Two and a half weeks ago it was pretty obvious to all that Sebastian Kienle’s demolition job of both the Hawaii Ironman course and his male oppostion was a standout performance. A crushing display of power and endurance, which made the men’s race in its own way as enjoyable to watch as the knock ’em down, drag ’em out contest between Dani and Rinnie.
Now that we’ve had time to settle down and reflect on the race, I just wanted to draw people’s attention to another performance that probably wasn’t as obvious, but equally as impressive. Siri Lindley did a fantastic job in not only guiding Rinnie to her third Kona victory, but also in having an entire squad of champion women turn up as one and all perform great on the day. (Rinnie Carfrae 1st, Jodie Swallow 4th, Mary Beth Ellis 9th, Amanda Stevens 23rd – fastest swim)
As I’ve said before, while Siri may gush ‘you’re awesome’ a lot more than her previous coach, it’s a cover for one of the deepest thinkers in our sport with an intellect equal to anyone in it. With that, rather than talk about how one makes the transition from succesful athlete to dominant force as a coach (very few do), I’ll let Siri explain in her own words. This is an interview I’ve kept from her time as an athlete, which I believe expresses more eloquently than I could how she made it then and why she continues to succeed now.
Siri Lindley : On Triathlon
When I began the sport of triathlon, I descended upon its territory completely unaware of the experience that lay ahead. I thought I would check it out, give it a good whirl and see where it takes me. I gave it a try, got my butt kicked and fell in love with it right then and there. I loved the challenge of trying to master something of which I was totally incompetent in and unprepared for. I knew how to swim but only enough to get me through a game of marco polo at the public pool. I rode my yellow banana seat bike for years as a kid, cruising the neighbourhood, just making the rounds. I had never even contemplated riding a bike just to ride a bike. The running wasn’t as foreign to me as I had grown up participating in team sports such as lacrosse and field hockey, where I thrived on sprinting up and down the field on my quest to get the ball in the goal.
Like building a house, I began building my experience in triathlon from the bottom up. I began building my foundation by asking questions on how to train: how to build endurance, how to get stronger, how to swim, bike and run, literally. Then, I asked about equipment necessary to compete and race tactics etc… Then I started learning the 3 disciplines. I had friends show me proper swim technique, bike technique and basic running skills. The foundation now in place, I needed to get to work on the interior decorating of the place. This would only happen through my experiences. Each experience I had from this point on led to the constantly changing look of the interior of the house, me as an athlete.
Every time I started to see improvement, my passion for the sport intensified, my determination doubled and my goals set higher. The better I got, the better I wanted to become. I knew that I had started from square 1 and could only get better and learn more. This was so exciting to me and fueled my competitive fire. I would learn something new everyday, not just about the sport but about myself and my body. To this day, I still feel as though I have only begun this process of self exploration and have so much yet to learn.
As we all know, in life, our experiences growing up definitely mold who we become as adults. Growing up, I always had a tremendous desire to make an impact, to achieve great things, to be the best that I could be in everything I did. This always required a huge commitment on my part and a lot of hard work. Some of the things I did, I would get positive reinforcement for but often times I felt that those words were given out freely without much thought or consideration to whether or not I really deserved them. So, although the positive reinforcement felt good it actually only benefited me in that it gave me that little extra confidence which made me work that much harder, to do even better; so that I could prove my worth to my most harsh critic, myself.
For me, I have come to set standards for myself. I know I have done a great job, when I have used every ounce of my energy, effort, determination and desire to achieve a task. Usually, when I have done this, the results are good. Whether it be winning a race, beating a competitor, performing a PB, if I knew I gave it everything I had and did the very best that I could, I know inside that I have been successful. To me that is worth so much more than someone telling me I did great when I know inside, I hadn’t given my all. I have always completely understood that the one person with whom you will live every second of the rest of your life with, is yourself. Therefore, you better be happy with who you are and be proud of who you are so that you can look yourself in the mirror everyday and like what you see and be happy that you are your own lifelong companion.
So, back to triathlon and racing. In 1998, I feel that my triathlon career got a jumpstart to a new level which would fuel the next 3 years of my competitions. I won the USA Pro Championship. I had never ever expected to do this and thus was totally surprised by my feat. It was at this point that I realized that I had no idea really just how far I could go in this sport. I knew one thing and that was that my passion and desire for the sport of triathlon far exceeded that of any other sport I had competed in. I knew also that I was willing to give everything I had towards exploring my abilities in the sport. The pro championship win opened my eyes to a potential within myself that I had never known. Yes, People had told me I could be good but until then, I didn’t believe it myself.
I then got a new coach, started spending Colorado’s cold winters in sunny Australia and took all the steps I thought were necessary to become the best that I can be. I definitely improved and reached a new level, finishing all 1999 World cup races in the Top 10 with 5 being in the top 5. I was absolutely thrilled. But, with improved results came higher expectations from myself. Now, instead of coming in 4th in World Cup races, I wanted to come in 3rd. My dream became making a World Cup podium, working my way up in the World Rankings and most importantly just becoming the best athlete I was capable of becoming. I felt as though I was doing everything right, I felt as though I left no stone unturned. But, when I failed to make the US Olympic Team, my long held, heartfelt ultimate goal, and had to settle for being the alternate, I took that as a sign that I wasn’t doing everything I could. Something was missing, and I had to figure out just what that something was.
Being a strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. I believe that my not making the starting US Olympic team was the step back (and a painful one at that) that I had to take in order to make the changes required to bring me to that next level and closer to the excellence I sought. When I didn’t make the team, I got a note from my friend Loretta Harrop. She was telling me about her training squad renowned for their intensity, unbelievable training regimes and most notably their brilliant coach, Brett Sutton.
I had seen Brett at a lot of the races and was in awe of the incredible results he kept getting with his athletes. The stories I had heard of their training were enough to make you gasp, but they always intrigued me and seemed attractive to a part of me that I didn’t even know existed.
So, when Loretta encouraged me to contact Brett to try and get myself involved in the squad, I took this as an incredible sign that this was happening for a reason. This amazing opportunity was falling in my lap at a time where I had absolutely nothing to lose. There was no way I could pass it up, for I would never forgive myself and would forever have to live with my fears holding me back from achieving greatness.
Brett told me I could join, but I would give up Boulder and go to Switzerland with him and his group. I was absolutely terrified yet at the same time, entirely eager to set forth on this new journey that I was sure would be one of the most painful, yet personally revealing ever.
My fears for the most part, consisted of my fear of failure.
Failing to keep up with the training, failing to improve, failing to stay healthy amid the rigorous new training regimen and failing to get the results I so desperately wanted to get from this big leap of faith. In trying to find a way to ease the anxiety these fears were creating within me, I came about a new realization about myself. I decided I would take it one day at a time. I wasn’t going to focus on times, or how I compared to the others or future race results. I was going to focus each and every day on just that, the day. Getting through the training and doing the very best that I could every step of the way.
The best thing was that Brett’s attitude was exactly the same, he wasn’t checking my times for every interval or measuring my abilities every second, or analyzing what my performance will be like 6 weeks down the road. All he cared about was that I listened to what he had to say, did as I was told, had faith in every instruction given, and most importantly that I gave it my absolute all every step of the way.
“The results will come” he would say, “success is inevitable”. This was so comforting to me and allowed me to go about my business with a relaxed mind yet a hungry heart.
I went after it with all my enthusiasm, It was the toughest thing I have ever done, the training was like nothing I could have done before. I was doing things I never dreamed I would be capable of enduring.
Yes, it was hard, but it also was the biggest confidence builder imaginable. I was proving to myself day after day that I was capable of doing so much more than I originally thought possible and this became an invaluable asset to me. I was getting stronger, fitter, faster and lighter everyday. My confidence was building and my belief in myself now a constant companion of mine, not just an occasional visitor of my mind.
This period of my life, I will always look back upon as being the greatest learning experience and the most powerful personal journey I have ever traveled.
I had the guidance of a coach whose wisdom joined with my determination and passion to form a fire ball that he lit and flamed the fire, I feel continues to fuel my everyday even now.
Through this time I discovered the most valuable lesson of all : In the pursuit of excellence, all the tools you need are within yourself. Sometimes it is necessary to find a guide, like Brett was for me, to show you how to find the tools and how to use them. Once you realize that it all lies within you, you take responsibility for everything. Then it comes down to doing everything you can the very best that you can and with all your focus, energy and commitment.
If you do this, as Brett would say, ”success becomes inevitable.”
Buying the fastest bike, or the latest “fast” running shoe, training with the top swimmer, cyclist , or runner in town, or surrounding yourself with people who will tell you how awesome you are, all the time, will not get you the results you dream of.
Throw all those things away and look inside yourself. Face your fears, take that giant leap into the unknown and push yourself beyond your limits. Find new limits by doing this, and realize that your new limits aren’t even limits. You can always go further, you can always get faster, stronger, fitter, it is only the mind that puts out the red light. Don’t let your fears become the boundaries to your success. Believe in yourself, and believe in the motto that sounds corny but speaks so true, “no pain, no gain”, you must break through old barriers to reach new heights, and only your fear of the pain you will have to endure will hold you back from doing so. So, if you want to be the best that you can be, do it right.
Consistency, hard work, determination and non-stop devotion to your quest for success will get you there. When you think you are doing everything you can, yet your results remain mediocre, know that there is another step you have yet to take to earn your right to a higher level of performance.
Still, though, it was that Hungary race that remains the greatest moment of my career. It was about so much more than me. That day was an awakening, a day of shared joy. I felt so thankful, as I continue to feel each and every day for the journey that led to that moment.
The people who have shared in the whole beautiful process. Life is a journey, A beautiful journey, in good times and bad. We learn the most through the tough times, we grow during our struggles and we celebrate during the good times and with our victories.
Throughout it all, we are blessed with life, we are blessed with passion, with love and with opportunity.
Face your fears, like I did, take that scary step and often times you will find that there is great reward in doing so. What you put into your life, your sport, your relationships and yourself, will ultimately lead to what you get out of all these things.
So, give it your all live each day with thankfulness, with courage and with a desire to make things happen , and as old doc would say, they will!