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The Training Journey

Training is for me, at times, easier than living life.  In both, you are stretching your limits and pushing beyond what you can imagine; yet with training there is an end goal and a set purpose.  Would that life were always that straightforward.

From my third birthday when I received my first pair of pink tights, black leotard and ballet shoes, I‘ve consistently been involved in competitive sports in one way or another. Coaches, teachers and mentors have played as pivotal of roles in my life as my parents, and training has been as much a part of my life as.., well, as breathing.  While I’ve competed at the international level in some areas, I have pushed my personal physical, mental and emotional limits in all.

The Journey, for me, isn’t merely about the name of the boat.  It’s more a representation and culmination of the choices I’ve made, and how those choices have affected both me, and those around me.  It’s about where I am currently, and where I still have yet to adventure.  It’s about who I was, am and will be.  Throughout this journey of mine, water seems to be the ever present theme, and I always find myself coming back to it in one context or another, be it via canoeing and waterskiing, rowing (crew), and in a more determinate form, ice-skating.

Approximately 20 miles into an endurance set during a recent training session, I found myself exhausted, famished and frustrated.  Compared to mileage I’ve clocked in the past within the shorter time frames, reaching the 20 mile mark should have been easy; DEFINITELY not so that day.  That day, nothing worked; NOTHING.  I simply could NOT find the set of the stupid boat.  The feather of my blades – even the paddle itself – felt just plain wrong. I couldn’t find anything remotely resembling a cadence, and after the long work-week I’d just pulled, I found myself feeling horrifically guilty for leaving my poor dog at home again so that I could get in some time on the water. I had left myself nothing.

At some point I stopped paddling, pulled my skirt, downed some electrolytes, and simply slipped into the water, likely hoping that my ill fit with the boat would somehow be retailored merely by distancing myself for a bit. Floating by my boat with my ankles hanging into the cockpit, my paddle in my outstretched hands behind my head, I watch the raptors circling above, playing on the thermals.  The River had begun It’s work, and my frustrations had begun to subside.

For various reasons, there are those out there who scoff at paddling flatwater.  For me, it is where all of the pieces of my training come together. Just as in climbing, when your gear becomes such a part of you, when your hand – of it’s own accord – folds around the exact piece needed for the perfect placement of a crux move, there is that symbiosis to be found in a boat. In the middle of long, 50+ mile endurance paddles, or on shorter, cardio workouts, finding that balance, that set, comes only when I succumb to the boat and the river.

The peace comes when all of the separate training sessions from the gym, the trail and the erg merge, and I begin to settle into the rhythm of the River: micro currents under the hull of the boat; the wind, and it’s effect on my boat, it’s feel on my face; the weight and swing of the paddle in my hand.  Regardless of how challenging my day or week has been, it is in those moments that the trails of training, and of life, seem banal.

Training is by no means easy; were it so, more would take up the challenge.  That said, it is most certainly worth the effort.  I still have not determined if it is training that prepares us for life, or if it is life that prepares us for training.  Either way, the two go hand in hand, and each makes the other easier and more meaningful. Both culminate in the perfection of the moment when everything comes together, and you can look through your past experiences to find your path to the future.

All of our Journeys will lead us myriad directions, yet we will all find our way to the exact spot we are to be at the perfect moment.  May your training be rewarding, and may your Journey be joyous…


(Thank you, Colleen, for the pictures!)