A few months before I started training at Sport&Health (May 2006), my friend, Ben, was blessed with a new client. Fabien was a 12 year old boy who wanted to regain the strength and fitness he had lost while fighting cancer. Ben loved training his young buddy, and Fabien looked up to his personal trainer.
Fabien must have been a topic of conversation on several occasions because I have often heard a story from a Christmas party (i think--remember this is what I've heard, I wasn't there) where one of the other personal trainers who rarely indulges in adult beverages said "Fabien will be FINE" several times throughout the night. Believe me, this story will come in to play soon even though its slightly less funny when you can't hear me tell it.
Flash forward about 7 years, and Ben has passed on, but Fabien is healthier than ever. In fact, Fabien is one of the smartest 18 year olds I've met. He also has iron will--if he thinks he can do something, its done. This year, Fabien spent his first year at Temple University, but was already a junior upon entering. Amazing. I hadn't seen Fabien in quite some time until Ben's funeral, at which, he gave an inspiring speech about how Ben had really sparked the feeling of, "Why Not?!" in all of us. It was there that I mentioned that he should join Brian and me in the Ironman in Ben's memory.
This past week Fabien was at home for spring break. I suggested that we do some workouts together while he was here. We made plans for a swim on Friday, and a bike ride Saturday. I was a little worried that I was going to walk into the pool and this little young buck was going to swim circles around me. I planned to have a harder than normal workout and thought I'd let Fabien dictate how long we'd swim. He looked nervous when he walked in though and when I asked "so how far are we going today?" he said "Umm, you tell me. I was hoping we could work on my stroke."
We got out to the lanes and I still wasn't exactly sure how this was going to go until I asked him to swim 100 yds. When his eyes doubled in size, I realized I might have some work to do. He somehow managed to swim 4 lengths of the pool without drowning. Poor kid--I think he must have just been thinking to himself "don't drown, don't drown, don't drown" I can't imagine what he thought he was going to have to do next! As he finished up, I nodded my head like I was thinking of a drill or two, but in my head I was thinking "oh man, where do I start?!"
Luckily, Fabien is an incredibly fast learner. He went from practically doggy paddling to doing something that almost resembled a fish (with the exception of his breathing) in one hour lesson. I'm sure he was exhausted by the time the swim was over, but Fabien would have stayed in the pool for 8 hours if I told him it was going to improve his swim. He was so dedicated, so determined because at this point swimming is the only thing holding him back from the ironman. How could he "be a man" (something Ben commonly asked him) if he couldn't make it 2.4 miles swimming?! By the end of the time spent swimming, Fabien was able to go the length of the leisure pool without any major stroke issues.
The bike ride didn't end up happening on Saturday (it was frickin' COLD in the morning!), but we did meet up one more time in Sunday to swim. Thank everything that Fabien had remembered most of the corrections that I had helped him with on Friday. In fact, by the end of the workout, Fabien was even swimming 50s!
Talking to Fabien over the past few days made me feel like Ben was there with me. They have the same sense of adventure and commitment to challenges. I can tell that Fabien will have the same drive to train hard and compete harder as Ben and I had. Yep, Fabien WILL be FINE! In fact, he'll be better than that--in a few short months he will be an ironman!