When I was younger, I mainly played two sports: baseball and basketball. Football was out of the question for two reasons: my high school was too small to field a team and my mother did not approve of it. Looking back and knowing more about my own health conditions, it was probably best that I didn’t play true contact sports. But anywho, as I was going into high school, Gatorade launched their wildly popular advertisement, “Be Like Mike.” It resonated with almost every basketball player I knew – everyone was trying to be like Mike on the court – heck, we all wore his shoes and gear, now we were mimicking his moves on the court. But I also remember trying to mimic the better players on the court – especially the varsity team, which had earned a reputation of being the best in the league – and one of the best in the state. Fast forward 25 years (is that right??), and I find the same thing rings true for my triathlon/running training.
In my 39th year as an upright walker, I’ve decided to tackle an aggressive training goal: two 1/2 Ironman-distance triathlons, along with an Olympic-distance race or two and then Ragnar Michigan at the end of September. It’s only natural for me to try and emulate other successful triathletes who have conquered these endurance events. At the same time, I find myself trying to learn the most about each discipline; which then that taps into a much larger group of athletes. This is why it’s important for me to have training mentors that compete at an entirely different level and those within my own peer group.
Last year, having mentors helped me to prepare for a strong training season. When I was training for my open water swim, I relied on Scott, Ron, Erik, Richard, Val, Dan, and Steve to not only keep me motivated (whether they knew it or not), but also help me become more comfortable in the water – especially swimming in Lake Michigan. At the same time, I kept thinking to myself that someone like Gwen Jorgensen, the 2017 Olympic Gold Medal Winner in the Triathlon, was often the last person out of the water. That made me realize that the race is not won in the water; not that I ever considered winning the race or even my division. It was mainly a mental note to keep me relaxed in the water.
As for running, I have found that the GHRC group is plenty motivating. I have been quite inspired by everyone’s dedication to training – especially when 30 runners show up on a cold winter evening like last night when it was 18 degrees with a windchill factor of 3 degrees – and absolute killer wind gusts. But also to see the enormous gains certain individuals have demonstrated this year – that has also helped me stay motivated. I’ve never been a strong Winter runner. The one year I had to train for the Boston Marathon (in Boston for that matter), it was luckily a mild Winter. With an early Summer race, I can’t afford to take the winter off. Keeping motivated is key.
So, while we all might say we want to Be Like Mike, I’m perfectly happy trying to be like Alana, Randy, Richard, Dan, Val, Lauren, Andrew, Matt, Bruce, Scott, Veronica, Courtney, Steve, Phil, Ken, Laura, or any other of the amazing athletes I get to train with every week.