You Need a Team

You Need a Team, by Coach Chris

Back in the day (and by that I mean a couple years ago) I was a competitive inline speed skater. Yes, you read that right. Competitive inline speed skating is a thing. I was one of the cool guys careening down the Greenway in Minneapolis in a spandex suit on inline skates every day.

One of my big goals as a skater was to qualify for the “Elite” race at the North Shore Inline Marathon, in Duluth MN. This was the biggest race in North America, at the time bringing in close to 2,000 skaters. The Elite wave required a certain finishing time in the previous year’s race, or a top finish in the lower division in order to qualify for the following year. The Elite wave featured some of the best skaters from around the world.

In 2012 I had an awesome race in the Advanced category, won my age group, and qualified for Elite in 2013. I was stoked! Finally I’d have a chance to show my stuff with the top skaters. I had absolutely no illusions of winning or getting even close, but I wanted to prove I belonged there.

Fast forward to the big race in 2013. The Elite wave was fairly small, with only about 30 skaters. I was a nervous wreck. I was standing in the same starting pen as the guys I watched race in Europe on TV. There was a serious headwind that we’d be skating into, which wasn’t helping my anxiety. I didn’t eat enough breakfast. I had to pee, again. But it’s too late! The race was starting.

3…2…1…go! The first three miles of the race course were newly paved, and slightly down hill. The pace was absolutely nuts. We were going over 30 MPH that whole time. I clung to the back of the pace line for dear life. Slowly but surely, the main group pulled away from me, and I was left alone. Nobody to draft with. 23 miles left to skate, into a headwind, alone. I made it to the end, but it was not fun. At all. It was mentally gruelling and physically exhausting.

Even though the Elite skaters are much faster, my time was almost 15 minutes slower than my time the previous year in the Advanced wave. And I had A LOT LESS FUN! Why? The paceline.

Competitive skating looks a lot like cycling. The racers form a straight line one in front of the other, with one person at the front “pulling” the rest of the line. The person in the front faces the brunt of the wind resistance. The racers tucked in the line can go the same speed with 30-40% less effort! By rotating who is pulling every few minutes, everybody in the line goes much faster than if they had just been skating alone.

In other words? A group of three good skaters will beat one great skater in a long race, every time.

If you want to be successful, in the gym or in any aspect of life, you need to find a team: coaches and friends with the same mindset as you. You still have to work hard, but the team will pull you on the days you’re not quite feeling it. When you’re in your groove, you will pull others along with you. We all need help staying motivated. It works best if we do it together.

Don’t try to go it alone. The view at the top is always best shared.

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