Following such consistent and detailed preparation for Kona it was a kick in the stomach finding out that Steffi Steinberg had almost definitely had to race Ironman World Champs with Covid.
It is a difficult event to target, even before you throw in headaches, coughs and temperatures. Part of me is glad there was no positive test before the race because it would been a very uncomfortable call for me to make as a coach.
They say 'what you don't know doesn't hurt you' - we will go with that I guess.
Leaving Kona happy for the finish but dissatisfied with the result Steffi and her husband Gerry headed on a west US road trip training in a motorhome. Taking time out, whilst very much staying all in with triathlon training.
We took it steady - two hard days followed by an easy one to try and keep on top of any repercussions from the virus. Steffi's form exponentially began to improve. She sent me a video running down a slight gradient and I thought it was a professional marathoner such was her rhythm and turnover. Unbeknown to me it was also on that run where Steffi had had a conversation with a stranger fellow runner. As all coaches know sometimes it takes the right person in the right place to say the same thing to be heard. The transformation of Steffi's disappointment in Kona into opportunity of St George began.
It was midway through the bike leg of St George that Steffi's transformation really became apparent. She was second overall age grouper at that time. As my other athletes messaged me in delight and surprise I was just glad, not surprised , nor nervous. Just glad.
See, being part of someones journey I take very seriously. Though I am not with Steffi in person, every watt she pushes or niggle she feels I am invested. I feel responsible for injury, even for illness- because everything I set as a coach has some repercussion on her body or location. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is not my responsibility and yet it is.
Gerry, out in Utah, was in contact with me throughout. I worried Steffi would become despondent as runners came past and pushed her from the podium and yet her times didn't slow. She had decided in her words 'not today'. 6th place ?. Not today.
Congratulations Steffi on your 5th place at 40-44 IM 70.3 Worlds. You got to presentations but moreover you overcame yourself. That is a journey. I'm in it for the journeys. Here's to more.
Whilst Steffi raced well into double figure World Championship figures, Louise Hathaway, another Swallows Triathlon athlete, started her first in St George.
Louise has accompanied her partner Paul Lunn (winner of AG at Worlds 70.3) to Kona, volunteered at the race and had been working throughout, tirelessly supporting, enjoying and experiencing triathlon at its best.
That experience came with a whole lot of travel and resulting disruption. It crept into Louise's mindset a little, being around so much triathlon that focuses on the pedigree of results rather than the holistic, more normal, integration of life and sport.
I started to hear doubts and fears creeping in about the race and it then became a job to try and manipulate that evolution into something positive and individualised to Louise.
I think we did that well. Louise is a natural runner and therefore felt nervous about the swim and bike portions of the race - it was those parts that she nailed on race day both in terms of performance and in terms of enjoyment.
Louise shut her race down on the run, her breathing difficult off the bike and not responding to her efforts. Whilst she couldn't find the run to 'race' to the line she used the run to soak in the event and enjoy her moment on the World stage , of which we hope there will be more.
We have so much positive work to do for 2023 but 2022 was a season of growth and learning and that is a must if you aim to get faster at triathlon which Louise does. Well Done Lou and to Paul for his perfect performance.
FT : 5.42 62nd/259 F45-49