TriDot Check-In with Coach Jared Milam: Part 2

JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.

What are your greatest challenges in working with triathletes?

There are always challenges. There are always going to be times when an athlete’s body just isn’t cooperating or performing consistently. I’ve been in this sport for a long time and I think I’ve got my training down, but there are some days when there is absolutely no reason I shouldn’t be hitting my numbers, and yet I’m just not. There are days when my athletes have the same thing happen, and fortunately I have a lot of empathy for them because I deal with the same thing. We all have training slumps, where for a week or two things just aren’t going well. I think no matter what program you’re under, it’s inevitable: someone’s going to have a slump. I want to stay positive and encouraging but also make changes to their training, move workouts around, and let the body recover. But most of all, I want to be encouraging and motivating through the tough times.

What success story or accomplishment are you most proud of as a coach?

I’ve had numerous athletes obtain personal records by using the TriDot system, and what I’d like to emphasize is that TriDot makes my job as a coach easy. The hardest thing for a coach is to figure out an athlete’s threshold capacity in each discipline, and therefore assign the correct intensity level of training for each day. The TriDot system solves that equation for me!

As a coach, I’m working with my athletes to motivate, inspire, and work within the system when we need to make adjustments because everyone is different. Plus the body does not cooperate consistently 100 percent of the time. It just doesn’t. In my opinion, there should always be a human element within training. Yes, you use TriDot at a level which does not include a coach, but in my opinion I strongly encourage athletes to have their own coach.

Humorous or memorable stories/experiences:

When I started in this sport, I had never run a race over a mile in my entire life. I tried out for the 7th grade track team, which had a limited number of spots for students who wanted to compete. Long story short: I didn’t make the team. I went home crying and that day was when I started running. A year later I went from running the mile in 7:30 to 5:25. Because of my hard work and training I made the team the next year. I became the number two runner on the team! I often look back at that turning point, and the adversity I overcame to be a part of this world.

As a runner in high school, I had difficulty my freshman year. Our team qualified for the cross country state meet, and I had the opportunity to run in the main event. I ran with them and, unfortunately, I finished in last place. Yes, it was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I often think back on that now as a professional athlete, that even the guy who comes in last can rise up and do some great things.

Racing Story:

I always try to aim for the top 10 overall at every major pro race. So here I was, racing professionally at Augusta 70.3, not exactly having a great day. But then, on the back half of the run, I started feeling better. I was in 11th place with half a mile left to go, and 10th was not far ahead. It was a hard day for a lot of us, and the 10th place pro decided to stop at the last station for a drink (probably not realizing I was so close behind). I flew by him, putting in a surge to open the gap. He immediately countered but I was already putting more distance on him. At that moment, I was sure I would place top 10. Then with just 200 meters to go, I had the sudden urge to vomit as the Gatorade I had consumed throughout the run overcame me, and I had to stop. Doubled over, he passed me back with under 200 meters to go and sadly I placed 11th.

Notes on Transitions:

Have a plan first and foremost, and then practice it. It’s a small part of the race, but it’s important. What people are going to benefit from the most is experience, but having a plan and rehearsing it will be incredibly beneficial. Not everyone likes to transition the same way, and that’s ok – everyone has his or her own quirks between T1 and T2, but as long as you don’t forget any part of your plan, then the transition will go smoothly. The last thing you want to do is run out of transition with your wetsuit on, or get on your bike without your helmet. Have a plan, execute it, and all will be well.

How do you integrate TriDot technology with coaching's interpersonal side?

One thing I’ve learned as a TriDot coach is that more doesn’t always equal better. For a majority of my career, I trained thinking that if I just trained more, I’d be a better athlete. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

What TriDot coaching shows is the balance of volume and the correct intensities. If you’re going to train a lot of miles and they’re all easy, you’re really training yourself to go slow. But if you work on building your strength and power, then you’re going to improve your chances of reducing the amount of time it takes you to go that same distance. With TriDot, we often call this “fast before far and strong before long.” The idea behind this philosophy is that you can’t uphold correct form and technique over long periods of time if your body isn’t strong enough to maintain said form. Form and technique are incredibly essential to this sport. A lot of us at TriDot say, “Long slow running produces a long slow runner.”

A key to coaching and working with athletes is the ability to incorporate that philosophy into their training and make adjustments when needed. For example, if an athlete says, “I’m doing ok in the swim and bike, but I’m not running as well as I’d like to,” it’d be a mistake for me to say, “Ok, you need to just run more.” That may be true to an extent, but the last thing you want to do is load someone up with sheer volume, thinking that more equates to better.

Also, having a coach adds a level of accountability. Keeping each other accountable is really important. My personal mantra is: “Consistency is a triathlete’s best friend,” and the best way to achieve consistency is with accountability.

Thoughts on Motivation:

Not to sound too cliché, but it’s always good to look at the positives. For me personally, I’m incredibly hard on myself. I see what I’ve done wrong and what needs improvement far more often than looking at what I’ve done right. My coach, however, looks at the positives. He outlines, “Here’s what we’ve done great, and yes we need to work on these aspects, but look at these improvements.” And that’s encouraging. I push that idea forward to my athletes as well. Focus on the positives first; we’ll improve on what needs work second.

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