Report from Newport, Wales!
Zipping around the beautiful track here in Newport, Wales – it is nearly identical to Olympic/Paralympic venue, the “Pringle,” and that’s why we’ve come here for our final training – two things stuck me yesterday. One philosophical, one practical. Both made me smile.
I am very, very at home as an elite athlete. So many people tell me that I’m an inspiration. But honestly, I’m just doing what I love, what comes naturally to me. Is that really so inspiring? I guess so. But to me, it feels like I’m getting away with something, like I’m taking the easy way out. Blimey, I’m doing something FUN!
The sort of training I do for the pursuit completely resembles the sort of training I did as a swimmer, and I started swimming competitively in the second grade. Approximately 25 years later, I’m still following a black line, lap after lap, with my workouts centered about the pace clock. It’s my job (still) to find an exact pace for a given distance (to the tenth of a second!), and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Don’t ask me why, but I find it immensely satisfying to hear my coach yell the same exact number every time I circle back around to him. Some days the numbers get slower slowly, some days the numbers get slower quickly, some days the numbers are faster than they’re supposed to be, some days…they are not. Some days – the best ones, the rare ones – I get those lap times exactly right, lap after lap after lap after lap.
And, I am perfectly happily work at trying to find this precise perfection all day long. I’m an inspiration for this? Okay, I guess. I certainly don’t mind! But honestly, I tend find my own inspiration in the opposite. I am inspired by people who do something hard, who take on challenges that don’t necessarily come so naturally.
I was thinking, when this thought came to me, of a college friend, Matt Stoner, who is a self-described, “couch-potato turned marathoner.” At this moment he is actually taking up long-distance cycling and triathlon, and fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training. For him, communications and teaching come easily.
Am I inspired by the fact that he teaches communications courses to college students? Eh, I guess. But I am beyond impressed and inspired at the move he’s made to change his life and improve his health and do something that is truly hard, something that maybe doesn’t exactly come naturally to him. His fundraising fan page says it all (communications expert!): GO MATT GO!
It is going to be loud, Loud, LOUD! for our races at the Paralympic Games. We had a small, but decidedly vocal collection of “fans” at our training today, and just based on the most-excellent ruckus they managed to create, I’m thinking it may be literally impossible to hear the countdown clock at the start of the race when we get to the Games.
“One hundred and thirty decibels” is apparently what the fans kicked the needle up to during the Olympics. Is that a lot? It was conveyed in a manner that made me think this was a ear-drum splitting amount of noise. Rock-concert-equse, perhaps. I didn’t look it up.
Regardless, the Pringle is decidedly sold-out, the Brits LOVE them some bike racing (especially in the wake of their phenomenal cycling successes at the Olympics), and their Para team is outstanding even without the home-town crowd going nuts-o in their favor. The roar of the crowd in that velodrome will be utterly breath-taking, I am sure.
I cannot wait!! Seven days to go.