I played football for four years in high school. Wait, let me rephrase that for accuracy. I was ON the football team for four years in high school. I think my total playing time would easily have fit within a single quarter. At the time, I was quite jealous of the kids who were "naturals" at the game.
I was right there with them suffering through practice. I memorized plays like they did. I hit the weight room to work out. They just got better results. Or had better genes.
Through the prism of age and experience, I've learned better. Yes, the better players on my team certainly got more out of practice, workouts, and playbooks than me. It was really just a function of effort. Namely, they put it in, and I tried to fake it.
Over time, that has changed. I've learned that improvement isn't easy and often requires some amount of pain. Perhaps it's the pain of getting up much earlier than is desired. It might be the pain of working the body to the point of exhaustion. Or it might be the good pain of a threshold workout. No pain, no gain. I didn't understand that in high school.
Nothing has taught me this as much as the past year of triathlon training. Learning to swim was challenging enough. Learning to swim well and to swim faster has called for intense and sometimes painful workouts. Taking my mile pace from 11 minutes down to 8 minutes took a year of challenging base and speed workouts. And getting back on the bike demanded I put out of shape muscles back into action.
Now, I am working hard to get into the game. I take the training seriously. I listen to the coach. I accept that some training is going to demand that I push myself to the limit. And I do push those limits.
This time, I'm going to play the whole game. Whether it takes 45 minutes or 17 hours. 10K to Ironman, I'm going to be a starter.