Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Triathlon is a process.  We start with blind exuberance then evolve.

There’ve been many times when I’ve reflected and cringed.  I used to “say” I was doing it to become a better person, and that’s somewhat true, but not in the beginning.  I was doing it for my ego.

I wanted to feel a new excitement in my life . . . to feel relevant again.

It was a re-kindling of an earlier life in sports.  I was moving, thrashing, and looking in the eyes of my competition.  It fueled me like nothing had in years.  And I think that’s natural.

But, it was just the beginning.  After several months, and certainly after my first Ironman, the thrill wore off.  I was staring at emptiness in the mirror.  What now?

Well, “what now” was another Ironman that I felt obligated to do a year later.  A lot of it had to do with the fact that I had a blog and created a monster I didn’t want to tame.  The other reason was because I thought triathlon was the key to reviving my life.

Right before that second race I quit my corporate job of 14 years.  I was finally free to pursue the life I wanted and triathlon was right at the center.  And of course that was the problem.

Triathlon isn’t my life, but it’s definitely a vehicle for getting me to where I want to go.  That’s the challenge, and today I had a great discussion about that topic with my coach.

It’s all in the new podcast embedded below.  It’s a very open and honest discussion, which reminds me of something that would make my good friend Dr. Oz proud.  (You can read the semi-hilarious story behind this Dr. Oz interview here, and read Dr. Oz’s response to my post here.)

Below is the podcast where Coach Robbie and I talk about how we started, how we’ve evolved, and how we believe triathlon will fit into our lives in the future.

The Good: Friends, family, Fitness.
The Bad:  Ego, Arrogance, Excess.
The Ugly:  Regret, lies, and suffering.

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Emotions Leading Up to an Ironman


Following is a burst of writing 10 days before Ironman Wisconsin, that I never published.  I wonder if any of you can identify with these emotions?  The kids in Kona?

How Do I Really Feel 10 Days Before IMWI?   (Originally written August 29, 2013)

I’m pissed.  That’s how I feel.  I’m anxious, paranoid, impatient, angry, unsettled.

I just want to be out of this office right now.

I want to be swimming, biking, or running.  I want to be cleaning my bike, packing my clothes, driving north.

I want people to stop being stupid.  I want to punch something, or someone.

It’s 10 Days out and the world feels like it will explode.

As I type, I feel a good angst.  Like I am ready to crush it.  Not scared.  I want to roll it out and let it ride.  I feel strong and ready to burst.

A Coach’s Ironman “Miracle”

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.mikerobbie

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.1270491_10101494431399420_714549893_o

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.1277870_10101494432157900_1687841008_oIronman 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.1277431_10101494421738780_417964137_oYou 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………….1277373_10101494421698860_31971843_o

Emotions of am Ironman Taper #IMWI

Well, we are in taper, and I am officially paranoid. 

Every move I make is accompanied by a small pause and half-eye-roll back into my head analyzing the subtle pain I just felt in my knee, ankle, back, neck, toe, and/or ring finger.  It is not a pleasant state. 

I am also a little grumpy.  Quiet.  Introspective.  I’m internalizing all of these feelings and emotions.  I’m sure many people around me will pay the price for the next 10 days, and for that, I apologize in advance. 

Despite all of the moodiness, I am very excited to race.

I want to feel the cool rush of Lake Monona with 3,000 others who’ve made tremendous sacrifices to be in that water.  I want to find that breathing zone that can only be located on long swims.   I want to spot the swim exit and start gearing up for the bike.

I want to coast down the helix with thousands of people screaming and ringing cowbells as I roll out the first mile of one hundred and twelve.  I want to soak in the sun as I cruise down roads I’ve probably driven, but can’t remember.  I want to climb those big hills with people yelling motivation in my ear.  And I want to see Madison on the horizon as I close in on the bike exit. 

I want to embrace the rush of running out of transition and onto State Street, eyes peeled for familiar faces.  I want to hit the tunnel and emerge inside an empty Camp Randall one day after 80,000 screaming fans propelled my Badgers to a lopsided win.  I want to hear the energy of the finish line, then turn the corner to complete my journey in front of my home state’s capitol. 

I want to hug and high five all of the people who have made this an emotional and spectacular ride.  The Fab 5, friends, and family.  I want to settle down, relax, and reflect on all it took to get there.  Then start planning for the next one. 

Until then, I must simply wait.