Gran Canaria – It’s hard to come up with a catchy opening sentence when you bump into one of your sports heroes. But it’s even harder when that person is standing next to you in the changing room and is about to undress. I suddenly realize that sports unites, but triathlon unites more; How big is the chance you would bump into Messi at a random place? Let alone that he is standing in his underpants. All I can come up with is: “Hey Lisa! You know, at your photo-finish at the London Olympics you looked soooo much taller than the girl that won the gold medal! So I was hoping you were as tall as me*. I even wikipedia’ed you to check it.” By the time I came up with something better** the window of opportunity has closed. She is naked and taking a shower.
No worries. I’m here to swim, not to talk to medalists. So I put my swim cap on and try focus on my stroke. During this training camp at Gran Canaria myself and the rest of my coach’s squad (a range of younger and more mature athletes) get things to work on. My task is to focus on focusing because my thoughts can be like fireworks exploding into all directions. But I just keep on wondering how harmful it could be to think of a Olympic medalist when you swim?
Amongst the other athletes at the camp is an (ex) board member of a huge bank. I don’t know what his focus point of the week is, but it definitely isn’t about dedication. He is American and hence dis-proportionally enthusiastic about everything related to sport; He even called up his wife to say he is training with a pro. I call up a friend to say I’m training with her former boss. Their highly surprised responses are exactly same: ‘Ow come on! Are you joking?!’ My friend has been working her ass of for his bank and probably barely got to talk with him personally. She continues: ”Where are you staying then? And uhm, does he really do triathlons?”
I’m surprised the banker didn’t tell his employees about his sports achievements. As his best effort ‘doesn’t need to be hidden under the sofa’: a 10h50 finish, especially for a 60yrs old who started at the age of 55 is amazing. But to be honest, I’m even more amazed by the training volume he made while working for the bank. It almost makes me doubt about my choice to work part-time, so I asked him how he managed to do it all. His explanation is straight-forward (to him): “During the week I was away from my family and stayed at my flat near the office. If you live alone, there are three things you can do with your spare time: 1) watch television 2) go to a bar – well that’s always a bad idea or 3) train for an Ironman. I choose that last option obviously. Every day I got up at 4.30am and went to the gym downstairs to train on the stationary bike or treadmill, and in the evening I went for a swim.” Then he pulls out his phone and shows this video, about a guy that wants to be an Ironman.
I cannot believe my ears. I thought that video was a joke and nobody would train that way, but now I realize trilife is like that for many. All sessions alone at machines. It doesn’t only explain why he doesn’t know how to hold on to my rear wheel’s slipstream (FYI: that is what you learn from cycling with others outside), but also why he loves racing so much; His solitude preparation helps him during the race. After months of training all alone you are suddenly out there, away from the dungeons of the gym, like a cow released into the open field in the spring, united with other business Ironmen, getting results from all the hard work.
I will put the banker and the medalist into a folder of my fireworks-brain under the chapter ‘focus and dedication’. So I can pull out the card with his picture whenever I feel too sorry for myself on the treadmill or wattbike.
* Most triathletes are very small and light weight. Lisa is very tall with her 1.76 (i.e. 10cm shorter than me).
** “Hey! Am I correct that you are Lisa Norden? Ow how cool! Very impressive what you have reached in your career. It was amazing to watch your race in London.”