This is the latest submission from my coach, Robbie Bruce. I love it when he gets inspired and sits down at his phone to bust out a blog. This one is especially close to my heart because I just experienced everything he’s written about and I’m pretty sure some of this piece was influenced by my family on September 8th in Madison. The journey, the struggle, and how it impacts everyone who trains for Ironman.
The Miracle of Ironman Coaching
By Robbie Bruce
I sat down on the couch this evening to watch one of my favorite movies, “Miracle.” If you haven’t see it, you should.
It’s the story of the US hockey team’s remarkable and shocking journey to a gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. It became one of my favorite sports movies originally just because of the unique story, it involved sports, and I am just a giant patriot at heart, so I loved every second of it. Each time I watch the movie, I absorb more and more of the coaching aspect and how it relates to the athletes I coach who compete and train for Ironman.
Training for an Ironman is not like competing in the Olympics from an “athletic” standpoint, but both training processes have a lot in common from the approach of the athlete and coach. Both make a choice, a sacrifice to train, and go all-in for something far in the future, something unknown . . . all of it for one day.
Their friends and family are supportive but still wonder “why?” Why are you giving up so much of your life for such a long time, all for just for one day. One race? Then what?
In the world of instant gratification this is the opposite. It is counter intuitive in every way possible. It is giving up everything for the unknown. It is giving up everything today for something so far away that may actually never present itself.
From a coaching standpoint you take on athletes with all different backgrounds, personalities, goals, and experiences. It is your job to get them to buy in to the process. Every day will make “your day” and your day is Ironman.
Still, every time someone comes to me saying they want to do an “Ironman,” I know they have no idea what they are getting in to. They are changing their life, not just signing up for a race. They don’t know it at the time, but they aren’t just signing up alone, they are about to embark on a journey that takes friends and family with them. It is what makes coaching Ironman athletes so much different.
You know you are not only holding someone else’s dreams in your hands but also the hopes and nerves of parents, spouses, friends, co-workers and sometimes even strangers. They believe in the one who is racing and wonder “who is this person coaching them?” They have to believe in you without even usually setting eyes on you. They look to their athlete and if they believe in their coach the others will too. Belief by proxy.Ironman competitors become magnets. You follow their training. You follow their previous races. People follow them. The “Crushing Iron” following is a great example of that. You actually give others something to believe in. To hope for and to find joy in just from following or watching and even just refreshing an app. They mentally race it with you. They emotionally endure it with you.
I have had the honor to spectate and coach 2 Ironman races in the last 2 months. I imagine most people think the most gratifying part of my job is watching the athletes cross the finish line with their goal time. “MAN THEY CRUSHED IT,” as some people like to say. I am still not sure what you “crush” or “kill” but whatever. Yea, I used to think the same way from a time stand point. They meet their goal and it’s a win. Now, I watch them finish, glance at the clock with momentary elation, then watch them greet their support crew for the first time. Their families. Their friends. The expression on their faces, the tears of joy, the hugs, the smiles of relief….. Man. That is what it is all about.You realize you weren’t just coaching a person. You were coaching a crowd of believers all standing behind one soul. A person who goes off in the distance alone at 7 am and returns after most of the day is done. You share in a their nerves during the race, absorb them and when its over…. You let it out. The athletes stories, their wants, why they signed up. You know exactly what they are thinking when they cross the line. It is a community that brings you to tears.
Being responsible for having such a small part in an athletes journey to Ironman is an honor. Although stressful at times, it is the most rewarding job I could ever imagine. Watching the first hug they give as they finish…. It is the tightest and most relieved of squeezes….”I knew you could do it.” – ” I am so proud of you.”- “That was amazing.”- I cant believe you did so well.”- “I love you.”- and the “You did it’s.”
You cant imagine it or recreate it any where else or in any other sport. It is the sight of so many different people coming together as one. There might be one person walking away with a medal and the title of being and “Ironman” but everyone around feels like one. Proud. Smiling. Energetic and so happy. You may have “coached” 3-5 to “be one” but 25-30 walk away feeling like they too are an Ironman.
That’s the journey. That is what makes it so amazing. If the movie Miracle taught me anything it is that you can do anything once and take everyone else with you on the journey. Whether it is a gold medal or an Ironman, maybe it is time for you to take a trip………….