Great Example of an Off-Road Specific Triathlon Coach

Acouple of weeks ago, we posted a piece about 5 Reasons to Hire an Off-Road Specific Triathlon Coach. One reason it’s so important to have an off-road specific coach is that they “get it”. The culture, the athlete’s mindset, the lifestyle that goes along with off-road racing. It’s something that you understand if you have an inclination to play in the dirt.

Whether you are a first time racer, experienced age group athlete, or pro, having a coach who grasps what it’s all about can be one of the most impactful aspects of your athletic endeavor. A great example of this is professional cross triathlete Nienke Oostra and her coach Nico Lebrun. Nico’s company, Organicoach, is the epitome of this philosophy.

Nienke recently spent a week in France with the Organicoach crew and wrote a short blog that voices just how important a coach can be. is happy to share Nienke’s insight below.

Time. There is never enough time. If you want to become good at something you need time, experience, and mileage.  There is the well known 10,000 hours rule – 10,000 hours performing a certain task before you can call yourself a specialist at it. This means you have to be doing that task for 20 hours/week for 10 years to become a specialist at it.

I started the sport late in life. I was in my early thirties when I teamed up with a coach for the first time. When I started triathlon properly in 2009 my body had no mileage. There are articles from athletes and coaches who say you can perform well with less mileage and higher intensity programs, but when you look a bit deeper into the athletes they use as examples you will soon realize that these people have been doing some sort of sport at a high level from their early teens. When I started chasing the elite athlete dream, I tried to cheat time because being in my thirties, time was the one thing I did not have left. I fooled myself into thinking if I just trained that little bit harder, better, and longer than everyone else I would make up for my lack of experience and mileage and beat the 10,000 hours rule.

“It was not about how much power I had in my legs, it was about skills, control, and a big smile at the end of the ride.”

An Organicoach training camp is much more than clocking up mileage. Getting to know my triathlon coach. Photo - Nienke Oostra.
An Organicoach training camp is much more than clocking up mileage

When I first started training I was living in Singapore and Alister Russel was my coach. He taught me how to swim, ride, and run. He taught me how to do this repeatedly, week in, week out. He taught me what I was capable of. Every race was a time trial. “If your legs are not burning you are not racing” are words I still repeat in my head in his voice during a race. I moved to Sydney and signed up with Olympian cyclist Matt Randall. Matt taught me how to be a competitor, how to dig deep, how to suffer and win. Matt taught me how to believe. When I moved back to Europe to pursue my athletic career,  I started working with Nicolas Lebrun, a multiple world champion in Duathlon,  winter triathlon and XTERRA. He got to glue back the broken pieces after life got in the way of my big athletic master plan.

Coaching is very personal to me. Every single one of those three coaches knows me better than anyone, they know what makes me tick. It is all in the head after all. I don’t believe in a magic recipe in relation to a training program, I believe in a connection between a coach and an athlete. I personally enjoy it much more when my achievements are shared with someone who has worked hard at getting there together with me. Nico’s coaching company Organicoach offered me exactly that and so much more. With a similar look on life, he became a close friend as well as my coach. When things turned ugly we made a pact that we would stick by each other until I would cry from happiness after a race rather than frustration.

It was a joy to train in the sunshine with my triathlon coach and his wife.  Photo - Nienke Oostra.
It was a joy to train in the sunshine.

Nico always stressed it was important for me to spend some time with him and his wife Alex in Digne so he could see me running, riding my bike, and watch me in the pool. When the opportunity arose I left the dark cold day’s in Scotland behind and travelled to France.

This trip for me was not about clocking up mileage like most triathlon camps in winter. It was about connecting with my coach, to learn from his experiences and understand what he wanted from me when he asked for a certain specific task. I also learned about nutrition, stretching, recovery, and anything to do with maintaining a healthy body and soul in the Organicoach style. The decision to come to Digne was probably the best decision I had made in my whole sporting career. Nico and Alex did not leave one stone unturned.

Learning from the master triathlon coach; Nico Lebrun. Photo - Nienke Oostra.
Learning from the master – Nico Lebrun

The mountain bike was a big focus and I rode a top-of-the-range Enduro bike with big suspension to really learn how to balance and ride steep drops, rocky steps, and climb up things I never thought possible. It was not about how much power I had in my legs, it was about skills, control, and a big smile at the end of the ride. Nico pushed me to try hard and use every muscle in my body to ride things I would usually walk. “Mountain biking is like dancing” he said “you always move your body to find the rhythm”

5 minute vertical speed test on 30% incline hurts, but if coach says so. Photo - Nienke Oostra.
5 minute vertical speed test on 30% incline hurts.

To improve my running we did a few tests including a vertical speed test to be able to work on my hill reps more specifically and get a bench mark of where I was at. We worked on downhill and technical running, something I had a huge area of improvement left. In the pool we worked on my stroke with the help of video footage. Everything we did was about improving our communication, understanding each other, understanding what was asked of me and understanding where my weaknesses lay and how to work on them.  I had always felt that we spoke the same language, even if his native language was French and mine was Dutch and we communicated in English! This connection only got reinforced by spending time with him and his lovely wife Alex. I realised he had been able to help me so much in the last two difficult years because of the same way our brains worked.

Living the dream in sunny Digne Les Baines. Photo - Nienke Oostra.
Living the dream in sunny Digne Les Baines.

I spend seven days living the dream, eating, sleeping and breathing all aspects of the sport.  It was the perfect way to reconnect with my passion for this part of my life again. The fulfilling feeling you can get from little improvements on the bike, on the run, and in the water. Working on myself as a person in relation to where I was, what I wanted to achieve and the underlying reasons why.

Organicoach and its philosophy is a great platform for like minded people who have a passion for the outdoors, for sports, and who want to live a healthy balanced lifestyle. I would highly recommend Nico and his wife Alex to anyone who would like to improve and learn on the mountain bike, trail running, in the pool or attempt an off-road triathlon for the first time. They accommodate for all levels and abilities. With Nico’s extensive experience racing at top level and Alex’s knowledge of nutrition and health, their world of knowledge is second to none. On top of that they are wonderful people to be around with a great sense of humour and the day always finishes with a smile!

A big thanks to Organicoach and its people for a great week of learning, laughing, suffering and relaxing!

Do you have an off-road specific coach that you’d like us to highlight? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us via our contact page.




Will Kelsay

Will Kelsay is one of the top cross triathletes in the world with a 10 year career spanning 5 continents competing in more than 18 countries. He has 20 career wins and more than 70 top 5 finishes. Anyone who has met him knows his passion for the sport is only overshadowed by his huge smile & his appetite for fun.

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