Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Get To Do This

It’s 9:30 pm and I just got home from Chicago. I spent the past 2 ½ hours talking Ironman to my IronMoo athletes. I answered everything from nutrition to pacing, equipment, pooping, bloody nipples, drinking (the real drinking not sports drinking) and everything in between.

And I mean everything.

Earlier in the day I rode 80 miles, took a quick ice bath, answered oodles of emails, met with a run consultant, grabbed some food from Whole Foods before heading to the city to coach. My day has literally buzzed with triathlon. That is my life nearly every day of the week. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In all of the busyness of life and work it is easy to forget to take time to reflect on the why. Why do we do what we do in our life. And, do we really love that we are doing it? I considered this after receiving some questions for an interview on the Training Peaks blog and after being interviewed for Chicago’s Amateur Athlete magazine. In other words, I’ve been questioned a lot about triathlon lately. I like these opportunities because they force me to define myself and my work. It’s one thing to do your job but when you consider why you do it and what it means to you – the answers either excite you or inspire you to move on.

Two years ago I made the transition from full-time office career to full-time work from home coach. When I made the switch to running my own business I took it on with full force. I had a thriving position in education program management with a 5 minute commute, good salary, health benefits AND an office door in the corner office with 3 windows. I managed 50 employees and had a flexible schedule. My boss worked in another building and my dear friend worked in the office next door. I wasn’t giving up all of that to sit at home for 40 hours a week to coach 5 people and call it my job. If I was going to call it my job it was going to be just that – a full time job. And it was. Word of mouth, word of blog, references grew quickly and before I knew it I was managing a roster of athletes that was keeping me busy for 40 hours a week – and then some.

And it’s the then some that proves to be the most challenging. When you work in an office you can walk away from it. You can close your office door. You can leave it there on the weekend and ignore it for a few days. You can let the phone ring through to the receptionist. When you run your own business – especially if your business is people, your business is in real time all the time. All hours of the day, from the Pacific time zone all the way out to Sweden. Questions, workouts, paces, power, race plans fill most hours of my day. People have needs, emotions, thoughts and people change. Injuries, sick children, travel – people change and change a lot. When you think your work is done, it’s just a phone call, text, email or status update away from being undone yet again.

Most days I’m exhausted but it’s a good feeling. Like most people, I work hard, I work a lot. I make lists, spreadsheets and try to stay organized. Sometimes I get a date wrong and I’m known to do some bad swim math. I do the best I can with athletes that are interested in being at their best. What it takes to bring out there best is more than just writing workouts for schedules. If it was that easy I’d have my job done in less than 5 hours a week. It takes time to plan how each day fits into the big picture. It takes time to think through what it takes for success. It takes a lot of communication and finding what motivates each athlete. Integrate all of that into each athlete’s training plan while asking for their commitment, patience, trust and cooperation. That’s pretty much what I do day to day.

Sometimes what I do or what I ask for is a hard sell. I know that because I’m an athlete too and realize that selling what you know about sport through coaching is not easy when you have grown adults with freedom to choose, think and analyze. Plus no one needs a coach, and if you have one it’s a luxury. I am expendable. Run your business knowing you are not necessary and your way of doing business changes. You become more patient, more gracious, more…grateful. You become vested in doing the best you can when you can because if you don’t – you’ve dropped your own ball of quality and reputation. Your business is you and the way you run it represents who you are, your values, your strengths, even your weaknesses.

Some days I think it would be easier again to simply work for someone else. To blame mistakes on bureaucracy and delegate to a staff. To risk less of myself on a daily basis to do my job well. It’s a risky business and the opportunities for failure are more plentiful than success. Yet I wouldn’t trade the choices I’ve made for anything else. I realize they have completely changed my life and how I use my time. I never thought working from home would be so damn time-consuming and so damn hard. But then again, I like hard things. I’ve done Ironman.

Tomorrow there are many things I need to do. It’s Wednesday and that means it is time to start posting training plans. I need to complete at least one-third of them to be on task to finish them by Friday night. I need to help my athletes put together their race plans and then sit on the edge of my kitchen chair all weekend waiting to hear about the xx athletes I have racing this weekend. I need to meet with two of my local athletes and complete two of my own workouts. I need to do a lot of things but what I like to do is help others do the best they can. Whether I start at 6 am or finish at 10 pm I enjoy every minute of it. I sometimes wish there were more hours in the day. I wake up excited to get started on my job and see where it will take me each day. Each day I learn something new about coaching, a business, others and myself.

In two years I have a built this business. For all of the hours I put into this each week, I look back and see that I have built something that makes me proud. My business is represented by some of the finest athletes in the sport because of how they race and who they are as athletes. And I am grateful that they allowed me the opportunity to play a role in that. Each month I feature a different athlete at http://www.multisportmastery.com/. Because of all my athletes, every day I get to do this job. Actually it is not a job it is a passion. A passion for teaching and for sport that I get to combine every day.

Racing season has really just begun for the year and the best part of my job is about to play out every weekend from now until November. To see the athletes put it all together out there. When they succeed, I succeed. When they fail, I too fail. When the cross the line at Ironman, I scream. Ok, sometimes I also cry. Honestly it’s as exciting and challenging to help others in the sport as it is to do the sport. And I get to do this. Every day.

THANK YOU!

Check out http://blog.trainingpeaks.com/2009/06/trainingpeaks-member-profile-elizabeth-waterstraat-triathlete-and-coach.html for more on how I got involved in the sport and coaching.

11 comments:

Molly said...

Don't think for a minute that we don't appreciate every bit of what you do for us. I wonder most days how you manage to get it all done but you do - you rock! :)

Andrea said...

No, no - thank YOU!
We are all so proud of you too Liz. We GET to work with you every day. :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. Even on days when people don't believe me, or feel just as good or BAD as their last result...or days when I lay my head down spinning in so many different races, schedules, workouts and paces....and the days I am almost in tears b/c I can not figure out how to answer all the questions and phone calls.....I, like you, understand how lucky we are!

You have done a fabulous job w/ your coaching business - GOOD for you!!!! I have enjoyed watching you grow it.

YAY!

Wes said...

When we first met, I told you that being a tri coach was like being a mom/dad to a bunch of type A kids :-) I still think that today. It will keep you on your toes!

Like Kate said in the comments on the interview at Training Peaks, you are the best coach ever, and we are fortunate to have you.

Like most things in life, you make your own bed, you sleep in it, you get what you deserve. This speaks volumes about who you are, beyond the normal crap we get. :-)

Alili said...

I miss you.

cheryl said...

I'm a bit envious that you have a 'job' that you love so much.

Sherry Lynn said...

You coaches ROCK! And I truly do mean that. :o) I agree with Cheryl... I am also a bit envious of those who have 'jobs' that they love. Le sigh...

cheryl said...

re-reading my post above, I want to make sure I"m clear by 'job' in quotes I meant it more as your job is less of a job to you and more of a passion and something you truly love, where as my job is just a job, a real crap job at times, and I wish I had the other!

Beth said...

Your athletes are lucky to have you - someone who cares so much and works so hard for them! Oh, and I understand the work from home - can't turn work "off" gig - that can be tough. No vacation days when you have your own business! :)

Scottie said...

Liz I'm so glad that you were there for me when I was looking for my first Ironman coach. You made my goals reachable. Thank you for being a coach and a friend. See you in October for round two.

deedeebrown said...

Coach Liz - you have no idea how many people appreciate the work that you love!!! Just today, while Scottie, Hannah, and I waited for the volunteer meeting for Ironman CDA to start, I chatted with a fellow volunteer that has proudly offered her time at this event for the last six years. She mentioned that she is signing up for next year's event and asked Scottie how he prepared for his first IM. Of course he instantly mentioned his dear Coach Liz :-). I felt compelled to mention to her that, had it not been for you, this Tri-Widow would have had a nervous breakdown!!! Your coaching kept him sane, which in turn kept me sane, which, in turn, kept our family and household from
imploding!!! All of this in the midst of dealing with a drug addicted son floating in and out of rehab the entire time he was in training and you were coaching him. He probably never shared this with you, but I truly did thank God that you were there for him and kept him focused on something healthy rather than all the negative energy floating through our lives!!!

Scottie's grateful wife, Dee Dee