Steve was such a visionary in the sport of triathlon and he instinctively knew what races would eventually go on to become great success stories. Of course, he wanted to be part of the history of these types of events. Back in 1996, Steve entered Aquaterra (now called XTERRA) in Maui. In its first year, Steve was one of 130 finishers and returned to Maui every year until 2012 to participate in this race (the only person from the US mainland to do so). By 2016, there were over 700 finishers. Steve knew a great event when he saw one.
In 2004, Steve wrote an article for the XTERRA organization (found within the below link):
Ironically, he made a prophetic "tongue in cheek" comment about suicidal tendencies. Eleven years later we lost Steve to suicide.
I found a document Steve had composed sometime in 2005 or 2006. It was his musings on the events his company produced with respect to profitability. From what I could tell, it was an internal conversation he was having with himself. I believe this is a special insight to Steve's thoughts on the races. Safety and the athlete experience were always first and foremost in Steve's mind when it came to his company's events. His words brought a few tears to my eyes because I witnessed firsthand his angst over keeping the event company going in his final years.
"I've got to hope that you're making something from this because the effort put into it is so intense, it makes participating in any race seem like a snooze. Why would anyone put themselves through this for naught?
1. Wanting to see something wonderful continue.
2. Investment in my vision, I believe it is possible to put on a world class event and make a good profit from it. However, things need to be built on a good foundation. The more money, time and energy that is spent on foundation, the better the end result. When I started the event company in 1994, I thought in 5years it would be very profitable and I could get back to focusing on coaching and other writing projects... If everything went according to plan there would be no challenge (at least that is what I tell myself to keep going :-) So, it is taking longer and costing more (money and time, it is the time that really is the sacrifice..) than I had originally planned/hoped. I ask myself each year is it worth it? I keep coming up with yes. Meeting passionate people who support my efforts, having staff like Andreas, Vicki, Frank, Wataru and seeing the Mighty Hamptons alive and well after rescuing it from extinction 12 years ago, seeing the expression on the participants faces (yes even the kids running through the BBQ smoke), watching the events get better and better (even though the pace of improvement is slower than I like...); anyway all these things make it worthwhile without a substantial profit. And as my Dad taught me when I left Engineering to be a triathlon swim coach (of no team, unheard of before I did it).
'Son do not worry about money, do what you love and the money will come'
I struggled for over 10 years before making enough to live on without other work. So there you have it. That is why I do it. If the good profit comes as a result, terrific, if not I gave it my all and provided some jobs and happiness along the way, what is better than that? I have my health, a roof over my head, food in the fridge a few pence for a rainy day, love of family and friends, yes life is good, events are good .
Thanks for asking the question, it reminded me of why I keep the event company :)"
Lang Leav Poem
Through the Lens #38
Since Steve was such great swimmer, it is hard to believe that at age 5, he had a terrible fear of the water. As a young child, while at Lake Champlain on a family trip, he stood at the water's edge and was terrified to even touch it because of the "waves" (in reality, 2-3 inch ripples). As Steve got older, he grew more comfortable in the water and developed a healthy respect for it.
From Steve's 1996 book, The Essential Swimmer: "As an ocean lifeguard, I have had many opportunities to sees the power of the water and to realize that a little fear and caution--viewed in a positive way--will enhance the swimming experience."
Through his coaching, the swim clinics he conducted around the world, his books and DVDs on swimming, Steve positively impacted so many people from those who feared the water to professional athletes.
Fear of Water
Although Steve finally lost his war against his mental anguish, he still did win countless battles and in the process positively impacted so many and accomplished much. In 2014, Steve wrote a note to himself about what he would like to be said at his funeral:
"Steve was a man who was compassionate and learned from his mistakes. He dared greatly"
That he did. Steve was a warrior in every sense of the word
"I used to think I couldn't go a day without your smile. Without telling you things and hearing your voice back.
Then, that day arrived and it was so damn hard but the next was harder. I knew with a sinking feeling it was going to get worse, and I wasn't going to be okay for a very long time.
Because losing someone isn't an occasion or an event. It doesn't just happen once. It happens over and over again. I lose you every time I pick up your favorite coffee mug, whenever that one song plays on the radio, or when I discover your old t-shirt at the bottom of my laundry pile.
I lose you every time I think of kissing you, holding you, or wanting you. I go to bed at night and lose you, when I wish I could tell you about my day. And in the morning, when I wake and reach for the empty space across the sheet, I begin to lose you all over again." -- Lang Leav
Steve was renowned for his coaching skills and he walked the talk. From his writings:
10 Keys to achieving Goals
1. Be decisive: Define yourself by decisions you make.
2. Stay focused.
3. Write down your goals. Be specific. Have measurable results and due dates.
4. Plan thoroughly. Figure out the steps needed to reach your goal.
5. Involve others; surround yourself with good people.
6. Welcome failure. We learn when we fail. Failure helps you see where you need to go and if you need to readjust your plan.
7. Take purposeful action. A plan will only get you in the door. Action seals the deal.
8. Inspect what you expect. Attention increases productivity and tells you how you are doing against your goals.
9. Reward yourself. A goal achieved serves a reward and positive reflection. A pat on the back if you will.
10. Maintain personal integrity. Maintain commitment to your commitment. Personal integrity is keeping your promise to yourself..