Friday, September 7, 2012


Happy Friday Everyone!  I'm writing you as I sit in my hotel room helping my Mom get ready for her first Ironman!  I'm so excited and inspired by her...she is going to have an awesome day on Sunday.  My next post will be about her....but not today...she has some "business" to finish first :)

Courage.  It is a powerful word with so many meanings.  The context of this word today is around having the courage to START.  It seems that everyone is a Triathlon Coach these days.  Certified or not...everyone has an opinion and everyone seems to have a client.  I was very reluctant to get into this game.  I LOVE talking about Triathlon and helping people, but never felt I had the credentials to Coach someone properly.  First, I have a full time job.  Second, I'm not Certified.  Third, it seems to be a fad. 

Ryan changed that.  I helped him get off the couch last year and start running.  I helped him with a basic plan and before I knew it, he was running a half marathon!  Ryan's story is not unlike many.  He had an athletic background, was in the Military, and after...his weight Yo-Yo'd up and down for years.  When I met Ryan, he was pushing 300lbs.

We had a very successful beginning to his running.  The first thing that I helped Ryan realize is that it is OK to run SLOW.  99% of beginning runners run TOO fast.  If I buried myself every time I laced up my shoes, let's just say this blog would not exist.  Once we got past that, we started to implement a consistent cadence to his week with workouts.  I was determined to help change his lifestyle....not his weight!  Gone were the beers and wings several times a week.  I say that tongue and might not have been wings all the time, but it certainly wasn't grilled chicken either. 

Ryan was following my summer as a Triathlete and was inspired to try his first Triathlon.  It was a pool swim, short bike ride on his hybrid, and a 5K at the end.  Like so many before him, he was hooked at the finish line.  It was exciting for me to take the basic running program I gave him and turn it into a basic Triathlon program.  This wasn't the first time I've helped people out, but I was starting to think that maybe there was something to my principles as a "coach."

In November of 2011, over several beers, we talked about what Ryan had accomplished over the past few months.  Ryan wanted to take it to the next level in 2012.  His first question was, could he complete a Half Ironman?  Most of you are f'ing way!  Dude is 300lbs (well, he lost 50lbs that summer!) and just did a sprint Tri on a HYBRID bike.  Half Ironman....right. 

I didn't look at it that way though.  I saw the passion, the commitment, and the desire to build on the lifestyle that Ryan was undertaking.  I knew he wasn't going to Yo Yo this time.  His next comment blew me away....I want you (Dave) to coach me.  How much do you charge?  For the first time, I thought of myself as a potential Coach.  What I needed, was the COURAGE to put someone Else's dreams and aspirations in my hands.  So I took a leap of faith....I was ready to do this "for real."

Ryan is an AMAZING athlete.  His training was steadfast.  He has a very demanding job, 3 kids, wife, travels for work 3 days a week, and has a social life on top of that.  Most people would take those parameters as an excuse of why they can't do it.  Ryan and I chose to take those, and make it work. This was something he wanted for himself and to set an example for his family.  Ryan had the COURAGE to start.  He figures out how he CAN instead of why he can't.  This is the fundamental reason Ryan is successful in life...not just Triathlon.

Fast forward, because this is a blog and not a novel :)  Ryan completed two Olympic distance triathlons leading up to the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead race in August.  In his 2nd Olympic, Ryan WON the overall in the Clydesdale division!  Talk about an amazing athlete!

We put a steady schedule together that had a mix of everything.  Distance, speed, recovery, and technique.  Over the course of the year, we built him up to a max of 1.5mi swimming, 70mi of biking, and 14mi of running.  He was not only diligent about doing his workouts....he focused on doing them RIGHT.  Ego is not an issue with Ryan and that is a great thing. 

Ryan was a little nervous about the swim at Steelhead.  It is a 1.2mi swim in Lake Michigan.  It is a challenge for even the most seasoned swimmers.  Ryan ended up doing fantastic and coming out of the water just where we expected him.

When he got to the bike....the plan was to keep it steady.  Nice even effort and lets get ready to run.  When I saw Ryan come in on the bike after 56 miles....he looked like he biked 5.  PERFECT execution....I was on my bike and ready to chase him around on the run.  Everything was lining up for a great day!

Out on the run....Ryan was crushing the course.  Smooth and STEADY.  I was so excited for him.  At mile 10...the wheels started to fall off a bit....but this was OK!  If you feel great at mile 10 of a Half Ironman, you didn't work hard enough earlier in the day :)  Ryan fought through the pain and finished his first Half with smile on his face. 

It was such a proud moment.  Both for Ryan, and myself.  To see his joy at the accomplishment was a very touching moment for me.  The fact that my coaching principles seem to be sound, was a great personal victory.  Obviously, I have a lot to learn....but I really enjoy taking this Coaching thing to the next level. 

I didn't do the journey justice for Ryan....the sacrifice that he made was tremendous.  But if you ask him, it was well worth it.  Ryan sees an Ironman in his future...and more importantly, being healthy role model for his kids for the rest of his life. 

I'm honored to be on this journey with out Clydesdale Division (Ryan is 6'3'' and down to 220lbs now)....he is a FIERCE competitor. 

Ryan and I had the courage to you?

Dedication, Passion, Results


  1. Great blog Dave. Ryan is such an inspiration. It has been a joy to watch his progress. You have been and always will be my "head coach". Your passion and dedication to the sport and the lifestyle are contagious!

  2. Thanks Coach! I'm flattered and humbled to be the subject of an IronDave blog post!

    Whenever I've doubted my own ability to accomplish these goals just knowing that you've believed I could has been enough to keep me going. I trust not only your methods but your confidence in the goals that we set. You make me believe I'm capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. I can't wait to see how far I can go! Thank you for helping me change my life...

    Let me also take this opportunity to thank all those readers out there who have supported me along the way! When I asked Dave to be my coach I knew I'd be getting his support, commitment and expertise; I had no idea that he also brought with him an incredibly kind, generous, encouraging and supportive extended network of friends and family who would embrace me on this journey as one of their own. For every kind word, high five, roadside cheer, piece of advice, workout, meal, spare room, laugh and shoulder to "cry" on - words cannot express how thankful I am. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of Team Barto :)