Champions’ training. Different strokes for different folks…

Gavin Noble

In search for the holy grail of sports performance, Irish National Team ITU member, Gavin Noble (Dublin Triathlon Champion this past weekend) cranks out the Watts in the lab. This kind of lab testing will give Gav and his coach all kinds of numbers they can play with in training. Tests will be repeated often, charts plotted and if all goes well, high fives given.

These delicious little numbers makes the guy in the sweater with the clip board’s toes curl. Race times can be projected, tactics formulated and athletes can be compared to each other even before the starters’ gun bangs.

Read more about Gavin and Aleksandar and my swim sets on Igor’s blog.

Will Clarke

Our other team mate, Will Clarke (British ITU Triathlon member and National Champion) really winds it up on the track. Looks like fellow GB Team mate and Chicago Tri winner, Stuart Hayes hanging on for dear life.

Bigger than you can imagine group track sessions typically forms the mainstay of their training. (they train up to 40hrs a week) These are blood and guts sessions. Coaches needs to be impressed, fellow athletes intimidated, but most of all, the times they do around the carefully measured 400m serves as building blocks of confidence and self belief to be drawn upon at the next race.

Enter The Caveman.

Over the past 21 years of triathlon training, (I ran track, cross country and raced BMX 27 years ago) I followed every imaginable kind of training programme. During the early 90’s I trained with the German National Team when they trained in South Africa. Steffen Grosse from former East Germany was the coach and legends like Tomas Hellrigel and Ralf Eggert were young rising stars. (I was 18 ) I idolized their carefully formulated programme and followed it like a slave. Long after the Germans has returned home, I continued doing the 10km Tempo on the track on Tuesdays, the 12x1km Race Pace on Thursdays and a 2hr long run followed by 10×100 strides on Sundays. Oh yes, and there were the 40 min morning runs on every quality day.

During my years in France, I trained like the French. (and Kevin Richards) Not very scientific, more touchy feelly, with a strong belief in ancient cycling tradition. Spin a small gear all winter, concentrating on “souplesse”, start riding hills later on, then add some intervals. A pretty good approach actually, but being a young triathlete, I wanted to train hard! The harder you train, the bigger the results. Right?! I raced up to 35 triathlons in a season- The prefect recipe for disaster…

Of course, I was always either injured, or over-trained, or both…

In 1996 I scored a coveted invitation to train with the legendary Brett Sutton in the far off Jindabyne, Australia.

There I trained harder than I ever had. By far. A 2okm track session would be followed up with a 25km track session the next day. Double run sessions about 4 times a week. Some immediately before or after 6km hard swims.  I remember thinking my arms felt like twigs, about to snap in 2. One day, when I learnt about the days track session – the 3rd in 3 days over 20km- I quietly exclaimed “you are kidding me”. But my voice bounced off the stadium stairs, Brett heard it and he yelled: “No Conrad, I’m NOT kidding!”

No running was done was slowly. “We dont do flop dick stuff mate.” A 5 minute warm up,  the quality started, and you stumbled home for cool down.

Swim sessions were hard. Usually 6km. An easy day would be 4km- something like 4x1000m with 30 sec rest, pulling no 2 and 4. We swam 10.4km the one day. In a dingly little indoor 25m pool. Brett is incredibly motivating. The most I have ever met. The 10k set of course was stacked with hard quality, but when Brett yelled that the last 100m of the day would be the hardest you have ever swum, he was right. I was prepared to swim right through that wall.

And yes, its true, he brought the scale to swimming every 2nd or 3rd day. If you are not well on your way to your target weight,  he’d tell you to substitute one meal with a salad. And if you still arent losing quick enough, you’ll get a remark like “Mate, you cant run with an arse like that.” Some girls took offense, and they didnt last. Brett didnt sugarcoat anything. It was hard work and no fluff.  There I learnt what your body really is capable of. Greg Bennett and Ben Bright were amoung the 15 or so training in Jindy.

Within 3 weeks I was flying, (in my mind anyway) and I finally got the only compliment I ever got from Brett: “Mate, you are starting to look like an athlete.” It felt like I was given a pot of gold. Brett really has a way to work with your head.

Of course, the crazy training and no bullshit provided for a high burn rate. Some athletes were soft and fled quickly. Some lasted, but slowly withered, but there were (and still is) many many champions.

I became injured after a month. Massage, physiotherapy and the like was “fluff” and was frowned upon. It was a hip injury and I ran till I couldnt run anymore.  I found I could run stadium stairs, and did that while the others wound around the “witch’s hats” measured out in a 400m circle in the town little rugby stadium. Changing direction around the hats every so often.

I did extra bike and swim sessions, and when I couldn’t run stairs anymore I walked. And then I went home.

I kept a detailed training and eating diary of my 6 weeks’ “Suttonism” and will publish it someday. It makes for interesting reading- with Sutton quotes and all…

In 1998 Libby Burrell picked me up as a tired, broken athlete. She built me up bit by bit, her motto: “Get the basics right, and you are 90% there.”

We did that for 10 years and the rest is history.

Now I coach myself. Unlike when I was 18, I now know.

I only train what feels right, and what I enjoy doing.Of course I have learnt many lessons along the way, and have a basic recipe of what works for me.

I haven’t done a track session or a lab test in at least 3 years. Now quality is touched upon lightly, and when it is, time, heart rate and “feel” are the yardsticks.

I couldnt tell you how many meters I swim. 3 swims of 30-60minutes at a time will get the job done. 4 swims is a good week.

The reason I have a power meter is to measure tire rolling resistance and 26inch wheel vs 29inch wheel data.

Here is yesterdays’ training story:

I did a 1hr30 long run up high (1800m or 5900ft) on the Truckee meadow dirt roads. At 1h10 I did 10 minutes at AT. (a leaf I kept from Libby’s programme- we have dome it for 10 years)

I didn’t see  another person or car. I glanced at my Suunto t6- my heart rate merely a matter of interest- (about 130) – its the time its all about. The 10 min at AT I noted my body starting to burn at 157. I let it hover around there- not pushing for more. When my form is right it will be 163. I know it. 4 weeks to USA Champs and a nice, round 8 weeks to XTERRA Worlds. Perfect timing.  The footing was a mix of pine needles and soft dirt. The smell of sun baked sagebrush hung in the meadows. Squirrels darted for trees. I thought about USA Champs. I lived.

Finding my hidden backpack under pine needles, I ate some dried apricots and raw almonds before swimming 20 minutes in Boca reservoir. Yes 20 minutes. ( I was aiming for 30) At 10 minutes I was already bored out of my mind. (21 years of hard swimming will do that to you) But I focused on perfect stroke, using it as a warm up for today’s big swim. (an hour with Sierra Masters) When the tightness in my legs let go, I headed for shore. Too much of a good thing is not s good thing anymore…

Conrad Stoltz

No, that is not a white speedo.

The curious thing about Sunday’s training though: My perfect training location was so hard to get to, so exclusive, so secretive, it took me 5 hrs by dirt bike over the most horrific “roads” to get there!


Great thanks to my mom for letting me read Dave Scott’s book in high school.( my mom copied his sessions and cut them shorter) Thanks to Steffen Grosse, Kevin Richards, Brett Sutton and especially Libby Burrell for the lessons and wisdom. Hats off to Gavin, Will and Hunter Kemper who trains on a treadmill breathing O2 to simulate sea level.

This is how I live my dream and I’m thankful I can make it work my way…


Winona 13-06-2014, 00:46

Bon ba jе vais en pɑrler sur mon site

Conrad Stoltz Xterra Triathlon World Champion » Training Technology: The Caveman eats his helmet. 22-01-2010, 19:18

[…] a lot of flack for this one.  (Ga Von Twitt- give me the best you’ve got!) Especially after this blog post about how backward the Caveman really is about training […]

triathlon team » complete insights 11-09-2009, 15:53

[…] amazing article was Conrad’s training history which took him some five hours to […]

Libby 03-09-2009, 06:13

Thanks for the kind words Conrad. You really taught me everything I know………

Reply – Igor Nastic Ironman triatleta » La storia sportiva di Conrad Stoltz tra passato, presente e futuro 02-09-2009, 00:01

[…] Quello che tutti vorrebbero sapere di Conrad e che le riviste specializzate non hanno ancora pubblicato, viene scritto magistralmente e  in prima persona proprio da Conrad nel suo ultimo post che potete leggere facendo click qui. […]

Aleksandar Sørensen-Markovic Ironman triathlet » Når flere gange end jeg kan tælle verdensmesteren Conrad Stoltz taler gør du klogt i at lytte 01-09-2009, 17:51

[…] Det er virkelig god læsning og jeg opfordre alle med interesse i at lærer omkring træning til at læse dette indlæg. […]


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