Saturday, July 17, 2010

Running in [Social] Circles

A couple days ago I posted about the solo nature of my athletic pursuits. Much of my focused training happens by myself. On my own time.

But occasionally, and more so recently, I’ve gotten to share my training with my friends.

But first, a week’s RECAP:

I am fully back into running, biking, and weight training. I am about 65-percent back into swimming, but that is a choice I’ve made – to shorten my time in the pool. The stress of waiting for a lane is not always worth it.

Monday was an easy 3.5mile run. Tuesday and Wednesday were both two-a-day workouts that included 2hrs of running/swimming and 1hr of biking/running. Thursday was 2.5hrs biking/swimming/lifting. I aimed to spend Friday getting some quality (running) hill repeats in. Short and sweet for the legs.

Friday afternoon, as work wound its way down, I impulsively offered up a light post-work run to my friend Kelly. This was instead of my own solo speedwork. It isn’t like me to deviate from my schedule-plan-routine, but I hadn’t run with Kelly in a while (she is a TNT alum/teammate, and we run once every couple of weeks together), and given a big bike ride in the AM, I thought my legs better served by a lactic shakedown run, not a build-up.

She was free and joined for the workout. So I finished off the day with good conversation and an easy 3-miler around the park.

Saturday morning was slated to be a 4-hour bike ride along PCH if I could find the motivation to drive myself out there. On Friday afternoon my friend Chris offered for me to join him on a 60ish-mile ride along the same route…so long as I could show up ready to ride at sunrise. No problem. I work well in the pre-dawn hours.

For the second time in 12 hours, I ditched the solo plan for friends. Good choice!

What would have been a long (but beautiful) multi-hour ride in Malibu turned out to be just that but with better company than just myself. Hills are a little less steep when your riding partner starts swearing at them. Carbo-pro doesn’t taste as bad at 7am when you are with--- No, wait. That incomplete thought is not true Drinking it before 9am is never pleasant. Not sure friends can change that.

Now for some REFLECTIONS:

"Do not underestimate the intimacy of running, and the people with whom you share your miles" Kristin Armstrong
I count myself very lucky to have friends like Kelly and Chris with whom I can workout, hangout and chat during training sessions. They are each very funny, thoughtful people. Very easy to talk to. Sometimes we talk about work. Sometimes about Team in Training or coaching. Sometimes about some ridiculous story from our pasts.

My effort going into a workout - a 60-mile ride or a 30-minute run in these cases - gets cut in half by the good company I share. It’s socializing-on-the-move. Talk out the day, the week, the life you’ve lived.

But even more noticeable to me is what is not said. Or rather, the silence and stillness that I share when I workout with a friend.

"True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable" – David Tyson Gentry
I have plenty to talk about with Kelly, Chris and my teammates/running partners. I have plenty to say to anyone, frankly (a positive quality for a blogger).

But sometimes on a good run or ride you just let the miles roll over you. You fall into a rhythm, a cadence, and a silence that betters the whole experience.

It’s not that I don’t want to speak to the person next to me – whose legs are probably pounding like mine, whose trying to kill the hill just like me. It’s exactly the opposite. The silence between two friends who are working at something is not a buffer. It’s a bond.

During the silences, I am in my head. My pragmatic side is focused on the road or trail; talking through a random problem or appreciating the scenery.

But on another level – maybe emotional, maybe social, maybe soulful – I am attuned to the ephemeral thing that we call “friendship.”

Lately I’ve been quietly regarding the quiet spaces within the workouts. That I can huff and puff or cruise along besides Kelly or Chris in total comfort and appreciation for just being friends, means more to me than whatever miles we put in that day.

And when the words to come back to the conversation, it’s as if we didn’t miss a beat. Because really, a conversation is not only an exchange of a bunch of sentences. It is made up of all of the pauses, gulps, and stutters in between. All those imperfect sounds that make us sounds better than those robotic GPS voices.

Much of the above is true with my friends and teammates with whom I run each Sunday. I spend those mornings talking with a variety of friends – different ages, different stories, different lives than mine. We are all moving forward along our route. Sometimes we suffer together. Sometimes the dialogue is derailed by a challenging stretch of street. And during the good stretches, we fly down the road and speak with the enthusiasm and optimism of a marathoner who can see the finish line.

A couple of my friends. San Diego Marathon 2009

People who face challenges together grow close by necessity. What sets my friends apart is that we choose to face these hills, miles and occasional meltdowns together time and time again. Not necessity. Not obligation. But for the accomplishment. And for the friendship.

No comments: