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Fast or Far? Alone or Together? Why Can’t I Do Both?

20 Jun 2016
by Casey Hannan

By Casey Hannan

You might be familiar with the African proverb that says:“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”


On its face, the proverb has a wisdom that’s hard to argue, and it has relevance to many facets of our
lives. Yet, I would ponder it, unwilling to accept the “fast/alone” and “far/together” dichotomy, and wanting to debate with the proverb itself, “why can’t you do both?!” You might say it sounds like I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too, and I suppose that’s true, but on the Tony Serrano ride earlier this
year I believe I figured out how you really can have it both ways.  Here’s the story:

I was feeling a bit anxious heading into the metric century of the Tony Serrano ride in April because it would be my longest ride in about three years, and I was unsure if I had the legs to make the 60+ miles without blowing up somewhere in the back half.  Plus, there was the wind, remember? We’re talking a wind that isn’t kind to cyclists. I don’t remember the exact force of the wind that day, but at one point a strong gust almost blew me off the pavement into a grassy ditch. I’ve been riding bikes a long time and that has never happened before.

The ride started and within a few miles I settled in with a group of a dozen other cyclists, none of whom I knew, all riding at about the same clip. One dude in our pack was making me nervous because he was really twitchy, meaning he couldn’t hold his line. At all. I was afraid he was going to take me out with one of his erratic maneuvers. For several minutes I weighed the pros and cons of staying with the group or going alone, and that’s when I was reminded of this particular proverb. Being mindful of the distance of the ride, my cycling fitness, and the strong gusty winds, I opted to stay with the group even though Mr. Sketchy Rider was making me crazy.  

My thoughts turned back to the African proverb and how it synched up with training and racing triathlons. Clearly, a triathlon is a solo time trial event, and the idea is to go as fast as your body, mind and spirit allow on a given day.  As you know, on the bike if you are “too together” you are penalized with time added to your race. Accept outside assistance like a bottle of water from your family? You get a time penalty. On race day, our job is to go alone and as fast as possible; far and together aren’t options.

Then it struck me: At almost every other moment of our multi-sport existence, other than when the gun
goes off at a race, going together is what we all do.  And that helps us all to go far: far in terms of our race distance and long workouts; or far in terms of a long race season spanning many months; or far in terms of recovering from an injury or other setback and trying to reclaim lost fitness.

Think about it. Every single multi-sport athlete we know benefits from the physical and/or moral support of several people or groups of people. These include our spouses, life partners, family, friends, teammates, training compadres and the like. Many of us connect face-to-face with our family, friends, and training mates, but we also connect virtually through social media, web-based discussion groups and
through other electronic means.

By my way of thinking, none of us get to start a race but for the love and support of important individuals and groups in our lives. By going together, we can go far. And that enables us to go alone and fast on race day. So let’s remember to express our heartfelt gratitude along the way for all those who help us go far in this multi-sport hobby we call “fun.”  We are literally together all the time except during the course of an event.

We really can have our cake and eat it too, so grab a fork and dig in!



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