It’s been a while since I watched an Ironman essentially from start to finish. I say, essentially because in Cairns you don’t really get to see the bike.

Aside from playing the role of coach and supporter it was also good to play observer as there is always little and big lessons to learn from.

Attitude is everything.

I could leave it at that. Spanners will always get thrown into the works and the athlete that is proactive versus reactive will always fare better.

Many an athletes mental state would have been impacted from about 9pm the night before the race, when the heavens opened up and stayed open.

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” – Bethany Hamilton

It was awesome to see the front guys putting themselves well and truly into the box. So many athletes erroneously think that once you get stronger, fitter, faster that it gets easier. No – you just have (if willing) the ability to hurt more. And when you want the spoils of a win, or a major breakthrough in performance you have to be willing to hurt or what we call getting comfortable being uncomfortable. The pace that Berkel, Brown and Robbo were going out at was nothing short of flat out. In the end Cam’s ‘god knows’ how many years of experience of enduring, saw him come out on top. Such an awesome display of athleticism and efficiency. Can learn from that.

Liz Blatchford just looked strong (another lesson) from start to finish and just dominated the race – though 2nd and 3rd also look consistently great on the run.

But there we many an age group athlete putting themselves in the box. I love seeing this, as it’s full on commitment to see what is possible. You can tell, even those athletes that look great are giving it to themselves. Charlotte used to look like one of those athletes – a smiling assassin on the run, but I know she was hurting herself. Nothing great comes easy.

I gain a lot of inspiration from those displays – it really hammers home that those who can hold form under duress do the best.

It’s also good to see when an athlete suffers a down period (usually self inflicted with nutrition, pacing mistakes and headspace being the major contributing factors) and digs themselves out of it and goes onto jumping into the box, nailing it shut and making amends. They might not end up where they could have but at least they can hold there heads high and look in the mirror and know they got themselves out of a hole by waking up, ridding the excuses and self pity and not settling.

The ramifications for this are increased self belief and even self worth. Some of the best lessons are those you get when you trip up. You have to be willing to listen.

I also gain inspiration from a lot of those ‘slower’ athletes. They might not be getting as uncomfortable as those athletes with loftier goals then just finishing. But they get the job done. What was awesome to see was when athletes would walk – fighting the head demons of ‘this running is uncomfortable (but in reality, sustainable)’ and I would say – hey, why don’t you test drive the run? See how it feels again, you can always go back to walking but you might just see that your run isn’t that bad and you’ll get to the finish quicker. It was fantastic when you see that light bulb go on and the athlete start running.

Inevitably I also got a hell of a lot of excuses of why they couldn’t run. The absolute best was “I have to work on Tuesday” – well why the hell sign up? As an old coach said to me – “excuses are like assholes, they all stink”.

And rightly so when I got to witness one of the best lemons to lemonade examples ever.

I first noticed .. who would become ‘miss stubborn’ running on the grass towards me instead of being on the pavement. Now it’s been pissing down all day so the grass is a little wet underfoot, but I soon see why. Miss stubborn (was how she introduced herself to me) was running in one long sock and one short sock and no shoes. My first thought was why the hell would you be running barefoot in an Ironman marathon! After seeing her a couple of more times I had to ask, why no shoes?

Miss stubborn yelled out – “My T2 bag wasn’t there”.

Now that is bloody inspiring. Imagine coming in off the bike after 9 hours of racing, to find your T2 bag was um misplaced! I know this feeling after coming out of the water in Roth in torrential rain, 13 degrees and my T1 bag not being there. Seems another athlete has mistakingly grabbed it and just left it in the change tent but that’s another story.

As miss stubborn went by me on her last few K’s into the finish I asked what her actual name was. I was standing in the pouring rain fully inspired by this womans display of awesomeness and had to know, so I could put a name to the story. Valerie Gonzales from Victoria BC, Canada and she said that it was her first time to Australia and she was loving it… how could she not finish what she started.

Now that is a lesson in having an awesome attitude.

That turning lemons into lemonade also qualified Valerie for Kona, she may have been the only one in her AG but she had to finish. Another tough cookie example of these 65-69 women. A 5:32 mara split at 67 barefoot is not too shabby!

Excuses … Valerie certainly didn’t think hers warranted a DNF.

Lessons Learned.