Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vo2 Athlete Profile - Damon Barnett

Over the coming weeks I shall profile athletes on the Vo2 roster and review their year and upcoming season. It is at this time of the year that I evaluate athletes race results (whether they know it or not!) and try and address their limiters going forward to the next season of racing. This is an important process to go through and one which yields (after close inspection) some surprises. Reviewing Damon's was no different.

Damon and I started working together in June this year and to date the relationship has been a very successful one. I cannot hide the fact I was excited that Damon chose me to coach him after contacting several other equally capable coaches in the area. I saw immediately that he had the potential to do well in the sport. He could swim well and was in overall good aerobic condition. A little raw when it came to cycling and running, but skills I was confident he could master in a short period of time.

Damon qualified for AG Nationals at the Moses Lake Olympic distance race on June 7th. He finished in a time of 2:12:39, good enough for 24th Overall and 2nd in his AG (Damon is 21). The overall winner Winslow Tandler, won in a time of 2:01:49 and took the Gold in Damon's AG. This was a solid race with little or no structured training. After seeing this result I knew Damon with a little direction could eclipse that result so after agreeing to coach him (and vice versa) we set a target of qualifying for AG Worlds in 2009 to be held in Noosa on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (a nice location!). This required a top 16 AG finish on the challenging Hagg Lake course in Oregon on September 20th.

Damon adapted to my training protocol well and in no time made significant progress across all disciplines. I wanted to work hard on Damon's run knowing that this would be the difference between top 16 and top 30 in the very competitive field he was likely to encounter at Nationals. Always mindful to not push to hard to soon I had Damon run using the Daniels formulae (adpated for a multisport athlete). It worked well and with perhaps a little more 'T' pace running than I might usually incorporate Damon was running fast off the bike in no time. A test race at Beaver Lake highlighted just how far Damon had come in the short time we had been working together. He finished 6th overall winning his AG in a decent field of athletes. Not only that but he beat several athletes from the Moses Lake race who had raced close to 10 minutes faster than Damon back in June, progress I think you would agree!

Knowing how valuable course knowledge would be for this race Damon traveled down to Hagg Lake to swim, ride and run at the race venue on the course that would be used for the race. This proved useful and Damon even jumped into the Scoggins Valley race that uses much of the same course as a test event for the big day. It proved useful and Damon finished 4th overall again securing the AG win and taking several notable scalps in the process. I thought long and hard about next steps and decided it would be beneficial for Damon to race Black Hills early in September. I knew this was something of a risk as a bad race and a loss of confidence could have hurt Damon's preparation for his 'A' race but to me the positives outweighed the negatives so race he did. The outcome - 1st Overall and even more notable scalps taken in the process. What was pleasing was the way he ran coming off a strong ride. I knew then that our goal was within reach and provided Damon executed the race he was capable of a good result was there.

I loaned Damon my disc wheel for Nationals and we ran through every possible scenario for the race. Unlike long course races there is less time to make up for errors in transition or by going out too conservatively on the run so with less margin of error execution needs to be flawless. Thank goodness Damon delivered and finished 14th in his AG, just 1 second in front of the guys in 15th and 16th! A perfectly executed race and the desired outcome achieved. Australia here we come! Even more pleasing was the gap to Windslow Tandler who beat Damon by 11 minutes back in June at the Moses Lake qualifier taking the overall win. That gap was reduced to just 30 seconds!!!

Going forward Damon needs to work on his technique in all disciplines and more importantly remain healthy and injury free through to next season. With World's in September this gives Damon the chance to try his hand at the 70.3 distance and he intends to debut in that distance at 70.3 California in April 2009. Watch this space.

An awesome season and I am excited for what the future might hold.

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