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SimplyStu Podcast Series

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The empty halls of Ironman (Steelhead)

Aug 4, 2008

I walked down the hall.  This was the same hall that in just a few weeks will be filled with people wishing on the Ironman dream.  The halls are much different now.  I was the only one.  I could hear my footsteps hit the carpet.  I could hear my breathing.  As I turned the corner, I had the view of the lake.  It was calm.  The lake was still.  As I walked closer I was surprised to see a lone swimmer.  I smiled as my mind raced with thoughts.  He had to be doing the Ironman.  He was out for a training swim.  He was alone.  I stood a bit longer just watching the swimmer.  I was a bit jealous.  He was training and I was not.  

As I stood near the window I saw an older man and a young boy.   They stood there as the boy yelled out "Hey look Grandpa, someone is swimming in the middle of the lake.  My mom said to never swim alone."  The grandpa looked at the boy, smiled and said.  "She is right.  The only people that swim like this are those crazy Ironman Triathletes."  The boy looked at his grandpa and said "You know what?  I don't want to be a Doctor anymore.  I want to be a Triathlete."  Looking a bit perplexed, the Grandpa said "Now why would you want to do that?"  The boy pointed his finger and said "Grandpa, He has the entire lake to himself.  He looks so happy.  I want to be a Triathlete."

As I listened to the conversation, I had the feeling I've had so many times before. I just love this sport.  I don't just love it today.  I don't just love it this year. I love this sport forever.

This entire year has been the best for me, but not for the reason you may expect.  I did the Ironman in 2003, 2005 and 2007.  I find that for me, I get so wrapped up in training, that after a big year, I need to step back.  I need to watch others.  I need to help others.  I need to learn from others.  This is just such a year.

This was the year that I watch, help, learn and most importantly support my team and the triathlon community.  This weekend was the culmination of the perfect year.

The entire Evotri Team arrived in Benton Harbor Michigan for the Steelhead 70.3 race.  We met the day before in the incredible heat and humidity.  We laughed and chatted a bit, and said our goodnights until race day.  I did not see everyone the morning of the race, but knew I would see everyone throughout the day.  I was just out to see how my Extreme commute prepared me for the bike.  I had done only 2 bricks since September of 2007, and very little swimming.  I was simply trying to stay in good shape and not loose all I had worked for in 2007.  This was a unique goal. I was not in racing shape, but I was "in shape."  I come to find out that what I was really in was "un-coached" shape.

What?  What do I mean "un-coached?"  In my commuting to and from work and running at lunch a few days a week, I was putting in the hours.  Maybe as many as when I was "training."  The difference I found was that under the guidance of a coach, you do the right amount of intensity, distance, etc...  For me, this year I was just winging it.  During the middle of my bike at Steelhead, I felt incredible.  I averaged 20.2 on the bike (that is very good for me).  Once I hit the run I knew what had happened.  I had not prepared.  I had not been coached.  It was almost an epiphany.   I put in the hours, I just had not done the right amount of everything.  It was at that time I wanted to call coach Mike (D3 Multisport) or coach Robbie (Vision Quest) and tell them of my thoughts.  The conversation would have gone something like this. "Hey Coach.  I'm in the middle of a race and I had an epiphany.  I've come to realize something I've always known.  If you are going to do this awesome thing called Ironman, the #1 goal should be to find a good coach."  The reply would be the same "Yes.  You are right."

I did not take on a coach for many reasons this year.  The biggest is that this was an "off" year for me.  Time to be free to travel, and do most anything on weekends.  Time to be free from the training.  It felt nice, but I learned so much.  I learned what it felt like again to put in hours, but not be in "racing shape."  I remember that you can never ever take Ironman for granted.

As the run went on, I started to see my fellow Evotri teammates.  I was so proud to see all of them pass me.  One by one they passed me.  I screamed and felt a bit of pride.  I wanted to scream out, "Hey look everyone.  These are my teammates."  I have never felt so much part of a team as I did when I was struggling so much to keep a 10 min pace, watching Michelle, Charlie and Chris just fly past me.  I also saw JP, Sara and Tracy.  Each time I saw them, I just smiled.  As I talked to a few of them after the race, I said with a great deal of pride - "You have know idea how proud of you I am."

That is the truth.  I'm proud, and honored to be part of this team and the Triathlon community as well!

This year is my "in shape" year.  This is my learning year.  This is my year to watch, follow, and cheer on the team.  This is my year to scream out "Hey - those are my teammates.  They rock."

After the race I jumped in my car, and made it about 20 miles before I had to make calls to my teammates.  I called to just tell them how proud I was.  How honored I was.  After talking to them, I found myself thinking about that little boy in the window.  You see I was that boy and my teammates where the ones swimming in the lake.  I want to be the one that is "in racing shape."  It will happen again.  Guaranteed.  When?  I'm not sure.   For me, this isn't about training and racing for a year or two and hanging it up.  Nope. This is a lifetime dream.  I just hope that one day I can make my team proud, just like they did for me this year.

The halls of Ironman are empty today.  But make no mistake about it, those empty halls of Ironman hold incredible dreams.  Mine included.  Just look at the picture from above.  That is the dream that I will live again! 

fifteen and a half years ago

2 words, Stu - you rock!

Great post.

fifteen and a half years ago

Perhaps if you didn\\\'t do every single workout as scheduled you wouldn\\\'t need a year of downtime! Great seeing all the team out there!

Rural Girl
fifteen and a half years ago

I love this post. You are so right about the coaching. Putting in the miles is one thing. Bringing it together on race day is totally different. New Orleans 4/09 bring your game on! I\\\'ll be there!

Steve Stenzel
fifteen and a half years ago

Nice post and great story!!

It was great sharing a room with you and seeing you out there! Way to go!!

fifteen and a half years ago

It was just the best to see you out there, can\'t believe you were suffering at mile 11, you looked great!