Triathlon Coaching: The Beginning

Mike Plant interviews Marc Evans (January 2017) about the origins of triathlon coaching. Below is an excerpt of the introduction.

The complete interview can be read at:

Tri History Feature: Marc Evans

Chaos Theory

Marc Evans had what it took to bring order and organization to the early days of triathlon training.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

By: Mike Plant


Back in the day when people were still looking at triathletes as if they were gods or fools, Miranda Carfrae was still in diapers, and fig newtons and chocolate chip cookies were the multisport energy foods of choice, a young man in Walnut Creek, California decided that he had what it took to be a triathlon coach.

Not that the 28-year-old Marc Evans was sure at the time there was a need for such a thing. But he had a hunch, born of his innate aptitude for organization. As the 1980s dawned and turned itself toward a future that would see cross-training and multisport competition become global phenomena, triathlon training was even more crudely cobbled up than the sport itself. Swimming had been a structured, scientifically coached sport for many years, and since many of the top triathletes in the early years were former competitive swimmers, that helped. But distance running, like multisport, was in its relative infancy (think Arthur Ledyard’s “long, slow distance” and Jim Fixx’s “The Complete Book of Running”), and long-distance cycling was a black box guarded by an elite cadre of purists to whom the perfect poof of a cycling cap was at least as important as the number of gears you were pushing. Triathletes couldn’t ride for shit, and that was that.

As it turned out, there was a need -- a big one -- and Evans was uniquely gifted to seize the opportunity and launch a new profession. Whether there had been other triathlon “coaches” before him is moot; Evans seems to have been the guy who made both a science and a career out of it, pursuing the concept of organized training for multisport competition with a passion that equaled the competitive fire of his clients.

In 2017, Evans is a past nominee for the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, and can look back on a career in which he was decorated in every way someone in his position could be: head coach of Team USA at the inaugural triathlon world championships in 1989; founding member of the USAT Coaching Commission, head coach for USAT performance testing at the Olympic Training Center; Director of Endurance Sports for the Ironman Sports & Endurance Center in Kailua-Kona from 1986-88.

In 1990 he was named International Coach of the Year by SECURA, a Wisconsin-based insurance firm that emphasizes professional development in its sales training programs; the following year he received an Award of Excellence from the American Medical Association.

Evans has written four books on coaching, and has written widely and lectured internationally. He’s also an inventor, holding patents on two swim paddles that bear the Speedo brand.

I’ve known Marc well enough since we both began in the sport decades ago. But before we sat down and spoke on the phone several times over the past six months, I had little knowledge of the context in which Evans became a coach.  Nor did I fully understand his impressive, long-lasting influence on the science and psychology of multisport coaching.  He is, as you’ll see, as much of a multisport pioneer as Valerie Silk, The Big Four, Tom Warren and all the rest. And while he claims to be stepping away from coaching, moving on to other things, his passion for the field burns undimmed.  

-- Mike Plant


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