|Must have glitter signs. And be visible from space.|
|We cheered, we crewed, some paced. Good times with good people.|
|A little FIGJAM always helps!|
|Tutus are optional, but always make an impact!|
|Dressing like a giant marshmallow peep makes it easy to be spotted.|
But here's the deal. The reason that it is so much fun to spectate is that you get to see not only your friends, but other athletes, of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities pushing themselves to excel, to be faster, stronger, better. And sometimes, it hurts to race. Not injury-wise, we've seen our share of that sadly, but that's not what I mean. No, it hurts to push past the comfort zone, to stretch just a little bit more, to go beyond uncomfortably comfortable and really see just how far your body can go. And when you cheer at a race, and position yourself at Mile 23 of a marathon, or Mile 3 of a 5k, or at the exit of the swim at a triathlon, you are seeing people pushing themselves. And that is so inspiring. Trust me. If you don't get revved up to run or jump on a bicycle or throw yourself into a lake when you spectate at an event like this, you might need to check your pulse.
The thing is, you can't just sign up for these events and then show up. Well, of course, you can. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. There is training involved, and dedication, and weeks of pushing and testing limits and fine-tuning every aspect of race day. "Make it hurt now so it doesn't hurt so much tomorrow" is how one of my friends put it. When the gun goes off, or they yell "Go!" all those weeks and months of effort pay off. I like watching elites at these things, for sure, and seeing the AG winners is crazy-exciting too (especially when you KNOW them!! yay!). But if you want to see the real pay-off, hang out at the end of an race. Stick around and see the newbies, the back of the packers, the people who are completing their first attempt at an event. Because that is where you will see so much heart and so much determination. These are the ones that really take an extra bit of encouragement to heart. And these are the athletes that are so inspiring to me to watch and to cheer my fool head off for.
I've been thinking a lot about "the company you keep" and what that means in regards to my life. Certainly I want to surround myself with positivity, with people who are upbeat and motivating, and who live life widely. I joke all the time about needing to find fat, lazy friends, because the people I've been hanging out with lately are all athletes who thrive on pushing their limits and searching for new ways to be physically active, whether it is by swimming, cross-fit workouts, marathon and ultra running, cycling 100-milers, training for IronMan, yoga, or a combination of all of the above. I tell you what - it's hard to be a slug on the couch when you hear about these girls' workouts, sometimes multiple workouts in a day, and hard stuff, too. Double-digit runs on the weekdays, bike rides longer than most people drive in a week. It's awesome. Watching and cheering for these friends is so rewarding to see, to see them reap the rewards of their hard work. And it can be intimidating, but I choose instead to take their energy and feed of it and create some of my own.
It's led me to follow a much more rigid and intense training plan than I have ever followed before for my running. Because of them, I've signed up for this 34-mile ride this weekend. No, it's not much in comparison to a 100-miler, but it's plenty for me. For now. Baby steps. And a stretch for me. Being with these people has also demonstrated to me time and again that we all have our own mountains to climb (some of us literally!) and our own battles to fight, and we can't compare ourselves to others, because that's just a losing proposition. But we can use the accomplishments and daily motivations of others to drive us, and to inspire us, and we can band together and feel stronger and faster and more alive than if we were going at all of our endeavors alone. We can celebrate our accomplishments together. The hive mind is a powerful thing, y'all.
Whew. That's an awful lot of deep thoughts resulting from a morning or two of shaking my booty and screaming at a triathlon, isn't it?? Yeah it is. See what happens when you take a break from racing and take a minute or two to take it all in? It opens up all kinds of possibilities. All kinds.