So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Three (At Least) Is A Magic Number

"And if one prevail against him two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." - Solomon (Ecclesiastes, ch.4, v.12, King James Bible)
I consider my wife, Suzanne, the ideal sounding board or test platform for a training progression on which I might be working out the details. She also serves as a first-line critique of how I am doing as a coach. It doesn't matter that she's not a top-shelf or elite athlete; she provides (brutally) honest feedback in the diplomatic manner that only a spouse can get away with saying...once I've replaced my "coach" hat with my "husband" hat. I began learning to coach runners about the same time we married, so our relationship and my coaching have developed (and hit rough patches) in varying degrees over that time.

Suzanne is often like every athlete; sometimes they will come to me with a situation or a problem which has been over-analyzed & I have to say, "no, I think the problem really is this..." Other times she reminds me to pay attention to what she (or the athletes) are saying/doing/not saying/not doing.
There also are days, especially the ones when we show up to the venue where we intend to run & it's too hot/cold/humid/windy/crowded/dark - at least in the minds of the group, because they didn't show - leaving only a pair (us) standing in the parking lot. Those days are the most depressing for me, because then I feel time I spent commuting could have been more effectively used as a warm-up/cool-down walk to/from the gym only a few blocks away. I can suck it up & hammer out a workout on my own, but often it's not that much fun...alone. I'm more likely to say "stuff it, I'll go hit the gym rather than it be just us two out here." Suzanne will gently goad me into sticking it out, & most of the time it will be a decent workout...but I'm not really happy about it at the start.

Yesterday morning, she decided to run our Sunday morning loop the opposite direction from me, so she could turn around & we could finish together. It gave me the opportunity to think about my training, the conditions (slowly!) changing from summer to autumn, & to focus on putting one foot in front of the other for a solid five miles. Then we walked, jogged, & ran the last three miles together, chatting during the slower moments. She asked me why I had not written much on the benefit of training in groups. Face it, humans are social creatures. That's the reason running clubs & training groups came to being. It's that "misery loves company" thing...the same reason we remember & often keep up with people we served with in the military, or took algebra with in high school. It's easier to look forward to a session of 800-meter repeats on the track, or hill repeats, or a long, grinding run in the middle of nowhere when you know there's going to be someone around to make you laugh at the worst places on the run. Yep, it could be 90 degrees & 90 percent humidity for 90 straight days, but you'll suck it up & do it because someone else is counting on you to show up & help make their run a little less miserable. And who knows? There might even be a meal & recapitulation of the event immediately following. That definitely gets me out of bed.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on the "three-fold cord", was focused more on the union of two with a divine third party joining in, but I like to believe that Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's coach, was more correct in the need for a union of three...especially when it comes to training. It's easy to hit the snooze button & roll over when you train alone, perhaps a little less so when a second person is involved. But it's almost guaranteed that if three athletes are going to show up at the same place & time the workout will certainly happen. A triad of training athletes also helps in the event life gets in the way...flat tire, sick child, power outage...odds are good in those situations there will be at least one other training partner showing up for that session.
Borrowing from Henry: In all things a union of individuals leads to success & safety. A union of three (or more) athletes is powerful because they assist each other by encouragement, or friendly reproof. They warm each other's hearts while they converse together, or rejoice in each others' accomplishments.

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