Dreams keep our actions honest because dreams want us to succeed, even if where we are at right now is completely out of line with doing that. They make it very clear if our initial strategy needs modifying. Dreams celebrate in our lives long after they are achieved. They remind us forever what it took to fulfill them and how to keep using the lessons learned along the way.
I know this so well from my time racing in triathlons. I competed in my first triathlon in the summer of 1982. It was the USTS Series opening race in San Diego, CA…a mile from my home at the time. The final race of my career was in the fall of 1996. That grand finale was at the Phuket Triathlon in Thailand…half way across the globe
I know that might sound pedestrian for someone who ended up winning races. But there was always a part of me that knew if I could go from the start to the finish, then that was a great day!
Through my dream to be a finisher my life was shaped and changed in ways that I had no idea sport could influence. The dream did evolve. It transformed into seeing if I could win the IRONMAN. It took seven years to grasp what that demanded and to become the person who could do that. And like all great dreams, the lessons that journey taught me are still revealing themselves to me.
Here’s one example. After my first IRONMAN Championship victory in 1989, I thought the dream came to its realization because of a lot of workout changes I’d made that season. I’d upped my training by going to New Zealand in the early part of the year, simplified my life and saw what I could do without distraction. I’d made some connections with new training partners who helped me build the weaknesses I’d experienced in the past. I thought it was all about the training and the physical preparation.
Those races taught me how to keep going even when my dream seemed completely impossible to achieve. They helped me develop the ability to focus on what I could give in the exact moment I was in. They taught me to stop thinking about whether or not what I had in that moment would be enough to become the champion.
The tough races that didn’t go as I had hoped built the foundation of knowing that ultimately just crossing the finish line made taking the next step so worthwhile. Without those lessons I would have never been armed with the arsenal of skills to become a champion.
Twelve IRONMAN World Championship races became twelve potent days where new corners of my inner character were called upon and revealed. They were twelve days were I got to know life better. Their sum total is still making my life richer from the insights gained and lessons learned.
Each year helped shape me and transform me. All twelve were indispensable in doing that. They were like a puzzle with twelve unique pieces that came together to give a complete picture of what was possible with a dream.
I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.