Getting Real with Ironmind .... by Coach Samantha

Everyday at Evolve our athletes spend hours engaged in movement. The physical benefits are obvious, but the greater value of these workouts reaches far beyond the cardiovascular one. Each athlete is motivated by their own personal factors, but I do think that there are some commonalities in each of us.

If I reflect back on why I started on this whole crazy endurance journey 20 years ago - initially it was because I wanted the benefits that working out gave me on a physical level, that quickly changed to a desire to challenge myself and accomplish a goal and once I ran my first marathon, I was hooked.

That is what got me started - but that is not what has sustained me.

Sure, competing in a race is still a driving force, but for me personally, it is only a small part of the puzzle of why I get up every day and do what I do. And to be totally transparent, it is probably pretty low on the list of why I love moving each and every day.

I’m sustained and driven by:

The feeling of tired legs and burning lungs

A hot shower and post workout nap

Knowing that I have done more than most before the sun rises

The satisfaction of making the most of each and every day

Overcoming internal mental battles

The neverending lessons that come on long workouts

The promise of another chance to do it all again tomorrow

And perhaps I would go so far as to say that I am addicted to all of the above ...

I love all that the endurance community has offered me over nearly two decades. It has connected me and allowed me to forge relationships that would never be possible without the avenue of training and competing.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to work on a project that has lead me to think about all of the reasons why we compete - in a race and against ourselves each day. And more amazing is how my community has grown due to this adventure.

Late last year I started to coach an athlete who has been competing in triathlon for a long time, but had never been coached. His passion and drive are intoxicating and his dynamic personality made it a fun challenge as his lifestyle is not a typical one as he is the frontman of a band and spends time on the road. Right away it was obvious that we were a good coaching/athlete match - coaching is not about the workouts really - that’s a training plan - coaching is about the ability of a coach to know what the athlete needs to be successful - and each athlete offers a unique challenge that a coach needs to solve. John was no different than any of my other athletes - his past and job might be a little unusual, but like all of our athletes at Evolve he is driven to make each day count and to learn and grow through endurance sports.

After only a few months of working together - John mentioned that he had been pitching this crazy idea to Brian Rose the host and creator of London Real (John was on his show previously) and they had really hit is off and he wanted to challenge Brian to train and race a 70.3 on a vegan diet. John really said very little to me about who Brian was but a quick google search led to me to a better understanding of Brian and what I was up against as a coach. I love a challenge and could not wait to get started on getting Brian to the finish line in his first half Ironman which would double as his first triathlon ever. This was a huge undertaking as Brian was truly starting from scratch - sure he was super fit, but not an endurance athlete and we would need to help him buy all the equipment needed to train and race along with getting him physically and mentally ready for the race.

I spoke to very few people about this potential athlete - for a few reasons. One is that when I started Evolve I made a commitment that I would want all of my athletes to feel like they were my only athlete and I was worried and still worry that as Evolve grows and evolves quite frankly that something will be lost - I desperately did not want to draw attention to one athlete and certainly not in a way that would make others feel uncomfortable, or him for that matter. And the second reason is that the project would not go public for a while and I needed to keep it quiet until we got going and I met Brian and he commited.  

Each athlete offers me something new - it is what I so love about my job. They think I am helping them to achieve, but what they give me in return is far greater than anything I do for them. I love the human interaction and the problem solving. It is why I loved teaching as well. The novels I taught were the catalyst for a much larger purpose - just like the workouts I write. To be honest, some of Brian’s struggles are things that I have worked through with many of my athletes - and I was confident that I would be able to help him achieve and support him as a whole athlete.

So in February I flew to New York City to meet Brian Rose and put him through a 2 x 8 minute threshold bike test and get him started on the journey to Chattanooga 70.3 on a plant based diet. John and I had put in place a plan for me to coach him to this challenge if Brian decided to commit. I was excited and scared. I will level with you and say that I HATE BEING ON CAMERA. I hate the sound of my voice, I hate the way I look, I hate everything about it, but I knew that none of that mattered and this project had the opportunity for making an amazing impact on the lives of so many, so I needed to put all of my self-esteem BS aside and just do what I do best - coach. It was amazing how natural it was - I quickly forgot about the cameras and just was me. I had warned Brian of that - that what he would get would be authentically me and that I hoped it would not be too much.


That threshold test set the tone for what would be the start of a life changing opportunity. These tests are brutal and right away it conjured up intense emotions in Brian and I knew that he was eager to wrestle with himself in a way that only the powerful mix of sweat and tears can allow one to do.


Since working with Brian on the Ironmind project, I have loved the chance to watch Brian reveal to the world his struggles with addiction, and the struggles that he faces in training as well. Of course Brian has an amazing story, and a powerful platform to tell it, but what is most potent about this project is that he is raw in his telling and while his story is all his own, parts of it resonate with so many.


And well, working on anything with John is pretty amazing too. John and Brian are each intense in their own ways - each balance that intensity with a side that maybe most do not see, but a gentle side that has its own quiet power. Plus John rivals me in his use of the F-word  - so what’s not to love.


While the initial intention of this project was for Brian to challenge and grow - perhaps the most outstanding path this journey has taken all of us on is the exposure to so many athletes around the world. Almost every day I wake up to messages from people around the world who have been inspired.

I often think of what I do as a job as a luxury - who really needs triathlon and a triathlon coach, and yet as I continue on this journey, I have begun to see more and more that we ALL need movement - maybe not in the form of swimming, biking and running, but the medicinal benefits for mind, body and soul and the human connections are truly a necessity for a life worth living.  

This seems like the perfect place to stop ... the future is unwritten, but we all have the tools to write our own story. More amazing things to come.