Let me introduce you to Sami Winter. Nearly five years ago, I met Sami through the YDUBTRICLUB. She was our cycling coach that year and was a hero even then. She was a four-time IRONMAN triathlete - before I even understood what that meant - a Boston Marathon finisher, a Tar Heel grad - and she rode a custom Carolina Blue Guru tri bike. Oh, and she can dance! I even wrote a blog article about her (almost five years ago to the day).
She is still a hero to me and I consider it a blessing to call her friend. I want to be her when I grow up! This past year, I've had the joy to get to know her better. Here is what I learned from her:
I was there when she competed in her 12th Ironman - her attitude when they cancelled the swim was remarkable. She adapted to the news and was able to encourage and motivate a room full of naked athletes. Her quote: It's still gonna be a good day. Check her out at 3:13:
I watched her qualify for Kona at Florida. She was technically going to qualify through the legacy lottery at this, her 12th race. Her name was supposed to go into a hat for a chance (a very good chance) to go to Kona for the World Championships. This was going to be a celebration no matter what. A celebration of endurance. She was the first coach to teach me about "steady state" on the bike and 12 IronMan races proves endurance and a steady state.
But something amazing happened on the way to Kona. She placed third in her age group at Florida. She finished on the podium received a Kona qualifying spot. When they called her name, we yelled, KONA! KONA! KONA! from the grand stand. Eff instant gratification. Delayed gratification - especially when it means you're going to the Olympics of your sport - is as sweet as a gold medal.
We went to a coaching conference together and met Andy Potts (road trip!). I learned a ton from Christian Van de Velde and Mr. Potts and Data from Training Peaks (I love you, Andy Coggan). But, I learned just as much in the car on the way there and back. Plus, I learned what it means to be hard core. She and Brian brought bikes and trainers and did a workout for the Tour de Sufferlandria, a nine day cycle challenge. She didn't miss a day (that's hard core). I watched and did pilates on the hotel room floor as they killed it on the bike at 5:30am. [I was also reminded to dream big dreams - and that led to my next adventure: Ironman France.]
She let me in on an amazing swim clinic with Olympian Sheila Taormina. I learned (from Sami) how to communicate, organize and make others feel important.
I drafted (briefly) off of her and her posse on a killer bike ride this spring and learned how to go harder than I thought I could. She helped me through a difficult run through Hugh Macrae park and I learned the power of distraction - she kept me talking and our fast miles flew by. Less than a month ago, we endured a 4500-yard swim (2.5 miles) from Sheila Taormina- a celebration of our birthdays and an amazing benchmark that launched her into her Kona taper. She reminisced at the end of practice of breast-stroking her first half iron seven years ago. She's come so far! I learned that practice is the effort that makes winning possible.
They don't call her Yoda for nuthin'.
On Saturday, Sami races the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. As she faces one of the toughest challenges, my blessing/prayer for her will be:
May He cover you with his feathers and under His wings may you find refuge. His faithfulness will be your shield and protection. Psalm 91:4
In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds! Psalm 45:4