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Training

It’s a Choice

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I’ve known for a long time that my coach is the bomb. After
all, she’s Michellie Jones, Olympic Silver Medalist and Ironman Triathlon World
Champion – what’s not to admire? And having trained and raced as a professional
athlete for over 20 years, it’s pretty evident she knows her stuff. But every
now and then, she’ll do something that makes me realize more than ever the
subtle nuances that set her coaching apart.

Michellie has been guiding my training for the upcoming Ironman Canada
race, and I’ve been training a lot. Hour upon hour on the bike, lap upon lap in
the pool and hours again spent running. Aside from a few minor disruptions –
adjustments due to travel or other scheduling snafus – I’ve been following the
plan she’s laid out for me exactly. Today, though, as I kicked back in my deck
lounge chair, enjoying the summer sun and an afternoon of pure relaxation, I
completely lacked the motivation to tackle my prescribed swim workout. I texted
Michellie:

What if I just don’t
feel like doing my swim session? Am I being lazy? Wimpy? Should I just get off
my you-know-what and head to the pool?

Now, Michellie is one of my BFF’s. But if she was just a
friend, she might have said something gooey and empathetic like, “I totally
know that feeling! Blow it off and come on over for a glass of wine!” And if
she was just a coach – one who didn’t make sure she knows her athletes inside
and out and one who’s not deeply attuned to the mental, emotional and physical
aspects of endurance racing – she might have said something rather hard-nosed,
such as, “Yes, get that lazy you-know-what in the water – you can’t afford to
miss this workout!” Instead, she simply texted this:

It’s a choice.

Because it is a choice. It’s my choice. I chose to take on
the challenge of this race, and the accompanying long hours of training. I
chose it because I love it, the entire process – the unbelievable highs of
accomplishment when all is going smoothly and the accompanying lows, both
physical and emotional, when I hit a rough patch. It’s a choice I need to
embrace from every angle, throughout the months of training and even more so,
on race day itself. That’s when my ability to embrace that choice will be put
to the ultimate test. I’ve done enough long-distance events to know that there
will invariably be a moment – or perhaps several moments – when I’m tempted to
quit. Some part of my vision for how I want my race day to play out will almost
certainly go awry. I’ll feel frustration, fatigue, fading confidence – and I’ll
be left to my own devices to choose how to proceed. Only I will be able to push
myself through those questionable moments, when rather than continue biking or
running, I might honestly prefer to pull off the course and curl up in a
comfortable bed. The choice will be mine, and the more I get used to making
those choices – pushing through the “I don’t feel like it” moments in the
pursuit of a greater goal – the better equipped I’ll be to tackle whatever lows
lie in wait on race day.

I probably texted Michellie today because I thought I needed
someone to force-feed me a dose of motivation. But she knew better. She knew I
needed to find it myself.

– Holly Bennett

Kona 2009 025