The Coach

Now that I’m racing a Half Ironman and Nationals I need to take my training up several levels. I’ve never raced 70.3 miles which is the distance of a Half Ironman, and for Nationals I need to focus on speed which is a new type of goal for me. Also, I need to create a more comprehensive nutrition plan. I’m comfortable consuming the right number of calories and mix of nutrients for sprint or olympic distances. Racing 70.3 miles over several hours is a different story. To address all of these new aspects I’ve decided to work with a coach.

I’m relatively new to the world of coaching. So far I’ve had only one coach, Lori, who coached me in a group setting when I lived in LA. She specializes in helping women train for their first triathlons. She makes women comfortable with each discipline and each transition. She’s very good.

I’ve also had a few trainers through my gym. After completing Lori’s newbie program, I moved on to Sara-the-Triathlete to focus on strength training and help with my running and swimming. Although I stopped racing once I learned I was pregnant, I continued to work with Sara-the-Triathlete to maintain a solid level of fitness. And when we learned about Noah’s diagnosis, I felt an even stronger desire to be in top shape. I believed — and still do — Noah was healthiest while in utero because for the most part he didn’t need to rely on his own body to live. He needed what my body gave him. While always adhering to my OB’s guidelines of course and even checking in with her about specific yoga positions and whatnot I exercised religiously so my body was strong enough and healthy enough to give Noah everything he required; so it could protect Noah as much as possible.

Around the beginning of my third trimester we moved to D.C. I worked with my last two trainers here. They weren’t very good. I’m sure part of the problem was me. I was probably not enjoyable to be around during the last few months before Noah’s birth and after Noah passed away. I was not in the mood to be social and share with these strangers the ongoings of my life which were mainly focused on Noah and preparing for his birth and medical care. After Noah died I didn’t want to talk to anybody really. Trainers are kind of like hair stylists in the sense that they want to engage in conversation with you; they want to get to know you. They must have been frustrated with me since I really didn’t talk during our sessions. I won’t take all of the blame, though. They weren’t professional, and it was pretty obvious they made up my workouts on the fly. So I stopped working with trainers last May.

Three weeks ago I started looking for a tri coach. In my research I found online coaching to be pretty popular. I don’t know if it’s popular everywhere, a recent phenomenon or more of a regional trend. Perhaps I’m just ignorant about all of this because I never really had to search for a coach before. It was pure luck that I came across Lori and even Sara-the-Triathlete. I learned about Lori through a clinic at a local tri store on the Westside of LA, and Sara-the-Triathlete was introduced to me by another trainer who knew about my interest in triathlons.

I still don’t like socializing with strangers. I dread meeting new people or talking to folks who don’t already know about Noah. I fear they, unintentionally of course, may say something that’s a trigger. Or even worse, they may ask if I have children. I hate that question. I still don’t know how to answer it. Do I say “yes?” What if they want to learn more about Noah? Do I say “he passed away” which creates an awkward moment when usually one of two things happens: 1. the person asking fumbles around to try say something comforting but ends up saying something that makes me feel worse, again unintentionally of course, or 2. the awkward silence puts the burden on me to immediately shift gears and say something to make the other person feel better. (How twisted is that? I’m the one who lost her child but I have to make the other person comfortable with this fact.) Or do I say “I don’t have children” to keep it simple? I HATE that answer because it’s a lie. The two times I’ve tried this response I literally felt a raw pain in my stomach. I know it’s guilt from not acknowledging Noah. I do have a child and although he is no longer alive, he is still my son and I am still very much his mother.

So online coaching may just work for me. I don’t have to talk to someone during my training sessions. My communication with the coach will be via email or phone which most likely will force the discussions to be brief and very focused. Because s/he won’t be with me I can focus on the assigned workout and my connection with Noah. My only concern is not getting help with form and technique. In person coaching is better for this. I have to prioritize my needs though. After all I know all too well that I can’t have it all.

I obtained a few coach recommendations from my tri club online forum, and a couple of friends gave me some names as well. I used the following general criteria to determine which one I’d use: extremely supportive and encouraging; highly professional; possesses a proven track record; in tune with his/her clients; and very responsive. After contacting most of them I decided to go with Pete who is based in the San Francisco Bay area. I’ll use his online program. What’s great about him is he also holds weekly group workouts. These additional services may sound odd given my current location. I already know, though, I’m going to be the Bay area a few times this year which will allow me to take advantage of these training opportunities. I think what really won me over is the fact that Pete and his team raced Hawaii 70.3 before.

I start training with Pete on January 23.

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