There are times you need to have tough conversations with an athlete. As a coach this is never easy, but if you have a relationship with an athlete that is built on trust and communication, then the process is usually easier and the outcome far more desirable. Scott has always been an enthusiastic athlete who was eager to learn more about himself and the sport, and year after year we have grown together as a coach and athlete team.
“You should sign up for a triathlon”. This is a comment that I will never forget. When I was a teenager I dreamed of racing the Lake St. Louis triathlon, but I couldn’t swim, so a few decades later when I was given the idea of racing a triathlon, I decided this would be my race . I thought how hard could a triathlon be? Back then, I didn’t have a great endurance sport support base, I wasn’t in a tri club and didn’t have a coach. So I dusted off my college road bike, bought some goggles and started training.
I remember that first race quite vividly. It was an open water swim and I had zero swim background. Let’s just say I got smoked on the swim and I was the last AG to enter the water in a wave start. I am the type once I commit, I do not quit even when the odds are against me. But I also thought wow this sport is tough and fast, but somehow I was hooked.
Fast forward to present - I have been racing for a number of years and overall have been happy with my progress. I have gone on to hire a coach and have turned the corner from just wanting to do triathlon to wanting to compete. Training under Evolve has been a great thing for me in triathlon and life. I apply a lot of what I learn at Evolve within my company culture.
When I sat down with Coach Sam after my season was over last year, we recapped the season and what went well and what I learned. A few sentences while true, really bothered me after the conversation, coach said a lot of positive things, but I only remembered a few words. Frankly those few words made me mad for about two months.
So what were those words ?
Consistency with workouts is lacking
Work on mental toughness is needed
Are you kidding me was my first thought. I trained my ass off this past season. To be fair this is not 100% true. I did train harder than I have ever trained, and had a fabulous race at Chattanooga 70.3, but then as I all too often do, I started to spread myself thin with all of my work and volunteer obligations and my training started to take a hit. Sam reiterated that the only difference between top athletes and myself was consistency and continuing to work on mental toughness. This sentence really sank in. I never forgot it. I had to think deep and hard about what in my life was holding me back from being my best self.
In October, I started planning for 2017. I decided to make some significant changes in my approach to training. My first step was to join a masters swim group at 5:30 AM. As I mentioned before I did not have a swim background and this was way outside of my comfort zone - showing up to swim in a group was not easy to start, but was just what was needed. The second step was I was going to remove meat from my diet. This was a personal choice that helped me to focus more on food as fuel and cut out some of the things that I was eating that were not helping my training. The third step was I was going to be consistent with my workouts. The final step was I was going to start working on believing in myself more.
Suddenly I found I enjoyed the masters swim group. The thing I noticed going into the November Evolve swim camp was that I was starting to improve a little. By the March swim camp I was a completely different swimmer. I owe this all to taking a leap and facing my fears.
The other thing I noticed in this off-season is I have been hitting the bike consistently hard. The key word is consistently - I have always loved to put in a hard effort, but I found that in the past, I was not doing what I needed to do to get my workouts in each and every day which meant that I was only putting parts of the plan in place. My indoor numbers keep improving, but it is hard to tell until you actually go ride for 3 hours outside where your bike fitness is. The first 3 hour ride, I felt like a rocket on the bike, my confidence had grown tremendously. While I always viewed running as my strength, I suddenly felt strong in all three disciplines. As I reflect back, I realized in the past my weaker disciplines were the first workouts to be skipped. I never missed a run.
When I attend group training, people ask me what my secret is to my improvement. I answer with consistency and a great coach. Then the next comment is, really what are you doing to gain that much speed, I see your Strava data. I said consistency. I reiterate that I just don’t miss workouts. As I write this, I haven’t missed a workout in three months with very few off days and a busy work schedule. The funny part is that in the past I felt burnt out and thought I needed extra days off, now I realize how much fun this consistent training is and how important it is to be able to get out there each day. It allows me to get over many mental blocks that can come on race day when the going gets tough.
Sunday I had my first race of the season, the race was a completely different feeling than when I have raced in the past. By the time I got off the bike, I realized I was in the top ten on the run and knew I could pass a few runners. I had never experienced that at a triathlon until Sunday. It was a totally different sport. What put me in this place? It was not so much the physical work that I have put in, but it was also the first time that I allowed myself to be present in the race and this could only happen after several months of no excuses. I was confident that the work had been put in and I could just execute. In the past coach Sam has tried very hard to get me to let go of data, even to the point where she made me put tape on my watch at a past race- this race showed me that I could work and not worry or compare myself to others or a past performance, and if I did that the race would come together.
My biggest takeaway from these past few months is that there can be real joy in the hard work. I have learned that when I am overwhelmed at my job that I NEED to get the work in more than ever and that hitting social media does not solve any problems, but a long solo run, or a few hard intervals on the bike sure can.