Oct 5, 2010

Nothing Like Rocky IV

The story of my trip has barely been told, but I needed this time to take an intermission. Even though I have every intention of telling this story, the urge to write has disappeared. I found myself lost in the middle of the most serious training block of my life. For weeks, my brains sole purpose was to provide motivation for difficult training days. When those days ended, it seemed to turn itself off.

Four days ago, I caught a stomach virus that was making its way through the training facility in Premanon, France. After three long days in bed, I am finally considering returning to light training. This sickness brought my first break from training in over five weeks. Maybe catching this bug was even a blessing in disguise.

Anyways… before I get back to the story, here’s a glimpse into my life in Premanon, France.

Life seemed to stand still while traveling through the South of France. I was excited for a change of pace. I was excited to really start getting fit, and mostly, I was excited to have my own bed. After a very confusing and interesting final night on the road (I’ll get to that another day), I finally made it back to where I started… the Geneva Airport. It was hard to fight the excitement. I was about to be picked up and whisked into the mountains to find my new home in Premanon. As we headed away from civilization, it became pretty apparent that we were going to be living in a state of seclusion. At the time, this excited me. For an athlete, there has always been something mysterious about training in pure isolation. Like when Rocky seeks seclusion in the Russian wilderness to train for his big fight with Ivan Drago. Anyone who has seen that training montage has had fantasies about leaving society to train, only to return faster, stronger and much tougher. These two months would be my personal Rocky IV training montage.

After five weeks in the Jura Mountains, I’ve learned more than I have ever needed to know about training seclusion. Rocky seemed to make it work just fine, but let me fill you in on a few key aspects of training isolation that Rocky IV doesn’t teach you. For one, I haven’t been lucky enough to have Adrian swing by for a conjugal visit. It’s no surprise that Rocky’s training improved after his lady showed up at his cabin. An athlete, dealing solely with absolutes, longs for the soft contour of a woman. “Chasing it” may be a pastime too dangerous for a lonely endurance athlete, but at least it gives the mind a break from the daily toils of vigorous training. The hardest part of training off the grid is the allocation of free time. What the hell did Rocky do when he wasn’t lifting logs, chopping down trees, wading through icy rivers, trudging through mounds of snow, or summiting mountains with his bare hands? Did he sit around the fire and play Yahtzee with Paulie? Did he read books, watch adult movies, or do crossword puzzles? No! Of course he didn’t. That SOB trained from dawn till dusk. From what I gathered, recovery is not an aspect of Rocky’s training plan. Unfortunately, some of us don’t posses the ability to recover while doing pull ups above a raging fire. In real life, there are easy days, off days, sick days; days where you body won’t let you keep pushing. So what do you do then? Off time in the Jura Mountains has been the most difficult. Keeping yourself busy is easier said than done. For some reason, when life is as simple as it can possibly be, you lose every motivation to be productive. We spend 16 hours a day in a small door room set at 9000ft above sea level. After 4 straight weeks of this, your days become a little dull. Days blend together in a miasma of solitude. Nothing changes here. I assume that prison is similar, except more dudes, no wine with dinner, and the alleged occurrence of unsolicited fornication.

With each passing day, I find myself faster, stronger, and tougher. But it has had mental consequences. Like the other guys here, I’ve had my fair share of rough days. The movies don’t show you what you don’t want to see. Rocky IV must have cut the scene where Rocky freaks out and starts throwing flaming logs at Paulie because he is sick and tired of eating the same shitty ham sandwich for lunch everyday. The world doesn’t want to see that kind of action. But that is reality. No matter how tough the person, eventually something will crack them. Around here, the absence of life’s little comforts is enough to make a few guys falter. Training here in the mountains may seem great, but it takes a specific type of person to succeed. If we stay sane, we’ll all come out of this ordeal faster, stronger, and tougher. But it will never be like it was in the movies.