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I did my first triathlon on July 9, 2006. I had trained for just under a year, found great training friends along the way, and found a passion for something athletic- something I never thought would occur in my life.
In a way it made me sad. Despite being part of the first generation of girls to have increased athletic opportunity in school, my parents never encouraged me to be active or go to athletic camp, or develop that aspect of myself. Looking back, I think I could have kicked some serious ass had I taken the opportunity or been encouraged to do so.
My coach was a tremendous source of encouragement in the process of training, and I stayed with him during the offseason and last year, parting ways only due to my move. He and I became friends, and he asked me to help him out at a few clinics during the last offseason. I had a tremendous amount of fun doing that- telling my story and giving the ladies in the audience (and by and large they were ladies- I think we had about three men show up to two clinics) real encouragement. The lights flickered on for more than a few of them and I was delighted to stay after class, answer questions about my equipment, my training and my overall feeling on triathlon.
I showed up to a few of Ken's classes this past summer- I didn't sign up for the formal tri-training class because I'd bought a personal training plan from him. He'd asked me to help marshal his group bike rides, and I got to chat with some of his students, answer questions and assuage fears. Anytime I'd run into any of the ladies in the class, I'd always ask after their training and encourage them to keep at it. I felt so happy to be able to give them the motivation to do just one more lap in the lake, run just 5 seconds longer, sprint out the last 100 yards on the bike. It felt cool to be a veteran.
Come Danskin race day this year, I felt more ready for a race than I think I ever had. It was my third race of the year and I was ready to kick butt. I had the swim of my life, a quick first transition, and the first half of the bike course was a personal best. I was on track for an overall PR, until I came around the halfway point on the bike course...and hit a wall of wind and heat. I was riding on an absolutely flat piece of pavement in a low gear...and going less than 10 miles an hour. I had to fight the entire way back, with very little respite.
What kept me going was the thought of those ladies who were fighting through the same things I was, some with inferior equipment, or just dealing with rookie fear. I eventually got back to transition and blazed through T2, making it out onto the run course. I started to run intervals but quickly found out that the wind had sapped my legs, and I would simply have to fight through the run portion by walking and running wherever I could, if I could at all.
After about a quarter mile on the run, I came up on one of the ladies from Ken's training class. She was fighting through the walk, and I yelled at her- one of the things I used to always do in class was make myself known- and I am not known for being quiet. I clapped my hands at her and just gave her as much positive energy as I could. She turned to me, eyes filled with tears and said words that brought me to tears and got me thinking:
"You're the reason I'm here."
I kept running, got to the finish line and realized that somewhere in the last half of the run portion of the fifth triathlon I ever participated in, that I might be halfway decent at being a triathlon coach.
After the tri, Ken and I took a bike ride together and I talked to him about it. He always gave me grief for having a big mouth in class, but I think he liked having a female counterpart- there are some questions it's just easier to defer to a woman on (i.e. What type of sports bra do you wear that can get wet?) and I know he liked that I had no fear about yelling (positively) at his students.
He said he thought I'd make a good coach- I listen, and despite not being a paragon of fitness, I am dedicated to the sport and can relate to the newbies quite well. He said he thought my physical imperfection was comforting to the students- sometimes being coached by a perfect Amazon of a woman with six pack abs isn't what the ladies want.
So one of these days...after I finish law school...and maybe after I do my Ironman race (just one, I only need to do one), I will probably go get a USAT coaching certification. What I will do with it, who knows. But it's one of those nice things to have in your back pocket.
Meanwhile, I need to do an Olympic this summer and see about training for a half marathon. First things first.