SUFFERING MAKES ME BETTER
I race best when I’m angry. Even if things in my own world are content, I get into my own angry world on race morning. If I don’t have anything negative in my life to draw emotion from, I will develop a story in my own head. I’ll create these stories from interactions I had earlier in the week and spin them to be damaging or harmful to my family or myself. I will focus on that when I’m suffering and it makes me better.
Sometimes the fabrications or demons are based off of real life situations, sometimes they’re complete bullshit. But, they always allow me to take my own suffering to a deeper level on race day. When things get tough, I can easily tap into raw emotion and transport myself to dark places within my mind- this allows, and forces, me to take a mental stock of my courage and ask myself what I’m willing to sacrifice on the day. The outside world becomes excluded and I can literally transcend into a chasm of myself and turn the screws a little deeper—right to the edge of cracking myself.
When I cross the finish line, the emotional rage and anger is replaced with joy and gratitude. It’s almost like I come back to life when I finish the race and I can reflect upon how the day actually unfolded. I feel like it somehow makes be a better person and develops my character, but I can switch on my “suffer” mode whenever I want. After all, there’s no real need to “suffer” when I’m at Target, Whole Foods or walking the dogs.
CONSISTENT SELF IMPROVEMENT
In 2007, I left graduate school to pursue a career in triathlon. I didn’t know how I was going to make a living when I left school. The decision to either attempt to race professionally or coach full-time was up to me. If you really want something bad enough, you will figure out how to make it work, and I just knew that I wanted to make a career out of the sport I fell in love with.
I could’ve sat on the floor and beat myself up or drank myself to oblivion. My friends and family certainly helped me cope with the pain of divorce. However, endurance sport is truly what kept me going. To me, my divorce came out of nowhere. What did I do to deserve this? It hit me hard and I had no idea where I was going to go next. I relied on my family, sport and my obsession with suffering to come out the other side. If I didn’t have triathlon, God knows what I would have done to myself. It kept me balanced and allowed me to exercise my own demons. We’re all imperfect, but I still couldn’t figure out why the hell this was happening to me. Six months and a lot of reflection later, I’ve become comfortable with my new routine and work hard each day improving myself and growing my business. I’ve come to realize that measured and consistent self-improvement will lead to a wonderful, fulfilled life.
Pushing the limits of your physical and mental self is uncomfortable. Recoiling from discomfort is just human nature. It’s only natural to be inclined to avoid things that could potentially hurt us or make uncomfortable. However, when you intentionally face adversity, you can find tranquility in that discomfort and you will push through your fears to find a sense of oneself which I’ve found to be the truest treasure in life. Most people never attain it because it’s on the other side of what they’re most fearful of. Everybody has issues, but don’t let that issue keep you content with mediocrity.
When you pick a fear (in my case, it’s being alone), challenge it head on and get to the other side. You will have a transformative experience that can service you for the rest of your life. You will equip yourself with skills and lessons that will help you deal with other people and more importantly, yourself.
“When I first started triathlon I had no idea why triathletes worried so much about aerodynamics on the bike. Now I shave my arms.”
THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Growing up, I wanted to be a FBI special agent. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a desire to do more than just apply my skills to “work”. I knew I needed four things to have a chance at getting into the agency: a clean record, impeccable physical condition, good grades and a law degree. Three out of four isn’t bad! But, my heart was not in law school and I quickly realized that sport was my true calling. I needed to figure out a way how to make it a full-time lifestyle, so I did. I spent a bit of time in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center learning from some of the sport’s sharpest athletes and coaches. I took that knowledge with me to Austin, TX where I began to network with other athletes and coaches.
In Austin, I worked at the city’s largest bike shop and slowly developed and networked as an athlete, coach and bike-fitter. I just kept grinding away; training all morning, working from 11-7, eating, sleeping, then repeating.
That experience was the catalyst to my coaching platform Toro Performance, LLC which enables me to work with endurance athletes all over the world on a daily basis—in person and remotely. I’ve found that the proximity of your coach geographically has become less important. I utilize the most technologically-advanced training software to monitor training and provide immediate feedback no matter where an athlete resides. Do not confuse proximity with proficiency- Triathlon coaching, Ironman especially, is a unique entity—it’s complex and constant communication is critical.
When I tell people what I do for a living, I get funny looks. “You can make a living out of that?”, people often ask, and I just smile and nod. Yes, I coach triathlon full time- with no safety nets. You’ve likely had several jobs in your life. It’s also likely that there were/are part time employees in your field. Based on your experience, what are the knowledge and proficiency differences between full time employees and part time in your field? Now think about triathlon coaching. Do you think it’s any different?
Coaching full-time with no safety net demands that I think outside of the box for how to best coach and service an athlete. Coaching part time as a supplemental income usually means that the coach doesn’t have to work too creatively to improve their coaching skills or provide a better service to their stable of athletes. They also can’t possibly give you the attention that triathlon training and balancing a full-time job and family demands.
My coaching philosophy is simple: There are no short cuts and there is no such thing as “race-day-magic.” You must exceed the demands of competition in training. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, because I don’t. However, I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible coaches and they remain in my network. The best part of my job is collaborating with athletes to determine the best course of action to integrate high performance training into their life while still maintaining high performance in other aspects of their life.
I'M STILL LEARNING
I was quite active as a kid and played all the major ball sports. I fell especially in love with soccer, and loved the ritual of getting to games early, going through my routine and walking out onto the pitch. It was fun, but deep down I knew that I didn’t enjoy relying on other people for success.
It wasn’t until I hung up my cleats in 2004 that I fully got into endurance sports. My intrigue for endurance sports was omnipresent, as my dad was an accomplished marathoner. I never really understood why the hell he would go out and pound long runs on the weekend until I did it myself. The repetition of endurance training seemed relentless and monotonous at first, particularly coming from a background in ball sports.
Within that repetition, lies the immense satisfaction of a successful race performance and more importantly, self-improvement. It is just you and your head. Your mind will tell you to stop or slow down way before your body will shut down. I’m still learning, but developing and fine-tuning the ability to quiet the mind when adversity sets in is the ultimate fulfillment and the key to self-improvement.
I like to do most of my long-riding and running solo, as that is my quiet time. But, I’m constantly training with a few core groups of athletes for my high-quality sessions. My tribe of local athletes provide an eagerness and a sense of anticipation to get out the door in pre dawn hours. Particularly when I know the demands of the workout are very anaerobic, you can’t beat a training squad environment. In my opinion, this is the best way to exceed the demands of training in racing, and that is when the magic happens! We all have shitty days when we feel flat or just don’t want to be out there. I surround myself with athletes who I know will pick me up or get tough on me when I need it. We’re a bit spoiled in Arizona as there are strong group rides all year round. One of my coaches once told me, “If you’re the strongest guy on the ride, you’re at the wrong ride!”, and I try to live by that testament for all my quality sessions.
Bad training days or workouts are just part of being an athlete. It’s hard to maintain perspective at times, but having a coach remind you to think “macro” vs. “micro” is critical in those moments. I always give myself 48 hours to make a decision after a bad race. Again, think big picture and learn from mistakes to become a more enlightened athlete.
TRUE JOY IN OTHERS
I thought about quitting triathlon last spring. My life wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. My marriage was ending and I had no idea if I’d stay in the desert or move to be closer to my family. However, triathlon training brought me closer to myself and I was able to find true joy in my own athlete’s success and it made me a better coach, friend and a better human.
I think that the ability to prioritize problems is a huge skill set that long-course triathlon helps manifests. When you’re trying to run a business, a household and train 20 hours per week things can get a little crazy. You’re constantly wearing several “hats” and prioritizing problems that need to be addressed.
“Sometimes failure is an option. However, it’s what you do with your failure that molds you. Will you be content with failure or will you relentlessly chase your redemption? I refuse to be content with failure.”
MY BIGGEST SUPPORTERS
My mom taught be from a very young age the importance of wellness and treating food as nourishment. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a child and I’ve never heard her once complain. Deep down I know I learned how to suffer from her.
When my dad hung up his running shoes (he now rides upwards of 200 miles per week, slacker!) he took it upon himself to travel with me to every race when I got into triathlon. They are still my biggest supporters.
Balancing everything with family and friends can be tricky, but I surround myself with those who live the same lifestyle in order to maintain accountability and to stay on track. It’s nice to share time with friends with no mention of sport or training, and I think it’s important for a healthy mindset. However, be certain that your friends and family have a clear understanding of your goals and ambitions so that they can support you when you need it most.
THE ULTIMATE SELF-EXPERIMENT
As endurance athletes, we all know what it feels like to come back from injury or time off. I never knew how much I loved observing that process of developing fitness over time and watching the body and mind transform. This process is of adaptation is why I love this sport and why I consider it the ultimate self-experiment.
I’d love to do Western States 100 whenever I decide to retire from this silly triathlon thing… Deep down, I yearn to be like Tony Krupicka. Except with way better hair.
FOOTNOTES: Words by Jason Lentzke, Photos by Matt Clark @stirlandraephoto and Jason Lentzke, Editor Cody Royle, Published by Travis McKenzie, Copyright NTSQ Sports Group
Original article appeared @ https://www.innervoice.life/jason-lentzke