Grande Cache. Alberta August 2nd 2014
Its 2:37 am on a clear evening, the stars are out and the cool breeze is chilling most of us standing around in total darkness below the daunting Hamel mountain. For some among us this coolness is a great relief from the overwhelming heat from the last 16 hours. The sun and heat have made life miserable for all solo runners of the Canadian Death Race this year. By the end of the 24 hrs the drop out rate will reach 75 percent. About 90 minutes ago I watched Stu leave this aid station to begin the final leg of the race. Before he left and while I was massaging his legs with magnesium I thought back to the journey him and I have taken over the last 2 years…I think of the first time we ran together, our first mountain summit, his first 1/2 marathon, marathon, triathlon…the first and only time he made made me try Vegemite…. the meeting with his wife and great partner Tammy on the demands of training for the Death Race. As I watch him go off into the night I think of all my clients. I think of why I do what I do and somehow it all makes sense. Massaging Stu’s legs at 1:00am in the middle of nowhere makes sense. I love it. It’s 2:38 am now. We are awaiting the arrival of Tyra. The little machine. The same little machine who a year ago came to the ultra S3 group and would be asking a million questions about this and about that…the same little machine who would fall and roll down most trails all of us would be sprinting down. Always at the back of the pack she would come out to every run and you could just tell that the determination and drive in this little machine would get her to whatever finish and race she wanted to accomplish. Tyra put together maybe the greatest training year I have ever seen. We are talking about over 4000 km or running, over 600 hrs. 2 Marathons, 1 50 km race. 1 100 km race and 1 125 km race. When we started our “outdoor” trail season this year Tyra was no longer at the back of the back. She was on her way to this moment at 2:38am on the Death Race race day. With the help of her family and her amazing husband Derrick she took 5 minutes to refuel, refresh and off she went into the night to a great finish at her “dream” race. The first meeting we had she mentioned to me that this was a dream and that she doubted she could accomplish it…and now all she had to do is cross the finish line. Yeah…my job is pretty cool.
With the highs of my job also comes some difficult moments. Watching Natalie run with everything she had to the aid station only to be stopped due to not making the cut off time was one of the hardest things I have had to swallow. The only way I can grow as a coach is to accept responsibility for any of my athletes not reaching a goal. How can I be respected if I don’t hold myself accountable? Natalie had a difficult training year but her resolve and her motivation still allowed her to race and compete to the best of her abilities. She was an amazing athlete today. Within minutes of her DNF I had formulated a plan for her for the next year. When she is ready her coach will be waiting and roaring to go.
Kandis also had a DNF…she had a great race going and I was sure she had a finish in her. But the heat was just too much! She will be back! And I believe she has made some huge stride in her approach to ultra training this year. She will be back!
Its 4:30 am and I am in bed pretending to sleep while texting with Tammy who is at the finish line with Stu. Why am I not present at the finish you ask? I believe that the finish belongs to the racers and their family. At the finish my work is done and my presence is not needed. I have seen it too many times…a coach receiving the first hug or the attention that should be given to loved ones and supporters. I have said it many times: “after you cross the finish and you go to bed, its not me you will be laying down with…its your wife, husband, kids and family. They have been supporting you through all of this journey, now is the time to make it up to them.”
At 7:00 am I receive a simple text from Derrick: Tyra is in. I can now go to sleep. As I make my way to dream land I start to reflect on the events of 5 days ago…in Whistler.
It is very hard to coach your athletes and to compete with them at the same race. I have only done this a few times and I don’t like it. Personally I like to become a hermit the week of a race. I like to rest, focus, and meditate. Call it “corny” call it “over thinking it” but for me it works. All I want is a quiet spot to nap and focus on the race…but being surrounded by S3 folks is never a bad thing!
Whistler, British Colombia July 27th 2014
Heat! Heat! Heat! man its hot! the Pemberton valley was sweltering today. The 80 kilometers or so through the valley (including the climb out of the valley) are a scorching hell! After ideal swim conditions in the morning the heat is beating up the 2000 participants in this year’s Ironman Canada. Coming in to transition I had to pray and hope that the legs would support my weight…the last 10 km on the bike cramps set in. But they held out and I was able to start my run. Let me tell you about a few folks I cross paths with during the next 42.5 km. Lets begin with coach Todd. 5 Ironman Canada in 5 years, how cool is that. Todd is responsible for my swim time, he was my guide through the whole 4 kilometer swim. He plowed the road and let me swim in his bubbles…how awesome! But really is it a big surprise that a man with such a big heart would do that? The only problem now is that next time he will be swimming in my bubbles. If he can keep up! ha! Next came Frederic, the French bullet! First time finisher and first year training with S3. This was a family affair all year with Frederic. I know Marie Sol, Charlotte and Gabriel raced with him all day! What a great family and what a great FIRST Ironman for Fred…I think there will be a few more to follow! Next on my run came Rick! Ricker!!! Second Ironman for Rick and safe to say that this was the ” racing” one! and what a race! A high five from Rick as we crossed paths is always a huge pick me up! When Chris crossed my path you could tell she was in her element… the run! Looking cool calm and collected and a “Go Solo” later Chris is gone picking more and more speed! Next was coach Carol…lets make this quick and easy. Carol was lucky that I did not lap her on the run. My words of encouragement to her when we crossed paths? : “If I catch you, find a new coach…” I did not catch her and I did not even come close! What a Pb for the newest coach to join S3! While we never saw each other on the run Ben was out there and on his way to his first Ironman Finish! A bonus for Ben? He stayed on course the whole day!!! Even in the water! And Finally Lee and I also did not see each other either but she Pb and made it look easy! like always…back to back finishes at Ironman Whistler for Lee! maybe a 3rd next year?
Today I also got to race with Jenny my incredible wife. Ironman number 3 for Jen today. Probably a little under trained Jenny still managed to dig down deep and get her done! It wasn’t pretty, but probably the most proud I have been of my wife in a while ( not that I am not proud every day…well most days) She showed the world how strong she is and managed to show herself how strong her determination can be.
I also must mention 2 incredible athletes in Jean and Cathy who both made the decision to postponed Ironman till next year. I can’t wait to be in there at the finish line next year to cheer them both on!
and finally: my finger. that’s what.
Thanks for a great few weeks everybody. See in you in Penticton in a few weeks!