This time of year is quite a nerve racking one for us triathlon coaches. Over the previous few months clients have not only invested their pennies, but they have taken our advice, followed our training plans and placed their trust in us. Trust that their coach will help them achieve their goals and be successful in their aspirations.
This raises an interesting question and one which was in the forefront of my mind over the weekend with two high profile races taking place. What constitutes success?
Ellesmere Triathlon traditionally attracts a high quality field and this year it was no different. The race was a qualifier for the ETU Championships and duly attracted participants from across the UK keen to wear the GB vest in Kitzbuhel. Peak XV had three athletes competing Cath, Marko and Vicky.
When looking through the results its easy to get drawn to the amazing performance of Cath Labrianidis. Cath finished 8th overall and 1st in her age group qualifying her to represent GB along the way. All the more remarkable when you consider that Cath has done no specific short course training as she is focusing on qualifying for Hawaii later in the year.
Marko’s 7th place age group result was also a great achievement for a guy carrying what he considered to be, at the very least Ebola. AND he knocked nearly 30 minutes off his PB at this event. Despite this Marko still knows he has bigger fish to fry come July 17th!
Then we come to Vicky Wood. This was Vicky’s first triathlon and it was undertaken in her build up towards Ironman UK in July. Two weeks ago Vicky entered the scary, cold, panic inducing world of the open water. Swimming more than 100m was a challenge. The cold waters of Pennington takes your breath away and the feeling of what lurks beneath can induce real anxiety. During this inaugural baptism of icy hell I swam along side Vicky offering reassurance and advice all the while thinking in two weeks she will be swimming in the washing machine of a mass start, how will she cope? Well on Sunday Vicky not only finished the race 7th in her age group she smashed the swim in 27.22! Brilliant!
Over the past seven years the Outlaw has established itself as one of the classic races on the UK triathlon circuit. This year Peak XV had three competitors lining up on the start line in Nottingham: Sarah, Emma and Mike. For Sarah this race was a stepping stone to better things having suffered from a number of setbacks recently. Sometimes the time recorded is not the measure of success, just getting to the start line can be the achievement.
As for Emma and Mike often described as the Posh and Becks of the Tri world this was the couples first venture into the longer stuff. I think it’s fair to say that they approached the race with slightly differing attitudes. Mike’s approach was laid back, “what ever happens will happen” and ‘it’ll be all right on the day”.
Where as Emma’s was “in all likelihood I will not even start let alone finish”
A couple of weeks earlier, during one of our bike hill sessions I watched Emma really struggle to overcome her fear and loathing of the bike. Having fallen off whilst negotiating a tight turn she was overwhelmed with frustration and doubt. Fast forward a few weeks and the feedback about Outlaw was ” the bike was the favourite part”
So going back to my original question, what constitutes success? Upon reflection I think, in this instance success should be measured by the distance traveled to achieve your goals. All of the Peak XV triathletes were successful over the weekend, but look a little deeper and success isn’t always as obvious as the times printed on the results sheet. Both Vicky and Emma, only a couple of weeks ago were questioning their ability to overcome their self doubt and fears. Both decided to tackle those fears head on. Vicky, by taking every opportunity to get back into the murky depths and Emma to literally get back on her bike and refuse to be beaten.
From witnessing athletes simply making it to the start line, achieving podium places to those conquering self doubt really does make the job of coaching so worthwhile. Thanks for making me a proud coach. Bring on the rest of the season!