Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coach Newell and those racing LP

When I was a freshman in highschool, I had a bunch of friends that were on the swim team. I had never swam competitively before, not counting the underwater races I had against the lifeguards at the town pool when I was in grade school. Yet, I was looking for something to do over the winter time, so I went out for the team - exactly one day before the first swim meet of the season.

Coach Newell was a crusty old guy that resembled Popeye. He was real old school, and he instructed me to get in the end lane and swim 1 lap. After finishing, he replied "you'll do. Tomorrow you are swimming the 500." Of course in Highschool they could never get anyone to swim the 500, and this became my event by default.

The next day I heaved my way through an 8:46 500, complete with open turns and all. I was quadruple lapped by the winner of the event. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and by the end of my freshman year, I was swimming below 7 minutes for the event.

Anyways, the focus of this story is this poem that Coach Newell used to read to us before meets. I wish I could remember it and if he were still around, I'd contact him to see if he still had it. I'm sure he still would along with his bull whip that he'd breakout when we were dogging it in practice.

The poem began something like this: "How do you deal when the pressure is on?" That pretty much is the focus of the poem.

There are a bunch of you going up to LP this weekend to race. For those of you that I coach or that I had the pleasure of working with at one of my camps, I know you are ready. I have full faith in all that I have racing there. I know the blood, sweat, and tears you have put into your training. I know the sacrifices you have made and the key sessions that you excelled in. I know that if your head is in the right place, you are certainly ready.

Your head being in the right place is the key. For the last 3 years that I have spectated at LP, I have positioned myself, along with Baker, out on a hill at the 6 mile mark of the run. Baker and I would harass the competitors from our perches here as they ran, shuffled, or walked by. Initially, our goal was to make them laugh a bit. But for those walking, we took on a mission to get them running. I would say that 95% of those that were walking - we'd get running. And they would continue running. This tells me that when we hit a really hard spot out there, sometimes it's eaiser to just ease up, yet we are still capable of going faster. It's so much a mental game.

For all of you racing LP on Sunday - this is what you have trained for. Don't worry about the "should have's" and "could have's" in your training. That's water under the bridge now anyways, so why waste energy on that? Instead, focus on all the great training days you had. The long bricks, the long runs that went great, the camps, the big weeks, ... Focus on that and tell yourself that this is just one day, and it's time to make the most of a great opportunity.

You all have an opportunity this Sunday.

Last year in Hawaii, I was dealing with some issues, mainly a shoulder problem and a sinus infection. I remember that the day before the race, I stopped focusing on these things and instead turned my attention to the opportunity at hand. That night, I remember telling myself; "you know, nothing really matters right now. the bottom line is that tomorrow morning, I'm going to show up at that starting line, and see what I can do. That's the bottom line. Go out there and race."

Everyone puts pressure on themselves for some reason in the week leading up to the race. So how do you deal when the pressure is on?

Best of luck all - you are ready! Believe it.




Eric said...


Feel confident that your spot on the hill will not be vacant. Aimee and I will be at LP spectating on the course and we will spend some time on that little hill offering encouragement and motivation to those struggling.....and I'll rip into Baker as well.

John said...

I’ll be there up on the run hill as well. I had way too much fun last year and besides I told baker I picked up a box of paper clips and rubber bands and I’m not afraid to use’em if I see him walking.

Cliff Tam said...


First of all, thanks for cheering us on at mile 6. I did LP with a tore shoulder. It is 80% healed when I was at the starting line.

I can't agree more than stop focusing on the injury and think about the long training. That's what got me mentally through IM. I gone through the toughest trainings I can think of and live through those. That gave me a lot of confidence.