Scientific Triathlon coach Lachlan Kerin | EP#192
Lachlan Kerin is an Australian triathlon coach, professional triathlete, and the newest member of the Scientific Triathlon team. He has over 50 professional IRONMAN 70.3 races to his name, has experience from working with some of the best coaches in the world, and among other accomplishments, has set 3 bike course records in IRONMAN 70.3 races.
- Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments at the bottom of the shownotes. Join the discussion here!
In this Episode you'll learn about:
- Lachlan's training methodology - how does a professional long-distance triathlete train?
- What has he learnt from being coached by coaches like Cam Brown, Grant Giles, and professor Paul Laursen.
- Advice for age-groupers on low-hanging fruit to pick and common mistakes to avoid.
- Lachlan's coaching philosophy and methodology.
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About Lachlan Kerin
- Growing up in Australia I played a lot of Australia rules football, which involves a lot of running - 10-20km a game in the older age groups.
- My Grandpa was a professional cyclist and was one of my biggest idols growing up.
He always took us out on the bike for fun.
- I learnt to swim growing up as most Australian's do, and played a bit of water polo and rowing.
- I came to find that with my training for Australian ruled football, running was something I loved.
- With my swimming and riding already being there, about 14-15 I did my first triathlon.
- From there I fell in love with the sport, and was lucky to join a local tri club.
My coach there was fantastic and really guided me through those junior years.
Becoming a professional triathlete
- In Australia we have a very good National under 19, or ITU Junior race series.
- In my state Victoria we have the Victoria Development Programme.
That's more focused on draft legal stuff, and I was lucky to be a part of that when I was 16/17.
- I was probably a little late to the scene compared to some of the other athletes who started triathlon a little younger.
- Whilst I didn't do a lot of that type of racing it showed me a lot about the professionalism around the sport, and allowed me access to some great people.
- I finished school in 2012 and that year I started physiotherapy.
- After my first semester I headed over to Boulder and did some training with Peter Robertson, who won the 2006 ITU World Champs I believe.
- While I was riding there, Peter put me up for my pro license and he thought if I was going to do long course my best bet was to be racing professionally as my swim was good enough to make a pack.
- I did one age group race at Hawaii 70.3 - it's a very tough course!
I loved it and came third, but I had a massive lead off the bike and just crumbled in the heat.
It was a big learning curve on long course, and the fact you have to really respect the distance.
- In September 2013 I lined up at sunshine coast 70.3 as a fresh faced 18 year old.
I was lucky to make the chase bunch and be amongst the race.
I only went 4:10, which these days doesn't seem fantastic, but at the time I was over the moon.
- Since then I've done over 50 professional half Ironman races, and five or six full Ironman, with plenty of races in between.
Highlights of professional racing career
- This is coming up to my sixth year as a professional now.
- I haven't raced this year yet due to an injury, but hoping to be back bigger and stronger in the second half of the year.
- The highlights were my first professional podium at Challenge Shepperton was a really great moment for me.
My second pro race was in Shepperton and I've been there every year since.
I've had the same home stay with Belinda and Steve Aiden each year too which has been great.
- I've been really lucky to lead quite a few races due to the bike being my strongest discipline.
I've had a few bike course records which has been fantastic.
- The next step for me is to ensure I can get off the bike at the front of the race and really close.
The level of racing now means you have to run 3:30/km pace, so there's no secrets about the level I need to be at!
- A lot of my swimming is done with a squad - I have one here in Melbourne that swims at 5:30 in the morning or 4:45 in the afternoon which gives you a lot of opportunity.
I'm a big believer that getting in with a squad can be really helpful with motivation and pushing yourself.
- I do enjoy still getting in to swim by myself every now and then.
- On a standard week I'll swim 20-25km per week.
Although currently I'm injured so there's been 50km weeks here and there, which are challenging but will hopefully help me in the long term.
- Anywhere from 80-90% of my riding is now done inside on the smart trainer.
Mainly due to the nature of where I live - sometimes it's not as safe as I'd like it to be and with traffic lights it's really hard to nail specificity.
I tend to be on the trainer a lot in the week and get outside on the bike at the weekend.
- I usually spend 10-15 hours a week, and it would push up to 20 on a big week.
- Running wise, this year has been light on the run front due to an ankle problem.
- For me, the sweet sport for running is the 60-70km per week mark, which is probably 5-6 hours.
Lachlan's training structure
- For myself as an athlete I've found that stressing a number of different energy systems through the week has been helpful for me, especially in cycling.
- In terms of cycling, if I'm in a build phase each week will have some strength/endurance, some sub-threshold (90% of threshold) work, a VO2 session and then padded out by volume at sub-70% of threshold.
I like to maintain this throughout the year.
- Getting more specific for a full Ironman, I'll pad out the longer rides anywhere from 6-7 hours.
During the week, not a lot changes. I might build up the volume in the strength session but the VO2 session stays at around 90 minutes.
The threshold session I'm really loving at the moment is 8x8 minutes at 90% with 2 minutes recovery.
- In terms of running, I like to keep a good foundation of low intensity work throughout the year.
Moving towards a specific race, especially an Ironman, the long run starts to include some race pace intensity.
- Into my last Ironman that might have included some 3 x 1km early on around 70.3 effort, then a 40 minute block at Ironman pace, then another 3 x 1km at the end.
This makes it quite a big session so you have to be conscious of how many of those you can do.
- Throughout the rest of the year that long run might just be 90 minutes - 1hour 45 at low intensity.
- When I was younger I'd do a track session every week, but since racing a lot of longer course racing that's now something more like 4 x 2km at 70.3 effort.
I build up to this so may start with 2, and then slowly building up to 4, and possibly 5 coming into a race.
- I might have something like a strength and endurance (SE) run - I live on the beach in Melbourne so it's easy for me to walk out the door and stick to the flat.
It takes a bit of effort but I try to get out to the hills and a few trails for a varied surface.
- I had a sacral stress fracture in 2016 so I'm a big believer now in a variety of different surfaces and terrains.
I fell into a trap of running on flat concrete a lot, which has now changed a lot in my training.
- The rest of my running is sub-aerobic threshold, for me about 150bpm heart rate, but I'm trying to run down towards 130-135.
At the moment coming off a break that may be around 4:45 pace, but as I get fitter it should come down closer to 4:20-4:30.
This may sound a bit faster than some ITU guys, as I know a lot of them do it quite slow, but I've found I have a natural rhythm here and my heart rate is steady.
- As we get closer to the race some of the runs will be done off the bike.
There's debate out there as to how important running off the bike is, but it's something I like to do.
I've had a lot of GI issues throughout my career and I've found it's a good way to test nutrition strategies which is important for me.
- For the swim it's generally left in the hands of the squad coach.
He will often work the plan around us and when we have races.
- I have found that using a lot more pull buoy paddles has helped me to get through the 3.8km swim as easy as possible.
- I'm now coming off a break for a month, and the paddles are a great way to cheat some feel for the water for now!
But you obviously don't want them to become such a crutch that you can't swim without them.
- My swim squad does a lot of long reps, anywhere from 300-500's on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
On a Tuesday and Thursday I'm often in with the younger swimmers so that might be some individual medley (IM) - probably more than other squads.
It's good to have some variety and I've found that butterfly helps me, and I use this kick with my breaststroke too since my sacral stress fracture.
- Recently we were doing a lot of backstroke, and I found it quite entertaining and as a proportion of a 5-6km session, it may only be 1km of backstroke.
You're still getting quite a lot of freestyle volume.
- I think the IM and other strokes are a mental stimulus and break up the sessions for me.
The butterfly is a great strength builder too.
- Relating it back to cycling, it's like the difference between riding on your triathlon bike and your road bike - you still get a cross over benefit but it's activity some different neuromuscular pathways and muscle groups.
- For me I've found the best thing for strength training has been pilates.
- I only started it mid-way through last year and have found it extremely beneficial in terms of being comfortable on the bike, feeling my hips are square and I can get them underneath me.
Also having a perception of where my hips are in relation to the rest of my body.
- The pilates is an hour a session and I usually do it twice a week.
- I have a gym downstairs in the apartment where I live so it's easy to reach, but it's more your typical core and mobility work that I do.
- I believe there is a place for weights, but for me that's probably now in my season as I'm coming back off a break.
This will develop into fairly high weight, low rep stuff.
- I do simple things like weighted squats and deadlifts, but I'm cautious to make sure they are done with very good form because I've had back issue in the past.
- Push ups and chin ups are great too.
- There's definitely room for me to grow in terms of the strength training I do.
- Scheduling in strength training around the swim, bike and run can be really hard, and you have to decide what is more important, especially for the working athlete and working pros.
- For me, twice a week for an hour is a good result.
- In the swim it's just RPE and the pace clock. I've never used a specific swim watch.
In the squad environment, there's no hiding from the pace clock.
- On the bike I use a power metre, heart rate and RPE.
It can be easy with the power metre to fall into the trap of chasing power and power zones.
This is why I think using perceived effort as well is important.
- On the run I use heart rate, pace and perceive effort.
There are limitations to using pace, and where I live can get really windy so if you're just using pace you can lose sight of the session.
Using heart rate can compliment this.
- When I was younger and with the triathlon club, I was lucky to have the opportunity to take a session here and there.
This opened my eyes to taking group sessions, and it was something I really enjoyed.
- Since then I started taking group sessions in a cycling studio on a watt bike.
Very focused sessions, using power but with a variety of people who have different goals and abilities.
It was great because it taught me to prepare sessions suitable for a wide variety of people.
- I've also coached at schools in cycling with younger athletes.
- From there I moved onto doing 1:1 swim sessions.
This was eye opening in terms of using technology to assess the stroke, and helping athletes find things you might not see above the water.
It was enlightening to see big gains straight off the bat.
- This developed to coaching 1:1, and that's all now delivered through Training Peaks - I'm a big believer of monitoring on a daily basis.
- Number one has to be communication.
It's so important to keep clear communication channels with your athletes.
They're not always going to be rosy, and it's also not always going to be me saying good job.
- I encourage athletes to ask me questions - if I can't tell you why I'm prescribing something you have every right to question why it's on the programme.
- If we're keeping clear communication channels, this means I can adjust the programme as necessary to account for any of the challenges life brings.
This might be one of the kids not sleeping last night, or having a stressful week at work.
This way we can really nail consistency, which is the fundamental key to any successful programme.
Lessons from previous coaches
- I've been able to work with a number of great people.
- Number one was my first coach in Melbourne Andy Sleeman - he no longer coaches anymore, and it was more coaching at a club level.
- I then moved onto Cam Brown - 12x New Zealand Ironman winner.
He opened my eyes into what people can do at the top end of this sport in terms of sheer volume.
He's known to be quite a high volume trainer.
- From there I worked with Grant Giles, who was the founder of Aeromax team in Northern New South Wales
He worked with the likes of Tim Reed, Tim Berkland, and Clayton Patel.
- Giles provided me with insight into how to deal with athlete - he's fantastic on the communication front and he's easy to get along with.
I like where he came from in terms of training, always keeping it really simple.
- From there I worked with Professor Paul Laursen.
He was very insightful in terms of the scientific side of things, and his approach to diet is different to other coaches as he places a big emphasis on it for his athletes.
- The key takeaway from all the coaches I've worked with is that the foundation to success is consistency over time.
Notable experiences during training & racing career influencing coaching now
- Early on in my racing career I fell into the trap of over-racing every year.
I would often do 11-12 half Ironmans in a year.
This means you fail to get the block of training you need to build the fitness, and you're constantly chasing racing.
- With my athletes now I like to set a good racing plan from the get go and set a macro cycle around that.
This also means using some races as 'B races'.
- As an athlete, whenever you go onto a start line it's hard to not race to your full potential.
As a coach when you're using 'B races' I like to have the athlete more fatigued going into the races, and also setting expectations early on what the goals are for the race.
It's important to ensure the goals are process driven.
- Having outcome based goals can be very dangerous sometimes.
You don't know what the race is going to bring - e.g. in terms of weather or other competition, and you can't control someone else's race.
If you have process driven goals and you nail those, you have to walk away happy with how the day has gone.
- We need to ensure we're not going into every session with an outcome goal.
If we're chasing a single power number or pace and ignoring other factors, that is where injury happens, or we can take risks in training that we don't need to do.
- Our functional threshold power, even if doing the most thorough testing is really only your FTP at that time, on that day.
We need to appreciate that it's an ever changing number in reality.
Macro planning in coaching
- It comes down to what the goals of the athlete are.
- I can give advice surrounding race selection, but the reality is that we do this sport because we love it and we love racing.
I encourage athletes to choose races they enjoy doing, but also try to encourage them to keep to races that allow a good training block.
- If an athlete wants to race every four weeks for 12 months it makes it hard to hit a peak.
- If I'm coaching an Ironman athlete, I'd really like to see either two Ironmans, or a half and a full as two peaks.
I think that's achievable, but with the 70,3 Worlds being in September and Kona in October it can be a little difficult.
- I like to see a good foundation laid over the winter, and then go into a more race specific block leading up to the first race.
- Then a bit of mid-season recovery - I really believe in good recovery during the year, you need to have some down time.
I would have two weeks of very little. Maybe some low intensity swimming as you can work on technique and keep the swim form going.
- I keep running out of it to get rid off the impact, and maybe have a couple of coffee shop cycle rides but generally very easy.
- I think this recovery is important not only for the body, but also for the mind.
- After the mid-year recovery we then look at general conditioning work for a while depending on the athlete, which includes strength work
In Australia we're currently in winter so this is where we're at in the cycle at the moment. Our race season here doesn't start until November.
- We would then move onto race specific work when about eight weeks out from the race.
Types of sessions when peaking for two Ironman races
- If you have an athlete who wants to peak for two Ironman races - one in June, one in September/October.
- Earlier on in the general phase I still like a long ride - maybe 3 hours, but with little intensity.
As we move closer to the race I want to build the volume, but also include intensity in both the long bike and run.
The amount of intensity would depend on the athlete, and their ability to recover and manage intensity.
- In terms of progressive overload, you always have to ask their ability to recover and their time to recover.
You need to assess the life stressors of an athlete.
- If you had an athlete with a full time job, kids and a mortgage you may progressively overload them differently.
- I don't think more than 12 weeks are needed to be specific for one race, this is the maximum I would give.
- In that period, the focus would be stressing a variety of energy systems.
I like to make my athletes as well-rounded as possible as athletes often fall into the trap of chasing one key thing and going all in - especially if they're doing testing.
- The reality of racing is that we need to be adaptable and utilise all energy systems.
- If you look at an athlete like Cam Wurf on the bike, we're seeing now that he has an ability to do things that potentially other athletes don't.
I think that comes down to the fact that over his career he has done a lot of different types of training.
- You can a bump when you start with a new coach, which I think is mearly having a new stimulus.
If we can maintain a variety of stimuli both physically and mentally it's a great way to keep the athlete engaged in the process.
General preparation phase
- I like to stress different energy systems and in the general preparation phase there are different ways to do that.
- In the key specific phase we'd do it with targeted sessions during the week.
- In the general preparation phase, it might be engaging in something like a bunch ride.
There's a high amount of variability but it's not something you're necessarily planning.
- It might be going out on a long ride with your friends and searching for some hills.
- It's about creating the variety of stimulus but doing it in a way that doesn't feel particularly structured for the athlete.
- Through the week there will be sessions where I'm making sure they're keeping the intensity low.
This is probably one of the hardest things you can do as a coach - get your athlete to understand the importance of low intensity work, and the benefits it provides.
- As a coach, the onus falls on you to monitor the sessions regularly.
If your athlete does go out on a bunch ride with their friends and the intensity is higher than planned, you are then adapting the rest of the sessions for the week to account for that.
Common mistakes age group triathletes make
- We live in a society where a lack of sleep is worn as a badge of honour. I really want to change that perception with my athletes.
Sleep is invaluable, and it's often the place where a lot of adaptation takes place.
If you're neglecting sleep, it'll eventually catch up with you.
- Energy deficiency is a big problem in triathlon at all level.
I think people really underestimate what they require on a day to day basis.
- You can get away with an energy deficiency for a while, and on the scale it can start to look like a good thing, but eventually it will catch up with you.
- I'm trying to stress having good energy availability with my athletes for all of their sessions.
- Mikael's anecdote: I've recently cut back my training as I was feeling quite bad.
I've done very little training each day but eaten a lot and slept a lot, my body was telling me I needed more recovery and energy.
- It's always better to be overly conservative and get more consistent in the long run, than take a chance and be aggressive and just hope to get away with it.
- I'm yet to meet an athlete who I've felt is drastically under training given the other stressors in their life.
Low hanging fruit for athletes
- In the swim, a really good fitting wetsuit can make a massive difference.
I've met many athletes who feel swimming in a wetsuit is much harder, but as soon as they're in one that fits properly, all of a sudden it feels much better.
- On the bike, a clean drive train is an easy thing to do and makes a big difference.
- Good tyres are another easy fix. I personally go for a Schwalbe 1, and find it a good balance between puncture protection and speed.
Go on google and there are a number of websites that compare tyres.
- The clothing we have available in triathlon is so fantastic in terms of aerodynamics.
Picking a suit that fits you well and doesn't flap in the wind is an easy saver.
- On the run, as well as the bike and swim, having a tried and true nutrition strategy that you know works.
You don't want to get out there on race day and not know what you're doing as that's a recipe for a disaster.
- Practicing the nutrition strategy through training is so important.
Once you find something that works, keep it super simple and stick with it.
Also have a back up plan in case that goes wrong, or you drop a bottle or something like that.
You need to know what you can rely on from the on course nutrition.
Greatest benefits of having a coach
- A coach ultimately provides an objective view around your training.
- For me personally, when I was a younger athlete, I found it easy to fall into the trap of constantly thinking you need to test your fitness and repeatedly doing sessions that were harder than they needed to be.
- As a coach, I'm not a big believer in setting zones for a session, especially when it comes to power on the bike.
I don't want the athlete chasing a specific number, I like to give them a range to work towards.
Then some of the onus falls on them to decide how they're feeling on that day.
- As soon as you start coaching yourself, you can be influenced by a number of different things you read or see others doing, and suddenly you forget what you're chasing and what the ultimate goal is.
- As a coach, you're not keeping the athlete accountable for doing the sessions, you're usually keeping them accountable for not doing too much.
For a lot of people it's about holding them back a little bit.
Rapid fire questions
- What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon?
- I loved the book Endure by Alex Hutchinson.
- I'm currently reading the book of the ex team Sky doctor (The Line by Richard Freeman), and it has some valuable information surrounding some of the things they did at Sky that you might not think of - e.g. hand sanitiser at the Tour de France to keep athletes healthy.
- What is your favourite piece of gear or equipment?
- I absolutely love the smart trainer. I'm currently using the Elite DRIVO but have also used the Tacx Neo before.
- It's a great tool for nailing specificity and make you time efficient.
- What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point in your career?
- I've been lucky to be surrounded by top athletes in Melbourne, namely Luke Bell and Annabelle Luxford. I wish I knew how valuable that was when I was younger.
- I don't think I listened to their advice as much as I should have when I was younger.
Coaching with Scientific Triathlon
- There hasn't previously been a procedure for new coaches joining the group.
- However, Mikael has written a manifesto about what Scientific Triathlon will be like as a coaching group. They core values are:
- Individualisation is key.
- Communication is so important.
- Commitment and drive, you need to be motivated and committed. The athlete's success should be your success.
- Subject matter expertise is also important, and it's much of what this podcast is about.
- Educating and empowering the athlete. Telling the why for each session.
- We're not trying to pigeon hole any particular training methodology. If a coach has the above core values they will find what works for each athlete.
- Our coaching isn't all numbers driven. I'm personally open to coaching with RPE alone if it's what the athlete needs.
It's about choosing the coaching that will work best for each individual athlete.
Links, resources and contact
Links and resources mentioned
Connect with Lachlan Kerin
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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