(I've been waiting quite a while to post this one, but now is a great time as I'm just over a week out from IM Tahoe. The ramp up in training has led to some reflection on how far I've come, how much work I've put in, and the freakin' awesome road ahead. Shit is getting real.)
I used to watch fast runners and say, “they make it look so easy”, as if to disregard their hard work, intense focus, and effort. At times, I’d take it one step further and make excuses for why it looks effortless for them - and seriously taxing for me. I’d say “they’re only that fast because they’re like 30 pounds lighter than a normal human”. How absurd. In hindsight, I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually used to say these things to myself.
It’s embarrassing because about 4 years ago I started putting in the work to get faster, go further, be stronger, and it hurt. It hurt like hell. It didn’t get any easier. In fact, it got harder….and…I went faster. I pushed myself through so many mental barriers, so many tough miles, brutal stair workouts (see left), and hill repeats. It left scars, which have contributed to the evolution of what “easy” and “hard” means to me. Progress is difficult, it disguises itself in getting dropped on group rides, throwing up in the middle of a treadmill workout, blowing up in a race and feeling people’s doubt in you. But it also exposes itself when you least expect it, and you shatter a concept of what “fast” or “better” or “fitter” means for you.
SIDE NOTE - I don’t want it to seem like I’ve never put in work before. I was probably one of the most obsessed soccer players I knew growing up. Frequently convincing the coach to do extra fitness after practice, staying late to work on shooting, making my dad put extra lights up in the backyard so I could practice my “moves” late at night (nerd alert!). The work was constant, I loved every minute of it. But I also always understood soccer, I understood how much skill, fitness and focus it required to be talented. Endurance sports, on the other hand, were foreign to me. I had to get to know these sports before I could be truly humbled by them. And oh lordie did my opinion of myself drop immensely as I first began to pursue distance running and cycling. But I got faster (it didn’t get easier) and I gained confidence in the process of hard work translating into results.
As I was saying about progress…
I’m assuming we all know this already, but let us be reminded: progress does not happen to you. It is not a passive string of coincidental circumstances, it is a relentless process that takes commitment and borderline obsession. So the next time you see someone running, riding, walking, cross-fitting, putting in overtime at the office, anything….remember to respect their process. Respect the work that led up to their current effort and fight the urge you might have to diminish it. Take time to admire their progress. Hell, learn from it.
And if you still feel like some people have it better and it’s “easier” for them, here’s a saying that’s been hugely helpful throughout my training…brought to you be a well-known cyclist, Greg LeMond: “It never gets easier, you just go faster”. Never, never, never underestimate how hard the person ahead of you is working, it is not easier just because they are going faster.
To properly cite sources, I stumbled upon this gem of a quote in The Rules (see rule #10) of cycling. Some of them are ridiculous, and some are perfect metaphors for life. I encourage you to read them.