Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How Champions Are Made

The first annual Camp HTFU has come to a close and these are my closing thoughts.

I’m hoping this becomes an annual pilgrimage of strong woman with fire in their eyes and an itch in their legs to escape winter to swim, bike and run. After participating in many training trips, I will truly say this was one of the hardest, most intense weekends I have ever done. If you thought women couldn't sweat, spit, hurt and bleed in sport then you should come to next year's camp. I'm still looking for pieces of my legs.

Of all the beautiful roads and trails we traveled this weekend, it was just as inspiring to step back and observe the women of the camp. You can learn a lot by observing those that have a habit of reaching their goals. You realize there is no secret plan. There is no specific training approach, workout, nutrition strategy, coach, body type, age or set of wheels that will make you fast or strong. There is no quick, easy or surefire path to success. Success, instead, comes from qualities you possess, qualities you expect and exhibit from inside yourself, qualities that will ultimately deliver you to your goal.

I spent a weekend watching women that were champions of their goals.

Champions are unafraid to dig deep into themselves sometimes past the point of excruciating pain to work towards a goal. Jennifer showed me this as she climbed the mountain. Sweating out for 30 minutes above LT, standing out of the saddle at 4 mph and 40 rpms while driving onward and upward while rubbing her fingers bloody and raw. Whatever that mountain represented to Jennifer – she had it set in her mind that she would embrace the challenge and wasn’t stopping until she reached the top. Putting aside the physical pain, she abandoned the fear of explode, took a risk and let herself go. Pain is a byproduct of working hard towards our goals; champions accept and make peace with pain. That is how a champion is made.

Champions are passionate about themselves and their goals. With Leslie, I realized that no matter what you attempt in life you should do it because you are passionate about it and because you believe in it and yourself. A passionate smile carries you across many miles. If you find the positive in every challenge what you will find is that the journey is just as rewarding as the outcome. Who you meet and what you learn about yourself along the way is the true reward. Sometimes we are scared to set out on the journey because we fear ourselves. By trusting that you know yourself best, you have the ability to solve your own unknowns along the way. This is our challenge and if we take it on with excitement and faith we will ultimately lead ourselves to our goals. That is how a champion is made.

Champions are hungry for success. Marit made me hungry again. She possessed a pure grit and competitive fire for the sport, the unrelenting passion of doing the damn hard and hurtful work to achieve your goals. Giving up was never an option. Stopping short was never a choice. Letting go of someone’s wheel was something you only do if your wheel literally fell off. She strips the sport back down to the basics – want to go faster? RIDE HARDER. Want to beat me up this mountain? CATCH ME. A dangerous weapon of strong body and mind reminding me that come race day – it’s not enough to have one, you need both, and you need to be honestly hungry for your goals. That is how a champion is made.

Champions know the formula for success is simple; having the drive + doing the work = reaching your goals. Ashley kept it all in perspective like this. No need to overthink it, just do the work and get it done. There is nothing complicated about it – just keep up, just spin up the mountain, just stay on the trail. Put some water in your bottles, throw back a gel from time to time and go. Don’t get caught up in the numbers or the outcome. Sometimes we overcomplicate things so much that we stand in our own way. Swim, bike, run. That’s all you need to know. Simplicity, a straight line of hard work leading to your goals. That is how a champion is made.

Champions are first champions of themselves. Mary showed me that reaching a goal requires patience, wisdom, and the ability to know and honor yourself. No matter what we did this weekend – Mary stayed true to her plan. Her goals, her zones – she was completely in tune with herself. She knew herself and what she needed to do. Sometimes in working towards our goals we get too caught up in everyone else. Rather, true champions trust themselves, listen to their bodies and do what’s right at the right time. They have tunnel vision for their own agenda and let everything else go. That is how a champion is made.

Champions know that their progress is a process, one of continual renewal and education in themselves. As such for myself I came to camp to learn. To learn from others in order to learn more about myself. The lessons were never obvious but with reflection at the end of each day and now at the end of camp, here is what I found:

Chasing Marit in the pool while trying to stay with Jennifer on her interval for the 75’s alternating 75 free and 75 rolling IM. Jennifer looked at me and said “stay with me, go on this interval.” It would have been easier to go on a longer interval for more rest. But I forced myself to reconnect with the competitive drive that sometimes we lose when training alone. We must continually chase after what we want; complacency is a trap we must work hard to avoid no matter how talented we are or what we have already achieved. We must consistently expect more from ourselves and strive towards this in every workout or else risk staying where we are.

Riding off the front of the group over the state line. Just because I didn’t make my way up the epic climb didn’t mean I had permission to give up the rest of the day. Defeat is a choice we make. You can give up or give more. For the rest of the day I chose to give more. I rode hard, overgearing and shredding my legs all over those roads. It was the fearless, raw physical work that reminded me that surpassing ourselves requires continuous vigilance and response to the task at hand. Never settling for where you are – whether you are currently defeated, behind or ahead.

Leading the trail run on Sunday. 20 minutes into the run we reached a steep, long and technical climb which I was told would be better to walk. At that moment I knew I had to take a risk and said “I’d like to run this climb.” I went ahead with Ashley and Marit following right behind. Climbing that trail at a 16 minute/mile pace was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My legs screamed every step of the way. At 50 minutes into the run I told myself to just mentally connect for 30 more minutes. The technicality of the trail and the cumulative work of the weekend was heavy in my mind. But I knew I had to reach inside myself, focus and keep pressing ahead. By the end, my head hurt more than my legs showing me that when we fully engage ourselves it is ultimately our minds that are stronger than our legs; our physical fitness is not nearly as powerful as our head.

Put the observations together and what you realize is maybe after all there is a formula for success. Champions are fearless, passionate, hungry, driven, straightforward, aware and engaged. They reach their goals because of who they are and what they expect from themselves. They elevate their own game. They take responsibility for themselves and their progress. They realize that no matter what equipment, talent, V02max, coach, wheels, age or body type they have, they are always in complete control of who they become. Their success is the product of the choices they make or actions they take. Simply put, they embrace the challenge of bettering and overcoming themselves.

We came to camp – some as strangers, some as long time friends, some as coach/client yet we all emerged with an understanding that from different stages in our lives, different places in the country, different season goals we share something the same: the desire to be champions unafraid to take a risk, expecting more from ourselves, ready to override the physical hurt with hunger from the heart (and head).

Each one of us – at camp, reading this blog, in the world has champion potential within ourselves. True champions work hard each day to bring it out. True champions not only have goals but achieve them because they become their goals. I will spend the rest of this season becoming a little more like each woman at camp, taking the lessons I learned from them to build a better version of my champion self.

12 comments:

Ashley said...

Liz, thank you for putting into words - what I know we all felt about Camp HTFU. It was an amazing weekend, one that will be talked about for years to come. Memories were created... and we will all draw upon these memories as to HTFU for the rest of this season! Thank you for being a part.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, as a coach, this is what I try SOOO hard (as we discussed on the airplane) to teach people - to try to get athlete's to understand. It is NOT a magic pill..and some athletes are SUPER strong at X..while other champions are super strong at Y.....they both will succeed. There is no substitution for hard, SMART work...and you are right, each athlete brings something to the table...and something we ALL, no matter what level, can learn from. After feeling like I have "seen it all" -it was EVEN refreshing to have Marit all bubbly and gritty - reminded me of why/how I started in Triathlons...and that sometimes is what keeps things in perspective for me as an athlete. And reminds me I am 37, not 26. HAHAHA! :) Just kidding.
PS. I have 15 cold sores on my lips to prove that my epic climb hurt like hell.
Thanks for this post - super! Jen H.

Anonymous said...

AWESOME post Liz... Despite not being a part of HTFU (what can I do to get an invite to this exclusive club of awesome ladies?) I feel I have learned along the way, thanks for putting it all down :)
Colleen

Ness said...

Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. This was both an eloquent and inspiring read.

Ashley said...

We are devising 2009 Camp HTFU applications now. Stay tuned. Regarding date inquiries for Ashley... ELF & JH have screening authority.

Karl McCracken said...

Great post - thank you for sharing!

I have just so much to learn from what you're written here . . . since I decided a couple of weeks ago that it's time to drop the sorry-arsed excuses and achieve what I'm capable of for once. It's going to be a tough road, but what you've written here is just the kind of inspiration I'm going to need.

Kellye Mills said...

Really inspiring! I Love to read your blog because you always find a way to help put things into perspective in a cute, funny, honorable way. Great Job!!

BreeWee said...

way to go champ!

Sally said...

Elizabeth,

Elizabeth,

Thank you!

I too want to become a better version of my champion self!

In addition to being a role model athlete & coach - you are a wonderfully talented and engaging writer.

Thank you again.
Sally

Pedergraham said...

Elizabeth:
I'm going to print this one out and post it up. (Of course, I hope there will be a picture of Marit skipping to add to the bottom!)
It goes in the keeper file!
-Danielle

Train-This said...

Thank you Liz. Thank you. :-) Mary

TriGirl Kate O said...

I've just started reading your blog, and it's amazing to me how you can use your love of your sport and ability with words to inspire. Thanks. Now, can I come to camp next year? There's no way I'd swim, bike, or run as fast as you girls, but I'd love to try.