Good coaches do more than create and adjust personalized training plans.
Recently my tri coach, Michael, has been working to keep me balanced. I just finished my fifth 10-mile or longer run this year and I have definitely plateaued. I have a second swim coach focused on proper breathing and my swim times are getting slower. I am spending so much time swimming and running, working on core strength and flexibility, and adjusting to a new bike with different geometry that my cycling is also getting slower. I am driving myself nuts working harder and getting slower.
Michael calls it second year expectations versus having fun. Last year my only goal was to finish and I didn’t care how ugly it was—and the swim was really ugly. The second year trap is to set expectations and train toward them with such focus that having fun gets forgotten.
I knew this year would be challenging. I set my time goal knowing that I needed to improve technically in all aspects of the race. Learning proper technique can mean a period of regression. I am deep into that regression.
But really I am having fun starting with at 67 I am fit and healthy enough to complete half and full Ironman races. For that I am very lucky.
The races are hard but fun. You race with your age written on your calf. While I don’t pass many people those that I do have two reactions. The first reaction is universal—a sort of gasp followed by either an “oh shit” or a “go guy”. Hilarious.
I have seven wonderful people working closely with me to make improvements in everything from technique to posture. They are all fun people and some are world champions. If I weren’t doing triathlons I would never met most of them.
I have met and every week meet more world-class athletes and coaches. All are interesting, friendly, and super encouraging. I get tips from Olympic coaches and athletes frequently. It really is fun to have an Olympic swimmer discuss your breath/swim-stroke coordination; an Olympic running coach talk about your stride; and a master bike fitter work to balance your aerodynamics, power and comfort on the bike. These people know so much.
My family and friends really make it fun. My wife teases, encourages and nurses. I love running with my daughter and her husband. Both daughters track my races. My friends range from astonished to envious.
So the good coach keeps me balanced by reminding me I didn’t start this triathlon journey to win—although I do want to get better—but “just ‘cause.” And a big part of the “just ‘cause” was to have fun.