I’ve done pretty well the past four months of consistent blogging and haven’t written much about running. Some of you are glad, I know. I’ve also written about streaks recently. Some streaks must continue, like my daily writing habit, but other streaks must end, like NOT writing about running…OK, it won’t be that bad, so bear with me. Also, this is a slightly longer post than usual, so hang in there.
From the feedback I received on my book, Negative Split, the most popular character was Coach Willie Silvers. While Coach Willie and some of his background were inspired by legendary South Carolina high school track and cross country coach Willie Wooden, the relationship that the lead character Nathan Stiles had with Coach Willie was based on my relationships with my own coaches growing up.
Although I had the real Coach Willie for homeroom teacher two years, I never had him as a coach. He was track, cross country, and weight lifting. I was basketball, baseball, and mostly avoided weights. Also, I didn’t take up running until age 40, so I missed out on the high school cross country experience until I became a cross country parent in 2010.
Then, from the fall of 2010 to the fall of 2015, I watch a scrawny little 7th grader, who I could still beat at running (big bully dad made him earn it), turn into a serious endurance athlete who left his old man in the dust at any distance, except the marathon. That’s only because he had not run that distance yet.
One thing that I’ve been slow to learn is when to ask for help. I’m a big do-it-yourselfer, especially when it comes to sports or hobby pursuit. If I can check out 12 books from the library (and read three of them) or read a website, I tend to do that long before asking for help. Turns out, if you hire a coach or a teacher, though, you tend to make progress much faster. There are many reasons for this, which are not the focus of this post. Maybe another time.
Anyway, in the spring of 2016, I was extremely frustrated with my self-taught/book learning marathon running progress. I had the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and I had plateaued well short of the time required. Sure, at 48 years-old there were physiological changes taking place that were impeding my progress, but another flaw I have is that sometimes I see someone else doing something and think ‘I can do that.’
So, with thousands of men my age qualifying for Boston, I felt I could, too. I was seven-plus years into running at this point, and it was either time to hang up competitiveness (aka the Boston goal) and just do it for health or take it to another level. I needed a coach.
At this point in my son’s endurance sports “career,” he had six years of cross country under his belt and about three years of triathlon. He was also signed on to be a member of the Queens University triathlon team and was also working with a private coach to improve his triathlon skills. Since I was unemployed, thanks to Bose moving jobs out of the country, and my severance pay was running low, I couldn’t afford to pay another coach. That was OK, though, because I had one under the roof, and my son Miles agreed to be my coach.
In 2016, Miles coached me to personal bests in all the common distances, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and my almost perfectly executed marathon – the 2016 Kiawah Island Marathon where I finally qualified for Boston. The kid seemed to know this stuff.
Miles started Queens University of Charlotte in the fall of 2016 and graduated spring of 2020. He majored in Kinesiology, a fancy term for Exercise Science, and minored in Psychology. He was on the triathlon team for those four years, which included winning the 2019 National Championship.
As a triathlete, almost every weekday included a swim workout plus another workout of either running, cycling, or strength training. Saturdays were for three to four-hour bicycle rides around Charlotte, and Sunday mornings were for track workouts. With all this, he managed to maintain a 3.7 GPA, and still find time to coach his old Dad.
In early March of 2020, I was already starting to write the story in my head for the blog post. Miles and Queens University were going to defend their National Championship in early April, back in Tempe, AZ. Queens had lost a couple of big guns, but they were still going to have a chance at defending their title. Sure, I would likely post about the Championship, and, hopefully, a repeat, but the story was going to be about how a kid went from almost missing out on collegiate triathlon due to a scary bike versus car accident in 2015 to being one of the top collegiate cyclists in 2020.
The amount of work that Miles put into his cycling in the 11 months prior to March 2020 was insane. By March, I believed (but Miles won’t admit it) he was legit in the top 10 collegiate triathlon cyclists in the nation. He had the workout and wattage (a cycling power measurement) stats to back up my belief. Arizona was going to be EPIC.
Then, in March, as everyone knows, the world shut down due to COVID-19, and the 2020 Championship was a casualty. Miles was devasted. And like the answer to the old question about how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world will never know if Miles was a top 10 cyclist. You’ll just have to trust me on this.
To Infinity and Beyond
The first movie Miles would ever watch in its entirety was Toy Story. He loved Buzz and Woody. Now that triathlon and it’s crazy training regime, had come to a sudden end, Miles finally had to face the question he was growing tired of answering, “So what are you going to do beyond college?”
We were all anxious to know, and it turns out, during the final moments of on-campus team camaraderie before Queens sent everyone home for online learning, an opportunity arose. Miles and the head coach discussed it, and the athletic department finally agreed on it in July: The new Queens University Triathlon team assistant coach would be Miles Fowler, where he would also pursue his MBA.
He quickly passed the USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach Certification, along with some NCAA certifications, and he started in early August. Unfortunately, COVID caution threw another curveball to the tri team and all athletics at Queens the last week of August. Fall sports were canceled, and classes moved online at the last minute, resulting in a furlough of the coaches through December 2020. So, Miles’ collegiate coaching career will be delayed a bit.
But Wait, There’s More
Fortunately, more than one person recognized Miles’ understanding of physical fitness, endurance sports, and leadership. A former Queens teammate has started his own private coaching firm, TST Perform, and this week Miles joined them as a coach. Check out the announcement here: https://www.tstperform.com.
Looks like old Dad may have had another bit of influence on Miles, as he has written the first blog post for the company here: https://www.tstperform.com/apps/blog.
Advanced (Age) Coaching
Good thing he has that degree now and some official certifications because he’s still coaching me, and my ongoing battle with Father Time grows tougher each year. I’ll need all his expertise if I’m ever to set a PR again. Fortunately, it looks like we’re going to be able to have the Lexington Half Marathon in November, and I feel this event is my best shot for a PR. I’m officially signed up and the training plans have started finding their way to my inbox each Sunday night.
Congratulations, son. This isn’t the blog post I envisioned in March, but I’m just as proud as I would have been had you finished a top 10 cyclist at Nationals. The family looks forward to seeing you thrive in your element.
Thanks for reading,
PS. Now that he’s officially Coach Miles, I hope my rates stay the same!
PPS. Writing streak still alive at 108 and still working on novel revisions. UGH – slow going!
PPS. Additional related links of interest:
Tragedy and Triumph (The first bike vs. car story)
Finish What You Started (My BQ story)