Write a Letter to Yourself Before You Race

Coach Sami, challenged all of her Ironman Louisville athletes to “write a letter to themselves” before race day. She plans on sami-winter-without-limitssaving these and mailing them next year as a reminder, but having said that, she did one for herself…

Samiism’s, Trueisms, and Personal Material Ahead
Read at Your Own Risk

As always navigating the coaching year is an interesting assignment and learning curve; different athletes, different events; different styles of learning, etc., but there are always similar constants across the board. Athletes want to improve and be the best they can be, accomplish personal goals, qualify for various events, conquer a new distance, learn a new skill and give back to others. Athletes in general tend to be the most inspiring and positive individuals to others, but everyone (well, most everyone), has that one little quirk…how we “talk” to ourselves is different than how we “talk” to others. Self-talk. Everyone knows to be kind to them, positive inside and out, but here are some actual comments I, as a Coach, have heard this year.
1. I’m just not strong on the bike.
2. The wind just kills me; I can’t go faster than…
3. That pace is too fast.
4. I don’t know why, I just give up on the course.
5. I knew today wasn’t going to be my day.
6. I just can’t handle the heat anymore.
7. I’m just not fast or I’m slow
I dare say that none of us would look at someone and say that to another person, so why do we give ourselves permission to say that to ourselves, the person that we live with every day, the person that we see in the mirror every day, the person that we just hang with every day. I have a “mantra” (some may say, I have lots of “samiism’s”, but one is being able to look into the mirror each night and say to myself, I did my best today, but you know what…some of those thoughts and sayings listed above are MINE. What??
So, I gave everyone the task of writing their “pump you up” letter to themselves for IMLou and another Samiism, is I wouldn’t ask my athletes to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself. So, here it goes.
Hi Coach!
Well, you certainly have your hands full these next 2 weeks. There is a lot coming at you, but I know you’ve got this. A few sleep deprived nights and soon you will be in Louisville. Let me tell you a little bit about these Rockstar athletes, as you call them, because I think I know them better than you do. One another note, this will be the largest Ironman Team event and you’ve got this. A bit like herding cats, but you’ve got this if everyone is organized and calm. Bring it, you can handle it.

Coach, I’m seeing some great things, but let’s chat. I know you aren’t quite where you want to be, but we can work on that and figure it out later. I know you want to be the cheerleader, the plan writer, the team leader, the let’s make this event special leader, but it’s difficult. But, I can tell you that you have done a great job with this crew and I know you want more than anything for them to see how much they have accomplished on this journey. It’s about the journey, right? I know it upsets you when they don’t see it and it hurts because you believe in them and don’t understand why they don’t believe in themselves. Ahhh…who knows….

Let me tell you about your ladies…There is more sparkle, hustle, grit and determination in this group then you ever imagined. They have embraced this journey and continue to improve. And your gentleman, they just make you smile. I believe Tim has gained so much confidence since y’all first started working together. Watching him grow into a confident Ironman to be has been a highlight and don’t forget to let him know that. I know sometimes you aren’t the most vocal like that. But Tim, well, he pretty much rocks.

Ryan wouldn’t even speak to you the first time you met her on the track. And now, look, you are doing training sessions together and chatting away. Holy smokes. As a side note, sometimes people don’t like to talk to you now, but aside from that. You know her biggest challenge and she knows her biggest challenge, but I don’t think they are the same. I know you believe she has the ability to fly higher and farther. She will. Rest easy there.

Redemption is the one word that comes to mind for Susan. Coach, rest easy there too, she’s got this and is stronger on that bike than ever before. She has amassed a great health team to get to Lou and nothing is going to stop her now. I know you admire her for her gumption and just tell her. Go, Susan, Go….Her side kick, Angela has gotten redemption this year and is now truly moving forward. Another athlete who has the ability to fly higher than she ever dreamed. I’ve thought about what you should tell her and it is this….Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to the person from yesterday!!! Today’s Angela is pretty awesome, strong, and vastly improved all the way around. You know what, that is a pretty cool quote for lots of athletes.

Team Holly and Lisa because they come as a team are really individuals that have given each other the courage and strength to take on this task. I think they have embraced your mantra of Looking Good and Feelin Gorgeous because they are the best dressed triathletes I have ever seen. They embraced the journey and will arrive at their destination fast, fit and fabulous. Remember when Holly was just trying to break 2 hours at the Diva Half and now look at her.

Triathletes aren’t born, they are made and another “Samiism”, it takes a village to raise a triathlete. Michael, well, he has the best village ever and you were a part of that. He believes in your crazy ideas and he knows above all that you believe in him. I think he kinda reminds you of you…couldn’t swim, buys a bike, and does an Ironman…kinda cool. Yoda knows good folk.

There are people who you want on your team for sports and there are people you want on your team for life, and I sure hope you keep Spanner around for life. She smiles more than you when life throws you lemons (remember Augusta last week, you were not smiling and Spanner would have). Coach, take a lesson there. You may not tell her enough how much you admire her for trying for #1 still, but who else in this group would keep trying. Look around Coach and see how many athletes have stopped trying to accomplish their dream. Spanner hasn’t and that speaks volumes. You know I can’t talk about toughness and desire without mentioning Bob. You coached him to 6 Ironmen finishes and he has given more to this tri community than anyone in Wilmington and now he is getting Spanner to that finish line. He’s your guy and understands where you are. He does more than shows up…he gives it all he has with Ben Gay in his pocket 

While others may wonder, I know you believe that Anna will become an Ironman. Promise me you will buy her a clock that works you watched her finish her first marathon, her first 70.3 and more firsts than the 2 of you can imagine. Keep her smiling and focused because she is tough, tough, tough. Believe Anna and this will happen, but it is up to you! Lauren, while she isn’t yours, has done a remarkable job and her enthusiasm has really helped Anna get where she is today. Let her know that and keep both of those ladies moving forward.

Don’t forget to tell your out of towners how much you admire them. They have done most of this training solo while Wilmington has the help of the group. Remind them to remember those days when they are out on the course. Ilene, Melanie, and Billy, it will be a pleasure to race with you in Louisville and race we will! You have embraced the team concept from afar and Coach; don’t forget to tell them that please. They have to track you down and sometimes that is a task in itself. This trio will continue to press onward on race day.

Coach, have you told your training duo how much fun you have had. Thank them, Shawn and Erin because let me tell you (and I know you), you wouldn’t have done this without them. Getting out there by yourself isn’t your style and fun first and they have made it fun. Hey, you can write them a letter yourself or you have lots of quality time in Louisville, but tell them how cool they are. Need I reiterate that sometimes you aren’t good about that?

Sami, for you, no anxiety and no regrets. A wise triathlete told you to let the day unfold and that is what you should do. Remember why you signed up for this event…To see Erin finish #12, to see all of your athletes cross that finish line; to have the honor of racing with this crew who defines the meaning of hard work and most of all to celebrate the fact that you can still be out there on the course. One day, that may not be possible, but today is not that day. So, Coach, Congratulations on having your 100th Ironman cross that finish line in Ironman Louisville. You have helped 100 Ironman finish lines be crossed and that is pretty awesome. 100 dreams have come true and if you count yours…then over 120. Go watch that happen and get #92 in the tri world for you. Onward and Upward Coach and in the immortal words of Trysports, Believe and Achieve!