I LOVE BOULDER!! It will be our home someday. I guarantee that. Imagine a place with endless opportunities for activity, motorists who are courteous to cyclists, and a pleasant, daily afternoon storm to prevent you from ever having to water your garden. A place where hundreds of people show up for a Tuesday morning open water swim and races are held on a weekly basis. We will live there (don’t worry, Mia is on board with this plan).
Our first few days were spent acclimating to altitude and just hanging out. We hit up a group run at Sanitas Brewery, some chic coffee shops, a free bluegrass concert downtown, enjoyed some bike rides through town, hikes up mountains, lunch in the park, a wine tasting, and a walk along the Boulder Creek Path. During this walk, we ran into 3x Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander!! So awesome; we also had some beer with him one evening at a Q&A with “Crowie” at Newton running.
Then it was down to business at the “Boulder Experience” training camp, hosted by coaches Mike Coughlin and Mike Mahoney from Discomfort Zone Performance Coaching. I’ll spare you individual details of each workout. Let’s just say this: each was beautiful, daunting, exhilarating, horrible, great, fun, brutal, and exhausting. We tended to swim/bike/run each day, with some strength and conditioning to boot. We climbed small mountains and we climbed big mountains. We rode up to 10,500 ft and decided a run would be fun. We descended said mountain. Instead of running through a recap of each day, I thought I’d touch on a few things I learned during camp.
1. You CAN do it. The first day of camp was miserable; we were climbing a mountain unlike anything we’d even seen being from Ohio. I was actually quite terrified that I couldn’t make it through the camp. I struggled on this climb, and stopped on both repeats. At the same tree. My heart rate was at 97% of maximum and I just – couldn’t – do it. Until Coach Mike Coughlin crept up unexpectedly yelling “Ryan, get your butt back on that bike!!” Once I did, I made it. Sometimes we all need a little (sometimes big) push to “get back on the bike” and push through whatever is hard, hurting, uncomfortable, and the like. Even when you think you can’t, get back on that bike and push through.
2. Don’t look too far ahead. This became my strategy on long climbs. Looking too far ahead becomes intimidating, wreaks havoc mentally, and is just plain demotivating. Aside from enjoying the scenery of course, I limited myself to a small window of how far ahead I allowed myself look. This kept my focus on the present and prevented getting overwhelmed by future challenges. Yes, they’d come eventually, but when I’d need to deal with them. Often times they are smaller than they appear. And sometimes, when your struggling, take a minute to look down the hill at what you’ve already accomplished. Seeing what you’ve done gives you confidence in what more you can achieve.
3. Enjoy your dessert. By dessert I mean victory, so to speak. I previously wrote that I struggle with this. I find pleasure in the challenge and not necessarily the reward. At camp, I actually had a different mindset. I relished in my accomplishments. I stood next to Brainard Lake at 10,500 ft basking in my glory of the trip up there on my own two legs. And then I relished even more pushing speeds of 50 mph on my bike on the way down. I still think the true reward is in attempting the challenge (think: what did climbing that mountain prove to me?), but also be sure to enjoy your dessert before thinking about your next meal.
4. All it takes is a couple words. Triathlon is hard. So is life. But sometimes all it takes is a quick word or two from a friend, old or new, to keep on pushing through. On one long climb, there were several times I was in a tough place mentally (see #2). But I was with my team and some words from them kept me going. So my “advice” for you is to offer those words to others. We’re stronger as a team; be that person for someone else. In your next race when you see someone struggling, give them a figurative “pat on the back” with words. In your workplace, give someone some encouragement on their effort on a stressful project. Anywhere you can, give encouragement and you just might help someone push through a challenging situation.
Coach Mike and Mike put on one hell of a camp. I had the time of my life training with them and the other athletes. I was pushed beyond what I thought was possible and enjoyed (almost) every minute of suffering. Truly, there is nothing like standing atop a mountain you’ve climbed under your own power. Scratch that: it was better to see my wife at the top of the world having done the same thing!! I can’t wait to return next year in preparation for (hopefully) the Age Group National Championship.