Featured Athlete, May 2020 - Joel Mackley

Group of triathletes with finisher medals embracing
May 22, 2020

D3 Staff




He was supposed to do his first IM (Texas) in April, and instead, he participated in the 5/4/24 challenge on that day. He wrote his coach, Laura Marcoux, a post-workout comment from that day about how he was imagining himself sprinting across the finish line on the last 5-mile segment at 1:00 am.  Laura shared that she did a double-take about that comment because it was at an average pace of 6:23/mile!

When Coach Laura wrote Joel's nomination she got right to the heart of being a triathlete and what has given Joel the motivation to keep pushing through during the setbacks of the pandemic.  "Joel is the epitome of the Ironman spirit and it breaks my heart that he hasn't been able to hear his name announced as an Ironman. He has kept his spirits high with everything up in the air and actually just ran a half marathon PR yesterday, and continues to improve his bike FTP as well. He's been so committed to not only his training, but also being open, vulnerable, and balancing training with prioritizing his family. It's hard to be new to this sport and not get the payoff of racing, but it's just so obvious to me that Joel was made for this!"

Race cancellations have been tough on everyone, but what we do with the situation, how we handle it, that's within our control.  Through his Q&A, Joel leads us down a path to better understand how our essence, our spirit,  our true enjoyment of it all can make a difference day today.

1. You had plans to race IM Texas this past April, but like so many athletes, your race was canceled.  You are ready to be an Ironman and that's a training rhythm that takes a lot of focus and planning.  What adaptations did you have to make to get through that news to keep yourself moving forward? And, how did you refocus yourself/what have you been focusing on? 

Urgh, it wasn’t nice was it!? We can all relate to that sinking feeling of disappointment when the cancellation email message hits. Thankfully, Coach Laura texted as the news broke and said “It’s OK to be disappointed! Take as long as you need.” As all of Laura’s athletes know when she says that, you take it! A few pizzas, beers later, some go-to music, movies and family hangs did the trick.  It wasn’t long after this that we were in lockdown and working from home and homeschooling, and as you know, we endurance junkies can’t stay still for long! So it was back to training and a case of keeping up the workouts, but tweaking them to build strength and speed, rather than the volume build needed for an IM.

2.  Coach Laura has shared that you've had some pretty sweet PRs (regardless of not racing) and found new training boundaries.  Describe how that feels and how it might encourage you to keep pushing yourself. 

Most of us are goal orientated, and if you listen to guys like David Goggins, it won’t be long before your trying to master your mind, push your limits and become an elite navy seal! In my case it stopped at pushing my limits, but I am committed to doing this again and again.

3.  Is there something that stands out from the D3 training and/or the D3 community that has helped you stay focused on your goals? 

Yes. It’s truly one of life’s treasures to find something that you’re passionate about and makes your soul happy! What’s even better is to find a community of people that share that passion! It helps normalize the things that other people in your world consider crazy!

4.  Laura shared that she thinks you are made for this!  'This' meaning triathlon and all that it brings - the intensity, the training, the pay-outs and rewards.  Someone's spirit is the nonphysical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character.  Joel, that is what we recognize in you.  Digging deep to push yourself and ride the ups and downs of triathlon takes spirit.  Our #4 question is: What drives you to be a triathlete? 

To be honest, my drive comes from the sheer LOVE of doing it! Whether it’s swimming, cycling or running I tend to get into a state of mind where all of a sudden the world feels like a better place! My main weakness is that I get lost in my own world a bit too much and need to learn to bring my wife, kids, and other close family and friends on the journey more.

5. What advice can you share with other athletes who have had to adjust and get through the agony of training for a race and realizing it's not going to happen. 

I actually think that endurance athletes are better prepared to deal with disappointments in life, mainly because we deal with so many curve balls throughout each season, from painful and debilitating injuries to time sucking and frankly annoying bike mechanicals mid-race! So having the goalposts moved (pretty seismically!) in 2020 is HUGELY disappointing but also a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to shift focus and still get fulfillment and joy out of this season!!  

We are pleased to share Joel's story because he recognizes that triathlon is a journey. While IM Texas didn't happen, there are other opportunities to dive into to become a better athlete, and Joel is embracing each of them. #D3Powered

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