Athlete Spotlight - Elliott Balentine


I remember the precise moment I knew I needed a coach. I was on a trip to Colorado, I had brought my bike with me because I thought it would be sweet to attempt to ride and do part of the run from the Boulder 70.3 course.  Up to that point I had been doing Olympic distance races for about two seasons (4-5 races total) and was determined to take the step up to Half IM. So on a hot and dry summer day I hopped on my road bike and started my training brick. It wasn't until about 1 mile into the run when I started feeling bad. Nothing like watching the old garmin start at a solid pace and then slowly start a march, then ending with a very wobbly near walk. BONKING hard during a long workout was getting to be a classic feature of mine. When I got home my old pal Lenny (now coach Lenny) and I decided it was coaching time, luckily she new a person who knew a person who knew Sam. 

And that's where the journey began.

Border Wars was the first tri that I raced as an evolver and my first Half IM distance race was an overall positive experience. I kept telling myself that as long as I finished I would be satisfied (this of course was all lies because I’m ridiculously competitive). Like all races there were blunders and stumbles. I felt like I was getting lost on the bike course 50% of the time and had major anxiety when considering Sam’s words of wisdom “if you don’t pee during the bike you’ll likely have trouble on the run”. At the end of the day, I was a bonk-free racer who crushed my goal time. I stayed on “The Plan” and was shocked at how much energy I had left in the tank at the finish line. All that untapped potential is what kept and keeps me hungry to continue signing up for a few races every year. After crossing the line I was ready to see where else I could go with my racing.


One of the things that I love is that every year there has been a new point of focus or a new goal for my racing. For Half IM Coeur D'Alene it was a continuation on an old classic "trust your run". I have been negative splitting every run in a triathlon, more so due to fear and holding back out of the gate, I was always concerned I would bonk, or barf, or even worse WALK or crawl. 2016 was all about trusting my run, opening up hard and finishing hard with little left in the "tank". (I may have had so much energy after my first Half IM that I was dancing around and causing Coach Sam to scold me that I had not left it all out there).  So the first 5-6 miles of this race all I could hear was Sam playing on repeat in my "race brain"....say strong and pluck those suckers off one at at time, your time is now, this is what you've trained for. At the turn around point I considered my work to be done, had found a person who was my pace and we pushed each other to the finish (don't worry we weren't in the same AG). Trusting my run in 2016 got me to finally get under 1:30 on the run, and now I feel like the sky is the limit.

For me it's has been and always will be all about the racing...i.e. training with a purpose. The race is the motivation, it's a demonstration of the training, and for me a chance for me to shed and face my fears. Now that I have been with Sam for several years I can see the macro level growth that has been woven into the seemingly mundane day to day workouts. With each year  I have developed as an athlete and my racing focus continues to shift.

This year my focus during the race is focus itself (very meta). 

At this stage in our coach/athlete relationship Sam has trained me through grad school, a move across the country, a clavicle fracture, several 1/2 IMs, and a few open road races. She knows my strengths and weaknesses and has helped me develop as an athlete in ways I thought were lost to my days as a competitive youth athlete and I cannot wait to see where we go this year.