Kona Confidential

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Feb 22, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:37 PM UTC
Photo: Nils Nilsen

Siri Lindley & Mat Steinmetz
The coaches

Lindley (coach to top Kona contenders Mirinda Carfrae and Leanda Cave) and Steinmetz (coach to Julie Dibens, training adviser to Craig Alexander and well-known Retül bike fitter) share experiences and insights from their spot on the sideline.

Mat Steinmetz: Julie and Craig do a lot of riding together, so I get both of them kind of telling on the other one. For example, this weekend for Julie was supposed to be a long ride up in the mountains, nothing crazy. And I get reports from Craig that she’s crushing everyone. She’s dropping people on climbs. So it’s good to have that information. But also, someone like Julie, unless she’s feeling all fresh like on a race morning, nothing ever feels good to her. I’m going to hear, “Oh man, I’m smashed, I’m tired.” So it’s also good to get a report from someone else saying she’s killing it.

Siri Lindley: I was actually a psychology major in college. I feel like it is all day every day such a massive part of what we do. Because every athlete is so different. You couldn’t possibly give the same exact training plan to two athletes. People ask, “What’s the secret to doing well in Kona?” Everybody has his or her own secret. What works well for Rinny could destroy Julie. Or what works for Julie could be totally the wrong thing for Rinny. Depending on their body, their psychology, everything about them … the plan for doing well in Kona has to be the perfect recipe for that individual.

MS: Both Julie and Craig respond a little bit to—I don’t want to say anger, but you’re able to fire them up kind of like a football coach would yell at his team during half time. … With Julie [in Kona 2010], … I was getting reports she was walking. When she came out of the Energy Lab I said, “Get your shit together at this next aid station and run. You’re a tough bitch.” I just kept on her, saying, “You’re a tough bitch!” And she can take herself to that level where she thinks, “Yeah, I am!” And she keeps moving.

SL: [In the final miles last year] I drove way down the road and when Rinny got to where I was I said, “OK, you’re doing awesome. But you know what? Let’s friggin’ go for the course record!” She looked at me like, “God! What?” And that always happens to us, where it’s like, “What more do you want from me?” But she knew. That lit her fire, and she started picking up the pace.

MS: You’re kind of going through it with the athlete. If they’re having a good day, you’re having a good day. If they’re having a bad day, you feel for them. You don’t think about yourself. You think about all they put in and how it just didn’t go their way. And once that’s worn off, you start to think, “What did I do wrong? Did they just have a bad day? What can we change?”

SL: You learn from the good ones too. I like to ask, “OK, so what was your mindset going in? How did you handle this situation? Do you remember how you pulled yourself out of that bad half-hour you were in?”

MS: Even if they win, I know my athletes will never be like, “That was a perfect race!” Immediately after they’ll say, “We’ve got to work on this.””

Read the complete conversation between Siri Lindley & Mat Steinmetz.

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