In appreciation of the Swiss way.
Precision. The Swiss way. A common theme through out as I reconnect with old friends and champions of our sport. They execute with precision. Nicola Spirig and Reto Hug exemplified this ideal. Their daily routine is focused on family and performance optimization, even in a time when Nicola is still recovering from the birth of their second child, their approach is very systematic and structured. This common thread repeats its self yet again. Daily rituals. Every morning Nicola woke up early, went downstairs to the training room and did her first session of the day. The kids woke and were feed and taken care of, business as usual. It stood out with Nicola just how unremarkable it all was, in the sense that they just rolled along focusing on consistency and incremental progression. Nicola doesn't really know what session is next as her coach Brett Sutton wants feedback from the previous session before determining where to from here. I trained in a similar manner, although I could see the general patterns and knew what usually came next I wanted to focus on each session as if it was the only session and rarely if ever looked beyond the rest of the day, acknowledging the next day only existed in the future, as this is just so, it made sense to me to focus on the here and the now, and leave tomorrow in it's appropriate place. Nicola appears to operate in basically the same manner, one session at a time, one day at a time.
I have known Reto and Nicola for a long time, in fact Reto and I first raced together 20 years ago in the French Iron Tour, 8 races in 9 days through out France. We were on separate teams but the comradely which occurs racing and traveling from venue to venue stays with you. We had many sprint finishes together, the tall Swiss Champion could lay it down with 400 to go. At one point Reto recalled sitting together on the ferry to the Opera house in 2000 on race morning, two young bucks, wide eyed and fearless. Many moons ago. I asked him to put himself back that chair on the ferry early on the 17th of September, and imagine a man coming up and telling us, "one day, 17 years from now, you will still be friends, sitting on Reto's deck in Zurich, with 3 daughters and a son between you, careers now fading memories, cherish it, and good luck today".
We laughed as I rocked their daughter back to sleep, holding an 8 week old little girl in my arms reminded me just how special it is to have children, and how much I would love to have more, but these are thoughts for a different diary.
It was interesting going for a walk with Reto along the shores on the lake in Zug while Nicola attended a bike fit session at the European headquarters for Specialized. We discussed life after sport, our competitive fires and shared our thoughts on our present approach to fitness and healthy living. Reto remains as competitive as ever, with high expectations and a relentless approach. He admits to lacking commitment when it comes to any training "program" and has no desire to race, born of his fierce competitive nature, why race if you can't race at the front. In fact his frustration with this was palpable. He felt there was a certain way to approach competition and that was all in and train to win. Nicola shows the same fire with a deep internal belief in herself and it was this flame she focused on the challenge of racing Gwen Jorgennson, the overwhelming favourite in Rio. To hear Nicola recall the race, her mindset going in, the overall strategy in which she approached the race, and the tactics she deployed during the race aimed directly at unsettling, and therefor upsetting Gwen, were designed to attack winning; she was determined to race for Gold, conceding to Silver only when all efforts to win were exhausted. Considering Nicola sustained a serious hand injury early in the season which required 21 pins in her hand, which drastically altered her preparation, to see her "get after it" strategy employed in the manner it was, and to hear her re tell running side by side with Gwen, forcing her to lead and actually exchanging words, the content of which I will leave for Nicola to share if she chooses, again, it showed an athlete with absolute conviction in their abilities and fearless in their approach. Far from the self sabotage associated, whether acknowledged or not, with sub optimum performances. Nicola shows the same characteristics as Alistair Brownlee, courage, conviction, attention to details, and a high capacity to visualize outcomes, an ability to script and orchestrate their vision of how an event will unfold. On the day in Rio Gwen was able to over come Nicola, she had simply too powerful a running weapon to outwit, but it wasn't without having to dig as deep as is possible, and face down a fierce and committed competitor determined not to relinquish her Olympic Champion title without a long drawn out battle. It was a privilege to hear Nicola tell the story over a coffee. I went for a run from their beautiful home afterwards and was struck yet again by the fact that I was running on a path regularly soaked in the sweat of an Olympic Champion determined to leave no stone unturned wholly committed to getting the most out of herself. Fearless and absolute in her determination with the courage of her convictions.
The Grace of a Swiss legend.
Presently I am on a train headed to St. Moritz, the mountains have begun to appear and the valley is slowly narrowing down, apparently this is an extraordinary trip through tunnels past sheer soaring cliffs with peaks all around. Switzerland is astoundingly beautiful, the forests and lakes surrounded by mountains with their jagged summits looking over rivers and farm land almost surreal in their immaculate appearance is far more beautiful then even the most sophisticated camera can capture. It is almost as if it is make believe.
And the bike lanes, they are everywhere, an endless web of paths, in every direction, they criss cross the countryside, an explorers dream.
A reminder I need to bring my touring bike next time.
I am looking forward to St. Moritz, seeing Brett Sutton and his squad, jotting down notes from a master coach before taking in the scenery and reading my book by the lake with the fresh mountain air and endless trails to explore on my morning trot/yog.
For now it is time to read with my camera close by, we're in a tunnel now, who knows what spectacular scene will appear on the other side.