In April of 2012, I acquired a road bike.  I spent a few weeks out riding at Stone Mountain.  It was then that I decided I needed a plan and that I’d attempt a triathlon.  So, I went to the bookstore, bought a book on triathlon and started reading.  I realized I needed to start swimming, and luckily I manage operations at a swim club so that was going to be simple!  I started swimming, biking, and running following along with my book as if it were my bible.  I decided my first race would be Iron Girl.  It was a sprint, and I felt confident that I could finish it.  I finished 22nd in my age group.  My swim was 2:47/100m, bike 17.3 mile average, and run 7:22/mile. That’s when Maria Thrash and Laura decided to discuss training with me a little bit friends to friend.  So, I rode…and I rode…and I rode. I got dropped…and dropped…and dropped.  I still continued on determined to get better at it, through my dropping.  I went on to compete in a few other small sprint races that summer and I actually did pretty well finishing-wise.  In the last 3 races, I got 2nd in my age group twice and won my AG once.  I didn’t place in the Tri the Mountains race, as I finished 4th.  My results from that race were 13:48 swim, 18.3 mile avg on bike, and 7:32 run pace finishing 1:43.07.  The race I won my age group was in Athens, GA and I was shocked when Laura and Barbara Chandler said “HOLLY – you won your age group!” I said “no way…”..they showed me I did and I looked at it…and thought “hmm…I guess you did win your age group…it says it right there.”…and needless to say it was shocking but kind of cool, especially considering I also saved a struggling swimmer in the midst of the 400m quick swim.  It was kind of embarrassing with the pictures being taken and them making a big fuss, but at the same time I was pretty darn happy that they thought I did well.

Fast forward a few months later and still riding the bike, running and swimming two times a week in the off-season.  Laura and I discuss it seriously, and I say “well, if it won’t be too much of an issue for you, I’d like you to coach me.”  She said she’d love to and that we’d start January 1.  I first completed tests for swimming and running.  She said “your run is great…your swim, we need to work on that.”  So, that’s when I got more serious about what I was doing.  I didn’t have a chance to meander through my run and swim workouts doing whatever felt comfortable.  I needed to ride hard on the weekends and in bike class…and I needed to swim more.  We had to get through a few bumps in the road along the way…which we did and then I ran a 10k.  I had never run that distance, though running was definitely my strength of the three.  Well, I finished it in 44:45.58.  Compared to the likes of who I was competing with now that I look at it and know more of the names, I did do well thanks to Laura!  She decided that we were doing a race in April, our first tri of the year.  I thought “she’s nuts…I’m going to freeze!”….It was cold, but we survived via wetsuit and arm warmers!  It was then that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I needed Laura specifically to coach me because when I don’t have a darn good excuse (being a wimp doesn’t count), I will be doing whatever race she needs me to do and I need to do for myself and that she would do what it took to get me to where I wanted to and could be.  A year before that, I asked her “Laura, do you think I’ll ever be able to ride 20mph, because I’d really like to be able to.”  She said with a smirk “yes, Holly…you will ride 20 mph.”  I secretly knew if I could ride that fast I wouldn’t be dropped by everyone, so that was really my only goal in 20 mph.  Before the Red Line Super Sprint, I said “this is a secret but I really want to ride 20 mph and run a 7 minute mile…that’s my goal.”  That day I rode 20 mph and my mile pace was 7:01.  My season could’ve finished, Laura would be the best coach on earth that day, and I would have been a happy triathlete!  Later the same week, she asked me what plan I had for the rest of the races.  This is something I hmm’d and haw’d for a long time around my work schedule and basically, my fears and doubts.  I knew I wanted to say Augusta, but I knew that there would be accountability for making that statement and that a lot of work would be ahead.  I did eventually tell her that I wanted to race at Augusta 70.3.  She said “OK!  That’s your ‘A race’!”  Training and sprint races carried on throughout the spring and summer.  I placed 2nd in my age group every time I raced a local sprint or Olympic except for one race that I finished 1st.  The biggest test after Red Line was beating my Tri the Mountains race from the previous year and placing there.  I beat that by 12 minutes and placed 2nd in my AG.  After that, the focus turned to Augusta.

When I was getting towards the end of the season, the miles and exhaustion was really building.  I had already realized Laura was a phenomenal coach with the results I had thus far in riding 20 mph and running almost a 7:00 mile at Red Line, then shattering my previous year’s time in Blue Ridge. During the Augusta training, Laura had grace, understanding, compassion and provided A LOT of required motivation.  She has the perfect balance in her coaching whether it be “ok, you need to rest” or “get after it, today!”.  She knows us better than we do and understands the training to alter our plans for the best in the long run.  Eventually, Augusta weekend arrived and off I headed to complete the last tri of the season.  I could write a book on that weekend alone, but in the end, I had a great race!  My swim was 30:06, bike 19.82 mph, and run 8:19/mile.

Laura is a superior and passionate triathlete, but she is an even better coach and person.  To anyone that is considering if she would be the right coach for you, I will tell you that without a doubt, she would.  I know this because I have several friends who she also coaches.  We are all different, but there is one thing that makes us the same and that is that we all respect, admire, and put simply, love our coach.

Thank you, Laura for all that you have been in a coach and will continue to be into 2014!

– Holly W.