Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Welcome Letters from IronTeam Coaches

TNT IronTeam Coaches Mary Doyle and Mike Gaw
November 22nd, 2010, will go down as a historic day for the TNT Georgia IronTeam. That's the day on-line registration opened for the 2011 Ironman Arizona and fireworks were lit for the team. Over fifty anxious TNT'ers signed up for the race, most through the regular age group slots, but some through the Community Fund slots. When we first set out to start the IronTeam program, we thought that a group of twenty would be an amazing number. Seeing over fifty incredible Team In Training triathletes on board is just plain unreal!

IronTeam coaches Mary Doyle and Mike Gaw made the trip to Tempe this year to witness up close all the logistics behind Ironman Arizona and have returned with plenty of new insights. Below are welcome letters they have written to the team. Read on and enjoy. Thanks Mary and Mike!

Welcome letter from Coach Doyle

Welcome to the first ever Georgia Ironteam!  I am very excited to be a part of this epic experience.
When Mike and I started seriously discussing the possibility of starting a team here to train for Ironman we had no inkling of how far the idea might go.  Would LLS be able to help us create this team? How do we find out about other chapters and their Ironman experiences?  How many participants would even be interested in joining the team?  Would fundraising be outrageous?  Which race should we choose?  The questions went on and on.
Well, now we have the answers to all of those questions.  With the help of Maureen Davidson, the coaches from other TNT chapters, and input from participants we are launching our first Ironteam event and you are going to be a part of it!  Congratulations!
You may already be asking yourselves:  “What have I gotten myself into?”  Mike and I are asking the same question!  We had hoped to have the opportunity to coach 15-20 athletes for IM Arizona, and all of the sudden we have nearly 50 athletes!  Do you realize what this means?
First of all, you will never have to worry about training alone.  Our team is comprised of athletes of all abilities.  On any given day you should be able to find someone to swim, bike, or run with you.  Ironman training can get to be a lonely thing, but with such a huge group of people it truly becomes a team event.
Secondly, you are about to become a part of a group of people who will likely have an impact on you for the rest of your life.  You will help each other with fundraising, push each other with training, and celebrate each other’s successes.  Along the way we hope you make some lifelong friends.  Many of you were worried about putting your lives on hold for such a long time while training for Ironman.  Instead, I look at training as a new way of life.  Your teammates become your friends.  Your social life changes from all-nighters on Friday nights to all day rides on Saturdays.  You have great excuses for getting out of dreaded family functions (“sorry, I have to ride 100 miles that day”)!  If you are like me, you will find that the more you have to do, the more you get done and you will become very efficient.
Thirdly, you are going to take yourself, mentally and physically, to a place most of you have never been before.  You are going to find out how much inner strength you possess.  You are not only going to impress your friends and family, but you are going to impress yourself with how well you handle the training season.
And finally, if each of you successfully completes at least the minimum fundraising our team will raise a quarter of a million dollars to help cure leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma!  For those of you who have never done a Team In Training event before and who might not have a connection to the cause, you will quickly become motivated by the stories of patients and survivors, and you will learn that you are making a difference in those lives. 
I started with Team In Training because I wanted to do a marathon back in 1998.  At that time I thought it was a one-time thing.  Train, fundraise, race, and move on.  I soon realized that there was a certain energy surrounding the team.  We were not just in it for the personal glory.  We knew there was a cause greater than ourselves.  That cause has kept me thrilled to be involved for 13 years.  As the program grew it became obvious that although each one of us can only do so much toward curing cancer, all of us together can make a huge impact.  Who would have ever thought that a group of athletes running marathons, riding in century rides and competing in triathlon could raise hundreds of millions of dollars?  Well, we can.  And now you can.
In my thirteen years I have seen our program continue to develop to be the best program in the US (my personal opinion).  We have the most enthusiastic support staff at the TNT office and we have a slew of highly qualified coaches.   The staff and coaches want you to succeed in your Ironman event.  We will do everything possible to make that happen so that in November, 2011 as you cross the finish line at Ironman Arizona you will hear Mike Reilly say:  “_insert your name here__, you are an Ironman!”
Thanks for being a part of the first Georgia Ironteam!
Welcome Letter from Coach Gaw

Welcome to the first-ever Georgia Team in Training IronTEAM!  By joining this group, you are making history and setting out on a journey of truly epic proportions!  By now, your emotions have probably run a gamut – of marathon distance, no less – from sheer excitement about the journey embarked upon to utter fear about the journey embarked upon.  But, you’ve run a marathon already, and we haven’t even started training yet!  While it may not have encompassed 26.2 miles under your own legs, there is no doubt that for many of you, getting from where you were just a few months ago to official IronTeam members is nothing short of an ultra-distance event!  And, you’ve done it!  The rest, as they say, is all downhill from here!

Well, “downhill” may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s not totally off the mark.  Building off of more years of experience than we care to admit, Mary and I have developed a training program designed to get you across the finish line in Tempe next November.  And, for the few members of the Team with Ironman racing experience, our plan will also help you reach the goals you have set for this sophomore Ironman event.  The anxiety you may feel right now is perfectly normal, and it is shared across much of the Team.  But, know this:  As long as you follow the training program and put in the miles consistently over the next eleven months, you WILL cross that finish line in Tempe!  You WILL become an Ironman!  And, Mary and I cannot wait to witness that phenomenal accomplishment and share in it with you!

The journey to becoming an Ironman will prove to be one of the biggest challenges you have undertaken in your life.  That does not mean that it’s insurmountable.  On the contrary, it’s actually very attainable, but it requires a level of discipline and diligence that you may not have applied to training or athletics before.  And, it requires that focus over an extended period of time – 11 months.  But, because the goal requires so much effort over many months, the realization of it will fill you with a power of self-confidence that will transcend much of what you’ve accomplished previously in your life.  In short, you will be blown away by what you achieve!  It will be something that will defy words, but it will be something that will come to define each of you in very empowering ways.

While the journey will be long and, at times, arduous, you won’t be alone on this quest.  As you’ve no doubt heard, 49 other people of questionable sanity have also thrown their hats into this ring.  And, they are coming along for the ride (swim and run too)!  Upon hearing that we had 50 people on the IronTeam, images of the Pied Piper popped into my head!  In all seriousness, both Mary & I have been rendered speechless (a very rare trait for us both as most of you know!) by the response from all of you to this inaugural IronTeam program.  When we pitched this concept to Maureen Davidson at Team in Training a year ago, we defined success in terms of having 12-15 people sign up.  But, as you all will no doubt do in Tempe next November, you crushed that goal and raised the bar even higher than we dreamed!  Fifty brave souls on this Team is mind-blowing and creates an even higher level of excitement for us, as coaches, and it will bring an even more energetic dynamic to the program!  Plus, it’s safe to say that we will have several people at all speeds and levels so that no one will be training on their own! 

In addition to your Teammates, coaches, captains, mentors and the amazing Team in Training support staff, you will be buoyed throughout this journey by your family and friends outside this sport.  Don’t underestimate the importance of their role in your success.  In many cases, these people will be taking on additional burdens and responsibilities in order to allow you to put in the hours of training needed to become an Ironman.  They will put up with early nights and even earlier mornings.  They will tolerate smelly workout clothes and incessant talk of training, heart rate zones, gear and nutrition.  (And, they will do it with minimal eye rolling.)  In short, they will pick up your slack.  And, they will do so willingly and supportively because they understand that what you’re doing is big, is important to you and requires the time and effort you are investing.  They will do it because they are your partners in this journey, and they want to see you succeed and help bring about that success.  Remember their sacrifices in helping you become an Ironman.  And, start making plans now for them to join us all in Tempe next November.  Having traveled to this year’s Ironman Arizona, I can tell you that it is – by far and second to none – the most spectator-friendly course on the Ironman circuit.  Your friends and family will see you nearly a dozen times throughout the day without having to move more than a block!  And, that kind of crowd support will boost your spirits regularly as you tackle the 140.6 miles!  What better way to thank your family and friends for their role in making it all happen than to share this special moment with them?!  After all, it’s not everyday that dreams come true.

And, speaking of fulfilling dreams, you will be doing that not only for yourselves but also for countless others facing a cancer diagnosis.  From the moment they are faced with the news, their world becomes one filled with uncertainty and fear.  But, together, this group will raise more than a quarter of a million dollars that will be put to work immediately to fund vital medical research that will improve treatment options and survival rates and WILL, one day, lead to a cure!  The money you raise will also fund patient services, which, among other things, provide counseling about available resources and support and help offset some of the staggering costs of treatment.  But, most importantly, your fundraising efforts will deliver to these patients and their families the one, often elusive, thing they seek most – the gift of hope.  Hope for a chance at life and a better future because of what EACH OF YOU has done.

So, when you cross that finish line in Tempe next November and you hear Mike Reilly proclaim to all the world that “you are an Ironman!,” you will do so not only as men and women who have fulfilled an ambitious dream of your own but also as life-giving heroes who have made the hopes of tomorrow more real to countless people who will never have the honor of meeting you but who will nevertheless feel the effects of your efforts just as palpably as you sense the chills running down your spine and tears of joy shed as you crossing that finish line.

Thanks for taking what is surely a giant leap of faith for many of you in joining this IronTeam.  While the road ahead will undoubtedly push and challenge you more than most, the impact it will have on your life and on the lives of so many others is one that defies words.  Suffice it to say that it will be a journey you will never forget.  Nor will we.  Nor will the cancer patients and their families who will call you Ironheroes. 

You CAN do this!  You WILL do this!



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