Auburn Family

Auburn University boasts one of the nation's best swim programs, and its swim coaches are talented, experienced and focused. Frank Bradley, 37, is the university's associate head swim coach.

A graduate of Florida State University, Bradley has coached diligently at Auburn for the past three years and has succeeded in helping the team achieve its title of SEC Champions. 

But outside of the swimming spotlight, Bradley currently strives toward an additional, and to some people impossible, goal- completing the Ironman. 

The Ironman competition consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and finished with a 26.2 mile marathon run. 

Bradley naturally possesses a knack for fitness. He began swimming at age 6 to combat his asthma and swam competitively in college at FSU.

Completing the Ironman has been a bucket list item for Bradley. He said he and his sister are competitive with one another, and she has already completed an Ironman. Needless to say, he wants to complete one, too.

On an average day, Bradley must balance coaching, training and home life.

When coaching, Bradley spends four or more hours "on deck" and three to five hours in the office. 

His Ironman training usually falls between two and four hours a day during the week, but on the weekends he sometimes works out for up to eight hours in one training session.

To push through these grueling eight hour workouts, Bradley said he either "zones out" or "zones in." 

For him, zoning out consists of observing his surroundings and listening to music. Zoning in, on the other hand, means focusing intently on his body's rhythmic moving, operating "like a machine."

"You have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable," Bradley said.

Along with training, another vital aspect to Bradley's success in the Ironman competition is his support group. His sister, a triathlon coach, and a fellow Ironman-in-training all help guide Bradley through his training journey. Perhaps most importantly, the support from Bradley's wife and two daughters unendingly boost his potential for success.

Bradley's experiences as a coach also influence his training. He said that being a coach allows him better to understand what he is undertaking and to coach himself through difficult training periods.

"You have to be aware of where the line between coach and athlete falls," Bradley said.

While being a coach affects how Bradley prepares for the Ironman, working toward this longstanding goal also affects Bradley's coaching.

Through the past few months of training, Bradley has realized just how capable the human body is. He believes that what most often hinders his athletes is not their physical capabilities, but their ability and willingness to tolerate pain.

Having to surpass his own personal thresholds while training, Bradley understands the importance of pushing through pain. 

"Do you want to hurt and go slow or hurt and go fast?" Bradley said. It all boils down to the realization that the effort might hurt, but it's worth the pain.

Bradley is unsure if he will pursue another Ironman after the Panama City Beach competition on November 3. 

"I will have to see how it feels afterward," Bradley said. "Maybe I like it, maybe I don't."

He definitely likes how training has affected his lifestyle, however. Coaching and intense endurance workouts exhaust him by the end of the day, but he feels more positive and enjoys the opportunities for solitude and reflection.

"Things just don't seem to be as big of a deal," Bradley said. The six-hour bike rides provide him with a chance to reflect on the things that genuinely matter to him- his family, his team, and himself.

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