Collegiate Tri: Marymount Coach Talks Training, Advantages and More

This piece is part of our collegiate triathlon series. Next week, we will be featuring another college triathlon program!

This is part two in an interview with Marymount coach Zane Castro. To read part one, click here.

b907fcaa0f6c4e7992dfce6deb2d5bb8How do you plan to structure the tri program? What will a typical week be like for a triathlete in your program?

I plan to structure the tri program around each athlete given their individual needs. A training week will be pretty unique compared with what is out there now. We will emphasize frequency (based on individual athletes’ needs) and movement-based strength. We will focus on the skills needed for each discipline and a strategic layering of conditioning. We will adhere to the one-day-off-per-seven-days rule, but athletes will still achieve 16-20 training sessions per micro cycle.

What season will tri be?

This is a heavily-debated issue. The proposal calls for a fall season, which might put it into contention with the collegiate cross country season. Right now we will follow a spring season, because that is when the collegiate championship is scheduled; however the qualification races will be in the fall. Our present approach is to tier the season, kind of like swimmers do. We will have an early qualification period (in the fall), go into an off-season guidance period (in the winter), and then come back in spring to prepare for Collegiate Nationals and springboard into the summer racing season.

Will Marymount give athletic scholarships to triathletes? If not, how is collegiate triathlon advantageous for athletes who could get substantial scholarships running or swimming at other institutions?

No. We are a Division III school and do not give athletic scholarships. However, since triathlon is a Varsity sport at Marymount, Marymount will cover all or nearly all of the athletes’ triathlon-related expenses. Anyone who has been in this sport knows how expensive it is—think about the combined expense of coaching, race fees, travel, hotels, and equipment. These are expenses that most triathletes involved in collegiate clubs have to pay completely out-of-pocket.  In addition, Marymount does give substantial academic scholarships that will be useful for many of our athletes.

To speak directly to athletes who could get significant scholarships elsewhere: you may be giving up a sport that you could be good at and excel in beyond college, whereas few people are able to compete at the elite level in swimming or running after college.  This is an opportunity for development where few exist, and should be viewed as such. That being said, we think that—between the academic scholarship opportunities that Marymount offers and the costs that the Athletic Department will absorb—parents and students will find Marymount to be much more affordable than they might at first assume.

When I think of ideal places to train for triathlon, Washington DC isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind. How is Marymount’s location advantageous for training?

The Arlington/DC area has a huge population of triathletes. This is something I think speaks to the advantages of the location. There are some distinct advantages here.  We have access to many different open water venues—quarry, pool, surf, lake, and river—within 30 miles. You can’t leave Marymount on a bike without encountering hills, and strategic trips will allow us to take advantage of some very long climbs. There are crit-style races that take place every weekday about three miles from campus and there are plenty of longer group rides on hilly courses right around Marymount. In addition to these opportunities, there is an extensive trail network for both running and riding.

What are some things that make Marymount’s triathlon team special?

The central focus of the program is strength, because strength is necessary both to develop skills and to improve conditioning. I believe in assessing each athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, partly to prevent injuries, but also help the athlete build bridges to the next level. Athletes may find this approach unique compared to what they were used to.

My coaching relies on communication, so athletes will be strongly encouraged to give feedback to the coaching staff. Athletes can expect that they will need to “show up” every day, not only physically, but also mentally. They will learn the (sometimes mundane) importance of establishing routine and repeating skills over and over. Athletes will be encouraged to establish priorities and manage their time well—skills that I think they will find helpful as they move on in life.