While I like to be social and value the friendships and relationships that are a part of my life, I consider myself to be quite an introvert. I need that "alone time" to recharge, regroup, gather thoughts and then I can be with people. When I don't get that time to myself, I become extremely cranky!
Which brings me to the swim/bike/run question. When I first started out in 2011, I was a solitary swimmer, biker and runner. I did take some swim classes at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center and Michael would occasionally accompany me on the rides and runs, but I was pretty happy tootling along on my own and winging it, for the most part. Last year, I sporadically attended a group ride or two and quite a few runs with a local tri group and connected in a non-organized way with other people for runs and rides, but I mainly stuck to the solo approach for the majority of my training, even for my first venture into the 70.3 distance.
I still prefer to hit the road on my own, either hoofing it on my feet or coasting along on the bike, and swimming alone is one of the most zen experiences that I know. BUT, I've also come to realize that group rides, organized runs and swim practices can reap huge benefits. So, I have pushed myself to overcome my hesitancy to train with others and my preference to enjoy the time to alone that training affords me. The hesitancy - or maybe it's a lack of confidence - is a huge part of why I prefer to train on my own. Hello, I have a complex because I just hate being so slow on the swim and the bike. Actually, I don't care that much about the swim, but I am terribly slow on the bike (still), and I feel pretty self-conscious when I bike in a group. And running on my own? I said that swimming alone is a zen experience, which is true, but there is nothing that can compare to being on a trail or a road, feet hitting the dirt or the pavement, mind focused yet also freely wandering - it's my moment to daydream and to think about the "what ifs" in my life while also focusing on pace, breathing, environment. I always feel so alive, alert and also relaxed when I'm running. Even on a hard run, when I feel that I'm suffering through it, I can find great moments in the experience.
Despite this tendency and preference to go it alone, I've looked to running and to swim/bike/run as a way to connect to other people through shared experiences and as a way to improve my own level of fitness. What a concept! I'm still reluctant to head out on group rides, but I know that they are a. fun and b. great training. The same can be said for group runs, when I push myself a bit more because I'm trying to keep up, somewhat, with the faster people, who are probably slowing down a bit for the slower people. Finally, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently joined a master's swim group at the Rose Bowl. Since this past spring, I've been swimming on occasion with a friend from work. She is WICKED fast, despite the fact that she considers herself slow because she compares her current times to those of her former self. We made a pact, joining master's together, and while it is still a bit scary for me, the experience improves as the weeks go by. And I definitely see improvements in my swimming - not that I'm fast, but I am more comfortable pushing myself more, in terms of speed and distance. And there are those occasional surprises. Last Tuesday night, I pulled up in the lane next to someone that I actually knew from the tri group, and we had a great time sharing a lane - it wasn't scary and I didn't berate myself for being so slow (after all, he was in the same lane as I!).
So, I suppose I'm learning that, as much as I'd like to spend all of the hours of training on my own, it won't necessarily push me like training with other people. Nor is it as much fun - and that has to be a huge part of the "why". Not that I'm giving up on my solo training - I enjoyed a great run today which made me so happy to be able to lace up my shoes and pound out an easy yet speedy for me 6 miles.
I suppose it's about finding the balance between my introvert nature and the benefits that can come from working and training and being with others. So, I'm trying to embrace the fact that playing with others is not just an important concept for small children - it can also apply to my own life, and not just in terms of training!