I was just writing an athlete and it inspired me to tell her
a story about progression I thought I would share. First a little background as
to my thought process.
One of the best and most impactful changes to triathlon in
the last decade has to be quality coaching, both online and in person. 10 years
ago, there were just not too many options, and 10 years before that there was
my partner Joe Friel, and maybe one other guy. You had to combine what you
could learn from various sources and come up with the best “stew” you could.
Now with the coaching coming along people are able to take YEARS off the
timelines we used to have to progress at.
I used to always race Memphis in May. It was usually the
same weather, same course for many years till after 9/11 where we could no
longer use the Naval Base, but it was my measuring stick, and before the
Ironman races in every state, it was one of the most competitive and focused on
races of the year. I worked for years to break 2:30 – that’s right, years. I
used to think 2:15 was the holy grail of my abilities. I started training with
friends rather seriously and eventually got down to 2:07!!! I was so pumped and
ready to take the sport even more seriously.
OK, at this point I know I was on a path many of you have
experienced or are currently experiencing. I bought a book, made an excel
spreadsheet laid out the training for a year and even put it all in a binder
for me to follow! This was a big move for someone who has a hard time keeping
their desk tidy. The binder even went on
my first honeymoon so I wouldn’t miss a day of training. At this point my wife
at the time and I was living in Atlanta so she could train more seriously as
she was quite competitive. One of the places we trained for swimming was
Dynamo. I mean there wasn’t a thing we didn’t do to include relocating to get
The next Memphis came, and I went 2:11 or something like that.
SLOWER!!! I was more dejected then I can even describe. I remember saying to
myself “That’s it, I am at my genetic potential. I will always flirt around
2:10 and if that is what I can do, then I am not going to care so much about
this sport.” I even remember telling my swim coach at the time I just wasn’t meant
to be competitive at this and he just looked at me with a face I didn’t understand
till years later.
Obviously I refocused. To try to make this shorter I came
back a few years later, broke, 2 hours, and then a year or so later almost won
if not for an athlete named TJ Tolakson and went 1:54.
Here is the point – RELAX! What I eventually decided was
first just because it didn’t work out didn’t mean I was doing the wrong things.
That is the tricky thing about the sport, it needs time to show what you are
actually doing. You can be in better shape and still have bad days.
Most importantly, I knew in my heart I could change things
to at least get 1 min faster. Yup, I took it 1 min at a time. I tried to just
make small changes and that’s when things started to get really good.
Same thing goes for my IM races now. I used to never break
11:30, then was stuck with DNF’s for a long time, and finally hovered at the
10:00 mark for again, years. Finally-9:16 in Kona!! It was the first time I
wondered if I could find another min. It is a conversation I am still trying to
have with myself, so I will let you know.
I pride myself on experience. I think it is one of the
things that makes me a good coach. I know what it is like to a 12 hour
finisher, 3 hour Olympic racer, and I know what it is like to be in the top 100
OVERALL at Kona and lead an Ironman race for 7 hours. I have been where just
about all of you have. Tune out everyone else, all the noise and ask yourself, “Do
I have a min to gain, that I have left on the table?” If so, go get it! Don’t worry about the rest
of the stuff – yet.