Serendipity, Synchronicity, and Transformations – A powerful week in July
Coaching is something I’ve been drawn to do for most of my life and it has been with thoughtful devotion that I seek to master a skill you can never truly master. The best way I’ve found to discover the truths along the journey are to find joyful ways to engage in play.
The week of July 20th, 2014 will be a remembered as a powerful week of serendipity for my life experience. Life is stunning in its synchronicities and being aware of powerful coincidences can bring about extraordinary transformations. Being a coach is a wonderful gift everyone should experience. Being able to witness, first-hand, what people can do with a bit of support is a profound understanding to experience.
A student will come to a coach, hungry for something more…hungry to get more out of themselves.
We feed and nourish the student with ideas and attitudes. We find the angle for their next step. Day after day you start to see changes in their thought and emotional process. We hold the student accountable. They begin to have a feeling. When this mirrors up with belief; amazing things happen. The transformation is often seamless; happening in small increments daily until together the days add up to a completion of form.
Coaching for over 2 decades, I’ve witnessed countless transformations each one powerful in its own way. Witnessing the adaptions take place can be just as powerful for me as a coach as it is for the student going through the process of change. As a coach we store each experience in our library to use in creative ways for the next metamorphosis to take shape.
I’ve been fortunate to work with 6 year olds and 70 year olds all seeking out their own unique conversion. Witnessing these alterations has had a profound effect and I’m grateful for seeing how fast people make a change when they decide it’s time. I love being a catalyst for setting up serendipity. In the process I always get coached as well. The synergy is powerful.
The week started off with one of the more powerful transformations any parent will witness. Seeing my daughter turn from 3 to 4 gave me a wonderful feeling of sadness swirled in with happiness as these two emotions began dancing and blending to give me a supreme moment of gratitude. Surrounded by friends and family I hit the pause button on life and felt an internal/ external connectedness to eternity.
Change is a beautiful thing to accept and witness, it is all around us and must be embraced with an open mind.
On July 23, not one but two of the bigger transformations I’ve played a role in became national stories. Meaningful coincidence? Synchronicity!
First came the news that Lucas and Noah were getting coverage on the Today Show and that they were going to send out a film crew for their next Triathlon in Emmett, Idaho!
I met Alissa and her boys on April 30th after a short exchange of e-mails and an introduction from my father and CEO of the Y. He had met with the family and had the foresight to send them to the TriClub. Knowing only that Lucas was born with a rare and life-limiting neurological condition and was limited to a wheelchair. I did not see this as a problem but more as an opportunity and a challenge to find play in one of its many forms.
Triathlon!? For a 6 year old boy confined to a wheelchair, you say? Absolutely!
See the possibilities.
One of the key characteristics of a coach is to see, create, and imagine the best in people.
Alissa, Noah, and Lucas came to the Y and met with me in the ‘cave’ (our TriClub office tucked away nicely in the basement with no windows and lots of endurance equipment). It was striking and immediately noticeable the bond the brothers had. For most other brothers the closeness would have been crossing personal space boundaries. But these two had a different way of communicating. Lucas has an amazing presence. I’ll never forget the smile he had when we first met. It said everything I needed to know about Lucas. The intelligence in the eyes opened up my heart. The eyes are his best source of communication albeit with the closeness of the brothers I think Noah picks up more than just Lucas’s gaze.
I was struck by Noah’s poise as well. At only 8 he seemed to have some character values well beyond his years. I recognized the gift of having a younger brother with special needs. Noah has an ability to empathize and be compassionate that envelopes his character.
Lucas has severely impaired motor skills from a disorder known as lissencephaly. The family was there to meet and talk about ways to incorporate Lucas and Noah into our youth triathlon program at the Y.
I knew we could make this work, I wasn’t sure exactly what we could do but I knew it would be a playful journey of discovering the ways we could train. My main objective was to be welcoming and to listen so that we could be supportive of their needs. Then, walked in Willie. William Stewart also known as the legend that he is, “one-arm Willie”. Willie is one of my favorite people and he’s taught me so much. He is one of those characters that has experienced a rich life and has energy to give back. He helped convey the possibilities and I think Willie was the first to recognize that the story had implications at the national level. Shortly after that another super hero of the TriClub coaching staff came in, Kelly Driver, and the meeting really took on a celebration to start this playful journey. We were all psyched to set the stage for some brotherly play.
The next day Alissa, Lucas, and Noah came to a TriClub practice and we facilitated some play. We found out that Noah had some work to do on his swimming and that with a little help from Alissa; Lucas could participate in all our swim, bike, run activities. I think we had subtly mentioned some racing opportunities in our first meeting but hadn’t really locked anything down yet. After a few TriClub practices we had a summer goal; The Y Not Triathlon on July 12. That gave the family just 2 months to get ready for Noah to pull and push Lucas through an entire triathlon. Did I mention Noah couldn’t really swim…! That didn’t faze Noah; he is brave, determined and fueled with love for his brother.
I’ve seen kids transform from barely keeping their heads above water to completing a 150 yard swim in one week. So I was confident Noah would gain the skill he needed to swim in a lake while pulling his brother. But he would need to be committed to weekly practice/play.
Alissa and Noah came to a few of the adult 1 hour swim clinics that I coach. For Noah we mostly just enabled some time to be in the water and play for the first couple sessions. After a few sessions he was getting confident in the water having learned his balance. The seamless transformation had begun.
The journey was amazing for me; I can only imagine the joy for the Aldrich’s. We spent several weeks out biking around downtown Boise meandering down the greenbelt. It felt good to have a family playing together in our program. Sometimes Alissa would pull Lucas in a chariot and sometimes Noah would show off his strength by taking a turn. Alissa is fortunate to be able to come out and play with her sons and it brings much joy to see them play together.
Our sport is wonderful for creating imaginative ways to get outside and explore as an entire family.
Lucas and Noah completed the triathlon and did it with smiles, just 2 months after walking into the cave and inquiring about our wonderful sport. Little did we know that the local News coverage was soon going to go viral on a national scale!
Playing a role and seeing a transformation take place is a life changing event. It is wonderful to see the Aldrich Family be able to share their story of love and its profound implications with the nation.
I’m grateful for getting to know you guys this summer! Love manifesting in the power of play. Keep playing Aldrich family; we’re just getting warmed up.
As if this story was not enough for the whole year, I found out about another transformation getting its start in the ‘cave’ and getting national attention later that same day.
Matthew Weatherly White is a co-founder of Restwise and another one of my favorite people who has taught me much and I’m very grateful for his mentoring. Right around the time that Matthew had started educating me on the implications and applications for the Restwise tool, Chad Ward approached me about private coaching.
Chad had been a weekend warrior most of his adult life with a background in competitive sports in his youth. He was always up for the challenge. Then, in the span of 2 years he battled and won against melanoma and then prostate cancer. When Chad attempted to get back to the active lifestyle he had been used to, he was experiencing abnormal amounts of fatigue. Some level of frustration and depression set in.
Upon meeting with Chad I empathized well and recognized many signs of overtraining. I haven’t experienced cancer but like Matthew, (much of his inspiration for RW came out of doing a ‘number’ on himself with overtraining) I had been a chronic over trainer in my younger days. The summer going through this overtraining at its peak was tough but the experience for being a coach today is incalculable. Chad’s pre and post cancer bodies, at least for the time being, were very different. It took much less stimulus than he was used to, to see the immediate effect of over-doing-it.
I was eager to coach Chad and support him in finding his playful activity levels again. But I also recognized a part of him in me. A competitive, determined, I’m-tough-enough attitude that can get you in a whole lot of trouble if you don’t channel the energy appropriately. I also knew that mirroring up an athlete that is driven and motivated with a coach that excites this aspect can be a recipe for disaster. The last thing I wanted to do was push Chad to hard, even once. At this point he was standing at the edge of a cliff, one wrong move or a stiff breeze and he would have seen his active lifestyle dreams take a potential long term plummet.
I also knew he was ready for activity; we just needed to reset what exercise and training met for Chad. That’s not to say that it needed to be this-really-easy-don’t-do-too-much kind of thing. But it did mean recognizing the wide range of variables that play into optimizing the day. Being able to listen to the body and very clearly know where the sweet spots lay. While understanding that the sweet spot floats around from day to day.
Restwise was just the tool for creating a powerful feedback loop between Chad and I. Matthew was gracious enough to sit down and discuss the tool in a serendipitous meeting between Chad, Matthew and I. I was still understanding the magic of the tool and Matthew continued to tutor us on a wide array of training methodologies.
The snowball was just launched from high up on the mountain.
RW allowed me to adjust his training daily to meet the needs of his body and mind based on the RW scores. Initially, I wanted it as a safeguard. But the tool was instrumental in morphing Chad’s attitude and knowledge about training. He evolved and transformed over the coming weeks and months. He began to find his pre-cancer activity levels. He began to play again but this time he had more tools in the toolbox for optimizing each and every day; setting the stage to find more enjoyment in being active. The RW tool is almost magical in how it sends the user on a journey while giving them the tools to start optimizing each and every day. The rite of passage is captivating in its simplicity when understood and applied appropriately.
The first test with Restwise and Livestrong proved to be a big win for everyone involved. I introduced Matthew to Mary Biddle with the Livestrong group at the Y and they took the Restwise tool all the way to being a finalist in The Big C Competition!
The day was shocking for sure; two transformations that I played a role in and witnessed first-hand had just become much bigger national stories. The synchronicity from these two events coming out on the same day seemed to be a powerful message from the universe.
The very next day I met with an amazing Life Coach with many talents, Shelli Johnson. I’ve been wanting, asking, yearning for mentorship and Shelli is exactly the breed of coach I want to learn and emulate from. We had a short but insightful meeting and I gained so much from the experience. Thank you for breaking trail on the path I’d like to emulate and for daring me to be better.
Thanks for listening, I’m grateful for the mentors in my life…and that includes every person I have the pleasure of working with. I’m grateful for being able to witness and take part in all your journeys.
This was my first year getting to do this iconic race that I have seen on TV over the years and watched some amazing performances. I was excited to throw my hat in the ring and be a part of the action.
This is the birth place of the Equalizer, where the women get a head start (10:01 this year). It’s fun to feel like a hunter on the run! This was the first race for the Toyota Triple Crown.
Chris Foster and I had a sweet location for our AirBnB, right next to Lake Nokomis where the race took place.
The water was refreshing and at a wonderful temperature for not wearing wetsuits. This is the first race in years, that I can remember not being on the front line for the start of the swim. I got there just a bit late and the pole positions had been taken. So I just lined up in the 2nd row and felt good about my chances for getting out well anyway.
Sure enough, after running in things spread out and a couple dolphin dives put me at the front of the race with Hunter and I drag racing Cam who came over and took the lead into the first buoy. I enjoyed the swim and maintained the sweetest spot in 2nd or 3rd throughout the swim. I was able to let go, in that the mind shut down and my attention was on the form that we know as swimming.
I came out of the water bracing for one of the hardest parts of the race; standing and sprinting to our bikes with guys that throw down 4min miles. I was on the soft side for this T1. Hunter and Cam pulled out a few seconds on me. I was able to get past Hunter on the bike but Cam was gone…
I had no sense or idea where I was on the bike course. I looked over the course map well but was having trouble applying that to the real world. I was shocked at the road conditions and wishing that I had put less than 120psi into my wheels. I was bouncing all over. Can I get some time on the ground!?
It took massive power and core strength to ride the bumps and keep the effort up. Not much free speed on this crossbike-like course.
Greg Bennett and Ben Collins rode threw me early in the bike while Hunter Kemper and Brooks Cowan rode near me the whole way. I was tentative to lead because I just didn’t know which way the next turn was coming. When Hunter started taking off his shoes to enter T2 I thought we had another 5 miles to go!?
The three of us started the run in 4th, 5th, and 6th. Hunter had the run of the day and flirted with over taking Cam for 2nd place but missed by a handful of seconds. Ben Collins had the race of the day with a solid bike and break through run to win the race.
Only Chris Foster ran threw me having started the run just a few seconds behind me and on his way to the second fastest run on the day. With Chris came Dave Thompson the local legend and owner of the bike course record. When Dave caught up we were closing in on Brooks who went out a bit too hot with Hunter. “Alright boys, it’s a battle for 6th”, I said with a bit of sarcasm. I heard a little smirk from Brooks as he fell off the pace. Dave and I battled it out for the remaining 4miles.
We each attacked the other a couple times but couldn’t get away. I was enjoying all the cheering Dave received as the local guy. It was especially cool to see his wife and little boy out there cheering him on. It gave me a huge boost to think of my family back in Boise. “Thanks for the dad power” I mentioned to Dave as we tried to break each other down.
With a little more than a mile to go he pulled away from me on one of the diverted grass and mud sections. I reeled him back in and then picked up my cadence. It felt good to be racing and pushing the pace. For one of the first times in my career as a triathlete I ran with mental fortitude. I created a small gap but could still hear Dave’s breathing and footsteps.
With a mile to go I maxed out my effort for the next 5 minutes. It worked and gave me enough cushion to avoid the sprint finish for which I am 0 for 10 in my career.
In the Race for the Toyota Cup I caught all the girls save for Alicia Kaye (who kept Ben at bay by a few seconds and is leading the Toyota Triple Crown race by those few seconds) and Radka who finished as the 2nd female and just 7 seconds in front of me.
Very happy with 6th, thrilled with the swim and run and the bike is moving in the right direction. I’m ready to pop all three here pretty soon.
The Pacific Crest Triathlon weekend has been a summer highlight going on several years for Hortense and I. It’s a beautiful area of wilderness with a great landscape for exploring. I raced the Half on Sat and Hortense raced the Olympic on Sunday. We both placed 3rd overall!
Just 3 weeks removed from the IM Boise 70.3 I was able to gain some remarkable fitness albeit not enough time to shake off some fatigue from the bump. The highlight for me was getting tough on the run. After Matt Lieto broke me early on the bike I turned things around and ran amazingly well. 11 minutes faster than I ran at Boise!
This video needs some music but it has some clips of the swim, bike and run beauty of this event:
The moment of truth.
Going into an event with 70+ miles of racing and a 5 week tapper sets you up for a difficult moment of truth. My wife asked me more than once in the week leading up to the event, “Have you been biking enough?” an innocent question that I could not face yet. It was too late to do anything about it so I responded with a curt, “sure I have.”
For the first ninety minutes of the Ironman Boise 70.3 I maintained myself at the front of the race while doing so with some of the best pacing and form of my life. I have been in this situation before but often stretching my boundaries and burning matches. This time, I found myself in the dream scenario with the skills to deliver a most satisfying performance; flirting with your potential.
Hope. Hope can be a dangerous feeling in triathlon. Hoping to regularly race at the front and beat other professional athletes that swim, bike and run around the world in their swimsuits for a living is akin to running full speed across a thin iced lake every day in the spring; eventually you are going to fall in before you get to the other side.
It can be hard for me not to get caught up in having a feeling or desire for a certain race outcome to happen. At a simple level we race for a desire to do well. That desire is not there to the extent it was in my younger days. Now the desire is more about potential. Triathlon is a wonderful challenge to find your best self; not just your strongest body, but your strongest mind and soul as well.
Often, poor or tough race experiences bring out the strongest lessons. If you understand the lessons you can begin grappling with the next lesson. Applying this new understanding of reality allows you to adjust and find more joy in racing and more importantly life in general.
This was the 7th year of the IM Boise 70.3 and the first year I haven’t focused on it. I have evolved into a much stronger athlete over those 7 years and the experiences from each of the previous years at Boise’s race have been monumental in my development as an athlete a coach and person.
2008: finished 16th being way under prepared in almost every category but wanted a chance to race a big event at home…and loved it.
2009: finished 13th with a very strong race and vastly improved from 2008
2010: DNF I raced at the front with Crowie in one of the most exciting races of my life but I held onto hope much longer than my body could handle and blew up on the bike. Getting behind on hydration/nutrition with too much intensity was sending me to the med tent. With my wife 8 months pregnant; I wisely pulled out in the run.
2011: Very ready for a strong race but came down with a virus and did not start the race
2012 Finished 7th in the year the Bike was shortened to 15 miles due to cold weather. Had a great swim and run but 5 of the 6 guys in front of me were probably 5 of the better runners in triathlon and my weapon that year would have been biking.
2013: Came down with a virus just a day or two before the race; shouldn’t have started but I was so well prepared I had to give it every chance. I pulled out in the bike and was very sick for the next 10 days.
2014: I decided that I would stay focused on Olympic distance races, so for the first time I didn’t come in with laser focus on Boise. I would be peaking for the 3 race weekends in a row with a focus on the vroom, vroom tactics needed for the 2 hour-ish races. First race was to be Captex 2 weeks before. But I came down with a cold and did not go. That race was to set me up nicely for Escape From Alcatraz which was going to be maybe my main event of the year. I missed the boat!!!???!!! Now I’m coming into Boise with less than ideal race fitness and definitely missing some bike endurance. Ah well, I’m in great form and good fitness so I’m hopeful for some gritty racing.
High Noon on the second Saturday in June: Lucky Peak
I have swim against Josh Amberger a number of times but never been on his feet more than a moment. He is with a doubt one of the strongest swimmers in our sport. He is consistently swimming at the front and with big international competitions. Every male swimmer in the water wanted to minimize the damage to Josh in the water. The gun went off and Josh and I took off drag racing. Heading north I took the inside easterly position. After a few minutes without having to redline it became clear I had amazing form in the water.
I became the swimmer. Years of work shutting off the mind and just being took over.
We changed pace several times from hot to hotter. Coming into the first buoy I noticed Brent was nicely tucked in, enjoying both of our drafts while everyone else had been gaped. This motivated me to pick up the pace and without spiking the HR, (I’ve been working diligently on my turnover) I increased the tempo and went around the buoy first and accelerated out of it. I was hoping for a strong counter from Josh to shake off Brent, but it seemed Brent was too strong. Around the second buoy Josh and I went back to a vying for the lead side by side with some subtle attacks. I stayed on the eastside now, keeping Josh between me and the direction of the wind.
Around the last buoy it became apparent our blows were not going to knock off Brent so I settled in behind Josh’s feet as we turned into the wind; an attempt to save energy for the long day ahead.
I love the swim finish at IM Boise 70.3, with my family and friends being there, several still waiting to start the race I want to get the day off to a good start for everyone. I take the lead through transition.
On the bike I took the lead but went easier than I wanted or felt I should be going. Again, recognizing how long the day would be + the hot and windy conditions, I was very aware of conserving energy and hitting hydration/fueling needs. It wasn’t long before Brent took the lead and I stayed comfortably back 12 to 20 meters. Feeling like the pace was too comfortable but being at the front of the race and only concerned with staying there as easily as possible.
After about 5 miles of our comfortably fast pace Luke Bell was able to bridge up the minute gap we had on him from the swim. He wisely sat at the back of the train and recharged.
Josh took the lead with some aggression going up the gravel pit hill and I was happy to see someone take the lead from me after holding it longer than I wanted. Everything went smooth as we finished up the last bit of headwind for a few miles and made the turn around past mile 25.
Here Luke went to the front and hit us hard. I saw it coming and reacted well. I did not have a sense of urgency and it seemed like just a little bit more effort would close the gap any second. After several minutes of this very strong sustained effort the gap still grew. I held on to the hope, everything was going so well and the race situation had gone close to perfection for all the variables I can control on race day.
This race is about conserving and I could not have drawn up a better plan than what took place the first 90 minutes. And yet, out of nowhere I was blindsided with less than optimal energy. With hindsight a simple matter of recent bike fitness. But I’m hopeful. Always hopeful that the stars will align and all the variables for racing as strong as possible without anyone being able to step on your heart will happen. The assassins of triathlon are here to stomp on your heart. They are masterful at taking that last bit of hope that you have and kung-fuing your heart right out of your chest.
The moment of truth came when Luke Bell, after 20 miles of riding at the back attacked us. I saw it coming and responded quickly. It never felt like something I wouldn’t be able chase down until suddenly after a few minutes of chasing it became clear the gap was growing. “Now or never”, I knew in my mind. Did I have an explosive 30 seconds to catch back on? The legs just did not respond like they have for me in past races. The moment of truth; magnified the fact that although my form is outstanding the fitness was not there to back it up.
Setting yourself up with a fast swim and knowing your bike form is better than ever and the past 10 years of riding will surely be enough base to keep you at the front; sets you up for a lot of heart stomping. 6 times in the second half of the bike; an assassin would ride up and through me and each time making sure to do further damage to my bleeding heart.
Triathlon is a humbling sport; everyone has their heart beaten up by someone stronger on the day at some point.
The professional triathletes play this game over and over again with only one athlete strong enough on the day to finish without having the heart ripped out. Ha.
You will get broken over and over again. The key is getting up again and again.
These triathlete assassins are like light-saber waving Jedi Knights, they are masterful and peaceful and genuine but when challenged they will take you to your limits only to show you that you can go further, come this way if you can. You won’t and can’t always make it but it sure is fun to try.
It takes a lifetime of hours upon hours and days upon days, and weeks upon weeks and months upon months and years upon years and decades upon decades to be able to set the stage for a peak performance in triathlon. Just when you gain new insight and begin to master a new level, you slip and drop the ball on a previous level. It’s an exciting place to be. Some level of frustration is the driving force to continue the training fresh and with renewed passion.
Why do you race?
It has evolved into more meaningful and transcendent experiences. You start out just learning what it means to be in a race. You finish. Then, you begin the long journey of trial and error learning to become faster at the simplest game in the world…getting from a to b before everyone else. Eventually, it becomes a lifestyle. You appreciate the day to day training just as much as any race. You focus and become more present in all aspects of life. You pull back the curtain on racing and dive into the true essence of completion; to go forth together to discover what is possible. The journey continues to deeper levels of satisfaction for the simple ability to race and celebrate fitness with endless challenges and self-discoveries. Racing is like a diamond, it takes enormous amounts of heat and pressure over a long time to create a beautiful stone.
Thanks to my family and friends for their support. I do my best to balance life but moving at this level takes a bit of ‘putting on the blinder’ in this world.
Thanks to RODS Racing for giving deeper meaning to what it means to race.
Thanks to some awesome sponsors that enable me to compete with the strongest athletes in the world:
Missing the boat feels like…
I woke up as planned, moments before my alarm chimed. With a jump in my step I made the bed alert and with energy.
Riding my clean and ready to race speed bike like a commuter over to the Escape from Alcatraz race expo is very pleasant on empty San Francisco streets. The morning is chilly and quiet. I feel like an early go-getter, up before the masses. I am calm and relaxed yet feeling animated. I love riding my bike.
I keep the ride low-key and I’m in no rush, looking at my watch I notice that I should arrive with 20 minutes to tinker.
When I pull up to T1 to drop off my bike, helmet and running shoes I don’t notice that all 2,000 bikes are already racked, save one; mine. One of the volunteers asks if I am swimming. “Yes, why?” I ask, slightly concerned. He says, “The last shuttle left 10 minutes ago.” I become aware of my mistake, yet I’m still confident I will make it somehow. My HR shoots up 20 beats a minute and I’m determined to race.
I thought I heard at the race meeting, “The last shuttle leaves at 6:30 and the race starts at 7:30”. I was wrong. I must have heard, “The ferry leaves at 6:30 and the race starts at 7:30” because that is the reality. It’s my fault for not checking or verifying. I took what I thought I heard as ‘golden’. This mistake set off a roller coaster of emotions that feels like….
I ask anyone who can hear me for a ride. There are quite a few people but they all shake their head, no. It took me seconds to prepare T1 & T2 and I feel the first inkling that my mistake might force me to miss the race. NO! is the feeling I have.
The traffic is light but I head to the road in the hopes of stopping a car…any car and begging for a ride. I realize the seconds matter…just like when you are racing. A taxi appears out of nowhere and actually stops! Lucky day! I’m going to make the race. Several of the volunteers told me that I needed to get to pier 41. Bless their hearts.
The cab driver is nice and rides with subtle urgency, just enough for me not to ask him to go faster. But I would have been driving much faster. We get stopped at several traffic lights with no traffic. This is almost unbearable and I’m sure had I been driving I would have used a few of them like stop signs.
We finally arrive at pier 41 with under a minute to spare. Yes, I’m going to race.
I’ve already paid the cab, (while stopped at a traffic light) and as I’m ready to leave I notice that something doesn’t look right? This is not the right spot. I ask a guard where the Escape from Alcatraz ferry might be in total desperation. I have seconds to make the boat. He says while pointing south that it is at pier 33. I confirm, “Pier 33?”…
Back in the cab we drive down to pier 33 and this looks right to me. I open the door before the cab stops and get ready to run across the street to catch the ferry just in time. As I get closer my heart sinks, as I realize this is not the right spot. Another guard is there to answer my tormented question, “Where is the Escape from Alcatraz Ferry?” He points south and quickly says, “Pier 3 about a mile that way.”
I turn to run back to the cab…he’s vanished just like he appeared…out of thin air. There is little to no traffic as I scan for help. I am standing there for a moment that feels like eternity holding a back pack with warm gear and all my stuff for race morning with the zipper open in one hand and my wetsuit in the other. I am barefoot.
Seconds are ticking off at a concentration usually reserved for the race I’m trying to be in. I start running.
I run with a practiced intensity.
I let the emotions go and run as fast as I can. The effort is as intense as any race. I laugh internally and wonder if the race will even be this hard.
After a few minutes of a minimalist’s delight; barefoot running on the sidewalks of Embarcadero, I see the San Francisco Belle still docked. “Yes! I’m going to make the race!” I feel with a fist pump. Not for a second slowing down my pace I run up to the ferry and yell something to the effect…’hold the boat!’
As I’m making my attempt to board the boat I notice the ramp’s gate is closed. No big deal the boat is RIGHT there. I’m on this thing. I ask several of the crew standing right there to, “Please open up the gate and let me on the boat…it’ll only take a second.” But they shake their head, no. It barely fazes me as I look for other crew or someone with some pull to recognize how easy it will be to just open the gate and let me board the ferry. I keep hearing something about ‘protocol…we can’t because of protocol’. I can’t or won’t register this…protocol. How can I get on the boat that is right in front of me?
The boat seems to be in no rush to be going any moment so I start looking for ways to navy seal my way on the ferry. Someone from the boat sees me getting ready to make an attempt at jumping, (I had a singular focus to get on that ferry and was going to jump down to a ledge 10 feet below that might have allowed me to scramble closer to the ramp and perhaps jump onto the boat…but it didn’t look too promising) and warns, “If you get on this boat you will be DQ’d and not allowed to race”. I heard that loud and clear and this pulled me out of my focus…I just want to race!
It gets more painful. The boat stays docked for another 5 to 7 minutes. I still haven’t given up as there is some media hanging around. “Hey, don’t you guys have a media boat I can tag along on?” They look in my direction but more towards the ground averting my gaze and shake their heads, no.
Then, I feel it. It sinks in and I’m not so upset for myself but for my family. There are too many emotions to feel…it’s powerful and they need to be expressed but I just stare in the direction of the ferry as it finally begins to pull away; with it my opportunity to test the mind, body, and spirit with an exciting challenge. A window into the state of my health is lost. My favorite race just pulled away in a way I never saw coming. It is 100% my fault, my mistake. I begin to process and chew on it.
It is very disappointing and it stings a lot. I love to play and the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon is one of the best ways to play on the whole planet. The last time I raced here I had a cold. Last year I couldn’t get in the race. This year everything was lining up perfectly until…it wasn’t. Life is like that, little things and big things that will challenge you to find the lesson. Let’s face it; as much as this stings…it’s really nothing compared to the big things life can throw at us. But the lesson is similar.
After sitting in transition freezing my butt off and watching with some astonishment athlete after athlete bike and run through transition…all 1,999 of them I begin to find my center again. I let go of the mistake and appreciate the energy in the air. I feel the power of spectating, seeing the efforts and the focuses and most importantly the smiles of the athletes all embarking on unique and varied adventures. I smile and move on with my day.
Keeping workouts simple.
I’m actually not really all that in to working out and/or exercise. Yes, I am a professional triathlete that does a lot of training; however, for me it is really about empowered play. I play well and I play a lot. This makes me happy and healthy.
This week I have discovered a wonderful new play session. Somewhat out of necessity, I got creative. I’m racing in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay (52 to 56 degrees) in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon this weekend. In order to get ready for the severe brain freeze I wanted to get in some of Idaho’s cold water. Usually, that means a mountain lake or heading up to Lucky Peak. But I didn’t have time for that this week. Voila Boise River swimming in May.
I’ve swam in and down the Boise River many times but usually not until late June early July. Right now the water temperature is around 52 degrees…perfect for acclimating to Alcatraz.
- Don wetsuit at home grab cap and goggles and throw on some shoes I don’t mind getting soaked.
- Ride my bike a little under 10 minutes over to Quinn’s Lake.
- Jump in and swim in the mid to high 60 degree water temperature at Quinn’s and swim 5 minutes over to the shore right next to the Boise River.
- Climb out of the water and walk the few feet over to the Boise River, (right above the standing 36th street wave) and swim upstream. The first time I did this on Tuesday I had some pretty severe brain freeze and had trouble keeping my head in the water. The second time on Thursday I still had pretty significant brain freeze but it was not as bad. The third time today, (Friday) I still had some brain freeze but it was so much better and easy to deal with that it really wasn’t a problem. Hopefully, on Sunday in the SF Bay, I’m not dealing with any Ice Cream headaches while working incredibly hard to stay with some of the best swimmers in triathlon.
- I swim about 10 minutes against the current and inch my way ever so slightly up stream. Then, I turn around and swim back to the starting point in about 1 minute.
- Then, I jump back in Quinn’s Lake and it feels like bath water. It is a great way to quickly warm up again from chilling the body, saving myself some energy.
- After a bit more swimming, I’ll hop back on the bike in my wetsuit and pedal home for a nice shower.
- Simple and fun way to play outside.
2014 St. Anthony’s Triathlon
In 2006 this was my second race as a professional. It is stunning to reflect on the past nine year journey. It goes much deeper than being more effective and efficient at the three basic movements of man. The challenge to have a stronger mind and body for training and racing flows into every aspect of life. It keeps me present, with every breath comes much joy.
Racing forces us to become deeply aware of the present moment…well, it you are racing well. This lesson brings much joy when you apply it to everyday life; it is simple yet something you will never truly master. Being a father and a husband and a coach are amazing things to be present for. Digging deep into these moments is the essence of a life fulfilled.
For over the last decade the St. Anthony triathlon has laid claim as a Spring Classic for our sport and brings out an international field of some of the best talent the world has to offer.
The local community and the Mad Dogs Triathlon Club, in particular, really get behind the event and play wonderful hosts. Thank you for the hospitality and the enriching experience.
It is thrilling to race with athletes from around the world that are the best at what they do. You know the level and focus of the race will be high and you can feel the body and mind having more energy. Channeling this energy into appropriate paths is empowering.
Nine years ago when I did this race there would be a handful of good swimmers, today there is a small army. The challenge to stay in contact will be awesome.
When the horn sounds the marine life gets a jolt from the collective heart beats of some of the strongest people on the planet as they begin pumping blood forcefully to every muscle cell in the body. Graceful yet fierce movement ensues. Years of refined stroke work looks like helicopter arms flying this way and that kicking up the Tampa surf. The effort is incredible.
It takes hours upon hours and days upon days added to years upon years to keep calm and let go while the body produces such energies. Occasionally, it feels like being a spectator; marveling at what the body is sustaining with moments of supreme ease. I am surrounded by whitewater on all sides from other swimmers all aggressively trying to get from point A to point B faster than all the rest. Haven’t we been playing this game for eons?
The chop in the bay proves to be the challenge I’m seeking to make progress on the ‘hack a chop’ stroke needed to excel in such conditions. My adjustments over the last several weeks are helpful as I move towards the front of the pack during the roughest sections, mostly by increasing my cadence.
Importantly, the whole experience is mostly fun…difficult, but thriving under tough circumstances is the joy we often seek. I’m aware of being in the flow. The same zone the adrenaline junkies are seeking when they find an act that forces them to be formless and completely in the moment. For them they die with a blink of an eye mistake, for us, we just lose ground.
It is often that the ability is there, capable of much more than mind believes possible. Much of what we do in training is not the physical act of being stronger but more about believing and knowing deep down in the heart. Once the belief mirrors up with the ability, you’ve set the stage for powerful experiences.
One of the harder parts of racing triathlons is T1. Standing up and running with guys that routinely throw down sub 5 min miles is challenging. Two swimmers were off the front but I jumped on the bike near the front of the group and quickly pushed the pace. Cam Dye took off at another level and rode away from everyone.
The rest of us either did not have the strength or the courage to pull away from the group. I made a few attempts but my accelerations are not dramatic enough and are easy to chase down. The bike is flat and fast and we flew over those 25 miles holding close to 30mph for the duration. It’s fun to be on speed bikes and sustaining these efforts.
The next hardest part of the race is usually getting off the bike and going straight into a crazy fast mile. I went to the front for the end of the bike and a quick transition had me starting the run in 4th position…with 10+ running stud seconds behind me. Several of the competitors were heading out in the 4:30 mile pace range, making my low 5min pace feel inadequate. I keep a cool and positive head about it and focus on what my abilities allow for at the moment.
I am not used to the heat of Florida coming from an Idaho spring so this effect is ever present in my mind keeping some gentle flex on my reigns. I feel solid throughout the run and close about as strong as I started with a 13th place finish. The racing experience was awesome. I started the run in front of the eventual top 5 finishers and it’s very insightful to see firsthand how they race.
The 5 minutes after a race paint a descriptive picture of the state of your health based on the conditions, effort, nutrition, and fitness of your body. I masked the heat and pain better than I realized until finishing because although I didn’t quite warrant an IV, I needed fluids and sugars to come around. I drank 4 or 5 6oz smoothies that were provided at the finish to assist the body and feel recovered.
The race was empowering. The races are a challenge that will take most to the limit of what they are capable of. You find out a lot about who you are if you are paying attention. Then, you find an aspect that needs further training and you dig in. Always, a lesson.
These days I spend a lot of time training to play better. I have the perfect mentors, we all do…our children are very good at play. Set the stage, just like racing for it to happen. You can’t force it but by setting the stage for play to happen you are half way there.
Here’s to empowering yourself and the ones you love to play…
For months you move your body in an effort to enjoy and improve efficiency. As I run headlong into the punchy Atlantic surf you are keen to let go of the reins and feel the horse go. It has been almost six months since my last race and the second I was out of that race due to a crash I couldn’t wait for my next opportunity. Here in lies a valuable lesson. Stop yourself, don’t project the future. Align yourself with the present moment and dig in. I got better at this as the winter months rolled along, simply enjoying the training for the movement. Alas, I was eager for another attempt to gauge my fitness with the heart assassins we call triathletes.
The sea was gently irritated with an irregular yet consistent chop. I hated it. What!? I found myself reflecting? I truly love swimming in most of its forms. Why is this very pleasant water temperature in the beautiful ocean with subtle chop taking my mojo? I couldn’t find a rhythm and found myself thinking, “what’s the rush guys?” The assassins began pulling away leaving me alone in a giant ocean to fight some tiny chop on my own; they were breaking my heart far earlier than I was used to.
I stayed with the leaders for the first few moments but always fighting, everything and nothing. Where is the flow? When they pulled away I was almost too casual in my mind but aggressive with my body in my effort to catch back up. The sea was relentless in tossing me into this constant state of vertigo to find the fast water.
When I put forth a stronger effort it only seemed to hinder my progress even more and I had to familiarize myself with the ‘hack a chop’ swim I had not perfected swimming in a 25 yard pool all winter. This was humbling because my swim fitness and from was as good as ever…in a 25 yard pool. It seemed not to be carrying over to well to the Atlantic Ocean.
This duality would prove to be a valuable learning experience. Coming out of the water 2 minutes down to the leaders, athletes I have come out with and ahead of, forced some urgency. Jumping on my bike I rode with all the effort my legs and heart could gather. I had to make up ground and do it now. Basically, I flew a couple thousand miles over to South Beach so that I could ride the highways all by myself. There was no one, just quite roads and a guy from Idaho in his swimsuit riding his bike. Twilight zone. Where is everybody and what happened to racing?
You convince yourself that you are still in a race and that you will catch people. I race my shadow.
At the turn-a-rounds my fate seems all but sealed with the leaders being what looks like miles ahead. Gut check and character builder time. You come in yearning for some racing and end up with a time trial.
The run proves to be much like the bike in terms of seeing any racers, but I did pass 2 and get passed by Oscar who had the fastest run split on the day. Finishing 9th, given the swim, is awesome!
The swim ended up being one of the worst of my career coming on the heels of what I thought was some of my best form ever. The bike and run were solid. The first race of the year proves to be a litmus test and the results were not what I expected.
“Smooth seas make poor sailors” nautical proverb.
I’ve learned this lesson countless times but haven’t really gotten to the root cause until now. In the past I’ve assumed poor choppy-open-water swims were due to lack of fitness, or adaptation to longer distance without a wall. I’ve adjusted by swimming more or harder and/or getting into LCM and out into the Idaho Lakes. This helps to a degree but I’ve been missing the real lesson all along.
I am a distance per stroke swimmer. 11 or 12 strokes per length is average and I can hold 9 when I maximize it. But I need to learn the ‘hack a chop’ swim style that rules the day in choppy seas. So I’ve had to increase my tempo and/or turn over. Unlearning something you’ve spent decades mastering is the hard part. At first it feels like taking 3 steps back and maybe it is.
I have worked on having another card to play on race day based on the conditions. I am getting more comfortable taking 16 strokes per length now. I’m contrasting my shoulder and hip drive with different tempos. It is amazing the challenges one finds in their passion after over 3 decades of work in it.
Enjoying the little lessons.
Life is amazing and exciting and as I begin the adventure of racing this 2014 season I am delighted to be part of a movement that is making our world a better place.
Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome (RODS) is a qualified 501(c)3 charitable foundation with all tax deductible donations going towards uniting these special children with a family.
Racing to raise awareness for a more loving and accepting world is something I can get behind racing my heart out for. Do you feel the love? You should because it makes us strong.
When Brady Murray (founder of RODS) talks about the blessing of being fortunate enough to have or adopt a child with Down syndrome, this resonates with me. It is a gift not a burden to have a special child in your life. I have a younger brother with special needs and as much as you would think that the older brother would be the one doing the teaching, my younger brother has taught me much more about life than I have for him. He has the biggest most pure heart. He helps me tune into the finer qualities of life, the things that matter most; love and friendship. He keeps me humble and patient, qualities I’ve had to work on. He keeps me open and honest, qualities we can always improve on.
My little brother is awesome, he might not fit into the system as well as some of us, but that is the systems fault. I am thrilled to be a part of RODs Racing to help bring out awareness. Awareness that we can do better. Awareness that we can make this a loving world for everyone in it. Awareness that we can be the change we want to see in the world.
Training and racing for me is about empowered play. Finding my best self while losing myself, focusing on form while being formless. Becoming the action through non-action brings out the most powerful reaction. Having a cause like RODS to race for will only embolden the play. Play can’t be serious!? But play can accomplish amazing things.
Here’s to bringing out more play to more people.
Get involved and/or donate here http://rodsracing.org/kevin-everett/