Monday morning started with Thomas walking into Brad’s place again. I admit to him that if I wake up in my home on Tuesday and see him walking through the door I am going to scream. He says that the price of the ticket to Chicago just might be worth it to see that.
It was our last day of training together. We have spent the last 6 days agonizing and antagonizing in each other’s company. I am grateful to have someone so witty, tireless and strong with me for these past few days. Several times along the way we had each been close to breaking but neither had completely broken down.
After all, there were still hill repeats to do.
We laced up and headed to Torrey Pines. First a warm up run along the beach. I won’t lie – this didn’t feel great. The heaviness of six days, twenty three hours, and more miles than I care to admit had settled in my legs. And my head. My back, arms, feet. But the sun was shining and to my right the waves rolled into the shore.
What a beautiful way to start a day – running along the beach with yet another cloudless blue sky and warm sun. 10 minutes passes and we reach the turnaround point. We both admit this might not be our run today. Yet we have to continue to try. We had come all this way – the miles, the mountains. 10 more minutes then let’s reassess.
10 minutes go by and we stand at the bottom of the hill. Three times. That’s all we need to complete. Up the hill 6 to 7 minutes, run back down repeat again and again. Our legs stand in silent protest but we decide to at least try the first repeat. Just cruise up without much effort, get it done. Thomas stays within reach and we climb together. Reaching the top he admits he does not see the point of doing this two more times. I convince him to make that choice after we descend.
We descend. The hill awaits us again. We can do it. Just two more times. This time tempo. We push a little harder up the hill. Make it to the top and descend yet again. One last time. This time push – hard. Last time, make it count. The last painful 6 minutes of the entire trip. 6 days, 6 bike rides, 4 runs, 2 swims, over 250 miles and it comes down to this – 6 minutes is all that we have left to do.
Thomas takes off, all 73 inches lanky with lean, strong legs bounding effortlessly up the hill. I try to match his acceleration but realize my 62 inches are no match. Nor my shorter legs. But what I lack in stature I can make up for with matched effort, power and heavy breathing so I work my hill in my way. The last half my heart rate climbs into my mouth. I see the final stretch and like the sun at the start of the day my legs break through and feel alive. I push through to our made up finish line and realize that from where I thought nothing was I have coerced my legs into a solid effort today.
Finishing felt so good. I feel free from what I thought I couldn’t do. I climb the stairs to the High Point Overlook and for the first time this weekend – I stop. And I wait. Look out to the ocean and see the burnt seaside cliffs climbing from the shore. Set against the blue ocean, white caps and pale sky I realize this is one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen.
In this moment I think to myself about where I have been; pushing the rocky trail of the canyon, the breezy coastal rides, pushing the hills and headwinds of Pendleton, a world champion swim, climbing the mountain of Palomar, rolling through the Elfin Forest, attacking Del Dios with furious legs, chasing Thomas along curves of a sandy trail, hill repeats in the state reserve – the miles start to mount up in my head and my legs and leave me with memories of breakthroughs – a few breakdowns – to drive me closer to my goals.
Lost in thought, I finally see Thomas bounding up the stairs. I congratulate him for pushing up the hill – when he didn’t want to, when he didn’t think he could. Not only did he get it done but got it done well. Great training partners are like this – you push, they pull; they pull, you push. It’s symbiosis at its best.
We return back to the Brad’s, suit up for cycling and snag Chris to come along for the ride. An easy ride. Finally. 13 miles per hour along – of all places – a bike trail. I ask Thomas what his favorite moment of training was in the past few days. He tells me the triple on Sunday followed closely by the Palomar brick. We talk about the training and then I retreat back into my head. Reflection is the most productive part of the weekend. Reflecting on what I learned about my legs and myself. That I am powerful, I am small but strong, when I think there is nothing left there is always something left in the legs, that pushing through the burn feels shaky and cold at first but then the body warms, that when you keep pushing your body it eventually has no choice to adapt. And with this adaptation you grow strong in your legs but more importantly in your head.
Looking back on what I enjoyed most I realized it might be at this very place. Here along the bike trail, sitting in the quiet draft of my husband and Thomas. Surrounded by not only by Chris my best partner in life but also Thomas one of my best training friends. Enjoying yet another flawless San Diego day, pushing along by the cool coastal breeze, commenting on the colors of the wildflowers exploding around us. Yes, this is perhaps my favorite place. It was my own high point overlook upon my own life.
I flew home Monday night with tired legs. I told Thomas Tuesday will be sore but it will set in even worse the next day. Training like this for so many days eventually catches up and bogs you down. But in coming down you let your body realize the benefit of the hard work. You think ahead to how to tackle your next cycle of training. You set new goals.
And for myself, I’d like to become more fearless. To push through the burn more often, to let the cold shakes settle into my legs. To make my move not only at the right moment – but during more moments. To work my weaknesses until they become strengths. This will take time but I’m willing to wait. The pay off will be big when the time is right.
Until then I will reflect on more of the high points and look forward to creating more new.