I'm fortunate enough to live in a larger city that attracts interesting visitors. Last year, I met Sister Madonna Buder, Iron Nun. Earlier this year I listened and learned from Andrew Skurka, Ultimate Hiker. And last night St. Louis enjoyed a visit from the reigning (4-time) Ironman Triathlon World Champion, Chrissie Wellington. Of course I went.
Chrissie answering a question!
The funny thing about these type of events is I rarely go with questions of my own. These people and their areas of expertise are on youtube enough times that I can research answers to my specific questions without too much trouble. Instead, I go to soak up their aura, see how they convey their thoughts, respond to the inevitable repetitive questions, and gather my own inspiration.
And Chrissie is indeed an inspiration. The girl could hardly sit still on stage, flapping her feet around and changing positions every minute or so. I suspect it is this energy that, when training, she is able to channel into gaining fitness, but it an off year just sort of bubbles out of every nook and cranny. Chrissie gave a short auto-biographical talk about her ascent to the ultimate title in long-course triathlon, and then took questions from the audience. Throughout her presentation, I was impressed by her insistence that every person work to achieve the best race result for you: not stressing about the clock, but instead focusing on wringing every last ounce of courage out of yourself and leaving it on the racecourse. This inward focus extends to training as well...focus on preparing yourself the best you can given your life situation and choices. Not every age grouper has the luxury of adequate recovery, balanced nutrition, good sleep, terrific equipment. Chrissie encouraged us not to measure race performances by the depth of our aero wheels...instead measure them by the depth of our efforts.
Meeting the legend.
My biggest take-away from her talk was from a crowd question. An attendee asked "What advice would you give to a person attempting to finish their first Ironman?" Now at first I was not impressed by this question; there is advice for first-time triathletes floating all over the interwebz. But Chrissie's answer really impressed me and it is something I will incorporate into every pre-race routine from here on out. She responded "I would tell the athlete to set aside some quiet time and think about the day ahead. Think about what it would take to make you quit." She went on to describe that the only thing to make her quit would be a broken leg, so when she races and is feeling bad, she asks herself "Is my leg broken?". Then if the answer is no, then she keeps going. Simple. Perpetual forward motion.