Friday, June 18, 2010

Make a Difference in Others

After working as an independent business owner and then consultant for the first eight years after college, I waddled into Village CycleSport at 232 lbs. A shadow of my former athletic self. A large shadow. I'm either all in or all out and the people I'm around make all the difference.

In college we did yardage and lifting that would stagger people - my college coach was an alcoholic, abusive and master of over training. Imagine getting up at 4am daily in college and having someone call you an "asshole" or (my favorite) a "fucking retard" because you missed an interval by 0.8 seconds. That's the kind of coaches we had back then. Everyone on our team had chairs thrown at them (while we were in the pool) and then were called "shit heads" because "You made me throw that chair at you." Yeah, that's healthy. Makes you want to go right out and work hard for a coach. My favorite part about being cursed at in the morning was the whiskey on my coaches breath combined with the salami he used to try and cover it up. That same coach broke a water polo flag on my leg when I came out of the water because a good pass I made missed the shooter - he was being fouled at the time - and because I didn't "anticipate the foul" it was my fault. Another cherished moment from college, being called a "pussy" because I could only do seven reps of xxx pounds on the leg press at 145 lbs of my body weight. In February, when you are swimming 100,000+ yards a week, lifting three times a week, working a part time job and going to school with 16 hours... you may be tired. I remember being a walking zombie because of fatigue from October through March. So tired I could feel the pulse in my shoulder. Wah - I know. I got a "free" college education. Didn't feel free in any way, shape or form.

Every Big 8 Conference swimming meet or NCAA Water Polo Tournament we were told, "This is where you gain or lose your scholarship." Swimming for dollars is what we called it. Perform well or beyond expectations - more money. Below - you might be on the street with no scholarship. Now that I think about it... that doesn't sound so bad. I could have transferred to a better college coach. I wanted to quit the team (a first for me ever) after my junior year. It wasn't fun. What was funny (now) is when I considered it a scene from a movie popped into my head. Faris Buehler's Day Off - Faris says, "If I'm gonna get busted, it's not gonna be from a guy like that." (Referring to the principal "Ed Rooney".) I thought about quitting and then said, "If I'm going to have to quit sports, it isn't going to be because of a guy like that." The rest of my college swimming experience was much better as I became a lot closer with our Brazilian Specialty Coach (Specialty is swimming talk for specific strokes. Coach Cesar worked with the IMers, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly specialists). I'm friends with Cesar to this day. Cez WAS easy to talk to and a very good coach. He was the glue that kept us going. I didn't care what my head coach said as long as Cesar was happy with my effort.

In the summer, thankfully, I swam for a great coach. The opposite of my university coach. Regardless of your actual talent he supported you. He wanted you to go as fast as YOU COULD. YOU determine your own limits. This is probably why I enjoyed the summer so much. It was about what was possible versus the doom and gloom of an NCAA season (or two seasons really) - we were never "off" in college.

After college, I bumped into several people who made a difference in my life and how I view the world, athletics and me. Gen. Colin Powell, John Wooden, Tony Robbins and Lou Holtz specifically. I learned decades in the moments I was with these people and in the subsequent reading I did after meeting these folks. (*When I owned an insurance and financial planning practice we often had speakers come in to motivate the sales force. I saw a lot of rah-rah speeches in my time as well as a lot "hog wash".)

At Village, when I made the decision to go into training again I met a guy named Tony who (instead of laughing at me as he probably should have) invited me on a ride. A 30 mile bike ride. When we finished - I was really tired, but it was fun. All the guys and gals were encouraging me to show up on other nights. So I did. Mark Rouse from Runner's High ('n Tri - now) gave me AMAZING advice and recon on Kona when I went in 2000. That cannot be replaced. The key... Mark and Tony helped me with no expectation of any return for themselves. They are lifelong friends who I will always be in debt to.

Fast forward 13 years, 5x Ironman, 2x Triathlon World Championships (Kona and Clearwater) as well as 11 marathons. My coaching has affected about 45 people who have affected others. I've had five folks go to Kona and three go to Boston. One even won a USAT National championship and another a NORBA championship - they'll tell you it was luck. Collegiate championships as well as "cat'n up" for the cycling teams I coached for nothing. Two pro triathletes who pissed off some of the "old pros" by coming out of nowhere to challenge for primes. My spin class participants lost tons of weight in contests I derived and when I go to those gyms I still get asked, "Are you teaching here now? When?!" I've applied but have been told by management at both gym that they are "full" for teachers. So, I decided to coach more - more personally.

What is cool about being a coach is seeing a difference I make in others. Brad started from this:

To this:

Melissa, from being afraid of the water here...

To swimming daily in a pool, swimming 20,000 in a week and doing open water swimming here!

In summary, what is interesting about the blogosphere is that there are many positive and negative people. I've lived through a lot of negative. I choose to be positive. I won't know how many people I will ultimately affect, but I'll tell you that whatever the coaching fee is I would do this for free (if it weren't for things like liability insurance, CPR classes, CEU, etc.) Triathlon and multisport events are too young for people to get snooty. Help each other. Help me too! I'm in this too! I love working out with a group!

Make a (positive) difference in others. It feels so good and the return is far beyond your wildest dreams.


  1. I had an age group coach like that. for about a week. THAT was a flashback! Well said!

  2. I think you have articulated one of the unifying principles of the universe. And you quoted Ferris Bueller.

    I worked for a CEO that was very like your swimming coach. The effects of his behavior were so toxic that I've made it part of my personal mission to drive esteem robbing behaviors out of the organization. The principle to which I refer is, nothing you can do for yourself will provide lasting happiness.

    Grace: Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude.

    Bob, I think you're a righteous dude.