After I got out the door today, I spent a lot of my ride thinking about motivation. I also spent a lot of time thinking about getting to watch Paris-Nice on TV. Cycling on television! Can I get a Hell Yeah?? (Paris-Nice did not disappoint. After I'm done writing, I'll probably spend half an hour reading articles about the race I watched, as if the outcome will somehow be different.)
Motivation was on my mind for two reasons. First, a friend recently asked my wife the Ironman about what motivates her, and we discussed the blog she wrote about it. Second, I have noticed my will to train has flagged a bit lately, and I have been concerned.
I've always had a fairly stoic approach to motivation. I don't always enthusiastically bound out the door for a training session. While training is at times fun, for me, it has always been a means to an end--to be a fitter and fiercer competitor. Many people who know that I spend a lot of my life pounding out miles are surprised to learn that I don't enjoy every minute of it. I don't. But I love racing, and that enlivens every training session I undertake.
Strangely, this makes me look forward to the workouts that most people dread. I enjoy grinding out hill repeats or interval sessions more than I enjoy leisurely training rides or runs. The workouts I enjoy most are the ones that I sense have a direct effect on my ability to stomp my competitors when we race. When I was in high school, I would read articles in Runner's World about folks who would relish the opportunity to commune with nature during their weekly long runs. I am not one of those people. I believe that this is one big reason why I have yet to make the step up to ultra-endurance events.
Today, as I thought about what motivates me, I kept coming back to a quotation from Emil Zatopek, the Czech runner who inspired the title of this blog:
If one can stick to the training throughout the many long years, then will power is no longer a problem. It's raining? That doesn't matter. I am tired? That's besides the point.
It's simply that I must.
I'm stuck on the word "must." This "must" is the core of his motivation. For Zatopek, there was no motivated or unmotivated; there was only "must." Of course, Zatopek was a professional. Indeed, for him, training even when he didn't feel like it was a must, just as I must go to work tomorrow morning even though I'd rather . . . do . . . almost anything else. (It's a tough time of year for teachers.) But I sense something deeper in his words, and it's at that level that I feel I can relate.
Do I have to train? Do I have to race? Must I be an endurance athlete? After spending thousands of hours covering tens of thousands of miles, after enduring injuries and surgeries and painful therapies, after devoting more time and money than I have to spend on bikes and books and clothes and entry fees, I have concluded: Yes, I must. At this point in my life, being an athlete is such a deeply ingrained part of my self-concept that I really have no other choice. I have experimented with being someone else--an intellect, for example, during the two times in my life when I was burying myself in pursuit of advanced degrees--but i have always felt that my life was out of balance. It was; endurance athletics are a pillar on which I am built. I've spent two-thirds of my life in search of fast times--in search of the most pleasant exhaustion. It's who I am.
So for me, it's never going to be a matter of being motivated to train. I will have as many days when I don't want to train as days when I do. Rather, it's a matter of conscience; if I am to be true to myself, I can do no other.
I resolved to put a picture in my blog every time I write, so here's one of Emil dropping the hammer in Helsinki.