21 Mar

I am married. I have lived with my husband for 13 years. I think we have a wonderful/healthy relationship. One thing I have learned from my marriage is that whenever we spend significant time apart there is always an adjustment period when we come back to living together. Taking this into account I decided to move to Tucson to live and train with Jen without my husband. We needed to iron out the kinks of what our day to day relationship will be before hitting the trail. Some people may differ in their opinions of this, but I will tell you right now that this was a wonderful idea.

Jen and I have had a few misunderstandings and it has been a luxury to be able to come back to the apartment and have separate rooms in which to be alone or to think things through. These are luxuries we will not have on the trail. Our time together is spent in some of the most uncomfortable situations. We eat together, train together, sometimes we work together. We need to learn how to deal with all of the unfortunate feelings and situations that arise when two people spend this much time together. We need to be able to deal with each others bad moods and know just what we can say before we cross the line. We need to be comfortable enough with each other to say “i just need silence right now” or “i am so sorry…but I can’t reach this tick”. Gross, maybe a little. True, definitely. Logging 25+ miles a day on the trail together will take its toll both mentally and physically. We as humans are not mind readers, so we need to be able to tell each other exactly what we need. We also need need to know that when we say what we are feeling that it will be received in the manner that it was meant without needing an in depth explanation. When you are physically exhausted and hungry you simply lack the ability to construct complicated and elegant thoughts.

I feel that Jen and I turned a corner approximately 3 weeks ago. We had a conversation with our coach and in that conversation we explained to her that she needed to start viewing us as a team. She needed to forget the concept of us as individuals and look at us as the same person. I can only imagine that it must be difficult from a coaching standpoint, but in all actuality we are only as strong as our combined weaknesses. We train together. If I have a bad day, Jen has a bad day. It is unfortunate but it is true. In the end, we will run this thing together. Step by step by step.

Our 13 mile run on Sunday had all of the makings for a really bad run. It was cold, wet, and insanely windy.  We had already been on 10 days. When we got to the trail head that was 45 minutes away with just enough daylight left to run, yours truly realized she forgot her shoes. Sitting there with flip flops I was feeling pretty stupid and really bad. Luckily Jen carries 2 pairs of shoes with her. A size nine and a size nine and a half. I wear an eight. But in a last ditch effort to save the run I doubled up on socks, used some tricky lacing techniques learned from my days working outdoor retail, retied the shoes a few times, and breathed a sigh of relief. The nines were going to be okay. It was going to work. Off we went, slow and steady. We ran 8 mins walked 2 mins and repeated those intervals the entire way. We alternated running lead. Seamlessly passing each other on the walks to take the front and break the wind.  We only walked on the assigned intervals conquering the hills running if we were in those 8 minutes. We even started running mid hill at times. A few times along the way I maybe scuffed a rock or two due to underestimating the length of my shoe, but I never faltered. The trail was excellent. Single track through the open desert foothills. I think we only had to call the dogs once to get them away from a herd of cattle. But they listened without needing a second call.  Mountain views 360 degrees, and the sun broke through the clouds. We ended the run with negative splits and two very happy dogs. It was our most successful run to date. We conquered all obstacles together and finished as a team. Plus we had a good time doing it!

I really believe that the last 7 weeks have been leading up to runs like this. How do we face adversity and a possible mistake from our partner? How do we react when we are tired, and wet, and cold? These are lessons we decided were best learned prior to the trail. I believe that this was the right decision, and recommend that anyone starting out on a similar adventure find ways to test yourself in the scenarios that are bound to present themselves. Someone will drop something, the other will eat the last of something, and someone may even forget their shoes.


2 Responses to “Teamwork”

  1. Papa Bear March 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    I like the team spirit! No one ever really runs alone… even if you are unaccompanied at the moment you are always running with the experiences of the others you’ve run with in the past to guide you. And when you cover each other’s missteps you are doubly effective. I do, however, recommend shoes!

  2. Molly March 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Amazing observations, Em. You offer great advice. Also, good on you two for encouraging your coach (who is awesome, btw) to view you as a team unit. It’s awesome and really exciting to see you two falling into sync. Best….

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