“It Never Gets Easier, You Just Go Faster”
As I was beating into a very strong headwind this morning on my multi-hour, solo, bicycle-training ride, thoughts of pain began dancing in my head. I started to recall some of the more painful moments from my athletic career. Some of my most painful competitive moments were as a runner. One incident that came immediately to mind took place circa late 70s. It was a track meet at Randall’s Island NY on a track now known as Icahn Stadium. I was representing the Shore AC, and with a team that included 3 Olympians and one world record holder, we were going for the first place team trophy. There were some other strong teams in attendance such as the venerable NYAC & Millrose AA teams with their bevy of world and national class athletes who would certainly exert their say in the results.
I had just accomplished my mission of winning the 5-kilometer run, and had just completed my typical post-race, ab busting session of uncontrollable retching. The President of the club, Eliot Denman, an Olympian and sports editor approached me. He told me that one of the members of the 4×400 relay team had just injured himself in the warm-up and asked if I would fill in for the runner. He further indicated that we simply had to finish the race to win the team trophy.
Now I am anything but a 400-meter runner. I have never grown a fast twitch (sprinter type) muscle in my life. My competitive range started at the distance of the Mile Run. But, being a team player, I agreed to run, and unfortunately, we were about 10 minutes out from the gun.
I was running the 3rd leg of the relay, and I watched with dread as the second runner approached the baton-passing zone handing me the dreaded stick. I took off in the best sprint I could muster, but I felt like I was carrying a gorilla on my back and my legs could not have taken another drop of lactic acid. It seemed as if it took about 20 minutes to cover one mere lap of a 400-meter track. It was one of the most painful memories of my competitive life.
As I was playing these little sports memories vignettes in my mind, it occurred to me that it would be such a wonderful world (for me at least) if in an aerobic based sport, it would actually get easier the more one trains as it does in many other sports. As I was having those thoughts, I could not help but remember the very accurate statement of Greg LeMond, three-time winner of the Tour de France who said, “It Never Gets Easier, You Just Get Faster”.
Artwork by Orlando artist Angelo Cane