Jones' biggest coaching call pays rich dividends for Britton
With that in mind, Jones has already lined up a series of races leading into the World Cross Country, set for Bydgoszcz on March 24th, starting with the Brussels international on Sunday week, and also the defence of her Great Edinburgh Cross Country, on January 5th.
Given his key role in taking Britton’s career to this level, it’s easily forgotten that his “day-job”, as Jones says himself, is director of high performance with Triathlon Ireland.
Yesterday he explained how their race tactics changed once he got to see the course for himself, and the frozen conditions that came with it: he actually describes it as one of the biggest calls in his 20 years as a coach.
“I’d come out here really impressed by her training, felt she could cover any break, but should then take it out in one significant attack.
“Then on Saturday afternoon, I walked around the course twice, and it was so clear to me this was a much more difficult course than we thought. I just thought to myself, ‘what are we doing here?
“She’s got fantastic endurance, she’s in the best shape of her life, why aren’t we going to unleash it early on?’
“So I went back, told her it wasn’t going to be one attack. She had to put the pressure on earlier, make them hurt. It was a big, big decision. It could have back-fired. I spoke to Ann Keenan-Buckley as well, who played a big part in this, even if she resigned as manager, and she totally agreed.
“And straightaway Fionnuala said yes too. So she hit the front at 2km, and it wasn’t a ruthless break, but enough to make them hurt. And look, they were never comfortable after that. Fionnuala always felt on top of her game.
“But she still didn’t know what was going on behind her, but she was able to keep going, had that extra extension of endurance even on last year.”
How they got it, he says, is not rocket science, but longer interval repetitions with less recovery, and yet greater emphasis on the recovery and rest days. They worked again on the speed gained on the track this summer, with further tweaking on her stride pattern and alignment to improve her power output.
They also kept an even closer watch on her blood profiles to ensure everything was always in order. “Plus she’s such a great training animal,” he says, “with a massive appetite for the workload.”
All the ingredients then to someday run a championship winning marathon.