Friday, June 29, 2012

Flying Solo

In high school and college when I lifted weights I almost always went to the gym with others; it was easy to see how much harder we pushed when we were being motivated by each other. At the onset of my triathlon (duathlon in the beginning) training I’d go at it mostly alone.  There was the occasional run or bike with a friend but that was about it.  My only other training/running pal early on was my dog Shea. Turns out that Shea is more suited to sprint events and when the runs became too long she expressed her displeasure. Now I'm hard-pressed to get her to join in on any run; she can tell when I am getting dressed to run (which is pretty remarkable) and begins her Ghandhi-like protest. This practice began in the winter so I suppose it's my duty to give her another shot now that it's warmed up.  But, I digress...

I think the main reason behind my solo training was feeling like I’d be holding everyone back.  I would become easily winded, unable to talk, and my legs simply couldn't keep up.  My Ironman boss frequently invited me on long rides but I knew I’d be slowing them down and continually declined.  I promised myself that once I was stronger I’d join in. 

After my first events (Trilogy & Tri Miami) I felt like I was finally in good enough shape to try to train with others.  While my first group (four Tri Locos) ride was a bit of a fiasco and included two flat tires (note: it's probably a good idea to check for the cause of a flat before putting in the new tube) I was pretty much able to keep up (at a pace well above my normal rides).  In the past I had enjoyed the solitude that training provided me, but I began to experience the camaraderie and motivation of group training. 

As my training ramped up during the late summer and fall I began to train with the Tri Locos in groups typically ranging from 2 – 8 people.  A typical week consisted of about four workouts with a group and the rest on my own.  I quickly began to realize the benefits of group training and it became an important part of my preparation for Miami 70.3.

When I moved to NY in December I did so with the regret of leaving the Tri Locos behind.  The Locos are a rare breed of a training group full of good people who frequently put the needs of each other before their own.  No man/woman gets left behind be it running, biking, or swimming and the Locos are a huge reason I've been able to make this journey.  The frequent Loco emails detailing their training plans keeps me feeling connected and reminds me that I am not as alone as I sometimes feel.

Since I've been up north I've joined in on a couple of group rides (while the people seemed nice there is no question the roadies were less than excited about the triathlete intrusion) but other than that I've been on my own again.  As my workouts get longer I will likely try to hook up with a local triathlon group for some bike rides and open water swims.  My main reasons for wanting to train with others at this point are safety and motivation.  Riding with stronger cyclists will help me work harder and improve my biking.  In the water I am hopeful that there will be some similarly paced (read: slow) swimmers for me to stick with so I am not out swimming alone.  I swam myself once in Miami's Key Biscayne; while out in the water I realized just how bad an idea it was to swim alone and vowed to never do it again. 

On the other side of the coin from group training, I actually take pride and draw strength from my solo training.  Though I'll be surrounded by almost 3,000 others in Arizona, I will be swim, bike, and running my own race.  There is no drafting (except for the possibility of swim drafting) in triathlon and during the course of my approximately 6-hour ride I will fall back on the saddle hours I spent training.  Surely seeing the other eleven Locos on the course (all decked out in our bright new uniforms which are on order) will give me a boost, but it's on me to push through those 140.6 miles and cross the finish line.

Now that the storm I've been waiting out has passed, it's off for my run.

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