"So, have you registered for Bushwacker?"
I asked this of Deena as we walked from the track after last Thursday's workout.
"Well, since there are four weeks until the race I think I'll wait until the last week. I don't mind paying a couple of extra dollars if I'm race-ready; it's better than early registration and then not racing," she said.
Such discipline, especially coming from the mouth of Deena, warmed my heart. Is this the same runner who went out through the first half of a marathon a solid two minutes-a-mile faster than she needed to - and paid for her indiscretion by losing not only the 26-minute cushion, but an additional seven, in the second half - just eight months ago? Who raced a 5K just because she "felt like it" during the last month of training for that first marathon? Who needed a complete pacing plan laid out for her when it was time for her rematch with the distance?
Surprisingly, I didn't feel the need to ask for her drivers' license, just to make certain I was talking to the same athlete. In the months since I've worked with Deena she's become more disciplined. I get a physical and mental status when I ask "how ya doing?" at the beginning of the workout.
Is it based on her own self-confidence? Most likely.
It makes a coach's job much more simple.
On my computer, there is a podcast featuring triathlon coaches Jimmy Riccitello, Paul Huddle and Roch Frey. I listen to it on those days when I doubt my own methods, or when I need a good laugh on the way to work. In between the jokes about bike shorts I'm reminded the coach's role is teach the athlete to think for themselves; act as a sounding board for those times when the athlete is less than certain. Those very experienced coaches consider the first year of coaching an athlete as one where the athletic skills are taught along the side of self-knowledge.
It's the point in the coach-athlete collaborative relationship to this point in time I've rarely encountered. But it's definitely one I welcome.