Feeling Like a Proud Mama.
Friday night I just could not sleep. I tossed and turned and wondered, have they done enough?
On Saturday June 3rd, I had three athletes racing the same race – the Dirty Kanza 200 in Emporia, Kansas. This race is the mack-daddy of gravel races and is notorious for its mud bogs and water crossings. All three men had trained very hard for this race and all had to face their own demons as they put in the hours and the efforts necessary to make it to the starting line. I did my best as their coach to get them there. I tried to push them to the edge of their comfort level without leaving them burned out or injured. They all made to the starting line, which was a win for me, but now the rest was up to them.
Since I was getting up and eating breakfast a couple of hours after the race start, I was able to see that all three had made it through checkpoint 1. Okay, good, I thought. I also figured this would be the fastest they would ride during the entire race. Now, it was just a matter of how much they would slow down and how well they could maintain that speed. The weather was good, the course was dry. Things were looking great for everyone.
All throughout the day, I obsessed over the DK 200 mobile application watching and waiting for the boys to come through. And one by one they did at each checkpoint. I knew they would go through dark places, but I tried to coach them that it is the mental toughness that will see them through. They were all fit, fresh and ready but the voices inside their own heads are the ones they needed to be the most afraid of.
As day turned to evening I continued to watch and then WAM! – the man pictured above (4th place in the men’s 40-45 age group) crossed the line. Oh my gosh! I could not be happier or prouder of his effort: 33rd out of 1000 riders. And then to my surprise, not an hour later, I get a facetime call. Sure enough, it’s him. He called ME – his coach, before anyone else; Why? Because he was thrilled and he knew I would get it. I knew every challenge he faced, the weekends he missed with his family riding and the travel he had to do for his job that kept him off the bike.
He called me because I knew what that day meant for him and I’ll never forget it.
My other two athletes also finished incredibly well. One guy taking 80th overall (who hasn’t raced in over five years) and has completely transformed his fitness over the past seven months. He has had to fight through a lot of pain with his back and struggled with the longevity of the training and all of the set workouts. But, he has an iron spirit and isn’t afraid to lay it all out there. Even though his expectations might exceed his current racing level, I have no doubt he will continue to grow as an endurance racer and be incredibly successful.
Another of my athletes came in the top 30% and beating last years’ time by 1.5 hours. He was so fantastic to coach. He did every workout exactly as asked and never complained. He loved the structure and the confidence that came with getting stronger and knowing it. He knew he was in better shape, more rested and ready to race. He gave it his all and succeed in beating his time by a significant margin. I just love coaching him and can’t wait to see where he can go.
As each of them finished I experienced joy, relief and a bit of sadness as I suspected that two of them would not need my services any longer. I’ll miss writing their schedules and checking their workouts. But most of all, I’ll miss watching them grow as athletes and ultimately as people. Sport teaches us so much about ourselves.
I hope their life’s journeys are great ones both on and off the gravel.