Monday, August 17, 2009

Filling In The Blanks

Saturday morning we were up at 6:30 am. If I wasn’t surrounded by 3 other athletes I would never do this. It’s far too early and too close to the top of the coffee cup. Yet when we arrived at Ohio Street Beach for a swim in Lake Michigan I felt like it was the perfect start to the day.

Albeit an early one.

The lake was like glass. I have never seen it so calm. The beach was already buzzing with triathletes. The sun was shining. Chicago in summer is beautiful like this.

Andrea jumped right in and took off solo. Danni and Cat followed and then I took off. Along the way I could see Cat having a few moments of hesitation like we all do in open water. Especially a new body of water. We all need to take a few deep breaths sometimes. We met up at the ¼ mile marker. Cat and Danni decided to swim loops together. Andrea was still of on her own. And I set out to swim to the ½ mile.

I was totally alone. Most swimmers stop at the ¼ mile marker, turn around back to the shore. The water was the perfect temperature today. It was cool, clear. As I got closer to the ½ mile marker, there was some chop and I was still alone but totally relaxed. I keep thinking back to myself a year earlier in open water. I was not comfortable swimming alone and didn’t swim nearly as well in the lake as I did in the pool. I’m an entirely different swimmer now. If being pro has taught me anything – it has taught me to elevate my swimming and take it seriously. To practice as I’ll race and get out of my own way in the lake.

I swam back faster to the shore and found the three girls standing there. I took Cat back out to watch her form – taking advantage of the clear water so I could see her stroke. We identified a few things and then she took the time to practice what we talked about to set it in to her form. It’s one thing to hear feedback, it’s another thing to practice it – even if it makes you slower at first, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, I had some swimming left to do. I swam back to the ¼ mile marker, turned around and realized I still had 15 minutes left. The neverending swim, I swear. At that moment it was like god heard my call as I noticed a tall man with blond hair pop up out of the water. It was The Bus.

The Bus is part of my Well Fit Ironman Wisconsin group. After the initial greeting I told him he would swim another ½ mile with me. He listened – I’m not sure he wanted to but he took the order well. We swam together to the ¼ mile marker, did a little talking then he hauled ass back. I was fighting to stay on his feet, then within his sight, then I was just happy to see the shore. We noticed about 5 other guys from the group there and it was fun to chit chat before heading back to the ‘burbs.

Extra special thank you to Shawn and Dan for letting us lock up our stuff to their bikes.

Andrea and Danni chose to stay back at the house while Cat and I went for a run. I took her to one of my favorite runs; Danada to Herrick Lake. It’s a crushed limestone trail that winds through meadows, savannahs and forest. We ran the first 3 miles together then set out for our own paces (her request – not mine! I enjoyed the company since I usually run alone!). Cat had a really strong run and got a good taste of our Midwestern humidity.

Back at the house we gathered everyone up and headed over to Downers Grove for the criterium. Andrea has been training with a local cycling team and did her first crit a week ago. She asked if she should do the one this weekend – and I said sure! It would be a great opportunity plus it was the national championship. How can you resist that?

A little coffee in Caribou then we headed over to Misery Hill to watch the crit. This race was the Cat 3 / 4 national championship and Andrea’s goal was to stay in the game and of course – not crash! She hit both goals. I admired her perseverance for sticking with it and her passion for a new goal. Not only that – but she has perspective. Sometimes triathletes think that because they can ride a bike – and ride it well – that they will go into a bike race and do well. Unless it is a time trial or possibly a road race, this is often not the case. True, most triathletes probably hold a decent solo speed. But in a crit while you might hold that same speed, it comes with repetitive surges and jumps to going far above that speed and far below it. Steady state and surging require two different engines. All that while trying to keep in mind that position is everything so you’re holding on to a wheel, trying to hold your line, and trying to be so attentive to the tactics in the race.

After the race, Andrea was tired but positive. She kept it all in perspective. She said something that I think a lot of athletes can learn from – when you start something new, you can’t expect to be good at it right away. This is a lesson I learned as a pro – very often. You cannot expect to up your game or take on something new and master it right away. You might finish last the first time, then not last, then.,.every time you get out there you learn something a little more or do something better. One day you’ll get close to mastering the game but it won’t be fast nor easy to get up to that level. It takes development – in many senses, athletically, maturity, strategically, to achieve success in sport.


On the way home, we gave Chris his dream come true. He was riding his bike and as we drove by we shouted at him to pop a wheelie. He did and got this giant “a car full of chicks just shouted at me” grin on his face.

Later that evening we went out for dinner. I chose The Bank in Wheaton and it didn’t disappoint. Driving by I noticed an outdoor table on the patio, stopped the car and shouted “GET OUT VILLASI AND GET US THAT TABLE!” For some reason, Cat interpreted it as Flossy and hence a new nickname was born. Andrea is the perfect Flossy.


The dinner was delicious. After it we did a little “what did you learn today” and then they threw it back to me: what did you learn about us?

It’s interesting as a coach – when you exchange emails and phone calls or read training logs you get one side of the person. You can read between the lines but it’s not until you watch someone practice as they play that you get the whole picture. I spent this week connecting the space between what I knew of them in writing/communication and what I saw in person. I was able to fill in the blanks. I learned that Danni is much better at this then she thinks she is. She just needs to give herself a chance, up her expectations, train with others to push herself out of her pace or head. Cat – when she gets out of her way she learns. When she learns, she improves. When she improves, she gains confidence. Andrea is a sandbagger. I said that with love. Sandbaggers either hide their abilities or have no idea how good they are. Now that I know....hmm...what shall I do....

After dinner – finally – it was time for wine tasting! We were all so excited for this. I was, however, very disappointed because all of the wines this month were – in a word – AWFUL! I poured nearly every glass back into the spittoon. It was like this month’s theme was dull flavor with a tart finish.

On the way home we passed the Tow Show for the 100th time and still I couldn’t convince anyone that we needed to go in there and Touch A Truck. Cat played a Cookie Puss commercial on her iPhone (if I had seen that when I was little I never would have touched a Carvel cake). Somebody accurately identified a Flo Rida song (did I just type that?). I overheard the phrase "don't belittle my pain" and what is it about Noodles being "fashual"?
Danni wanted to get her bottles ready for tomorrow’s long ride. Chris told her it’s a bad idea. The hazards of being a semi-not-tipsy triathlete – overmixing your Carbo Pro. Andrea told me that Cat and I are like sisters. We really are. Except I’m like a mad lib and she’s like…those little magnets you put on the refrigerator to make up funny sentences.

Anyways, there’s a helping of inside jokes for you. But they needed to be recorded. Last day of camp is Sunday. A long ride. What happens when you put us out there for 50 miles together?

I’m guessing some pretty good stuff.

3 comments:

Meredith said...

So jealous.

TriEVIElon said...

I LOVE how insightful you are and observant about your clients. I think it's important to know the whole beast and that certainly includes knowing yourself too.

I have camp envy. I would love to participate in something like this. THOUGH, at the biking speeds you describe, I'd be fully off the back and a mile behind, but hey...

Sounds divine..YAY camp!

Wes said...

You should come to Augusta. All of your favorite athletes will be there, and I know somebody willing to chauffeur you around :-)