Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's Different, Not Difficult

Let me tell you a story. Not too long ago, I was riding a trail with some friends. On a particularly hard descent, we stopped to scope out a line. Having done so, we re-mounted our bikes and proceeded to try it out. He went, a couple buddies went, I went. All of us either crashed out, or were caught by the others waiting at the bottom. So I went back to the top to try it again. And failed again, being caught right before I would have dropped off the side of the trail. Later, I was remarking to a friend about how much that descent "sucked," and he said one of the most profound things to me: "That descent doesn't suck, we just suck at that descent."

That, I think, sums up all of the difficulties of any sport. It's learning to adapt that we need to do, because no matter how you view it, a triathlon is still swim, bike, run. A 5k is still five kilometers, 3.1 miles.

When I joined cross country two years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I had come from a swimming background, and after seeing some of the runners go out for swimming, I thought I was really hot stuff. I killed them in the pool, so they can't be in that great of shape, right? My friend and I figured that we'd be in the top five runners on the team (top seven are varsity).

We sure were top five. On the JV squad. On the first day, we came in cocky, tried to run with the best and promptly got our butts kicked. It confounded me. Here I was, a pretty good athlete who could kill any of these guys in the pool any day, and yet they were a mile and half in front of me after only a matter of minutes. But after a year, we were one and two on the JV squad. It all came down to adaptation. I learned that I worked no harder in cross country, just instead of shoulders and abs, I was working hips and calves. I learned that just like in swimming, there was strategy, just instead of trying to draft on the guy in the lane next to you, the best strategy was to sit and kick down the finishing straight, something nearly impossible for me in swimming.

Learning to adapt is what separates the good from the great. Not only have other sports taught me an appreciation for all athletes, they've made me better. At the end of the day, that's what matters most.

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