Calculating Gym Vanity

Posted: October 31, 2016 in Gym, Lifestyle
Tags:

soyfcbmbip2lI am slowly beginning to get back into a semi-regular strength building program involving weights.  I genuinely like throwing around the heavy iron in the off-season as it makes me feel all manly n’ shit but, being in the gym with other people… well, not so much.

In fact, sometimes it outright pisses me off.

I actually do my very best to choose times to go to the gym and do my weights routine when I can anticipate that there – hopefully – will not be a whole lot of other people there.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m anti-social, or dislike other people (well, most of the time anyway), shit, sometimes, I even like to people watch in between sets.  C’mon, the gym is a pretty unique environment where, typically, people-watching is considered a total bonus.  Just search YouTube for videos on “strange gym behavior”; hours of endless entertainment, I promise you.

However, it doesn’t always turn out that way and sometimes I just end up getting aggravated as I did this past weekend.  Over the course of 60 minutes or so, I shared the gym with five other gym-goers and pretty much the whole time, they were just occupied taking selfies.

Here’s me standing on a treadmill; here’s me looking all fierce on a gym bench; here’s me posing with some dumbbells I might actually lift…

Why they were even there – beats the living shit out of me.

Once again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily “anti-selfie” as I have been accused.  I think selfies and “documenting the moment”, as you will, can be fun.  I get it, this is the age of instant expression and accessibility.  However, I don’t believe that every waking moment of every waking day 100% needs to be documented and posted for the world to admire…especially when you’re at the gym.

You’re supposed to be – you know – getting healthy.

So this prompted me to do a little “gym math”.

Hey, what else are ya gonna do when all the equipment is occupied with people zoned into their cell phones?

But I’ll come back to that.

First things first.

So of the five people present in the gym this past Saturday and over the course of the 60 minutes I was in the gym, I counted 47 different selfies.

Now, I’m sure I likely missed one or two seeing as how, well, I was WORKING OUT…so let’s round that number to 50, shall we?

That’s a stupid amount of selfies if you ask me.  It’s almost as if they’re operating under the pretense that if they didn’t snap that selfie to capture the moment, it (ie. the workout) didn’t really happen.

So, based on these numbers we can assume that the average gym-goer (at least on this day) took on the average, 10 selfies within that time frame.  So over the course of 60 minutes that’s literally one selfie every 6 minutes.

But let’s take it even one step further.

Assuming it takes, gee, let’s say 1 minute to pose (actually, I think it’s closer to two minutes, but I’m not going to nitpick and I’m choosing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt), snap and then post each of your selfies to Facebook, Instagram, or whatever other social media platform you choose to embrace and share each and every mundane detail of your life over, that equates to a mere 4 minutes between selfies in which to, you know, do shit.

Lift.  Crunch.  Plank.  Squat.

Whatever.

So of our original 60 minutes of “working out”, we’re already down to 40 minutes of actual activity…assuming, of course, that you take absolutely no pauses or breaks in between sets, reps, getting drinks of water, replacing equipment, setting up, moving about the gym or what have you.

In other words: impossible.

Maybe – at best – you’re actually engaged in lifting weights or otherwise doing healthy shit for about 20-25 minutes (and I feel like I’m being very generous here based on what I observed).  The rest of the time, really – exactly 40 minutes worth by my calculations – you’re basically just sitting there documenting your inactivity.

This is what annoys me about selfies at the gym.

I’m all for being proud of your progress and whatnot, but that’s what the mirrors are for (that, and making sure you’re practicing good form, etc.).  They were not initially intended as a photographic aid.    And did you really need to take a zillion shots of you making ducky lips with your half-caf mocha-coco-bullshit-ccino and fancy Beats headphones?  I mean, how narcissistic can you get?

Its grounds for instant “unfriending” in my books!

The other thing to remember is that while you sit there and take endless pics of your mug until you get just the right one that best encapsulates your lazy ass sitting on a bench thinking about getting all ripped, jacked or God knows what it is you’re trying to do, you’re occupying a piece of equipment that I might actually want to use.

It’s maddening.

Leave…the…phone…at…home.

But in the off chance you insist on taking your selfies, here’s a video offering you a little advise:

You’re welcome.

I think everyone has obsessions of some sort, whether it be simply collecting things (of which I have many different collections ranging from vinyl records to bread clips), or Cacodemonomania (the constant belief that you are possessed by a demon, if only so you can say, “Don’t blame me.  It’s Cthulu’s fault I’m running late”).

Whatever it is, it completely consumes you to a certain degree.

Triathletes are no exception.  We are the Batman of the sporting world with absolutely no limit to amount of technological gizmos that we will own and use to enhance our racing and training programs.  As such, we are easily obsessed with these different nuances of our sport; especially given the extreme amount of data, information and equipment that is readably available.  Some of us will obsess over our bikes and biking paraphernalia, insisting on having the most state-of-art aerodynamics and performance-enhancing devices, others will obsess over the amount of data they record during their different blocks of training as a means of evaluating their progress.

While I don’t necessarily have all the latest devices and gizmo’s and, truthfully, I am beginning to lean more towards the “less is better” methodology of training, I am certainly guilty of having a few obsessions and when it comes to swimming, it seems that for whatever reason, my obsession lies with owning swim paddles.

In fact, you could consider this post then as “my life in swim paddles” as certainly, this weird obsession with paddles is very representative of my own development over the past six or so years as a serious swimmer.

It’s true, my swim bag is cram-packed with stuff so that I likely look more like Santa lugging around his toy sack between lanes.

All I’m missing is the beard and a reindeer leading the way (which, now that I think about it, might be a novel idea on how to better pace myself through long intervals).

This obsession all started innocently enough about two years into my journey as a triathlete-slash-swimmer (click HERE for a taste of those early days).  Our swim coaches at the time Bill and Roberto used to talk about the importance of incorporating some “paddle work” into weekly swim workouts.  Of course, at the time I was just lucky to not drown so I never paid it a second thought.  Eventually when I became a little more proficient in the water, a fellow TryForce member (Hi Chantelle!) mentioned that she was going to the Team Aquatics store in Burlington, Ontario to pick up a pair of paddles and offered to grab me a pair as well.

“Yeah, why not?”, I figured and readably agreed.

These are what I was handed a few days later:

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These little babies are aimed at allowing you to focus on your catch and your pull and vertical forearm.  Likewise, they are good for lengthening your stroke and overall keeping good focus throughout most phases of the stroke.  In other words, they are perfect for developing your “technique” and, yes, they can also be used for backstroke but, seriously, I didn’t do a lot of that anyway so who cares?

These worked great as I was in my development stage by that point.  But fast forward a year later and I’m swimming with The Coach and she suggests we do some paddle work.  So upon pulling out my teeny weeny paddles she begins to laugh uncontrollably.

Mocking definitely ensued.

It was kind of like that moment in Crocodile Dundee when a street hood decides to pull a knife on him:

It was some time before I lived that one down.

So, I decided to up the ante and invest on what I figured were the next level up paddle.

These beauties:

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Tech or technique paddles are designed mainly for aiding water-feel.  They have a nice, comfortable clam-shape to them that were easy to put on and comfortable to wear.

They kind of looked like what this chick is riding on:

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They are designed to aid catch, early vertical forearm (EVF), strength and pull; a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades as swim paddles go.  They are useful for building up shoulder strength primarily and I used these semi-religiously leading up to my 1st and 2nd Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids.    I largely credit these for having the strong shoulders I developed over those two years.  I still use these from time to time but then I noticed that they weren’t quite as difficult to use as they once were and started becoming a little, well, bored with them.

But then one day Kyle Jones jumped in the lane beside me and he was using a pair of these:

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These Finis Agility paddles are now my favorite paddle and I regularly use them regularly.  They have no strap and fit on each hand using a simple thumb hole.  In order to keep them on your hands during the stroke you must keep a good catch and pull through on every stroke.  Everyone who has tried these has felt the immediate technique feedback and, likely, these may just be the best paddles on the market. And if you want just one paddle, I’d recommend these.

But did my obsession stop there?

Oh, HELLS NO!

I still wanted to incorporate regular strength building into my weekly routine beyond what my old Tech paddles did so, recently, I made another trip back to Team Aquatics and purchased these bad boys:

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Specifically, these Speedo Power Paddles are designed to create enough water resistance to build up your upper body strength.  They also help encourage you to keep your elbows high as you work through your stroke, for a faster, more powerful swim.

Plus, they look pretty bad ass.

There is absolutely nothing fancy-schmancy about them.  It’s basically a flat, plastic swim paddle that is fitted over your hand by mere pieces of rubber tubing fitted through small holes in the paddle itself. In other words, there are no bells and whistles to these things which is keeping to my more minimalistic “no frills” approach to training these days.

But am I done yet?

Not likely.

Not even close.

Now I’m eyeing these paddles for the very near future.

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Specifically designed for freestyle training, the Freestyler Hand Paddles plane the hand forward through the water, improving reach and distance-per-stroke.  With a long fin shape and unique “skeg design”, the Freestyler Hand Paddles promote a strong pull through, better hip-rotation and increased efficiency. An adjustable finger strap offers a perfect fit and the narrow surface area helps prevent shoulder strain.

Maybe Santa will be good to me this year.

**fingers crossed**

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.

Winning.

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.

FML.

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.

Yay.

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)?

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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:

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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.

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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:

“DO NOT PUSH THE EARPLUG SO FAR INTO THE EAR THAT YOU’RE UNABLE TO GET IT OUT.”

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” :

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

Cool!

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.

Beautiful!

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?

Yeah.

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.

NOT!

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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So a celebratory hot chocolate was definitely in order.

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

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

Why, this little ensemble of course:

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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.

Me?

I’ll stick to the essentials.

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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.

Awesome.

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:

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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.

Me?

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:

4448_119874720976_2447545_n

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:

4448_119888760976_3131905_n

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:

4448_119874765976_1841166_n

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 specialist..like 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.”

Motherfucker!

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:

santo-condorelli

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