Rio Bronze Medalist Mohamed Lahna August 23, 2019 20:23 Updated Follow Not signed in? Log into your Purple Patch account for full access to your education program for coaches and athletes. You need to sign in to view this page. Last weekend, para-triathlon made its debut at the Paralympic Games. We are thrilled to share that one of our own Purple Patch athletes, Mohamed Lahna, was part of the historic moment, earning a bronze medal for his home country of Morocco. You may recall from an earlier blog post on Mohamed that he was born without a femur on one side and so his leg begins at the hip. In Paralympic classification, this qualifies Mohamed for PT2, the above the knee amputee category, which places him at a relative disadvantage to many of his fellow competitors that may gain output from the amputee limb. In contrast, Mohamed is truly 'one-legged' when it comes to cycling and running. I share these details in order to offer perspective on the challenges I perceived when Mohamed approached Purple Patch for coaching 18 months ago. It wasn't just the classification issue, but the Paralympic race was to be contested over the sprint distance. Mohamed's triathlon history was littered with ultra-endurance events such as Norseman and the IRONMAN World Championships rather than the high power and speed that would be required for the Rio event. He arrived with a great work ethic and commitment, but the challenges included a complete shift in ability to hit very top end sustained power, as well as searching for ways to make up time to offset his disadvantage. I didn't see it as an easy task. Since we began the coaching relationship, Mo has worked extremely hard but also had to transition to a vastly different mindset as to what would produce top performance. According to Mo, it all started with trusting the coach: "I needed to follow the workout goals exactly. When there was an easy day, I had to go easy and when it was a hard day, I had to hit it hard." It was an adjustment for Mo to become accustomed to not pushing himself to his limit each day, and trust that the workouts were all part of a bigger picture. For me, this was one of Mo's biggest hurdles, as he was so committed and eager, and his grit and gumption had been the battering ram that got him through some of the great challenges he overcame before this. Transitioning to a more refined and targeted approach was not easy, and it isn't for many athletes, but I do believe the Purple Patch pro team had a positive influence on him. The same habits I was aiming to instill in Mo were exactly those we work so hard on with our pro team. Mo was able to become embedded with the SF based Purple Patch pros. Not only did he have me guiding, but he also could learn form Laura Siddall, Sarah Piampiano, Sarah Cameto and others. In turn, I realized that as his behavior in training morphed, it led to a positive influence over many of the amateurs. It takes courage to recover, and Mo's transition toward this mindset lifted many ships. Over the past 18 months, Mo has made some impressive gains from this new approach to training: Maximal steady state power improved from ~ 170W to 250W. Yes, one-legged! Maximal steady state running improved from ~ 7.40 min/mi pace to about 6.45min/mi pace Learned to 'take out' swim races in a controlled manner, without losing speed or overly spiking heart rate Developed a radically improved set of bike handling skills, especially in managing speed loss and acceleration in and out of 180-degree turns, and refined his transition approach and time We can review Mo's metrics and technical skills, but for an event that only comes around once every four years, we should also discuss the mental aspect that Mo has worked on during his training. He has evolved from a results-driven orientation to being process-driven which allows him to find enjoyment in training and racing execution. "Matt kept insisting on focusing on the things I can control: my training, diet, sleep, etc.," explains Mo. "He says to always focus on the process and not the outcome." While it did not come naturally to Mo, he worked hard on this aspect of the training and has learned to handle pressure well. My biggest goal for Rio was to have Mo realize that this event was a special occasion never to be repeated. I didn't want Mo to let the event and occasion overwhelm him, rather I wanted him to love the occasion. I asked him to bring his smile and allow his performance to happen. As with all athletes, if they can arrive extremely fit, healthy, and globally fresh, they cannot ask for much more. It is then finding the right mindset to allow the race performance to be a simple expression of the preparation. With Mo, I knew that performance would come out of a smile instead of from serious results-oriented pressure. "Just before I left for Rio," Mo recounts, "Matt sent me an email reminding me to smile and enjoy the moment." As a result of this note, Mo reversed his decision to not attend the Opening Ceremony: "I didn't want to fatigue or risk blisters from standing too long." He ended up having a wonderful experience at the ceremony, walking into the stadium with his country and hearing the cheers from the crowd. "It changed my mood and mindset completely for the race." How good was he? An Olympic bronze medal! What a special performance! In Mo's own words: "I had my best race performance ever in the biggest race I have ever done." If you look for inspiration and a path to performance, you don't need to look further than Mo. He: Shows up Listens Commits and follows through Is unapologetic in his desire for excellence Supports others Never complains Remains tough when it gets tough A coaching dream. And what is he like as a person? Well, his first text to me post-race was this: "Congratulations on your bronze medal." No, this was Mo's performance. His medal. We are just proud to come along for the ride.