Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We're On Each Other's Team - QT2 Camp Slideshow 2014

Sweat beads on your brow, with every step your legs cry out in anger, it's the final miles of a 140.6 mile race that has been going on for the better part of the day.  As your body breaks down slowly, your stomach protests the sugary outpouring of the final gel swigs you try to take in hoping to produce a magical burst of caffeine that will somehow make things seem less painful.  Your mind wants to start envisioning the funneling of the finish shoot leading you home, but with a mile to go you start silently chanting to yourself "get there, get there, you can do it, get there."  All of the sudden you know you're not alone.  The cheers start rising up behind you as you hear the patting of footsteps and ragged breath which can only mean one thing, here they come.  The questions start arising more rapidly than you can answer them, "Who is it? How fast are they coming?  Do they look good?  How much do I really have left in the tank at this point?  Am I ready to fight for it?"  The final question lingers because it's the most important of all.  The rest are really arbitrary.  You know decision time is coming and when it does, there will be only milliseconds to react.  In that moment, a call must me made.  Will you go with them? 

That moment is why I go to camp.

All year, many of us train alone day after day.  We know the workout schedule and we plan our lives around it to adhere to the requirements.  If a big workout is coming, I know a week plus in advance and I take the time to mentally and physically prepare.  Equipment is assembled and drink mixes are made in advance.  I know what to expect.  I've done it a thousand times before and it takes the worry out of it.  I enjoy that part of the process and relish my ability to execute the plan on a day in / day out basis.  I'm trained to do it like a finely tuned machine (I should be as I've been doing it for almost nine years now)!  Hard to believe!

No one wants to race the final mile of an all day race.  Trust me, if you say you do, you're lying.  It hurts badly in a way that no one can actually describe to you.  Plenty of times, it doesn't come down to a head to head situation in racing and you get to just roll it in.  However, as a professional, there are definitely times when it does and there is a LOT on the line.  I'm not talking about just money here, I'm talking about time you've spent away from your family and friends to train, hours in PT and strength training, other professionals and coaches who have helped you become the athlete you are today.  All of these things are part of that moment.    

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.
A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.
"A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more."  -Steve Prefontaine

If you would like to read a bit more about the down and dirty of camp, then you can read my post on XTRI from last year where I give more detail.  There were plenty of times at camp when I squeezed out what I thought was literally the most I possibly could and then somehow another set was tacked on, another workout was added to the day or an all out 5k or mile was added once I thought I was finished.

One workout in particular, was a 10 mile run where my heart rate was extremely low and I realized I was going to have to push through some serious mental barriers to get it where it needed to be.  About half way through, I stopped at the coach's van for fluid and exchanged a few words with Coach Jesse.  I thought I was doing pretty well and told him my heart rate average and what I was aiming to do.  That's when he dropped the bomb on me.  He said, "that average sounds low to me, you're higher than that."  I almost shuttered, how could I need to reach an even HIGHER average.  I was already having trouble making it happen as it was!  He checked his notes and yep, I underestimated by about three beats so I would have my work MORE than cut out for me for the rest of the run.  I almost threw in the towel right there at the van.  While half of my mind was swearing, the other half encouraged me to see what I could do.  What's the worst that could happen?  If I didn't make it, o well!  I set off running like a crazed lunatic on a mission to bring my average up via sheer will.

As I battled through the rest of the miles, I told myself just get over that last hill, down and around and you're done, you can rest, it will be over.  In the end, I made it happen by the skin of my teeth and my body didn't end up alongside the edge of the road.  Lounging by the car I reveled in my achievement, drank some sports drink and started eating my bar.  We were done after a long day.  All of the sudden we were being called in again by the sound of Jesse's beckoning voice.  "No way, No way, No way!" my mind cried!  I just left it all out there.  We HAVE to be done.  There's no way I can NOT be done.

"We're going to do an all out mile in 3 minutes.  Get yourself together and get on the line!" he said with a gleam in his eye.  I felt like punching him.

In that moment, you don't question, you don't think, you line up and you do.  You know you can't be trusted to think even one thought because anything that may surface will only be an endless stream of negative garbage.  You quickly glance around at the faces around you.  Everyone's tired, everyone's beat down and no one, and I mean no one, wants to do this mile.  That's precisely why you don't complain or talk about your own woes, as that would be a slap in the face to your teammates.  You suck it up because you're not going to be the one to bring down this group.  If they can do it, you can do it.  Even with Ironman champions surrounding you, somehow, in that moment, you are all equal.  No one is better, no one is worse, you are all in this terrible mess together and not one will back down.

In the end, the times or who came in where during the mile don't really matter.  What matters was when the gun went off, you found a place within yourself to draw from that you didn't know you had previously.  Your body and mind came together and mustered the strength and even though it hurt beyond measure, you did it anyway.

Being around these athletes, getting to know them, laughing with them, crying with them, performing bodily functions in front of many of them and gutting it out with them makes me a better athlete and even a better person.  I learn something every time I'm around these folks and it reinforces why I chose a sport where it's so much more about love than it is a paycheck.  I'll never forget the times we had together or regret putting it all in with them to see just what we can get out of ourselves this year.  I'll be rooting for each one on the race course.  It's a privilege and an honor to be part of the QT2 family and one I don't take lightly.  Thanks to our coaches, Jesse, John, Tara and Tim.  They are truly some of the best in the sport. 

Enjoy this little slide show I put together of our experience!  Good times, good times! The season is right around the corner!  This Sunday it's off to Melbourne for the first race of the year - the Asian Pacific World Championships.  Many big names will be there and I can't wait to see where things are early in the season!

Thanks as always to my sponsors, Ultragrain, Coeur Sports, Rudy Project, QT2 Systems, Fuelbelt, NormaTec, Top Gear Bicycle Shop and Powerbar for making this season a huge success before it's even begun!  I couldn't do this without your support! 

QT2 Pro Camp 2014 by Slidely Slideshow


Christine Coppola Perez said...

Great post - I really enjoyed the video! Good luck in Melbourne!

Kristin M said...

Sounds and looks like it was a great training camp for you! You are going to do great this year! Believe in yourself and all will follow! :)