My Life (Part 3): Becoming One With the Herd

Posted: September 7, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: , ,

(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…)


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