Beep beep boop – rebooting this thing

Beep beep boop….that’s the little text symbol that comes up when WordPress is loading a new page for you to write. In my head I hear a little robot like Dexter from Perfect Match muddling away and helping me look kinda professional. In real life though, we don’t always have a Dexter to help us perform well and when it comes to sport, what we think and feel can be the difference between success and not reaching our goals (which is not failure….just means we are not there yet).

http://www.buzzquotes.com/dexter-perfect-match-quotes

The master of dating, Dexter from Perfect Match – a dating game show from the 80’s.

I returned to coaching earlier this year thanks to CanToo who expanded their program to my city. I loved every minute of the first program I coached along with a fantastic friend who coached another CanToo program here at the same time. During this time, a triathlon coach who I look up to reached out and asked if I was interested in returning to coach triathlon. I was honest and said that this year my studies were my priority but that I was so keen you could call me mustard! The whole reason I went back to uni was to become a better coach. Part of that came with having spent time with the NSW junior development squad and realising that despite knowing a lot about programming/periodisation, technique for running and swimming, the basic tactics for riding and racing, I didn’t know much more. If I wanted to become a quality coach and work in the industry I needed more than passion and ongoing reading skills…..I needed rounded knowledge of sports science and a qualification or ten.

The first ever Can Too Canberra Pods training at the AIS for their 10km and 21km events.

The first ever Can Too Canberra Pods training at the AIS for their 10km and 21km events.

So here I am, closing in quickly on my graduation, already landed a coaching gig with one of the top squads in the ACT and excited that I can start putting my studies back into action with REAL people. Most of the students doing sports studies at my uni are hopeful that they can graduate and find work in the sporting industry – to be honest, so do I. Although I have this job, at this point it isn’t sustainable for me to live on and so once I finish this semester I need to return to my full-time job and juggle coaching around it again. For the meantime though, I get to work with athletes of varying skill level who genuinely want to train.

There are loads of people out there that turn up infrequently to train or do an exercise class and hope that a magic wand will pass over them and their life will change – I know, I am one of them even though I know that wand doesn’t exist! The people who turn up to training at Performance Triathlon Coaching sessions though have figured out they need to work to get better and so they are genuinely grateful for the time and effort we put in as coaches. To be honest, I am finding that a little confronting/uneasy and sometimes my enthusiasm at the acknowledgement launches me into an endless dribble of how awesome it is to be making a difference that the poor athlete usually ends up saying they have to get somewhere else….they still come back though!

So, over the last few months I have been asked a range of things from technique/skills to strategies for cooling and how to get over races nerves. Each session I try to impart something additional to the actual physical training to at least one person (really I try and work the minds of as many as possible) that is either a new way of thinking to them or reinforcement of something they may know but haven’t as yet realised. I love doing it and so I decided I need to start recording these things so that they are resources for me to point people towards but also to reinforce my thinking in my mind.

My plan is to cover anything that is either “stuff” I know and am asked about, but also new things I have come across (new to me that is!) and to keep each post under 1000 words…well, I will try!. I am loving all that I have been learning at uni, so strap yourselves in again as we reboot this blog – who knows, I might even finish my previous stories!

I am lucky to be learning from some amazing people from UCNISS.

I am lucky to be learning from some amazing people from the UCNISS.

Hello again

It’s been a long time since I have written a post. I hit a really hard time and depression set in for a long haul. I stopped coaching, had several stoppages to training, was being bullied at work and fighting to get myself out of bed each day.

Fortunately I have a 3 legged fur kid and I have to get out of bed to feed him. So that at least was a start to the day.

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I was going from injury to illness to the next injury and so on. I wasn’t sure if I was going nuts or if there was really something wrong. I know that when I first got sick with the tumor I had in 97, I knew something was wrong when no one (including medical staff) believed me. So I kept working with my GP to try and figure it out.

I tried training for a half ironman but I was stuck in this vicious spin cycle from injury to illness. Some “friends” were getting stuck into me telling me I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t training as hard as them and they know what it takes and it would be irresponsible for me to get out there and try. I just wanted to try. I knew if I could get out there and get past each time cut off, that I would finish no matter how slow.

Like my physical battle wasn’t hard enough I now had a mind battle in addition to the one I was already fighting. I was in pain. Some of the worst chronic physical pain I knew and despite hating medications, I succumbed some days and took pain killers. When it was really bad I also had to take sedatives to sleep.

Three weeks before my event, I woke in the morning from a sedated slumber to extreme pain in my uninjured shoulder. When I got to my awesome physio the next day, I got the bad news that it was dislocated at the sternoclavicular joint (where your collarbone connects to your sternum). Race over.

My event was in Cairns and i had paid my airfare and accom already so I packed all my race gear including my bike and went anyway. I had booked in with a physio up there in the hope she could pop it back in and i could still race. 

Turned out she was also part of a charity I am a part of (Tour de Cure) & after discovering that when she gave me the bad news I trusted her. My dislocation was not going back in and was sitting over my sternum which put me at risk of cutting off my oesophagus  with any further movement. I was put in a sling and given instructions to give to a hospital if i needed it….

Instead of racing I was put in a sling and i officiated. This was a good thing because I met Sharn McNeil and over the last 12 months I have picked myself up drawing strength from her and John McLean.

Sharn and John both spoke at the pre race athlete dinner. John was training for the Nepean triathlon when he was hit by a truck and snapped his back. John went on to compete at Kona finally meeting all the cut offs in his third attempt as a paratriathlete. Remarkably, John has started regaining feeling in his legs and at the dinner stood out of his wheel chair. Here was a man who was told he would never walk again now standing and in training to complete the triathlon he was training for 25 years ago. 26 years on from his accident, John completed the triathlon as an able body athlete.

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A beautiful photo taken by the wonderful Photo Ninja Delly Carr

Sharn also spoke at the dinner. 2 years ago she completed the Cairns half ironman. She planned to come back and do the full ironman with her friends when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Motor Neurons Disease (remember the ice bucket challenge?). Sharn is a nurse in Wollongong but her body is slowly slipping from her. As she loses more and more control over her muscles she will eventually choke on her tongue.

Sharn and the Sharnie Army were in Cairns to get her through the Ironman. She sat in an inflatable Kayak while her friend Craig towed her through the swim. She was then helped into a recumbent bike attached to Craig ‘ s and they completed the swim with her team keeping on top of her meds and nutrition needs. For the run, Craig pushed her in a wheelchair until the end of the finish line red carpet where they helped her walk across the line. I stood there in the pouring rain with loads of people to see her become an Ironman.

After listening to Sharn speak, I got to meet her when they had to pull into the mechanic with another flat (they had several as did many athletes in the incessant rain. She was so beautiful and kind despite all life was throwing at her.
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Sharn helped me get the strength to start investigating what was going on with me. After a big cry to my GP, something I said clicked. She asked how many partial and full dislocations I’d had recently. When we went through it we knew of 6 in 4 locations within 12 months. A quick double check on her computer and she had pieced it together. Well part of the story…the injuries were because i have a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos. It has since been confirmed by three different specialists and is an answer to why i have chronic pain, digestive issues, extreme fatigue and a large portion of why i was getting bad/chronic migraines. I was still waiting for a CT guided cortisone but I suddenly had some light.

The CT scan showed my collarbone had been dislocating for some time. So much so there was a spur under the bone that was preventing it being put back into its groove properly. To take the spur off would limit my range of motion. To leave it makes the joint unstable.

Faced with needing to strengthen joints, but also keep the muscles plyable I got myself onto a yoga study at uni. Lucky me got selected in the control group…no yoga. But in talking to my GP again (while I was getting medical clearance for the study) I asked one little question that made her ask several more. She now had a possible answer to the illness side of the puzzle….she thought I might be insulin resistant. I had to do blood tests for the yoga study so we added in a glucose challenge test. At fasting overnight my insulin levels should have been around 6…mine were 25.7, one hour after drinking the solution it should have been around 60…mine was 248. After two hours it should be dropping below 50. Min was 206. My pancreas and liver were getting slammed. My muscles (including my brain) were starved of glucose because insulin couldn’t bind to it to carry it around my body to feed it. End result, I had a growing waistline that is toxic fat around my organs. I am not diabetic but I was damn close to my pancreas shutting down.

This was the other source of my fatigue and chronic pain and other likely cause of the migraines (which are much less frequent now).

I am still rebuilding my body to a healthy state and i am still finding it difficult to go slow and steady but I really do have a bright shining light leading me out of the pit of despair I have been fighting to escape the last couple of years.

John and Sharn aren’t giving up on finding answers, so nor am I.

Champions adjust

My day today actually started last night. I’m on my way to Mooloolaba for one of the biggest triathlon and multisport festivals in Australia. My role: I’ll be a Technical Official over the weekend, helping ensure the safety and fairness of the racing. All up there will be around 7000 competitors taking part and a Technical Team of around 30…I expect we’ll be very busy!

My housemate is also coming up to race this weekend as a last hit out before he completes IronMan Australia in Port Macquarie in a few weeks. It meant Webber (my handsome 3 legged cat) needed a babysitter – thank goodness for cat loving friends. We only have 2 sets of keys to the house, so I thought I was super clever in giving my front door keys to my friend Anna and using the new back security door keys to get in and out. Clever Fiona however also locked the front security screen which then needs a key to unlock from the inside…with a sprained ankle and no lighting down the side of the house, getting my luggage and the garbages out was going to be entertaining.

Nevertheless, it had to be done, so I adapted and overcame, tricking the cat into the house then locking him out of the garage while I shoved everything (at 4am) out the garage door. The taxi arrived and I was off, or so I thought. On exiting the taxi, I discovered that my pay wasn’t in my bank account yet. I had no cash on me (save for a few bits of shrapnel). I had 15 minutes until my bus was due to leave for Sydney, so I exchanged details with the driver, arranged for him to collect me at the airport on my return to Canberra next week and hobbled in for the bus. I sat down with baited breath wondering if this was the start of “One of those days”.

Nodding off to sleep on the bus came way too easily but we were only an hour into the trip when I was woken by an announcement that there had been an accident on the freeway and it was closed. The driver thankfully was able to divert through some country towns so that we didn’t lose much time – I had a flight to catch! I’d chosen the 5am bus so that I had plenty of time to get from the drop off at the international terminal over to the domestic terminal – clever Fiona because once we hit the M5 motorway in Sydney, it was gridlock. Despite it all, the driver got us to the airport only 30minutes late which given everything, I was impressed.

I headed to the train station connecting the two terminals, bought my ticket and hobbled to the elevator only to have the solo woman riding it not hold the door. Cow (not actually what I called her). I headed over to the escalator jumped on with my luggage and got down to the platform just in time to get the first train through. Yay!

Already clutching my boarding pass, I queued to drop my bags, cleared security and headed off to the revised boarding gate – the furthest possible gate. On arrival I discovered there had been air traffic control problems in both Melbourne and Sydney (flight was coming in from Melbourne), the flight was delayed and I could’ve gotten breakfast and coffee on my way through after all. I started wandering back remembering I’d seen a newsagent close by but before I got to ask him where the best place to get coffee was, he was being abused by a lady who had told off the check in staff too. I had a laugh with him about how horrible she was and how he rose above her pettiness which seemed to lift his spirits a bit. When I asked where the closest place to get a coffee he pointed across the hall – I’d completely missed it when I walked past.

Coffee and yoghurt in hand, I headed back to the gate. The staff announced that anyone needing special assistance or with children to make themselves known as we’d be boarding via the tarmac. Looking at my ever swelling cankle I finished my coffee and wandered up because I knew I’d be slow going down the stairs without flexibility in the joint. The staff were really lovely and offered to come get me just before boarding so I could get a head start on getting down the stairs. They did just that but then when I handed over my boarding pass said I’d need to move seats because I was in an exit row but injured. Sigh…Finally on the plane, chilling out to Channel V and the flight crew come around with refreshments. One last thing before I arrive in Brisvegas 2 hours late…she spills tea over my netbook.

Now these are all very first world issues, but when you are tired/half asleep, sometimes you can lose focus on what’s important. Thankfully I have 4 distractions:

  1. I’M ON MY WAY TO BRISBANE!
  2. Debbie, my next door neighbour from my childhood whose mother started me out in swim teaching, and I are spending the day together today.
  3. The Catholic world is in celebration at the announcement of a new Pope. AND…
  4. Last night I read a quote that resonated with me: Champions adjust.

Story¹ has it that Billie Jean King (tennis megastar) said this to Zina Garrison when she was coaching her in tennis. Garrison apparently had gotten into a funk and so King just looked her in the eye and gave her that statement. King had drawn this from Hans Selye who in his book The Stress of Life had written:

“Life is largely a process of adaptation to the circumstances in which we exist. The secret of health and happiness lies in the successful adjustment to the ever-changing conditions on this globe; the penalties for failure in this great process are disease and unhappiness.”

I don’t quite see myself as a champion but I do think I’m pretty awesome and one of my colleagues went as far as to tell me I’m B’Awesome (which comes from the movie Bolt by Disney and stands for beyond awesome). Still, given I strive to reach beyond mediocrity, I will take Billie Jean’s point and add it into my black book of awesome quotes when things challenge me: Champions adjust.

 

¹Story adapted from page 23 of Dr Pamela Peeke’s book Fit to Live. ISBN: 978-1-9057-4402-2

Post script note: So once I got to Brisbane, Debs and I had an awesome afternoon. Lunch in The London Club in Teneriffe, sight seeing from Mt Coot-tha, a trail walk up to Simpson’s Falls, quick trip to the mall and then we created our food baby at Sizzler (Debbie challenged me to add food baby into this post so of course being an over acheiver I’ve now done it twice!).

Just because I don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Once upon a time, when I was re-entering competition/participation triathlon after many years of little to no activeness post back injury, I really didn’t want people I knew/coached with to coach me and learn of my weaknesses.  Writing my own programs meant I kept bludging so I subscribed to an online coach to keep me accountable. It worked for a little bit, but without visual contact, I’d liaise with my coach via training logs only and my motivation soon dropped off.

Shared by my teammate Greg yesterday on Facebook - I love it.

Shared by my teammate Greg yesterday on Facebook – I love it.

Although I am surrounded by many awesome coaches, I needed someone independent that I could hate when I needed to, cry to when life got tough and ignore when I was awesome or thought I knew better (that last bit never happened but I’ve seen it). Actually my team mate from Race for a Cure: Asia Challenge, Greg, posted this picture on my Facebook page yesterday:

I started thinking about the School of the Air that is used to teach children in remote locations in the outback of Australia. Then my brain flicked to the adverts for the National Broadband Network (NBN) which included highlights of people being treated for physical therapies live but remotely via video conferencing in their home/health providers office. I then thought of the term “Satellite Parent” and thought that we may be entering the age of “Satellite Coaching” which got me excited because I thought I’d coined a new phrase! Then I googled “Satellite Parent” and realised it is not quite what I pictured. I realised the search term I was looking for was “Remote Coaching” and I madly punched it into google scholar this morning only to discover…it’s not actually a new concept (even though it’s one I’d never given much thought to before). I’d never seen it in action, but it does exist.

Then my internet crashed because I had several billion pages open in my excitement of creating a ‘new concept’…pft. Still, it’s something I’m keen to explore now. There is a lot of raw talent in sport in regional Australia but getting Talent ID reps or selection panels to remote and regional areas is difficult and sport funding isn’t as big as people think. Wouldn’t it be exciting though if through Skype and other video capturing mediums, that like the NBN proposal of video conferencing remote health support, we could also coach and select people from remote locations? Imagine the juniors from the Alice Springs Tri Club or the Katherine Multisports Club being Talent ID’d and then coached and mentored by the NT Junior Development Program where they can hook in online to team development seminars? Or the NSW Junior Performance Squad who like most states are spread across huge distances being able to build rapport with the other members of the squad through team meetings online*? Or using platforms like slideshare to deliver training direct from the coach each day but available at a time that allows athletes to manage training around school and family commitments? Triathlon NSW already has a fantastic Regional Academy program but perhaps it can reach out further using the internet? I have a picture in my head I can’t shake of the huge timing screens above the swimming pools used in the Olympics and having the head of a coach on the screen, remote coaching the athletes heading up and down the pool.

 As I wrote this post, it suddenly hit me…my coach is a semi-remote coach. Just now, I am on hiatus again from training (still not at the bottom of the exercise induced migraine saga), but before this latest delay, I found someone to coach me who, even though it’s not something I had thought to look for when seeking a coach, also challenges my scientific brain. Graeme at Fit2Tri is amazing, has supported me when I drop into a fit of tears over not being able to train, pushes me to get off my butt, warns me when things are going to be boring (don’t tell him but I haven’t found anything boring yet) while I rebuild, gives me plenty of advice on my food and balancing my training and life needs and best yet:  Graeme gives me realistic pictures of the volume and time commitment in measurable terms for what I want to do.

Graeme’s time is split between Canberra and Adelaide (roughly 1210km/752miles – i.e. not close) but he is available pretty quickly if you need him via email within reason – by that I mean emailing him late at night or right before you want his advice on changing a session is not reasonable (he has a family that enjoys his time too and although he gets alerts on his phone to emails, expecting a coach on call is a big ask unless you’re paying them to be on 24/7 call). Having said that, there is no part-time coaching from him even though you might not see him face to face for a few weeks if he’s away racing etc. He’s also never been unable to organise a coffee time for a chat over programs/training etc and as soon as he is able to respond to you, he will. Our programs are online using Training Peaks and there are loads of articles and blog posts to read too – Graeme also recently wrote the February feature article for Triathlon Australia’s Coaching News about online coaching. No stealing my coach though! I need him for when I’m back upright again! J

 

*I’m not sure if Triathlon NSW do or don’t use online meetings for their junior development or performance squads – Awesome sauce though guys if you do!

In the early days, my rock moves rocked (and they still do).

My swimming instructor, when I was six, got us to line up at the deep end of the 25m pool (it was an indoor pool near where we lived but not our local pool). Being the youngest of the class which also had my nine year old sister, I simply had to do everything first. The instructor told me to touch my toes and as I did so, he pushed me from my backside into the water. I got a snot full of water and choked terribly on my flailing way back to the safety of the side of the pool. Needless to say, I hated swimming lessons.

This cat is what I looked like trying to dive into a pool (if the cat was also holding its nose).

This cat is what I looked like trying to dive into a pool (if the cat was also holding its nose).

As a 13year old, I was great at backstroke because I didn’t have to dive (there were very few kids in those days doing back dives). Anything else though, I was well back in the field because I either started in the water or held my nose diving which looked more like a cat trying to resist gravity and going in legs first.

The family that lived back to back with us were very much into the local swim club – all their kids were super tall and pretty much built to swim. Their mum, Joan, was the swim club treasurer but like my mum, Joan wore several hats. Joan and my mum were also friends through volunteering with our marching band and the local girl guides unit – needless to say, they were like extended family. Joan had noticed that although I couldn’t dive, I was an ok swimmer and had seen me as a ‘six’ leader in the brownies (the little groups in each unit), so suggested to my mum that I might be a good swim teacher. 

In those days, the local council ran the swim lessons. Instructors were volunteers and the lessons were free – can you imagine?? I’m not sure of the quality of my teaching then, but I really enjoyed it (even on the cold rainy days – it was an outdoor facility). One thing that stuck in my mind was how the kids parroted me, even after the lesson was finished and they were showing their parents what they had learned. It seemed strange to me at the time (I was 13 after all) that they didn’t get all that I’d shown them and they’d pretty much all got something different which meant the following week I’d have to do the same lesson again and then the next week and so on until they got all the points I was trying to convey.

I could see it was getting boring towards the end of term, so I started to mix it up adding dance moves into the lesson. Thankfully, the kids were too young to know any dance moves because I was making it up on the spot, but they did all like thinking they were rockstars and very soon, their fake rockstar moves translated into forward propulsion in the water. After the Christmas break, I was in demand as a teacher despite being the youngest teacher there.

I used to loathe our school swim carnivals – if only I could go back and do them now! This was my local pool growing up – we were so lucky to have such a nice facility.

I used to loathe our school swim carnivals – if only I could go back and do them now! This was my local pool growing up – we were so lucky to have such a nice facility.

Derek Zoolander doing Blue Steel

Derek Zoolander and his trademark pose “Blue Steel” – when I ask the guys to do this pose they almost always do it looking over their shoulder which is exactly what I want to help them achieve body rotation.

I still use my rockstar moves although many have changed names from things like the “pop tree” to “rocket ship” when I work with kids or “streamline push off the wall” when I work with adults. New ones that have stuck though are Michael Jackson’sMoonwalk’ when I work on people’s kick and Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ and (to help the guys) Zoolander’s Blue Steel (pictured below) when working on body rotation and breathing. It makes sessions a lot of fun and with it brings marked progression in short timeframes for guys and girls!

 Now, all my sessions are tailored around my best offering to the group I have in front of me. I still write my lesson plans or drag out old ones, but I’ll pull aside different people at different times and get them to focus on an element of the set – i.e. reaching longer, moving their hips, timing of their breathing etc. Regardless of the set, something can always be added to it to improve their strokes, and they always get homework no matter what their age!

Why coach?

There are two elements to that question – one, my nickname is Coach McFi because at an old workplace there was another Fiona and she was already there when I arrived, so having a surname that started with Mc, I became McFi and when I am coaching, some people have extended that to be CoachMcFi. The second element is why do I coach? For that readers, strap yourself in because I’m not sure I’ll be able to give all the reasons!

Let me give you some examples of why not to coach – which is what is often used as a topic opener for people talking to me about this. Marion Jones, Mike Tyson, Diego Maradona, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and others have all individually brought sport into disrepute. The AFL and NRL teams with their salary cap breaches, the current issues with the Australian Swim team’s performance in London after poor athlete behaviour disrupting the camp, the four doubles badminton teams that were thrown out of the London Olympics for match fixing – something that was described as cheating on the holiest of sports events. The ongoing investigation into drugs in sport in Australia which has tarred us all with a dark brush is something I have to admit makes me very cautious as to my next steps in a field of work that I love so much – I should graduate next year from a degree in coaching and exercise science but do I really want to make the jump out of my current career into one that is much less stable and will at best halve my pay?

If people are going to be so underhanded, if the pay is so crap unless you’re at the top, if the hours are so long and for many it’s done on top of working at their primary income source, if you face abuse (despite not being tolerated in sport) from parents/partners/athletes/spectators, why be involved at all? Let me share some stories that are my why’s….

Last week a colleague of mine at work posted a basketball video on facebook that made me cry. Happy tears, not sad ones because the video was so touching (if you have a couple of minutes just now, please watch it before reading on). Moments like the one in the video where all barriers life presents us with are completely torn down often give me the strength to get through the tough times that arise.

Bilbys Civic Squad

Three ladies I recently worked with on their swim technique – I got back as much from them as I hope they did from me and I’m really looking forward to now taking their squad long term again.

Two weeks ago, I was filling in for another coach with triathletes doing swim training (my strength as a coach). In one of the lanes was the three ladies pictured below – mother & daughter on the outside who had just started with our club and one of our graduates from this season’s novice program. They can all swim, they all race and they can all get through a 90min training session with us. All of them though have the hunger for self improvement (and let’s face it, if you can spend less time swimming in the lake in Canberra, all the better!). Without wanting this to sound like an advert, I know I can help them. I don’t know how I know the best way to communicate to them refinements in their technique, it just happens but as you can see from their cheesy grins (lucky you can’t see mine behind my iPhone) they were willing to also help me by posing for this post.

I have met many people along the way through our novice program and I feel very privileged to have been an element of their successes in life. My last house mate and my current one I met through swim clinics for triathlon and like many of our friends, they are like family to me now. There are also people who inspire me – a few years back, Phil started novice 6 months after giving up smoking which he’d done I think for over 20 years. As if that achievement wasn’t enough, he went from not being able to swim five meters in the pool (roughly from the wall to the flags – I honestly remember at one point thinking I was going to have to dive in clothes and all to assist him) to competing in sprint triathlons which have a 750m swim.During the program he was posting some really funny blogs (you may need to click on the blog tab) on our old club website which I’m not sure if he knew but it’s helped not only novices in his program who were facing the same challenges, but also ones since who went looking for information to see if they were doing something wrong and that’s why they were finding the program so challenging. At the end of his program, Phil posted an article titled “SAD”:

…I will post later about future goals for me – this is just a start I hope – but at this time sincere and heartfelt thanks to all the coaches who have taken us this far – Garry especially! The others are too numerous to name, you are all great – but a personal thank you to Fiona for teaching me to swim – i owe you a beer when you return from sunny Europe   Cheers to you all, Phil.      

It still swells my heart and gets me all full of pride. Phil lost an extreme amount of weight over the program and the following years, went on to longer distance triathlons (pretty sure he even did a half ironman) until his progression in his professional life took off with the new found zest he had for his whole life. When Phil gave up smoking and started this journey, I doubt he had any idea of where it would take him and the impact he’d have on other people.

Another story is of a female triathlete (I won’t mention her name because I am conscious she doesn’t like limelight despite how incredible she is), who came into our program barely able to walk because of her size. She told me she took on the challenge of the program to shut her mother up – her mother was badgering her to make friends. This lady was in her 40’s, single, introverted but happy – or, as she told me later, so she thought. The program was based around helping people from all walks of life to complete a triathlon. In that year, we had people who were ex-pro athletes from other sports and the age range was from late teens through to early 60’s. Possibly the most diverse group we’d had but that is one of the many reasons I love coaching it.

By the end of the program, this lady had not only completed her first of then to be many triathlons, she’d made friends outside her work. She was getting out more and her mother was relieved to find she was having to call her on the mobile rather than house phone to get in touch. I am so not claiming it was all me, but I’m happy to know I helped facilitate a change that led to this lady leading what she described as a self imposed oppressed life into one where she felt like she now could try out many more things. She now races at events up and down the coast – she always thought she was too fat to go to the beach but when she’s racing she’s part of something and feels she has a place there and has even now tried snorkelling, surfing and sailing. 

This is just a few examples of how becoming physically active has positively altered the lives of others. Not everyone is nice but I figure they’re just different to me and they will find a coach somewhere that is perfect for them. Just like the volunteer work I’ve done with Cure Cancer Australia, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or serving in the Royal Australian Navy and soon I will serve the community in the Rural Fire Service, coaching for me is about serving others to help them in their life journey and in return I gain self satisfaction and learn so much from them….this last part, is a whole other post!

Quick update

I have a stack of posts I’ve been writing but not finishing – it’s been a busy few weeks with the end of race season, work getting crazy busy and my birthday just passing, so my apologies and I will work more on the “Always looking over your shoulder” but for now here are some photos of my Mum and I (she is often the one thing that keeps me going).

 

Mum and I standing out the front of the old Australian War Memorial cafe that was recently rebuilt.

Mum and I standing out the front of the old Australian War Memorial cafe that was recently rebuilt. I think this was taken in 1989.

Family friends had bought Mum a paragliding experience for her 40th. I was fascinated and climbed all over one of the other planes, so my parents paid for me to go up too. I was too small to sit in the passenger seat in the front, so they propped me up with the pillows from the front seat so I could see out the windows - I would've just turned 6 then. My parents encouraged us to do/try everything.

Family friends had bought Mum a paragliding experience for her 40th. I was fascinated and climbed all over one of the other planes, so my parents paid for me to go up too. I was too small to sit in the passenger seat in the front, so they propped me up with the pillows from the front seat so I could see out the windows – I would’ve just turned 6 then. My parents encouraged us to do/try everything.

 I think this is one of my favourite pictures of Mum because it catches her character so well. She was funny, spontaneous, cheeky, silly but most of all very loving. I took this picture when I was about 16.

I think this is one of my favourite pictures of Mum because it catches her character so well. She was funny, spontaneous, cheeky, silly but most of all very loving. I took this picture when I was about 16.

 

This is the last photo I have of my Mum and I. It was the day after my 20th, the day after my CDF parade day, the day I collapsed in the main hall at the 1st year Church Service. In this picture, although we didn't know it for me, we both had cancer. By this stage, I weighed 42kg and was all skin and bone.

This is the last photo I have of my Mum and I. It was the day after my 20th, the day after my CDF parade day, the day I collapsed in the main hall at the 1st year Church Service. In this picture, although we didn’t know it for me, we both had cancer. By this stage, I weighed 42kg and was all skin and bone.