The pursuit of excellence demands planning, diligence, and perseverance; one does not simply stumble into greatness or the attainment of long set personal goals. Night after night this week, Olympic athletes have darted, jumped, and swam across my television screen, keeping me awake way past my bedtime and inspiring me with their stories and achievements. Not a stranger to goal setting, I relate to the notion of dreaming big, formulating a plan, and carrying it out to completion. The summer I turned 40 I taught myself to whistle; not merely the pursed lip, jaunty, Pete Seeger variety, but the sharp, piercing shrill that triggers heads to turn, dogs to return to their masters, and unruly children to hush. After months of grueling practice, my hard work paid off. Perching two moist fingers atop my bottom lip, slightly curling my tongue, and summoning my lungs for a blast of air, I let her rip, my clarion call to middle age.
Charlotte resident Chris Kogut had her own vision quest for her 40th year: an Ironman triathlon. Using “celebrate or commiserate” as her motto, she thoughtfully created a plan to achieve her goal. “Right off the bat I outsourced my training,” she says, seeking out a coach and a nutritionist to start her on her journey. After giving herself a year to prepare, logging untold miles of swimming, biking, and running, she accomplished the goal and completed Ironman Lake Placid in July 2011. With the winds of success at her back, Kogut has two Ironman races planned for 2013 as well as the USA Triathlon National Championships this August.
Though the Olympic distance of the Nationals is one quarter of the length of an Ironman, the race is tough, fast, and furious with the top competitors finishing in just under two hours. Compared to the 140 combined miles of the Ironman, Kogut appreciates the shorter distance (a mere 32 miles) of this race and is gearing up for a solid performance. Strongest on the bike, like many Vermont athletes in the competition, Kogut is looking forward to the challenging, hilly course. In fact, her favorite part of training is her long Saturday morning bike rides with her husband Dave, the five-hour ride giving ample opportunity to catch up with each other after a busy week.
“Busy” doesn’t even come close to describing this athlete’s life. Training time needs to be well-planned and focused when you balance a marriage and a demanding career as an actuary while parenting young children, Kate, 6 and Johnathon, 3. Kogut concedes the mental preparation is challenging, admitting that sometimes the true feat is just getting to the starting line.
Racing with other focused athletes, the camaraderie of competition, and the smiles and encouragement from supporters are all aspects of triathlon racing that Kogut appreciates and enjoys. Like those flipping, spinning, hurdling, splashing athletes actualizing their dreams in London, she is determined to stay true to her goals and perform her best. You can be sure standing amid many other fans that I will be on the sidelines, whistling in support as she roars by.