With every new athlete I coach, I have the same conversation. We discuss the time it takes for progress to happen. Training, adapting, and improving does not happen overnight. We talk about working together for at least a season so that we can go through a few training cycles together, and so that we have enough time to see results. We discuss how training cycles, years, and decades layer on each other.
I sometimes find that athletes are excited to get coached by a “pro.” I try to talk to them about the fact that a race resume and a coaching resume are very different. I would much rather have an athlete agree with my coaching philosophy or know an athlete that has had success working with me. I want to make sure that athletes avoid thinking that just because they are being coached by a pro who is “fast,” they will make leaps and bounds in their racing. Don’t get me wrong, I hope they will. But that is not how it usually works.
In thinking about the time it takes, I realized that my first Ironman Arizona was about a decade ago. Being in the sport for over a decade, and starting out as a very midpack athlete helps my coaching more than the most recent results. I have experienced it all. In the spring of 2007 I raced IMAZ as my second Ironman, and went 10:40. Good enough for 142nd in my division. I swam a 57, rode a 5:53, and ran a 3:40. It was my second Ironman and an improvement over my 11:12 debut. I was happy with my 10:40. I thought maybe I could crack 10 at some point, and maybe get my golden ticket to Kona.
The decade from then until now has been a far from linear progression. I had a two year slump that almost knocked me out of the sport. I have dealt with various injuries of all times along the way. I have tried a ton of different everything. But, in the big picture it has been a long steady progression.
This year I went 8:21 at IMAZ. It was good enough for 6th overall, with a 55 minute swim, 4:24 bike, and 2:56 run. Interestingly the winner in 2007 went 8:34. It took me a decade to chop 2:20 minutes off of my Ironman time. Progress isn’t always fast, linear or pretty. It takes time, and effort. When I discuss timelines with athletes it can be a stretch to get them to think about the end of the year, let alone next season! I will say this, don’t be afraid to think long term. Enjoy the journey and the progress will come!