My training this year is better than any other. It’s because I’ve found the perfect training weapon: A nemesis.
It all started a month before last year’s Iceman when I met and rode a few times with a guy we’ll call “Jake.” Sure, I liked him well enough when we met. We were about the same speed and skill and had the same working schedule, so we found that we could ride together (this proved handy for me, as I fear the woods, dark and bears). And while we had strictly different tastes in music, I let it go, for a new biking friend is hard to come by.
But it wasn’t until later, riding neck-n-neck in the Iceman, that I grew to like him well enough to declare war.
At the Iceman start line last year, we nodded coolly to each other and ate our Gu, looking about all-friendly-like. I could see by his casually crafted stance that it was time to get down to business.
In the crush of the start, I lost sight of him. I didn’t know if he was ahead of me or behind me. I started biking hard, worried, tense. Then, at the first road crossing, my husband Tim let me know he was ahead of me but not by much.
This, surprisingly, gave me the advantage. I found my pace, I conserved, I schemed. I spent the race creeping up and picking spots to sprint, keeping him out of sight but within reach. (Translation: I told myself if I ever saw him again, I would pass him going wide open.)
As the race wore on, my plan came together with just a few miles to go. To my shock, there on the hill before me, sat a yellow jersey creeping up a hill. I’d spent the race preparing for this moment. He, on the other hand, had spent the race in an all-out effort, not knowing if I was close or too close.
I looked at my odometer. Yes, two miles to go. Could I maintain a sprint for that long? Possibly. Could I resist passing him now that he was in my sights? Never.
As I came up behind him, I greeted him with a jovial, “Why, there you are!”
This, friends, was the wrong thing to say.
It was like putting him in turbo mode. While he was bathed in sweat and busting every vein in his neck, he found, with those four little words, superhuman strength.
The race, after 2 hours and 45 minutes was on.
I crested the hill ahead of him and took off, only to have him shoot past me on the downhill, his fear of death slightly less than his fear of losing. On the next hill, I caught him and outclimbed him again, much to my delight and his horror. I was feeling very, very friendly at this point. We’re all just friends here, right? No hurry to get ahead of one another, as long as I was in front. But the top of the hill turned the game again and he ripped past me.
This went on for several treacherous minutes, up and down, passed and chased. We could hear the crowd of the finish line screaming in the distance. We were pushing and praying, each hill harder than the last.
Then, in the final stretch, he pulled out his cape and took off, gaining the lead. And never looked back.
17 seconds. 17. This is all he had on me. 17.
And while there was plenty of ribbing at the finish line, the unspoken hung in the air: Next year, there would be blood. And I had, without even realizing it, found the secret training weapon.
I urge you to also find someone who is about your speed, skill and temperament to train with. It helps too if they aren’t totally annoying. To have a perfect training partner/nemesis, there are some conditions that must be met:
- He must not be a woman and/or your age. By this I mean, find someone who isn’t directly competing with you. This person may be in the men’s class, may be 10 years older or 10 years younger, but definitely not in your exact class or age group in a race. This makes the self-inflicted competition “just for fun.” Kinda.
- He must not be your husband. He can be someone else’s husband, but definitely not yours. This means all outings are completely free of laundry that is folded but sitting in the basket for the third day in a row.
- He must be your speed. Too slow and you will feel all she-man and showy when you tear past him on a straightaway. This, along with spandex pants, will erode your femininity over time. Too fast and you will start thinking of sabotage.
- He must never ride more miles than you in any two consecutive weeks. He will prove himself quite useful to you in this way. The couch won’t be nearly as tempting when you see his bike strapped to the back of his truck in the school parking lot at morning drop-off.
- He must be out to kill you. This means he will try to beat you on all the hills during training. This makes a trail ride go much faster, keeps you guessing and also, because of #3, means he will only succeed every other time, thereby keeping his goal of killing you firmly out of reach and, therefore, your training on target.
- He must want it as bad as you do. Will he post his Garmin to Facebook later in the day? Maybe. Will you? Of course. There’s posturing and name calling and death threats. Again, more of the good stuff I told you about.
These are just a few tips for keeping your training honest this year. There’s no better way to push your limits than to have yourself some friendly yet fierce competition with a nemesis. And with the Iceman less than 4 weeks away, things are getting heated. No one is going out on the trail without someone else taking note. Who will win this year? It’ll be down to seconds, I’m afraid. (By this I mean, him coming in second to moi.)