‘Tis the season for training, which means instead of searching for that perfect holiday gift, you are seeking an ideal training partner to join you on countless base miles in less than ideal conditions: A companion for the road, an accountability partner, an opportune therapist.
A good training partner is hard to come by, and may be one of the bigger decisions that you ever make. I assume it is comparable to a reliable babysitter or a compatible life partner.
I have been able to ride with my sister, Jennifer Tetrick, for the last month, and it has been priceless. A gorgeous professional triathlete, who happens to be my sister and closest friend? Doesn't get any better. Among many other interesting topics of conversation, most of which cannot be divulged, the time did allowed us to discuss the qualities and expectations of a solid training partner and the seriousness that that job entails.
What is the appropriate chemistry and etiquette for a training partner relationship? Can you apply for this job, or are you destined to train alone and constantly be the brunt of the group ride joke? You either find that training partner, or you start learning about yourself and invest in another pair of headphones.
What is the job description of a good training partner? Is there an app for that? Do you have what it takes?
My Top 10 Qualities of a Training Partner.
Ride Leader. It is quite simple; there must always be a ride leader. As a ride leader, you must accept this duty with utter gravity. You have to pick the route and adhere to the appropriate parameters that have been previously designated. Therefore, whoever is the ride leader must be prepared to accept full responsibility if the duration of the ride falls short or longer than the planned time, as well if the terrain or weather does not cooperate. If it is too long, or too short, or your training partner gets stuck in a headwind all day or monsoon downpour, the ride leader must apologize profusely and make amends in a comparable fashion. Please take this job seriously. Too many chiefs on a ride lend to arguments, and too many Indians cultivate indecisiveness. The rider leader may vary on the day and protocol. It is not a lifetime commitment to take on this job, just a ride commitment. Commit and deliver, or be prepared for ridicule.
Consistency. I love the sense of exploration in riding more than most, but I also revere momentum and consistency. I hate stopping while riding. I don't get coffee while riding, unless the Ride Leader has predestined the ride as a coffee shop ride in which case that is completely appropriate. Coffee may be consumed after the ride, or before the ride. But if it is a training day, the ride is just that. A ride. Training. Your bike must be in working order, you must be prepared with the flat fixing necessities (especially since I have the tendency to be ill-prepared), and you must be ready to ride the quoted ride or be prepared to learn Survival 101. You need to count on each other for timeliness, fitness, and motivation. You need to have consistency, preparation, and resourcefulness.
Understanding and Flexibility. Training can vary on the day or the time of year, and a good training partner will understand the job and be able to adapt as the year progresses. If one rider has 3x20 minutes at Tempo, and the other has 5x6 minutes of SFR's, you may start out the ride together, but you must be prepared to split off and do your individual effort if that is the necessary agenda. There is no fluff and no bragging. It is a simple parting of ways to get the work done. Although you may be envious of the others training day, you don't make a snide comment hinting that they lack stamina or strength. There is no judgment. No wasted time. A training partner is able to get you out the door on a cold foggy morning and sometimes that is the hardest interval you will face that day. There is understanding and flexibility.
Cohesion and Craziness. Intervals aside, who really wants to ride a 4-5 hour ride by themselves? I know I am quite entertaining to myself, but that wears off eventually. I soon discover that I would rather not be alone in my thoughts day in and day out. That just gets me in trouble. Cohesive company can be priceless, and a solid training partner needs to be just a little bit as crazy as you are. Ride out to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse? Why not. What happens if we take a right to Fort Jenner? Let's find out. You are cohesive in your purpose, and you both border on extreme. We are all cyclists and all a little crazy, but the common theme is a curious mind.
Politically Correct Phrasing. A good training partner employs politically correct phrasing, and they will not state that they "dropped" you; however, they may refer to it as "that time that I rode ahead of you…and then had to wait…" You didn't get dropped. You let them ride up the road. They know they dropped you. You know they dropped you. But for your confidence and delicate self-esteem, they use politically correct phrasing of the event just to ensure you don't become a puddle of sweat and tears into the asphalt after a rough day. We all have bad days, no sense in exploiting that. Does this make me sensitive? Just human. Training partners can bolster each other's confidence and that is important. That being said, I will win and I will drop from time to time.
Challenge. I need to be challenged. A training partner knows when to push you past your limits, and they know when to back it off. There is a time to leave me alone in my misery, and there is a time I need to be babysat. It is a fine balance. It is a team effort at times, and a solo mission at others. Sometimes their fitness is so beyond yours all you can do is hang on for dear life, and other days, you are the stronger rider. They challenge you. You challenge them. It simply works. Challenge me.
Patience. Although these training partner requirements may sound too difficult for the faint of heart, there is sensitivity and patience to each other that is a pivotal for a good training partner. No one is perfect. I might forget a glove or two. I might not want to change my flat. I might complain about the weather, my sore legs, or the impending hill. Be patient with each other. There are more important things than riding a silly bike, but we are out there together with a similar goal and determination. Be patient and understanding in your moments of suffering and weakness.
Timeliness. Promptness and timeliness is extremely important, I like to be on time for my rides. Ok, so I actually show up a little bit too early most of the time. I will be patient, and you will be on time. Sounds like a plan to me. Who is the first one to show up? Oh yeah, that's usually me.
Entertainment. Cracking during a ride is not always because of the physical strain, but can also be because of the mental exhaustion. Tell a good story or a funny anecdote. A tale that has nothing to do about cycling. A story about a scary movie, or your first job as a lifeguard and that one girl… I need entertainment that gets my mind off of the repetitive statement "just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling". I train the majority of the time by myself, but sometimes I need an escape from the norm. I need a good story or laugh. I will reciprocate when the time is right, I promise. Feel free to entertain me.
Just a ride. And like I told Bob Roll on the RoadID, it is just a ride. Nothing more, nothing less. It is just a ride.