Posts Tagged ‘Craptastic!’

(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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

Now that the race season is practically over, I’m feeling somewhat at a loss.

For the past seven years I have competed in several triathlons, running races and long distance bike challenges.  This year with the cancellation of my planned Iron-distance event (click HERE), I didn’t compete at all…like, at all.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I competed one 30k running race…and I totally sucked out (click HERE).

Needless to say, it hasn’t exactly been my finest year fitness-wise.

I mean, I’ve had a great summer – don’t get me wrong!  I helped run 10 kids triathlon all over Ontario and British Columbia with the SunRype Tri-KiDS series and I completed another 10k Swim for Strong Kids…even though that wasn’t my finest hour either.  What I have done well enough though is drink lots of beer and consume stupid amounts of BBQ…like a champ!

Now as I’m beginning to get squared away mentally for the pending 2017 challenges which – *knock on wood* – will mark my triumphant return to both triathlon and a healthy lifestyle, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I actually ended up going down this road in the first place.

How did I get here?

What can I learn from this?

I guess I’m preparing to go all Rocky IV here by going back to basics, beginning with my diet.

This post then is the culmination of about three weeks worth of reflecting on how I did end up at this juncture in my life as well as what I’ve learned, as a means of using that to motivate me to do the right things again for the next 11 months leading up to July 2nd, 2017…my (hopeful) return to Ironman.


 

It should first be known that I don’t have anything particularly against cheeseburgers.  I still have them from time to time and I still list ‘finding the perfect cheeseburger’ on the Interests portion of my professional resume.

It’s just that I don’t eat them for breakfast anymore.

You see, I am a fat person much in the same way that ‘once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic’ and cheeseburgers were once an acceptable meal anytime of the day.  Salad was what you put on the cheeseburger, but things have changed drastically since those days.  There was no such thing as ‘Healthy Options’ on restaurant menus, nor did we have ‘Blue Menu’s’ at the local superstore.

It’s doubtful that I would’ve cared less even if there had been.

I’ve been sensitive about my weight ever since high school.  In grade school I was skinny – ‘athletic’ almost.  Back then, I even managed to win the  “Male Athlete of the Year” award in Grade Six upon graduating Maplecrest Public School; not necessarily because of any athletic prowess per se, but because I simply participated in absolutely everything – albeit poorly.  Volleyball, basketball, cross-country, soccer, etc. – I sucked at it all equally.  Of course, it was more of a ‘Sportsmanship’ award than anything else as I can’t ever remember winning anything particularly important or even placing in anything above dead last in any sporting meet or event, but Lord knows I tried hard.

Outside of school I enjoyed recreational swimming, baseball and badminton, all of which I fared pretty well, especially badminton, but never to any significant degree.  But then I got my first job as a pre-teenager, a paper route and, with it, a means of instant income and a rather compulsive addiction to chocolate bars so that by the time high school came around I had the inflated physique (and likely the blood sugar level) of the Michelin Man.  From that point forward it was ‘So long sports!  Hello Snickers bars!’  I still played badminton with a certain amount of skill, but my only other ‘athletic’ endeavor in high school was participating on the curling team, mostly because there was a lot of sitting in between ends.  So while everyone else was out making touchdowns, hitting dingers and sinking buckets…I was sweeping rocks and sitting on benches.  Not exactly the stuff that true jocks are made of.

Eating junk food was where I really shined.

Likewise, I wish I could tell you that I have fond memories of spending lots of quality time with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen learning healthy family recipes but, in actuality, I was usually too preoccupied in the living room watching Loony Tunes.

Essentially, this was me every time dinner was called:

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I could do the basics I suppose; toast bread, pour cereal, spread peanut butter over crackers and, what have you – hardly anything that one might qualify as ‘fine cuisine’.  When I was old enough to use the stove I could boil water for hot dogs or Kraft Dinner; skills that would serve me well into my adult life.  We ate well enough as a family, despite not always having the ample budget to do so.  In fact, how my mother continuously fed our family of five as well as she did must have been akin to Jesus feeding the multitudes on five loaves of bread and two fish – it’s just that I didn’t play much of a part in the whole process as I did at turning my nose up at what was placed in front of me…unless it was dessert, of course.  It was the late 1970’s and my mom was in charge of the kitchen as were most mom’s of that particular generation, and Rule #1 was our getting lost to leave her to work which suited me fine given that, mostly, I was pretty lazy.

These poor eating habits continued on when I left home to attend university where, instead of following the recommended meal plans provided by the residence cafeterias (if residence meal plans could ever be considered as ‘healthy’ that is), I gravitated towards Taco Bell…every day.  I could consume my body weight in soft bean burritos.  I probably did more often that I’d like to admit.  Despite playing badminton recreationally once or twice a week (thank God for my wicked drop shop which spared me having to run on many an occasion), the quantities of crappy food and beer far outweighed whatever calories I was burning off on the courts.

More often than not, I could be found at any one of the university bars on campus indulging in a liquid lunch and, maybe, a plate of fries instead of engaging in anything healthy or active.  By the time I left university I was well on my way to a severe weight problem, not to mention a liver that probably looked like a discarded sponge.

I also started to smoke pot…a lot.

I like to refer to these years as “The Fattening”.

The next few years were similarly unkind on my body.  After I graduated university I moved away to London, U.K. to work in British-style pubs where my diet mainly existed solely on peanut butter and kebobs.  Lord knows, the English aren’t well known for their healthy cuisine.  At least they weren’t back then as this was still the pre-Jamie Oliver era.  My weekly paycheck (or what was left over after rent anyway) was primarily reserved for beer and cigarettes.  So fruit and vegetables were seldom ever factored in unless you consider ‘mushy peas’ or ‘chips’ a vegetable.  My daily meals were often compromised of whatever leftovers I could scrounge up in the kitchen after service.  This is no one’s fault but my own, and my managers were very nice and accommodating in allowing me to get away with this as it wasn’t really their obligation to feed me, but my priorities were all eschewed after years of poor lifestyle decisions.

By the time I returned home eight years later I had ballooned out to well over 275 lbs.

Even when I returned home, this poor eating style continued and was complimented by many, many other unhealthy choices as I continued working in the local bars and restaurants.  ‘Dinner’ had become whatever I managed to throw down my throat on my break and, maybe, something else later in the wee hours of the morning on the way home again (think: MacDonald’s, Burger King, or whatever else happened to still be open for Take-Out).  By now, this had all become learned behavior over the years; ‘cooking’ was about as alien to me as advanced nuclear physics.  Seriously, I’d have about as much luck in making a simple casserole as I would have of stumbling across the formula for cold water fusion; I was that hopeless at preparing my own meals.  If it hadn’t been either pre-prepared or pre-packaged I had absolutely no freakin’ idea what to do with it as, by that time, I had developed a full on love affair with high calorie, fatty food.  Fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet were almost unheard of and had taken on a near mythical status in my life, like unicorns, leprechauns and the Loch Ness Monster.

Later, I managed to quit the service industry altogether and bumped around from job to job until I ended up working in a call center, mostly because it was air-conditioned and I could sit for eight hours a day.  Besides, I had excellent communication skills so solving customer disputes and handling billing problems over the phone didn’t pose much thought or difficulty.  It was an ‘easy paycheck’ involving next to zero physical activity or exercise.

Part and parcel with this new employment, however, was my becoming used to living out of the cafeteria vending machines, of which, pre-packaged microwave cheeseburgers were my favorite; breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I loved those cellophane-wrapped heart attacks-to-go.

Fortunately by this point, I had managed to quit smoking but I had just turned 30 years old, weighed approximately 320 lbs. and would break out into a sweat simply by walking to the corner store for a loaf of bread or, as in the case on this particularly fateful day, from the car to the front door at work.  After years of living poorly and making unhealthy lifestyle decisions, I had turned myself into a gelatinous blob of fat with no muscle whatsoever.  My personal self-esteem was practically non-existent and I still smoked copious amounts of marijuana every day in order to maintain my sanity in the face of it all.

Dating?

Impossible.

I was entering into middle age and I felt awful most of the time and, ultimately, I grew very bitter and angry at myself, not to mention the rest of the world.  I had, quite literally, become the ‘Fat and the Furious’.

Eventually, I had a bit of an epiphany.

Well, not so much an epiphany as it was a “moment”.

I very real and ugly moment.

It came while looking at my reflection in the front window at my place of employment.  I was sweating profusely and out of breathe; I was enormous, unkempt, and very unhealthy looking and I had only walked a short distance from the car.  Instead of going in, I just stood there in shock taking in the miserable looking behemoth staring back at me.  I felt terrible.  I was overcome with a profound sense of shame and disappointment.  How had I let things get to this point?  When did I become so fat and out of shape?  I decided then and there to pack it in for the day and went home.  Judging by my reflection, I was justified in taking a sick day as I was most certainly not well; physically or mentally.  It was while sitting on the couch at home that afternoon, smoking pot and eating a candy bar while feeling sorry for myself, that the ultimate decision was made.

Things needed to change.

Fast.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had taken the first significant step to changing the path of self-destruction.

I had no idea how I was going to manage this change but, finally, the initiative had hit me that I was going to do something…anything.  So where most people sign up for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, or whatever fad diet program that happens to be occupying the majority of prime time air slots on the boob tube, or run out to purchase the latest, convenient, fold away, body sculpting piece of shit being hawked by the latest celebrity has-been…I started walking and, heaven’s forbid, eating more salad.

I still wasn’t a whiz in the kitchen, but I bought some healthy eating cook books from the local secondhand bookstore and started to bookmark basic recipes that even a chimpanzee could muster up.  It was a start.

It was something.

At first I simply walked around the neighborhood for an hour or so and there are some very unflattering photographs of me from around this period.  It was amazing to me how little I really knew about the area I had lived in for the majority of my life.  Now I was discovering what lay at the end of certain side-streets, or laneways that I had never bothered to turn down before, and what pretty landscapes lay in hiding along remote walking trails and local parks.  Little by little, these neighborhood walks grew increasingly longer in both duration and distance and I completed them faithfully every night after getting home from work.  I enjoyed these ambles, in the beginning anyway, and they were every bit as challenging then as some of the crazy workouts I attempt nowadays, yet I still had no invocation of ever completing a triathlon.

That notion hadn’t even begun to formulate itself in my mind yet.

I started to plan out my meals with a little more consideration as to what I was actually putting into my body.  I began to make the connection that whatever I ate that day was directly related to the quality of the workout – however basic  – that I would take on later that day.

I also learned another, well, not so pleasant side effect of suddenly switching to a healthy lifestyle after nearly two decades of self-indulgence; real food makes you poop…a lot.

Who knew?

And I’m not talking about the usual evacuations I was accustomed to when eating all that high calorie, greasy food either, I’m talking about huge spires of earthly-colored crap that would make most circus elephants envious.  Every time I needed to go to the bathroom I practically had to clear my afternoon schedule.

Let it never be said that getting healthy is a beautiful thing.

I remember one particular evening when the toilet in my meager apartment had clogged up after a rather glorious passing.  I attacked the drain with a plunger like I was grappling with the control stick of a plummeting B-52 bomber, but to no avail.   After three or four unsuccessful attempts to unblock the offending obstruction, not to mention cleaning up the three or four inevitable overflows, I decided to call in for back-up to my landlord who also conveniently lived on the main floor downstairs.  Unfortunately, he was still at work for the evening so I left a message and settled down on the couch for a nap.

Hey, pooping is hard business don’t’ cha know?

Later that evening when he returned home he immediately came upstairs for a looksee and after a few more unsuccessful “plunge and mop ups”, he too threw in the towel – quit literally actually – and offered to call a plumber in the morning.  It was late and he was tired, so dealing with plugged toilets I’m sure wasn’t exactly what he wanted to be doing.

Who could blame him?

Defeated, he left to go downstairs and shortly thereafter I heard a scream followed by a very vocal “Oh, shit!”  As it later turned out, more accurate words could not have been chosen.

I hurriedly raced downstairs to see what all the commotion was and upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, I saw him standing in the doorway to his apartment – frozen – with a look of pure horror on his face.  It still wasn’t immediately clear what had happened at that point, so I carefully maneuvered around him in the narrow passageway to sneak a peek inside.  The grizzly spectacle I was greeted with would have been on par with any murder crime scene.

It was gruesome indeed!

Bucketful’s of dirty toilet water had poured out from the ceiling just underneath where my bathroom would have been; all over his leather furniture, his home entertainment center, his, well, everything really.  Everything in the apartment was completely saturated with dank, smelly sewage.

It seems that the pipes in my bathroom had completely burst under the floor and released with it an absolute torrential tsunami of shit.  What was revealed later when all was said and done was that, being an old house, the bathroom pipes had literally exploded under the force of my massive meaty turds over the past few monthly.

Oops.

But it’s the truth; I was squeezing out these new Tyrannosaurus-sized turds on a very regular basis, the likes of which I’d never experienced before.  Think about it:  making healthier choices including eating foods with high fiber and more cruciferous vegetables was ultimately wreaking havoc on the poor outdated plumbing in the apartment.  One hundred year old drainage pipes were no match for my reenergized bowel apparently.

Thankfully, my landlord had the proper home insurance to cover such disasters and all would be rectified thanks to nearly three months’ worth of detailed renovations during which time he had to sleep on his sailboat.

All thanks to my new healthy lifestyle.

After nearly a year of sticking with the plan, through good times and smelly, I wasn’t quite so repulsed with the reflection I saw in passing windows during my daily walks but, there was still a long way to go in my mind.  I even started dating – albeit never for very long.  This was a huge breakthrough in and of itself just to know that someone could actually find me attractive.  Most exciting of all was that I could once again see my penis in the shower without the aid of a box periscope.

What can I say?

I’m all about small victories.

The time was also approaching I decided, to ratchet up the plan to the next level and included my first foray into what I considered ‘No Man’s Land’; the local gym.

Soon there would be no looking back.

(to be con’d…)

Now that I’ve determined how much I absolutely suck at Aquafit, I have started to look at what other options are available at our YMCA during this time period while the girls are getting their Aquafit on.  As luck would have it, there is a yoga class that goes on at the same time.

Perfect!

I used to really get into my yoga way back when; four to five times a week as a matter of fact.  It’s actually one of the primary reasons I attribute my getting to the starting lines at both Cancun 70.3 and Ironman Wales in the shape I was in.  I first started at my YMCA and shortly afterwards graduated joining a local yoga studio where I learned the in’s and out’s of participating in “real” yoga sessions at a proper “ashram” (click HERE).

You may read that as “uninjured”.

The benefits of yoga are already pre-established within the posts of this blog.  At one one, yoga was the only form of strength-based workouts I did.  But then after Wales I needed a bit of a break from…everything.  Eventually, I slowly got back into swimming, cycling and running but, yoga?  Not so much.  My excuse is that there wasn’t a “satisfactory” yoga studio out here that I could visit regularly.  So my yoga practice took a sharp U-turn to Splitsville.  I did try to kick start my practice a few years ago and, well, it didn’t go so well (click HERE).  But seeing as how I’m now trying to focus my efforts on strength building and core given that the EPiC Challenge is off (click HERE) I figured, “hey, let’ giv’er another shot?  What the hell.”

It was like fate had finally smiled down on me.

So the plan was to spend my Wednesday evenings doing some plyometrics and weights specially aimed at building explosive cycling and running power and then cap it all off with a nice and relaxing yoga session afterwards to focus on my core and injury prevention.

Did you hear that?

“Relaxing”.

Ha!

Anyway, as I sauntered into the gym area where the session was being held I noticed a particular lack in the usual hippie-dippie New Age tattoos and fashionable athletic wear.  I mean, it is my local YMCA after all but, regardless, given my distaste for the holier-than-thou “culture of yoga” I began to think that this might actually go pretty well.

WINNING!

Suck it, Aquafit!

I unfolded my dusty yoga mat, slipped off my shoes and socks and readied myself to be “transformed”, or “blissed out”, or whatever the fuck it is they do in yoga.  I forget.

Unfortunately, the first words out of the instructor’s mouth were not would I would consider as being “transforming”:

“Today, we’re going to focus on opening up our hip flexors”.

Fuck.

To put this in perspective, and speaking for most regular runners/cyclists, “opening up our hip flexors” would rank right up there with “pouring battery acid down our pants”, or “claw our eyes out with garden tools” as far as motivating statements are concerned, specifically since I haven’t participated in any instructor-lead yoga sessions for at least two years.

This was going to suck.

And suck it did.

The next 55 minutes or so, we were lead through the usual series of poses and asana’s and at every turn I felt like my either my hips were going to rip apart, or my spine was going to snap like a dry pretzel.  At one point, she demonstrated the “bird of paradise” asana and I can only imagine the look on my face.

It probably read somewhere along the lines of:

I swear, I almost walked out then and there.

Definitely not WINNING!

Oh, and “crow pose”?

Fuggetaboutit!

Of course, this was all largely in part due to the fact I haven’t participated in a well disciplined yoga class for so long, but also because I was still fatigued from the 60 minutes worth of hopping, leaping and skipping I did previously.  So, basically, it was about as far removed from “relaxing” as it was going to get and I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My intentions were good, of course, but the reality of the situation was less than pretty.

Eventually, she invited us to lie down on our mat to begin our warm down and, I swear, I think a single tear rolled down my cheek.  I was that relieved.  However, this was some good news though at this point.  As it turns out, I can still Shavasna like a champ.

Yay me!

I still plan on keeping with it as my schedule allows.  But if anything, this class reminded me of how far I’ve strayed from being a ‘yogi’ as well as how much work it’s going to take me in order to feel somewhat comfortable on the mat again.  Fortunately, I have a whole year to get reacquainted with my practice.

In a way, it’s kind of my practice coming full circle again in that I’m back at the YMCA where I first started and I think that there’s something pretty apropos about that so I’m taking it as an ultimate sign that it’s time to get my bendy-twisty on once again.

Let’s do this.

Aquafuck?

Posted: May 6, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: , ,

Quick! 

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “Aquafit”?

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How about this?

para-quien-aquafitness

Yeah.

Me too.

In fact, prior to Wednesday, I’ve only ever participated in one other Aquafit class before and that was years and years ago and at the time I was as high as a kite.  So much so, that I pretty much just floated around the deep end doing my own thing for about 45 minutes until I noticed that everybody else had left.

I’m not proud of it, but there you go.

Anyway, the other night I had another go at this “Aquafit” thing and, truthfully, it didn’t go much better.

Allow me to paint you the tale.

We had decided earlier this month that in lieu of HRH  keeping up with her weekly swimming lessons that she and Kelly would participate together in something active every week.  Nothing intense or crazy, mind you, but something that definitely requires more effort and calorie burn than watching YouTube videos on an iPad.  And, seriously, if surfing videos and playing video games were an Olympic event, HRH  would be the new Jesse Owens.

Anyway, the plan was hatched this week that the girls would participate in an Aquafit class together and even though I had completed two other prescribed workouts that day I agreed to join them.

I’ve seen the grannies going at it during my evening swim workouts and it sure looked easy enough.

What the hell.

A quick check with Dr. Google revealed that Aquafit can be a beneficial workout to improve performance in other high-impact activities such as running.  Thanks to the buoyancy of water, you can strengthen your muscles and improve your cardiovascular fitness without actually subjecting your body to additional wear and tear. 

Awesome! 

Furthermore, Aquafit can help you balance out muscle groups that may have become uneven through repetitive actions (ie. running, cycling, etc.).  I definitely have this issue and is ultimately why I’m so focused right now on trying to even out these imbalances I’ve created through weekly functional strength and plyometric workouts.   Working out in water provides equal resistance through your full range of motion, a phenomenon known as ‘double concentric muscle action‘  so, yeah, maybe there’s something to this whole Aquafit thing.

Suddenly, I was beginning to view Aquafit in a very different light:

Most importantly, it would be fun do something active and healthy together as a family.

And that’s cool too, right?

Besides, how hard can it really be?

So, anyway, my idea was to venture to the gym about an hour in advance to complete a challenging 60 minute plyometric routine and then I would join the girls in the pool for the Aquafit class as my “warm down”.

Good idea, right?

Ha.

The first five minutes or so were easy enough alright, but as the class started pick up momentum into the workout I realized that, shit, this is damn difficult!  My body absolutely rebelled against me in the water refusing to do even the simplest of movements that the grannies over on the opposite side of the pool were making look easy.

The fuck?

The instructor lead us through a series of moves with odd sounding names like ‘crossovers’, ‘chainsaw’s, etc.  All of which, everyone – including Kelly and HRH – seemed to accomplish gracefully without much effort at all.  they were cool, calm and collected…like they were performing some sort of aquatic ballet.

Me?

I looked like a retarded porpoise splashing around for sardines.

Even pedaling my legs underwater was difficult.  Sure I do it over hundreds of kilometers a week on my bike – millions of revolutions in total I’m sure – but in the water, no so much.

And pedaling backwards?

Impossible.

But here’s the thing, after thousands and thousands of meters spent in the pool doing my drills and perfecting my ability to minimize resistance in the pool and thereby maximize my ability to efficiently move my body through it, suddenly, I was being asked to do exactly the opposite; feel that resistance and work against it.

And my body didn’t like it – at all.  It was confused…stymied…betrayed even.

It was as if my whole body was giving this to my brain:

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I’m sure I looked like a monkey trying to hump a football out there.

So, yeah, this Aquafit thing…not so easy.

So while the girls still plan to keep up with it going forward and I definitely applaud them, I think I’ll stick with something a little less stressful and demanding like, say, bull fighting or pankration.

Two weekends ago I raced my first long distance event of the season, the Around the Bay 30k (click HERE  for this years results) in Hamilton, Ontario, except that I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole subject…until now.  In short, it was a complete debacle of epic proportions which has ultimately left me very disappointed and discouraged given all the hard work I’ve put into my run training over the past two months.

Seeing as how I finished over 20 minutes off my best time from two years ago (2:31:20), well, let’s just agree that it was a total shit show ending with me walk-slash-trotting at an abysmal pace for the final few kilometers.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this event should now be officially renamed the “Painful Shuffle Around the Bay 30k’.

But as the new coach keeps telling me, every failure comes with a new opportunity to learn and improve, meaning, now I’m stuck with the burning question that I’ve been dwelling on for the past two weeks:

What the fuck went so wrong?

The plan was not necessarily to go out and set a new personal best.  No, it was ideally just an ideal “training day” to get a sense how my over all run training has been faring, especially in regards to the whole quicker cadence thing (click HERE).  We agreed then that I should go out sparingly at a comfortable pace of 5:30min/km  for the first 5k, then begin to up my pace gradually over the next 15k or so, before unleashing the big dogs altogether and go for broke over the last 10k to the finish.

Easy enough, right?

Well, the first part of the plan went great and despite the adrenaline and rush of competition, I held myself back just as planned arriving at the 5k mark at almost the exactly anticipated time of 27:30, meaning that I was pretty much bang on my 5:30min/km pace perfectly.  At this point, I was experiencing no issues and was rather enjoying myself.  Well, aside from the fact that I way over dressed for the occasion and sweating like a complete bastard that is*.

But I digress…

After the first 5k I increased my pace by focusing on my “quick feet” just I have been practicing and my pace accelerated to fluctuating anywhere between 5:10-5:20min/km, or thereabouts, depending on the terrain, wind, hot babe runner in tight-tights, etc..  It was still a slower pace than that of my PB pace two years ago, but if I could keep that pace going and then some for the remainder of the race that would put me on a pretty even keel to finishing around the same finishing time having covered more distance in the end…quicker.

“So far, so good”, I thought.

“Yay me!”, even.

Then around the 18k mark the fatigue began setting in, even a little more than you might expect.  Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that running 18k in and of itself is no small feat (well, for me anyway), but this was a different feeling.  My energy began to sap from my body rapidly and all at the exact moment when those stupid long-ass hills started up in earnest along the dreaded North Shore Blvd. portion of the race.  In fact, these hills are what the race is known for.

I knew I was in trouble.

From there is was vicious downward spiral where my quads began to feel like they were being torn apart, and I developed a hot spot in right foot making my keeping any decent pace comfortable.  I knew that my shoes were a bit long in the tooth going in but I figured that they had at least one more long run in them.

Apparently, I was wrong.

By the half marathon mark, I was in big trouble.  From there, well, let’s just say it was a complete and total dumpster fire.  Mentally I had checked out, physically I was broken.  It started by my walking through the aid stations in order to give the burning sensation in my right foot some temporary relief and then graduated to alternating sporadically between a walk and a painful limp for the final few kilometers to the finish.

Here’s the whole shit show broken down pace-wise:

ATB Data

Yeah.

Not pretty is it?

I didn’t even want to collect my race medal when it was all said and done and instead of allowing the volunteer to place it valiantly around my neck as is customary, I snatched it out of her hand and quickly stuffed it in my race bag along with the token post-race banana and package of flatbread.  You’d think that she had just handed me porn, or something.

Fuck that.

Anyway, back to the question (blown shoes aside) – what went wrong?

Piecing together the day, it all started off pretty much like it does on any other given race morning.  One bowl of whole oats with brown sugar upon wake up, a toasted bagel and cream cheese about an hour later with the usual cup of coffee, and then starting about an hour before the start of the event I started nursing my premixed bottle of E-Load performance drink.

What I didn’t do however, was much fueling after that.  Once the race started I just got into my rhythm and blew through the aid stations as I hate jockeying around with 2000 other runners for a glass of whatever, so I tend to just move over to the right (or left) and carry on my way unencumbered.  And this was great for the first 15-18k, no issues.  I think the only thing I had to eat was a single dried honey date around the 7k and, maybe, the 13k mark.  By the time I had reached the hills, I was running on empty.

This was later explained to me by the coach:

“When you run out of glucose and glycogen in the muscles, your body switches from using fatty acids as fuel…to catabolizing muscle tissue for fuel.”

What this means is that when your body runs out of other sources of fuel, it will start to use its own muscle tissue for energy.  Isn’t that sexy?  This likely explains the “tearing” feeling I felt in my quads right around the two hour mark.  Obviously, this is not a normal condition, and your body will only start to use muscle tissue for energy under extreme conditions, such as if you are very sick (I was getting over the plaque I had contracted while in San Antonio two weeks before), severely malnourished or not consuming enough calories over an extended period of time to support normal body functions.

Terrific.

You see, every cell in your body needs energy to perform normal body functions such as moving, breathing, maintaining your heartbeat and healing damaged tissue.  And over the course of runner 30 kilometers, there’s lots of damaged tissue going on.  Normally, carbohydrates from your diet supply the types of sugar your body uses as its main source of energy.  To get enough sugar from your diet to supply your body with the energy it needs, approximately half of your daily calories need to come from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  I likely had enough of these stored carbs from my early morning feedings and the previous evening’s meal.

During digestion, your body will break down those carbohydrates into simple sugars that are then converted to glucose, or blood sugar.  That resulting glucose travels in your blood to every cell in your body, where it is used to manufacture energy.  If you consume more sugar than your body needs for immediate energy (and Lord knows I enjoy my treats), some of the excess is converted into glycogen, a type of sugar that is stored in your muscle tissue.  If your body needs glucose, and no sugar is coming in from your diet, glycogen is released from your muscles and broken down to supply enough glucose for energy to last about half a day.

So when I failed to “stoke the fire”, per se, by replenishing those stores of glucose I had in my body before the race started by providing it with more regular quick burning stores of simple carbohydrates, my body more or less reverted to eating its own muscle tissue in an effort to get the necessary glycogen to keep me going.

So, yeah, great!

My body was basically cannibalizing itself for the last 10k.

Amazeballs.

So, what’s the learning opportunity?

EAT YOU STUPID BASTARD!

So going forward this is my new mission to figure out a proper fueling strategy for both before and  during my long workouts, especially now that I’m heading into my long bike training period as well.  During these training runs (and bikes, for that matter) I will need to begin experimenting more with what I am taking into my body, as well as how often, in order to be able to sustain the required energy level.

My issue with that though, is that I don’t necessarily want to spend the equivalent of the Gross National Product of a small underdeveloped country on gels and sporting supplements to do so.

But the dried honey dates just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Now, given that I “go long” at least twice a week (long, being over two hours), that’s a lot of expensive sporting gels.  Of course, I would definitely prefer real (cheaper) food.  But not only does that “real food” have to be the right type of quick burning fuel, but it also has to be easily portable to boot.  After all, to my knowledge, there is no catering service for long distance athletes that will agree to set up an elaborate fueling buffet station ever 5k or so along my predetermined workout route…is there?

Yeah.

Doubtful!

So let the learning commence…

*This is a long standing tradition I have with this event in my never being able – for whatever reason – to figure out how to dress appropriately for the occasion.

Exactly seven days ago (as of this writing anyway) I came down with a stabbing pain in the middle of my back. It was (is) absolute agony.  I have no idea from whence it came.  Did it come as the result of my first easy drill run that afternoon, or is it the residual effect of lugging around heavy tents and wet floor mats on and off a truck for the SunRype Tri-KiDS days earlier?  I dunno.  All I do know is that it feels like somebody is repetitively plunging a carving knife into my back.  It totally blows.

I initially thought it was a knot or some sort of muscle spasm and tried to treat it with a topical pain relief lotion but that only ended up with my nearly getting third degree burns (click HERE).  I then dosed myself up on ibuprofen to no avail. I even went so far as to have a co-worker at the office walk on my back.  Nada.  Although I might have developed a new fetish for Geisha girls.

Nothing worked.  The pain just got increasingly worse and worse and for five days I barely slept and I pretty much existed in a constant state of agony and while things have improved marginally since then, I am still in lots of discomfort and I’m popping Tylenols like Pez.  Likewise, I’m now constantly walking around slouched over like a vampire cowering away from the sun.

FML.

This was supposed to be my big week back to Ironman training and here I am barely able to make it up the stairs without crying out in pain.  Needless to say I’m pretty frustrated.

Eventually I figured that I had had enough and decided to call in the Big Guns, namely the good people at Legacy Health & Performance, my go-to peeps for all things ouchie.  I booked a massage appointment with Nicole and also received an initial adjustment and assessment by Dr. Burr.  Neither really seemed to know what the issue was as it’s very difficult to treat something so completely systemic.

FML x 2.

I went to my family doctor and was told it was a simple muscle spasm (it wasn’t) and that I should just try and relax and wait for it to pass.  Oh, and she prescribed me some anti-inflammatories which were rather like throwing water balloons at a twelve alarm fire.  Fuckers!  Relax?  Yeah, right!  Ever try to relax  with an ice pick constantly being twisted between your shoulder blades?

Good luck with that.

Since then we have made some progress (at Legacy, not the doctor) in that we now realize that my symptoms (as they’ve changed somewhat since the first few days) indicate something known as ‘Dorsal Scapular Nerve Syndrome’ (click HERE).

Sounds catchy, eh?

Hey, wait, I thought it was dolphins and whales that had dorsals?

Nevermind.

Basically, DSNS is characterized by symptoms of a generalized dull ache along the medial border of the scapula, radiating into the lateral surface of the arm and forearm (which has only started to occur recently).  Now, when you read “Dull” here, think “OMFG that’s torture!”  because, baby, it was.  “Dull” just doesn’t do it justice at all.

So what’s the plan of attack?

Acupuncture.

FML x 3.

I’ve actually had acupuncture before years ago when I was suffering from plantar fasciitis.  At the time I was seeing some quack chiropractor who was more interested in hooking me up to his TENS unit which, I’m sure, was a relic of the Cold War.  Afterwards he would jab a few needles into the souls of my feet and then fuck off for an hour or so leaving me alone in the darkened room to contemplate by pathetic circumstance.

I still remember my first appointment. When I entered the examining room he immediately lowered the lights, closed the blinds and switched on some soothing muzac.  I recall thinking: “is he going to treat me or fuck me?”

Now, if you’ve never had needles plunged into the souls of your feet before it’s really no different than what you’re probably thinking already:  it sucks.  An action you would expect to be preceded by the statement “we ‘av vays of making you talk”.  Anyway, this process repeated itself a few times a week for over a year with no improvement whatsoever.  I realize now being a bit older and wiser, that he was just milking my benefits until they ultimately ran out and I was cast aside like a discarded coffee cup.

That was seven years ago and my feelings about acupuncture are largely connected to that experience.  A barbaric practice geared more towards satisfying the sadistic impulses of the administrator than for the benefit and ultimate relief of the patient.The whole thing kinda made me feel like this:

Or, maybe this guy:

I wasn’t a fan.

So when Dr. Burr suggested we also try acupuncture I was all like:

However, in an effort to make peace with this whole acupuncture thing I decided to do a little research on why so many people seem to accept and appreciate it as a viable treatment practice.  After all, how can 1.3 billions Chinese people be wrong?

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) involving inserting thin needles into the body at acupuncture points.  Most commonly, it is associated with pain relief. Acupuncture as a practice can be traced back at least 2,500 years.  The general theory is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health.  Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease.  Acupuncture may, it has been theorized, correct imbalances of flow at identifiable points close to the skin.

The practice of acupuncture to treat identifiable pathophysiological (disease) conditions in American medicine was rare until the visit of President Richard M. Nixon to China in 1972.  Since that time, there has been an explosion of interest in the United States and Europe in the application of the technique of acupuncture to Western medicine.

Now, does any of this help my feelings towards acupuncture?

Not one bit.

So Tricky Dick liked him some acupuncture.

Whoopee shit.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, plus I trust Dr. Burr implicitly (she did successfully lay out the foundation for the whole “We Can Rebuild Him” plan two years ago).  So if acupuncture is what she recommends, acupuncture is what I will do.  I made another appointment then with Nicole who also doubles as the clinics acupuncture specialist.

At my appointment I was invited to lie face down on the massage table which, it has to be said, is my favorite thing about the Legacy Health & Performance clinic as this table and I have really bonded over the past two years. This made sense given that I wouldn’t be getting needles into my feet today but, rather, my back and neck.  This was fine by me as I’d rather not watch the entire process as I had before, thank you very much.  Nicole asked me try and relax which, again, I find to be pretty impossible given the situation.  I did my best however.

For the next 5-10 minutes or so, she popped these needles into specific spots in the back of my neck, my back and along my left arm and hand since I have been experiencing numbness and a tingling sensation down my left side.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the one that she stuck directly into the top of my head.

Ever had a needle shoved into the top of your head?

Yeah.

Once they were all in and I adequately resembled a human pin cushion I was left to “relax” (there’s that word again) for 15 minutes or so before they were then extracted which, I must say, was less harrowing then the whole inserting them thing.

Did I notice any improvement afterwards?

Maybe a little.

Did I find it relaxing?

Shit no.

Will I go again?

If it’s suggested, sure.

Will I enjoy it anymore?

Doubtful.

But if it’s a means to an end to get over this damnable pain in my back once and for all so I get on with my Ironman training (nevermind just being able to sleep normally again), I will do whatever it takes.

12036637_10155980630070459_1317147547183101620_n

Needles in the head and all.

Everyone gets little niggles from time to time.  In my case, lately, it’s been this nagging knot right between my shoulder blades.

I woke up with it this past Sunday morning but at the time it was no big deal and I wasn’t worried about it, like, at all.  I just chalked it up to sleeping wrong, or maybe twisting the wrong way in the shower, or whatever, and I simply went about my business.  I barely even noticed it for the remainder of the day. On Monday morning, there it was again, only a little worse this time.  I went for a fun swim in the canal with the Coach and kids and it seemed to work itself out.  But that night, ouchie, the small niggle had worked itself up into a bigger niggle and suddenly going to sleep wasn’t quite so easy as I couldn’t get comfortable enough.  Instead, I lied awake, tossing and turning and readjusting the pillow over and over again hoping to find a position that allowed me to lie more comfortably and fall asleep.  It didn’t happen.

By yesterday I was more than annoyed and even straightening up to walk around the house was a chore.  I felt like some decrepit old man, which, HRH  was kind enough to keep pointing out; ever my biggest fan.

Anyway, by yesterday evening I had had enough and decided that I had to do something.  I went routing through my gym bag looking for my trusty tube of A5-35 but, when I fished it out, I was disheartened to see that it was all caked with crude and mold.  Clearly, I haven’t used this thing since the early 90’s judging by the green ring of crust around the cap.

FML.

I scoured the cabinets, my shaving kits, the cupboards and turned up nothing.

Shit.

Then I came across this:

image1(1)

A little sample packet of ‘Lakota Topical Pain Reliever’ with the words “MUSCLE PAIN” emblazoned in green across its front.  It was like a gift from God sent directly down from the Heavens for my benefit.  I think I might have even given a little prayer of thanks.

Anyway, they used to hand these things out in the schwag bags at local running races and triathlons and, usually, they just ended up in the garbage.  But, hey, desperate times call for desperate measures, amiright?

I quickly browsed the back of the packet and was pleased to read:

“For temporary relief of aches and pain of muscles. Relieves muscle pain associated with overuse, intense exercise, sprains and injury.”

Sweet.

Sign me up.

So after dinner I cracked open the packet and had the kid liberally apply the rather odd smelling goo to my back. “It looks like snot”, she told me.  It was a real bonding moment, let me tell you.  Afterwards we went down to watch some television.

At first, it kind of tingled and I figured, ‘Great! It’s working.’  But then the tingle turned to heat.  ‘Okay, this is a bit intense, but I can manage’  I thought.  Then the heat turned to REAL heat and I started to worry.  In fact, calling it ‘heat’ at this point would be like describing molten lava as simply ‘tepid’.  And even then, there’s “hot”, and then there’s HOT.  And this was definitely HOT.  I started to stress as sweat began to pour off my forehead.  Surely this weird devil’s concoction would reach its critical mass, boiling point, or whatever, and begin to subside, right?

Wrong.

It just kept escalating, like, seriously escalating.  It was like a hot plate had been applied directly to my back.  What the fuck are the Lakota’s putting in this shit anyway?  Napalm?

After 20 minutes or so, it was like somebody had poured gasoline over my back and lit it on fire and I was concerned I was blistering…it was that bad.  Furthermore, HRH’s little pinkies were also beginning to burn as well.

Oh crap.

What have I done?

I scanned the packet again and was dismayed to see further down, ‘Risk Information’.

“Transient irritation, burning, stinging, or redness are normal, expected actions and usually diminish after repeated application.”

NORMAL?!

They’re fucking with me, right?

Being on fire is not normal.

Warm and tingly, surely…hot, maybe…on fire, shit no!

By this time I was in a full blown panic and went to the bathroom to take full stock of the situation.  Upon doing so I hear, “Terry! Oh my god! Your back!”

Oh shit.

And don’t just take my word for it, check this out:

image3

Yeah.

Here’s a closer look:

image1

Not good.

In short, I freaked.  I jumped into the shower and blasted the cold water over my back.  Except in its current angry state this wasn’t exactly as relieving as I had hoped it would be.  Every single drop of water that spit out of the shower facet felt like a little razor slicing into my sensitive skin.  It was painful and I could only stand a minute or so before I hopped out and sprinted upstairs to find the cold, soothing sunburn cream which I then had HRH  rub into my back as well.  I’m sure I’ve probably left some sort of mental scar on her at having to rub lotion into the back of her half naked stepfather but, at this point, I was in absolute agony.

I shit you not.

The only thing that would ease the burning scalding sensation was applying an ice pack directly to my back.  Afterwards, I had to wrap myself in a towel soaked in cold water so that I was now walking around like a genuinely injured man.

Not unlike this:

Except with less dancing, of course.

After an hour or so the burning finally started to subside a bit and my back slowly returned to normal.

Thank Christ!

The knot, however?  Absolutely no difference; it was still right there between my shoulder blades where it had always been.  I guess my suffering had been in vane.

So, this begs the question: what in the sweet Sam Hell is in that Lakota crap anyway?

Reviewing the packet once more I note the ingredients include: Canada Balsam, Birch Oil, Juniper Berry, Yarrow and Capsaicin. Sound innocent enough, right?  Well, I went looking on Google this morning and discovered that Capsaicin is actually a by-product of chili peppers.

Great!

So, basically, it’s pepper spray for your skin.

Awesome.

I also noted that that the Lakota website suggested that I might have to apply it 3 or 4 times daily during the “initial stages of use”.  Umm, yeah, no.

Not. A. Fucking. Chance.

Personally, I’d rather dive into an active volcano than ever apply this stuff again.   I mean, seriously, you’d have to be a complete and utter sadist to ever rub this shit into your skin more than once.

So, what do I think of this Lakota product in general?

image2

Note the ice pack still on my back.

I think I’ll just carve out the knot myself with a soup spoon as that would be infinitely less painful.