This is my gang. My triathlon family.
I’m not the athlete (and I use that term lightly!) I am today without these ladies.
We’ve known each other less than a year. We’ve had about six months officially off training, although we sometimes get together for a casual bike ride or run. Or indeed we might share the same lane at swim squad.
This week was our first week of the 2016 training squad. Our first time officially back together.
And it felt great to be part of it again with my four fellow Amigos.
I felt so excited to see my Training Peaks app fill up with a new programme from my coach. It’s time to get down to business.
When all I did was run, I trained for hours on end on my own. There’s nothing wrong with that. Running isn’t technically difficult. It’s pretty much a case of one foot in front of the other. And you can easily follow any myriad of online training plans.
I enjoyed those solitary hours pounding the pavement. They gave me time to be within myself. It was my ‘me’ time.
Even when I did my first triathlon in November 2014 (novice distance Scorching Triathlon – nothing special!) I had no specific training. I’m not even sure I ventured into the pool for a warm-up swim!
But when I decided to do my first half ironman, well, that was a whole different ball game.
As a very novice cyclist and absolutely rubbish swimmer, I knew I’d need help to get through the biggest challenge I’d ever set myself.
So I joined a training squad. The coach was recommended to me, but I remember feeling really quite nervous on that first squad training session back in September last year.
Would I be the tail end Charlie propping up the rest of the supreme athletes that were bound to be there? Would I feel completely inferior because of my lack of experience, and athleticism? Surely there wouldn’t be that many other ‘normal’ people training for something so extreme?
At that first squad night, a running session, I was in the ‘slow’ group.
I was OK with that. I hadn’t really been running much and I was injured. But there were quite a few of us in that group. We all introduced ourselves, what we were training for and what we’d done before.
Turns out, there were quite a few ‘normal’ people just like me, doing this crazy stuff for the first time too.
Some were even crazier, planning to go on to do Ironman as well later in the season. “I’m never doing Ironman!” I said during those introductions. I didn’t believe I was capable of such a feat.
Being part of the squad meant, at the very least, getting together for Tuesday night runs and Saturday morning long (some of them very!) bikes rides.
Before I joined the squad I didn’t know any other cyclists.
I tried to prep for the squad by getting out on a few longish rides on my own. And that’s how I felt. On my own.
They were lonely hours. OK, there were only a couple at a time, but I try to think about how I’d have fared if I’d been left to my own devices as the km’s ramped up through training.
And not only that but how much would I have challenged myself?
Over the weeks, I spent a lot of time with these four other crazy ladies.
We motivated and pushed each other to new training heights and got each other through when we felt like giving up. One girl’s challenge became our collective goal.
Without this group of like-minded individuals, I almost certainly wouldn’t have done as much, as hard. I probably wouldn’t have done as well as I did in my first half ironman.
And it definitely wouldn’t have been as much fun.
Motivation on those long group rides and runs come in many forms.
Whether it’s someone taking the lead to create the draft for everyone else’s benefit. Or it’s the verbal encouragement to get each other up the latest incline (or hill from hell!) that The Boss pointed us up. Or it may have just been from seeing others manage it that made it seem that much more achievable for you.
But almost as important is the ability to make each other smile throughout.No matter how sore your legs, or how much the mind wants to give up, a few jokes later and your humour, and determination is restored. And the lure of a well-earned coffee and cheese scone at the end always helps.
These ladies have made me realise that I am capable.
Of so much more than I thought I was. They’ve made me believe that anything is possible. Maybe even Ironman. Maybe….
We were relative strangers in September last year, but a shared goal brought us together.
And now we’re not just friends. We’re the Amigos.