to the group. So, we can sit on his coattails and let him pull us up to the group because if we do that, he’ll be tired, we’ll be fresh, and then we’ve got a better chance of beating him for a medal.
So, being able to explain all that, why certain people are working, why they’re not, why are these tactics working; those are the things you need to be able to explain to the listener. You know, why doesn’t it appear like anybody’s working to catch them back? You know, what’s happening when they come out of– why does that guy keep getting dropped off the back every time they go around the turn? So, yeah, we’ve got the format now, Jesse.
JESSE: Right. We got [??? 49:34] together.
SIMON: Yeah. Well, you’ve got your entrepreneur head on today. I can tell.
JESSE: I’m always looking for new opportunities. I think maybe you and I need to get together after the show and write a letter or– Yeah, let’s write a letter, an actual letter instead of sending an email to the pro group now and we will say we’re going to commentate all these sports, we’re gonna put them on TV. We’ll do trial run on YouTube or something, get people together. It’s across the pond, you’ve got your perspective, I got my perspective. I’d be good.
SIMON: We can send it by pigeon as well, just to stay with the old school theme.
JESSE: Yeah. I mean, you want to make a statement, right? And I feel like a pigeon showing up with a letter and pooping on somebody’s desk, that makes a statement.
SIMON: Well, if we had a little GoPro there to film it, then it would make a [??? 50:32] video for YouTube as well. So, we gotta stay with the technology a little bit.
JESSE: Yeah, it’s marrying the old or the new together. I think that’s the way to go. Simon, is we’re starting to run down on time a little bit. So, there’s a question I’m asking everybody this season of this show because it transcends sports, it transcends people, and everynody answer’s it a little bit differently. So, I’m asking everybody, what do you think the purpose of sport is?
SIMON: Oh, man, what do you think the purpose of sport is? That’s a great question. I’ve never been asked that before. So, let me go back, for me, particularly, the purpose of sport, for me, when I was little because I’ve been playing sport in various forms since I was old enough to walk. The purpose of sport for me when I was little was to expend energy because I would have had– If they’d had a clinical diagnosis for it back then I would have been diagnosed as having that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, and they wouldn’t have had Ritalin or whatever you prescribed over there then.
So, the nearest best prescription was to just go run around until you fell asleep. So, that was where I was quite good at sport. I played football, I played rugby, I played cricket, I did the athletic stuff, I played tennis, I did all of those things. And I think that was my mom’s tactic was to just wear me out. Because if I didn’t, I would just talk her to death. I mean, you can tell that I like talking. So, imagine what I would have been like without the involvement of sport.
On a bigger perspective I mean, sport, some people like competing, don’t they? I was heavily competitive when I was young. And I can remember being, even if we lost a football match against the other class from the same year, I would cry when we got beaten, I was a terrible loser and I wanted to win all the time. And I’m not like that anymore. I see the personal satisfaction in achieving something now.
So, I suppose it depends on your personality. I played a lot of team sports when I was younger. There’s definitely a bonding that comes from team sports. And there’s definitely some life skills that you learn from helping each other out, from understanding that in a team, there are people who have their skills.
You’ve got the guy who always gets the glory because he kicks the goal, scores the touchdown, does all that. But he couldn’t achieve that without the support of the other people. You’ve got the guys who, like I played rugby, so you’ve got the big guys who were, might be classed as being a bit overweight, but they have a place in the scrum.
You’ve got the tall beanpole guys who were supposed to catch the ball, you’ve got the skinny guys that are really fast that go on the wings, everybody has their part. And you all come together to make a team. So, you talked about building a business, the great entrepreneurs and business leaders understand that they need people who are better than them at certain things and put them all together.
So, there’s definitely a team element. And even if you’re in an individual sport like triathlon, we talked about Lionel, we talked about Alister, we talked about Bob, they will say that they couldn’t have achieved their success without other people being in their team. Their coach, their trading partners, [??? 53:51] medical practitioners, the people who look after their bike, the nutritionists. So, there’s that team element. Sport enables people to achieve things that perhaps they didn’t think were possible.
So, it’s gives them an opportunity to express and find out what their body is capable of, and what their mind is capable of. Particularly, you see this when people cross the finish line of an Ironman that they’ve done something that they never thought that they would be able to do. It doesn’t matter what time they do.
I remember explaining to a personal training client that I’d done this Ironman and he went and told his mother and she said, “That’s ridiculous. Nobody could do that in a day.” And he said, “No.” She said, “How many days did he take?” “No, he did it all in one day, mommy. It took him just under 11 hours.” “That’s just ridiculous. It’s impossible for human beings.” So, I had to take the photograph and the medal and the certificate in to prove her. And she said, “How is it possible for somebody to do that?”
But just before I did my first one, I didn’t think it was possible either. So, I mean, sport is, I think, perhaps sport in the recent months during the coronavirus outbreak has probably showing people just how much they value competition. Because it’s been taken away from them, I think, depending on where you live, being able to go out for a bike ride or a run or swim with your mates has been restricted or denied.
So, people have realized how much they get the social aspect of just running with people. You and I can communicate by the powers of technology with Zoom across half the world. But actually, I’ve noticed that if I got together with you now, and sat having a chat over a beer, I would find that so much more fulfilling because there’s been another human being sat in front of me.
And I think I’d not realized the importance of that until that was taken away. And then sort of gradually allowed back into your life. So, sports definitely got that social aspect, which I think perhaps a lot of people haven’t– Well, probably it’s highlighted a lot more in the last few months. So, I think it’s different things to different people.
JESSE: Yeah. Well, that’s why I asked that question.
SIMON: That should have been prefaced by a typical coach’s response of it depends.
JESSE: That is the perfect coach’s response because it always does depend on a lot of things. But I mean, that’s why I asked the question and I think, your first response is fun because I definitely haven’t gotten that before just expending energy. But yeah, the different the varying meanings and degrees of meaning, and philosophical to completely like normal, just expending energy, reasons that people have participated in sport or what they see the purpose of sport is, is interesting, which is why I asked.
Because it doesn’t matter, everybody has an answer. But everybody always has a different answer. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the same sport, different sport. I don’t think anybody’s given the same answer to that question. So, that’s why I asked it. Simon, if people want to see what you’re up to, coaching advice, any of that, where can people find you?
SIMON: Well, I’m all over social media like a rash as you’d expect. So, probably the best place to find me is on Facebook. So, I have my own personal profile is Simon.Ward1. I have a Facebook group for triathletes, which is called The Triathlon Coach Cafe. It’s free to join but we like people to apply to join because then we ask questions. And those questions give us opportunities to create content, through podcasts and that sort of stuff. So, that’s Triathlon coach cafe. And that’s open to anybody that’s doing triathlon, so beginners, long-distance, short distance, whatever.
I have my own podcast which you kindly mentioned. That is, I think we’re in a hybrid face at the moment, because it’s still known as The Triathlon Coach Channel, on iTunes. But I have started calling it The High Performance Human Podcast because we’re trying to broaden the reach beyond just triathletes and talk about more than just training for triathlon. Yeah, they’re the main ones. I have other channels. But what I’ll do is I’ll send you the link tree thing, and then there’s probably about half a dozen different avenues, channels there like YouTube and Instagram, and everything else [??? 58:37].
JESSE: Yeah. So, whether you’re on YouTube or iTunes or Spotify, they’re in the description. If you go below wherever the player is, that should be down in the description [??? 58:46] link to all the other kind of stuff that Simon has.
SIMON: That’s correct.
JESSE: So, all right. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Simon.
SIMON: It’s been great fun. Thank you.