In the world of fitness, peer pressure can be a very effective and positive force. It typically presents itself in the form of a friend or family member using all means short of violence to persuade you to trade your favorite house slippers for running shoes or your seat on the couch for one on the bike. Usually, your ornery resistance to your friend’s nagging gives way to gratitude after you have finished the workout: almost invariably, you feel a comforting sense of entitlement upon resuming your signature spot on the couch and restoring your feet to their natural and proper resting place inside your favorite domestic fleece-lined footwear. If, however, you have friends who are particularly skilled in the crafts of reverse psychology, blackmail, or the almost always reliable guilt-trip, you may, on occasion, find yourself inadvertently putting $100 on your credit card bill to sign up for a race in which you have no legitimate place competing.
I have to preface my elusive point with a brief story that is the motivation behind this wandering rant. Recently, thanks to the less than subtle convincing of a “friend,” I found myself in the frozen wilds of northern Wisconsin for the 2006 American Birkebeiner. The “Birkie” is a 51-kilometer cross-country ski race that traverses some of the hilliest terrain that the Cheese State has to offer (sidenote to reader: Wisconsin cheese good, Wisconsin hills very bad). I had never been on cross-country skis prior to Saturday and had only downhill skied twice before, most recently ten years ago. Some, particularly those possessing the mental power of rationality, dubbed my endeavor anything from “crazy” to “ill-advised” to “downright stupid.” Being one to never allow reason or logic to get in the way of the attainment of a goal, I had used all of these admonishments to strengthen my irreverent conviction that I could and would conquer the Birkie.
Let’s just say that Disney isn’t about to make a film about Coach Dave’s own miracle on ice. The facts are as follows: I clawed, stumbled, cursed and wrestled my way through two kilometers on skis. Then, with my heart rate and blood pressure shooting through the roof, I removed my skis, which I tossed, along with the poles, over my shoulder and jogged and walked another thirty kilometers out of sheer anger, disdain and temperature-induced mental discombobulation. After experiencing humiliation and defeat for six hours, I threw in the towel with nineteen kilometers to go. I got a ride back to the finish area from a race official, recounted my tale of woe to the great amusement of my aforementioned friend and the rest of our group, and, in the end, salvaged the day with a series of “recovery drinks,” courtesy of the local pub (sidenote to reader: Wisconsin recovery drinks extremely good).
Looking back at my northern Wisconsin misadventure, the weekend was not a complete loss – which gets me to my long-promised point. Allow the wisdom gained through consideration of the consequences of my staunch avoidance of preparedness to prevail upon you the next time your friend asks you to join her for that ultramarathon. Preparation makes for a much more enjoyable and doable athletic experience and allows you to avoid physical and emotional injury. If you’ve made it to this point and are saying “Duh!” then I’m delighted on two counts: one, my readers are supremely more intelligent than yours truly; and two, you haven’t yet quit on me. Now, go sign up for that marathon that’s in two weeks, unless, of course, you’re scared!
Published On: March 03, 2006