Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Injuries and Owies, Swim
Tags: , ,

I get that injuries and ouchies are a part of triathlon.  I get it.  Really I do.  I have an entire category dedicated to them in this blog alone (click HERE).  But worse than the stupid self-inflicted injuries that come of my either doing too much, or doing it too soon, or just my being a dumbass, whatever, are those injuries that I unfortunately incur at the hands of someone else; another dumbass, if you will.

Those injuries, well, they tend to really bug me.

I have recently fallen to one of these types of ouchies which is now threatening to set back my regular swim training.

It began about two weeks ago when after one of my pool workouts, my right ear became plugged with water.  This in and of itself, is nothing to freak out about and I have long become accustomed to it happening periodically.  I figure that when one tends to spend stupid amounts of time submerged in contained bodies of water it’s bound to happen eventually – and it does.  What typically happens then is that a day or two will go by before that little pocket of water in my ear shifts and drains out my ear canal in a teny tsunami of warm fluid which, truthfully, feels awesome.  I figure most swimmers will liken this to a total “eargasm”.  Once this happens, usually after we’ve been lying down on that blocked side for a spell, all is right with the world again.

Sometimes, however, that blockage is a bit more stubborn and simply refuses to give up its stored up bounty of fluid – this is what is referred to as “Swimmers Ear”, or acute otitis externa.  This is highly annoying and exactly the case I found myself in exactly one week after that original blockage.  The symptoms can stem from echoing, itching or clogged feeling in the ear – and lots of discomfort (often a signal of an inflammation of the skin within the ear canal that occurs when water gets trapped there).

I my case it was “all of the above”.

Of course, I could have been doing lots of stuff during that week to be proactive (click HERE) but, as I’ve stated before, I’m a dumbass, and often when the opportunity to be smart and act accordingly comes along, I tend to fold like a Renaissance triptych.  I figured it would just unblock itself eventually.

It didn’t, and so a week later, on a Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up at 6:00am, poured myself a coffee, grabbed my book and headed to the local Urgent Care to have tie issue, hopefully, sorted out.

After about two hours, I was met with by the attending physician in an examination room who proceeded to attempt to flush out the blockage with a syringe full of warm water; not an altogether pleasant experience, believe me.  What he was trying to do was wash out a build-up of excessive wax that had gathered in my ear naturally, as protection against moisture and infection.

In this case, though, my bodies wax manufacturing system was working on overdrive and had instead build it up to the point that it was not allowing what water that did manage to breach its defenses, back out again.  I guess when it comes to wax manufacturing, by body runs with the efficiency of a Japanese auto factory.

What came out of my right ear as a result of the doctor’s “syringing” looked like something you might place on top of a birthday cake and light except, well, much nastier.  Almost immediately afterwards, I was rewarded with that warm gush of fluid out my ear and – low and behold – I could hear normally again.


But then it all went horribly wrong and downward spiraled into a total Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctor’s at the Iowa State Fair-like shit show.

You see, we decided that, hey, we may as well do the other ear while we’re at it.  After all, if one side is totally gummed up with wax then the other side can’t be too far off, right?  So we opted to give my left ear the same working over with another syringeful of water.

Unfortunately, this did not go as smooth as the other ear.  Within seconds of blasting the water into my ear I experienced an intense pain that was on my Top 5 of all-time painful moments.  Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my life I have shot an arrow through my hand, subjected myself to being tattooed (click HERE) and endured being kicked square in the Charlie Brown’s by a scorned Eva Roditis on the schoolyard playground back in Grade 3, and this pain was definitely worse than any of those.

Much worse!

If the pain wasn’t enough, hearing (well, barely hearing the doctor that is) the doctor mumble “uh oh” definitely didn’t help matters any.  I definitely felt warm fluid coming out my ear but, but this fluid ended up not being water or another wax build-up, but blood…lots and lots of blood.

“I think I just perforated your ear drum”, he says casually.


Not winning.

A ruptured eardrum is a small tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear.  That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.  The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear.  It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain.  It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects.  Normally, the middle ear is sterile, but when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.


The doctor then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to swim for at least a week.  Shit sticks!  Furthermore, I would also undergo injecting four drops of antibiotics (which, as an interesting side-note here, my loving wife would place under her boob to warm up for me prior to dropping them in my ear – meaning my drops would now become affectionately known as “mommies boob juice” – how emasculating is that for an aspiring Ironman swimmer?) into my ear every morning and evening and then see my family doctor for clearance before getting back in the pool.

FML x 2.

Anyway, another week goes by of being injected twice daily with “boob juice” and I’m back at my family doctor’s (yesterday) to learn that a) there’s still wax in both ears, b) my ear drum is likely not healed yet, and c) I still can’t swim for approximately another two weeks.

FML x 3.

Needless to say I’m pretty discouraged at this point and now looking for viable options to protect my ear temporarily while it heals so I can at least get back in the pool, meaning, I need ear plugs.

Yay, again.

Remember this idiot (click HERE)?


Yeah, I just took another colossus step to becoming them.

Not really knowing anything about ear plugs, I stopped by the local pharmacy to see what options were available.  In fact, there was a whole cornucopia of options; an entire rackful located inside an entire aisle of ear and hearing-related products.  It was like the pharmaceutical equivalent of a “Turducken“.  Who knew there was such a profound market for ear plugs?  But then again, come to think of it, my grandma probably kept her local pharmacist driving around in a Rolls Royce for the last 10 years of her life given how much stuff she had crammed into her ears on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, none looked very promising.  Most were either the variety used for noise protection, sleeping, or as my grandma used to claim, “keeping the wind out of my ears”.   I’m pretty sure one was just a little baggie of candy corn.  However, there was this one waterproof variety of which I was still a bit skeptical:

They’re essentially little wads of soft, tacky silicon that you warm up by rolling in the palm of your hand and then stuffing into your ear to create a waterproof seal.

Like so:


I was dubious but I gave it a shot (at home) anyway and, honestly, it felt like I had just stuffed a Gummy Bear into my ear.  Likewise, I was doubtful that they would ever really stay in place in the water and, even then, they were only for a single use only.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel safe actually testing these things in the water so they were more or less tossed into the bottomless abyss of shit under my bathroom sink.

Then I found these TYR molded ear plugs at Team Aquatics in Burlington.  Besides being manufactured by a recognized swim equipment brand name, they weren’t the disposable variety. Instead they were marketed as “long lasting silicone” plugs made for swimmers, by swimmers.


These definitely looked more promising.

Among the other benefits listed on the package was “allows hearing during use”.  I like hearing stuff when I swim, so this was a definitely bonus.  I couldn’t hear shit with the other soft silicon Gummy Bear variety in my ears.

However, they were a little more complicated to insert as opposed to just cramming a wad of silicon into your ear.

From the instructions:

“Top straight edge of the ear plug core should be in a perpendicular line with the face.  Outer rim fits into the hollow depression behind the ear canal.”

Umm, okay.

Who knew shoving soothing into your ear could be so difficult?

But then again, the instructions did also add:


Gee, thanks.

Anyway, with a little twisting and prodding I did manage to maneuver them into what I think was the proper “perpendicular line (my) face” :


And – get this – I could still hear fairly well.


For good measure then, I also threw a swim cap on which I never really wear in the pool just to help keep them in place (hey, I already have plugs in my ears to I might as well go whole hog and look the part of the total swim geek) and entered the pool to give them a trial run (swim?).

Upon my first few laps they felt pretty comfortable actually.  However, that “allows hearing” thing went right out the window as everything sounded more, well, in utero I guess…which, truthfully, was very relaxing.  Maybe it was just because I also couldn’t hear the Ariana Grande bullshit they were playing on the pool deck between strokes anymore, whatever, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

I was a bit worried that maybe they weren’t completely watertight and that water was now leaking into the gaping hole of my tympanic membrane and I – unbeknownst to me – going deaf with each additional stroke so I kept my swim short to a few drills only (1300m).

Upon finishing, I unstuck the earplugs and everything immediately returned to blissful normality; no muting, no sloshing around in the ear, no nothing.


Besides making me look like a total swim pussy, the plugs had done their job and held tight in preventing water from entering into my ear, meaning, that I can now get back to my usual weekly swim workouts while my ear drum continues to heal for another week or so.

Back to ‘winning’ again!

Oh, and what does the remainder of this “healing” process look like?  Well, absolutely nothing for the next 10 days while the membrane rebuilds itself and then I have start adding basic cooking oil into my ears to begin loosening up whatever wax that might still be lingering around in my ear.   Doesn’t that sound like fun?


Not so much.

Thankfully it’s not forever.

(edited:  10/19/16)

So after Sunday’s “trial swim” I was up early and in the pool at 6:30am ready to get my swim on.  Unfortunately, after the first 300m or so, one of the war plugs slipped out and, yeah, nowhere to be found, meaning that I was now forced to abandon my planned workout and doing a stupid amount of kicking drills instead so I could keep my head above water.

And you just know how I love  my kicking drills!

After informing the lifeguard what had happened, she put out the APB to all the other bobbers and floaters in the pool.  Basically, the whole pool was not on Amber Alert for my missing plug.

After 20 minutes or so, they were found by an old lady…four lanes over…on the opposite of the pool…on the bottom.

So much for “floats in water”.

Thanks, TYR.  Great job there.


“Fabia’s Big Ride”

Posted: October 11, 2016 in Bike
Tags: ,

So this past holiday weekend (yesterday) I got to do something very special of which I am immensely proud.  And not necessarily for myself either.  No, yesterday marked HRH‘s epic bike ride from our home here in Ridgeway to Lock 3 in St. Catharines and onward to the grandparents’ house.  This is what the last 3-4 weeks of cycling with the kiddo have all been leading up to…her own Ironman journey, so to speak.

I don’t have a lot to say that I haven’t already posted HERE so, instead, here’s a record of the trip in pictures:

We left at 10:15am after a big breakfast, a coffee and a poop.  Well, I did anyway.


We first rode along the Friendship Trail from here in Ridgeway for approximately 14 kilometers passing through Sherkston to Port Colborne.

We arrived just in time to make it across the Lock 7 bridge before a boat passed through on it’s way to Lake Erie.


We then joined up with the Canal Trail beginning at the Robin Hood plant and, from there, we simply pedaled northbound towards St. Catharines stopping briefly at the Flatwater Center in Dain City for a picture in the grandstand.

The autumn colors were in full bloom along the entire pathway. This is one of the reasons why I consider myself so lucky to live and ride where I do.

Absolutely gorgeous.


As we had planned, we stopped for a brief lunch of peanut butter and jelly and a few apple slices at the Flatwater Center in Welland before continuing on again.

It wasn’t long afterwards that HRH  learned another valuable lesson about riding:  always spit out and to the side…not directly ahead into the wind.  Hey, some lessons you just have to learn the hard way.


We continued pedaling on through Allanburg towards Thorold for another 20k or so.  Fortunately at this point, the majority of the ride was on a gradual downhill as we were heading north down the Niagara Escarpment but there was still the odd small hill every so often to conquer just to remind her that this was meant to be something of a challenge.

After all, anything that matters take a little work right?

After another hour or so we popped out at the tippy-top of the Flight Locks in Thorold to begin our big decent down to our finish destination at the Lock 3 Viewing Complex.

Oh, we stopped for these candid shots with the amazing murals in Thorold as well.

It was only another 10-15 minutes from there before we arrived at our intended “finish line” after 53 kilometers of cycling.  Of course, we had to take the obligatory victory photos.

I had even brought along my dad for the ride seeing as how I was using his bike (click HERE) and I like to think he was looking down on us from somewhere smiling.

This one however I think is the real winner on the day:


Of course, it took her a moment to get it up there in the first place.


So a celebratory hot chocolate was definitely in order.


Lastly, we tackled the final 2 kilometers to grandma and grandpa’s house and a well-deserved treat.


So what does an 11-year-old cyclist do to warm down after a long, chilly, autumn ride?

Why, this little ensemble of course:


I’m sure all the greats had one:  Eddy Merckz, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Induráin, Greg LeMonde…shit, I hear Chris Froome even warms down in a fuzzy Kermit the Frog suit.


I’ll stick to the essentials.


Anyway, this was just about the best way to begin winding down the riding season if you ask me.  I know I’m currently getting in the mindset to renew my Ironman training so I figure having a little fun before that hammer drops would be a good idea.

Besides, if you can’t enjoy your passions with the ones you love…what’s the point?

(click HERE for Part 1, click HERE for Part 2, click HERE for Part 3)

When the weekly indoor workouts I had faithfully attended began to transition outside in the springtime I was all set.  I had a bike, I had a wetsuit and I had running shoes.

I wasn’t terribly sure how to actually use  any of it, but I had  it.

I’m sure I’ve chronicled some of these stories somewhere already in these blog pages but I don’t remember where exactly, so forgive me as I go through some of them again now.

My biggest fear in moving to the outside workouts was in actually riding my new (well, new to me) bike.  If you remember, the last time I had actually ridden a bike was approximately 25 years previously; a bright orange Schwinn Stingray  with a huge banana seat and these great sweeping ape-hanger handlebars that I got for my 12th birthday.  It sure as shit didn’t have any gears, or brakes that you operated with your hands so this was going to be all new territory for me.

Luckily (depending on how you look at it), the first springtime workout was going to be the group ride, meaning I was going to learn how to ride a bike in front of other accomplished cyclists.


A few days before the ride, in complete state of panic, I watched a few cycling videos on YouTube to see what in the hell I was supposed to wear.  I mean, surely you don’t ride bikes in track s pants do you?

Besides the pair of padded diapers and clipped in cycling shoes that I had picked up for my spin classes, I didn’t have any other cycling specific gear beyond my water bottle.  I didn’t have a nice, aerodynamic cycling jersey or fancy riding gloves so I opted to wear an old, oversized wicking shirt I had found at the Goodwill for a few bucks.  I also bought a cheap helmet and, yeah, good to go.

Here’s me in all my newbie glory:


I may not have looked very pretty but, hey, I was probably only going to end up in a crumpled pile by the side of the road anyway.

Oh, and for the record, this is still the same  bike I ride today.

On the morning of the ride, I was picked up at my doorstep by another member of the group I had met and befriended over the winter, Manisha, who also conveniently worked at the local Liberty! cycle shop.  We had arranged it this way so she could at least show me how to change the gears, as well as clip myself in and out of the pedals so, hopefully, I wouldn’t make a total ass of myself.

If you’ve never ridden in clipped in pedals before, let me assure you that it’s a bit daunting at first.  I had already picked up a cheap pair of cycling shoes with SPD clips to use in my spin classes but, riding clipped in on a stationary bike is one thing, riding outside with traffic and shit is entirely another.

I was quite literally fearing for my life.

However, I did ultimately manage to arrive at our groups’ agreed upon meet up place approximately 4-5 longs kilometers away pretty much unscathed.  What this means is that I didn’t wipe out or end up as a greasy smear underneath a passing motorist.

Again, yay for the small victories!

As it happened, Bill was also leading these group rides and for the next two hours he ran us through the in’s and out’s of riding in a group formation (the same fundamentals I am teaching my daughter now – click HERE), or what’s known as a ‘peloton’ if you want to be all fancy about it.  Eventually the imminent fear that I was about to kill myself at any second began to subside and I actually started to relax and enjoy myself.

On more than one occasion, Bill would have to call me back after I had managed to get myself too far ahead of the rest of the main group.  I guess all those winter spin classes meant that I had somehow developed this new strength in my legs that I didn’t even know I had.  After months of sitting on a stationary bike at the gym riding outside was like passing through Dr. Who’s time tunnel.  I’m not sure really if my newfound “speed” was because I was good at it, or if the other better cyclists were just humoring me.

(Likely the later)

No matter, I was just having fun riding my bike for the first time in nearly two and a half decades.  What I remember most is the feeling of sheer joy that can only come with cruising along somewhat effortlessly at 30kph  down back roads that you have never been on before.  It was like I was 12 years old all over again and exploring my neighborhood and ultimately tasting freedom for the first time.

It’s a feeling I still get when I ride my bike now.

The indoor swim sessions also moved outdoors to the old canal in Welland.  These scared me at first as well.  I mean, anyone who has ever seen ‘Jaws’  is likely going to have images of being bitten in half by a creature from the deep run through their mind at some time despite the fact that the scariest thing in the Welland canal is likely a rusty shopping cart.

What spooked me even more was that I was now going to have others actually see  me in my wetsuit.   As if the sizing at the store wasn’t embarrassing enough, now I had to actually put it on in front of people.  At least at the store, I had an entire team of shop attendants to help me but now I was going to have to wedge my fatness into it all by myself.  This process alone probably lasted longer than the actual swim workout and, truthfully, for the next few weeks I was mindful to arrive well before everyone else just to repeat this struggle in stoic silence.

Thankfully, when it came to actually get in the water…I was in love.  I mean, I really  loved it.  Sure I still had the odd “duuuuuuuun dunnn… duuuuunnnn duun….duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun…”  go through my head at random points and I know that some people tend to get nervous and experience panic attacks at not being able to see the bottom of the pool and whatnot, but I found the whole thing thrilling.  I loved seeing the odd fish swim beneath me; I loved hearing frogs croak underwater; I loved the feeling of weeds brush against my face.

I still do.

I wouldn’t say I was a natural, but it certainly wasn’t hard to talk me into going for a swim after the initial few workouts that first season.  Truthfully, it never has been ever since either.  It’s easily my favorite workout of the summer.

I kept up with the running too.

I had no idea how to actually plan and implement a well-structured weekly run program, but I laced up regularly and ran around the block ad nauseum.  I still wasn’t very confident to venture out beyond my own neighborhood at that point.

The club also ran outdoor Brick workouts and I did those too.  It was likely during these specific Thursday night workouts located in Pelham that I actually started to develop a little confidence that I might actually be able to do this triathlon thing.

I got faster; I got stronger; I got fitter.

I even got thinner.

I also bought the ‘Triathlon for Dummies‘ book which, truthfully, I never read.  It just made me feel more validated as an official triathlete in a weird way.

(NoteWhen I did eventually sit down to read it months later, it was complete shit)

Somewhere down the line, I figured a test race was in order prior to actually meeting my brother on the starting line in June (we had previously arranged to race the Welland sprint distance race).  It might even be that Bill himself suggested I do just that.  I do remember though him telling me to forget the whole “try-a-tri” thing and just jump straight into a Sprint distance race.  I think my heart likely stopped when he said that but not wanting to appear cowardly, I agreed and signed up along with some of my other training buddies.

However, I couldn’t also help but notice this on the on-line registration form:

“I acknowledge that a triathlon is an extreme test of a person’s physical and mental limits and carries with it potential for death, serious injury, and property loss.”

What.  The.  Fuck?

I almost backed out then and there.

Anyway, that first race came in late May in Milton, Ontario.  I drove up with Jeremy, one of my new friends from the TryForce group and although I’m pretty certain we must have talked on the way up, I remember nothing of the trip aside from experiencing a complete and utter anxiety attack that I was in over my head…way over my head.

Surely, I was to multi-sport what belt sanders are to nipples.  I had an entry level wetsuit, an old bike, a pair of discounted tri shorts and a cheap top I had picked up at Zellers the night before and cut off the sleeves to appear more “sporting” and a pair of Dollar Store sunglasses.  I mention this all now because when I rolled into transition, I remember being completely overwhelmed at seeing all the thousands of dollars’ worth of fancy, carbon fiber, space-age looking equipment.

I understand now that all this stuff isn’t necessarily important (in fact, much of it is about as about as useful as a bucket of armpits) and that you can’t simply buy results, but I didn’t know that then and I felt like a complete fraud.  If I had any doubts before, I was absolutely panicked now.

Jeremy and I milled around after we had set up in transition, careful to lay everything out as I had been instructed, and he introduced me to a few of the pro’s that he knew who were also competing.  They were all standing around fussing over their bikes and discussing their anticipated goal times, etc..

They were all relaxed and focused; almost bored looking.  I was definitely envious and maybe even a little star struck.


I was a total duck in water; calm and collected on the outside, but under the surface my lizard brain was working overtime on freaking out.

Suddenly, in what might be considered as a charitable moment of comradery for the obviously poor, fat guy on the periphery of the group, one of them (Hi, Wolf!) turns to me and asks: “what’s your goal today?”

“Umm, I don’t what to shit myself”.

“…or die”, I quickly added.

They all laughed, but I was being deadly serious.

Eventually, the announcer starting calling the racers out of transition to the water’s edge.

Oh God.

“The end is nigh”, I thought.

By this time I was in full blown panic mode.  I pictured myself being literally beaten to death in the water (like THIS) at the hands (not to mention knees, elbows and feet) of 300 other more capable triathletes.  Shit, I might as well just roll myself up in a carpet and harness myself to an outboard motor to be dragged all over the lake while everyone else took turns punching me in the face.  At that precise moment, that option was more enticing.

Shit, water boarding seemed like more fun.

From here, I’m just going to quote word for word from another blog post where I’ve recounted this exact moment before:

“When the time came to enter the water before the race’s official start I found myself smack dab in the middle of the pack and I totally freaked out.  Certainly my imminent death by drowning was at hand. So much so was my fear at the time that I immediately moved to the back of the pack with the old ladies and doggie paddlers.  Certainly, I was a little more skilled (maybe) but damn if I wasn’t terrified of being in that washing machine.

When the race started, I literally waited for nearly everyone else to get on with it before I even started.  I remember watching the flurry of white water erupt from the main gaggle of swimmers and it looked absolutely chaotic.  Eventually, I started myself and it wasn’t long before I had joined the fray of flailing body parts, except, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought.  Dare I say it, I actually found it exhilarating.  Sure I look some lumps and I’m confident I gave some back in return but, all in all, it wasn’t bad.  It was tough, sure, but it wasn’t as ‘scary’ as I had initially thought it was going to be.”

In fact, I had stopped being so scared and I think I might have even been smiling, or so I am told anyway.  Maybe it was just my face had been contorted into a permanent rictus of fear…I’m not sure.

Either way, I had survived the first leg and I was now onto the bike, of which, I was a little more confident.

Here’s me, blubber and all getting out of wetsuit in transition:


Now, anyone who’s raced Milton before knows that there’s a huge ass monster hill early on in the bike course.  Of course, I didn’t know that because I didn’t have the wherewithal  then (i.e. common sense) to actually research the course prior to racing it.  So as I rounded the third corner, I saw ahead of me what looked like a trail of ants climbing up an ant hill, except those weren’t ants, those were riders making their way up the Sixth Line Hill (approximately a kilometer long) in the distance.  This was easily going to be the biggest hill I had ever attempted.

Fuck me.

I think I aged about 25 years in that moment.

Not being the best climber at that point, I dropped my gear into the easiest gear I could get into and pedaled as if my life depended on it and I started to pass others riders who were walking their bikes up the hill instead.  My lungs burned and my heart was beating faster than a Spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew…but I made it.  I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t someone at the top in tight lederhosen and trumpeting on enormous flugelhorn to signal my arrival at the summit, but I digress.

The rest of the course is a blur because after that first monster of a hill, everything else paled in comparison.  I do remember going down the Sixth Hill Line later on though, and that was infinitely more fun.

Inertia is the fat man’s best friend don’cha know?

Anyway, I rode back into transition feeling pretty proud of myself and figuring that things were going well despite my feeling like I was going to throw up.  Thankfully, I had also managed to avoid shitting myself thus far.

Here’s that exact moment:


However, as soon as I put on my running shoes and started running, whatever fun I was having quickly melted away.  I couldn’t feel my feet.  Like, I literally couldn’t  feel my feet striking the ground and I started to worry that I done some kind of severe nerve damage to myself.

I figured that there was really nothing I could do about it at this point so I just kept on plodding along in my own Bataan Death March toward the finishing line.  It certainly wasn’t my finest moment as far as running is concerned and I’m pretty sure I died a thousand deaths along the 7.5 kilometer run course.  I’m even pretty sure that all the old ladies and doggie paddlers began to pass me as well but I didn’t care, as long as I was still alive and shit free I was happy.  In fact, The Coach, of whom I was just getting to know, whizzed past me somewhere along the way too.

Eventually, I did start to feel my feet and legs again as the bike weariness began to wear off and I instantly wished they hadn’t because everything hurt.  However, I am a stubborn son-of-a-bitch if nothing else and I managed to make it to the end where all my peers and friends were there to greet me.

Here’s a picture of that  exact moment:


Notice the smile on my face.

I was exuberant.

I mean, it sucked  of epic proportions but I was extremely proud of myself.

Most importantly, I had crossed the finish line 100% shit free.

For the first time in years, it felt like I had accomplished something of real significance and I was definitely hooked.  Suffice to say that I placed myself in voluntary traction on my couch for the entire next day with a bowl of Doritos.  I’m sure I even did and said all those annoying things that rookie triathletes tend to do (click HERE) as well.  I probably didn’t take my medal off for weeks.  I just couldn’t help myself.  I felt almost reborn in a weird kind of way.

I would go on to complete five more triathlons that summer, each time I got a bit faster and a little more race savvy.  And, oh, that race with my brother that started this whole crazy triathlon crazy train?  I beat him.  And then I beat him again  three weeks later in his “re do”.

I’m not trying to brag or anything, but:

Riding on my wave of uber-confidence I even participated in the ‘Run for the Grapes’ half marathon at the end of that summer, but that’s a completely different story of hellacious misery.

So, yeah, that’s it.  That’s more or less how I went from cheeseburgers to triathlon  over the course of two years.  And I’m still at it, of course.  I’ve learned a great deal since then and I like to think I’m much better at it to boot.  The funny thing is, I’ve grown beyond these “short distance” sprint events have evolved to become more of a long distance I could have ever seen that  coming!

That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced my fair share of obstacles and setbacks – shit, these blog pages are filled with them – but I’ve also learned that that’s just all part of the process and part of what makes this sport such a unique challenge.  One I hope that I will continue to participate in and enjoy for years to come…unless I do  actually shit myself.

Because if that ever happens…I’ll be taking up croquet.

“Riding with Fabia”

Posted: September 28, 2016 in Bike
Tags: ,

Summer is finally over, meaning that I have to begin focusing on the upcoming Ironman re-do in July; let’s just say that I have unfinished business there (click HERE).  Therefore, the “training plan” is about to change to be more run and swim focused through the autumn and winter months as biking season begins to wind down.  I’m already in the pool twice a week building a solid base of 6000-7000m weekly, and I’m now running shorter interval runs (3x a week) anticipating a return to my regular fartlek and long progression runs in another month or so.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m giving up the bike just yet, no.  It’s just that I’m not really “training” on the bike at the moment by involving myself in weekly “Hammerfest” rides anymore.  Instead, I’ve been doing some sweep riding for charity (click HERE) and soon I’d like to begin breaking out Snowflake more regularly and actually learn how to mountain bike properly.

However, there is another type of riding that I’ve been enjoying more frequently as well – cycling with the kiddo.

14480671_10154396707870977_384844982912467854_oJust recently, we introduced HRH  to a proper women’s road bike (thanks Colette!).  We replaced the clip pedals with normal pedals, gave it a decent tune up and, Bob’s your uncle, we’re now riding together – regularly – 2 to 3 times a week.

It’s a whole new world for her.

On these rides, I’ve been giving her the crash course on how to use her gears effectively so she can manage a decent pace (for an 11-year-old anyway), otherwise known as the delicate art of “cadence”.  She’s no lover of hills (yet) – like her mom – but we’ve practiced how to get up and over them anyway.  We’ve practiced how to draft properly and she has become rather proficient at riding on my wheel.  We’ve even practiced the dynamics of riding in a group (communicating, hand signals, clearing intersections, etc.) on the occasions we have invited another cycling buddy along for the ride.  We’ve practiced how to drink on the bike as well as how to ride safely in traffic.

And, yes, we’ve even practiced how to spit and wipe your nose whilst riding too.

You know: the fundamentals.

And I admit, she even has her own Strava account as well as her own special sprint segment of which she is now gunning to be the KOM.

img_0856In other words, we haven’t just been going around the block any more like we did last summer during our ‘Tour de Ridgeway’ outings, no sir.  This year, now that she has the proper tools, “Fabia van Hall unt Hauser” has reinvented herself as a serious Grand Tour rider, so to speak.

Meaning, we’ve been doing some decent distance.

So far, we have managed to complete a whopping 45k ride as our longest ride to date, and then we also complete a few other shorter, fun rides (weather permitting) that more or less explore all the back country roads in and around our area that she has never had a reason to go down before and, likely, never would have been able to get to on her own pedal power.

Remember, after 10-11k last year on her little kid’s bike – her legs were toast.

I think the most fun part of it (for me anyway) is getting to witness that sense of accomplishment and, ultimately, that “freedom” that comes from the accomplishment of completing some serious distance, especially after she realizes that she has ridden out to Port Colborne, Stevensville or Fort Erie…all by herself.

1We have even set our own goal now to “train” towards to be tackled in the next 2-3 weeks or so, in that we’re going to ride from our home here in Ridgeway to her grandparent’s place in St. Catharines – a total of approximately 57-60k which, for her, will be quite the epic journey.

Stay tuned, folks.

What this all means for me besides being a fun way to wind down my riding season knowing that early morning trainer rides are likely in my near future (never say never, honey), is that I get to share my love of riding with my daughter and spend some quality time in the saddle together. And, believe you me; our conversations have about as many boundaries are our chosen cycle routes these days.

This is definitely something I can see us doing a lot more of and bonding over in the future and as she grows older and more capable, I may even have myself my new riding/training partner in the making.

Clara Hughes – watch out!

The nice thing about swimming is that you don’t immediately have to deal with idiots.  It’s not like, say, the gym, where everyone is front and center and quite often in your face.  I mean, they’re there, of course, but because you’re swimming (and by happy consequence, trying not to drown) you don’t necessarily have to acknowledge them; much less have a conversation with them.

But every now and again, some moron will try to assert himself by engaging me in some ridiculousness or other.

Today was just such a day.

For the first 45 minutes or so, my swim workout was going according to plan; warm up, a few drills and the beginning of my main set complete with paddles and fins.  I have long now established myself in the morning echelon of pool regulars and, typically, we have all sorted ourselves out by speed to fit neatly into the Slow, Medium and Fast lanes as we are all apt to do.  It took some time of course, but I like to think that we’ve all since sorted it out and have moved past those initial few hiccups when I first started swimming at the Port Colborne YMCA.

In other words, we all get along now.

It’s not like I don’t like sharing a lane, but if you’re one of those people – “Floaters especially” (click HERE for more info on ‘Swim Types’) – who like to do God-knows-what at a relative snail’s pace, well, stay out of my Fast lane.

But, again, all the morning swimmers (myself included) have now sorted these issues out and we all play nicely within our own designated lanes in blissful harmony with one another.

It’s glorious.

Until the Swim Doofus shows that is…such as he did today.

I knew I was in trouble the second he plopped down ceremoniously (read that as: nearly on top of me) as I coasted into the wall after one of my 250m intervals.

Not wanted to compete with him, I asked him if we could just split the lane and he nodded in quiet agreement and set about arranging his snorkel and those silly “aqua gloves” that regular aquafuck aquafit patrons like to use (click HERE).

Yes, I could have mentioned that he was in the Fast lane and might be happier in a slower lane, or even the UNUSED lane further down the pool but I decided that silence was the better part of valor and simply figured that he would either be done early, or just move over on his own accord after I raced past him half a dozen times.  That notwithstanding, I only had about another 20 minutes of intervals to endure before I would be exiting the pool myself.

Begrudgingly I carried on and the Swim Doofus proceeded to seizure his way down to the other end of the pool.

After another interval I coasted into the wall (breathless I might add) and the Swim Doofus was also there, apparently resting after his 50m of near drowning.

Swim Doofus“So you like to swim, eh?”

Me (after 10 seconds of gasping for air):  “Sure.”

Swim Doofus:  “Me too,”

Umm, that’s great?  I think classifying whatever it was he was doing as “swimming” was questionable but I digress.  I support his form of healthy activity, nonetheless.

Swim Doofus:  “How far you going?”

Me:  “I’m not sure.  I’ll tally it up at the end”.

And then I pushed off the wall to begin my next interval.  And, hey, it’s not that I intended to be abrupt or rude, but my plan allows for 10 second breaks and 10 seconds were up, like, 15 seconds ago.  A plan is a plan and so, no offense, I gotta go, dude.

And we both went back to our routines; me to swimming and he to whatever the hell it was he trying to do.

As I finished my next interval two and a half minutes later, the Swim Doofus was there again.

Swim Doofus:  “So, how fast are you going?”

Me (after the perquisite 10 seconds of regaining my composure):  “I’m not sure”.

Swim Doofus:  “Well, it sure looks fast.”

Me:  “Thanks.”

What I was really thinking in my head was:

“Well, gee, thanks for the validation that I am in fact swimming in the right lane, so how about you move your slow ass over a few lanes, eh?”

But again, I opted for silence and simply pushed off for my next interval.

For the next 2 or 3 intervals, I missed the Doofus at the wall completely as he was somewhere mid-lane splashing around, inevitably trying to keep himself afloat with his stupid gloves and snorkel and shit.

Thank God.

But, eventually, fate caught up with us again and there we were at the wall again.

Swim Doofus:  “Hey, you would definitely know…”

Now, this type of introduction to a topic kind of annoys the shit out of me.  I mean, I give myself credit for being a clever fella but there’s certainly no guarantee that I definitely  know anything, so just ask the damn question already without the whole dramatic set up that will only result in me feeling like a total ape if I can’t in fact answer that query.

But I digress…

Swim Doofus:  “How many laps are in a mile?”

I looked at him incredulously.

Is he fucking shitting me?

I just shrugged my shoulders (as politely as one can when they’re currently incapable of speech, gasping for air and, really, don’t give a flying shit) and simply pushed off the wall for my last interval.

Of course, that wasn’t before I heard the Doofus also mutter:

“Fine.  Be that way…idiot.”


I flew – flew! – the next 250m  with the intent of being back at the wall in time to set this moron straight.  Unfortunately, I guess he’d had enough of his near-drowning and decided to exit the pool so I didn’t get that opportunity.

Here is what I wish would have said:

  1. As last I understood it, Canada is a metric country so I really have no idea of how far a mile is, especially considering that…
  2. This is a metric pool, meaning that….
  3. I’d have to do the necessary calculations in my head which is currently impossible given that I am…
  4. Trying to complete my work out…
  5. My heart rate is about 156bpm…
  6. I can’t breathe…
  7. And, lastly – and most importantly – I don’t give a shit. So…
  8. Get out of my face…
  9. Quit interrupting while I’m trying to get my swim on…
  10. And do your damn math.
  11. You tool.

Not don’t get me wrong, I think I’m actually a pretty nice guy and I think that I genuinely get along with just everybody in the pool.  I even don’t mind sharing a lane if it’s busy and, hey, I even like to chitchat when I’m on a break at the wall…providing I’m resting and not mid-interval.

However, I do not like being interrupted when I’m clearly not resting and, for all intents and purposes, I’m (get this) working out…strange as that may seem.

Needless to say, I don’t appreciate the distraction and this doofus clearly wasn’t getting the message.  I mean, would he stop a marathoner mid-race to ask how far he’d gone, or how fast he’s running?

Likely not.

I don’t see this as being any different, so you can either wait for me to be done and ready to entertain your silly bullshit or just piss off altogether and simply don’t ask me dumb ass questions mid-workout.

This isn’t social hour.

Oh, and as far as your leaving all in a huff:


Okay, so maybe I can be a bit of an elitist asshole.

The Big Move 2016

Posted: September 21, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a year already and that means that the time has come yet again for one of my favorite events of the riding season, The Big Move Cancer Ride in support of the Walker Family Cancer Center at the St. Catharines hospital.  This will be my 8th year participating in the event and my 7th working in the capacity of the “Tail End Charlie” (click HERE for previous years’ reports).

Yup, that’s me…the nameless guy who finishes dead last at the tail end of the entire parade.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’d have it no other way.

Here’s a little video summary of last year’s ride (you can see you’re truly at the 51 second mark):

Given the crappy conditions we rode in last year (click HERE for a little reminder), today was going to be glorious; bright, sunny, and not too stinking hot.  A perfect day for riding.  So there was no trepidation on my part this morning as there was last year and once again I sprang out of bed at the ripe hour of 5:00am.

Exactly like this:

Similarly, this was the third year that I have volunteered with my family who would be working themselves in the support van along the 25k route making sure the riders themselves were supported as well as all the volunteer and marshaling stations along the way.

We arrived together on site at 7:00am sharp so the girls could get to work helping get the truck loaded and the rest stations set up out on the course.

Here’s our obligatory family selfie:



I stood around drinking coffee.

Not the smartest thing to be doing given I would have to get myself undressed about a gazillion times in order to take my gazillionth pee.  But there really wasn’t much else for me to be doing until the ride started except keep warm (it was a little on the cool side) and just take it all in.

There are certainly a lot of moving pieces come ride day to deal with and it never ceases to amaze me what an amazing job the organizing staff do in making it all come together.  I mean, I just have to pedal.

Easy, right?

Well, often it’s not and it can be rather like this on the morning of the ride:


But, I digress.

For the most part, I just pedal.

However, there are just so many other things going on to account for in order to make the day successful and enjoyable for everyone.

I’m sure the organizers checklists look something like this during the days leading up to ride day:


It really is amazing.

Kudo’s to them for being able to manage it all.

At 8:00am the organizers began calling to the riders for the 100k ride (my route) to begin making their way to the starting line.  Being the “Tail End Charlie”, I gravitated to the back with the other sweep riders.  This year, I was honored and excited to be riding with Kathleen, an ICU nurse at the St. Catharines hospital whom I was fortunate to ride with two years ago.  Kathleen is genuinely kind, supportive and a very capable rider, so I felt very lucky that I was going to get to be in her company all day once again.

I find the opening speeches prior to the ride very motivational.  You get to hear a few personal stories on why the ride is so important to other riders.  Everybody has their own inspiration for participating in The Big Move Cancer Ride.

Here’s my own:


At 8:15am, the ride got under way.

Here’s a photo of us as we rolled out:


Those two figures in the hideous yellow vests at the tail end are Kathleen and I (she’s on the right and I’m on the left).

She definitely looks better in her cycling shorts.

The rides begins by heading down Vansickle Rd, left on Pelham Rd. and then directly up the monster climb at Rockway Glen.  However, just as we were starting our way up the climb we got word from our sweep wagon that four riders had started a bit late and were now behind us.  I circled around that hightailed back to greet them just as they were approaching the hill.

Ashley was the last rider to reach the hill and with a little encouragement and suggestions on how to use her gears more effectively, she managed to get up the hill with a lot of huffing and puffing.  In fact, she didn’t even stop at the aid station at the top, she just kept on trucking and I would see her again for the next four hours.

However, Kathleen was there and she was just starting out with the last two stragglers that she had assisted to the top of Rockway.


Our little tail end group had found its way back together again.  In the sweep business, this is definitely a good thing as everybody is then present, accounted for and, most importantly, safe.

I am sensitive to the riders at the back of the pack as they somehow think that this is in some way a bad thing, or that they are failing at something.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, if I had to relate to you what it can be like at the back of the pack, I’d offer you this amazing picture:


I’m not in this picture, nor is this even my route.  But this picture taken by Kelly (my wife) from the support van, perfectly captures everything I love about “sweeping”.  This rider was just two weeks out from her last cancer treatment and here she is finishing up her 25k ride with a little help from the Sweep Riders.


Was it hard?


Did she do it?


Is she deserving of all the respect in the world?


She’s an absolute hero.

I just can’t express how meaningful this image is to me.

Well done, sweeps!

Anyway, today, my (our) little group at the back of the 100k route happened to consist of Stacey, a kindergarten teacher, and her friend Jamie (my apologies if I have your name wrong) whose father had passed away from cancer last year.  She had purchased herself a new bike and trained all summer long for this event, even managing to ride the entire 100k distance once a week for the past three weeks.  And knowing how the weather has been ridiculously hot and humid for the past month or so, that’s a huge  accomplishment in and of itself!

Unfortunately, today she was under the weather with a flu bug that had been passed on by one of her students.  What this meant then is that she was constantly fighting waves of nausea throughout her entire ride as well as fluctuating energy levels due to the fact she hadn’t been able to hold down anything substantial in days.  Any lesser rider would have packed it in well before the ride had even started…but not Stacey.

This is the perfect example of the strong mindset that most riders enter into The Big Move with.  They are determined, motivated and inspired and they’re not about to give up…at any cost.  I feel then that it’s my prime responsibility to assist them in ensuring that these goals are met.

I mean, how could I not?

So if they’re committed, then so am I; come Hell or high water.  Sometimes (as there was last year) there’s a bit of both.

And with Stacey, she was all in… 100k or bust.

One of the things I find that’s helpful with “struggling” (and I use that term very loosely) riders is to take the lead and allow them the opportunity to “draft” on my wheel, meaning I pull through the wind and thereby minimizing the amount of resistance they experience allowing them to maintain a manageable pace.  Not all riders are confident in riding so close to another rider, so I use this as an opportunity to teach the some basics of good group riding.  And with Stacey, once she got accustomed to it she pretty much stayed on my wheel as often as she could allowing her to keep moving along nicely.

One of my favorite things about The Big Move is the rest stop at ‘First Incounters’, at the corner of Hwy 27 and Victoria Ave..  In actuality, every rest stop is pretty awesome as the volunteers there offer so much support and much needed encouragement to the weary riders…it’s fantastic.

But ‘First Incounters’ is near and dear to me, largely because of Shirley Martyk and her family.

Shirley has volunteered at the First Encounters rest station for a few years now and besides being one of my favorite people ever, she also has cookies – homemade cookies.  And it’s these cookies that kept me going for the last 25 kilometers.  These are no ordinary cookies, believe you me!   In fact, Shirley even brought little baggies of these cookies in for all the sweep riders to the previous weeks’ Volunteers Meeting on the off chance that there weren’t any left when we arrived on ride day.

How amazing is that?

Fortunately, there were lots left when we arrived at ‘First Incounters’ so I was all like:


I have no shame.

It was here though that I began to get a little concerned for Stacey.  While I appreciate how sick she was and unable to keep anything down, I knew that we were essentially “chasing the dragon” in that if she didn’t eat something – anything – there was a very serious likelihood that she wouldn’t make it to the end.

After all, the body cannot function on will power alone.

We coaxed her into eating half a protein bar and although I know she didn’t want it, nor did she enjoy it, she chomped it down reluctantly and after a few hugs and waves goodbye, we were off again down River Rd…aaaaand directly into a head wind.


Fortunately, I have no problem riding at the front and blocking the wind so we reformed our little peloton and rolled out along River Rd. into the second half of the course which, truthfully, is my favorite of the course.  Here we also got to see other riders as they rode past us in the opposite direction and we received lots of waves and support in the form of “keep going”, “you got this”, “you’re doing great”, etc.  This is the kind of motivation that struggling riders need to hear and, lucky for us, there was lots of it.

(Thanks everyone)

We had some trouble along Concession 6 in Wainfleet as Stacey’s stomach began to reject the half a protein bar we’d force fed her only a few minutes ago but she was able to regroup quickly and we continued riding.

Turning back onto Riverside Dr. (Hwy 27) was fun as the headwind we’d fought on the way out and then again down Concession 6 was now directly at our backs and, hey, this is what cyclists live for.

Time to ride.

We formed up our little group again and off we were…temporarily.  We were cruising fine when we had our first flat tire of the day…mine.

I let my little group ride off without me as the support van pulled up behind and I set about the business getting it fixed up and back on the road.  It took me about 5-6 minutes in total I guess to get everything straightened away; just long enough to fall well behind the rest of the group but, here’s my real fun began…the chase back up.

Like last year I used this opportunity to go all Tour de France by drafting behind the support van at nearly 50kph  back to the intersection at First Incounters (about 7-8 kilometers in total).  It felt good to open up the throttle on the legs for a little bit and it about the fastest I’ve ever covered that distance before, minus descending down hills of course.

Having said that, I was definitely redlining it at one point but this is where I channel the memories of my own mom and dad and just keep applying the power to the pedals. I don’t know what it says about me that I like to suffer a bit periodically, so read into that as you may.

Soon, I left the support van behind and veered left on Victoria Ave and then right again on River Rd., still desperate to catch up to my flock.

However, when I did catch up upon turning north on Church Rd., my heart sank.  Stacey and Kathleen were sitting together by the side of the road and Stacey did not look terribly well.  Apparently she had experienced a dizzy spell and made the smart decision to take a break (smart thinking, Stace!).  No doubt that our attempts at chasing the dragon were starting to take effect in that her inability to keep anything down was beginning to pay with her energy levels.

Of course, this didn’t deter her resolve to continue on at all and after the spell passed, we were on our way again…albeit slowly.

So we had a bit of a conundrum now.  Given that Stacey was in no way ever going to back out of her commitment to finish (and power to her), we were running the risk now of being far enough behind that there was the very real chance that intersections up ahead were no longer going to be open for us to pass through safely.  Likewise, just up ahead was the long gradual climb up Cataract Rd. immediately followed by the short summit up to Effingham Rd. back up to Hwy 3 and onward to Tice Rd.  There was a real risk now that these efforts – in her current condition – might have ended Stacey’s quest to complete the full ride for good.  After all, all the motivation in the world isn’t any help when your body is 100% drained of it’s necessary stores of energy.

Not good.

A quiet decision was made then to reroute us around those climbs.  And I’m sorry if you’re just realizing this now Stacey upon reading this, but please understand that it was a judgment call in order to help you complete the ride safely as we all knew that having to abandon the ride would have been the far worse option had those climbs gotten the better of you.

But here’s the great thing, our new route also meant that we wouldn’t necessarily have to sacrifice any of the mileage meaning that, ultimately, her goal of completing the 100k ride would still be honored.

Promises are promises after all.

Unfortunately, the rerouting also meant that others riders were now behind us after continuing on for a few more kilometers so I had to hustle back in order to make sure that all those riders were being herded back together again safely towards the finish line.

After the final rest station along Cream St.and another heroes welcome for the riders, Kathleen and I continued on with a sole lone rider – Ashley, whom I had helped up the Rockway Glen climb at the beginning of the day no less – and together we all rode the last few kilometers back to Club Roma again.  As per usual, we peeled off at the end to roll across the finish line dead last once again, after all the other riders had finished successfully.

I was very happy to see Stacey and Jamie there with their families and very relieved to hear that she had rolled over the finish with her odometer reading 100.1k exactly.

Mission completed – hugs all around.

There were no finish photos of me this year but there was certainly was a highly-anticipated hot pasta lunch saved for us by the amazing volunteers and, maybe, even an alcoholic beverage or two.

Another successful year complete.

As a final word: Stacey, understanding that you may not have been at your best on this particular day, I absolutely think that what you accomplished in lieu of it all was nothing short of heroic and I consider myself very lucky to have to have shared the experience with you.

Best wishes and happy riding.

As for everyone else, I’ll see you next year…for sure.   Maybe I’ll see you at a rest stop, or as you ride past in the opposite direction (make sure you wave!).

However, if I’m lucky, we’ll even get to ride together.


(click HERE for Part 1, click HERE for Part 2)

The moment I hung up the phone with my brother, the panic started to set in and I started to question my decision.

What in the sweet Sam Hell have you gotten yourself into?

What on God’s green earth makes you think you can complete a triathlon?

You know you’re going to shit yourself, right?

It never ended and these types of nagging questions induced night sweats and kept me awake for the next week or so.

The first of the new triathlon workouts was to be a run-specifc workout and I was absolutely beside myself with terror.

It didn’t help matters that it was occupied by all these ridiculously skinny, athletic looking types.  By comparison, I looked like a disadvantaged cousin who had just stepped off the turnip truck for a weekend visit.  I didn’t own any fancy “running gear”, and the only pair of shoes I owned was the same pair of sneakers I had purchased from a discount store when I first started walking.  They were well worn in by this point and smelled like pits of Hades.

I felt hopelessly out of place.

The workout was a workout that took place on the 200m track upstairs at the gym and was run by a guy named Devin who, himself, looked like a thoroughbred greyhound.

The workout itself was completing a few intervals around the oval track at a quick pace, interspersed with some bouts of walking recovery.  I hated the running parts, but I totally rocked the walking recovery.  When I did run, it certainly wasn’t very fast and I got lapped by the other gazelles quite regularly.  It was very discouraging and I was sweating like the pig who knows he’s dinner.

Sure I used the elliptical and treadmills regularly but actually running  was a very different beast that I was not yet accustomed to.

Fortunately, Devin was a great guy and very encouraging and after 30 minutes or so of huffing and puffing my way around the track, he congratulated me on a job well done.  In fact, everybody congratulated me on a job well done.  And, hey, despite experiencing at least a dozen heart attacks and near death experiences, I was proud of my accomplishment too.  It was the first time I had actually ran anywhere  since grade school.

The next workout that week was the dreaded “Brick” workout.  By this time, I had already consulted the Google box on the subject and had learned that brick workouts are triathlon specific workouts aimed at learning to run on fatigued legs.


I’d already had my first taste of running on fresh legs and I didn’t like it.  Likewise, my only familiarity with “spinning” was watching all the cardio bunnies through the window in the gym’s spin studio in between sets of weights.  Judging by the pained expressions on their faces, it didn’t strike me as something that I would enjoy either.

Put the two together?


I figured though that seeing as how these workouts were going to be a primary staple in my weekly routine in the coming months, I had better get acquainted with this beast called “Spinning” so one evening I decided to cinch up the ‘ol apple sack and signed up to participate one of the regularly offered spin classes.

I had no idea what to expect exactly and I easily twice the size of anyone else in the class.  I stealthily slinked into the back of the class, mounted a bike – not having any clue on to properly position myself  – and just started mimicking what everybody else was doing; namely, pedaling.

Pedaling fast.

The instructor was playing this high speed techno music at top volume and was telling everyone repetitively to “visualize our destination”.

Geez, I didn’t realize that this was also supposed to be some sort of spiritual journey as well.

Who knew?

Well, what I can tell you for certain is that if our destination was meant to be the light at the end of a very long white tunnel, I was certainly on the right track.  My heart rate was beating like a jack rabbit on crack, I was forming puddles of sweat on the floor underneath my bike and, worst of all – my ass was killing me.  In fact, everything below the waistline was on fire.  For the next two days or so I was walking around as if I had just completed a two week donkey ride through the Sierra Madres.  Remember that I had no concept of “wicking” fabrics or proper cycling apparel.

The very first thing I did the day before my first brick class was buy a pair of padded cycling shorts and I felt absolutely ridiculous as it was like I was wearing some sort of adult diaper.  However, if this is what it took to keep my fat ass and, subsequently, my family jewels from being set aflame, so be it.

To say I was anxious about the first brick class would be the understatement of the century.   The class was full of the same gazelles from the run workout earlier that week plus some new rather sleek-looking folks who were already talking about all the races they had signed up for.

I started to panic.

Here I was, a fat guy in Depends amid a host of ultra-fit athletic types who – clearly – had done this before.  They had the right gear, the proper clip-in cycling shoes, and they knew the lingo.

What in the hell had I gotten myself into?

The instructor’s name was Bill and, like Devin, he was a pretty cool guy.  Bill was already 60 years young and, as it turns out, a fountain of information.  He helped me adjust my bike properly and explained how all the gears and settings on the bike worked; something that had clearly been emitted during my first spin class.  It’s not that this made it any easier mind you, but it did give me a bit of added confidence that I was now doing things correctly rather than just fudging my way along at the back of the class.

For 90 minutes – yes, 90-goddamn-minutes – we spun our asses off and at certain points, hopped off our bikes and went up to the track to run.  Now, understanding how my running had panned out earlier that week on fresh legs, well, let’s just say that running on tired legs is a completely different beast; something I’m not sure I could have ever prepared myself for.  It was as if my legs had actually turned to bricks themselves, meaning that “Brick workouts” are very aptly named if you ask me.

It was definitely hard going.

Shakespeare is quoted as having said “a coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once”.

Well, I call bullshit on that.

While I can assure you that I did not pussy out and I actually gave it my best effort for the whole 90 minutes, I think my heart still stopped at least a thousand times.

But survive I did and I even received a nice compliment on my effort not just from Bill, but from several of the other participants as well, so I was definitely encouraged.  Despite my lingering feeling of being the odd man out, they certainly were a nice group of people.

The next workout that week was the Masters swim session also run by Bill as well as another guy, Roberto.  My exploits into swimming have already been documented in a previous post (click HERE), and I wasn’t as anxious about it as I was about the other two workouts that week.  Of course, it didn’t go exactly how I anticipated it would but I’ll let you click on the above links for that full account.  What I was most concerned with was the 6:00am start time…on a SUNDAY!

Seriously, though, I thought Sunday was supposed to be a “Day of Rest”.

Madness I tell you!

Anyway, I met in the lobby of the YMCA at 5:45am that week with about two dozen other bleary-eyed and bedraggled triathlete wannabe’s.  Once the door opened, I proceeded to go through the next 60 minutes of near drowning and by the end I was completely disillusioned with my swimming.  I had originally thought I was a decent swimmer but, as I learned, I knew about as much about “proper” swimming as I did about running and cycling.  Afterwards, Bill lead us through another 45 minutes of torture in the spin studio and a 20 minute core workout after that so that by 8:30am I was about as near death as I’ve ever been in my life.

The thing is, that after it was all said and done that week I felt as if I had accomplished something significant.

And, in actuality – I had.

The other valuable benefit to becoming a member of this herd of tri-gazelles was the meet cup for coffee after Sunday’s workout.  It was here that I started to form meaningful friendships with these people as well as beginning to glean the ins and outs of the sport like nutrition, equipment, etc., so that little by little I was getting myself mentally prepared for the inevitable challenge that I had signed up for with my brother.  I even started doing more running on my own outdoors – albeit without much structure – I swam some added laps and, yes, I even joined a few more spin classes during the week.

Consequently, my confidence began to grow week after week as did my fitness.  I’m not going to say that any of it was necessarily easy or comfortable at first, but it did eventually become part of my new weekly routine as did walking and weights and, in time, I even learned to enjoy it…somewhat.

You could even say that I became hooked.

Throughout that winter, I kept up with the routine and all the workouts and eventually, I wasn’t feeling like the helpless fat kid as much as I was beginning to hold my own with some of the other more experienced gazelles.  By spring, I was more or less ready as I was ever going to be to take on this triathlon challenge.

The thing is, I still needed to find a bike and, as I learned, a wetsuit.

Fortunately, anticipating these two necessary expenditures I had saved up a little money from my paychecks for this purpose.

First up was the wetsuit.

One Saturday afternoon, I joined four other first time triathlete wannabe’s from the group (all females) on a wetsuit shopping excursion to ‘Swim n Sport’ in Burlington. Now, if you’ve never shopped for a wetsuit before, you’re in for a real treat.  Just imagine having three young and attractive shop attendants try to wedge all your bodily “man folds” into a sausage casing.  The task was absolutely Sisyphean in nature.  As one fold of fat was neatly tucked in, another would suddenly spring free so that there was more constant yanking, pulling, poking, prodding and stretching than I ever care to remember.  In fact, until now I have pretty much entirely blocked out this memory from my consciousness.  It was like trying to stuff the Michelin Man into a neoprene condom.

Yeah, not sexy!

After about 30 breathless minutes of being forcefully stuffed into a basic entry-level wetsuit, I stood looking at myself in a full length mirror while the poor girls huffed and puffed nearby.

My reaction?


Again, a feeling of ridiculousness totally overwhelmed me but, by this point, I was pretty certain that after all their effort, the shop attendants would have lynched me right there in the store had I chose to change my mind and decide against it, so I reluctantly handed over my credit card and a brand new Nineteen wetsuit was mine all mine for the  substantial cost of $399.99.

And believe me, this was no meager expense for me at the time.

What it did mean, of course, was that I had pretty much made up my mind by this point that triathlon was going to be a major part of my life for some time to come, even though I hadn’t yet – you know – actually competed in one.  I justified it to myself that it was a necessary investment in my newfound healthy lifestyle and, hey, if I couldn’t complete the actual triathlon itself, I may as well look the part, dammit!

Now all I needed now was a bike.

The problem thought, was that a new bike was well out of my price range at this point in time.

Fortunately, fate stepped in yet again.

One of my older co-workers, Jan, had been following all my triathlon exploits to that point with a sincere interest.  Her kids had all participated in triathlon years before so she already understood all the effort it took to adequately prepare for one.  Each day she would quiz me on my last workout and my overall progress and was very encouraging and supportive.  When I told her I was still looking for a bike, she told me that she had one I could just…have.

I was like:


She assured me that it had been sitting unused in her basement for quite a while collecting dust and if I wanted, I could just have it.  It would likely need a tune up but, other than that, it should be adequate enough to see me through my first triathlon.

I was absolutely beside myself and reluctant to accept such a generous offer but I agreed to at least check it out.

She wheeled into the office one morning and it was an old Trek 1000 aluminum-framed road bike.  It was dusty, had some dents and dings on the frame, two flat tires, a rusty chain and…it was gorgeous.  I wheeled it down to the nearby cycle shop which was conveniently located nearby and after they spent a little time on it lubing the chain, changing out the tires and adding clipped pedals, what I wheeled out again a week later was a perfectly decent and 100% usable road bike.

I had no idea how to actually ride it, but I now had myself a bike.

(to be continued…)