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All about helping fulfil ‘crazy’ projects – Dan Lorang on adapting plans with Lucy Charles-Barclay

Fascinating coaching insights from Dan Lorang about working out the best way to achieve the end goals with Lucy Charles-Barclay.

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It was one of THE highlights of the 2023 triathlon season – four-time Kona runner-up Lucy Charles-Barclay slaying any demons and, more importantly, achieving a lifetime ambition in spectacular style as she became IRONMAN World Champion in Kona for the first time.

She overcame serious injury challenges, and her prep was novel to say the least – in a paincave near London, heated to try and replicate the conditions she would face in Hawaii.

That was a joint project between Lucy and her husband Reece in the UK and her coach Dan Lorang – and it paid off with a record-breaking performance.

It also showed great thinking outside the box from all – something which has now been repeated recently this year.

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The bigger picture

Looking back on that build up to last year’s IMWC, Lorang told TRI247: “Doing that preparation in London is for sure not the first thing you would normally do for Kona.

“But then you consider everything – including having family around the environment, the will to do absolutely everything that is necessary to do like heat adaptation and so on. You always have to take into account the whole picture and then we said ‘okay, we’ll go for it’.

“So it’s never like you just have one ideal version in your head. And if you do it like this, it will work. And if you do it differently, it will not work. I try to look at the whole picture, getting the opinions from everybody involved in the team. And then we try to figure out what is the best plan.”

Lucy Charles-Barclay IRONMAN World Championship Kona 2023 Finish
Lucy Charles-Barclay after winning the 2023 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona (Getty Images for IRONMAN).
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Living in the moment

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and adapting to circumstances to generate the best possible outcome has set up Lucy for a fascinating second half of the campaign – after she threw Lorang a bit of a curveball!

At the start of the year, Lucy’s stated aim was to go all in on the PTO’s T100 Series, and an IMWC title defence in Nice wasn’t on the radar. Instead it would be about a repeat bid in Kona in 2025.

But then thoughts and plans changed – so what sort of a challenge is that for her coach?

We sat down with him to get a better understanding of the process.

He told TRI247: “I can remember when Lucy told me ‘I should probably go and try and qualify / validate for the IRONMAN World Championship in Nice’. Because until that point, it was always this year, we don’t go to the Championship. We are doing the PTO races and so on. And then we go to Kona next year.

“It happens. It happened with Anne [Haug] too this season. She’d been sick for quite a long time and she came to me and said I now want to do my validation for IRONMAN in Lanzarote.

“And I said, but it’s the hardest IRONMAN that you can choose for this. But she said she spends a lot of time there and it made sense for her so I said okay and we plan from there.

“And then basically some weeks later, Lucy comes up and says she wants to do IRONMAN France.

“And that’s when you can also now say, okay, what is the role of a coach? Should I then say, hey Lucy, we have to stick to the plan that we made of the beginning of the year?

“Is this what I have to do or am I basically there to help to fulfil this ‘crazy’ project?

“I see myself more in the second world for sure. But I would also say, okay, this is not possible or this is probably not the best idea and is increasing the risk that you get an injury if I feel that.”

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Nice switch works a dream

Lorang weighed up the argument and says: “I think coaches are there to help the athletes to realise their project. And that’s why I said okay, I think we can make it. I didn’t say anything about performance level because that was hard to predict.

“But yeah, we immediately switched our plans around – sometimes you have to adapt, even if you have the perfect plan at the beginning of the season.”

And the result was there for all to see, with Charles-Barclay winning by over 15 minutes and rounding it off with a 2:49 marathon, all the while getting invaluable data and insights for her return to Nice for the IMWC.

Lucy Charles-Barclay Lola IRONMAN France 2024
Lucy Charles-Barclay – and family! – after winning IRONMAN France (Photo – Getty Images for IRONMAN).

“I’d said to her before ‘have fun’ and ‘surprise yourself’ and it was amazing what she did in that race,” recalls Lorang.

“But I think these athletes also put pressure on themselves. So even if you say, go out there and have fun, they want to show themselves that they are in the mix. But on the other side, it was also quite refreshing to see how she did that competition and also what she was able to achieve. It was a really, really strong performance.”

T100 London prep

So that having been successfully ticked off, is there a danger it could impact the rest of the season – starting with her next race at the T100 in London?

“You have to make sure that the load gets not too much. But when we also look honestly into it, especially these high-performance athletes who are really at the top, if they are not racing at the weekends, they are training quite hard.

“But I don’t want them to go to a race really tired. And the race is basically like really hard training. It’s a controlled effort and if you use it like this in your planning, then you can potentially do some more races.

“But you really have to look from race to race and always going back to the load management and say, okay, is this load not too much? Because in training you can stop if it’s not going as you expected it to go. You can stop in a race too but you always want to go to the end. So that’s the big difference, that’s why you have to balance this. And I think at the end of the season we will also see what the outcome is.”

It’s a dilemma facing middle and long-distance athletes more than ever this season with the T100, the IRONMAN Pro Series – and even the Olympics for the likes of the Lorang-coached Taylor Knibb.

Lorang freely admits that’s the case, adding: “With all these opportunities, all these chances out there, there is also some risk in it.

And to manage this and to balance this quite well is probably one of the biggest challenges at the moment.”

London calling

I wonder whether or not Lorang feels Lucy’s mindset has changed since that Kona triumph last October?

He says: “I think she always had this determination. She’s always want to win races, especially that big race in Kona. And now it’s in the books I think it’s a little bit like a relief.

“I think she can now be a little bit more relaxed about it. But she loves competition, and when she goes to competition, she will always try to go for a win.”

And watch out for her in the next T100 race on home soil in London in late July, judged on what Lorang said next.

He revealed: “In the build-up to the first T100 races [when she was second in both Miami and Singapore], she’d only done really a small amount of running. So basically we knew that we were not at 100%. For sure she tried to win the race. But on the other part, then after the race, getting second felt like, okay, but I got everything out, what I had in what I trained for. So, okay, it’s how it is now.

“But now we’ve built up the running. And for sure, she can also then go for the wins in these kind of races. So the mentality, the winning mentality was there before winning Kona, and it also stayed after winning Kona. So that’s not changed.

“The London race is one she always mentioned as one of the peak points in the season. Now things may have changed in terms of that IRONMAN France race but still we have enough time. It’s a big race in front of the home crowd. So for sure she wants to win that.”

Lucy Charles-Barclay at T100 Triathlon World Tour launch 2024
It’s the London T100 next for Lucy Charles-Barclay [Photo credit: PTO]
Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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