Hangovers at Practice
and How I Started My Own Triathlon Team
A few years back while I lived in Las Vegas, Nevada I started an all women triathlon team called Nix Tri Chix. Well, wait, I had a few guys on the Team too, they were the husbands of the wives just as dedicated and just as bad a** as the girls.
What was supposed to be an experiment in training beginners for a triathlon became my life for a year and an excellently fun and funny time.
I started Nix Tri Chix out of the love of the sport of Triathlon. I’ve been competing in triathlons for many years and grew up in the sport. My mother dated one of the first Hawaii Ironman Triathlon finishers and I learned from some of the best in the biking world because there weren’t many 9 or 10 year olds that could ride 40 miles with the best of them. I may not have been as fast as they were and didn’t have the power in my legs at the time, but I made it, even if it took me a bit longer to get to the destination.
It was 1975 and we lived in La Jolla California, what is now the mecca for triathletes was then a quaint and beautiful un-crowded beach town has now become the in place to be if you’re a triathlete (or wanna be).
A Motobecane named Trigger
My mother never owned a car, in fact, we barely had a place to live most of the time, but we had our bikes. Mine was a 40 pound steel frame Peugeot with the nastiest pedals. My mother had a Motobecane named Trigger that she rode in her clogs that fit snugly into her toe clips. I would not be found in toe clips, they were way too restrictive for me and I could never get my feet out of them when I really needed to, so I opted for the foot flat on the pedal style of riding.
Riding our bikes was a way of transportation. They were all we had to get around and we rode everywhere. I’m talking everywhere, including to Monterey California from La Jolla one summer.
You want to talk about having your butt hurt? I can tell you, I never wanted to get back on a bike after that journey, but there was only one way there and one way back and it had nothing to do with an engine powered vehicle. That was a brutal ride, but one that taught me a great deal about what it takes to complete a journey when you really don’t think you’re capable.
Back to the future
I was 40 years old and I’d had enough of working for someone else. I’d worked since I was 12 years old making someone else rich (Yes, 12…how? I was legally emancipated at the tender age of 12, more on that in another post) and I was now ready to go it on my own. I didn’t even quit my job. I just didn’t go back. And on my 40th birthday I received a phone call from one of my amazing athletes, her name is Lizzy. She said she was nervous but she really wanted to ‘try’ to do a triathlon. She ended up winning her first race ~ more on that in a moment.
I had become a USAT Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer while I was still teaching spin classes at LVAC because I knew I loved the sport and the sport was not going to leave my body or my mind. So I worked to figure out a way I could coach full-time instead of working for someone else and ended up finding the love of my life all over again ~ this time instead of racing it was in coaching.
I was and still am “Coach Nic” to all ‘my girls’ and they were the loves of my coaching life ~ they still are.
Our First Practice
At the pool showed us we had a long ways to go. Not one of them could swim – well, one of them could swim…the rest could tread water. We had our work cut out for us in this discipline and I could only imagine what would happen when we got to the bike and the run…oh good grief, my heart sank for a moment wondering if I was the coach I thought I was and they were ready for the training that was about to come their way.
We forged on that Saturday morning despite 3 of them having just returned from a long night of partying and only slightly hungover as they had told me. I don’t think they even made it to the shower, just changed into their swimsuits and came right to practice from the bar.
They were dedicated from the moment they started and they were ‘my girls’. I loved them, respected them, admired them and got very angry with them at times. But as their coach I was there for every practice, I was there at every race, I was there when they decided to break up with their boyfriends, get angry with their husbands and needed a sounding board; a friend and a coach.
It was the best coaching experience of my life and I have a beautiful collage of their pictures to prove it with their cards of gratitude, “To Coach Nic”. It hangs on my wall to this day and I am eternally grateful to each and every one of these women for impacting my life in a positive way.
Sister Madonna Buder
During one of our races we met Sister Madonna Buder. If you don’t know who she is you can read more about her here. An amazing and powerful woman with the heart of a saint and the presence of a goddess, she was the incentive for my girls because I talked about her story, the story of a nun who took up the sport of triathlon in her late 40′s.
One of the women on the Team, Lisa, ran over to me during the time I was helping others on the team get ready and said, “OMG! COACH!! It’s Sister Madonna! Can you get her to come over and take a picture with our Team?”
Sister Madonna and I had met at many a race, she was one of the first athlete’s to ever help me on the course when I had an exceptionally brutal fall and injury only to stop during her race, help me up off the ground and let me know I can still finish. I did, with her, and it was the best race I had had because I made a new friend and one who believed in me even though I was a bit broken at the time and a lot in pain.
Upon seeing Sister Madonna at races we would hug, let each other know we were there and then go about getting our gear ready. It was always a pleasure to know her presence was blessing the race. Sister Madonna is my all-time favorite triathlete because she embodies what it takes to be a leader.
We embraced and she met the girls, they started to cry in disbelief because they had become close to Sister Madonna through my stories of her, it was quite emotional for all of us as we had not expected to have her presence with our Team.
The girls had an excellent race and all of them came in top 10 in their age group with the exception of Lisa who stayed behind to help another athlete on the course. A true testimony to her athleticism and her spirit and why I’m such a proud Coach.
….and How a Beginner Can WIN a Race
Lizzy won her age group that day. Her first triathlon ever and she beat her competition who’d been racing for longer than her. It was also one of the most competitive age groups (26 year olds) and Lizzy smoked it on that course. She went on to win two races after this and you know the best part of this story about Lizzy was that her parents never knew. She couldn’t tell them she was working out because they didn’t believe in exercise and didn’t want her to get hurt.
So, Lizzy’s wins stayed with the Team and we celebrated like crazy having a blast together as a Team. Lizzy wasn’t remiss because she knew she had found a place to be herself and live her dream with like-minded people who believed in her. What an amazing athlete.
How an Era Comes to an End – A Coach’s Demise
But, alas, things come to an end and believe it or not, I kind of went a bit wonkers. By that I mean, I let my ego get in the way of my coaching, I let my coaching get in the way of my life, and I let myself think I was the best when I was only a conduit, a means by which these ladies could become the athletes they wanted to be. I let myself think I was the most important when it was their experience that was most important. My ego dictated my belief, my belief colored my coaching, and inevitably I lost them one by one and I became very sad and angry.
A Hard Pill to Swallow and a HUGE Lesson Learned
I won’t lie, I WISH I could have done it differently, been different, realized what I had, been grateful for what was happening and embraced the moment instead of letting my humongous ego get in the way and make everything go to pieces.
But, if I hadn’t had that experience I wouldn’t be sitting at my computer right now at 12am in the morning recreating it here for you. I also wouldn’t have the humility I do now and the little bit more presence of mind to know I have an excellent life right this moment and to be grateful for those people whom I meet and influence along the way.
We all get down on our situations, down on our lives, and down on the present because we are living in the future, or reminding ourselves of the past and barely ever are we conscious enough to be present. I learned a great deal from my Team, in fact, I would say I learned more from them than they learned from me and isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be when you coach?
This is an excellent video of all the girls and gives testimony to one person’s dedication to change the lives of many.