The mornings are now pitch dark when I hit the road. I need the reflective vest and headlamp. It's also colder, so I have a couple of light layers and a hat. This is just the start- it's going to get really really cold soon, and I won't see any daylight for these runs until at least March. It's a small, cold, occasionally numbing, uncomfortable world, and I'm slow. It isn't a whole lot of fun, but the only reasons I don't hit the road as scheduled is if it's below 10 degrees or there's snow or ice on the road.
As for the bike, it's in our back garage on a trainer, next to a workbench, with a fan and TV. Soon enough I'll need the portable heater on full blast so that the temp goes from a toe-numbing 38 to a balmy 45 by the time the ride ends. So while I have the TV and music as a distraction, I wouldn't exactly call it paradise.
I get out there and put in the time and miles. And miles and miles. Why? Why do I do this? This past Tuesday, I went out for my scheduled run at 5:40. About a quarter mile into the run, I get to a place that's wide open fields. In the western sky, an incredible, enormous full moon was setting. Just a few wisps of clouds added depth to the picture. It was one of those moons you feel like you can reach out and touch. It was beautiful.
On that day, for that run, that was my motivation. And it got me thinking about all of the various sources of motivation that push us.
1. The event. The "A" race that although it's months and months away, you can't stop thinking about it. It's always there. Everything you do- or don't do- you think about how it will impact your race. For me, last year it was the USAT Nationals. I missed qualifying for Team USA by a measly 45 seconds the year before, so I wanted it BAD. I wanted to be a NOAD. This year, it's Worlds.
2. The competition. When you put two competitors next to each other, they will want to crush the other. You dissect race splits to see where you did well compared to them and where there's room for improvement. You become very aware of everything when you're around them, even if it isn't at a race. OK, it sounds a bit psycho and self-centered, I know. Locally, I have several folks who are in my vicinity, and I want to beat them every time. I don't want to show up for even a "C" race and let them finish in front of me. And seeing good results from races I don't go to revs me up. It makes me think they are going to be even better next year. Which means training and racing even harder than last year. Seeing Jeff F's pictures from ITU Long Distance Worlds got to me. Seeing the Thanksgiving Day 4 mi results for Jeff and Rob F got to me. Reading Bob T's new blog got to me. He has no idea he just handed me some race time- thanks, Bob. Keep it coming guys, you're stoking the fire.
3. Sights. Scenery can be invigorating. The full moon, a rising sun, and great scenery can push me. One of my favorite roads is Flying Point Rd. in Freeport. It's beautiful there.
4. Challenges. I'm a fan of Rocky. I love a challenge. Hill repeats on the bike and run, track intervals, or really long, punishing tempo rides are exhausting, but it feels great to get through them. Some of my most memorable sails were solo efforts in Penobscott Bay in our 18 foot sloop in 25 knots. I wasn't quite sure if I'd make it back, or if the boat would stay in one piece. But I made it back and couldn't wait to do it again.
5. Music. My shuffle is my friend. It's loaded with songs that keep me going- Rocky theme songs, lots of stuff from the 80s, and a smattering of other stuff that's either upbeat or has some special meaning to me.
6. Anger. This one is pretty rare, but when I get pissed at someone and can't get it out of my mind, I take out my frustrations on the road.
7. The Feeling. Rolling out of bed, sore from head to toe feels good. I know I've worked when I feel like that. And I know I'm headed in the right direction. Then I can't wait to get out and do it again.
8. The Family. I'll never forget talking with Nick on the phone after Nationals this year when he said, "We're proud of you." I want my family to think well of me. I want my kids to look up to me, which might help drive them to accomplishments later in life.
9. Clothes. Fast clothes may not make a huge difference in themselves, but if I'm going to wear a fast uniform, I better not disappoint. Pulling on the USA uniform will be the ultimate rush.
10. Data. The powermeter doesn't lie, and shows exactly where you stand compared to last week, month or year. For the run, the Garmin does the same thing. All of this data goes into WKO+. It's very easy to pick out previous peaks and attempt to better them. A classic for me is an FTP test on the bike. That's basically a stair-step, drop-dead bike set.
11. The perfect race- the love of the sport. I want to be able to look in the mirror and know I did everything I could to go fast. There are so many components to a good race that there's always something to work on. But as for physical effort, I know if I did what I was capable of. And it really bugs me when I didn't reach my potential.
Now I sit here imagining a race where I have on the USA uniform, my family is there, I push and push my limits, the powertap is silently screaming my output, well-known, tough competition is all around me, the course is in a great location, music is blaring, and there's a lot on the line. Whoa. I guess that's why we have power meters and heart rate monitors to keep us under control.
Gotta go get ready for tomorrow's run in the dark. Gonna kick some ass.
What's your motivation?