The discovery of Caroline Steffen!
One of our team athletes (and now Trisutto Coach, Cam Watt) had sent me a note about a training group on the Sunshine Coast. In that group there was a girl from Switzerland who was making a big impression on the rides.
"Sutto this girl is an ex pro rider and while you will want to change some of her cycling ideas I know you would love to train her. But she needs you as she can’t run.”
I said thanks and looked up the old Lifeforce cycling team and found Caroline Steffen.
A couple of months later I was at Ironman Zurich and noticed this girl hammering away in front of my charges; sure enough it was Caroline Steffen. What did I see? Well I don’t look for the normal traits other coaches do, I look for attitude.
Caroline was hammering on the bike until about 140km when my girls started to reel her in. Once they had collared her I thought it was kind of strange she didn’t fold. Instead she kept holding on to them. Early in the run I took three looks then told my girls to let her go, she was going way too fast for her technique, but Caroline was on a mission.
To be perfectly honest I had a little giggle and thought, well she is not going to die wondering if she has given it her all. Sure enough, Caroline then started to collapse and as an adversary to my athletes, I was happy, and told my athletes she wouldn’t finish… ‘stick to the plan and you are going to be on the podium.’
Well when she hit the wall she stopped and she walked a little. I didn’t take much notice, but down to the last 3km after my athlete had finished I was standing on a corner looking straight into the runners faces and there coming towards me was Caroline Steffen. She looked straight at me and I looked at her, and what struck me was she had the very same determined look in her eyes that she had running out at the start of the marathon. She was shuffling and yet she was so determined. Caroline Steffen got me right there. She was still giving her all 10 plus hours after the gun. The race had left her but she hadn’t left the race. And that is just the kind of attitude that the Sutto School of training looks for.
Impressed with her courage, I furthered my research. As a member of a cycling team some people out there were of the opinion Caroline would be better suited sticking with a single discipline sport. I chanced a meeting with a bike mechanic called Pim who had worked with her bike team.
I asked him if he knew Caroline Steffen.
Yes was the reply, “I had coffee with her sometimes when she was in the team."
So I pryed a little further, what is she like?
“Coach I liked Caroline, but I was the mechanic and Caroline was not shy about telling you what she thought. She wouldn’t say it behind backs and that’s what I like about her. She would tell the bosses what she thought and sometimes I guess this is not the best strategy when you are in a team.”
And with those words, Pim helped change Caroline's sporting fortunes as Xena, the Warrior Princess, went on to be a multiple world long course triathlon champion and multiple Kona podium athlete, who in my opinion, was one of the best iron person athletes ever.
Why reprint this story now?
Because, lately I've found that athletes of this generation are sadly lacking in the one thing that made Caroline a champion. I didn't make her a champion, I provided her with a path and advice to let her express her greatest virtue;
Xena had attitude by the truck loads.
The right type of attitude; she didn't blame others, didn't blame facilities, and she took responsibility. Not just for her results but for training, her discipline and her commitment to goals that made her results inevitable.
Xena had ups and downs, sometimes the downs would have been her greatest triumphs but for officials, however, when I was thinking of Caroline as she readies for her second child, I was reminded how she took her greatest asset and made herself a champion.
It was attitude.
Sadly it’s becoming less valued, by the year. Science testing, evaluations, and vo2 tests are all the rage now. A simple old coach like me will always take a glass full with attitude. Every time.
Thank you Caroline for the memories and all at Trisutto wish you the very best for the impending joy about to come into your life.