Coach · Triathlon

My Experience with a Triathlon Coach

I’ll be honest. I used to rag on the idea of having a triathlon coach. I didn’t understand why “regular” athletes like myself hired someone to tell them what to do. I remember browsing coaching websites and seeing the cost and swore that I would never hire one. I also knew that my husband would lose his mind if I ever told him I wanted to hire one.

During my first season of triathlon I had no idea what I was doing. I just would swim, bike, and run when I felt like it. I didn’t have a plan. I completed the Green Lakes Sprint, Syracuse 70.3, Delta Lake Sprint, and Irongirl Syracuse during the summer of 2012. I had fun racing! A plus to racing was being able to stand on the podium twice. The 70.3 nearly killed me. I don’t think my body has ever been in that much pain. During the spring of 2012 I had an issue with my pelvic muscles due to “over-training,” or as I like to call it, having no clue! That was my first injury and definitely not the last!

In the winter of 2013 I started doing CrossFit. I enjoyed pushing my body and becoming very strong. I liked being able to do pull-ups and lift heavy weights. During this time I started to develop some really bad IT band issues. I kept going (like an idiot) hoping the issue would go away. I remember running on a Saturday in March 2013 and barely being able to walk that night. I went to PT but didn’t stop going to Crossfit (once again, like an idiot). Mark and I got married that summer so I only signed up for one triathlon. I did the Green Lakes Sprint again. It was terrible. My body just hated every part of it. I think I improved by a little bit time wise but not by much. After our wedding we headed to Lake Placid to volunteer and watch the Ironman. After watching the race I remember telling Mark that I was canceling my CrossFit membership as soon as I got back and was going to focus on triathlon.

I stuck with my plan and canceled my CrossFit membership when I got home. I got a little more serious about my swimming, biking, and running. I started taking CompuTrainer classes that got me through the winter. I made it a point to be more consistent with my swimming and running. I took advantage of the Y-Running group and completed many long runs and speed workout sessions. During summer 2014 I raced the Cooperstown Sprint, Green Lakes Sprint, Syracuse 70.3, and the Old Forge Sprint. I won my age group and placed top 10 at each race EXCEPT the 70.3.

We headed to Lake Placid again in 2014. My plan was to sign up, which I ended up doing. My initial training plan was to do what some fellow triathlon friends had done, come up with my own plan by reading different information about the 140.6 distance. I started to get a little worried. Just because those plans had worked for friends didn’t mean they would work for me. I knew that I needed to have something or someone guiding me through the journey.

One day I started looking at different coaching websites. I looked at a few but none of them really grabbed my attention. Then I remembered, there was a woman who had won a bunch of triathlons and she wore a multisport team kit. The problem was that I couldn’t remember what team kit it was. I tried to do some Facebook stalking but that got me nowhere. Then one day she commented on a post on Facebook. BINGO, that was her. I clicked on her profile so that I could see what her jersey said. That’s when I found Migonis Multisport.

Matt’s name was somewhat familiar but I really didn’t know who he was before I stumbled upon his website. Looking back now I remember seeing him win the Green Lakes Sprint triathlon in 2013. I read his “About” section and was impressed. His times were very fast. I also saw that he won the USAT Age Group Nationals Sprint Triathlon in 2013 and was usually at the top of each race he competed in. I understand that some people might not hire someone because of their racing accomplishments. That’s not the reason I hired him but it helped. He definitely practiced what he preached. I liked that. To each their own!

So, while I was doing all of this coach stalking, I hadn’t told Mark. I just knew he was going to lose his marbles if I brought coaching up. One night I slyly started talking about the woman who won all those races and who coached her. I casually mentioned coaching and Mark was like, “Don’t even think about it, Emily.” Crap. How the hell was I going to get him to come around? *Side note – to those of you who are wondering why it mattered what Mark thought, we handle our finances together. I understand some people do separate accounts and what not but we don’t. Again, to each their own!

I remember sending Matt an e-mail from my desk at work. I still have the e-mail but to sum it up I asked him how coaching worked, told him what I was hoping to achieve, and I gave him information about my race statistics from the past. I also told him that I knew I had the potential to be a better triathlete but that I needed guidance. A few days had passed and then I received an e-mail from him. I remember thinking, “Oh crap, now that I have engaged this coach, I’m going to have to fess up to Mark.”

Matt sent me a detailed e-mail about how he coached his athletes, how he would assess if we were a good match, and a few other details. He attached a form that he wanted me to fill out. The form asked more detailed questions about me. Some were about my background, my race goals, what I was looking for in a coach, how many times I would swim, bike, and run during the week, etc. He also told me once he got it we could pick a start date. I remember thinking, “Oh crap, now I have pretty much hired him and haven’t told Mark.” At that point I sent Matt the form and realized I was going to have to talk to Mark ASAP.

Before I was able to bring up coaching with Mark, we were headed to Milwaukee for USAT Age Group National Championships. I decided to wait until we got home to discuss it. I knew that Matt was going to be looking up my results. So, of course, I received an e-mail from him telling me I would be at least 15 minutes faster next year with his coaching.

Before I brought up coaching and the cost to Mark I asked his mom about Matt (they worked together at Fleet Feet in the past). She had nothing but great things to say about him. She raved about him. A few other people I knew told me the same thing, he was one hell of an athlete and a great person.

Even though Matt and I had only communicated via e-mail I had a great feeling about him. I felt like we would get along very well and that we had many similar characteristics. I just knew that he was the coach for me.

I knew I had to present my case to Mark very clearly. I wrote all the information down about the cost and why it was going to help me, etc. I still have the piece of paper saved. I remember telling Mark that we needed to talk. I got super nervous. Well, I brought it up and we went back and forth about. Was he pissed? Maybe not pissed but not pleased. He understood where I was coming from but was more annoyed about spending even more money on triathlon. Mark admitted that he thought it would be a good idea because he was worried about me training for Ironman on my own. Mark wasn’t jumping for joy about hiring Matt but we agreed it was going to help me get through Ironman Lake Placid. I sent Matt the e-mail that he was hired on August 12th, 2014!

I haven’t had one single regret about hiring Matt. I just wish I hired him sooner. I can’t believe I ever knocked the idea of having a coach. I couldn’t have done as well as I did this year without his guidance. Matt made me believe that if I followed his plan for me that I would succeed, and I did. I had a fantastic season thanks to Matt.

A few (definitely not all) reasons why I love being coached:

  1. Accountability – I didn’t want to tell Matt, “oh hey, I didn’t work out today, just wasn’t feeling it.” I knew that he would be looking at my Garmin account wondering why a session wasn’t posted. Did I still miss sessions? Absolutely. I’m human. I can say that if I didn’t have a coach I would have skipped and missed a heck of a lot more!
  2. Guidance: If I was sick or wasn’t feeling well I would call or text him and he would re-arrange my workouts     or give me a new one. If something hurt I didn’t just throw in the towel and skip a few days (it also helped that his wife is in residency and would offer her professional opinion).
  3. Feedback: Matt was constantly commenting on my workouts. I used Garmin Connect and I would write about about the workout and he would offer feedback. I never had to wait longer than a few days. *If I ever had a really bad workout (and trust me, I had lots of them) I would just call or text him and he would immediately contact me and we would talk about it. I definitely had a few workouts that might have involved some tears but Matt never made me feel like I was being ridiculous. I always felt 100 times better after talking with him.
  4. No Injuries: I have struggled with so many injuries since I started training for triathlons. IT band issues, stress fractures, you name it. I have had numerous doctor visits and physical therapy sessions. I did not have one single injury this season. Funny how that worked..
  5. Friendship: This one I wasn’t expecting but it turns out I really like Matt as a ‘regular’ person, too. We get along very well. I also really like his wife and son. I have been able to spend time with them and have enjoyed our time together.

I could go on and on about why I think hiring a coach is a good idea. I understand that not everyone has the means to hire one. I’m not saying that you can’t succeed without one. I know many people that have done very well on their own. For me, I know that having one has been essential to my growth as a triathlete. I improved so much this year. I didn’t have any injuries. I became mentally and physically stronger. I gained a lot of confidence. The list could go on and on…IMG_4597

In one of the first e-mails Matt sent me he said, “There will be times when the relationship is great and others when it isn’t because of a disagreement or you’re just plain pissed at me for making you work so hard.  During these times always remember that I’m trying to do what’s best for you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a tough skin, so you can curse at me all you want.” He couldn’t have been more right. I can’t tell you how many times I got mad at him. Usually me being mad was due to the fact that I didn’t like what he said to me (I don’t like admitting when other people are right, I’m stubborn). I cursed his name plenty of times during difficult workouts. In the end I know he was always trying to do what was best for me.

My big event this year was Ironman Lake Placid (like you didn’t know). When I was running around the Olympic Oval and Matt gave me a high-five all of the months of training came back to me and I realized how grateful I was for all of Matt’s hard work with coaching me. I know there were times that I was difficult to coach but not once did he give up on me. I truly can’t express how appreciative I am for everything Matt has done for me.


2 thoughts on “My Experience with a Triathlon Coach

  1. Hi Emily! Love your blog and your instagram feed, I’ve been following along over the last few months (and actually went back to read all your blog entries during my own taper for Ironman… so much free time!)

    It seems like you had a very positive experience with your coach. Do you plan on continuing on working with him toward your next goals? I’m very excited to find out what crazy adventures you have planned next and how you plan on tackling them!!

    Cheers! Happy training!


    1. Hello! Thanks for the sweet comments. I definitely wished that I didn’t stop writing in March. It’s fun to look back to see how far I have come. Those cold winter training mornings seem so far away now…

      Yes! I am continuing with Matt Migonis. We are just starting to figure out my plan for next which involves a few 70.3s. I think those are going to be where I focus next year. After my time at Tupper Lake I know that I have a good shot of getting closer to 5:00 and maybe below (a girl can dream)!

      What is your username on Instagram?


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