Written by Ed Griffin-Nolan
This post was published January 18, 2012 on Ed Griffin-Nolan's personal webpage.
"Small steps." That's all I heard, and all I needed to hear. That's what makes for a great coach.
It was my first triathlon competition, the summer before last. I had just gotten off my bike, by the shore of Cazenovia Lake, and was getting ready to run the final leg, a 10k flat run. There was this short, steep hill as we came out of the staging area. With my legs tightening up from a 25-mile bike ride, it looked like a lot bigger hill, and the temptation was to push really hard to get up that hill.
Then that soft voice reached my ears. "Small steps". Just in time, with just enough advice to be helpful. Not loud, not overdoing it, just giving me what I needed.
Coaching is an art, and Brendan Jackson is a master. I met him years ago at Fleet Feet, a running store that is owned by the other Griffins named Ed and Ellen (that's a story for another day). Brendan and I coached together for a time with Team in Training, the fundraising effort of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and then he became my coach when I decided to do a triathlon.
Hard to break down and define what makes a good coach, but for sure you know it when you see it.
Brendan combines a solid scientific understanding of the body with an even more solid grasp of what human beings are like. He seems to understand what a body can do if the mind is willing to open up and let it go for it. And he's always so positive. Even when I know I'm not doing what I should be doing, he always finds the way to frame my progress, or lack of it, in a positive light.
Here's a simple thing. I never thought of myself as an athlete. Never would have used that term to describe myself. Brendan told me from the start that I was an athlete, and that subtle shift got working on my brain and made me set a whole different level of expectations for myself. Most times when we come up with a training plan Brendan is the one counseling me to hold back, to think gradual improvement, not to overdo it.
Without a doubt the difference between all the training I did in past years and the training I did that enabled me to qualify for Boston can be summed up in two words - Brendan Jackson.