Even though it's mid-season, in not too much time it will be time to think about NEXT season - in fact, the moment most people cross the finish line of their goal race, they start saying something about next season - whether it's - "LET'S DO IT AGAIN!" ... or, "NEVER AGAIN!!" So even though we're still sweating the heat in 2017, I just wanted to talk a little bit today about setting race dreams for 2018 and how helpful it can be to consult a coach in doing so, even if they're not YOUR coach.
To do that I want to illustrate with a story about a person I met last year... let's call her Wanda.
I met Wanda because she had just recently learned to swim after a lifetime of being a non-swimmer. I mean, an afraid-of-the-water non-swimmer. We were introduced through a mutual friend at a get-together in the spring. Wanda was around 60 years old and she had learned to swim through a local learn-to-swim program, which is incredible to think about. However, she was still uncomfortable in deep water in the pool and didn't have a workable freestyle. She didn't have a back float that she trusted. On the good side, she was pretty fit and naturally slender, and muscular for her tiny size, about 5'3".
Anyway, enough background. Wanda had become interested in triathlon because her son had done several Ironmans. Her son, who was in his mid-30s, had convinced her to sign up for Ironman Florida, which is in early November.
Ya with me here?
Here is a person who has just paid about $800 for a race that is an open water swim IN SALT WATER that can have lots of snotty, choppy water, plus swells. It has a long, hot 112 mile bike ride - and this is someone who has never really ridden a bike much. The run is a marathon, 26.2 miles after biking and swimming, and I think Wanda had maybe done a 5k or 10k before this.
Do you see what a huge chunk this was to bite off? It's not even a chunk, you guys, this was like when you eat a piece of sushi that you kind of knew was way too big, and yet you ate it anyway, and it's basically falling out of your mouth and choking you at the same time. That's what this was like.
At the moment she told me about this plan, I knew eventually she would want a tri coach and I knew this was a BFHG - a BIG FAT HAIRY GOAL, and not in a good way like a big fat hairy Labrador. This was like a big fat hairy Sasquatch. So as tactfully as I could, let her know that, even though she hadn't asked me to, I would not be able to coach her unless she wanted to commit to a 5 year plan to get to Ironman. I told her that Ironman was a BIG BIG BIG BIG (my voice getting louder and louder as I said BIG) deal, and that I really wanted to impress upon her the seriousness of the situation.
She said that 5 years was more than she wanted to give to this goal, and regardless, she was lighthearted after I said that, and still said that she wanted me to help her on her swimming. Sighing and thinking that it was reasonable to help her at least get a workable freestyle and a back float, I agreed to do a set of swim lessons, but stated clearly that I would not be able to help her meet her Ironman swim goal.
Throughout the season, she did two sprint triathlons which she was quite proud of, and I was proud with her, but she experienced some crippling fear and anxiety in the swim of a third sprint race that she did not finish. I knew this panic attack had happened because she had set a deadline on overcoming her fear by needing to do these swim races prior to really being ready for them. I actually had considered calling the race director of one of the races and asking for a kayak to specifically watch her because I was worried about her safety. But then I thought ... this is a grown adult. This is not my job. She is not my athlete. If she does not feel ready, she will not do the race. That's what I told myself in order to sleep at night.
In addition to anxiety, there was the matter of swim time. All season every time we chatted at our swim sessions, I encouraged her to start taking splits of her swims so that she would see what I had always known, which was that she would unfortunately never even be remotely close to making the swim cutoff. I did at one point actually (tactfully as always) tell her that there was no real point in doing any bike or running training because I knew that she would never get to that part of the race. She said that she understood but that she had to at least try. This is when I knew that my job was just to keep stating truth and keep stepping back.
In late summer, she eventually had back trouble and called me to let me know that she was bailing on Ironman. I was so relieved for her that she had given herself this out, as I was genuinely worried that she would try the Florida swim and something icky would happen.
It's a difficult thing as a coach - as a person - even if you're not someone's coach - to watch them pursue something that they have already signed up for that you know is too-big sushi.
Here's what I hope: I have a dream that everyone would bounce their season plans off of a coach they know BEFORE they sign up for races, just to have a quick discussion about the previous season and the one to come. I hope that through my business we can help people see a local coach as a resource to them and the tri community. I hope we help them set race goals SO THAT they eventually reach them, WHETHER OR NOT THEY ACTUALLY HIRE US. I wish that Wanda had talked to a coach before she set this goal so that she could have achieved it in the right amount of time AND enjoyed the journey.
Here at ReadySetSweat, advice is free and we're happy to give it. Let us know, at www.readysetsweat.net.