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Our first love

27 July 2016 No Comment


We all remember our first love, it’s such an exciting time in our lives. There’s something so exciting about the first one that keeps us searching for that same feeling on into the future.

For a coach the first athlete we help to qualify for Hawaii is a special memory. Anyone who has qualified knows how hard it is to get there. Every year we seem to have to go faster in every age group to achieve it. Also anyone who has ever qualified knows how deep you have to dig. It comes down to how much the individual wants it, to how deep they will dig. I know from personal experience, I have qualified twenty times.

The coach’s job is to prepare the athlete as well as possible, taking them through the minefield of possible traps that can hamper their preparations. When a talented athlete, who is intelligent enough to listen to the coach, and tough enough to really know how to hurt themselves in the race, comes through your door, it’s a gift. They say, “good horses make good trainers”. There are some good coaches out there who have never had the privilege of working with athletes who posses these characteristics.

Recently one of my talented athletes, who I had worked with for several years, had a couple of mishaps in her race which she had chosen as her qualifier. Flat tyre, mechanical issue, blisters etc. all conspired to another near miss. I consider her to be a close personal friend, and after her disappointing close call, she decided to engage another coach, to try something different. With approximately eight weeks to her next chosen race as a last chance qualifier, there’s not a lot that can be done, but she felt it was time to try a different path.

I accept that people come into your life to either learn something or to teach you something, when they have learned or taught the lesson,  they move on. Life is like that, it’s like the school teacher does what he/she can do with the student in the time they have, then the teacher releases the student, knowing they have done their best. The student goes onto the next teacher to continue the learning.

My friend and former athlete went on to have a the race we always knew she was capable of, and has qualified for Kona 2016. This time there were no mechanical issues, no bad luck, and she was able to put the performance on the ground which she has been working on for years. She’s talented, she’s smart and has a formidable fighting spirit.

Now because this was the new coach’s (who has been a coach for less than one year) first Hawaii qualifier, there has been much fan fare and back slapping on social media. There have been some passionate posts from my supporters and from the new coach’s supporters. I understand how the coach feels, I have had over seventy athletes qualify for Hawaii over the years and it’s very exciting to be part of the athletes personal journey.

I would have liked to have been the one to get her there, it was only a matter of time, after over seventy winners a coach knows the signs of those who are going to make it. But life gives us situations to test us, the back slapping will die down in a week or two, and we go back to what we do and do it as well as we can do it.

I feel like a fisherman who has a net full of fish being pulled up the beach, and one nice big one slips through a hole in the net. My relationship with the athlete will not change, I love her like a daughter. My relationship with the other coach will not change, I have helped her along her journey in the past. We’ll all be racing in Kona in ten weeks, all enjoying the whole experience, me for the seventeenth time. Some of my athletes for the first time.

Whether it’s racing the Hawaii Ironman for the first time, or coaching your first athlete to qualify for Hawaii, it’s such an exciting time in your life, you should take plenty of photos, and enjoy every moment. Because there’s only ever one first time.

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