Monday, February 9, 2009

Suffer. Sacrifice.

When 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis was asked what the best advice he had ever been given, he replied: "Suffer. Sacrifice." I always liked that - and I thought of it often during my first season of training. As I was pushing up Torrey Pines for the 10th time one Sunday morning, as I took off into a 30 MPH headwind for the first half of a century ride, as I rode through the snow on Mt. Laguna in bike shorts. I liked the idea of suffering now, with the reward coming later. During that first year I woke up every day so sore that I didn't know if I could complete the 2 mile bike ride to the pool for Masters. After the swim I made myself breakfast, spent the day at the office, did my evening workout, packed my lunch for the next day, then went straight to sleep by 9pm. Often times I went to bed hungry, since I tracked my caloric intake closely and ate just enough to fuel my workouts. I had a ritual, and it worked for me. I enjoyed the spartan lifestyle, the simplicity of single-minded focus.

My second season of training was different. The distances were so huge, that I had no choice but to moderate my effort, and to rest before a big event. I learned to be efficient, and to exert measured effort over long periods. It was different, and the long periods of quiet caused me to lose some of my single-mindedness.

Lately I feel like my life has gotten complicated, and I've been getting soft. Sure I have tough days, but I still end each workout with a smile on my face. I go out each day and train because I choose to do so - because I'm having fun. I wake up every morning feeling refreshed. I'm training smarter now - I actually have "recovery workouts" which are good for recovering from a hard workout without getting too lazy. I'm seeing better results now as well. I certainly would not recommend my old "punish myself everyday" training philosophy to anyone looking to get faster - it's a horrible way to prepare for a race. But I liked it. I liked the simplicity of "do whatever I can today... and then a little bit more." I liked the suffering because I knew I had a higher tolerance for it than the guy next to me.

It occurred to me that I was getting soft a while back, when I realized I hadn't vomited during a workout in over a year. Not that I enjoy the taste of vomit, but I've found that if my breakfast isn't working it's way up my esophagus, then I'm probably not redlining. During this Sunday's ride I demonstrated my mental weakness. I cut the ride short due to rain. Rain?! Are you kidding me? What kind of f'ing pansy have I turned into? I can't believe how psychologically anemic that is - it's embarrassing, which is why I'm writing it down. I need to toughen up, and get back to where I was a year ago. I still want to train smart, and go easy on recovery days. But the intense days need to be more intense. I need to stop being polite during my group bike rides and staying with the group. I need to stop being a wuss when it comes to running hard. My hard days need to be hard. I need to finish workouts when they are uncomfortable, when they hurt, when I don't want to be there. I need to re-learn how to Suffer during a workout, and to Sacrifice the things that sabotage my plans.

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