Yesterday when I was out for a training ride I got attacked by a hawk. It was a beautiful morning; sunny, warm, big blue Alberta sky… I had an easy ride and I was enjoying it so much. So, I was just riding along and all of sudden, ‘whack!’, I got smacked in the back of my helmet with a loud, scratchy thump. I was a little stunned for a moment or two but almost immediately clued in that it was surely a hawk. The reason I knew right away it was a hawk is because a few weeks ago my teammate, Cindy Klassen, told me that she got dive-bombed by a hawk on that road, AND a week or so after that I met another guy out for a ride one morning I ended up riding with who also recently got whacked by a hawk on the very same road. What is up with that? He/she must be one territorial and/or protective hawk. Or bored. Or just plain mean. Thankfully me and my helmet were no worse for the wear, although I might be a little less inclined to choose that road for the foreseeable future.
Yesterday was just an easy ride and the reason for that is these days every other day is NOT easy. (Yes, the CAPS and italics are necessary.) I have jumped right back into the thick of things with copious amounts of hard training. Having been out of it for a good long while, and also playing a bit of catch-up on a few workouts, it has been a bit of a rude awakening. As such, I’ve recently met up again with an old friend of mine, Fatigue. We’re good friends, Fatigue and me, we go way back. He’s a pretty close friend although he can drive me nuts sometimes I’m not sure I could do the required training without him. He’s predictable, reliable, and he’s particularly good for serving up regular doses of brutal honesty.
In addition to these qualities, a funny thing about Fatigue is that he likes to play games. One of his favourite games is hanging out in the bushes for a while, letting me think I’m all alone and feeling like a freakin’ machine. He lets me think this for long enough that I actually start to believe somehow this year I’m so fit that there’s no way he’s going to visit. Then one day, all of a sudden, he jumps out of the bushes and bam! he smacks me in the back of the head like a hawk attacking a helmet. He calls the game “Surprise! I-Was-really-Here-All-Along-I-Was-Just-Hiding-In-The-Bushes-Waiting-For-You!” Yeah, good game Fatigue. Two thumbs up.
Another game he likes to play is “Ha-Ha-You-Can’t-Do-That-Anymore!” Seemingly overnight the quasi-gourmet meals I’ve been making turn into a pot of plain rice and a can of salmon. The book I’ve been reading and can’t put down becomes a strong sedative. And the one to two glasses of wine that didn’t phase me turn into a half-glass that makes my head spin in 8 minutes. Oh, and the muscles I have that I thought were invincible get really sore, tight, and simply sitting down becomes an ordeal. Did I say Fatigue was my friend? I meant to say I hate his guts…
Lest you think I complain too much, let me emphasize again that I do like Fatigue. Call me crazy, but I like him a lot actually. It’s not so much that I like him being around per se, as I’ve oft alluded to recently that I really enjoy doing other things when he’s not around (like the above mentioned cooking, reading and drinking wine). It is more liking what it is that makes him come around: regular intervals of intense physical exercise. As much as he can be a pain in the butt (pun intended), I know that when he’s around I’m doing the things I need to do that will move me in the direction of my aspirations, i.e. skate fast. If you go back and read a few of my previous posts you will learn that I’m still not completely sure what those aspirations entail at the moment or why I think I need them or should have them, but whatever. At the very least, skating fast is one of my aspirations, and if Fatigue needs to be around for me to get there, then so be it.
After all these years you’d think I would know by now to expect Fatigue to show up and be around pretty much all the time. In most respects I think I do, but this year, having taken a long break and been re-introduced to life without him, I guess I forgot about him a little. Some friend I am! In recent weeks a few people have mentioned to me in passing that I could probably ‘get away’ with not having Fatigue around so much this year and still race well. With so many years of training under my belt I guess that this little tidbit might contain a grain of truth; if I wanted to, I could just ‘coast’. But what good is there in that?
In a recent post on one of my favourite blogs, Sport At Its Best, Duff talks about the recent passing of legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. In the post he summarizes a few of John Wooden’s coaching philosophies and one in particular caught my eye: Be confident but not arrogant. “Arrogance, or elitism, is the feeling of superiority that fosters the assumption that past success will be repeated without the same hard effort that brought it about in the first place. Thus, I have never gone into a game assuming victory. All opponents have been respected, none feared. I taught those under my supervision to do the same. This reflects confidence, not arrogance. Arrogance will bring you down by your own hands.”
This statement is a stark contrast to some of the suggestions I have received regarding the likelihood of achieving the same level of success by doing less work. Certainly this year there is room for some breathing room, room for not being so incredibly focused all the time. Room for staying up late even when Fatigue is around and room for mentally recovering from the past few seasons. There was room for a long and necessary break, and room for more time doing ‘fun stuff’. But the thought of ever letting myself think that I can magically regain top form with less work and less effort, well, in my mind there is no room for that.
If it is my choice to continue along this path for the time being, then Fatigue is a good friend who reminds me that I’m not willing to coast and that I still want to get better. Even with his silly games and tough love, he is welcome to come around any time and stay as long as he likes. I’d rather have hawks peck out my eyeballs than tell him to go away.
p.s. Here is some video of one of the things that tends to make Fatigue come around: Lowwalks! This is me and Scott’s nephew Michael (or maybe it’s my friend Fatigue?) doing some training in Barrie a few weeks ago…