A sherpa, in the most basic sense, is someone who is along for the ride (or run), with the sole purpose of supporting someone else. A lot of endurance athletes (for example: runners who do ultra races that encompass double-digit hours on their feet) have a support crew to assist them throughout their event.
In my case, I was the runner (embarking on a long run in a strange place) and my hubby was my sherpa (carrying some of my gear, keeping me company and acting as a tour guide), via his bike.
Sounds like a perfect scenario, doesn't it?
Here's how everything played out....
First, let me set the scene:
As most know, I'm training for the Marine Corps Marathon (October 27, Washington, DC). Training for a marathon involves many (if not most) weekends with a double-digit distance run on tap. That's all well and good, until the hubby gets invited to a friend's place for a weekend on the lake, and he wants to bring his wife (ME!) along.
Ummm....what about that 12-mile run I'd planned to do on Saturday morning? How was that gonna work in a strange place, where I had no clue where to run or any sense of direction?
The solution? The hubby reminded me we'd have our bikes with us (since we'd hoped to be going for a ride anyways), and he'd ride along with me as I ran. He actually grew up near the area, and his family vacationed there numerous times when he was a child. He was already fairly familiar with the streets and trails around the lake, so I wouldn't be alone. Problem solved!
|Our adventure took us partially around Lake Okoboji (in northwest Iowa)
Having the hubby along (with ample pockets on his shorts) meant I wouldn't have to carry any of my stuff...water, fuel, tissues, or even my phone. Everything was either on him, or stashed somewhere on the bike itself.
The trail and (later) the neighborhood streets along the lake were hilly. The hills weren't especially steep, but they were constant. The area reminded me of last October's Cannonball Marathon (Greensboro, NC) because there was very little flatland to peruse, but numerous trees and plenty of shade. Unlike Greensboro, though, there were all kinds of interesting lake houses to admire on this route.
|There is a Lake Shore Drive in Iowa!
Originally, I thought it would be easiest for the hubby to ride a ways ahead of me, then circle back periodically. Instead, he pretty much rode beside me (or slightly ahead), only veering further ahead from me on some of the bigger hills. Thus, the hills were a challenge for BOTH us...myself on foot, and him riding slowly up and down each incline/decline.
Fortunately, the weather worked in our favor. The air wasn't too humid and the low/mid 60F's temps were cool, but comfortable. I hadn't felt it on the way out, but there was a slight head wind on the return trip.
Over all, this was a successful venture!
Some key points to consider, should you have the option for a sherpa:
***Find a willing participant, and agree on your route/pacing strategy. Riding slowly is not exactly fun or easy, especially on a hilly route.
*** Having someone help you with your fueling is a luxury. A unique circumstance for me right now is my Invisalign treatment. Anything other than plain water (for hydration) is a cavity risk (unless I want to brush/floss after each drink). Also, chewy and sticky foods are difficult to eat (because my teeth are shifting). The hubby was a huge help in biting the HS chews into fourths, so I could then swallow them without needing to chew them myself. I know (#eew)...that is not something I'd want just anybody to do for me, but it's my reality for the time being (usually I cut the chews into fourths before my runs, but didn't need to since the hubby was my "chew cutter" LOL).
***Being able to run "hands free" was nice! I didn't have to carry my water bottle, nor did I need a fuel belt for my phone (of course, that also meant my phone's pedometer didn't give me credit for those 12 miles on foot LOL).
***I didn't have to navigate my whereabouts. It was nice having someone already familiar with the area acting as my tour guide, and also keeping me company.
***I actually ran those 12 miles a bit faster than I'd realized. It didn't seem like I was going faster than usual, but probably faster than ideal for a long run. I do train on hills frequently, so maybe my body is better prepared for hills than I give it credit for. Having a bike to follow may have been a factor as well.
***Another advantage to having someone else along with you is you don't have to rely on your selfie skills for every photo. That's especially advantageous when you come upon interesting street art or an occasional mural.
So, what ya say? Ever done a long run (or an endurance race) with a sherpa? Have you ever had that option? Do you think it would be a great way to train, or would it mess with your "ideal" pace?