Aug 13, 2006
During the month of June and July I tried something new. I tried to commute on my bike. It was not all that long, only 22 miles each way. It was long enough that if I rode hard, I would get tired. It was short enough that I could do a leisurely ride and not feel winded at all. I loved the days when I rode in nice and easy, ran an hour at lunch and rode a tempo ride home. Even better was to swim at 6am in the Lake do speed work with my buddies at lunch, and hammer on the way home! Life is so good at that point!
With all this commuting, I only filled my tank of gas ONCE in June and twice in July! How cool is that. As you can imagine, I had a lot of time to think on the bike. It was great to clear my mind and think about work, family, the Packers, Triathlons, and just about anything else. As I rode there was one theme that kept coming up. I will call it the Silent Coach.
As a kid, my father was at every swim meet, every golf tournament (yes I grew up playing golf, and at one point had a solid 4 handicap), and every event if he was available. What was weird is he was ALWAYS silent. He rarely cheered, and at times I did not understand this. If I needed help I could always look out of the corner of my eye to see him, but he was not like the average parent that yells and screams during sporting events. This went on all my life.
At my son’s games I find myself the same way. I do not cheer much and often remain silent. I love to see him play. I feel so proud, but don’t feel like I need to show it to anyone. He knows that I will NEVER miss a game of his. He also knows that he will not hear me say much either. When will he understand? It might take years because it was not until a few years back that I figured out the silence.
My father had all but beaten prostrate cancer, but was now faced with cancer of the Esophagus. The battle was going well, the treatment was done, but we all knew that time was not his friend. In July of 2003, just weeks before the Ironman, I went to Florida to see my father in the hospital. The cancer was back in full force. As I sat in the room, my father and I talked as he came in and out of sleep. At one point, as clear as can be, he broke the silence, grabbed my hand, smiled, and said “how is Ironman training going.? The silence was broken.
My father passed away the next day.
A few weeks later I was in the water looking at my fathers wedding ring. I had asked my mom if I could wear it for the Ironman. I looked at the ring and thought I would need the help and inspiration during the day. As the canon went off, my thoughts turned to racing. The swim and the bike went well. At mile 24 or the marathon, I was in pain, and needed something.
I took out a picture I had of my father and looked at it. It was at that time that I figured out the Silent Coach. You see, my father was not silent all those years – he was just being the Silent Coach. He was teaching me how to handle a moment like this. He knew that he would not always be available for me, but his lessons would help me make it past the pain of this race. As I continued to look at the picture, I could hear him say “Put the picture away. This is what I’ve taught you to do. This is about you now.? I put the picture away, and ran the last 2 miles with a huge smile on my face. As I turned the corner towards the finish line, I was amazed how much “coaching? my father did all my life. He prepared me to train. He prepared me to live. He prepared me to hear those words “STU – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!? Thanks dad!
The best coaches in the world don’t need to say a word to teach you something. The best coaches in the world might just be the Silent Coach sitting right next to you.
As you prepare for the Ironman or think about signing up, you have to understand that we all have awesome Silent Coaches. Maybe it is a father, mother, sister, friend, husband, partner, or wife. They might not say much, but they are the true Silent Coaches we all learn from in life.
I have no regrets with my father. He was a great man, and I respect him like no other person in the world. He taught me so much. He never said much, but in a weird way, he taught me more than the spoken word could ever do.
Ironman is a special race. I think about a new friend of mine – Ironwil from Get Your Geek On Podcast. She has all these Silent Coaches from around the world cheering her on. Maybe she too will find that having a Silent Coach can really help in life and the Ironman too.
This is what Ironman is all about. Good luck to all doing Ironman 2006, and I will see you all at Ironman Wisconsin 2007!