Updated: Apr 21, 2022
As we look ahead to a slow return to racing, one of the things I really look forward to is the eventual return to live athlete briefings at IRONMAN races. One of the reasons for this is attending those races where my friend Dave Downey is one of the announcers and briefers. His engagement with the athletes, especially the first-timers, is infectious. He can cover the essential and serious items while entertaining the athletes and helping them reduce their nervousness. It is a gift.
One of the key pieces of Dave’s talk is to encourage the athletes not to cross the finish line and immediately bring their GPS device up in front of their face to press the button. He tells the athletes to cross that finish line with hands held high in celebration. And Dave has a point. Focusing on the overall accomplishment and giving yourself space to celebrate is vital.
On the other hand, I was recently struck by a visual that gave me pause in this regard. Don’t get me wrong, I still agree with Dave. But what I saw when watching a playback from Challenge Miami made me think about who we are as a family of athletes. I watched numerous pros crossing the finish line in various finishing spots. Many of them “pushed the button” just as they crossed the line. And that made me think, “Even the pros press the button.”
So why? What brings us together? Age grouper seeking a finish and a pro seeking a win? I think it is pretty simple. Clearly, the pros trying to earn a living in our great sport care deeply about their placement in races.
But on the other hand, just like the average age group athlete, they must also always race against the course and themselves. The measure of performance in our sport is not just about being the fastest; it is about execution. The proper execution of a race plan is one of the few things the individual athlete has any real control over in a race.
One of the metrics we use to measure that execution performance is the data we receive from that device on our wrist. It is not the end-all or be-all of performance, but it does help. That data allows us to measure ourselves… against ourselves. So when you cross that line, feel free to press the button just like many of the pros. Just don’t hold your watch up in front of your face. And then smile for the camera and yourself!
Mark Turner (aka Coach MarkT) is a Houston, Texas Metro area based Coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II and Paratriathlon Certified Coach, IRONMAN University Certified Coach,VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and Mental Strengths Performance Coach. Coach MarkT absolutely loves coaching and helping the athletes achieve their dreams. MarkT is also a US Veteran having served in the United States Marine Corps. He is a graduate of the University of Houston Honors College with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. In addition to endurance sports, his interests include history, science fiction, and cooking. He can be reached at markt@teamMPI.com.