Not that I'm not in touch with my competitive side, but there's nothing like running with other people to bring out your inner jock.
We're doing hills this month in our TNT training. They're enough of a challenge that our coaches send out smiley-face emails with sayings like "We love hills! Yaaaaaay hills!" beforehand so that the sheer anticipation of getting your butt kicked on a steep incline on a steamy August evening won't cause you to pitch yourself out your office window before you have a chance to change into your sneakers.
Wait, maybe that's just me.
Anyhoo, this Tuesday was "rolling hills." (Frankly, I think the coaches call them this because it sounds a lot better than "2 to 3 hills in a row that will give you no relief in between.") It was nearly a mile of steep-but-not-too-steep hills that we were to do with a lot of effort. Read: haul ass. Then you have a slow recovery back to the start, where you do it again. And again. However many times the coaches want.
So there's Elkin on one side of me, Barb on the other. First time was tough. The three of us stepped off the the CP bridle path to recover back to the start and I believe I may have actually been wheezing. Who wheezes? It was a good two minutes into our recovery before Barb remarked that not one of us had spoken a word. Probably because we were not able to.
Second time sucked, especially when I started doing that girly-shrieky thing I do (See: Oh sprints, how I loathe thee. Let me count the ways). Pretty sure I freaked out a couple of random park runners. (Poor guys, just trying to calmly blow off a little after-work steam and here comes the mad 6-foot shrieking woman huffing up the hill. I'd be annoyed.)
By the third time up, we were tired. Our recovery was slower as we tried to put off the inevitable "next time" and a water stop was a must. By the time we had gotten back down to the start, however, I had gone into my motivational place (usually reserved for working a strategy at Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale) and was gearing up for number four.
But as the three of us took off, we all seemed to notice at the same time that more people were gathered at the start, some of whom were stretching. Elkin threw over his shoulder with just a touch of desperation, "Wait, are we done?!" But by the time Coach Christine yelled back "Well, yeah ... but you're welcome to go again ..." we were halfway up the first hill.
Crap. That's all my body needed to hear. I immediately downshifted in my mind and laughingly yelled up to Elkin and Barb (I say "up" since I had now slowed enough to speak to their backsides): "I'm done after this hill, guys. Keep going!" I thought it cheery and breezy. Just hop right off, grab a little water, jaunt back to the start, wait for my friends, log a great evening. Done!
But they were not amused.
Quote of the evening from Elkin: "We don't do half-sies."
Okay, I get the whole team thing. I do! But it really sunk in at that moment. There was no way they were leaving me on that first hill. I truly believe Elkin would have grabbed my right wrist and pulled me if he had to. A little aggressive, yes, but I lightened at the idea that we would leave no man behind. (I know, I know, we're not the armed forces but sometimes, we really do do more before 5 a.m. than most people do all day.)
They both bellowed at me disapprovingly and I felt sufficiently guilty, enough that I grudgingly huffed my way through repeat numero four. Out of breath and with legs of pure jelly, we congratulated each other at the end and chatted with relief all the way back. And that's when we realized we had become the annoying last people everyone has to wait for at the end of practice. TNT is an incredibly responsible group and every team member has to be accounted for at the end of practice. (In other words, our little show-off run made everyone stick around a little longer. On behalf of the Smug Three, apologies all around.)
But I can chalk it up to yet another lesson learned in my TNT experience. Having a team around you, whether it's the whole 300 of us on the NYC team ... or just Barb and Elkin who are usually on either side of me ... is invaluable when you're doing something that seems impossible.
Heading home, I was tired and drenched in sweat ... but it was all worth it. I smelled like team spirit.