Words cannot describe the overwhelming feeling of joy that rushed through me as I watched Adrienne, Jillian, Katie and Laura complete Ironman Canada. It’s not often I have the opportunity to watch the entire Ironman unfold from the perspective of a spectator.
Yesterday was an emotional day for me as well as for my athletes. There are so many variables in Ironman racing and, as a coach, the one message I want my athletes to remember is “stick to the plan and make sensible modifications as needed”. Although the Ironman is an emotional race, I do as much as possible to keep my athletes from ‘racing from the heart” as this typically encourages a far too aggressive pacing strategy and the end result is a breakdown. I know that my athletes are prepared, but when faced with the thought of completing their first Ironman, this does little to ease their anxiety. The days leading up to your first Ironman are tough because you start doubting and questioning a number of things. While this is normal, it’s not positive energy so I anxiously await for the race to get under way because once the race starts, I know everything will be fine.
I watched the start of the swim as over 2000 athletes scurried for an optimal spot. I encouraged my athletes to start wide so that they could get into open water without the congestion of trying to get to the first turn in the shortest distance possible. The swim exit is always so chaotic, so I decided I would venture out on a run along the bike course for a undistracted glimpse of my athletes. I timed it so that I would be able to see Katie, Jillian, Adrienne, and Laura in the first – 7 -8 miles of the bike. As I saw each one of them pass I was so happy to witness a very controlled and comfortable effort on the bike. I can’t tell you how many people were already dropping the hammer on this part. “Don’t fall into the trap of racing as people pass you by”, is what I told my athletes. “We are off to a great start” I thought to myself as each one of the ladies zipped by.
The first part of the bike course for Ironman Canada is extremely fast, and especially so yesterday. The first 10 miles of the bike are mostly a gradual decline with a generous tail wind. Despite their conservative efforts, I knew the first 40 miles would be fast….and they were. I was confident that each athlete was completing this with a low energy expenditure. Ok after the first check point, now comes the frustrating part – waiting until they reach the transition area again at 112 miles. Are they on pace? How are they feeling? Are they hydrating and eating? Do they know that they CAN finish this race? Are they sticking to the plan? – These are a few thoughts that ran through my head for the next 5 hours. I gave each athlete a high and low estimate of what I expected them to come in at on the bike. One by one each of my athletes pedaled up to the transition area – all were at the fast end of their pace estimates and I was happy because they all looked comfortable.
Now the race begins. The run is such a unique challenge in the context of an Ironman. There are so many variables that make this such a daunting task, even for the experienced and well conditioned athlete. I knew today was going to be tough because temperatures were forecasted to be in the mid to low 90’s. The pacing plan I gave to my athletes for the run leaned more toward the best case scenario. I asked them to carry this out only if they felt like they were not forcing the pace. In Ironman racing, you can’t force the pace – it has to happen naturally. Each person knew that they should revert to a slower more comfortable pace if the planned range felt unrealistic. The goal is an even split marathon – this is not always possible in an Ironman, but attempting to do so definitely helps keep the effort controlled. I knew the run was going to be slower than planned due to the weather. At mile 1.5 I encouraged all of my athletes to stay hydrated and take advantage of the wet sponges out on the course – this does wonders to cool you down in the heat.
I was able to get updates for the halfway point of the marathon and once again I started my predictions for when they would approach the finish line. I have to thank Paul for helping out with these calculations. We were camped out in a spot that would allow us to see them about 2 K from the finish. As each athlete rounded the corner and ran towards us, I was extremely emotional. Although I knew that they could do this, they now truly ‘believed” that they could do this. The reality that they are going to be Irornman triathletes becomes real right about this time in the race. This moment in an athlete’s first Ironman experience is priceless.
Each athlete finished the race. The day was done and each person successfully completed their first Ironman.
Adrienne, Jillian, Katie, and Laura, I refer to each of you as “athletes” because that’s exactly what you are – an athlete who has sacrificed so much to make crossing the finishing line a reality. BUT… you are so much more than that. You are incredible women with an unquenchable desire to be your physical best and each of you have done whatever it takes to make this happen. I admire and respect you for this. You have full time jobs, you juggle family responsibilities, deal with all the stresses of life and you still manage to train day after day. Your willingness to carry out the training I prescribe makes my job a true pleasure. When we first began this journey back in January, I barely knew each of you. Fast forward to now and I feel like you are part of my family. Each of you is so unique and I have learned what makes you tick(well, just a little). In essence you have coached me to better understand you as a person/athlete and this is the only way I have been able to help you reach your goals.
I thank you for the opportunity to be your coach. I had such a great time getting to know each of you better and helping you become Ironman athletes……
Adrienne Miller, you are an Ironman!!!
Jillian Chaney, you are an Ironman!!!!
Katie Mcewen, you are an Ironman!!!!
Laura Booher, you are an Ironman!!!!
I am soooo proud of each one of you. This experience will empower you in more ways than you know. Not only will you draw on this strength in the future, but you will inspire more people than you ever imagined possible. I believe I shared this with you before, but this is one of my favorite poems. I’d like to pass it along to you again.
Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear
is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people
won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And when we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson