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Be About It

CPC's Blog About Health and Wellness

IRONMAN Mont Tremblant

Tuesday, 8 / 29 / 17

This weekend at IRONMAN Mont Tremblant marked the culmination of a journey that I personally and professionally had the privilege to be a part of. Two amazing guys, Bill Lodi and Russ Lepage, provided me the opportunity to coach them through their IRONMAN journey. Taking 2 very different individuals and training them for the same race presents unique challenges. I had to consider their own goals and personal obligations, training experience, and quirks. Yes, quirks, because endurance athletes are full of them. Challenging still, was that I was training for the same race with my own set of goals, obligations, and quirks. The similarity that ran through each of us was our determination and that of our support team to go “All In”.

No one takes on an IRONMAN alone. The support from friends and family is pivotal in making it across the finish line. You may be the one doing the work and putting one foot in front of the other, but the without your crew literally, and figuratively, behind you, the journey isn’t as sweet. For my clients Bill Lodi and Russ Lepage their journeys were uniquely their own but equally as impressive. Let me tell you why.

"This Guy!" Bill & I at the finish line

Bill started his journey battling demons from 2 years ago as he was training for this very race, IRONMAN Mont Tremblant. Four weeks prior to attempting his first IRONMAN, he was hospitalized, fighting to come back from a severe infection that nearly took his life and his ability to race. Doctors said he would never train for over an hour again, never mind race. With months of recovery and a determined spirit, Bill was cleared to train and race. He and I, as his personal trainer, cautiously began training again. Upon receiving medical clearance that he was able to train unrestricted, he signed on with 18 Maple Endurance Training for the 2016 tri season. He did so knowing full well he was going back to Tremblant for his race in 2017. This training season was not one he will look back on and say how much he enjoyed it. In fact, he wanted to be any other place than his bike most weekends.

As a coach, I had to acknowledge his fears and anxiety with a balanced training plan that allowed him room to be human and go with what “felt” right. Bill learned to lean on his support crew more than ever when moments were dark and when the “All In” approach seemed to drift. He allowed them to bring him back. As his coach and friend, I was so proud to be able to help him through a challenging and lengthy journey. Watching him cross his finish line and hearing “William Lodi, You Are An IRONMAN!” brought me to tears. You did it Bill and I am so proud and honored have been a part of your journey. (To read more on Bill’s story in his own words follow this link.

Russ came to me early this year tip toeing around the idea of using 18 Maple to coach him through IMMT. We settled in on an at home strength training plan that would suit his needs. The next week he was back and telling me that this was his last IM he'd be doing for the foreseeable future and was going “All In” and wanted my help. Russ has a young family and, with 2 kids under 4, they deserve a lot of his time. His saint of a wife gave him the go ahead to make the commitment. Sp with his wife and family behind him, Russ set out will a goal to finish his third IRONMAN and do so with no hesitation and no second guessing his plan halfway through. While Russ’s story is very different from Bill’s, he too faced opportunities this year where it would have been incredibly easy to throw in the towel. Personal loss and family emergencies made the act of getting out of bed to train a battle some weeks. As his coach, I watched in awe of how he made it work day after day.

Russ with this crew in tow

Training was a priority, but only after his wife and kids were taken care of. Early morning trainer rides. Late night long runs. He got it in. And, if he wasn’t able to, we found a way to get the most critical work done. The milestones that Russ was able to meet throughout his journey were finish lines in and of themselves. With a support crew of 13 strong, Russ made it to the finish line hearing “Russ Lepage, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” for the third time. His family was beaming and so was I.

Remain Focused. Confident. And Humbled.

Last weekend was an incredibly huge weekend for me and 18 Maple. My journey to IRONMAN Mont Tremblant truly started last summer when I was able to drape the IRONMAN Lake Placid Finisher medal around the neck of my FIRST 18 Maple client, Patti Fahle. She didn’t know it, and neither did I, until I was able to digest what I witnessed and saw that amazing weekend last July. The tug to race again was there. The need to race again was there. Feeling the need to validate my previous trip to the IRONMAN World Championships in 2014 has always sat with me.

Starting an endurance coaching business as an IRONMAN Certified Coach with only 1 IRONMAN under my belt meant I needed this race more than ever. The mental journey had begun. The physical journey wouldn’t start until winter.

There were countless miles of cold long runs. Hours and hours spent in the darkened corner at CPC on the Kickr going nowhere but in my head, getting closer and closer to achieving a goal I so desperately wanted to make happen. Oh and the swimming. My least favorite of the three somehow became a welcomed change of environment from the cold dreariness that the winter and late spring months seemed to hold onto. These were the most pivotal months for me as an athlete, as a coach, and as someone who was finally launching their own brand.

18 Maple Endurance Training officially launched in February 2017. The enjoyment and pride that should have been felt that day the website went live was anything but. It was REAL and it brought an anxiety with it that I had never felt before. I care so deeply for what 18 Maple Endurance Training stands for and what it has to offer ALL endurance athletes. I found myself afraid to move forward out of fear of failure. 18 Maple is ME. It is MY brand. It represents years of schooling and certifications, years of coaching, first hand experience, and a WHY and HOW towards endurance training that differs from many traditional approaches. It wasn’t just me training myself. I was putting all of what I stand for on a platform for critique and judgement and skepticism. I was also training for an IRONMAN.

Racked and ready to rack

I truly mean it when I say no one takes on an IRONMAN alone. My journey to IMMT was far different than that of my last IRONMAN. Three years removed and life is very different. I would not have been able to successfully cross the finish line without my crew, and because this is my part of the blog, I’ll call them my Cowbell Crew. Dorky as it may sound, my Cowbell Crew is my inner circle. They know what makes me tick. They nudge me forward when I’m afraid to take another step. They literally ring a damn cowbell and send me SNL More Cowbells .gifs when I’m stuck on the kickr for hours in July because of rain. My inner circle has grown since my last IRONMAN with trusted friends and people that mean the world to me. Just as Bill and Russ had their support crew getting them through the dark days, I had mine. Every IRONMAN...or WOMAN does. It is what gets us to the finish line. It’s what makes the every stroke, pedal, and step worth it.

So, why all the fuss?

I believe I wrote in a blog at the start of the year where I wanted this journey to end. Not, at the finish line of IRONMAN Mont Tremblant, but at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona on Ali’i Drive. If you’ve pulled up the CPC website, it even says so. A very lofty goal and one that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull off. The self-imposed pressure for all of the reasons already mentioned had to stay buried. Kona had to be placed as far off in my mind as it is in real life. The only thing that I focused on during my training was the next stroke, pedal, or step. The morning of August 20th when I pulled on my 18 Maple kit to race a truly defining race was an incredibly memorable moment. Through the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run my one mission was to stay calm, focused, and steady. If my ultimate goal was meant to be, it would happen.

Big chair - pre race

What I never imagined happening was clearing my previous time of 11:23 in 2014 with a crushing 10:38 finish to win my age group and find myself Kona Bound. Pain, elation, relief...basically all the feels...coursed through me. I’d done what I had set out so long ago to do. As I continue to write the reality of what happened has started to sink in. This part of the journey maybe over but there is an even bigger one ahead.

I am beyond grateful for all of the support and congratulations I received over the last 7 days and months. The banner and dry erase board brought me to tears. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s all I have and it is heartfelt. Before concluding, there are several more Thank you’s that are necessary are in order.

My client, Frank Stellato, and his company Charter Oak Financial, came forward this year and asked if they could sponsor me. I was floored and honored that they would want to have me represent them. After a brief conversation learning about their platform and that they believe “There’s More Than One Way To The Top!” I knew this was meant to be. Their sponsorship helped cover costly race entry fees, hotel stays, and car rentals. I am beyond grateful for your sponsorship and hope I was able to represent the brand proud.

To the gang at Family Bike who made sure my two wheeled racing machine was always properly tuned and ready to roll for each long training ride and race - Thank you! To, Ray Plouffe, the owner of Family Bike, you are an amazing friend that has provided me more support than I feel deserving of. And not to exclude anyone, a big shout out goes to store manager and lead mechanic, Anthony Disabito, for being so patient and treating all of the quirky 18 Maple triathletes with exceptional service.

To the amazing and exceptional women of SWEAT Power Yoga, Krystal Say & Shannon Rolston. You believed in me and my mission with 18 Maple Endurance Training enough to join forces and share the practice of Power Yoga with endurance athletes. Krystal, we started my IRONMAN journey together three years ago and to see how both of our lives have changed in that time is beyond inspiring. The belief that both of you have in your students and the power you give each of them, including myself to be “UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU” is priceless. Every practice with you makes me a stronger, more confident, and more rooted woman. Thank you for being such incredible role models.

Besides my parents, I’m not sure there was anyone more proud of what I accomplished last Sunday than Geoff Sullivan, a friend, a lover of sports, and my boss. Geoff, you are the the one that made 18 Maple Endurance Training become “a thing.” You provided me with the creative push, the financial backing, and the kick in the ass when I was trying to be perfect instead of just good. You, CPC, and all of my incredibly talented co-workers changed my life three years ago when all seemed so uncertain. I will forever be indebted to you for taking a chance on me.

My ORIGINAL Cowbell Crew

Lastly, my family. My parents John & Diane. You are the ORIGINAL Cowbell crew. Every game, every race, every time I’ve had doubt and struggle you’ve been there for me. You’ve done everything short of physically race the miles with me, but believe me when I say you’ve been there for all of them. To my younger brothers Kieran & Brendan, we may be miles apart but we are still side by side competing. Just so you know, I always win, and that’s why you love me.

To all of the Cowbell Crews out there, THANK YOU!

Without you this means nothing.

TAGS: Coaching, Inspiration, Ironman, Training, 18 Maple, Endurance
Sarah Kelly