First impressions count, so it was a bold move to send former Olympic champion Jan Frodeno home when they first met shortly after the 2012 London Games.
But that’s exactly what and Lorang did at his first in-person meeting with the man he would go on to coach to win three Kona titles, two 70.3 World Championships, and much, much more.
Dan tells the story with a smile and reveals: “I first met him at the Olympic training center in Saarbrücken when I was the U23 national team coach. It was my first weeks there, I had just finished training and he arrived 10 minutes later.
“I could tell from his voice that he had a sore throat and was a little sick. He said ‘hello, I’m Jan, Jan Frodeno. I said, yes I know, I’m Dan!
“But then he said, ‘I’ll try to swim a little bit, we’ll see how I go, but I’m not feeling very well.’ And I replied, ‘John you are sick, go home, recover and then come back healthy to start the training process again.
“And everyone looked at him and me and saw what would happen next. And surprisingly, he just packed his things and said ‘okay, that makes sense’ and went out.”
A new Frodeno era
The next day, just after training, there was a knock on the door of Lorang’s office at the Olympic Center.
“It was five o’clock – I remember it very well. It was Jan, and he said: I want to talk to you. And then he said that I wanted to change something in my triathlon career, that he was looking for a new coach and that the medium term goal was to move into medium and long distance triathlon – but you have to know that if I do this do, I want to win in Kona too.
“So I said okay, we’ll do this in 2015. And then he said ‘that’s a deal’.
That’s how it started! He then left the room and it took me a while to process what I had said to him at the time.”
The die had been cast and now the planning began.
Building towards Kona
“Actually, with Jan, it was the first time I went through that process of taking a short-distance athlete of that caliber to the long-distance. I almost saw it as a three-year process, from 2013 to 2015.
“We started the project and he was on the short haul for a year longer. We had a good experience, gradually built things up and it took us two years to do the first long course race in Frankfurt (IRONMAN Germany) and then Kona [he was third in both events) and then the first win there came the year after in 2015.
“We’re still working together now and it’s really nice to have that long relationship.”
Haug similar, but different
It was a process Lorang would go on to repeat several years later with Anne Haug, the first athlete he coached, and it led to the same outcome as she also reached the long-distance pinnacle of the sport.
“When Anne had the same idea I thought perhaps we can do it, perhaps not 100% similar, but going a little bit the same way. Because they are two different types of athletes but from the physiology they are not so different, so they present a lot of similarities, and it takes time for the body to adapt.
“For Anne I thought for sure I have to adapt the running, she cannot run the kind of kilometres that Jan can. But it was probably a little bit easier to go through that process because we’d learnt a lot with Jan by then.”
Talking in more detail about how he set about plotting the transformation, he followed the same principles he does with all his athletes.
Working in tandem
He explained: “First of all I try to get a good picture from the physiology side, seeing which kind of athlete is in front of me, what is their starting point and how do we have to transform the muscle fibres, the different capacities – anaerobic and aerobic – to reach the goal.
“And then [on the psychology side] I’m looking at the type of athlete – is it someone who likes to train in a group, who likes the intensity, who likes something different – maybe more the monotony, or training in bigger blocks that need more recovery.
“There are different ways to reach the same goal. And depending on these parameters you choose one way. It is not a fixed road, the road can always be smoother.
“And the athlete always has a big impact on that. So it always works together – I’ll never see it the way the coach says and the athlete does.
“We work together to find the best process possible and at some point you need the full commitment of the athlete and then you go from there. That’s how I actually work with all my athletes.”
In the next installment of our Dan Lorang series, the focus shifts to his newest world champion – British superstar Lucy Charles-Barclay.