Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Home Team

There is this guy at the gym who we call Paul. Larry knows him from other races or gyms or something, and somehow he has recently landed at ours in Evanston. Anyway, Paul is one of the super-athletes who is a normal, regular day-to-day guy who consistently places in his age group at all his races, including Ironman. He is actually so good that he called a bike store to see if they would sponsor him in his quest to qualify for Hawaii, and they not only said yes, but gave him a rockin' $6000 bike for his effort.

The fact that Paul is an atrocious swimmer is made up for his lightening fast times in the bike and run, so he doesn't seem to mind. In fact, anytime I see he he's in the pool, going back-and-forth with such effort that you almost want to stop him and give him a few pointers.

But here's the thing - Larry has actually tried. Not to coach him, but rather refer him to a swim coach (ours) to help make his stroke more efficient and, hopefully, his time better. Yet Paul refuses to reach out to the coach, or anyone for that matter, but instead continues to plug away, logging the 4000-5000 yard swim with bad form (and he can't flip turn).

Larry and I have discussed this, as it frustrates Larry to no end that there's this guy who has potential to qualify but won't just take minimal instruction to help him do it. It's weird, right? That you would spend so many hours a week training to be at your peak, but refuse any instruction that might actually help you meet this goal? Oh, and I know this because all Paul does is talk about himself. Everyday, all day. You tell him you did race such-and-such, he not only did it, but smoked your ass. Ironaman Wisconsin, you say? Been there, done that, he says. Whereas most of us (myself obviously included, as evident by my blog) talk about triathlon with reciprocity and like to EXCHANGE stories of adventure, victory and defeat, Paul really just like to it be the "Paul Show" at each meeting.

So based on the information we have assessed, we have come to the conclusion that Paul prides himself on being "self-made" and has gotten to this level without any coaching or assistance. He mostly just read, eats, sleeps and breathes triathlon, and does nothing but consume himself with learning more on his own. So if he makes a mistake, he doesn't really know because no one tells him and he has no one to compare himself to. He's actually married and can you imagine being his wife? Yikes - she's gotta listen day in and out to this hot mess. And this is year round - not like some of us who an train off and on, or allow ourselves a semblance of a real life on the side.

Myself? See I can't imagine doing this thing without other people helping me. In fact, that's been one of the coolest parts of this, is seeing how much people care and want to help - how much information other people have and want to share with you. In fact, in the last few months, I have built up quite a little team. I have my coach, Craig, who mostly just gave me my training plans in the beginning, but has definitive moments of greatness, especially throughout this back injury (and he's smokin hot, so that's cool too), I have my chiropractor/miracle man/voodoo witch doctor Dr. Kurtz, who is curing all my ills, be it with the eye of toad, fairy dust or a simple band-aid and duct tape. I also now have my new massage therapist (yeah, I said it) who can rub a knot out of my butt cheek like nobody's business, and a training partner, Larry, who is definitely one of those that likes to share experiences and has supported me all the way.

And that's not even to mention the family that puts up with me pedaling away in the wee hours of the morning each weekend, listens to my cries from injuries and disappointment, ask how the swims/bikes/runs went and listens with real, sincere attention, and just supports me no matter what. And finally the blogger community, who listens even when I post five complaints in a row, and sends me comments that just nail what's going on. I can not express the gratitude.

How can one do this without that support? I think I once said that I may put in the miles, but I am carried on the shoulders of many. It's so true. And moreover, how can you do this and not take guidance or instruction? Just because one has three or four races under the belt, isn't there always stuff to learn? Maybe that's just the student in me, I don't know. But I am certain that this experience would have never happened without my teammates. All of them.

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