Posts Tagged ‘Funny’

The Harpy

Posted: March 17, 2017 in Swim
Tags: , ,

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in mythical creatures called Harpy’s.  Harpy’s were thought of as a female monster in the form of a bird with a human face.  Their purpose was generally to wreak havoc on their victims by stealing food and otherwise antagonizing and tormenting them throughout the day.

Their name literally means “snatchers”.

Most famously, Harpies are remembered in the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts, where they were sent by the god Zeus to torment the blind seer Phineus.  Here they were portrayed as winged demons; voracious, malodorous, and snatching away souls to carry off to Hades (click HERE).

Of course, we don’t believe in Harpy’s any more, unless you consider politicians as those who were put upon the earth for the sole purpose making our lives a living hell, but I digress.

Myself?

I absolutely believe in Harpy’s.

In my view, Harpy’s still have the same purpose and effect as the ancient mythological ones in that their main mission in life is to antagonize, torment and other otherwise annoy the living shit out of me.  I further believe we all have one and in my case, my own Harpy visits me every morning in the pool.

Yes, I know, I complain a lot about the different types of schmucks you encounter in the pool (click HERE  for a few reminders).

It’s true.

But in this case, it’s not some random moolyak who I happen to cross paths with.

No.

In this case it’s every…freaking…day!

Now for the sake of anonymity, I will refrain from using this particular person’s name (*cough*cough*BILL*cough*cough*) and simply refer to him them as “the Harpy”.

The Harpy has been a long standing regular at all the local pools over the years and the Port Colbourne Aquatic Center is simply his latest hunting ground, however, to call him a “swimmer” would be a bit of a stretch.

I’m sure outside of the pool the Harpy is a nice enough guy.  I mean, sure he has that rather odd look about him that simply screams any number of lonely and angry lighthouse keepers from Scooby Doo, but don’t all old dudes?

Be that as it may, when the Harpy enters the pool 40-50 minutes into my swim, all those misgivings I have about him being a harmless guy go right out the window and I begin to see red.

I literally begin to go all Bruce Banner as soon as he steps on the pool deck.

banner20hulk2001

You see, the Harpy’s main mission is to get in my fucking way as often as possible.  For the last half of my swim (an hour or so), it’s all I can do but stay out of his way.  No easy feat I assure you!  And it’s not like there’s a lot of people in the pool at that time either.  In fact, there may be one, maybe two  other people there at that time meaning that between the 3 or 4 of us we more or less have the entire pool to ourselves.  So how then the Harpy manages to get in my way as often as he does is a mystery right up on par with the Pyramids, Stonehenge and who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

For example, the Harpy likes to choose the lane right beside my own and then proceed to do this weird sideways swim right down the middle so that his feet are kicking squarely in the middle of my lane.  On several occasions I have been scratched by his gnarly, sabre-like toe nails.

But does this deter him?

Fuck no.

hulktvshowbanner_1213308705

If I move over to another lane to avoid him, he will inevitably cross over to the lane beside me again and proceed as he was.

hqdefault

It’s maddening.

If I’m doing 50m  sprints, he will decide that this is a great time to go into the opposite end of my lane and begin to bob at the wall.  Never mind that he has the whole fucking pool in which to do this, but he has to choose to do it in my lane!  Sometimes I do flip turns so close to his head that my heels are practically grazing his ears and the sheer force is all but parting what few hairs he has on his head …but does he take the hint?

Of course not!

If I’m doing long continuous swim sets, he will decide to change lanes – in the middle of the pool – at the exact moment I’m passing by.

hulktv

As it is, he changes lanes about a kajillion times and each and every time he somehow manages to get in my way or interrupt my workout.

In essence, in true Harpy fashion, he literally “snatches” away my focus and motivation.

There are times I have actually stopped my workout outright and glared at him expecting to see him snickering to himself, but then I look into his eyes and this is what I see:

The lights are certainly on but, clearly, nobody is home…if you catch my drift.

FML.

So what other option do I have but do my best to ignore him?

I mean, trying to explain my frustration to him would be like climbing a tree to catch a fish…

Pointless.

Fortunately, in most cases the regular morning lifeguard will step in and promptly restore order whenever she notices that he’s becoming erratic or beginning to get under my skin.  Either she’ll chase him out of my lane, or lure him somewhere else so that’s he not in my immediate path.

I love her.

But when she’s not there to act as a buffer (as has been the case all this week), it’s all I can do stop myself from having a nuclear-sized meltdown and bludgeon him to death with my kickboard.

So here’s a bit of a progress update on my Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids training program.

My (our) annual charity swim has been planned for April 15th at the Port Colborne YMCA and Aquatic’s Complex and my training has been going well.  On the average I am swimming anywhere between 15,000 to 17,000 meters a week with my long consecutive swims on Saturday’s (after riding 20k out to the pool on my mountain bike no less) so far stretching to 5,000 to 6,000 meters without any breaks.

And it feels good.

Also, I have just recently just set a bench mark personal best at the 100m  distance by finally getting my time down under a 1:30.  Probably not a big deal for other swimmers but for me, this is HUGE progress.  My daily core workouts are inevitably helping to make all this possible and all things considered, right now I’m feeling very strong in the water…more so than where I have been in previous years at this point with my 10k program.

In other words, things are going great.

What is different this year, is that I have enlisted some help in a friend who will be joining me in this whole 10k swim madness, Stephen Apps.  Steve was one of the first people I met through the TryForce club years ago and was one of the big motivators and inspirations to train for and complete my first Half Ironman distance triathlon in Welland (click HERE), culminating with my competing in Cancun (click HERE) the following year and eventually the full Iron distance Wales (click HERE).  So, although he may be surprised to hear it, Steve has been a major influence on my life over the past 8 years or so.

Now, we usually just bond over beers with is significantly more fun.

Anyway, this year Steve has graciously offered to join me for the Frank & Friends swim and has jumped back into the pool and launched into his own training plan for the April 15th event date.  However, this week he has been taking a bit of a much-needed break from the program and relaxing somewhere in Costa Rica.

(lucky bastard)

I’m envious.

Of course, I figured the only training he’d be doing this week might be the one arm curls he performs every time he hoists a tequila shot to his lips, but then this video pops up in my Facebook feed suggesting that Steve isn’t actually relaxing at all:

I just don’t know what to say.

Here I am up at stupid o’clock every morning suffering through endless intervals and grueling paddle workouts, and here is Steve doing obscene things to a floating crocodile in a tropical paradise.

Clearly, he has the better training program.

Good on ya, bud.

I’m sure it’s happened to every swimmer at least once before.  In fact, it’s happened to me on a number of occasions actually, just never on such a grandiose scale or under such inauspicious circumstances.

But, hey, at least it’ll make for a good story at my expense.

Today is our family Christmas seeing as how HRH  is home again after spending the Christmas weekend with her father.  So while Kelly was off making “the exchange” and dropping off to visit the grandparents I decided to slip in a nice, relaxed long swim seeing as how I didn’t have any real time constrictions today as I’m still on holiday leave from work.

Part of my planned workout this afternoon was a series of 200m interval sets in the pool which, after a lengthy warm-up of drills, I launched myself into.  I practically had the pool to myself.

Beautiful.

The first few intervals went by relatively easy and uneventful.  Everything was turning over great through the water and I felt smooth, sleek and powerful; just the way one likes to feel when doing their swim intervals.

I was reveling in this feeling when my mind started to wander a bit to other things (as happens).  What should I have as a snack when I get home?  I wonder what I’m going to get in my stocking later on?  Did I remember to wrap everything I meant to?  What on God’s green earth is that weirdo doing over there in the corner?

The usual.

Anyway, around the 4th or 5th 200m interval I began thinking to myself that my swim trunks were feeling kind of loose.  Which at first I was happy about.  I mean, after all this working out who wouldn’t to lose a little weight after the holidays, am I right?

But by the sixth interval I realized that I hadn’t really done much working out in the past three days other than drink and eat my fill of holiday indulgences and there was likely no way in hell I had actually lost any actual weight.  In my Speedo’s, my ass probably looks like two raccoons fighting in a sack of corn as it is.

So by the next interval I started to worry.

Something definitely wasn’t right in the state of Denmark.

It’s probably best at this point if I break down my thought process over the next 200m for you lap by lap.

The first 100m :

“Huh.  The water suddenly feels a little cooler.  I wonder what’s up with that?”

100m :

“Oh shit.  I wonder if I have a hole in my swim trunks.”

150m :

“Please Lord don’t let there be a hole in my swim trunks”.

I knew I needed to quickly assess the situation.  So on my next flip turn at the 175m  point I reached down between my legs for a little feel around and what I felt wasn’t good.

To put it bluntly:

Nothing but sack!

Oh.

Shit.

In truth, I didn’t feel any material at all.  Just a whole lotta bare ass and, well, you get the idea.  In other words, I had been mooning the entire pool each and every flip turn…seven of them to be exact.

Now I’d like to say that this last 25m sprint back to the wall was my fastest ever and I set a new PB but given the added “drag” I was now pulling through the water (ie. my dick) this wasn’t likely the case.  By the time I got back to the wall and really checked out the damage, I was dismayed to learn that the hole was freakin’ huge.  My swim trunks had pretty much burst at the seam at the back from the waistband all the way down and around my taint and even up into the front.

Really, I was now wearing a pair of nylon/elastane chaps.

FML.

But then I realized something else, even though I had made it back to the wall without anyone seemingly noticing my shameful display of buttocks, my embarrassment was only just beginning.  Now I had to get out of the pool and over to my towel way over on the far wall…

Way.  Over.  There.

FML x 2.

And by now the pool was full of screaming kids and parents, whereas when I had started the workout I more or less had the pool to myself.

This wasn’t good.

I carefully hopped up and sat on the pool deck with my legs still dangling in the water.  Okay, so far so good.   Nobody had noticed.  But I still had to get over to the towel on the far wall and if I stood up my cock and balls were surely going to drop out and expose themselves like a boxer’s punching bag.

Instead, I started to scooch backwards on my ass to the wall.  At this point, the female lifeguards (who aren’t exactly personable to say the least) started to notice my peculiar behavior and all three of them suddenly fixed their gaze solely on me inch-worming my way backwards across the pool deck on my ass.

Uh, ‘Hi‘?

I probably looked like one of those little dogs dragging it’s ass across the carpet.

Not exactly my finest moment to be sure.

I tried to give them my best “there is nothing to see here” look, but nothing doin’…they keep their gaze firmly locked on me.  I decided that, hey, maybe I could get a little help over here so I tried to casually motion for one of them to come over and, you know, possibly just hand me my towel.

But, nope.

They just ignored my pleading looks and continued to stare.

Thanks girls.

(Bitches)

Thanks for nothing.

I wasn’t about to call out across the pool deck and call more attention to myself so, fuck it, I stood up, turned around and casually walked back my towel with my bare ass clearly in full view of God and everyone.

I hope they enjoyed the show.

Lord only knows if I’ll even be allowed back in the pool again.

So if anybody should ever hint to you that I have any shame, I want you to kill them and do it slowly.

Very, very slowly…

(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.

Goodie.

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?

rs_500x300-151120100551-giphy_1

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?

47663235

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:

will-smith-excuse-me-picture

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…)

(Click HERE for ‘Part 1’ of the journey)

For anyone who’s never stepped foot inside a gym, it can be a pretty scary place.

First off, there’s enormous muscle men all pressing weights as heavy as minivans, and then there’s the uber-fit cardio bunny’s all bustling and sweating away on machines of all shapes and sizes (click HERE for more of an insight in the particular ‘Gym Types’ you’ll encounter at your local gym).  To the uninitiated, the gym is like this Utopian society consisting of nothing but buff, beautiful people; Shangri-La all decked out in trendy compression wear.

I was pretty sure that the only reason why I was ever admitted in the first place was to serve as a walking reminder to all these perfectly toned fitness models of what would inevitably happen to them if they stopped frequenting the place.

I was a walking “Don’t Be This Guy” hazard sign, if you will.

But, despite this anxiety, I knew going to a gym was the next logical step in my new ‘Get Healthy” regime as, thanks to my daily walks, my skin was starting to hang off my body in the absence of not having all the usual layers of fat to cling to.  Don’t get me wrong, losing weight felt awesome but I was beginning to feel like one of those little Shar Pei dogs and I needed to start developing my poorly abused and under-worked muscles.

However, when I first contemplated going to the gym – as you might expect – I didn’t know my ass from a dumbbell.  I first searched out and visited a few prospective gyms in my area but they usually came with some unreasonable yearly contract, or demanded that you submit to an initial fitness assessment upon joining and there was no way I was going to have my health scrutinized by one of these muscle heads as I was already painfully aware of my current fitness level – pathetic.

In short, none of them felt like a place where I would be able to confidently walk through the front door, much less workout in.  These places were full of the types of guys who inevitably tormented me at high school dances and in the change room with wedgies, nugies and swirlies, and there was no fucking way I was simply walking into the belly of the beast.  So I decided to settle for a basic monthly membership at my local YMCA instead.  That doesn’t mean that going for the first time was any less intimidating as there were still guys with arms the size of tree trunks grunting and groaning through whatever medieval torture routine they happened to be inflicting on themselves.

But there were other types of people there too; ordinary non-athletic looking people like me, and that was reassuring.

Oh, and the sole vending machine on the premises also had a distinct lack of cheeseburgers.

Perfect.

At first I just fudged my way around and tried everything.  I hopped on and tried all the elliptical, stair-climber and treadmill machines, pushed and pulled at some of the weighted resistance equipment and otherwise tried to blend in even though I really had no idea what I was doing.  At least I was being active and engaging my body in something resembling exercise.  My sore muscles the next day reassured me of that.  Most importantly, I was hoisting things that weren’t cheeseburgers and candy bars.  I was working up a sweat and so, little by little, the weight continued to fade away and in turn, my body started to get stronger.

I developed a healthy addiction to ‘Men’s Health’ magazine and tried all the recommended workouts and exercises aimed at burning fat, trimming my waistline, acquiring ‘ripped, xylophone-like abs’, and giving me the unlimited stamina to boff all my future girlfriends like the stud I was meant to be.

How could I resist?

I am a total sucker for effective advertising and these magazines definitely appeared to my damaged ego and sense of imminent horniness, what can I say?

Eventually my visits to the gym started becoming very emotional and often intense.  I began to go to the gym in the same way others frequented, say, church.  The gym had become my own place of worship where I could quietly atone for all my past years’ worth of sin.  I didn’t just saddle up to an exercise bike and go for a leisurely pedal anymore; I attacked it like a crazed Viking.  There were times, when in a fit of what must have been pure testosterone and soaring adrenaline levels when I thought I might fling the machine through the window, beat my chest like a gorilla and grab the nearest spandex-clad gym bunny and climb out to the roof to await the fighter jets.  It really got that intense and that was all very new territory for me.  Before, I’d be happy to just make it back from the corner store with a bag of Doritos before the season premiere of ‘X-Files’ started, and now here I was engaging in 30-minute Interval sessions on a treadmill.

I even returned to racquet sports and started to play squash regularly with a colleague from work (my boss, no less) and together we joined a friendly recreational group of players who played most mornings at 5-fucking-30am.  Usually, this would be the time I was crawling home from the bar…not heading to the gym for a round of squash.

This was a complete 180-degree turnaround lifestyle-wise.

Gradually, after frequenting the gym five to six days a week, I learned that there was a certain, delicate code of conduct that enabled everyone to play nicely with others.  The gym, after all, is a fragile ecosystem unlike no other.  All one has to do to validate this notion is to wander into the middle of their gym at its peak hour and close their eyes.  It’s like you’ve been instantly transported to the remotest, wildest, unexplored region of the planet.  Besides all the heavy clanging and clamor of heavy metal being mashed together, there are people making noises similar to hissing cats, growling bears, angry squirrels and what have you.  I’m pretty sure I even heard a guy fart through his nose once while struggling to finish his final set of weights.  It’s like you’re suddenly all alone in some weird alien petting zoo.   I eventually learned that while it’s perfectly acceptable to sweat, grunt and make unnatural faces, it’s still no reason to forget your manners.  Besides, if you cram large groups of narcissistic people into confined places with ample pieces of blunt iron lying around, you’re bound to have problems if there isn’t a proper predetermined code of conduct.  And given that even the old woman doing a zillion crunches in the corner could probably kick my ass I figured I’d better figure out – fast – the most effective way to blend in while still getting my workout in unscathed.

For this reason, I created and adhered to my own set of ‘Ordinary Man’s Guide to Gym Etiquette and Survival’ (click HERE – bearing in mind that I still smoked pot at this point so this old post was geared more towards hippies than “ordinary” guys).

Whatever, I still continue to follow these same principles today.

Anyway, the fat continued to drop off my body and I started to build some muscle and, consequentially, I was also beginning to develop something I hadn’t experienced very often:  pride.  Furthermore, and maybe most importantly, I wasn’t so immediately repulsed by my own reflection in the mirror and, believe me, there are no shortage of mirrors at the gym.  I figure this is the gym’s way of reminding you to work hard.

Yes, things were definitely looking up but I was becoming restless.  I still walked periodically, but these workouts had been mostly replaced by things I could do indoors at the gym.

And it was getting boring.

It had been nearly two years since my turnaround from my old habits and I was beginning to crave something new – a different challenge perhaps – something in which to show off my new athletic prowess, basic as it was.  I wanted something different to sink my teeth into.  I felt like I had something to prove to myself, I just wasn’t sure what it was yet.  It was around this time that fate finally stepped in and dropped the gauntlet down squarely before me by offering me the one thing that would eventually consume me for the seven years up to the present.

And it all happened innocently enough:

“Why don’t we do a triathlon”?

I looked at my brother like he had just suggested that we castrate each other in some ritual ceremony by the light of a full moon.  My physical reaction was probably akin to had he just tried to tie my nipples into balloon knots.

“Get the fuck out of here!”, I responded.

You see, my most vivid (and only) recollection of triathlon came at a very early age when I was just 10 years old.  Most likely, I was lazing around on the couch at home and hefting an Oh, Henry!  to my mouth to pass the time – doing as little as possible – waiting for the dinner bell to ring.  It was 1982 and TSN, which was new at the time, was broadcasting the live Ironman competition from Kona, Hawaii and Julie Moss was on the final leg of her marathon and wearing that geeky baseball cap.

I liked watching sports.

I just wasn’t very good at playing them.

What she was doing was completely lost on me as I had no concept then of the distances involved, or what the scope and magnitude of what she was attempting to accomplish was.  I don’t even think I knew where Hawaii was.  Sure, she was running…but she was also walking.  How hard could that be?  I probably would have likely changed the channel had there been something more interesting on.

But then the broadcast took a decided different tone when shit – actual shit – started to stream down Julie’s leg as she began to weeble-wobble, eventually toppling over completely…over and over again.  She would then get up…and collapse right back down again down (click HERE to see for yourself).

The fuck?

What I didn’t know then is that her body was basically beginning to shut down (referred to as “hitting the wall”) and she was ultimately losing control of her ability to function normally as a result of the extreme hardship that she had placed on it over the course of 226.2 kilometers of racing.

My thought?

“Eww”, immediately followed by: “is she retarded or something?”

Hey, I was 10 years old and it was 1982 so that was a perfectly acceptable thing to think.

Anyway, Julie would eventually lose the race to Kathleen McCartney only mere meters from the finish line but I didn’t care, I just knew that triathlon was definitely not  for me.  So when my brother suggested this very notion some 25 years later I thought:

“No fucking way am I ever going to risk shitting myself in public!”

Truth!

That’s fucking crazy.

Of course, my brother wasn’t suggesting we tackle an Ironman, he was suggesting we do something less than total batshit crazy, like a shorter (much shorter) “Try-a-Tri”…for, you know, beginners.  Once this was explained to me I began to give it some serious consideration.

I still had my doubts considering that I hadn’t swum since grade school, and even then it was just to play tag at the local community pool.  I didn’t own a bike.

And running?

19tmvk

But I won’t deny it, I was curious.

I mean, how else was I ever going to put this newly acquired fitness to the test?  The distances seemed reasonable:  a 400m swim, a 10k bike ride, and a 2.5k run.  My walks around the neighborhood up to that point were easily longer than that so, hey, maybe this was  entirely possible.

Besides, I was beginning to feel the stirrings of sibling rivalry rear its ugly head.  My brother has always been fitter than me…always has.  When I was eating candy bars he was out playing.  Later in life while I was drinking beer, smoking pot and staying out late, he was in the gym or doing something active.  In university he studied physical fitness to become a phys-ed teacher for Christ sake.  Clearly, we were very different apples that just happened to fall off the same tree.

But here’s where fate really  steps in:

The very next day a poster appeared on the YMCA message board announcing that there was going to be a new triathlon club starting up…for beginners.  There was going to be organized swimming and running groups as well as a triathlon specific “Brick Class”.  I didn’t know what a “Brick class” was and it scared me to the bone.  It sure didn’t sound fun.  However, it was all going to be provided at my local YMCA for no extra cost aside from my normal monthly membership, so how could I refuse?

It was as if Fate itself had just stepped out from the shadows and bitch-slapped me.

Reluctantly, I picked up the phone and called my brother that same day.

“Okay, let’s do it.”

(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.