TriDot Check-In with Coach Elizabeth James

Elizabeth James is an Ironman, a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, and a TriDot
Coach. She made the transition from running marathons to triathlon in 2012 and has completed sprint, Olympic, 70.3, and full Ironman distances. She and her husband, Charles, live in Garland, Texas. Her TriDot Score is 33-35-45.

How many triathlons have you competed in and what distances were they?

I have competed in numerous sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. I began tackling the longer distances in 2014 when I competed in two half Ironman events. This past September, I finished my first full Ironman in Madison, WI. 

How do you motivate yourself in training?

There are a lot of things that go into it. Definitely goal setting. For my first Ironman, just the wonder and the hope of it all motivated me as I’d ask myself, “Can I really do this?” Another motivator was wondering if all my training would come together and knowing that every training session was an integral part of preparing myself to doing the best I could on that day.

Another part of it is the motivation I get from the triathlon community and just being able to hear stories of success and share personal feats with other people. Also, the feedback I received from friends and family who would say, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re doing this. I’m going to do my first triathlon.” My father-in-law did his first triathlon this summer. Being there to share all that with friends and family is a neat experience.

How did you discover TriDot?

It was a recommendation from another athlete I was training with in Lincoln, NE. He had used TriDot to prepare for his Ironman races. As I got to know him a little better, I told him I wanted to pick his brain because an Ironman was on my horizon. I told him I wasn’t quite sure I could get there on my own and I asked him what he was doing. He recommended TriDot to me. I’ve been with TriDot for over a year now. I joined last August.

What attracted you to TriDot?

A personalized training plan, an accessible coach, and athlete resources are only the beginning of the TriDot athlete benefits. TriDot has given me the scientific insight necessary to provide top-notch coaching. TriDot allows for an ongoing exchange of information between coach and athlete to continually update and tweak the training plan as needed.

And while there is incredible value in the training plans designed through TriDot, I believe the biggest value is still within the coaches themselves. The TriDot coaches take the time to answer questions, explain workouts, and offer encouragement. This – the communication between athlete and coach – is not only the best part of coaching, but also where I can best use my background as an educator. A large part of coaching is education: teaching a new skill, explaining a workout, describing the reasoning between the latest nutrition research. Additionally, my background knowledge about brain function and motivation contributes largely to my coaching philosophy and the way I communicate and interact with athletes. 

What is your most memorable triathlon experience?

As I am sure any Ironman finisher can attest, the first time you cross that finish line and hear “You are an Ironman” is an experience like no other! 

Who or what has inspired you the most in your triathlon journey?

When thinking about who has inspired me the most in my triathlon journey, it is hard to name just a few people. Before IRONMAN Wisconsin, I sat down to reflect on my training over the past year and my triathlon journey from my first sprint distance race until reaching the start line of my first 140.6 distance event. I began to write down a name for each mile of the race, thinking how they had influenced me or helped me reach this point. I quickly ran out of room!

How has triathlon influenced your life?

While triathlon has certainly brought some health and fitness benefits, the sport is much bigger than the physical gains. For me, triathlon has given me more confidence in myself. It has also made me more appreciative of my husband who not only has been my number one fan and outstanding Sherpa for every race but has also made great sacrifices for me to pursue my personal triathlon goals. 

How did you become a triathlon coach?

A few years ago, I could have never imagined having the honor of calling myself a triathlon coach. Sure, athletics had always been a large part of my life. I had always been active in sports, and my husband and I trained for marathons together. I loved teaching numerous group exercise classes and competing in various athletic endeavors. I even enjoyed writing training plans and pouring over the latest athletic research. In July 2012, I participated in my first sprint distance triathlon and have since completed numerous sprint and Olympic distance races, 70.3 events, and my first full Ironman. But the thought never really occurred to me that I could coach someone else along their fitness or athletic journey.

That was until recently when a new opportunity had opened. With the help, support, and mentoring of the TriDot staff, I attended the USA Triathlon Coaching Clinic and received my Level 1 Certification.  It was the perfect combination of fitness and education, of my talents and interests. The opportunity was empowering, energizing, and refocusing. 

What aspect of coaching attracts you most?

That’s a tough question because there are so many different areas within coaching, and they are all so fascinating to me. That’s why I get so passionate about coaching. There is not a part of it I don’t like. If I had to pick a favorite part, it would be the interpersonal relationships that you can build with other athletes and building your triathlon community. Just watching people make progress and sharing in their success is incredibly wonderful.

Being a coach is a very rewarding experience, as it is thrilling to be a small part of someone’s fitness journey. I know that the TriDot coaches are capable of revealing greatness in others – they did for me. The individuals, staff, and members I have met through TriDot have not only become my accountability partners for my personal fitness goals, but also my friends.  Coaching is an opportunity like no other, to be surrounded by and motivated by others, everyone helping reveal the greatness inside all of us. 

What are your greatest challenges in working with triathletes?

A typical triathlete will want to work hard during every workout. They are goal-driven and have a fierce forcefulness about getting to their personal best. It is sometimes a challenge to get these athletes to understand the importance of a recovery session or a recovery week. 

What success story or accomplishment are you most proud of as a coach?

While I was not formally coaching my father-in law, helping him achieve his goal of finishing his first triathlon is still one of my proudest moments. 

How do you integrate TriDot technology with coaching's interpersonal side?

The TriDot technology allows coaches more time for the interpersonal side of coaching. The technology does a lot in using athlete data to create and tweak training plans. This allows coaches to spend less time creating the plans and more time talking one-on-one with the athletes about how the training is going and what needs to be changed or tweaked to ensure that the athlete is able to not only reach their goals but balance their training with the other life commitments. 

How have you developed your own triathlon community?

One of the biggest changes from Nebraska to Texas is that in Nebraska I had no triathlon community in the town I lived. I had an arm-length community and that was great. But it wasn’t the community I have now. I know that was another big part of my Ironman success, to have them encourage and motivate me. I really think that overall community gives that sense of connection and belonging, and it’s truly fundamental to our happiness and well-being. I know that through TriDot, even before I was in Texas, I was able to connect with numerous athletes. I’m always amazed by all the encouragement and support I receive from them. They helped celebrate my accomplishments. They’ve been a listening ear when the training got tough. We frequently share information or bounce questions off of one another.

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