Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fellowship of the Diaphoresis. Huh?

I've almost always trained alone.

Running, swimming (sort of) and cycling are really individual events.  You can't depend on another runner to physically carry you along the course.  No other swimmer is going to drag you through the water.  No cyclist is going to push you along the road (not in a race anyways).

Oh, folks can cheer you on, and that provides quite the motivational boost.  But, in the end, success or failure is completely dependent upon your ability to finish under your own power.

For most of the significant challenges I've undertaken in the last couple of years, I've trained mostly alone.

I really enjoy my time out on a road or in the pool.  I can quiet my brain and just relax into the steady rhythms of whichever endurance activity I'm enjoying.  It's a time of reflection, of calmness and introspection.  Some of my greatest ideas (and my worst) come when I'm running or cycling out on a lonely road by myself.

Alone on a mountain, there's no one else to depend on.  You're free from any obligations to anyone but yourself.

Occasionally, I have trained with a partner(s).

In the early days of my new swimming career (last summer), I had my wife nearby (who swims like a fish) to make sure I didn't drown and to point out how horribly I was doing.  I also have friends that I cycle with when there's time.  And, of course, when you're doing PT in the Army, you're never alone.

But mostly it's just me, by my lonesome, out on some desolate road or trail, mile after mile, sweating and running or cycling.

What's really ironic is that my love for these activities really came from experiences when I wasn't alone.

I loved the hours long group runs in high school cross country when we'd all stick together and tell stories and jokes the entire run.  Later on, I ran several road races and it was awesome just to be around other people that shared my passion for running.

Learning to swim (or drown gracefully) with Char was a special time for us to be together in our hectic schedules without distractions.  I rarely wanted to swim alone in the beginning; I needed her presence to calm me down and give me the confidence to make it to the other side of the pool without panicking.

So not drowning, really.
Then Char and I bought bikes so that we'd have another hobby to share together while getting fit.  My first long ride was a 50-miler with some friends (thanks Larry and Alanna) and was the crucial ride that sold me on becoming more serious about cycling.  It also coincided with the summer that I first watched the Tour de France, something that I'm sure Char wishes had never happened.

Le Tour de France?  How about, Le Getoutofmyface!
Over the past year I've learned just how important it can be to have someone else there beside you.  Not just for the race itself, but during training events, too.  They can push you to keep your pace steady or pull you back from overexerting.  Their conversation can help the miles pass by easier on a rough day, or enhance the satisfaction of a really good one.

While I was on my extended vacation overseas, I had two really great runners to train with.  My boss and his boss are both accomplished distance runners and provided me with great training runs before the big half marathon in March.

When I kicked off the last two months of training before the Death Ride Tour, I was invited to join another friend for a couple rides.  My cycling guru, Joe, took me out into the mountains and was probably one the other reasons I was able to complete the Death Ride without actually dying and while retaining some dignity (not much dignity, just enough to sleep at night).

No shame, whatsoever.
What I have learned is that sharing your passion with others, not just suffering out on some lonely road alone, can make you stronger in both your sport and your life.  Although we may race or compete alone, training together really can be the difference between igniting a passionate enthusiasm for your sport and just enduring suffering until the end of the ride/race.

I definitely pushed my body to its limits in May and in June.  Now it's time to relax a little and enjoy my activities not just as another training session building towards some penultimate goal, but also as a time to be with other people that share my passions.  I can still push my body, but I'll try to feed my soul a little, too.

Taking on the 9,000 ft plus mountains of Cloudcroft, NM, with a group was more rewarding than tackling it alone.
So, here's looking forward to more really great group rides with the Team Army Fort Bliss crew, the Imperial Cycling Club, some El Paso Bicycle Club and some special (although painful) training rides with Char.

Hopefully, they can help me stay in shape, get stronger and faster, and stay motivated right up until my legs turn to jelly, my lungs start burning and the tears mix with the sweat running down my face.