Monday, December 22, 2008

Journey To Oz - Welcome Aboard!

I am not the world’s fastest triathlete. I’d classify myself as decent, but only slightly above average. And while I don’t feel I’ve reached my greatest potential, I have no one but myself to blame for any shortfalls. In the ten years I’ve been racing competitively, everything from sprint triathlons to full-distance Ironmans, I’ve never once sought the guidance of a coach. Sure, I’ve followed bits and pieces of advice and cut-and-pasted a compilation of online training plans, but I’ve avoided a serious commitment to being coached. Perhaps I’ve been too lazy, perhaps too stubbornly independent or perhaps too averse to being accountable thus far. But after three Ironman races with finish times ranging from 12:11 – 12:38, I’ve decided to change my amateur ways. Hooray for consistency and all, but that collection of results verges on boring. I need some help if there’s hope of making a serious dent in my dozen-hour Ironman day.

Coincidentally, I’m lucky to count Michellie Jones as a close friend. Who better to employ as my coach than the World Champion herself? I figure she knows a thing or two about proper training, and if I can glean a fraction of improvement with MJ as my guide, I’ll be on the right path. Even better, MJ and I and another friend, Pablo, have all signed on to race the 2009 Ironman Australia on April 5th. We’ll train, travel and race together – well, at least simultaneously – and this journal will document the highs and lows, the agony and ecstasy and most of all, the humor, of the experience.

There are so many questions swirling in my mind. How will being schooled by MJ impact my performance, and also my enjoyment and understanding of the Ironman? Will I reach heights of athletic success never before imagined? Will I suffer at the hands of my coach? Can I truly improve, or am I too set in my ways? How will this journey and the coach and trainee roles affect our friendship? When will I reach the finish line in Port Macquarie, and what will I learn in the four months en route? How soon until my skinny jeans fit?

The first few weeks will be about prepping the base training plan, laying down the ground rules and getting in the disciplined workout groove. The real training program will kick off during the holidays, when I spend some time in San Diego for a self-imposed boot camp. I’ve agreed to follow MJ’s every direction, and I’ll tally my progress each week, as both the Test (what I’m supposed to accomplish) and the Truth (what I actually do).

Like any epic journey, there’s a cast of characters who will frame this experience with support, love, professional know-how and sarcastic wit. I’ve assigned each of the major players a nickname and accompanying set of initials, with which I will refer to them henceforth:

MJ = Michellie Jones, of course. Also known as My Justice – my justice for having raced 10 years without a coach. It’s due time I get my butt whipped into shape.

HPP = Paul “Pablo” Healing, aka the Healing Power of Pablo – the third in our trio of IM OZ racers. HPP can always be counted on for his light-hearted humor, a reminder to us girls not to take things all too seriously when we get our panties in a bunch. He also muddles a mean mojito, providing perfect inspiration for a post-race celebration.

MM = Chris Miller, aka Michigan Man - my number one, albeit long-distance, source of emotional support and encouragement. He delights in teasing me and is guaranteed to send amusing text messages throughout the course of the project. He’s also likely to be green with envy when the rest of us board the plane for OZ.

DTM = Dan Selstad, aka Dan The Man - proprietor of Dan’s “House of Pain”, DTM runs one of the most successful Active Release Therapy practices in Southern California. On my occasional visits to San Diego, DTM will be employed to help heal the havoc I have wrought on my body.

The foundation is in place, and now it’s time to get to work - not just talking the talk, but walking the walk (and swim and bike and run). I invite you to witness my progress via weekly updates. Wish me luck and welcome aboard the journey!

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