I’m rereading like a coronacrazy during this forced isolation and The Sports Gene, by David Epstein, is this weeks tasty morsel and quite a good one it’s been. In the book he focuses on the increased body type specialization of world class athletes. Running backs keep getting shorter, NBA stars are all about wingspans, and long distance runners are almost all from the mountains in Kenya. I enjoyed it the first go through but am loving this second helping even more. There was a group of athletes I wrote nothing about during my first taste but can’t stop writing about on my second. This group of athlete does not respond to negative reinforcement. They are sixteen strong and must work as one. Excellence in their sport is all about VO2 max, which can exceed eight times that of an average man and even four times the women’s marathon world record holder!
So what you ask is the key to this athlete’s elite endurance? Well, in a word – Love.
“Sled dogs, like their masters, must have the will to forge ahead. Food will not work as a training device for sled dogs. Negative reinforcement will not work as a training device for sled dogs either. To go that distance, it’s like a bird dog sniffing down a pheasant, it has to be the one thing in their life that brings them the greatest amount of pleasure. They have to have the innate desire to pull the sled.”
Grappy, are you getting this? How about the rest of you coaches? This is a freakin’ watershed moment to this old man. From 2007-2011 a former drug addict (Mackey) turned dog trainer won the Iditarod with a team of dogs descended from a single dog named Zorro. Zorro was not a five star recruit. Zorro was a plodder who loved to run, according to Mackey. He loved to pull and never took a play off. Mackey fielded a team of plodders with an elite work ethic and a love to run. He flipped the sport on it’s head with a simple change in recruiting philosophy. “Yeah in the Iditarod there were (elite) dogs that weren’t enthused about doing it, and that were forced to do it. I want to be out there and have the privilege of going along for the ride because they want to go, because they love what they do, not because I want to go across the state of Alaska for my satisfaction, but because they love doing it. And that’s what’s happened over forty years of breeding. We’ve made and designed dogs suited for desire.” What’s your most precious, friend? What brings you the most pleasure when you practice it over and over and over again?
At BTL, we love growing old but not tired together. We love each other and love this work. We cannot imagine not running with you big dogs either. We love to pull and push for performance. We love the pursuit of better. We love our purpose – “Together we Awaken, Challenge, and Transform a few individuals, teams, and leaders from a lone toward all one – One L of a difference. One, distinct and deeply connected, becoming BTL. Together we transform. Always together.” This is why we’re here. This is why we practice. I guess you could say we have an innate desire to pull the sled! What about you?
Live hard. Love harder…