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Archive for May, 2012

Change of Seasons

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

As the weeks click by so do the comments that I seem to be ‘storing up’ more and more.

It never ceases to amaze me – just how polarized people seem to be in their opinion of mixing motherhood and triathlon. All of my non-competitive friends are adamant that I’m biting off more than I can chew. And being a big one for proverbs I can’t help but think of an old Chinese saying ‘ If one doctor tells you to lie down – get a second opinion. If the second doctor tells you to lie down…. lay down!’

But then I get so much feedback from other athletes who have had children and successfully got themselves back into competing. You just need to look at Bella and Stephen to see that it can be done – what an amazing couple they are and what a phenomenal result both finishing on the podium just last weekend in Lanzarote.

As Brett recently pointed out, I really do have everything going for me. With both Bella and Stephen competing at the elite level it must be doubly difficult for them to balance family life and training commitments. Our situation couldn’t be further from this!

My husband teaches at a local High School. He has purposefully dropped certain extra-curricular commitments this year so he’s able to just turn up to work at 8am and leave at 3.30pm each day. My mother will be here for the birth for around a month and after that Stephen’s parents will help on a day-to-day basis with Junior and the two of us!

The reality is I’m 40 years old and going to be a first time mother who intends to race at the elite level and win races in 2013 – I can totally understand where the skepticism comes from. But I didn’t get where I am today without a little hard work, belief and perhaps stubbornness! And ultimately if Brett has faith in me – I have faith in me.

Today I’ve been out in the garden planting vegetables. We’re getting more self-sufficient every week! Stephen’s goal is for Junior to just eat meats that have been farmed on our property – no steroid fueled factory farming for our little champ. At present we have beef, chicken, ducks, and the most recent addition is a pair of breading pigs!

Being out in the garden often gets me thinking – and today the autumn colors really struck a chord. I think I realized I am in fact in the autumn of my career as a triathlete. But that’s not a bad thing – autumn is a wonderful season!

But before I discuss just why I think the next season in my triathlon career will bring the greatest fruits – I’d first like to share with you an article I wrote some time ago now for a magazine here in New Zealand.

At the time I was writing about talent development for a column – and the reason I thought I’d share this first before considering my own thoughts on Autumn is because you can’t have an Autumn without a Spring. The early development of talent is just like spring…and I wanted you to understand some of my beliefs before I start opening up my heart next week on why I think Autumn is going to be such a great season for this particular athlete.

NZ Triathlete Magazine October 2011:

An athlete recently quizzed me on my style of coaching – and I compared his development to that of a juvenile olive tree – It was one of those ‘off the cuff’ remarks!

The more I reflected on it though the more I realized the development of talent is in fact very similar to the growth of juvenile trees.

In my metaphor I used the example of the young trees we plant up here in Northland, we’re on a windy coastal block with seasonal extremes of wet and dry.

I get a lot of emails from keen parents searching for the next ‘edge’ for their child to get ahead of the crowd. Every time my reply is simple – get them to contact me personally and they can tell me all about themselves.

We’re new to country life – and I’m sure the neighbors still look on us as ‘townies’. But we’ve noticed in that short space of time that our trees need room to move. We stake them for the wind – good support is pivotal in those early years just like talent needs the support of parents, mentors, coaches and friends. But tie the trees too tight and water them in the dry summer months, and you’re setting them up for failure.

If the young olive doesn’t learn to move in the wind, bounce back after a storm and steady itself for the next season – it’s unlikely to develop into a mature fruiting tree. Likewise the young athlete that has no say in her direction, who never experienced adversity and is suffocated with support, will struggle when the winds of life come blowing.

A tree looks great in summer if watered and fertilized, lush green leaves and fast growth will ensue. However take that water away as mother nature invariably will at some point – and the shallow fibrous roots you’ve encouraged will soon dry out. Leave it dry and deep ground roots will eventually find a moist spot.

As a child I had to make my father a coffee at 5.45am – that was the deal. If I wanted him to drive me to swimming there was first a price!

Far too often I hear stories of ‘high performance’ being about what toys you’ve got, an Iphone for logging training, a power meter or heart rate monitor. These tools will never replace desire, resilience, and a commitment to being the absolute best you can be.

Hamish Carter has slept in the transition area of ITU World Cups on more than one occasion, and when he’d finally clawed his way to the top of the sport he was good enough to let this developing athlete and others sleep on his hotel floor from time to time whilst attempting to follow in his footsteps.

I love helping athletes chase their goals. There’s nothing more exciting than someone coming to me who truly wants to win – and nothing more rewarding than working together toward achieving just that. Ultimately though – there’s only one person who can take ownership of those goals – some people will tell you not to sweat the small stuff but in my mind it’s your responsibility to sweat every little detail if you’re serious about chasing dreams.

I hope you enjoyed the read and I’ll update next week once I’ve had a little more time to think about the coming season. ☺

Sam.