The other day, my coach invited me to a little Black Friday fun.
Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim?
No, no dice.
Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim and a cyclocross ride?
Even worse. No, definitely no dice, not when it’s this cold.
Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim and a cyclocross ride get a bagel afterwards?
No, but…you’re getting hotter.
Want to drive 30 miles north to Elgin to join me for 6 am masters swim and a cyclocross ride and get a bagel and coffee afterwards?
DING DING DING DING DING. I’m in.
Friday morning, 5 am. Dark of night, 20 degrees outside, I’m piling my swim gear, bike gear, and cyclocross bike in the car and driving 30 miles north for a swim and a ride. Willing to pay good money in tolls and gas. Why? I was in it for the coffee.
I walk into the recreation center and there she is. All 5 foot 7 inches standing in pink bathing suit glory on the swim deck – my coach. The only person I know that skips into the pool before 6 in the morning when it’s 20 degrees outside.
I walk onto the deck and realize I am not the only one she has persuaded, I mean coerced, into joining her for a swim. Four men fell for the bait and hang in the lane next to us waiting on her every word. I wonder if this is what Jerome meant when he said “no boys.” Because there they were, waiting for her workout like it was the best thing they’ve ever heard.
Ok, it wasn’t. I mean, seriously – who wants to be doing 8 x 75 IM at 6:15 am? Who? My coach. And she wants me to want this too. Little does she know I just did the marathon of IM workouts the other night. But no rest for me. In fact, she says she wrote the workout for me and Steve, her two runners turned triathletes turned will be doing IM friends.
A little IM, a little kicking, a little work with the band. She calls it a band. But really it’s the leash and finally I see what it’s like to have someone tell me to put the leash on now. We do very little that is hard effort but it all feels hard when you’re trying to keep up with Jen. Nearly every 250 yards she has me lapped. We go through a few different types of 300’s and even some breath control. And just when I think we have to be done she throws out 8 x 100 alternating IM (no fins she says no fins) and the band with paddles.
But again, I’m in it for the coffee and that’s all that is on my mind. And I’m extra excited about this cup of coffee because this is something new. You see, Jennifer is a recent coffee convert. She has now joined us on the other side. So, it was new and fun to sit across from Jennifer while we enjoyed coffee and chatted away.
Afterwards, we decide to go for a ride. Sure, it’s below 30 degrees outside but it’s only November and damn if the Illinois girls are going to be beaten into their basements this early in the winter. So we put on the two pairs of tights, wool socks, base layer, fleece vest, fleece coat, balaclava, gloves, fleece mittens, slip feet into plastic baggies, into shoes, with toe covers, sunglasses, helmet, somewhere we have both stashed a partridge in a pear tree, and we are….ready to ride.
Let me just start by saying caffeine should be a banned substance in Jennifer Harrison’s body. There is probably a committee we should call about that. Before I even have my bike down the stairs she is circling in the street. Now, if you know Jen, you know the words zippy, pippy, sparky, spunky, chatty, happy go with her hand and hand. But add caffeine to a string of words like that and you truly get…..something else.
Immediately we head over the bridge and she looks down at my bike. Just checking to see that you are in the big ring, she says. Not a good sign. No sooner do we get on the path going into the wind then she takes it up to a pace I would call just slightly below hauling ass. Now, maybe it was the Thanksgiving 5K I turkey trotted the day before or maybe the fact that in the past three days I have done roughly 3000 yards of IM or maybe just the fact that people that move/talk/think as fast as her should not be permitted to have caffeine EVER in the first place, especially before a ride.
I’m wondering if we are going into the wind or going up a hill, if my tires are flat or my brake pads are rubbing. Because I’m barely catching my breath while she keeps chatting away. I tell her I have reached my ventillatory threshold and might need to slow down. Meanwhile, she is verbally reciting all of the reasons why she is going so fast – bigger bike, no heart rate monitor, extra special Pearl Izumi tights that I MUST also have, there had to be a dozen reasons none of which contained the most obvious, the word CAFFEINE. Nothing seems to slow her down, snow covered bridges, unleashed dogs, patches of ice. The less I talk the more she talked and by now I know the caffeine is pumping through her full force and I’m just hanging on for the ride.
Up ahead she says we will turn around. Like 10 minutes later. I am thinking there will finally be some rest with the tailwind but no such luck. Instead, we are cruising at over 19 mph on the path and when you factor in the cyclocross bike it feels like we are going 25. Over the snow covered bridges, the icy patches, the unleashed dogs, and walkers on the path. In this entire time she has not stopped not even to turnaround while I unclipped in the turn just to have one freakin’ moment to stop pedaling and, finally, catch my breath.
At last, we are on the street heading back to her house and she puts it in the small ring. I take this as my cue that we can finally allow the speed to fall below 15. Though I am riding behind her, she is still talking away. And I hear her say “I wonder what it was today? I wonder if it was the caffeine?”
We go back to her house and she asks her husband to make me some coffee. Dear god whatever you do Jerome keep her away from the caffeine. She makes herself tea and announces that she has switched to decaf. And that's a good thing - if not for me, than for Jerome because they were going shopping later that day. And since he just did IM Florida a few weeks ago, there's now way he could keep her pace. No way.