It has been nearly four months of pretty much inactivity.

Well, not really inactivity, per se, but definitely nothing resembling itself as “training”.  I have been swimming, riding my bike for fun and even hitting the weights from time to time, albeit not with any sense of urgency or dedicated frequency.

In fact, if I had to use a word to describe my current fitness regimen it would be “mixed”, as in ‘Sweet & Sour Mix’, ‘Soft & Chewy Mix, ‘Chicago Mix’, etc., and so forth.

And, of course, I also love beer and I’ve been indulging again because, yeah, first it’s the lighter, flavorful, fruity Summer saisons and then it’s Autumn IPA’s and Harvest Ales and now it’s the dark Winter stouts and porters and, yeah … you see what I mean?

Who has time for workouts?

Anyway, as has been the custom, I’ve usually drifted back into some sort of structured workout schedule by now and, of course, that schedule is preceded by the obligatory “Looking Ahead” blog post – this post – so here it is.

Truth is, I haven’t really felt the urge to train yet.

In fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

I’ve felt the need to be lazy.

And, so far, I have been ‘okay’ with that.

It’s not my being “unmotivated” so much (remember the Ironfunk?), as it is my confidently reading my body as needing a prolonged break from any hard, dedicated training program – such as it has been for the past three years.

Instead, I wanted to have fun, go slow, sleep in in the morning, explore new roads with Hailey, relax in the water and casually work on my stroke development, catch-up with all the friends I didn’t have the time for while training, end rides with a drink at the local Brewery … that sort of thing.

I might have even done some yard work at some point.

(Crazy, I know!)

And I have done all these things and it’s been absolutely glorious.

Believe me.

I’ve enjoyed the time off one hundred and ten percent; no guilt whatsoever.

However …

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Yup.

It’s time again to begin think about shifting gears back into some sort of well-thought out, established training program.  Having said that, seeing as how I’m not returning to long distance Ironman racing next summer, what does that new training program even look like?

Hmm.

That’s interesting.

I’ve become something of a “long distance guy” if you will – short course racing was for pussies.  And now here it is, it’s no longer “go longer”, it’s “go faster”.

That’s one serious paradigm shift.

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By now, I’d already be thinking in terms of distance and time spent doing stuff (such as distance), specifically running and particularly on the weekends.

Currently though, I haven’t so much as even run outside since my July 7th Ironman (click HERE).

I could, sure, I’ve just chosen not to.

So, before I get into anything resembling “training”, I first have to reinitiate the “train to train” program; preparing my body for the stressful rigors that will more come in the new  year.  That gives me two more months of strength building, core routines, and shorter more intense workouts as opposed to those long weekend grinds and slogs.

And, yes, that means more “Booty Camps”.

Oh, and fuck … I guess that means I have to give up the mixes in favor of healthier snack fare.

I’m not giving up my beer though … yet.

This post then I suppose, is my way of working out and formalizing my fitness goals going forward over the next few months leading to another off season (and, hopefully, injury free) training program.  The current plan for next summer is to return to short course racing (Sprints and Olympics) with the longest event potentially being the Rose City Long Course Triathlon in June.

So, yeah, the old fat guy has to now learn how to go fast.

No problem, right?

Priority #1 then has to be (as it always is I might add) to lose weight.

Ultimately, what I would like to do is to replace my newly acquired post-Ironman beer belly* with strong, explosive muscle.

This has never been an easy task for me.

The muscle building part, sure, I can do that … looking forward to it actually.

The dieting part, however … not so much.

Particularly given that I’m not giving up my craft beer.

Regardless, beginning Monday I am going to kickstart a regular strength program; namely, by revitalizing my currently lingering “Core Project” or my even worse off home yoga practice.  Rather, the goal is to simply accomplish five days’ worth of on the mat functional strength and core exercises, whether in the mornings before work or prior to other workouts in the evenings after work.  Likewise, I’d like to accomplish two days of strong muscle building – one session being a hot “Me on Me” session with the heavy iron, the other an instructor lead circuit training or boot camp style training class; or something that also starts to rebuild my mental toughness and aerobic conditioning as well.

Ideally, this portion of the plan would take approximately 3-4 hours of my overall week, perhaps more if the motivation moves me.

To track this overall “fat to fit” progress, I am going to start tracking my weight each morning and set for myself a target goal to lose 1 lb. of fat per week.

Currently, I am weighing in at a humbling and husky 224 lbs.

Ideally, I’d like to be down to around 185 lbs. by springtime (June).

40-ish lbs is ambitious, I realize.

But “go hard or go home”, amiright?

Priority #2, as much as it pains to say (type) it, is to begin running again.

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Yes.

Run.

Sadly, the time has come once again to lace up the sneakers and pound the pavement.

In the last few months, I’ve only managed a single short treadmill run and one easy(ish) track session; definitely nothing too strenuous.  Eventually, I will need to transition into more interval based fartleks and speed workouts (which, honestly, I might even consider doing on a treadmill this winter) and, yes, even start up a weekend “long distance” run program once again.

The good news in all this is twofold: 1) none if it needs to be too lengthy right now seeing as how I will likely be doing nothing more than 15k to, maybe, a half marathon to keep things interesting and, 2) seeing as how I am also concentrating on building strength, I can focus (in part or in full) on completing portions of my runs aimed at completing running drills and plyometrics which, truthfully, might even be fun seeing as how it’s going to be so new and different.

Perhaps it will be my new mechanism for escaping reality’s chronic Shit Show, who knows?

Whatever it happens to be, the focus then in these early stages will remain more on establishing form, strength, weight loss and general fitness as opposed to distance and endurance.

Part and parcel with this new run program will be my also breaking out the ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ book by Dr. Kelly Starrett and once again start developing good running habits and practices; namely proper warm-up and cool down practices as well as successful pre- and post workout fueling.

Lord knows when I’m going to actually run, but I’m figuring I’m going to have to make peace with running once or twice a week in the dark, whether it be early morning or in the evening.

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I guess the good news in all this is that I get to grow my winter beard once again.

Whoo-ha!

Ideally, I’d like to run three times a week; one for easy distance with some plyometric’s and drills thrown in for good measure, one faster paced interval workout whether it be outside, or on the treadmill or track, and one run with no solid plan whatsoever other than the expressed purpose of, say, getting outside and getting some fresh air while burning some calories.  If I feel like doing more in the moment on these easy unstructured runs, I  will, or maybe I might just say ‘fuck it’ altogether and make snow angels instead … who knows?

I’ll probably hate it regardless because, well, running … but I’m trying to remain positive in the meantime.

Of course, I will apply more structure come the New Year but for the time being, I just need to begin getting ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning back in the game somewhat by getting them used to turning over once again after a near four month furlough; maybe 2-3 hours a week.

As far as swimming goes, I have some new drills I have been working on recently and for the time being, I am going to remain focused on my form and stroke development as well as doing lots of paddle work to continue building that swim-specific muscle memory I have become obsessed with.

To this end, I am also going to begin initiating my favorite workout (click HERE) every once and awhile on the weekend, specifically in lieu of an exciting announcement I’ll be making in the near future.  It may not have to be every weekend, of course, but it is a perfect way to fit in some nice easy kilometers on the bike while I can still ride outside comfortably and, well, I did say before that I find it fun right?

As far as the bike goes, I’m still backing off the bike for a bit and keeping my cycle program to just getting out whenever I can, whether it be a simple quickie on my classic steel with Hailey or another riding buddy, or maybe on my mountain bike just for a change of pace.  I needn’t be doing a lot of cycle training yet that I won’t already also be doing as part of my strength building plan so I’m not giving myself any real “goal hours” to accomplish weekly in the saddle.  For the time being, I’ll just keep pedaling whenever I feel fit and inspired to do so, knowing only too well that those sweaty, sucky indoor hill and time trial efforts will begin with the New Year as well.

Worse comes to worse, when the shitty weather really takes affect outside I will consider doing short spins in the morning (instead of the erg as is currently my habit) at the gym where I can just plug into some tunes and turn my brain off for 45 minutes or so.  Again, nothing needs be too crazy with my cycling at the moment so I’m not going to stress about it; I’ll take that stress out on the participants of my Monday evening Masters spin class.

In total, in some form or fashion, I’d be very happy if I can successfully clock around 8-10 hours weekly on rebuilding my triathlon specific conditioning.

I recognize that this might not happen each and every week as there are still family things that will take priority from time to time and, hey, fine craft beer doesn’t drink itself does it?  Shit, perhaps some weeks I might even go over my weekly goal and that’d be great n’ all, but I’m not going to start counting the hours just yet, rather keep myself on being more active now on a regular daily basis and maybe, just maybe, I could even substitute the odd side of French fries for a house salad.

Baby steps, ya know?

*It’s true, I’ve gotten chubby again.  Everyone thinks so.  And by “everyone”, I mean all of my different personalities and my three cats.

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“Fabia’s Big Ride” 2018

Posted: October 6, 2018 in Bike
Tags: ,

(Note:  I feel it important to mention that she’s not really “Fabia” anymore (click HERE).  Fabia has grown up now and, while I still don’t refer to her by name, prefers to be referred to now (just as in other blogs) simply as “HRH“.)

In every riding season, I suspect there are but one, two, maybe three big rides that you might look forward to more than any other.  Maybe it’s a specific race or a particularly challenging ride, or perhaps a planned leisurely destination tour ride, whatever.  It’s something that you begin to anticipate the moment you start to take your training indoors again come November or when the weather begins to turn crappy; it becomes your motivation to get back in the saddle again and again.

This year, I had two such rides (not discounting The Big Move, of which, will always remain on my event calendar), and one of which was completed back on July 8th (click HERE).

Today was that other ride …

The 3rd Annual Daddy-Daughter Ride.

Truthfully, this year’s route was a bit difficult to plan.  The first year is was about the ultimate distance for her, who was then only 11 years old (click HERE), and the second year it was more about the fun and exploring an entirely new area spanning northern shores of Lake Erie (click HERE).  This year, however, seeing as how Hailey has two extra years of savvy road riding under her helmet, I decided to take a bit of a gamble and take a busier and challenging, but no less fun or scenic, route beginning in Chippawa along the much traveled Niagara Parkway to the historic towns of Queenston, Niagara-on-the-Lake and, ultimately, end up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house at Lock 3 in St. Catharines, just as we did in on our first ride two years ago.

Ambitious?

Maybe.

But I have grown to trust my step-daughter immensely while we’re out riding together, as she has matured into quite a tough, skilled and competent rider.

Especially when there is the promise of “treats” afterwards.

Anyway, we started this year’s journey in Kingsbridge Park in Chippawa just above Niagara Falls.

It was a chilly 14° outside and, for once, I was glad I brought arm warmers.  Needless to say there wasn’t a lot chit-chat and “pussy-footing” around in getting ready to ride and with only a quick prep, we gave Kelly a kiss goodbye and were clipping in pedaling away before you could say “moderate hypothermia”.

Okay, we did pause for this:

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Anyhow, the village of Chippawa is located just above the Falls themselves, so we didn’t have very long to go at all before we were going to begin encountered some of the cool stuff along our way.

The decent down the Parkway past Dufferin Islands and the Niagara Parks Floral Showcase is fun but the tourist pedestrian traffic can be stupid even at the best of times (yes, even in the middle of the road) but if you’re going to ride through Niagara Falls well, you have to ride by the actual Falls themselves, right?

Of course you do!

Plus, it’s fun.

Here’s our obligatory selfie at the brink of Falls:

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It was pretty cold on the brink of heavy mist that cascades over from the 3,160 tons of angry water that flows over Niagara Falls every second.

Believe me however when I say that there was no mist this day, my friends, it was a full on deluge from the sky.  A hard, cold rain was a-falling for the next 400-500m which, true, doesn’t sound like far, but when you’re already cold and shivering and then you get doused with an even colder rain …

Yeah, not necessarily fun.

Except, we’re cycling (at one point) a mere 100m meters away from the brink of new EIGHTH “Natural Wonder of the World”*, so you suck that shit up and you enjoy it.

And we did.

In fact, I even heard from behind me at one point:

“That was awesome!”

So there you have it.

And, remember, this was all in the first 2-3 kilometers of the ride.

For the next few kilometers though, we had to navigate through tourist traffic, underneath the bridges that span the Niagara Gorge between the US and Canada, as well as up and over the rolling “hills” and climbs that weave along the Niagara Parkway.  This is a particularly fun stretch of road for cyclists as you can play with momentum as the road steadily rolls upward before pitching down again on the other side and pitches and HRH  was enjoying every second of it hanging onto my back wheel.

I have to say that I am very proud at her ability to apply the gas to the pedals when she wants to.

(Not that we were in any hurry of course)

The other fun part of this stretch of road is that it follows the Niagara River past all the popular tourist attraction like the Spanish Aero-Car, the Whirlpool Rapids, Niagara Helicopter, the Niagara Glen Natural Reserve and, well, all these:

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Here’s a few more from the Spanish Aero-Car and the Floral Clock:

Our first scheduled rest stop was at the very top of Queenston Heights, the grounds for the first major battle in the War of 1812 (resulting in a British victory).  From this vantage point, you have an amazing view of the Niagara River at it bends away towards Lake Ontario at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Here’s the view (and the obligatory bike lean photo):

The other fun thing about this rest stop is that we could enjoy our lunch of Subway turkey wraps and grape Soda at the feet of Major General Sir Isaac Brock, who fell at the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13th, 1812 … a mere eight days short of being exactly 206 years ago to the day.

That’s some cool ass shit, right?

Total ‘Yay me!’  for even being able to drop some pertinent historical brain nuggets on the child in the process!

Am I “Step-Dad of the Year”, or what?

Cheers to that!

Anyway, with the last words of sir General Brock himself ringing in our ear, “Push on, don’t mind me”**, we did just that and set out towards our second intended destination for the day, the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, another 20k or so down the Niagara Parkway through primo wine country.

Of course, to get there, we still had to immediately descend the infamous Queenston Heights; a curvy, 1.16 kilometers span of pavement straight down into the village of Queenston proper and often regarded as one of Niagara’s “Top Ten Must-Ride Cycling Climbs” (click HERE).

Fortunately, we only had to go down it today.

I’ve taken Kelly down this hill before years ago and, well, she didn’t like it so much (i.e. the speed) and proceeded to grasp onto to her handlebars like a frightened koala bear clinging to a tree branch.  That was the last time we ever attempted that with Kelly so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that she knew I was taking HRH down this same hill today and (there were many, many “please be careful’s” issued at the beginning of the ride earlier).

Apparently though, HRH does not share the same anxiety about descending as her mother does and as soon as we had slingshot-ed our way around the traffic circle at the top and pointed ourselves directly downhill, it was on.  She followed my line all the way down and around the curves and managed her brakes well in order to control her decent and around the halfway point I just make out a “THIS IS AWESOME!!” from just behind me above the rushing air.

For the record, we had approached speeds of 64km/h by the bottom of and she managed to hang onto my back wheel easily like a pro and then again at the bottom, cruising at 44km/h along the Parkway behind the “People Movers”, until we veered  off at Line 8 to take lesser traveled roads into Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We more or less used Concession Rd. 1 all the way to the East-West Line.  This entire area is practically vineyards, fruit farms and wineries so, essentially, it all smells amazing right about now as overripe apples, pears and peaches fall and rot on the ground and the overburdened grapevines await the inevitable harvest over the next few days.  This is just about the best time to cycle in Niagara in my opinion, and it was definitely a nice relaxing pedal through God’s country towards our second rest stop.

It’s also worthy to note here that it was around along this stretch of road that we both developed a strong craving for ripe Concord grapes, and that we began to hatch a clever and devious plan to sneak a small roadside sample from some poor unsuspecting farmer’s field.

What can I say?

We’re awful people.

Oh, and we and also found the location our next possible future family home:

Shortly afterwards, we met Kelly in town and had our photo snapped at this iconic location:

43067683_591984334554262_8475137731154935808_nRecognize it?

No?

What about this:

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Yup.

This is the very same picturesque gazebo at Royal Queen’s Park featured in The Dead Zone, a 1983 David Cronenberg film that starred Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.  Now, it stands as a magnet for thousands of visitors each year.  With a crystal clear view of the Niagara River, it’s a hot spot for romantic couples and tourists with cameras.  Not that the visitors are aware that their beloved gazebo was the scene of a brutal (and fictional) rape and murder 35 years ago.

Yessir!

I have this “Step-Dad of the Year” thing locked up for sure!

We all stopped together briefly at the Balzac’s (*giggle*) coffee shop z block away on King Str. with Kelly for some hot apple cider and a few assorted baked treats.

We do ride for the treats after all.

From this point on, I didn’t have any real expectations to go further with HRH  but she said she felt good and was confident that she could continue on to our potential final destination at Grandma and Grandpa’s at Lock 3 in St. Catharines, another 30-ought kilometers or so away, so we saddled up when the cider was gone and we were off again.

Personally, I think it the ‘as-of-yet’ unfulfilled promise of fresh grapes off the vine.

We made a quick tour of the town to see the Shaw’s Festival Theatre, the Pillar & Post and Queens Landing hotels, the infamous “Witch House” and all the beautiful lakeside cottages along Niagara Blvd, and Shakespeare Ave.

After that it was a bit more single-file down the Parkway until we could hang a sharp left on the gorgeous Four Mile Creek Rd. so that we could head inland back out into wine country and finally put our devious plot into action.

“Operation: Purple Fingers” was getting the green light … and we were officially a GO!

It was actually along Church Rd. where we decided to make our illicit rest stop.

After making sure there were no rogue “Big Brother”-esque cameras, we stealthily laid our bikes by the side of the road and tippy-toed ninja-style into the field towards the most fruit-laden vine we could find.

Against my attorney’s advice, of course, I am posting here publicly the evidence of our nefarious felony:

Shocking, I know.

It’s hard to bare witness to.

Forgive her.

I, of course, had nothing to do with it.

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From here it was only a hop, skip and a jump away to the Welland Canal path, across the bridge at Lock 2 and onward along the paved pathway towards the Welland Canals Center and our final destination.

For anyone who might not be already familiar with the Niagara area, it is also one of the few places in the world where you will ever see something like this:

The Welland Canal one of the amazing man-made wonders of the world, which was originally constructed in 1829 to link Lake Erie with Lake Ontario and offer ships a safe detour around Niagara Falls.

The Welland canal is simply amazing.

The first impression of a modern lake-faring freighter is of it’s overwhelming size. It doesn’t seem possible that something of such immense proportions could even be built, much less be able to dock, load, and sail the lakes … and then you ride up alongside one as it passes underneath the Garden city Skyway.

Breath-taking.

And yet, having lived in the area our entire lives, we take things like this for granted.

Already in less than three hours of bicycle riding we had passed two wonders of the world and visited three historic villages.  We rode past numerous battlefields, historical monuments, and old forts.  We navigated our way along some of the most scenic roadways on the planet, past some of the lushest orchards and vineyards on the planet where we just simply helped ourselves.  We posed in the exact spot where Christopher Walken …

Never mind.

Eventually, we safely ended up at the Lock 3 complex once again, from all the way up there:

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… just as the Federal Caribou was pulling out of Lock 3.

Honestly, how often will you ever be able to get a victory shot like this:

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Remember now, that this particular vessel is nearly 225m long by 26m wide.

That’s over two football fields long!

That’s some cool shit, knowhatImsayin?

Anyway, we took this picture as well to commemorate our having been here again two years later after our inaugural “Daddy-Daughter” bike adventure:

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Of course, we took a much more challenging and lengthier this route this year – a whopping 60k in total – but that’s a prime testament to the cyclist that HRH  is turning into and has become; one that I can trust riding with and alongside through this remarkable area and share together in the sights, sounds and, yes, even flavors (illicit and ill-gotten as they may be), of our beautiful Niagara Region.

*Yes, it’s true (click HERE).

**It was also reported his final words were, “Push on, brave York Volunteers” … but that doesn’t work contextually in my story.  Sorry.

The Big Move 2018

Posted: September 15, 2018 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a while since I’ve made a post – two months actually – but, honestly, not a whole lot has happened since my July 7th Ironman (click HERE).  Really, it’s been two months of drinking craft beer, going back for seconds (and thirds), sleeping in, and riding my bike with Hailey, my 13-year-old step-daughter.

In other words, things have been just …

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It was with much excitement and anticipation then that I hopped out of bed at the ass-crack of dawn, ready to roll as the official “Sweep Rider” for The Big Move, for the 10th consecutive season.

Yay me!

Here’s a little recap of last year’s ride:

(That’s Hailey’s bib @ 0:32 with my parents’ names on it – how sweet, right?)

Truth is, Hailey and I achieved minor celebrity status a while ago when my (our) story was published in both The Standard newspaper, as well as the official Big Move website (click HERE).

Actually, it was the first time my picture has been taken in, say, a decade or so where I don’t look like a total and complete doofus.

Seriously, look!

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Aren’t we gorgeous?

Well … she  is anyway.

Me?

I’m not quite as photogenic.

So, yeah, anyway, after such an amazing write up, how do you say “No thanks, not this year”?

(Not that I would EVER consider such foolishness, mind you)

The Big Move is as much part of my typical summer competition calendar as, well, all my competitions and I take it just as seriously.  In other words – rain or shine – my buns will be sitting in the saddle at the very back end of the large group of riders all waiting to begin at the Starting line outside of Club Roma every second Sunday of September and, of that, you can be most assured.

And the best part?

I’m not suffering from a fractured hand (last year), or with a severed nerve (the year before that) through torrential downpours (same year), and it’s not even ridiculously hot like it has been lately so, really, there was no reason for it to not be anything short of a spectacular day of riding, so, hey, time to …

Similar to last year, Hailey was riding on her own in the 50k event which started 90 minutes later (9:30am), so I arrived all on my lonesome at 7:15am, parked, fussed around with my bike a bit, made about a zillion trips to the bathroom to whiz, and walked around to visit and talk with some of the amazing riders and volunteers that I have the privilege too get to know over the past decade or so of doing this event.

As always, there is lots going on prior to the 8:00am start and I enjoy simply standing around with my warm caffeinated beverage and witnessing it all go down before the official start when I actually have to get down to business.

Here’s my (our) motivation for this year’s ride:

And, just because I have them, here are some other photos from the starting line just prior to 8:00am (and, in Hailey’s case, 9:30am):

For the second time, I was partnered with Kathleen to ride as the official “Tail End Charlie’s” of the 100k ride.

You can see how cute she is:

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Seriously, how can you not be excited to ride with someone like this?

Karen (see last years post) also joined us for a good spell as well before having to circle back to sweep the 25k route later on.

Now, I’ve mentioned in the posts from previous years about how inspiring and motivational it is to stand at the back of 400 or so dedicated riders (actual number was 468), all preparing to kick them some cancer ass and the few moments before the official horn sound to start the ride is very powerful indeed.  Spirits are high, there are smiles abound, and just enough nervous anxiety among the riders (many of them novice) to be palpable and I absolutely feed on all this as it wasn’t so very long ago that I, myself, would look at something like a 100k ride and break out into a cold sweat.

For most, it’s not an easy task but one they have all taken up either to honor a lost loved one or family member, or maybe to show the world that they themselves – a survivor – can’t be taken down by the Big C.

Whatever their motivation is, it’s a genuine privilege to play a small part in making sure that that happens.

In fact, in the 10 years I have been sweeping this event, I have never – not once – ever had a single rider in my care not make it back to the finish safely.  Take that as more of a perfect example of how inspired these riders are – novice or not – as opposed to my own cycling.

It’s also a statistic I am extremely proud of.

“WE ALL GET BACK.  EVERYONE.  NO EXCEPTIONS.”

That’s our job and I do not take it lightly.

To that point, after a brief delay at the beginning waiting on some stragglers to show up, our first official issues occurs exactly 2 minutes into the ride, a mere 600m from the start, when one of the riders’ (Mary Jane) front break seized up, forcing us to return to the mechanic’s tent at the start to get it taken care of, after which, the chase was on back to the rest of the group already making their way up Pelham Rd. to the dreaded Rockway climb.

Maybe not the ideal way to start a 100k ride but, hey, what’ya gonna do?

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“Shit happens”, as they say.

As we approached the bottom of Rockway, I offered Mary Jane a quick tutorial on gearing and, low and behold, she made her way up to the top as they all do.

Remember, Rockway is one tough sumbitch for the uninitiated and can kind of feel like this:

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No kidding!

This is always the first hurdle we sweepers face in getting up and over the summit to the first rest station at Rockway Glen where the volunteer support is absolutely tremendous; pom-pom’s, cheering, clapping, costumes, et al.

Did I mention how amazing the volunteers are?

There was no stopping for Mary Jane, however, as she was eager to catch up to her friends who were still up the road so onward we pushed.

As anyone who has ever ridden with me will tell you, I like to talk.

A lot.

I can’t remember exactly what we talked about but before we had completed the first loop around 21st, 17th and 7th Ave’s and onto Center St., we had reunited her with her two friends, for whom I can’t remember their names (sorry, ladies).

It was pleasant enough conversation and the Rest Stop volunteers were all amazing as they are every year.  Our little gaggle of riders was always greeted warmly, had our bikes taken and held while we loaded up on Power bars, two-bite brownie’s, muffins, bananas (my own preferred type of “working” fuel) and other treats.

Surely, this is what it must have felt like for Alexander when he first entered Babylon:

One can get used to being greeted in such exquisite fashion.

Just sayin’ …

Having said that, it’s also nice to be remembered by the volunteers at these stations (the Rockway Glen parking lot at the top of the Rockway climb, the Pelham Fire Station on Cream Str., the Pelham Old Town Hall on Canboro Rd., and the First Incounters along River Rd.), many of whom have been working at these Rest Stops for equally long amounts of time.  And, believe me, they are all about as passionate about what they are doing in supporting the riders on their quest as we are about pedaling and I enjoy these brief re-acquaintances as much as I do the actual cookies, believe me.

I love you guys.

Not long after the second Rest Station, part of our little gaggle decided to bid us adieu and instead take a right instead of a left Tice Rd., and thereby follow the 50k route back to Club Roma again.

Now we were but a small group of three; Kathleen, Mary Jane and I.

Onward we pedaled in a loose formation into the wind, up and over the short and steep climb along Tice Rd., down the long decent along Canboro Rd. and into our second amazing Rest Stop experience at the Old Town Hall.

These quick stops might not be long but they are eagerly anticipated by us riders, believe me.  What you receive in encouragement here (not to mention the necessary fuel) is enough to keep the spirits high and the legs a-pumping in order to make it to the next Rest Stop and, eventually, the finish.

As a prime example, this is how you are greeted when you arrive at First Incounters:

IMG_2608Awesome, right?

How can you not be inspired?

Eventually at some point along the scenic River Rd., our little group of three caught up with another group of five, all employees of the St. Catharines Hospital.  Having “found her stroke” as they say, Mary Jane continued to ride ahead and, like that, our group of three had turned into a group of seven.

That’s how quickly the dynamic can change at the back.

Making things particularly challenging this year was the ever-present headwind and by this point in the ride 50-60k), new riders will begin to experience the first signs of true muscular fatigue; especially when cycling directly into a constant headwind.

It’s as these points, I will start to genuinely “go to work” at the front and afford the other riders a change to benefit of drafting behind and thereby minimize the amount of resistance they feel on their legs in order to continue moving forward.  It sometimes takes a bit of coaching in order to get new riders to “draft” safely and confidently behind me but, when they do, they instantly feel the difference and, hopefully, begin to feel like they “could ride forever”.

At least that’s what my step-daughter says whenever she drafts behind me.

I guess I block “a lot of wind”.

Hopefully, that isn’t a hint that I also need to lose a few pounds, but I digress …

“Leading” is a skill I hone regularly twice a week at the front of my own group rides up and down the often windy Niagara Parkway through the summer because, believe me, when you’re “sweeping”, you can expect to do a lot of work at the front “pulling”, and today was proving to be just that.

Eventually, when your group of cyclists starts to ride effectively in what’s call a “pace line”, all functioning together as self-sustaining moveable unit, it’s an extremely beautiful thing.  For my part, I will ride in this position at the front and into the wind all day in order to provide that little extra shelter from the unrelenting wind for the other riders because, trust me, it’s these moments like these in the saddle, that are among my favorite all year.

Inspiring?

And then some!

However, shortly after turning west on River Rd. we had our first serious official snafu of the day, a rider went down.  Somehow, one of the rider’s wheels had slipped off the pavement and into the loose gravel on the shoulder of the road and went down in a heap.

giphy1

Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

Anyway, “Shit happens”, sure … but I still hate riding up on situations like this.

Fortunately, the good thing about riding along with hospital employees is that there is a good chance that one of them is a nurse, as was Ben.  Kathleen herself is also a nurse herself so, yeah, if you’re going to go down on a bike and injure yourself this was absolutely the best case scenario.

But the time Kathleen and I arrived on seen (only moments afterwards, I’m sure) Ben was already mid-triage and the downed rider – Julie, his friend – seemed to be okay with no major injuries beyond a bruised pride I’m sure.

Hey, I’ve been there myself.

Seeing that things were well under control, I figured I could be serve by riding up to the First Incounters Rest Stop a short ways up the road and alert the sweep van to come back to assist.  Sure, we have a cell phone for such emergencies but, hey, here’s also a chance to ride up the road a bit and really open up ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning.

A few minutes into the ride to the Rest Stop, I noticed an ambulance coming up the road so I slowed my pace a bit and sat up to get their attention.

As it moved closed I waved at them nicely and …

… it continued to ride right past, with both attendants completely engaged in conversation with each other.

giphy3

I hoped that they would at least notice the downed rider up the road (thankfully, they did) but I continued cycling onto the Rest Stop in order to arrange for a van to be sent to pick up the potentially damaged bike.

Once we were all back at the Rest Stop together, a quick inspection of the bike revealed that while a bit banged up, it was still functioning properly and Julie herself, a little shaken up as she was, was determined to continue.

As I’ve mentioned on numerous other occasions, lots of amazing things happen at the back.

Oh, and I would remiss here to fail to mention that it here where I was also on the receiving end of the best surprise Bear hug from Steven Rivers (and his wife Janet), friend and long-time Big Move volunteer.

So it was with well rejuvenated spirits and, of course, more than a few mouthfuls of these:

cookies2

… that we all rolled out together again to begin (approximately) the second back half of the ride back to Club Roma for our awaiting hot lunch, beer, and a desperately needed sweater.

Did I mention that it was getting chillier?

It was, so keeping everybody moving and thereby working and “warm” became the new priority as we were definitely moving a bit slowly (largely because of the wind) thanks to “Tropical Depression Gordon” that was also moving in from the southeast.

Having said that, there was no fear of anyone needing to cut the route short as we have in other years as everyone was positively committed to the task at hand and, so, over the course of the next two hours or so, everyone more or less just did their own thing at their own pace.

Keep …

Moving …

Forward.

While Kathleen tagged herself onto the tail end, I toke a few opportunities to ride up the road to each rider in order to briefly check in, offer a Power bar or a little encouragement, or maybe some tips on how to stay comfortable in the saddle.

All was all good and cheerful.

Essentially, everyone was just kind of lost in their own blissful cycling Nirvana.

Albeit, with a lot of wind …

This is what we sweepers call “The Perfect Ride”.

As we continued to weave our way through Pelham and Fonthill, we passed by the road marshals proudly announcing ourselves as the “End of the 100k ride” and jokingly asked them to save us some pasta.

There was always a kind response offered in return.

Eventually, we ran into the second big snafu of the day at the Pelham Fire Station when one of the rider’s seats fell off.

Yes, his bike seat actually fell off.

Now, in my 10+ years of sweep riding, this is a totally new one for me.

Wheels, chains, tires, derailleurs, sure … but seats?

Seriously?

But, somehow, we managed to acquire some twine and this happened:

Yes, folks … we attempted to “tie” the seat back onto the seat post.

Only on The Big Move!

This is usually a very easy repair I’m sure but, for whatever reason, this damn seat simply did not want to stay put.

Where’s a good roll of duct tape when you need one?

We had to stop a few more times to readjust the seat, and it was decided that the other riders would keep going while we sorted out the issue.  By this stage, along with our own support van, we had also picked up two police cruisers who were trailing along behind us and reopening the roads.

We needed to keep moving but if they say they want to finish we’ll get them there!, right Steven?

It’s pretty much “The Sweeper’s Credo” if you ask me.

Finally, I’m not sure from where or how, but a roll of duct tape miraculously showed up at the corner of Roland Rd. and Maple St., or basically, the middle of nowhere.

Hallelujah!

The “Cycle Gods” were definitely smiling down on us.

2i0izt

Now, I don’t claim to be any real mechanical guru or skilled handy man, but dammit I am Canadian, and if there’s two things any good, self-respecting Canadian knows how to inherently fix provided with a decent roll of duct tape it’s, 1) a leaky canoe, and 2) a broken bike seat.

A quick wrap and a mere seconds later, we were back in business and the three of us set off again at a good pace in order to catch up with the rest of the riders now well ahead of us.

IMG_2604It was back to the front and into the wind for me.

Together we rolled down Sawmill Rd. which brought back lots of memories of riding with my old triathlon buddies years ago when I first started riding.

I am still riding that exact same bike 10 years later.

Later, as a reward for all those kilometers cycling into the wind, there’s the long decent back down Rockway Glen and – get this – after over 6 hours of cycling, the cheerleaders and volunteers at Rockway Rest Station were still there in force and as enthusiastic as when we first rolled by six hours previous.

Over the last few kilometers along Pelham Rd. we managed to gather together again into a small group of four riders and that’s how we eventually rolled across the finish line to a warm reception of family and friends.

Mission accomplished.

As they do every year, Kelly and Hailey were there at the finish to see me cross in last position for the 10th time.

That’s TEN YEARS of being last.

How awesome is it then that it is also something of which I am very, very proud.

Hailey was still pretty jazzed and feeling very pleased with herself in having managed to get around the 50k course rather easily for the second year, and even having made a new friend in the process.

(Note:  That morning, I sent her a text stating:  “Be tough, be strong when other riders need you to be, and have fun”.  I know, I’m pretty much 2018’s guaranteed ‘Step-Dad of the Year’)

As it always is, Club Roma is a bustle with all the volunteers coming in from the course and sitting down to their well-deserved meals and a cold beer.  Here we can all finally sit back together and reminisce, laugh, catch up on other summer activities and, in some cases, actually see what we all really look like under our helmets.

Over the course of the day, I rode for a total distance of 135k, burning nearly 2400 calories (not to mention eating another 4800 calories) in the process, averaging a speed of 22.2kph over almost 6 and a half of tough, windy cycling.

And, just as quickly as it all started ten years ago, my reign as the official “Tail End Charlie” came to another successful close with everyone back safe and accounted for and, most importantly, with big smiles.

As always, happy riding and see you all again next year!

Hudson Valley Full Triathlon

Posted: July 22, 2018 in Races
Tags: ,

Three years ago (2015) I started off on a half-baked quest to do something EPiC (click HERE), but it turned to be an EPiC disappointment instead (click HERE).  The next year that EPiC disappointment escalated into an EPiC disaster (click HERE).

This year, thank god… that original half-baked quest was finally realized.

Leading into 2018’s Hudson Valley full length triathlon (Ironman distance) through 2017 and 2018 I’ve had to confront some very different obstacles and challenges in seeing this goal through to the end.  Besides all the new hardware in my left hand, I’ve started a new and very physical job through the week, had the wind taken out of my sails (click HERE) and, truthfully, I just haven’t had the same amount of time to train as I have in the past.  That’s not to say I’ve slacked any, as anyone who knows me will also know that I work hard (as well as over-commit myself to other things hard as Kelly will be quick to point out), and I do not take training lightly – ever.

In fact, I think the quality of my training is actually very decent given I have largely strayed away from the “herd mentality” and therefore taken over my own training plan and race strategy.  However, even one and two years down the road, well, let’s just say that completing the same amount of distances and lead-up training time simply wasn’t possible this year.

I absolutely did the best I could with the time I had.

It is what it is.

While it may not have been my crowning achievement in triathlon, I am still very proud of my accomplishment and, ultimately, I learned a great deal about myself through this entire process.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t also attempt to regale you then with the official final closing chapter to this whole quest to be a two-time Ironman ordeal (yes, I genuinely think of the last three years’ worth getting to the starting line this year as an “ordeal” in every painful Viking sense of the word), so grab yourself a beverage of some sort and a handful of Gummies and let me try to recount for you how it all went down this past weekend.

(Friday, July 6th – 3:45am)

I had already begun feeling the nerves for about a week previous to this morning, but waking up bright and early on Friday morning and seeing this in my inbox:

Calendar image

Well, let’s just say that the nervous anxiety turned more into desperate feeling of “oh shit!”

The plan was to get an early start in the morning and make some progress towards our destination.  We couldn’t check into our hotel 3:00pm (something about a cot) and the athlete orientation was at 2:00pm and then bike check begins at blah blah blah … we all arrived safely and early, had a quaint drive through the “rolling hills” around Rosendale, snacked at a downtown park and, dropped Lucille off at transition and by 6:41pm we were asleep, lights out, in the hotel room; our plan perfectly executed.

No fatalities.

Swim: 1:10:38

Pace: 1:46/100m

Rank: 2/16

I have to say, the girls were fantastic.

As planned, we were all up and ready to go within minutes and I was chowing down one of her special Keto-breakfast sandwiches and a banana.  Shortly afterwards, we were packed up in the car by 4:27am – three minutes ahead of schedule.

Again, no fatalities.

I gotta say, so far so good.

On route, we stopped at the local hick market by the roadside and picked up a coffee and, presto!, just as Kelly had anticipated we had we arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the race site promptly at 5:00am for first crack at a parking spot.  Because, hey, who doesn’t like an extra hour to sit around and stress pre-race, amiright?

20180707_051154

Once my coffee was done, I figured I should get moving and as the girls napped in the car, I started to get myself in pre-race mode and began to set up Lucille in transition and just basically whiled away some of the pre-race downtime listening to tunes on my iPod and trying not to shit my pants.

I do also want to note here for the record that usually when I roll into transition I tend to feel a bit like a triathlon hobo.  I lust over and sometimes get intimidated by other triathletes with fancy and more expensive equipment.  I realize this is a ridiculous thing to feel but, hey, that’s just how it goes anyway.

Anyway, this time around Lucille had been decked out with her new fancy carbon fibre Easton race wheels that I had purchased last summer and have been waiting to use.  These babies have a new Vittoria Corsa 25mm rear tire rear and a 22mm Continental Sprinter in front with only ONE ride in them and Ultegra cassette components.

TranslationTHEY LOOK BADASS.

Now, suddenly, walking into transition was more like this:

At least it was in my mind anyway.

I should also perhaps mention here for the record, that on this particular morning I was listening specifically to Into the Frey’, the haunting theme music to the 2012 Liam Neeson film ‘The Grey’.

Don’t ask me why the theme music to a movie about a guy who gets hunted down in the Arctic by a vicious pack of hungry, starving wolves gets me all revved up in competition mode, but there you have it folks …

I am a unique and beautiful snowflake.

I remember when I used to listen to things like ZZ Top, Motley Crue and Aerosmith to get me all amped up with and now my pre-race motivational playlists contain things like ‘Con te partirò’ by Andrea Bocelli and Two Thousand Places at Onceby the Polyphoic Spree and, yes, the theme to The Grey’.

I must be getting old or something.

Anyway, it was announced at the previous afternoon’s orientation that this was to be considered as a non-wetsuit legal race according to USAT regulations as the water was a balmy 83°.

It would be like swimming in bath water.

This excited me.

I was already playing with the notion of ditching the wetsuit altogether so that official announcement made my decision making process that much easier.

I mean, I love my wetsuit n’ all but, hey, if we’re going to be Ironman then let’s be real ass-kicking Ironmen …

Amifuckingright?

It’s July after all.

Anyway, the buoys hadn’t been set up in the water yesterday but the map made the route look pretty simple enough – four counter clockwise loops around four buoys through “the pristine spring-fed Williams Lake” and another 400500m jog to transition.

Simple, right?

The problem was, what we could envision was supposed to be there in our brains we just couldn’t see as the first of the buoys – a bright neon yellow buoy no less – was completely obstructed by the blinding glare from the early morning neon yellow sunrise coming over Joppenbergh Mountain.

No shit.

You couldn’t see shit without also burning out your retinas.

But I digress…

The swim was an open water start with the men for both the half and full distances starting together (the women three minutes afterwards) and it wasn’t long after wading into the water that I had lined myself up smack dab in front and center of the group, stared into the blinding sunrise where, apparently, one of two mysterious buoys awaited us, and waited for the official countdown to begin…

…and then I peed.

Yup.

I pissed myself right then and there amongst the small pod of other athletes lightly treading in the pristine spring-fed waters of Williams Lake.

It was glorious.

Who said triathlon wasn’t sexy?

Seconds after that, the horn sounded to start the official beginning of the race and I was furiously paddling in the general direction of where I had hoped I would eventually find a bright yellow swim buoy.  Thing is, everybody else seemed to have their own idea on where in dawn’s early light that buoy was so, a medium group of about six swimmers at the front took off in different directions which led to a lot of early confusion.

In short, it was a clusterfuck.

“Swim to where…??

…to what?”

WHERE?!!

Other swimmers (I heard) just froze right there altogether at the starting line.

Fuck it…

I made a general bearing the direction of a few other swimmers and starting heading towards what I thought what as good a spot as any to find a buoy, namely, directly into the sun.  It’s wasn’t long afterwards before I (and a few others I expect) I realized I was cutting too deeply into the loop and would have to veer out again 200-300m to arrive at what I very thankfully made out to be the first bright yellow buoy in the distance.

My apologies to any other athletes that may have been too trusting me let me site for them.

Oops.

I arrived at the first buoy with about three other swimmers and we snaked around it counter-clockwise, looked into the horizon where we knew the second buoy was supposed to be, and….

…mist.

Lots of early morning mist rising off the warm waters of the lake.  Great that we were now swimming away from the sun n’ all but, shit…

Here we go again.

And so once again I swam into the unknown and again I ended up too far outside the loop and had to veer myself back in again another 300-400m once I was able to pick out the buoy.  I tried not to get too frustrated as one thing was going very well, my arms and shoulders felt great, my stroke felt comfortable and everything seemed to be turning over rather well and I started to drop the other few swimmers around me.

I was pleased.

There were no issues siting the next two buoys and I used this opportunity to just keep my pace on point and “stay within myself” as I’ve practiced many times before on long swims.  Of course, there’s the other popular “no bubbles” mantra that I have perfected over countless hours of drilling over the past three years.

Train to race, and then race how you train.

Oh yeah, I peed again too so my hydration was definitely on point as well.

Yay.

As per usual, I found myself more or less swimming by myself, just behind the main scrum of faster swimmers and, well, everyone else.  As I rounded the fourth buoy, it was back trying to site into the sun again an I’d like to say that I made a better effort at arriving at it this time having been here once before, but I can’t…

I was off by another 200-300m but, this time, from the other direction.

Shitsticks!

And then I did it again at the second buoy which was still hidden by the morning mist.

I could only hope that everyone else was having as much difficulty.

Seriously, here’s the grizzly evidence I (hold your judgement):

swim route image

Ugly, right?

Seriously, a blind pelican could site better than that.

Mental Note to Self:  More practice siting in open water.

Anyway, by the time I started my third loop the sun had shifted enough behind the mountain (or tree, or whatever) enough that, low and behold, I could make out the buoy.  By now everything was feeling well into “go mode” and, of course, I had a near empty bladder now to boot, so I decided to increase my pace a bit.

Also by this time, I was now catching up to and passing other swimmers completing their own loops, albeit, behind me.  It wasn’t much of a problem to navigate around them, of course, just another day swimming at the Port Colborne YMCA with The Harpy if you ask me, but it was no longer simply a strait run to the buoys either.  Now that neither the sun nor mist played a factor any longer, I just kept turning things over smoothly and before you know it I had completed my four loops and was heading to shore.

Here’s am exciting video of me exiting the water:

Reeeeeal chill, man.

Now it must also be noted here for the record, that transition was still another 400-500m dash over a shredded wood chip and paved tarmac so that helps explain a little about my hefty swim time result and slower than expected pace.

(That’s my excuse anyway)

Bike: 06:04:08

Avg. Pace: 28.1 kph

Rank: 2/16

By the time I made it to transition, it was a complete hive of activity with other triathletes all milling about and setting up.  It was nice to have a few cheers of course but, seriously people, get the heck out of the way!

Having said that, it must also go on record here that my transition skills are more than a little slacking so any distraction that might have been caused by other traffic would be mute.  Even though I was doing nothing more than drying off my feet and getting into my cycling gear, I’m pretty sure I could have even made myself a little campfire breakfast as well given how slowly everything seemed at the time (Official T1 time: 2:46:95).  You see, unique to this race (as least to me anyway) was the inclusion of a little personal stool upon to sit while you do whatever you like while you’re there.

So, yeah, I’m taking advantage of that shit for sure.

Problem is though, you also get comfortable.

Regardless, once my tootsies were dry, socked and I was otherwise ready to go, I wished my family and friends goodbye and made my way to the bike mount line to begin 180 kilometers of ridiculousness.  I was the only one at the bike mount line at the time and it then became very clear it was going to be a very long and lonely bike ride; more or less, exactly what I had trained for having done 95% of my long weekend rides solo.

Let me try and put you in that particular head space as I saw it at that moment.

The majority of the athletes I started with are long gone having only needed to complete two laps of the swim, and the only completion in my own full triathlon category was ten minutes up the road already.

In other triathlons I have participated in, there is almost certainly a guarantee that there will be other athletes around with whom to share the race course and push each other against.  That’s racing and that’s what I wanted to experience today but at the moment, there was really nothing left to do but put my head down and give chase to whoever it was that next down the road and that’s exactly what I was preparing myself to do.

Push.

After all, I hadn’t purchased new race wheels for nothing.

20180707_081400

About 200m out into the bike course is where the first of a few “Race Day Debacles” (minus the invisible buoys that is) occurred:

My bike computer wasn’t working.

tenor

I stopped to make a quick adjustment but that didn’t seem to work either so I just made the decision, ‘fuck it, we’re doing this thing blind‘.

I mean, I wasn’t totally blind as my Garmin was still tracking my distance and important race data but I just wouldn’t be able to constantly see my speed which is something I like to reference regularly while riding (my Garmin isn’t set up to view my speed on the main screen).  This wasn’t really any big deal, of course, as it was just one less thing to worry about while riding but, c’mon, one likes to know these things when they’re zipping along open spans of roads, especially given my new race wheels.

(Note:  I did manage to get myself up to 65.9kph at one point)

Essentially, the bike course was two loops up to and around “the majestic Ashokan Reservoir”.

What this really means is that there were a sweet shit ton of hills to contend with up to, around, and of course, back down again to transition and then, yup, out you go again for lap #2.  Now I could have sworn that when I first discovered this race two years ago (click HERE) that I also read somewhere that the bike course offered “gentle rolling hills”.

Ha!

“Gently rolling hills” my ass.

Or at least, the perspective of one who does not necessarily live in the vicinity of mountains is a little bit more askew than those who do.  Let’s just say that those who live in mountains have a very different take on hills than those ordinary mooks such as myself who consider the Ridgemont Rd. overpass as a genuine “hill”.

These weren’t “gentle rolling hills”, these were fucking climbs.

“Gently rolling hills” or not.

And there were a lot of ‘em, especially in the first 25-30 kilometers out to the State Hwy 28A.

2,157m worth in total over the entire 180 kilometer bike course.

For me, that’s one shitload of climbing.

It’s moments like this that I absolutely curse myself for not really wanting to know too much about the course pre-race (or weather predictions for that matter), preferring instead to be surprised on race day.

Let me give you a visual.

Here is the elevation map for one of my usual weekly training rides:

bikecourse1

Pancake flat.

How’s this by comparison:

bikecourse2

Insane, right?

All things considered, Thunder n’ Lightning have been strong in the pedals the past two years and I managed to get up and over each hill in turn and it wasn’t long before I was starting to catch the half triathlon participants one by one.

At some point I passed the Marbletown Park and there was an overwhelming smell of bacon wafting up from campers Coleman stoves and grills.

It was torture.

It was also around this period that I realized Race Day Debacle #2, my fancy race wheels had been more or less completely neutralized with all the climbing. Of course there were descents but they were sharp and winding and I was spending more time keeping myself under control and rubber side down than opening it up and risking life and limb.  One particular decent literally had me so scared at one point that my testicles retreated back into my abdomen to hide.  It certainly gives you a new perspective what professional cyclists are accomplishing when they race down the sides of mountains at insane speed up to and over 90kph, that’s for sure.

Having said all that, there were certainly some very scenic landscapes and picturesque vistas along the way.

The Hudson Valley was proving to be gorgeous what little I could focus on briefly taking in.

It wasn’t until I got to Highway 28 in Boiceville that I was really able to open up the legs and take advantage of my new race wheels.  It wasn’t a closed highway but there was a large bike lane on the side of the road and it was here I truly started to put in some decent legwork passing another dozen or so athletes in the process.  The wheels felt awesome and I loved the powerful “whopping” noise they made as I effortlessly sailed along the pavement as if I was gliding across glass and I was loving every last second of it and trying to savour it as I also knew that there were plenty more hills to come still.

(Mental Note to Self:  Next even with race wheels must be flat!)

I tried to be encouraging ever I passed the half iron stragglers but, secretly, I was revelling in the whole pursuit and chase; mark the next rider, reel them in, pass, mark the next rider, reel them in, pass, and so it goes…

It definitely passed the long periods where I was cycling alone.

Somewhere after West Hurley, we turned south again and along Dike Rd. which then skirts along the bank of the Ashokan Reservoir itself and, believe me, it was worth popping up out of the aero position temporarily to take a good appreciative look, then it was another handful of gummy bears, and then back into aero and tapping out a good rhythm with the pedals.

So far, hills and computer bullshit aside everything was feeling good.  There was no aching in my left foot which is apt to happen from time to time, the stitch I was experiencing earlier in my side had subsided and I was now working myself steadily through the mid-field of half triathlon athletes, I was being careful to eat and hydrate, and everything was otherwise going well.

But coming back along Hwy 213 to complete my first lap I ran into Race Day Debacle #3 as I began running into the other Sprint and Olympic athletes who were clearly into their own thing which, obviously, involved occupying as much of the road as possible.  Likewise, seeing as how the narrower roads weren’t closed to motorists, there was the odd impatient jackass driving a huge ass pickup to contend with as well and after 80-85 kilometers of solo riding, this was proving to be a bit stressful seeing as how I was cruising in most cases much faster than the other triathletes I now found myself among.

In essence, I had to begin working my way through a now busy race course to complete my first loop.

Now, I definitely try to be a polite and encouraging participant but, seriously, I could only give my head a shake in some cases.  For example, apparently, “Passing on your left” is an open invite to have the rider directly ahead of you veer to the left in front of you and thereby prevent you from getting by.

Who knew?

I only wish I was talking about an isolated situation too.

Anyway, shortly afterwards, I arrived back to the beginning (the entrance to transition) but I didn’t see any obvious sign of a turn around so I called out to the spectators who, for the most part, looked as confused as I was, for some assistance.  Thankfully, my wife was there and having taken control of the area quickly pointed out that, yes, this was indeed where I was turning around to head back out for the second lap…

…or, 25-30 more kilometers of “gently rolling hills”.

Again…

Yay.

She also let me know that I was still in 2nd position not having lost any (much) time to the lone rider ahead of me.  I also opted to not go with my Special Needs bag as I was still feeling pretty on point about my calorie intake (which, for the most part primarily consists of Nutella, gummy bears and dried mango slices – click HERE) and that I still had lots left over to last me another loop, not to mention I still had my coveted half time treat-slash-secret weapon: a frozen Mars bar taped to my crossbar.

I have to say though, I wasn’t quite so immediately eager for another 25-30 kilometers of gently rolling hill bullshit but suck it up I did.  It became evident at this point very quickly that this lap was going to be even lonelier than the first now that all the half triathlon cyclists were no longer be on the road not having been crazy enough to agree to do this course a second fucking time.

giphy

But, hey, good for me!

The second loop went pretty much the same of the first with me munching, gulping and pedaling my way around Ashokan Reservoir for the second time.  By this time though, it was much more humid, the wind had picked up somewhat and the smell wafting out of the Marbletown Park was primarily of hamburgers and hotdogs instead and it was equally torturous.

I also had to pee …

… but I kept rolling while shoveling dried mango slices into my pie hole like an engineer shoveling coal into the boiler of a locomotive steam engine.

I think in the end my second loop was about 2 minutes slower than my first loop but considering all the stupid ass climbing I’d been doing I was happy nonetheless, especially seeing as how this ride also represented a 53 minute improvement over my Ironman Wales ride.  In fact, I’d say that this ride was on par with the extreme difficulty level of the Ironman Wales bike course and the only difference here being, that I’m a much stronger rider now than I was back then.

I distinctly remember being desperate to get off the bike in 2012 but today, I could have kept riding today and there been a need to be and, in truth, there may have been as my Garmin only registered a mere 172 kilometers (not that I was complaining at the time mind you).

All minor Race Day Debacles aside, it turned out to be a decent ride managing an average pace of 28.1kph for an official bike time of 6:04:08 (3rd fastest overall), which given all the climbing, (1,925m worth) wasn’t too bad considering my meagre “hill” preparation going in.  I had also burned a total of 9,197 calories throughout and, so far, my energy stores still felt pretty high.

So far …

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But, of course, that all went to hell in hand basket the moment I dismounted the bike to enter transition for the second time.

But, of course, that all went to hell in hand basket the moment I dismounted the bike to enter transition for the second time.

If you recall, I really had to pee at the beginning the second loop – just over three hours ago.

The challenging thing with the transition set up is that it only had athlete Porto-potties at the Bike entrance and not at the Run entrance over on the opposite side of the transition where the full distance triathletes such as myself, were set up.  So that meant either racking my bike then running back to drain the weasel or, lean my bike somewhere and do it before going to my transition set-up.

I chose for the later and, boy, what a mistake that was!

Enter Race Day Debacle #4:  do not attempt to piss seconds after coming off a hilly 180 kilometer bike ride.

(WARNING:  The following stanza or two may be too disturbing for sensitive readers, viewer discretion is strongly advised)

The first immediate challenge was just in finding my dick.  I mean, after six hours of being ground into a hard leather saddle all over God knows what mountain, let’s just say that’s not a simple task – especially if you have on such things as tri-suits and race belts.  The second I found what I though was Mr. Happy (who, clearly was not very happy), he just let loose with great vengeance and furry upon the inside of the doomed Port-potty.

It was pretty much this:

 

I know …

I’m ashamed of myself but it simply could not be avoided.

My sincerest apologies to whoever it was that unwittingly stumbled into that hot mess afterwards.

Feeling like a festering petri-dish of contagion, I exited the Porto-potty, reclaimed my bike and made my way – slowly but purposely – back to my transition area …

Run: 05:25:38

Avg. Pace: 7:37min/km

Rank: who cares

… and directly into Race Day Debacle #5

For the past few weeks, I have been snacking on pickles and taking a shot of pickle juice throughout the working day.  It helps to stave off and sooth over muscle cramps, it’s an excellent hydrator, it’s a fat free recovery aid, it’s chalked full of antioxidants and electrolytes and, yeah, you can definitely look forward to a future post about the benefits of pickles for sure!  But, anyway, I figured rather last minute that it might also be a wise thing to have a little shot of pickle juice once I got off the bike to begin the marathon.  I secured two healthy-sized pickles and a shot of juice inside a chilled mason jar and then wrapped it in tin foil and left it my transition with my running gear feeling all clever with myself.

Upon racking Lucille, I sat down on my stool, removed my cycle shoes and opened my much-anticipated and looked forward to jar of sweet, sweet briny goodness and, immediately geysered it back out again like the comedic foil who’s mistakenly ingested turpentine.

I think I might have even scaled my tongue a bit.

The thing that I hadn’t counted on is that that metal wrapped glass jar when left out in the hot sun for 6-7 hours begins to turn itself into a small pressure cooker.  Essentially, my pickles had been cooking in their own juice since I had ventured out on the bike course.

I guess the good thing is that I now know why Pickle Soup is not a thing. And, just in case there are any aspiring young hipster entrepreneurs out there thinking to themselves, “Hmm, pickle soup?!”, just fucking forget about it.

Not happening!

Nasty.

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You’ve been told.

In fact, everything I had left in my transition area was either now a hot, tepid liquid or a gooey sticky mess; nothing at all appealing.  Unsatisfied, I put on my running shoes and reluctantly strapped on the fuel belt that I had prepped and had also left sitting in the sun (“Mmmm!  More hot , mushy gummy bears!”) and I started to make my way towards the start of the Run course.

Both Kelly and Hailey were at the beginning of the course and cheered for me as I went past but, sadly, I think by that time I had already begun to put myself into “Crisis Mode” and mentally prepping myself for what I knew was going to be a very difficult marathon so I didn’t acknowledge them as warmly as I would have liked to.

Or maybe I did, but I doubt it.

The marathon was actually four loops along the historic Wallkill Valley Rail Trail which was both extremely cool, and extremely new for me seeing as how the only thing I know about trail running is that they have a penchant for gnarly-looking beards and 70’s era truckers hats, neither of which I currently had.

Fortunately, it was the soft and forgiving kind of trail.

One of the unique features of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is the Rosendale trestle, a 940-foot (290m) bridge across the Rondout Creek.

Now I am no lover of heights but, WOW!

The trestle spans its way not only across the Rondout Creek (and believe me, it’s a BIG fucking creek too!) but the main drag of local Rosendale as well where we had our picnic lunch only yesterday before the orientation.

Seriously …

What a breathtaking view and thankfully, a welcome breeze.

It truly was one of those cool, unique race opportunities that I will be inevitably be bragging about in the coming years which is pretty fortunately because, well, I was also going to have cross it again another seven times over the next few hours.

I couldn’t help but wonder how much I’d be enjoying the view then*.

Shortly around this time, I was passed and introduced to the leader of the full triathlon, a really nice guy named Logan.  I only learned his name afterwards, of course, and at the time he was simply known to me as the “really nice guy who’s currently beating me”.

And he was nice too.

He offered me lots of encouragement as he passed and then again later on when he lapped me once more into his second loop.

I wanted to hate him but he was just too nice (and crushing it too).

And the same could go for everyone else for that matter.

I wanted a small race to get a true sense of “competition” by knowing where you are within the field and not just the next sweaty guy in spandex and seeing as how %95 of all the other days’ participants were already done and split, this meant I would get to know my 16 competitors very, very well.  I hadn’t seen them at all out on the 180k bike course but, now, they would be front and center over four out and back laps along the Wallkill Rail Trail.

The real “race” I was looking for was on.

The trail was indeed very forgiving.  Not only was the packed trail soft underfoot but the tree coverage was pretty much constant which more or less protected us from the last scorching rays of the afternoon sun.  Labeled as one of America’s ten most iconic rail trails, it mostly consists of fields and forest of Joppenbergh Mountain, but it also takes you past old lime kilns of historic interest (not that I gave two shit’s at the time) and regularly welcomes hikers, joggers, bicycle and horseback riders, dog walkers, and, in the winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  At one point about 6-7 kilometers into the trail there was a naturally occurring “chilly cavern” offering a soothing cool breeze emanating up from the creek below and other trail users were taking full advantage to have a break from the humidity.

I hated them all.

I guess I could also mention here that I was getting cranky …

… very cranky.

There was lots of variety available and on offer at the two aid stations so my fuel belt of mushy gummy bears was just a hindrance bouncing along on my ass and my sunglasses just kept fogging up with the heat radiating off my face every time I felt the need to use them which, along a primarily shaded run course, wasn’t very often.

I opted then to ditch them both at the first turnaround with Kelly and Hailey.

I was just 10 kilometers in and already knew that the next three laps were going to really suck.  The thing about my training this year is that I have not done quite the same volume as I have the previous two years.  I have had some disappointing long weekend runs and the odd double run that got missed and, I admit it, pushing myself through another 75-90 minutes of hard intervals after a hard eight hour work day already wasn’t always easy so I would settle for 45-60 minutes instead.  What I was largely hoping for was that in by keeping my legs strong and regularly challenged, as well as providing them with adequate periods of recovery, a certain degree of “muscle memory” would inevitably kick in on race day to carry me through to the end.

Well, I know now that this theory is largely bullshit.

It might be great if you’re like the next Lionel Sanders or something but middle-aged fat guys in beer suits need to put in the regular legwork and, unfortunately, I simply did not.  Yes, I did do my fartleks and tempo runs and whatnot, but I didn’t do them in the necessarily lengths of time required to train for a full distance triathlon.

At least I can’t anyway.

Lesson learned.

I consoled myself with something that had just begun to dawn on me over the previous two weeks.  I hadn’t approached my training with the same ferocity this year as I have in the past but, hey, three years of Ironman training simply proved to be too much in the end.  Last year, after having a good base build the previous year when the event was cancelled last minute (click HERE), I was hyped and ready to go.

I was confident and hungry; eager and motivated.

I was this:

And of course I somehow managed to fuck that up.

Anyway, I reminded myself the mantra:  “I was simply doing the best I could with the time I had”.

It’s been a very eventful year remember.  I completed a very intensive rehab program on my left hand (click HERE) and had to relearn my swim stroke all over again, I started a new physical job in January, and Hailey isn’t getting any less simple to manage the older she gets.  Now there are regular trips to and from friends’ houses and horseback riding lessons, camp and other miscellaneous school bullshit to worry about.

And this is all how it should be, I get that.

But it does make keeping a long and intense Iron-focused training schedule difficult – especially three years in.

And this was exactly the point where I found myself around 45 day ago.

“The mind was willing but the flesh was weak”, so to speak.

By the middle of the second loop I was walking as much as I was running and I had given up a few places by then to the purer (younger) runners that were filtering out onto the course by now.  And let me tell you, some of these athletes threw down some amazing paces – especially the three top finishing ladies.

Incredible efforts!

I almost didn’t mind getting passed.

Crowd support along the trail was minimal with the exception of a few hard core family spectators that had now become accustomed to seeing and cheering for all the other athletes as well.  At different points along the route I was known as “Canada”, “Beer Guy” (See, advertising works! Click HERE), “Ass Man” (don’t ask), and “Let’s go buddy!”

All of it was much appreciated.

Even though I had been watching both my time and podium goals ebb away, I was still happy though that both my legs didn’t feel too tortured.  Sure they weren’t happy with me, but there wasn’t the agony that I remember seeping in the last time I tried this crazy bullshit six years ago.  When I asked them to run they would, albeit for only a short time before needing to come back into a brisk walk again to recover.

And so it went.

On in to finish my second loop I was pleased to see Hailey who had ventured down the trail to both see if I coming (needless to say that each of my consecutive loops were becoming longer) and, more probably, to escape her mother’s company temporarily.  Or maybe Kelly had sent her up the trail herself, who knows.

But it was nice to see her.

I informed her of the trestle up ahead and sent her off to explore while I limped back to Kelly and around the turnaround point to begin my third loop.  Once I caught up with her, she was happy to run/walk with me for a while and it was fun to have some idle conversation after nearly hours of very minimal conversation beyond “keep it up!”, “you got this!”, etc..

By that point in my eternal grumpiness, I had just resorted to giving everyone a very unenthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ as we passed one another.

36924219_10102589785636347_26789974472916992_nHailey and chatted about God knows what for a second until she too had more or less given up on the whole running thing and opted to continue on at her own snail’s pace leaving me to forge ahead, albeit at my own snail’s pace.

The last 10 kilometers were just as weird.  My legs felt great at points and almost hinted that they were willing to get back to work again in a second (or thirteenth, seventy-seventh, or three-billionth) wind kind of way, but as soon as I tried to do so, they protested and complained after just a few moments.  I was having the classic endurance athlete’s internal conversation with his body which I know recognize is a classic sign of breaking down (and I told Kelly as much the last time I saw her at the turnaround).  I opted then to continue on with my shuffle/walk/shuffle pace determined to make it to the end healthily than try to suffer it out for the sake of time.

Remember, my overall goal when I began this whole two-time Ironman journey was not simply to complete another Ironman distance triathlon, but to complete it and walk away from it with marginal injury as well.

Meaning, I didn’t want to kill myself in pursuit of this goal like I did last time at this distance.

(Truthfully, this is a reoccurring pattern with me)

And to that regard, I felt in that moment that what I was currently doing pace-wise was the best idea moving forward – at least I was moving forward.

I guess I am learning.

In the final loop I just mentally ticked off each trail landmark I had created for myself over the past 30-some odd kilometers.

“Goodbye, chilly cavern!”

“So long, railway trestle!”

‘Goodbye, knotted tree!”

“See ya, strange old lady sleeping in a lawn chair!”

“Adios, little dog in a ridiculous looking sweater!”

(Remember, I was cranky)

I have to tell you though, the final 750m were absolutely heaven knowing that I didn’t have to make that stupid turnaround again to complete another agonizing loop of the course.  I zipped up my suit to appear somewhat respectable (well, as respectable as someone whose been basting in Lycra race suit soaked in sweat, piss, snot, and God knows what else, can be anyway) , faked my best non-pained running gait and made for the finish line.  My supporters were there with promises of cold beer, Hailey was there looking to run in with me and Kelly was at the line with her incredible sign:

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This was a close second:

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The second I crossed the line three years of pent up frustration, stress and fatigue bubbled over and erupted from somewhere deep within.  I don’t often have these kinds of outbursts often but when I do, they’re epic.

And this one sure felt epic.

I’m sure it made for a decent finisher’s photo as well, too bad the photo website water-marked it so bad I can’t tell and I’m not risking the $53.00 to find out.

Good one, Captivating Sports Photos!

It sure felt good though.

In summation, it might not have been the race I was hoping for, placing 8th overall, but I am proud that I stuck this quest through to the end.  I did the best I could with what I had and I didn’t end up breaking myself in the process and I am immensely proud of that.

Oh, and I did win my age category so, yeah …

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AND, I was back at work two days later.

Go.

Me.

Anyway, now that’s it’s finally over, and having learned from my past experiences Post-Ironman, I have already returned to a somewhat moderate fitness routine.  In fact, my first workout the day after was to mow the lawn (no shit – click HERE).  Since then, I have started riding my bike with Hailey and have started open water swimming again.

Also, I am now already pursuing Round Three of my “Core Project”.

More than anything, I’m enjoying doing things because I want to do them and not because I have to do them and there’s a big difference between the two.  One way I still get to be a husband and dad again, the other, well, not so much.

Sure I am already thinking about next year’s goal as I would love to get back to more regular racing but, for the time being, I am just going to be content with being a more present family guy once again who, occasionally, still likes to go for long rides …

*In fact, after the 4th pass over the trestle it completely failed to be novel anymore.  I simply did not give a shit about the view anymore.  By the last lap I would have happily accepted a bullet between the eyes than see that stupid Rondout Creek view once more.

On-the-Job Training

Posted: April 2, 2018 in Lifestyle, Training
Tags:

Well, I’m now “officially” entering into my third season of full-on Ironman training.

Sure, there have been some obvious obstacles along the way that have prevented me from, well, racing…but I am confident that I have much of this training thing down pat by now.

How do I know?

Well, I guess I don’t seeing as how I’ve never really tested it in battle, per se, but, regardless, if my overall fitness one week out from last years’ event was anything to go by I was absolutely 100% ready… you know, before all this bullshit happened (click HERE).  I was strong, I was confident and I was raring to go.  I was swimming, cycling and running at a level I hadn’t managed since Ironman Wales and, in many ways – better.  I perfected my nutrition strategy (click HERE) and even had a few amazing local sponsors (click HERE) to help and encourage me along the way.  And most importantly, I had the best support system possible (click HERE).

All my ducks were in a perfect row so to speak.

Now, that’s not say that there weren’t some bumps along the way – in fact, there were many – but that’s just part of the process.  Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face (quite literally I’m afraid) in order to learn those oh, so valuable lessons.

And believe me; I learned a lot of lessons over the past two years.

They say everything happens for a reason (or so I keep telling myself) so maybe these past two years were just to be my overall “Iron-schooling” if you will, so that when I actually do – *knock on wood* – get to pull the trigger, it will be exactly the experience I am looking forward to and expect from myself because I will have done all the right hard work that I’ve learned as a result from all those mistakes, and I will perfected a successful training plan that works for ME.

Of course, as you might expect, this year has already presented me with another major obstacle to factor in – new employment.

For the past six years I have been fortunate enough to work in my jammies from my basement office, affording me the opportunity to train more or less at my own convenience.  I swam or cycled in the late morning or evening, ran in the afternoons between conference calls and kept up a dedicated strength conditioning program throughout.

Essentially, I could work my job around my training and everyone was happy.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the same case this year.

Now I have a regular eight hour work day, Monday through Friday, which requires me to be gone from home.  Also, it’s a physical job…very physical.  Especially considering that the most physical thing I did before was dial the phone, or get up and walk over to the printer across the room to pick up my daily report.

No, now I actually have to work and train. 

This has now forced me to once again re-evaluate my training program in order to successfully accomplish both without over doing it and thereby putting too much stress on my mind and body because, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger.

Just another problem to be tackled and lesson to be learned I suppose.

Anyway, instead of spending my days conducting virtual classrooms and pumping out those stupid endless (not to mention meaningless) reports in my pajama pants, I am now officially working in the Pest Control business.

I know, talk about your 180° turn right?

After all, who thinks of bugs and rats and goes, “OH BOY!”

No one!

That’s who.

Then again, the same thing could be said about the environment I was working in before so, yeah, I figured “why the fuck not?” when this opportunity produced itself and the truth of the matter is – I love it.

As it turns out, I really enjoy the “unknown factor” in my day each and every time I turn up at a new location/job and that excites me.  There is nothing “routine” about Pest Management.  Behind every door is the unknown; be it the issue, the environment, or the people and this genuinely appeals to my overall sense of curiosity and adventure (click HERE for a small taste of what I’m talking about).

The challenge now that I’ve been tasked with figuring out these past three months is how to turn this new situation to my advantage.  You see, the downside now is that I’m not able to go for my mid-dayn runs anymore on my lunchtime, nor can I structure morning conference call a bit late so I can hit up the pool.

In other words, “time management” has become my #1 priority; particularly if I ever want to see my family again.

So here is what I’ve learned while being (and training) on the job for the past few months.

1. Early mornings are a definite. Get used to it.

Yup, there’s just no getting around it.  Monday through Friday means a ridiculously early wake-up.  My alarm will typically go off anytime between 4:15 and 5:00am on a normal work day.  Afterwards, I will either a) go for swim before starting work, or b) complete a 20-25 minute core/yoga routine with Toby the Cat (affectionately called my “Core Project“).

Shit, sometimes I even attend a ladies “Booty Camp” on Friday’s.

Either way, I’m up and at ‘em.

The benefit to this (besides the obvious) is that once I’m up, I will have completed something that day and even if everything else that day gets totally FUBAR-ed, I still will have managed to complete at least one thing constructive and aimed at my overall goal of rebuilding my Iron-fitness.

On the weekends, however, I sleep in to 8:00am…and it’s glorious.

2. My work day IS a strength workout.

Between October and November while I was unemployed, I was completing at least 2-3 weights specific strength building workouts at the gym and these have definitely served me well.  However, now there’s just not enough time in the day to complete these on top of the necessary swim, bike and run workouts; something had to give.

Fortunately, my day is one long strength-building workout (double if you factor in my morning core workouts) in that I’m flipping mattresses and box springs, pulling out stoves and fridges and otherwise moving heavy obstacles and furniture out of the way in order to get at my enemy.  While doing this, I am conscientious to maintain the same good form and engage the right muscle groups that I would have had I been working with the free weights at the gym.

Also, I have to be able to get down and under things regularly.  In fact, on one particular work day I successfully accomplished exactly 367 lunges (yes, I counted) – that’s getting down on one knee (or squatting) and then getting back up again.

Umm, hello?

When was the last time you managed 367 lunges/squats in a single day?

I do this almost daily, and already I am noticing some significantly improved bike/run strength in these first early weeks of dedicated Ironman training; bearing in mind that I ceased with the free weights three months ago.

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Winning!

3. No fast food.  Ever.

I am noticing that a lot of my peers in the industry eat complete shit throughout the day, or just not at all.  Myself?  The last thing I do before I go to bed at the ripe hour of 8:00-8:30pm each night is make up a healthy lunch and a bunch of small containers of healthy snacks that I can graze on in the truck throughout the day.  This is particularly important seeing as how the chances are high that I will have another challenging workout to complete after work once I get home.

As I figure it, this is also helping to determine proper fueling strategies that I can then utilize in the days leading up to all my events, and even during.

In the past three months, I have managed to get away with buying a medium coffee in the mornings after a swim, and one single breakfast sandwich (which I instantly regretted) only because I forgot my post-workout snack at home.

4. Afternoon/evening workouts are actually better!

Well, better in the sense that I don’t necessarily have to warm up a lot before I begin my main sets.  When I was running/cycling in the afternoons while working from home, because I was more or less 100% sedentary throughout the working hours, my body needed at least 15-20 minutes of steady warming up before I felt like I could tackle any difficult intervals and the like.

Now, essentially, my entire day is one big warm up so that when I head back out the door when I get home, I’m more or less ready to go – instantly.

The other immediate benefit is that I can also cut down on the overall length of the workout itself seeing as how I don’t have to spend that initial time warming up.  I can just get straight to the main core of the workout fairly quickly (which, really, is the important part), get ‘er done and then get home again.  And that also means less overall wear and tear and stress being placed on the body.

Sure my weekly mileage may be a bit short compared to where I was at this time in previous years, but I’m not performing any worse either; the quality is still all there.

5. Additional mental toughness conditioning.

I’ve already mentioned numerous times how important I think developing “mental toughness” is in triathlon, especially at the Ironman level.  Well, try working a very physical eight hour work day and then going out for a run or bike.  Sure I just mentioned that those post-work day workouts have been trending well recently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I was looking forward to them.

No, that takes a bit of added discipline.

More so if the weather is shitty.

When I worked from home, I literally couldn’t wait to get outside and counted down the hours and minutes before I could.  Now, depending on how hard I’ve worked that day I will have to mentally prepare myself and sometimes practically force myself out.

And when I do, I feel almost invincible.

So, yeah, so far so good on both the work and training fronts!

And while these lessons are valuable and I feel like I’m getting a handle on this Ironman training business once again, I know that in two weeks when things take another turn towards the LONG, there will inevitably be more things to figure out and strategize around.

Thing is, where I didn’t exactly know how this whole new direction was going to play out when I first accepted this job, so far, it’s been manageable and I’m once again beginning to believe that this whole Ironman madness is once again possible…

Providing I can actually stay on my bike that is.

It’s now officially February, so where I have been doing a lot of strength training with the heavy iron, the time has come to switch into a more focused swim/run/bike routine.  Meaning, of course, especially given that I have also started a new job two weeks ago, I have to now figure out how to keep this acquired physical strength while strategically transitioning into this next phase of longer Ironman-specific training.

Losing a few pounds also wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

So this regard, I tried something new this past Friday:  a “Boot Camp”.

This all came about last week when I approached Tamara, the wife of my long time go-to bike guy, about getting some assistance to take my strength training to the next level.  That’s when she mentioned that she leads an early “boot camp” on Friday morning that would be perfect for me.

I will admit here I was a bit trepidatious as I have always thought of “Boot Camps” as those trendy fitness classes more aimed at single moms to help shape their derriere’s; hence the other popular name for these classes being “Booty Camps”.

But knowing Tamara as I do, I figured I’d give it a shot thinking that a workout more aimed at plyometric jumping and leaping would be the perfect accompaniment to my newly acquired He-man muscles – ideal even.

But then, the night before, Tamara posts this picture (and caption) to her Facebook page:

Tamara

“Come check out my fancy toe undies and get a great workout in flexibility, stretching and strength.”

That’s when the panic hit me:

OMG.

“Toe Undies”?

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

After all, nobody needs to see my toenails, believe me.

She then mentioned having extra “tu-tu’s” for the class and I was almost:

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Still, having made the commitment I decided to show up anyway.

After all, how hard can a “Booty Camp” be?

Then again, you might also remember this shit show from three years ago (click HERE).

Only one way to tell, I guess.

So far, I have only attended two classes but they are exactly the kinds of workouts I still need to be doing providing I can drag my lazy ass out of bed at 4:30am to make the 40 minute drive into St. Catharines.

This is the nicest way possible to say that I did enjoy it.

I’m not sure I’ll look any different in my cycling tights come Springtime but having someone push you through those difficult sets of plyometric-based exercises sure is the kind of strength-building program that I like to endorse not because they don’t require a lot of tools that can’t be recreated at home with simple every day households items, but because it targets all those useful functional muscles you tend to use and abuse in long distance triathlon training.

And, hey, if at the end of the day this “booty” looks a little better in my daily work khakis’, well, I’m okay with that too.

Turning this Frankenstein into “Franken Fine” wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.

Just sayin’…

Be all that it may, for the next 50 minutes I handed my fat ass literally handed to me by a toe-undied She-Devil adorned in a tutu through sets of sled pushes, crunches, push-ups, lunges, and, oh sweet Jesus, every movement and exercise known to mankind to absolutely suck, particularly these vile things called “Man Maker’s”, which have made perfectly clear to me that I am apparently not  a man.

The shame of which, I doubt I will ever get over.

Throw one of those fucking ‘Burpees’ into the mix and you have the perfect mix of Punky Brewster-like cuteness and enthusiasm with a gruesome Rob Zombie-esque nightmare of a workout…creepy clowns n’ all.  It was the kind of hellish workout from which my testicles instantly retreated back into my abdomen to hide in fear once Tamara started to walk us through the class plan which included seven separate “stations”, each consisting of two each torturous exercises each.

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But then again, they say that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, so Friday mornings 6:00am(providing my work schedule will allow it), my sorry self is starting off the weekend of long haul swim, bike and run workouts with one kick ass of a Booty Camp.

Judge me as you see fit.

But when this winter finally goes away, even if I haven’t managed some of the incalculable hours battled away in front of Zwift on the home trainer as some of my peers will no doubt have, or perhaps pursuing a “February Running Distance Challenge” bullshit thing on Strava, I’ll be counting on these types of simpler (but no less grueling) workouts to allow me the maximum brute strength necessary and when it needs to be called upon while on the bike, in the pool or out pounding pavement on the road later on.

This is going to be my total Rocky IV approach to training this year.

(Albeit  in a gym and not a barn)

While the wily opponent is relying on all the new fancy muscle juices and state-of-the-art training equipment, I’ll be out chopping logs, hauling around sacks of rocks, and dragging my ass through mountains of snow.

And I will leave you with this:

If this class leaves me with even half  of the physical functional strength as I think it will, then I will happily adorn myself with a pair of these “Toe Undie” whatchamacallit’s  and a full French Maid’s tu-tu because, well, laugh while you can because come the inevitable Race Day, that’s likely the last you will see of me when I take off leaving you dumbfounded, gasping for air and swimming upstream through a river of my piss (triathletes will understand that reference).

Or so it plays out in my visions anyway…

So continue on with your empty laps, your virtual races through the night-time streets of Paris, and whatever the newest piece of fancy “GUARANTEED TO PRODUCE RESULTS OR YOUR MONEY BACK!” equipment you found on Ebay during a “Box Day Blowout”, I’ll be taking the old-fashioned route; an honest effort, a desire to success and a well-fitted and stylish tu-tu.

I’m still not sold on the Toe Undies though.

Introducing: Romeo

Posted: January 13, 2018 in Bike, Equipment
Tags: , ,

It has become of a bit of joke with my wife these days regarding the amount of bikes I now own and, yes, I do ride them all.

Honestly.

What can I say?

Guilty.

And in case any one doubts that one only needs a single bike to ride, I will argue that there is a very simple mathematical formal that addresses this very question:

N+1

And you simply can’t argue with math.

It’s the universal language after all.

Anyway, back in October I lead a group ride out of Brimstone Brewing; the weather was extremely cold and wet and only two other riders (beside me that is) actually showed up.

However, before we actually got started a neighbour next door to the brewery came running over and asked:

“Hey, do you guys like bikes?”

Umm…

duh

He then proceeded to mention that he was moving and had a bunch of old bikes he wanted to get rid of because he was moving.

At the time I didn’t give it much thought as we eager to get going since our nutsacks were beginning to freeze to our bike seats, but I agreed to drop by when we got back to take a little looksee.

The ride went pretty much how you might guess p – we froze.

However, upon our return I kept my promise and walked over to see these “old bikes”; more to get out of the cold and thaw off than anything else.

Much to my surprise, this is what he showed me:

modena

I was a little dryer in this picture…

An Italian Fiori Modena, circa late 1980’s.

As far as classic steel bikes go, the Modena model wasn’t exactly a top of the line model and, clearly, it needed a little love, but the guy was motivated to get rid of it.

“How about twenty bucks?”

I didn’t even bat an eyelash.

SOLD!

When I came home and told the wife, I got that classic non-believer’s line:

“Don’t you have enough bikes already?”, to which I responded:

henrylaugh

Remember…

It’s math.

You can’t argue the numbers.

I took it to Brandon at Inception Cyclery, my trusted bike guy, for some simple restoration.

Now, already having a) a regular road bike (Daisy), b) a time trial racing bike (Lucille), c) my dad’s classic steel that I ride with HRH, and c) a mountain bike (Snowflake) for winter training, so he suggested that we do a little something different with it.

“How about a ‘grocery getter’? 

After all, it’s not often that I take any of my other bikes to do local errands as that’d be like taking a Rolls Royce to the Avondale for Lotto tickets.

Not a bad idea actually.

“Yeah, sure.  Let’s do it.”

Who couldn’t use another custom bike, amiright?

What this meant then is that what came back to me after four months of planning, tuning, and remodelling was something completely unexpected, awesome and beautiful:

Now I have something fun I can take to the weekend market for fresh produce, to the grocery store for all those forgotten items Kelly will periodically ask me to go fetch for dinner, or maybe even to the brewery to refill my growler.

Welcome to the fleet Romeo.