Sam Harrington has been racing AG triathlon for fifteen years. She had podiumed on multiple occasions at 70.3 and Ironman, then knocked out two children, and was now doing it again. An experienced coach to many and qualified and intelligent in her field, she had it all in hand.
Then she asked me to help her prepare until the World Championships. What could I possibly add?.
Looking at Sam's life she is constantly on the go. Life is full but it is also fresh and there were gaps that Sam only wanted to fill with training. It was my job to make sure that the training Sam did in that precious, dedicated window was the most time effective and productive to prepare for this huge trip from South Africa to Kona. There is so much invested in any IM but when you travel to the other side of the World, have to leave kids at home its importance has even more meaning. The time allocated to it fuels the hopes for it, the money invested reflects the challenge of this feat but mostly, I think, for Sam it is about accomplishment despite the odds.
See, Sam shouldn't be able to do what she does. She has weak bones, Hashimoto disorder, two young kids and a full on coaching role.
There are kids parties, kids accidents, kids illnesses, childcare dilemmas, lack of sleep to blame and yet Sam always finds a way and uses none of those things as excuses - ever. She is that determined to prove that she can do it.
In being who she is, I want her to know that she has absolutely nothing to prove - it is obvious how amazing she is at the sport, at the training and at her first priority being a fantastic Mum . Sometimes though, it is about proving something to yourself though and that is ok.
Every bike target I set Sam was surpassed by 20 watts. Every run by 5 secs a km . It got to a point where I was factoring that in so that the zones and RPE where right. Then deep into a big block Sam said she was worried about her hip, a previous stress fracture site, it felt niggly and tight.
I shut her 'perfect' training down .
No tests, no little runs, we even cut out Gravity X and we waited.
To do that- and that she did that -I knew that what I was trying to achieve with Sam was done. She believed in me and the program. That is what I could add - that was what she needed when she came to me.
You see, when you are a Mum you take on EVERYTHING. Lifting, cleaning, teaching, organising, planning, cooking, disciplining, socialising, school meetings, sports clubs - it's everything for everyone else, all of the time.
Beyond doubt, whilst the tasks are relentless, the most frustrating thing about being an all in Mum is the continuous, never ending, sometimes important , sometimes trivial, but only you - decision making.
What to have for dinner?, where to go this weekend?, when to do this?, when to do something else? what to pack?, what to miss?, what to attend?, how much to spend?, how much to save?, what school?, what doctors?, what clubs?.
It is ongoing, it is escalating and no-one shares the load.
The last thing Sam needed is to be making decisions about her training. To balance, judge and review takes energy and that energy was already been given to her kids and her athletes.
Sam calls me 'the boss'. Now don't get me wrong, I kind of like the name, but Sam called me that without me ever discussing the above with her. I don't think I boss her or dictate or feel strict but I do lead the decisions and that is exactly what she needed. It feels like working for a Boss. Being self-employed is great, flexible, adaptive but its not as simple as working for someone else is it? Everything doesn't stop at you.
Anyway, long story short, Sam's hip stopped hurting with enough time to pick up mileage again in the month before Kona. She didn't run for two weeks- a drop in the ocean of sacrifice if it had turned out to be bone related.
Now she is turning up fit, prepared and ready to take on all her doubts, sacrifices and frustrations and leave them in that race. Sam knows she did everything and beyond what was required from me and in turn has earned unrivalled respect both from me and from James as an athlete, a women and a mother in seeing what she has put together.
Sam Harrington races Womens 40-44 AG on Thursday