Monday, April 14, 2014

Paradigm Shifting

Post race team festivities with beer and Pringles
The athletic world as I see it shifted slightly from its axis this weekend. No, it has nothing to do with the Cleveland Indians (who, in classic fashion, have shown signs of brilliance and signs of not-so-brilliance, as is expected in the life of a Cleveland sports fan). Instead, it has everything to do with a new group of training friends (in fact, my new team), the Spin Second Sole Multisport Team (SSSMST).

I wasn't sold on being a member of ANY team this year. I needed to seriously detox from paying attention to many of the triathletes I know or follow in social media. I was creating too much stress from all the comparisons I was making to them.. I obsessed that my training was never good enough, my racing was never fast enough, and that I couldn't keep up with the gadgets and the GPSes and the bikes and the shoes and the compression gear. Seriously, I already had waaaay too many visors.

And then, along came a surprise in the way of an invitation to join a long-established Northeast Ohio tri team that trains with the support of Spin Bike Shop in Lakewood and Second Sole in Rocky River. I had been fortunate enough to know a few of the team members from long ago. In fact, I had coveted a spot on this team since the mid-2000s because of the great respect I had for its members and two supporting sponsors. How could I say "no" to them now?

So I said "yes" - but with some trepidation. Would I go back to my old comparison-ing ways? Would I constantly feel like I wasn't worthy enough to be in the presence of my new team members? Would I get carried away trying to perform well and get on podiums to thank them for the support? Would I burn out from the stress of worrying over the stress of these things?

The answers to these questions came this past weekend.

Sick of training inside all winter, I made the decision - come hell or high water (coincidentally) - to support several of my teammates at an event this weekend, the "Forget the PR Mohican 50K" at Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio, on Saturday. I drove down Saturday morning with my SSSMST teammate Kevin Krol. The goal was to do a short bike ride then jump on the 50K trail and run backwards from the finish line to meet up with two of our runners - Aaron Rood and Aaron Henely.

It was the first time this year I've actually felt warmth from the sun, and nature threw an amazing day at us (I'm told last year's race was miserably cold and rainy). Our ride went well, especially since it was the first time I've had a real riding partner in over two years, and, a week ago I was terrified of not being able to keep up with Krol (he is really fast). But Saturday morning, it was hard to find reason to worry about anything.

Then came the run. We changed into our running shoes, packed our pockets with essential nutrition items, and took off running.

With teammates Jen (with poster) and Mark (yes, that's a kilt)
All I can say is... Wow. By the time we found the Aarons, my appreciation for trail running was in full swing, and my mind's view of running had been permanently altered. We ran through rivers. We ran through rivers of MUD. I slipped. I tripped. I fell. I got covered with mud. I had scrapes and bruises. My shoes were soaked through. By the time we finished, there was mud in places that I never saw mud before (like, how did it get caked INSIDE my socks?). I had nearly vomited at the top of the steepest hill (because someone challenged me to RUN up it while everyone else walked). And I had also reached a new level of appreciation for beer and Pringles. My only regret is we didn't take a picture of our "after" and how much mud had latched onto us. In Krol's words: "I never saw clothes come out of the washer as dirty as they went in."

But most of all... the biggest pleasure came from knowing I had helped my teammates finish this grueling event. I was there to be their foot guide, their voice of motivation when their own inner voices betrayed them. And I understand now what it is to be part of a team (something I only ever experienced once before, in high school track). Although they were saying the thank-yous for saving them, I couldn't thank them enough - for saving ME.

And, as if that weren't enough, the next day, I learned what it was like to have training partners to get ME through a grueling day.. my first 100-mile bike ride since September 2012. Unlike Saturday, Sunday was somewhat ugly for anyone on two wheels. The wind was brutal and I certainly would have packed it in early if it hadn't been for Krol and teammate Anne Callahan. They met me about 25 miles into my ride and pulled me through wind that almost knocked me off my bike. By the time I was alone again, I only had about 35 miles to go - only about 13 of it into the wind. It was easily do-able, and even though I would have been happy with 90 miles, I managed the whole 100 because I was in such good spirits. It was my fastest ever first-100-of-the-year (surprising considering the wind). My favorite part of the ride was when another rider passed us, and we let him go... then I told Krol I wanted to catch the guy, and he responded the way any training partner would after trashing his legs fighting wind for 50 miles - he kicked it into high gear and dragged me at some ungodly speed until we caught and decisively overtook the guy.

And so I say it again.. Wow. It looks like 2014 is gonna be a great year - if it doesn't make me a faster biker and produce podium finishes, it certainly will be fun trying. And isn't that really what it's all about?


  1. Jeannie, keep that idle comparison chatter to a minimum and enjoy the heck out of this season of training, racing and great times with old & new friends!

  2. Sounds like a great weekend, and I love the upbeat tone of this post! Keep it up girl!