Everyone Needs a Coach – I Sure Do

Everyone Needs a Coach – I Sure Do

Last Tuesday was the final day of my 10-week coaching program with Deb (Cheslow) and, honestly, all I can say is “WOW”! When I had the bright idea in the pool last October to ask Deb to coach me for real again after Ironman Florida, I was really just grasping at straws – trying to ward off the post-Ironman crash what would inevitably consume me without some sort of intervention.

I didn’t know if working with Deb again would/could do that or not.  I didn’t know if we had grown too close to be able to separate all of our different life roles for the sessions to be productive (we have always been very good at compartmentalizing “roles” because Deb was my coach first, then my karate instructor, then my business partner, and THEN my life partner, but it’s been a long time since there was intensive one-on-one coaching between us).  I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t too close to the material to make the process anything more than a rhetorical exercise, and whether I would get as much out of it as someone with less “experience”.  We started the program on Tuesday, November 8th.  I was still riding the high after the IMFL race only 3 days before and I was excited about figuring out my next big obsession.

But then I felt like all my fears were coming to fruition when, just days before Thanksgiving, the Ironman high wore off and I was left wondering what on earth I could ever do to top that day?  The cascade came and even as I felt it coming and was very aware of what was happening, I was powerless to stop it.  It was as if I had leaped off a cliff and gravity was pulling me to the ground regardless of how hard I flapped my arms and tried to fly.

I won’t kid you… I was scared… and worried… What if I couldn’t get my mojo back – for work, for triathlon, for my family, for ME?  My coaching sessions took a more somber turn.  I remember saying, “I just don’t know who to BE…” more than once.  But Deb never wavered.  She shook the program up and did unexpected things to catch me (and my logic) off guard – and there was no small measure of tough love thrown in there too.  There was plenty of her telling me what I NEEDED to hear, rather than what I might have WANTED to hear.  It took several weeks, but suddenly just before Christmas, I had a fire lit under my ass that suddenly had me doing at 90 mph!

Our company had decided it was time to put out a new book in the Spring of 2017.  The way we create new book manuscripts is for me to take Deb’s outline and create a rough draft of content from it. Then Deb takes my draft and completely decimates it – changing almost everything about it in the process.  In the end, the finished product looks NOTHING like my draft, but without that draft the book would never get written.  It’s a process and it works for us.  Anyhow, I was completely unenthusiastic about  starting the manuscript draft of the content sections, and yet it HAD to be written – and SOON!

As November turned into December, and our coaching program continued, I was still trying to identify my “what’s next”.  What was I going to focus on in 2017?  Business? Triathlon? I still felt so lost, and I didn’t want to do much of anything – business, triathlon, or even life in general. Then, during my session on 12/20, Deb said something to me that turned everything around.  I was once again saying that I didn’t know what I wanted and that I was so lost after Ironman, and blah, blah, blah… when she got up in my face and said, “Angie!  You are living in the past trying to train for a race that’s already been run!  You HAVE to redefine the race you’re training for NOW!”

16730679_1259150464168736_8567247102317113881_nSomething about that resonated so strongly with me. And she was right!  It was time to let Ironman go and move forward.  I snipped off my Ironman wristband later that day and asked Deb for a meeting on the new book so I could get very clear on what and how I was supposed to be writing.  I woke up the next morning at 3am and started writing.  I took the week off between Christmas and New Years like I always do, and jumped back into  the book on January 2nd. In only 12 DAYS I created the draft manuscript for the new book’s content – it became an obsession.  I was back! Now we’re finishing up the final edits and the book goes to the publisher early next month.

I had no clue how this coaching program with Deb would go when I initially got the idea in the pool.  But I was desperate!  Not as desperate as I was back in 2009, but still I knew I could not afford a prolonged crash after Ironman was over.  Now that the initial coaching program is over and I look back, I am thrilled with the results!  Was there a crash?  Yes – of course – they can’t be prevented, only mitigated, but I think I did a great job – with Deb’s help – of shortening the refractory period and pulling out of the nosedive in a very short span of time.  I know people who have the Ironman Blues for YEARS, and mine lasted for less than a month.  I’ll take it! It wasn’t a pleasant month, but now I am refocused on things that are important.  I have a great “A” race for 2017 that I’ll begin training for next month and I’m happier and more productive than I’ve been in a VERY long time.

I’ve decided to retain Deb as my “official” coach indefinitely.  And I know there are people who are reading this post right now who are saying, “Yeah Ang, nice for you to have your partner as your coach… everyone else has to PAY for it!” To that I say this… Free coaching never works because there is no skin in the game and when the going gets tough – and it always gets tough somewhere along the way – sometimes it is only the fact that there is money on the line that keeps you moving.  I cut Deb a check every month out of my own bank account to keep me accountable to myself for this process.

I know I will always have a coach – someone to push me further than I believe I can go on my own.  It’s worked pretty darned well for me so far – I think I’ll just keep going!

What’s Next!

What’s Next!

“What’s Next?”  It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a couple of months now.  Trying to figure out what my “A” Race for 2017 should be was not nearly as simple as it has been in year’s past.  At the end of 2014 I knew I wanted to step up to a half-iron distance race (or two), so I easily chose Gulf Coast Triathlon 70.3 and Beach 2 Battleship 70.3.  At the end of 2015, I knew I wanted to fulfill my Ironman dreams, so (albeit with some angst and stress) I registered for Ironman Florida for 2016.

But this year is different – and difficult!  Signing up for another Ironman feels like the most normal and natural thing to do, but as I teased apart in my post on the Post-Ironman Blues, that’s not a good enough reason to put my body, my business, and my family through another Iron-year!  So, I was looking for a race that would be a challenge, but not require the ridiculous time commitment of a full iron-distance race.  I thought about just making 2017 the year of the sprint triathlon, but even though they are fun, I prefer long-course and I have a hard time getting myself motivated to train properly for them.  I know that I could embrace it if I focused on the right things, but I’m just not feeling it.  I thought about registering for one or two 70.3 races, but the ones I really WANT to race are not a good match with my calendar (IM Gulf Coast 70.3 is on the same day as our daughter’s college graduation, and IM Eagleman 70.3 and IM Augusta 70.3 are both on days when our non-profit holds races).

gft-logoI hemmed and hawed… I thought about not racing at all and just plowing into our business this year – afterall, I took so much time away from it this year, it seems only fair.  Then, I positively GRIEVED over the thought of not having a nice, juicy race goal on my schedule, so Deb told me I HAD to race SOMETHING!  Then, one day about a month ago, I got an email marketing piece from Sommer Sports advertising the Great Floridian Triathlon on October 21, 2017.  This race is marketed as the 2nd oldest full iron distance triathlon in the continental US.  But it’s not just a full iron race!  There are also 1/3 and 2/3 distance races on the same day.

Essentially, the GFT course in Clermont, FL is broken down into a 0.8 mile triangular swim in Lake Minneola, a 37.3 mile bike loop (described as a “hilly beast” in one review I read – yes, there ARE hills in Florida and apparently, they are ALL in Clermont!), and a 8.73 mile run course.  The 1/3 distance racers make 1 loop of each… the 2/3 racers, make 2 loops, and the ultra (full-iron) racers make 3 loops.

swim       bike     run

My training buddy, Megan, had done the bike and run legs of the 1/3 distance in October on a relay team as a lead up to Ironman Florida and she said it was a tough course – a lot like this year’s modified IM Augusta 70.3.  My iron-friends, Beth and Malachi, said it was very similar to the IMLOU course.  The more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me.  I liked the thought of the 2/3 distance!  It was longer than a 70.3 ( it’s 92.6 miles) so it would still require a stout training effort.  It had a very hilly bike course and I’ve never raced in hills before.  And, as a bonus, Clermont is only 90 minutes from my house, so I can train on the actual course and we don’t have to travel far for the race.  And let’s discuss that the registration fee was only $250 (as opposed to $380 for IM Augusta 70.3)…

I messaged Megan, who has been going through her own “What’s Next” battle, and asked “How do we feel about GFT 2/3?”  We bantered a bit and she liked the idea too.  So, yet another year of training together is set to commence.  I am terrific-ly excited about this!  I went ahead and pushed the “Register” button yesterday morning.  Here we go again!  T-minus 305 days to go!!!gft

Post Ironman Blues

eeyore_cloudI KNEW they were coming… I did everything I could think of to ward them off including taking a 7-day cruise to the Virgin Islands and officially hiring my life/business partner and coach, Deb Cheslow, to help me figure out what’s next – and they still arrived on my doorstep like an unwelcome house-guest… the Post-Ironman Blues.

In my business I see it all the time.  People who Deb and I work with are working towards a HUGE, scary goal – they are passionate and driven to achieve it – bordering on obsessed.  They work hard in a place that is WAY outside their comfort zone and then, one day, BOOM – goal achieved.  It is a time of exhilaration, elation, and joy.  They ride the high for a while – sometimes days, sometimes weeks or even months, but then all of a sudden they look around and wonder, “now what”?

That is exactly where I find myself now that Ironman Florida is over.  I had the race of my life.  I don’t even know how it could have been more awesome – from the week before race to my execution of the race itself – it exceeded every one of my hopes and expectations.  And I rode that high for a while – in some respects, I’m STILL riding the wave.

im-memeEvery time I look at my wristband (yes, I STILL have it on, don’t judge me!), I feel such pride and such a sense of accomplishment.  I am an Ironman – ME!!  OMG!  Never in my wildest dreams as that poor, overweight, alcoholic woman back in Virginia in 2010 would I have EVER believed such a thing possible.  Heck, I wasn’t sure I believed it was possible 5 minutes before the start horn blasted!

So, I accomplished something that, for me, was “unrealogical” (our made up word describing something that is, at once, unrealistic and illogical), and unfolded in a way that I would never have predicted and was so much better than I ever believed possible.

How do you top that?

20161117_075406-1I was fine for the first couple of weeks.  The first week back home was very busy playing catch-up on all the things that had been set aside (or, more to the point, fallen through the cracks) until the race was over.  I knew I needed to take time off from working out to let my body recover, even though I felt pretty terrific.   And then, we went on an amazing cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and we walked an average of 7-8 miles per day (even on the sea days) and went snorkeling in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, and I enjoyed actually sleeping until I woke up each morning unassisted by a puppy or an alarm clock, so not officially working out was not bothering me.

But as soon as we got back from the cruise and I started swimming, biking, and running again I started feeling… well, kind of lost.  I don’t have any solid racing plans for 2017.  I don’t know how to BE this person who wakes up at 7am and works out for 30-60 minutes.  I almost MISS the 3am wake up calls and the 4500 yard swims and 100 mile rides and 15 mile runs of peak training – they felt BADASS.  And while I AM moving forward, I guess I just feel directionless in the absence of any real racing goals.

I started working with Deb the Tuesday after the race on a structured coaching program to help me determine what my next goal would be.  On the first day she asked me what I wanted… cue CRICKETS…

What do I WANT?  I WANT it to be November 5th again.  I WANT the magic of that day again.  I WANT the movie Groundhog Day only November 5th was what I got to relive over and over again.  I don’t want it to be OVER!

And the urge to pull the trigger on Ironman Florida 2017 or ANY other Ironman 140.6 race is almost irresistible!  It seems absolutely natural in this moment.

But here’s what I KNOW – as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow…

I could race an Ironman every year from now until the day I die and I will NEVER be able to capture the perfection of November 5, 2016.  I will never be able to gin up the enthusiasm and the strength of will to train like I did for that race, because I now know that I could go the distance with A LOT LESS training.  Like so many other “firsts” in our lives, you just can’t re-create the magic.

It can still be good…

It can still be worth doing…

But unless some freaking miracle occurs and I qualify for Kona, I just don’t see how to make it better.

That’s because there are 3 levels of goals.

Level 1 Goals are things we already know how to do.  It’s like saying, “My goal is to go to LA Fitness and swim 1500 yards in the pool.”  I KNOW how to do that.  I have done it hundreds of times before.  I dare say I could be half asleep and pump out 1500 yards in a respectable amount of time.  In fact, racing Ironman Florida again would be a Level 1 Goal – different day, different conditions, but I know exactly how to race that course.  There is absolutely no growth in a Level 1 Goal.

Level 2 Goals are things that we THINK we can do.  We’ve never done them before, but we can see a way to plan our way to achieving them.  At this point, I could register for any other Ironman race on Planet Earth and it would be a Level 2 Goal.  I’ve only completed Ironman Florida, but if I registered for IM Chattanooga today – even though it’s a completely different course, it would be a Level 2 Goal.  I haven’t actually raced CHOO, but I have trained for an Ironman before.  I know what’s involved.  I know how to adjust my nutrition for a hilly course, and so on.  I can make a PLAN to achieve that goal.

Level 3 Goals are FANTASIES!  They are completely unrealogical.  You have no idea how the stars will align to make this ridiculously HUGE thing actually happen.  All you do know is that you WANT it – and want it BAD!  That’s what Ironman was for me this time last year.  It was a fantasy.  I knew that many of my friends had finished similar races, so I knew it COULD be done. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it.  Honestly, I still wasn’t quite sure how it was all supposed to come together the night before the race!  But I wanted to be an Ironman.  I wanted to hear those words as I crossed the finish line.  I wanted it with a white hot passion.

And that passion drove me all year long – to get up at 3am to get my swims and long rides in without taking too much time away from my work or my family… To stop drinking alcohol because it got in the way of my workouts… To eat the good stuff and step away from the pizza – even when all I wanted was to stop at Mellow Mushroom and stuff my face… To do the things I needed to do, even when I didn’t want to do them.

Deb was my coach during the entire process.  Not my triathlon coach, but my MINDSET coach.  She kept my mind right and called bullshit when I started justifying less than I was capable of.  She sympathized when I said I was exhausted and then kicked me out the door to run 20 miles anyhow.  SHE knew I was working on a Level 3 goal – and she supported me 100%, but she was tough as shit on me too – which is EXACTLY what I needed.

Level 3 Goals are where we want to play, people.  Because it’s in the achievement of Level 3 Goals that we grow as a person and find out what we’re made of.  They stretch us WAY outside our comfort zones and teach us if we deserve that star we are shooting for.

I’ll tell anyone who asks me about coaching – do you need a triathlon coach to complete an Ironman?  Maybe.  I guess people would say I was self-coached in the traditional sense for Ironman Florida.  I had a training plan and I followed it (Be Ironfit by Don Zink).  Do you need a mindset coach?  ABSOLUTELY!  Especially as training starts to ramp and your brain turns to mush for anything outside of swim/bike/run/eat/drink/sleep, I believe EVERYONE needs someone to keep them moving forward when everything inside them wants to quit – someone to give them a toolbox of mental hardware to use out on the course when the dark and twisties come.  That’s what Deb did for me and it worked beautifully!

So, I need to find myself a NEW Level 3 Goal – and I can’t imagine it will be in the racing world.  I mean seriously, what’s bigger than Ironman – unless we get into the TOTALLY cuckoo for cocoa-puffs world of Ultraman or Epic 5 – and I’m not THAT crazy.

Likely, my next goal will have something to do with my business.  I have some ideas, but nothing that’s ready for publication just yet.

As far as racing goes, 2017 will most likely be populated with local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, some running races, and perhaps a 70.3 in the Fall (Augusta, NC, and Great Floridian are leading the list so far).  Stay tuned!

39388573 - woman's hand with red pen writing word "what's next"