Lifestyle: Training Partners

In the annals of triathlon lore, once you peel back the stats, the victories, prize purses and sponsors, you’ll find a bunch of triathletes who trained together.

Peter Reid trained with Tim DeBoom. Brad Bevan trained with Simon Lessing. Scott Molina trained with Scott Tinley. The list goes on and on and on.

The right training partner can help take you to the next level.

Back when I was trying to do everything, I had a training partner.

Chris was dedicated and strong; most important, he was punctual. Every Thursday, for instance, we would ride 100 miles. On those Thursdays, I’d be on campus by 6:30 AM, and I’d get home at approximately 9:50 AM. With few exceptions, I’d pull up to my driveway to find Chris curbside, outside my house, tires pumped, gloves on, and helmet in hand.

This was HUGE for me, as I have a penchant for negotiating my training sessions downward. Also, especially on chilly days, I am a talented procrastinator. But with Chris at the curb, straddling his bike, Oakleys on and Garmin signal acquired, I hadn’t any time to procrastinate. In those moments, I’d feel obligated to get my gear on and get out the door. Further, Chris (who had a tendency to love cold weather) would embrace the wind chill. Thus, while I’d be thinking “Maybe 70 miles would be good enough for today,” he’d be thinking “Wow, we are so fortunate to get to ride 100 miles into this cold wind on this freezing day!!”

Indeed, a good training partner helps make up for the things we, as individual athletes, lack. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of incorporating intensity into my training rides. I know it’s good for me, and I know I should, but I simply don’t like to. Chris, however, would often just start hammering. He’d surge for seemingly no reason whatsoever. And I’d have a choice. Surge or get dropped!

I’d have my eyes fixed on my Garmin, noting my watts at 275, thinking, OK we shouldn’t go much harder lest the delta grow too much between our Average and Normalized Power. But the best part about Chris? He didn’t care. Not only did he not have a power meter, but he didn’t really have a strict plan. So he’d deviate, chew road, burn matches. And bring intensity into what I would have treated as a steady-paced effort. The result? He made me better.

Similar things can be said about training recently with Keish on the Big Island. Having a training partner can result in huge gains.

Of course, there are benefits to training alone.

The value of training alone: mental toughness, more conscious pain, discomfort. You must self-start. The mental battle that your training partner helps silence — well, when you’re training alone, it’s a war within self. Your negative thoughts are storming the fortress, and your positive thoughts are scrambling for reinforcements. When you train solo, simply keeping the negative thoughts at bay is a victory.

Currently, I run alone. And I bike alone. But 3 days a week I do Masters swim with CTSM.

I share a lane with Darrell. Gary and Carla are in the next lane over. André and Haley are in the other lane. Coach Christine is on the deck. It’s 5:30 AM. It’s dark and cold. But it’s not as bad as it could be. If I were doing it alone, it would be agonizing. It certainly seems true: Misery loves company.

There are obvious benefits to training with others, and of course there are obvious benefits to training alone. But the Japanese have a saying: “It takes all of us to make any one of us successful.”

And I do believe that all of us have some things in common. If you look for those things, you may find a good training partner, someone who will help take you to the next level.

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