Posts Tagged ‘Team’

I’ve been holding off on this writing this post for a while now because, well, I still can hardly believe it.  But I’ve got the confirmations, did the leg work and I suppose it’s safe to finally accept it as well as put it out there publicly that:

I AM A SPONSORED TRIATHLETE!

Yup.

I shit you not.

That’s pretty exciting, right?

Excuse me while I hyperventilate a little…

(Inside I’m screaming like a tweener at a Bieber concert)

But before I divulge the particulars, let me first comment that I am no rock star triathlete nor do I possess anything resembling a “God-gifted skill”, or even somewhat “pro” qualities and/or status.  I’m just an average guy who works his ass off to be the best that he can be come race day, with what little there is to work with of course.  Or, maybe it’s that there is actually a lot to work with given the current size of my ass, I’m not sure how you want to spin it.  However, what definitely holds true is that I work hard and try my best.

The idea came to me a few years ago to approach a few local businesses of which I am both a supporter and frequent customer, with the request to sponsor me as a local athlete.  I didn’t of course because, well, I’m a schmuck.  I figured that no business owner in their right mind would ever want to endorse a “nobody” which, in the greater scheme of things, I am.  After all, sponsorship’s typically go to athletes who win events and thereby promoting their said sponsors through the act of standing on the podium for all to behold and revel in.  And while I have been on the podium once or twice, it’s certainly not a regular occasion.  Besides, finishing first in the “Clydesdale” age group category isn’t exactly the “Big Time”, so I let the idea slip away like so many lost dreams.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

But this year, I need a new race suit.  And that means a pretty big expense seeing as how I only need the one.  The thought then of spending serious cash on a race suit that calls attention to brands such as Sugoi, Zoot, 2XU, Orca, Pearl Izumi or Louis Garneau who, really, don’t give two shits about me beyond the fact that I just handed over my hard earned bucks to wear their outfit, wasn’t very palatable.  Besides, I’d inevitably be just another faceless lamb in the flock along the race course seeing as how it’s very possible that quite a few other participants would also be wearing the exact same thing.

Boooooor-ing.

So I reconsidered the option of asking for a local sponsorship.  I figured, hey, you could probably see my ass from orbit as it is, so what better billboard for getting ones brand name seen and advertised is there?  Those skinny little pro assholes just don’t have this kind of girth on which to show off their sponsors, do they?

Hells-to-the-NO!

Now I’ve mentioned it before in other posts that I’m fiercely loyal to the area in which I live and train (Ridgeway, Ontario), and I practice “think Global, act local” as often as possible.  I also do my very best to support all our local businesses whenever I dine out, or go to shows and events, or just shop.  Maybe – just maybe – one of these businesses would be interested in returning the favor by making a small investment in supporting one of their own.

Now, let’s be clear.  I wasn’t asking for money to buy (or be provided with) expensive equipment, performance supplements, or even to cover the entry fees for my events.  I just wanted something spiffy to race in that has logos and the brand names of companies and businesses that I believe in, support and endorse; things that inspire me.

That’s not asking a lot is it?

I swallowed my pride then and approached three local businesses that I would love to represent and as fortunate would have it – they all agreed.  I guess that makes this my triathlon equivalent of “Say Yes to the Dress!”

So without any further ado, here they are:

Brimstone Brewing Co.

brimstone

CRAVE LOCAL FRESH

cravelocalfresh_mockup

The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors

index

It goes without saying that I am HUGE fan of all these businesses, and not just because they’re local and they’ve agreed to give me money.

I love everything they stand for:

  1. Fresh local food
  2. Great local beer
  3. Awesome local riding

Three of my favorite things in life I might add.

Of course, the bragging rights that go along with showing up to an Ironman triathlon in part sponsored by a brewery also definitely ups the “cool factor” just a bit too.

Take that Clif bar!

“Recharge with Milk”, my ass.

(bitches)

Both Brimstone Brewing Co. and CRAVE LOCAL FRESH operate out of The Sanctuary – Center for the Arts, a converted church 30 seconds from my front door.  My family and I love this place and frequent it often on evenings out for dinner, concerts, or just quiet pints of delicious craft beer (which aren’t exactly part of an “Ironman Diet” but, hey, “all work and no play…”, right?).  I will stop in on weekends for a bowl of homemade “recovery soup” on weekends after long winter rides and runs, and this is also my go-to place on “Daddy-Daughter Date Night” for a few rounds of Exploding Kittens while mommy is at work as well.  Chef Matt and staff certainly take care of us.

I am also particularly excited to represent The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors started by local in.cep.tion cyclery bike shop owner Brandon McGuire.  Essentially, they’re a “group of everyday riders, a few racers, all with no glorious ambitions of World Cup domination; rather to support, love and grow our sport”.

In other words, we’re ordinary dads on a mission.

Kind of like this:

But with bikes.

So what will I be wearing this season?

Well, just check out this bad ass race suit:

15934140_10154706980671351_89075910_o

How.  Cool.  Is.  That?

This is certainly going to turn some heads.

I just can’t wait for the season to get here already and I’m sincerely looking forward to racing for and supporting my new sponsors this spring/summer – hell, all year – by leading more group bike rides to and from The Sanctuary (rumor has it they have good beer and food) in order to explore the amazing area that I am so fortunate to train and live in.  How lucky am I?  Of course, it goes without saying that I will do my absolutely very best  to make them all proud come race time as well.

And, hey, even if I don’t get to stand on the podium this year, I’m pretty sure I still know a good place where I can get a decent victory dinner and drink and maybe even a congratulatory pat on the back and a “good job!“.  Whatever it happens to be, at the end of the day there will always be good soup and beer.

What else can I ever ask for?

“Riding with Fabia”

Posted: September 28, 2016 in Bike
Tags: , ,

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

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

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

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

It’s a whole new world for her.

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

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

You know: the fundamentals.

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

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

Meaning, we’ve been doing some decent distance.

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned, folks.

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

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

Clara Hughes – watch out!

I don’t post things in their entirety that I read very often, but this is definitely very different in that it resonated with me very deeply.  The following Commencement Address was given at the University of Texas by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven who had returned to his alma mater to speak to the graduates with lessons that he had learned from his basic SEAL training.

My girlfriend forwarded it to me with the comment that she sees some of these qualities in me.  What?  Me?  Really?!  How amazingly fortunate am I to have someone so amazing in my life that associates me in any way, shape or form with such formidable principles as discussed in this particular address?  Yeah, she’s pretty cool.

Anyway, I wanted to bank this somewhere where it was readably available for future reference given that my whole objective this year is to reacquire my ‘mental toughness’ prior to reentering the Ironman arena in 2015.

Here goes:

The University’s slogan is,

“What starts here changes the world.”

I have to admit—I kinda like it.

“What starts here changes the world.”

Tonight there are almost 8,000 students graduating from UT.

That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime.

That’s a lot of folks.

But, if every one of you changed the lives of just ten people—and each one of those folks changed the lives of another ten people—just ten—then in five generations—125 years—the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

800 million people—think of it—over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world—8 billion people.

If you think it’s hard to change the lives of ten people—change their lives forever—you’re wrong.

I saw it happen every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A young Army officer makes a decision to go left instead of right down a road in Baghdad and the ten soldiers in his squad are saved from close-in ambush.

In Kandahar province, Afghanistan, a non-commissioned officer from the Female Engagement Team senses something isn’t right and directs the infantry platoon away from a 500 pound IED, saving the lives of a dozen soldiers.

But, if you think about it, not only were these soldiers saved by the decisions of one person, but their children yet unborn—were also saved. And their children’s children—were saved.

Generations were saved by one decision—by one person.

But changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

So, what starts here can indeed change the world, but the question is… what will the world look like after you change it?

Well, I am confident that it will look much, much better, but if you will humor this old sailor for just a moment, I have a few suggestions that may help you on your way to a better a world.

And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform.

It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status.

Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all.

I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, California.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

But, the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships.

To me basic SEAL training was a life time of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are the ten lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

#1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy.

Every day your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surf zone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in.

Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

#2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each.

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them—no one was over about 5-foot five.

The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish American, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west.

They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews.

The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim.

But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

#3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceptionally thorough.

Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.

But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle—- it just wasn’t good enough.

The instructors would find “something” wrong.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surfzone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand.

The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day—cold, wet and sandy.

There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated.

Those students didn’t make it through training.

Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.

Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.

It’s just the way life is sometimes.

#4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events—long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards—times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to—a “circus.”

A circus was two hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.

No one wanted a circus.

A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue—and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.

But at some time during SEAL training, everyone—everyone—made the circus list.

But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Over time those students-—who did two hours of extra calisthenics—got stronger and stronger.

The pain of the circuses built inner strength-built physical resiliency.

Life is filled with circuses.

You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.

#5. But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, and a barbed wire crawl to name a few.

But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three level 30 foot tower at one end and a one level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot long rope.

You had to climb the three tiered tower and once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.

The record for the obstacle course had stood for years when my class began training in 1977.

The record seemed unbeatable, until one day, a student decided to go down the slide for life—head first.

Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move—seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training.

Without hesitation—the student slid down the rope—perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.

#6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

During the land warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to San Clemente Island which lies off the coast of San Diego.

The waters off San Clemente are a breeding ground for the great white sharks. To pass SEAL training there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One—is the night swim.

Before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente.

They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently.

But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position—stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid.

And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you—then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.

#7. So, if you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

As Navy SEALs one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training.

The ship attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over two miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.

During the entire swim, even well below the surface there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you.

But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight—it blocks the surrounding street lamps—it blocks all ambient light.

To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the center line and the deepest part of the ship.

This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship—where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.

Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission—is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

#8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

The ninth week of training is referred to as “Hell Week.” It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and—one special day at the Mud Flats—the Mud Flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slue’s—a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.

It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors.

As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud.

The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.

Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone chilling cold.

The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song.

The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm.

One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing.

We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well.

The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted.

And somehow—the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan—Malala—one person can change the world by giving people hope.

#9. So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see.

All you have to do to quit—is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims.

Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT—and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training.

Just ring the bell.

#10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away from starting to change the world—for the better.

It will not be easy.

But, YOU are the class of 2014—the class that can affect the lives of 800 million people in the next century.

Start each day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you through life.

Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.

Thank you very much. Hook ‘em horns.

You can actually watch a video of the address here (it’s that damn good!).

Okay, seriously, how fucking awesome is this?  You can draw whatever parallels you want from this as  it relates to either triathlon, sport, or even just in your personal or professional life.  That’s the beauty of it.  For me, however, this whole address very directly applies to that singular goal of getting both mentally, and physically competition ready, especially #3, #4, #8 and #10, and I will no doubt be reciting these principle mantras at some point this year.

Introducing: Snowflake

Posted: October 7, 2013 in Bike, Equipment
Tags: ,

A few months ago I made another investment into this whole healthy lifestyle thing.  Yes, I spent my income tax return on a mountain bike.  I figure it’ll offer more opportunities to be outside riding and exploring local trails in the fall and winter off seasons rather than indoors chained to my trainer.  And any day spent NOT riding on my trainer, is a good day indeed.

Up to this point, I’ve only ridden it the once and my first inclination is that it felt like I was riding a dead elephant compared to either Lucille, my time trial bike, or Daisy, my road bike (click HERE for review).  Yes, I name shit.  That’s just how I roll.  Okay?  So, now, it is with great pleasure I further introduce you to the latest addition to my mechanical progeny, ‘Snowflake’:

Post Maiden Voyage

Post Maiden Voyage

Yes, I know.  That name is a bit fruity sounding but, hey, that’s what happens when you let your eight-year-old step daughter name stuff.  Lesson learned alright?

The first order of business was to get her tuned up a bit.  I dropped her off at Liberty! bike shop and I had some stuff done to her thing and some other stuff done to the whoseewhatsit, oh, and a thingamabobber added to the doo-hickey; something like that anyway.  Truthfully, I have no idea what was done as it all pretty much went over my head the moment I asked “so what all did you do?”  I just figure it’s polite to ask, so when they set about actually explaining the mechanical stuff it’s all I can do to just look like I have a clue as to what they’re talking about.  I nod approving when appropriate, perhaps look concerned here and there, maybe a hint of surprise if it’s possibly warranted but, basically, it’s all a show.  I know jack shit about bikes.  I probably know as much about bikes when I pick them up from the shop as a new father probably knows about parenting when his newborn baby first pops into the world.  Nada!  But, anyway, she’s all fixed up good with new pedals and an old pump attached to her stem, so I’m all set and ready to ride.

Now I just have to find me some trails…

…which, as it turns out, are not exactly in abundance around the Ridgeway or Crystal Beach area.  Sure, I have some private gravel driveways and back lots to explore but nothing, like, totally gnarly or tubular to, like, thrash (or whatever it is that popular mountain biker vernacular would have you believe).  Oh, that’s another thing: there is an entire new mountain biker culture to get familiar with.  For example, mountain bikers communicate totally differently.  It’s practically like trying to figure out an alien language.

 

Then there’s the whole dress thing.  At first, I didn’t understand the whole image that mountain bikers were striving for.  I mean, are we going cycling or going to a Beastie Boys concert?  I’m confused.  Personally, being a road cyclist firmly planted in roadie culture, I just can’t grasp the whole baggy clothing deal.  ‘Doesn’t it get hooked on shit n’ stuff?’, ‘is it aero?’  I didn’t get it.  But after a little more research on Google, I realized that I was actually picturing skateboarders, and mountain bikers actually do have a similar style in clothing as roadies.  There are subtle differences, of course, but largely they’re very similar.  My MasterCard just exhaled a sigh of relief.

But I did also notice that mountain bikers like to decorate their bikes with stickers and assorted ‘bling’, or some websites would have me believe anyway.  Okay, I can do that.  I’ll just find a smokin’ Ramones decal to put on the frame, maybe something with a phat wolf’s face on it to sicken up on ‘ol Snowflakes mad trail cred yo.  See what I did just there?  Yup, I’m a natural.

At the worst, it’ll mean another trip to the bike shop to buy myself a new cycling ensemble from the new Niagara chic, autumn 2013 fall fashion line.  Funny how I can’t stand the thought of spending even a single second shopping for a pair of casual pants, but I’ll happily model lyrca shorts and unflatteringly tight neon jerseys all day long.

And you think we're gay

Queue the ‘Guys and Dolls’ soundtrack.

But, whatever, this bike is an investment in my off-season training.  The goal being that even if I can spend one extra day riding outside in the zone through the winter season rather than having to endure yet another epically dull spin class – I’ll consider it a huge victory.  The buzz you get while hammering outside trumps training time spent tweaking away indoors in my books; so I will learn to shred, biff, bunny-up and bail whenever necessary.   Hopefully, with as minimal face plants as possible and without looking like SpongeBob GayPants.

See?  A natural!

So today it what I’m counting as the maiden voyage.  It was originally supposed to be a fun ride with the child and therefore off the books, but when she bailed to draw chalk figures in the driveway with the neighbor’s kid, I was given the ‘all clear’ to go at it alone.  I didn’t want to go long, though, figuring only a simple 15 kilometers or a 30 minute ride would be fun.  Of course, you don’t go that fast on a mountain bike, especially when you’re a foot deep in mud.  That’s right, I found me some mud.

Here’s the resulting carnage:

Who's a dirty girl?

‘Who’s a dirty girl?’

'Oh yeah, you're a  d-i-r-t-y g-i-r-l alright!'

‘Oh yeah, you’re a d-i-r-t-y g-i-r-l alright!’

You like being dirty don'cha?

‘Ya, you like being dirty don’cha?’

The rear shot.

The back door shot.

It’s like mountain biker porn isn’t it?

But really, this whole getting dirty business is going to take some getting used to.  I’ve ridden in rain and crap and ended up home in some sorry states before but – this mud thing – it’s going to take some time getting my head around it.  ‘You mean you just RIDE THROUGH IT?!’  Oh yeah, I can see a big spike in our grocery bill in the coming weeks thanks to laundry detergent alone.   I can see myself coming home with more skid marks then Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Having said that though, Kelly is an absolute ninja with getting stains out.  She’s like the ‘Laundry Whisperer’.

Anyway, I didn’t initially go out looking for mud, but it’s been crappy outside likely and, besides, once you’re in – you’re in.  You can’t exactly stop and turn around because things turn muddy, it’s better just to keep going.  And even though I ended up getting pretty filthy, I now know that Snowflake can take that kind of rough riding just as long as I keep up my end of the bargain and keep pedaling.  Daisy or Lucille would never have handled that shit.  Their thin front wheels would have locked up in about 2.3 nanoseconds, ending with me eating dirt from over my handlebars.  So, anyway, after I crossed the ‘Pit of Doom’, I rode through a few swamped playgrounds, down a private gravel drive and then home again.  It was awesome.  Gnarly even.  But it’s work!

Excellent.

So, I’m talking like a mountain biker now and I’m dressing like a mountain biker, and now I even got muddied up like a mountain biker.  Does this mean I am successfully initiated?  Can I consider myself rad or what?  Or is it sick?  Whatever…I think I rock.  And although I didn’t go very far, I have already figured out that mountain biking is a very different beast than road cycling; like the apples vs. oranges kind of different; Classic Coke vs. New Coke different…you get the idea.  But despite that, it was undeniably fun as well.  It’s less about speed and pace and more about just keeping going forward.  I kind of like that change in perspective.  I’m sure even the whole getting dirty thing will get easier (fingers crossed).  I can already see where I’ll need a specially designated pair of mountain bike shorts where skid marks are, well, either less noticeable or more flattering.  I’d be happy either way.

Here, finally, is my belated race report(s) from last weekend.

  • Day One – Welland Sprint Triathlon
  • 750m swim, 30k bike, 7.5k run
  • Chip Time = 1:48:42
  • Category Place = 12/26
  • Overall Place = 69/279

This year was primarily about having fun.  Part of that fun was participating in some shorter distance triathlons as well as participating in more relays as part of a team, and this weekend was a great opportunity to do both at the local Multisport triathlon weekend in Welland.  While Saturday afforded me the opportunity to do the sprint triathlon, an event I haven’t participated in since switching to long course, Sunday also provided me the chance to swim 2k swim as part of a Half Iron distance relay team.  Maybe doing two events back-to-back doesn’t exactly classify itself as ‘fun’ in some people’s book, but I was certainly looking forward to challenge.  I’m guess I’m just that kind of crazy.

Here we go again.  Cycling shoes are already clipped onto the bike...

Here we go again. Cycling shoes are already clipped onto the bike…

Swim: 11:47

Pace: 1:35/100m

Division Rank: 4/24

The swim is unique in Welland that it is a “staggered start” having athletes leave in 5 seconds intervals to, apparently, cut down on the whole “washing machine effect” that most triathlon swim starts will inevitably turn into.  Personally, I like swimming in a washing machine so I wasn’t very excited for this particular swim start, and being that I was the 143rd swimmer to start meant that I would have a lot of obstacles along the 750m  course.

In fact, I hit my first obstacle – #142 – approximately 6 arm strokes into my swim.  And so it went, leap frogging to and around each and every swimmer ahead of me.  My last Welland sprint outing 3 years ago had me out of the water in 12:38  and I knew I should be able to crush that so I dodged wide to avoid as many swimmers as possible, sighted regularly, and dropped the hammer at the half way point just for good measure.  All in all, it was a good swim and I bettered my previous time by almost a full minute exiting the water in 11:47  (I slipped a little getting out, so it might have been even a few seconds quicker).  This time was also good enough to qualify as my new personal best at the 750m distance.  More importantly, I still felt fresh and relaxed.

My motivation all season.

My motivation all season.

Bike: 52:22

Pace: 34.4km/h

Division Rank: 11/24

I had decided earlier that I was going to try something I have not yet tried in triathlon; getting into my cycling shoes on the bike sans socks. I practiced maybe, well, exactly twice before and it went smoothly enough so I decided to give it a whirl under race conditions.  I’m not sure what I was spooked about as it was all easy enough and made for not only a quicker T1 transition time, but also a faster T2 as well.  Hey, yay for the little victories.  The rest of the ride went pretty well too.

All my previous competitions this season have thus far been swim/bike competitions so I decided to hold back a little on this particular ride anticipating my needing to run afterwards.  Even still, I only got passed three times, instead doing most of the passing around other the slower rides ahead of me.  My nerves may have gotten the better part of me though and I may have held back a little too much as my time was nearly a full two minutes longer than back in 2010.  It was windy out though, especially the long out-and-back along Feeder Road, so that’s going to be my ultimate excuse.  I just put my head down, kept my cadence at a constant 95 rpm  and focused on maintaining a speed above 34 km/h.  I made sure to hydrate and towards the end, proceeded to brace myself for what I already anticipated as the hardest part of the day still to come.

Making our way to the swim start.

Making our way to the swim start.

Run: 40:35

Pace: 5:25kph

Division Rank: 15/24

Yup!  Welcome to the shit show, folks.  This particular run represented a lot of firsts for me this year; first brick run, first run in nearly a month, and longest run in the same time.  Needless to say, that given the injuries and lack of running I’ve been able to actually do comfortably, my run fitness is nowhere near where it was at this time last year.  I knew the best I could do was start off smoothly and hope that ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning would kick in and get familiarized quickly.  They didn’t.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  For the whole duration of the 7.5k  they never ached or pained at all.  More accurately, it was my cardio that suffered the most as I am no longer accustomed to running off the bike with my heart rate already soaring.  For those of you who have been there, you can undoubtedly appreciate the feeling of trying to run when your heart is already beating out of your chest.  Eventually, your heart adapts and then you can on with the business at hand…unfortunately, mine never did.  In short, it was all I could do to keep going…period.  I walked through the aid stations (and maybe even an additional time) and just concentrated on getting to each kilometer marker in turn.

Coming out of the water on Day One.

Coming out of the water on Day One.

I got a nasty surprise at one of the aid stations when a volunteer girl, instead of asking if I wanted to be splashed with water (it was extremely hot and humid), took it upon herself to throw a cup of Heed right in my face.  Great!  So now I’m suffering, winded, and sticky from head to toe with performance goo.  Whatever, thankfully it was almost over.

Despite the craptastic run, the race did end on an extremely high note as I met my eight-year-old step daughter just before the finish and she joined me hand-in-hand at running down the finisher’s chute across the finishing line.  Forget the medals, forget the new PB’s, getting to share that experience with her and see the excitement in her face was the most memorable moment for me so far this season; it actually made the last seven and half agonizing kilometers all worth it.  Despite my eminent shittiness on the run course, I was still only a minute behind my last outing finishing the 7.5k  in an appalling 40:35.  Not bad given my lack of run training I guess.

Over all, I was one full minute off my last Welland sprint outing.  The win was that I felt good, and despite my lack of cardio prowess on the run, my legs felt great.  Not so much as a stitch, ache, or tightness anywhere.  So, you know what that means:  Green light to begin run training in earnest.

But first, I had one more quest in sight, namely, doing the 2k swim leg as part of a relay team at the Welland Half Iron the next morning.

  • My cheering section off the bike.

    My cheering section off the bike.

    Day Two – Welland Half Iron Relay

  • 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
  • Chip Time = 5:14:52 (click to see official Sportstats page)
  • Overall Place = 3/14

My girlfriend will already contest for you that I am a special kind of crazy.  But, hey, I do love me my open water swimming so I thought it would be fun to also participate in a relay team for the Half Iron event on the Sunday.  Besides, it’s just 2k  and I can practically do that in a coma state, so I enlisted two friends (Rob the cyclist, and Marty the runner) and team “Fat and the Furious” was born.  The awesome literally knows no bounds.

Swim: 31:48

Pace: 1:35/100m

Division Rank: 3/14

I was really looking forward to this swim as the only competitions I have done this far, aside from the ‘Frank and Friends 10k swim, have all been short distances so I was eager to test my newly developed swim skills at a much longer distance.  And fuck that staggered swim start too; the Half Iron would be launched in the classic mass wave start depending on your age group, etc.; so welcome to the machine, bitches.

My particular wave was the last to start and comprised of the older age groups, the relay teams and the swim/bikers, but it was still a pretty large group of athletes.  It also inevitably meant that there would be lots of obstacles in our path by way of all the slower swimmers in the previous two waves.  Oh well, c’est la vie.

A little team camaraderie just prior to the madness that is the mass swim start.

A little team camaraderie just prior to the madness that is the mass swim start.

Following a short warm up, I positioned myself near the front on the far inside of the course as is my custom.  I find there is minimal opportunity to get stuck behind slower swimmers or having to dodge the uber-aggressive swimmers who think they’re going to go out fast and proceed to club and bludgeon everyone within arm’s reach in an effort to get an early lead only to die a slow, agonizing death in the first 400m.  You can easily identify these types of swimmers as they roughly wedge their way ahead of you into the front and ask you what your expected swim time is as maneuver past.  I just love swimming OVER – not around – these overexcited eager beavers and leave them flopping in my wake like an injured sea lion.  It’s a simple pleasure.

As it happened, my coach positioned herself right beside me so when the siren sounding signaling the start of our wave, we were literally swimming shoulder-to-shoulder.  We have spent a lot of time swimming together over the off season and now lately in the canal, so it felt very natural to see her stroking along beside me and using each other to pace ourselves.  In fact, we would swim this way, taking turns sighting for each other every 3-4 strokes, right up into the last 300m or so.  But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.

The swim start for the Half Iron.  I'm at the front on the far right in front of the green buoy.

The swim start for the Half Iron. I’m at the front on the far right in front of the green buoy.

It must be said that the initial 400m  at the beginning were not easy.  I felt like a bag of nails in the water.  I began to worry that I was more fatigued from the previous day’s race than I realized, or maybe I hadn’t fueled properly.  Whatever the case, I just focused on trying to keep pace with the coach and hopefully hang on for as long as I could.  But, fortunately, that feeling didn’t last long.  After we passed the first marker, everything started to click and I suddenly felt smooth again, so I amped up the pace a bit and, as I might have expected, the coach followed in suit.  Having someone you know and trust to assist with sighting every few strokes definitely has its advantages and we ended up at each turn around right on the money.  Occasionally, I would surge ahead to get past a group of swimmers and she would draft behind until we were past and then move back up alongside me again; other times she would be the one to surge and I would draft.  Whether this was all intentional or not, I can honestly say that I was really enjoying myself and felt that a new PB for the 2k  was entirely possible.

At the last turn around, we headed directly into the current and the chop picked up significantly.  Swimmers were starting to slow down and others from the first two waves had resorted to breast-stroking.  I made the mental decision right there to pull to the outside of the course, drop the hammer, and just go for it.  That was the last I saw of the coach.  I figured she was either drafting behind, or had gotten caught behind other swimmers (she later claimed it was the later).  I exited the water in 31:48, nearly another full two minutes off my previous 2k  swim times.  Booyah!  That time was good enough for 3rd overall in the relay.  However, it also worthy to mention here that the first two swimmers for the first and second place relay teams were pretty crackerjack swimmers in their own forthright, including Canadian triathlon legend Tereza Macel.  So, just finishing in their not-so-distant wake in itself, well, let’s just say I’m chalking that up as an additional victory.

Team 'Fat and the Furious' on the podium.

Team ‘Fat and the Furious’ on the podium.

So, one long ass run into transition and one smooth chip exchange onto Rob’s ankle, and my day was pretty much done.  Rob had a hard day on the bike fighting the wind and heat and ended up with a 2:49:03 split for the 90k, and poor Marty – the ninja – had to battle the ever present humidity on the run course finishing with a 1:50:57 half marathon.  All together these times were good enough to place the ‘Fat and the Furious’ team on the podium in third place.  Not a bad finish to the weekend indeed.

  • 750m swim, 20k bike
  • Chip Time = 51:58
  • Category Place = 1/1 (3/6 Over 30)
  • Overall Place = 4/14

The triathlon season is officially upon us and with it my first event in Woodstock his weekend.  It’s been two years since I’ve raced in Woodstock, however, in light of still not being able to run worth a shit due to lingering injuries, I opted to participate (albeit begrudgingly) in the swim/bike competition instead while I continue to heal.  I wasn’t terribly excited, it’s true, so I tried to maintain the glass-is-half-full attitude where it provided me a chance to go hard in both the swim and bike (both of which I have been working hard at) knowing I didn’t have to keep anything in the tank for the run afterwards.  Heck, maybe it might even be fun.

The Coach and a few fellow teammates of mine (Roberta, Cathy – my “Tri-mom” – and Steve) all arrived on scene together at 8:00am sharp and proceeded to go about the usual business of registering and setting up in transition.  The event itself is situated in the local and pleasant Pittock Conservation Area and I’ve always enjoyed myself here each time I’ve raced.  Heck, the last time I raced here I even surprised myself by medaling.  We signed in, picked up our race packets, got our body marking done, dropped off a little unnecessary weight off at the Porto-potties and then set about the process of getting mentally prepared to start, just like we’ve done many times before.  Truthfully, I didn’t have the usual onset of nerves or butterflies (well, none that couldn’t be left behind in the Porto-potty anyway) and was pretty relaxed about the whole thing…maybe too relaxed (as it would become apparently shortly).  Without the need to prepare for the run, setting up in transition is pretty easy.  Just throw your shoes on the bike, reset the bike computer, lay out your helmet and sunglasses and, Bob’s yer uncle, you’re ready to go aside from putting on your wetsuit and goggles.  Easy, right?

A pretty basic set-up.  Almost sad in it's simplicity.

A pretty basic set-up. Almost sad in it’s simplicity.

Not long afterwards, I donned my wetsuit and proceeded to make my way to water to get a quick warm-up in before the start.  It was decided earlier in the morning that due to the water and air temperatures that the event was going to be wetsuit mandatory; scary, huh?  Meh.  I don’t mind the colder water as I’ve long since made peace with it and have already been out practicing in the open water twice this year so I wasn’t overly worried.  I got a few minutes-worth of warm-up in before making my way back to shore to await the start of my wave.  T-minus three minutes and counting…

I situated myself a little away from the main pack on the extreme right side of the course right at the front, as has been my strategy in the past.  I find it’s easier to keep a line directly to the buoys without having to continually collide and fight for position with the other swimmers.  I don’t mind the neoprene gladiator games in the opening seconds of the swim so much but if I can avoid it in order to minus a few seconds off my time then great.  It’s a strategy that tends to work well and soon enough, we were off.

The plan was start quickly and fall into a steady rhythm to the first rounding buoy (being careful to sight accurately and successfully) and then once approximately half way around, drop the hammer and take it in for the last half as fast as possible.  In the first 200-300m, everything seemed fine.  The main pack drifted to the left of the course (following the usual ‘lemming effect’ I’ve noticed before) while I remained directly on target, so there was no one to contend but focusing on utilizing the proper stroke technique I have been practicing and just getting’ er done.  Similarly, my breathing felt natural and comfortable.  I rounded the first corner at the third-way mark of the course and I had made my way into a small group of swimmers from my wave as we proceeded to encounter the first of the swim stragglers from the first wave that left ahead of ours.  I’m happy that I was able to navigate around them with little challenge and when I reached what I felt was the halfway point on the course; I made the decision to open it up and make some distance on current group I was with.  This also happens to be the point where I made my “what a dumbass!” realization.

My day's inspiration.

My day’s inspiration.

Some people have asked me what goes through my head when I swim.  Sometimes, I’m humming song melodies to myself (‘Just Got Paid’ by ZZ Top tends to be a favorite), or sometimes I’m thinking about other mundane things I have to do that day or maybe later in the week.  I think race strategy on the bike and during the run, but not necessarily so during the swim.  It’s odd, I’m sure, but I’m typically pretty cool, calm and relaxed when I swim as I’m very comfortable in the open water where others tend to mentally stress, panic or freak out a bit.  What happened to go through my head at exactly this point yesterday went a little something like this:

“Hmm, I wonder how they’re keep track of the timing.”

I had remembered just then that I didn’t have a timing chip on my ankle.  Why I realized this at this particular juncture beats the living shit out of me.

“Hmm, maybe they’re using that chip on the back of the race number thingee.  Nooooo, I don’t remember seeing one of those either.”

“WTF?”

“Holy shit, I think I forgot to pick up my timing chip!”

It’s true.  I had committed the cardinal rookie error by failing to pick up my timing chip while registering.  Why, I’m not sure.  I don’t really have an excuse.  I’ve done this bunches of times before and I’m seasoned enough now that this should have been obvious and second nature.  Yet, I forgot.

Upon realizing my mistake, my next thought was this:

“You’re a dumbass.”

I mentally walked myself through the checking in process and couldn’t even remember seeing the timing chip booth, much less going to it and picking it up.  As I passed the next swimmer from the wave ahead of me I quickly checked his ankle and, sure enough, there it was.  It was official.  I’m an idiot.

But what could I do about it now?  Absolutely nothing so I might as well have fun.  So I refocused back on what was going on and noticed that I was approaching the end of swim and I had distanced myself pretty far from the main pack of swimmers so I sprinted for the shore.  It is also worthy to note that I still felt very fresh and probably could have dropped the hammer much earlier than I did.  Good to know for future events.

As I exited the water, I came out by myself about a minute or so ahead of the next group of swimmers.  I was quite pleased with myself (despite the rather subdued crowd reaction) as I noted the time on the digital race clock on the race board as I passed underneath it into transition as 11:57.  Not bad, and I know I can do better.

Still a bit disappointed with myself, I didn’t exactly fly through transition.  I stripped out of my wetsuit, sat down on the ground and gave myself a solid scolding for being such a dumbass, put on my socks and cycling shoes, removed Lucille from the rack and proceeded to make my way to the bike mounting line.  The rest was pretty uneventful.

Out of the Pittock Conservation area there are a few climbs and they were all into the wind.  But with every uphill, there is an inevitable downhill and I did my best to use that to my advantage to build up speed to carry me up the next incline.  The Woodstock bike course is a series of rolling hills so the entire ride goes something like this: upshift, climb, breathe, downshift, sprint, breathe, and repeat.  The only real challenge was the ever constant wind that always seemed to be your face while climbing making things a bit chilly, but nothing to complain about.  Oh, that, and a lone farm dog who was happily relishing in the opportunity to chase down and sprint alongside riders as they passed by his yard.  Eventually, Steve went flying past in the opposite direction obviously ripping the bike course up (Steve is a machine on the bike with legs that resemble tree trunks, and managed the course in an impressive time of 33:48).  The Coach was next, followed by Cathy and Roberta.  Everyone seemed to be having a fun time despite the focused look on their faces.  I could take a pot shot here at the Coach and mention that she always looks like she is being chased by Lucifer himself when she races but, hey, with the amount of medals and podium finishes she gets each season who am I to tease?

All in all, it was a good ride and I noted my time as I came across the Bike In timing matt as 51:58  (making my ride approximately 38:01 give or take some time getting out of transition).  Here, however, is where the real downside of the swim/bike competition takes place though.

"Quick!  Look cool!  Maybe they won't take 'em back..."

“Quick! Look cool! Maybe they won’t take ’em back…”

I’m done but nobody else knows that.  There is no finish line or ultimate fanfare.  There is no announcer to call out your name, success or time.  Your event is done when you unceremoniously dump your timing chip into an empty bucket while everyone else proceeds out onto the run course.  It’s rather like being left out of something special.   The people in and around transition are looking at you like “AWESOME JOB!  NOW GO RUN!!”  Except you can’t; your race is finished and you’re left standing feeling out of place.  The spectators then get confused and, before you know it, they’re gesturing for you to get the hell out of the way so they can see the real action.

In fact, a volunteer in transition actually came running over to me to see if I was alright.  “Are you okay?  Are you hurt?  Can I help?”  No.  But thanks.  After confessing my dumbass realization, the volunteer pointed me to the timing van and had me give them my approximate swim/bike times which they then inputted into their computer so I could reclaim a little of my dignity.  This is a testament to the great people and race organizers at Multi-Sport Canada that they actually trusted me to give them my race times without having the official proof just so I could still feel like part of the event.

In the end, my time was good enough for a podium position.  The good news was that I had placed first.  The bad news was that I was the only competitor in my age group.  However, I also qualified for a third place medal in the “Over 30” (I guess its official, I’m “old”) category.  However, I was most pleased with being the second fastest swim in the swim/bike competition behind a pro triathlete who also happened to be recovering from a running injury.  Not bad for my first event of the season I suppose…minus the dumbass thing of course.  The Coach finished 1st in her age category and fourth overall for the women, Cathy placed 2nd in her age category, and Steve placed 6th in his age group respetively.  All in all, a good day for the TryForce team.

In two weeks I will be participating in another swim/bike event in Binbrook after which, I hope to return to running a bit anticipating my participating in the Welland Triathlon weekend at the end of June – knock on wood.  And if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that the first thing I will do when I get on site is to hunt out that damn timing chip booth!

Tri a Little Tenderness

Posted: February 15, 2013 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

Today represents the second year that I have not found myself laying around today in my boxer shorts back at my tiny bachelor pad watching reruns of the X-Files while waiting for the phone to ring (it never did of course).  I realize, obviously, that this is just another one of those made up consumer Hallmark holidays aimed at lining the pockets of CEO’s with the hard earned dollars from us disheveled wage donkeys (like myself) but, still, I have lots to be thankful and appreciative of this year.

Let’s face it; dating a triathlete isn’t necessarily easy as it comes with all its own unique set of challenges and obstacles.  Having said that, I don’t know what I did in another life to have deserved such a girlfriend as Kelly, but it must have been pretty special indeed.  It was certainly worth all those years unceremoniously lounging around in my underwear.

At this time last year, we were still pretty fresh into our relationship and, in actuality, preparing to take the next scary plunge of moving in together.  Most of those stories have been chronicled either here as they relate themselves to my training, or on another of personal blog I keep called ‘God Help Me’, which more details the adventures of a professional ‘Man of Leisure’ transitioning into a domestic relationship and pseudo step-dad.  I’d like to say it has been an easy process and, honestly, I CAN!  How awesome is that?  It has been a very smooth transition actually.  So while we may have chosen to forgo the usual customary boxes of chocolates and bouquets of overpriced flowers this year, I would still like to make some comments on why I am so thankfully to have this person in my life now, so you may want to pop some Gravol, or pour yourself a stiff drink, whatever, because it’s about to get all mushy up in here.

Who you calling Sissypants?

Who you calling Sissypants?

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns.  And over the past few years, particularly the last one, I was involved in my own.  Back then ‘Claudius the Cruel’  was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues and believed that the reason was that the Roman men did not want to leave their loves or families so he attempted to thwart the romantic inclinations by callously cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.  Kelly might have had a similar negative impression whenever I announced my training objectives on any given day whether it be a 30k  run, a 130k  bike ride, or a 4k  early morning swim in the canal, or a combination of all the above, and similarly try to shut it all down but she didn’t.  Instead, she encouraged me and actually became a part of the training process.  Seldom would I ever return home after the long, hot training days in the summer and there wasn’t a glass of cold water or chocolate milk out on the back porch waiting for me.  She literally inserted herself into my recovery plan this way by drawing a hot bath, having a warm meal ready after my cold morning runs, slipping me a couple ibuprofens whenever required, while constantly reminding me to hydrate; all the things that tended to slip my mind when I was exhausted and broken.  She even went so far as to put together her own ‘Race Kit’ with all the necessary less known triathlon tools like rubber gloves and baby powder (for putting on my wetsuit, pervo), Band-Aids, recovery formulas, my extra pair of swim goggles, etc. , and then brought that kit to all my races.  It more felt like we were a team, and not just me, alone, against the World.  It was awesome.  Furthermore, she will put on her best ‘Oh, this is so interesting dear!’  look whenever I relate even my most mundane training outcomes including pace, time, etc., you know, the really boring kind of information that would lure any normal person into a coma.  Through it all she nods, pays attention, and best of all, comments on it.  She probably knows as much about my training progress as I do and knows just what to say when the workouts don’t go the way I think they should (whiny bitch that I am).  Cool, right?

Last embrace before "Go Time".  Doing my best "Stay Cool!" here.

Last embrace before “Go Time”. Doing my best “Stay Cool!” here.

Another reason this partnership has worked out so well is largely due to her genuine interest in what I do.  I was already competing in triathlon when we met and courted, and it was just accepted that it was just a part of who I am.  In fact, she was present the evening I registered for Ironman Wales and then saw that journey through to the end at the finish line a year later in Tenby.  I can see (and have heard) where a growing disinterest could develop amongst certain spouses towards their triathlon focused partners when they enter into new relationships, particularly when they learn how much time it consumes.  The term ‘Tri Widow’ didn’t just magically appear for no reason now did it?  Kelly has attended literally EVERY  race and event I have participated in since we met, bar none, and that’s pretty awesome.  How many others can say that?  Now don’t get me wrong, I can definitely understand why someone wouldn’t want to go spectate at a triathlon, particularly the Iron distance races as they can be rather, well, shall we say, about as much fun as watching paint dry – it’s true.  But there she is, with sign in hand, clapping, cheering and ringing obnoxious cow bells, the lot.  It’s my own private cheering section.  Anyone who’s ever raced knows what’s like to have this kind of support along the way when the doubt and pain start to seep in and it’s something that I probably appreciate above all else.

Thirdly, she is beginning to involve herself more directly by participating in some events with me, as is Kidzilla, so I am thrilled at the prospect of this becoming a potential family bonding opportunity.  More than ever, it has become more of an ‘Us’ type of scenario, and less about me.  I love that.  She has purchased her first road bike and has been diligently training on my trainer to prepare for our big Tour du Lac event planned for this summer, then a Sprint triathlon relay in August where she has volunteered to do the bike leg (knowing full well that there is one monster climb to contend with), as well as some other volunteer opportunities with me for local charity rides.

Yes, it’s true, I’m very lucky indeed.  Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart, and know that I’m looking forward to whatever the future may hold for us, and then enjoying that continuing journey together.