Over the last few weeks I've been fortunate enough to witness the growth and development of athletes to levels where only 4 years ago they may have dreamed of but at that time had not been able to see how it could be reality.
One athlete completed a full iron distance triathlon on a Monday, solo out the back of Melbourne for training. 4 years ago it felt like a lifetime of preparation was needed to complete the distance. Another athlete who when I first met him, was so hard on and expected so much of himself that swimming was a stressful experience. Starting from the bottom with minimal swimming experience he saw where others were and where he wanted to be. It frustrated him to no end however today he happily completed 100 x 100's in his local swimming pool. His choice to do it and he couldn't be happier.
I come from a family of runners and at Easter 2014 I was in Sydney with family. On one particular morning my younger cousin who was 15 at the time asked me to join him for a run. I was in good knick having just finished Melbourne Ironman in my then best IM time and was happy to roll out for an easy run. Charlie had other ideas and on the 16km loop decided he wanted to test his older cousin. We reached the final hill, a 1km drag to which the top was the finish and after Charlie gradually increasing the pace to a near sprint I dropped him on the final hill. When he reached the top he had nothing left and I said, "I did that because today will be the last time I can". Fast forward to last weekend he ran a 14min 40sec 5km on the track.
Throughout my years in sport my view of how to approach it has changed dramatically mostly due to the sound advice of some great people and experiences along the way. One of those I'm currently being mentored by, but before I had met him I read something of his many years ago, ' hurry slowly'. Prior to reading this my point of view was, no pain no gain type mentality and it forced me to reconsider my stance. What did hurry slowly even mean? Over time I came to understand (ironman will make you understand if you flash to much bravado) through giving your best to a given situation without expecting instant reward. Years later and again in Sydney I sat in the North Ryde RSL with the late great John Atterton as he had allowed me to shadow him while he coached his elite athletes over Easter. Of all the 100's of question I asked one response made me smile. I asked what he saw as the key to achieving to which he replied, 'Hasten slowly'.
So many athletes get caught up in the chase. The chase to get faster, stronger, qualify or podium. Naturally it is important to have something that interests you enough to train and improve, a goal. Somewhere down the line people get sold on the idea of 'wanting it badly enough' is what will bring them closer. Likewise by experiencing a loss in the process of working towards what they are chasing they feel this as a step back. I've come to learn the opposite from watching athletes come out the other side of tough times, they get better and are better athletes for it.
I've come to learn now that one of the biggest factors in athletic success is patience. We don't like thinking of patience being part of training because we relate it to sitting idly at home waiting for your uber to arrive or standing in line. 'Macro patience, micro speed', is the best break down I've heard of hurry slowly for todays day and age. Having the patience to work towards your goal while day to day doing all the things that will help you get where you are going. For many in our sport, patience is not on the radar and from what I've seen in over a 25 years in competitive sport it would have to be the number one factor people fall short. They just didn't hang around long enough.
For those that can see the forest through the trees or even if they can't, can have someone who can help guide and look for them, it becomes a matter of when, not if. Watching an experienced athlete return to where they have been previously is more of a straight forward task. There is familiarity with what they have to do and know what it took previously. At one stage though they hadn't been there and had to figure it out. That is you now. Just stick around long enough to figure it out.