I have no data or elevation to show for this run, because my Fitbit Ionic failed in the middle of the run. Just straight up noped out on me.
It was about par for the course on the day.
Consistent exercise has done a lot of good for my state of mind. As someone who has clinical depression, I’ve always known that exercise is a benefit for people like me. Literally anyone who has ever had an interest in my well-being has heckled me about it. Particularly my mother. And I’ve always known they aren’t wrong. Doing anything about it is always a different story, though.
Still, some days are more than the benefits of exercise (and medication) can surmount. At the end of the day, neither fixes the problem.
A good run in the woods never hurts, though. I get some of the garbage out, and the problem sometimes seems a little smaller.
As I ran past a river, half-lost and in grass and weeds up to my thighs, I spotted a doe. She stared at me as I ran by, silent and wary, unmoving. I watched her as she watched me, until neither of us could turn our heads any further.
I took advantage of being on vacation, in a different area, to do a ride that was almost entirely flat. Better yet, it started on the side of a mountain – going down.
I wanted to stretch out a bit to ride something longer than I had so far, and this was the perfect route to do it. 30 miles with basically no elevation wouldn’t overly tax my calf, but would let me get my heart rate up for longer than usual.
It was a scenic place to ride, too, so all in all it was a good day on the bike.
The true winner of the day was the swimming hole I got to jump in directly after the ride. There’s nothing quite like doing an extended cardio workout and then plunging into a clear mountain river.
Because I do most of my swimming in an Endless Pool that doesn’t have an operating distance gauge, I don’t really know how far I swim. When I’ve done open water swims, I’ve estimated distance using Google Maps and the “round-about-there” method of marking out a real-life course. I researched some past results of the triathlons I plan to do and used those times as a reality check.
While on vacation, we were at a place with access to an outdoor pool. I went down there one day for a swim and decided to try to calculate its length, using methods just as scientific as my other methods, namely: walking along the length and counting my footsteps and then guesstimating the total and converting it to meters. Seemed close enough for government work, as they say.
The thing was, when I swam what I thought was 550 meters, it was over much sooner than I thought it would be. I figured some of that happened because I was able to push off the walls, which gave me an added bonus of speed without doing any work, but it was still a significant difference. So either I was way faster than I thought, or my distance calculations were off and it wasn’t anywhere close to how far I thought it was. Or maybe swimming in a pool just wasn’t anything like swimming in open water and the discrepancy was due to some other unknown variable.
Combined with the state of my calf injury, it was another unknown that I was adding to a slowly growing stack, which would only ultimately be answered by actually doing a triathlon.
The week of workouts after injuring my calf on my first brick was full of trepidation. My first sprint triathlon event was just two weeks away, and I really had no idea whether I’d be able to recover enough in order to do it.
I started the week with an open water swim at a local lake, my second time swimming there. I had a rough estimate of the distance I was covering from Google Maps, and corroborated that with the time I spent in the water. It was good practice for figuring out sight-lines and navigation in the water. My calf felt okay, but I didn’t expect that swimming would tax it particularly. The real test would be running.
Next up was a ride, which I did as a relatively low-key mountain bike ride for just under an hour. No serious effects there either, but I did feel a couple of tweaks. It was mainly feeling painful during my everyday routine, preventing me from walking normally and feeling really tight and stiff. I felt like stiff was something I could deal with and potentially stretch out, but if it connected with pain, that was a problem.
I took my first run of the week on the treadmill, keeping it flat and easy, for only about 20 minutes. It again didn’t seem to hurt it, but it wasn’t getting any better.
Another easy swim, and then I decided to try it out on the road. I did an extremely careful, extremely slow run, with a couple of hills in it, one of which I walked. I didn’t want to take any chances with making it worse, but I did feel like something needed to be worked out for it to get better.
That seemed to go okay, so the next day I did a decent ride, about 20 miles with about 1,300 ft of elevation, all in one go. It felt pretty good. I got my running shoes on immediately and went out for a short run, to complete my second brick. I didn’t feel normal, but I didn’t feel bad, and overall it was successful. I was optimistic for the coming week.
Even if I was at my goal weight, which I’m definitely not, I would still be a large person. I’m 6′4″ and my weight, if I’m in shape and eating right, is naturally around 230 lbs. It’s tough to find things that fit me, particularly athletic clothes.
After doing my first brick, in which I changed my clothes from a biking kit to a running kit, it became clear that I needed to get a tri suit. I already knew this was going to be part of the plan, but actually going through a transition really demonstrated it. It was pretty annoying to strip off sweaty, tight-fitting clothes and put on other clothes, not to mention the modesty aspects. And that wasn’t even after a swim. I definitely needed a kit I could wear for the entire race.
I started with Amazon, because I for one welcome our benevolent retail overlords. My first attempt: the
Spotti Men’s Triathlon Tri Suit in size XXL. Had good reviews and seemed like a bargain. Unfortunately, it was a wedgie-fest. There was no way I could run or bike in something that was driving so far up my nether regions. I returned it.
Next, I went for the Sparx X Triathlon Suit, which came in a XXXL size, no less. Surely that would have to fit me! …Nope. The same problem; all the extra X’s seemed to mean width, not height, and it just wasn’t going to work. Back went that tri suit too.
I did some research. I knew there were lots of tall triathletes out there, professionals even, and they were getting their gear somewhere. I just had to find out where. (Local stores for trying things on isn’t really an option where I live).
I came across a post on https://beginnertriathlete.com which pointed me to one particular manufacturer: De Soto. Some folks with my similar body type had had good luck with them. I checked them out. Their gear was more expensive, but definitely seemed high quality and if it fit, it seemed worth it. Plus, they had some tri shorts on sale. I went for it. I ordered directly from De Soto because their selection on Amazon was limited.
I also decided to try a two-piece suit instead of a one-piece, on the advice I found in the Beginner Triathlete forum. Presumably that would help alleviate the wedgie issues.
When it finally arrived, I apprehensively tried it on. The shorts were tight, but from what I had read, that was the way they were supposed to fit. They definitely gave me enough coverage. And the top was long enough that it went all the way down to my lower hips when I stood straight up. Looked like a winner at last!
A key component of triathlon training is doing combination workouts, or “bricks” as they are called in the sport. These are training sessions where you essentially simulate one or more transitions, doing a ride and then immediately going for a run, for example, just as you would in an event.
This was my first attempt at doing such a thing. I really wasn’t sure how it would go, since I’d never done it before, so I decided to keep both the bike and the run relatively easy. I’d shoot for around 10-12 miles on the bike and about 2.5 miles on the run, as flat as I could manage from my house.
I felt really good on the bike, putting down the miles with relative ease and moving fairly comfortably. Things took a turn when I was close to the end, though. I came to an intersection in the middle of a hill and had to stop for traffic. Then as I started up again, preparing to tackle the rest of the hill ahead of me, my chain snapped.
Like, literally just broke in two.
I heard a snap, my legs started freewheeling and I looked down to see it just dangling off my chain ring.
I was only a mile from home, so a rescue mission didn’t take long to reach me. It was frustrating, though, and dropped me out of the zone hard. I hurriedly changed into my running gear (no tri suit yet) and headed out on my run, eager to regain the momentum I had had going before the mechanical failure.
My legs felt awful. I had never experienced anything like it. I’ve been tired on a run plenty of times, and having finished two marathons in the past, I know what it’s like to feel nearly 100% fatigue in your legs. But this was different. This was like my legs belonged to someone else and I was controlling them remotely, or something. It was really weird. They felt almost numb, even though I could feel them. It was clear very quickly why people practice this sort of thing.
After about a mile, the weirdness started to clear up and I felt more like myself again. I crested a hill and started down the other side, when a car appeared heading toward me. I moved to the side of the gravel road, into the shoulder. And felt a twinge in my calf. Different than a cramp, it was like a very specific section of my calf contracted as hard as it could.
I should have stopped immediately to stretch and rest, but I was determined to see this through and was locked into a mental race mode. The leg hurt for the rest of the run but I finished it out and limped up my driveway.
I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out, but it didn’t look or feel good.
On a gorgeous summer day recently, I joined a group ride for a trek on class-4 roads, rail trails and asphalt, journeying to a local strawberry festival at a farm up in the hills of a nearby town. I rode my MTB for this one.
This was an eventful ride right from the start, and not at all in a good way. On the way out of town, we passed by a house that was situated close to the road. A dog came sprinting out of nowhere, barking at one of our group. Suddenly, from up ahead around a blind corner, a car appeared. The result was a collision that ended in the dog’s death, right in front of us.
The owners were understandably shaken and mortified. A few of our group helped move the dog’s body off the road. I stood up ahead to signal cars while they did that and did their best to console the heartbroken owners. Eventually, we moved on. A couple of our riders returned the next day with flowers.
It took a while to shake that off, but exercise is good for such things. We journeyed onward, putting miles behind us and looking forward.
The pace of the group was pretty slow, overall, with a lot of stops. At one point we hit asphalt and I couldn’t help myself; I had to drop the hammer and stretch out for a bit. One other guy came with me. We burned up a couple of miles and then pulled off to wait for the rest, next to a morbidly appropriate roadside cemetery.
That effort would eventually catch up with me, as the ride finished on a legit Category 4 climb, which I ultimately had very little left in the tank for. I did eventually make it up, but it was brutal.
Luckily there were strawberries, hamburgers and live music waiting for us at the festival. A pleasant end to a tumultuous ride.
Where I live, it’s not easy finding places to ride that are not mountainous. Especially in the early stages of getting myself back in cycling shape, this makes things even more difficult than they already are. I have always liked climbing, but it’s very difficult to do when you’re out of shape, so being surrounded by endless hills becomes another obstacle to getting out on the bike or run in order to do a workout. Because it’s just so hard.
On this day, I found a flat ride. It was one of the first times I really put Strava’s route creator to use, and looked at the elevation on a road that I knew would be comfortable to ride on. I had to drive a few minutes to get there but it was worth it to go out on a ride that didn’t feature an ominous, looming mountain climb for once.
Ultimately, I think climbing is a great training tool because it packs a lot more effort into the same amount of distance, which makes it more efficient. And I’m learning that efficiency is what it’s all about when it comes to triathlon training.