Triathlon: 1 Year In

Today (ok not today, but the day I started actually writing this, about a week ago) marks 365 days since I started my training plan last year for my first sprint triathlon. A lot has happened since then.

I started with a strength day, of all things, and just based on that fact alone, I’m amazed that I stuck with it this long. It’s one of my least favorite types of exercise to do. Following a 12-week plan extracted from a book, I got myself together enough to complete my first sprint distance triathlon. One of the first things I learned was what stuff I needed to bring to the race and what I didn’t (look at all those towels! lol). I did my second sprint just two weeks later, which was a big help in maintaining consistency, I think. There’s a very real possibility that, had I needed to wait a month or two until my next race, I might have dropped the ball. But there wasn’t much time to do much of anything except recover, and it was off to my second race. That one was a lot of fun; I was solidly hooked by that point. September rolled around and it was time for my third race, which I had considered my “A” race for the season, even though it was also a sprint like the others. I swam, biked and ran my way to the Clydesdale podium, winning my division, with a time that also would have been in contention in my age group, had I gone that route.

With that, I had proved to myself that I liked this sport. I hadn’t yet felt bored, or struggled to continue training for mental/emotional reasons. I’d had a couple of minor injury hiccups along the way, which seemed enormous at the time, but were really just bumps in the road. It really looked good for my goals of consistency and, eventually, performance. I hired a coach. I bought a new bike. Things were moving.

Then I got hit by a car. And everything changed. I had a concussion that would take me five months to recover from. In the interim I managed to stay as active as was possible, mostly by walking on the treadmill, and eventually doing relatively short and easy indoor trainer rides. I applied my focus to producing video content, and went to Puerto Rico for a cycling adventure vacation (I’m just realizing I never really posted about that; I’m working on a larger video that will showcase the whole trip. It’s slow going but I hope to have it done soon).

At the five month mark, I really started to feel normal again. I was pushing hard on a lot of workouts, and finally suffering no ill effects. Looking back, I can see how I was really charging ahead when this happened, going a lot harder than I probably should have a lot of times. Which I think is understandable considering how long I had been under wraps. My training and fitness levels really started to climb at that point.

I’ve still got a ways to go on intelligently managing my IF,
but Concussion Valley is looking smaller every day

I rode outdoors in Vermont for the first time at the Muddy Onion, which was also my first outdoor ride with a power meter. Shortly afterward, I did my first FTP test. Now I have a baseline for understanding my efforts and training with real structure.

Consistency is there. Fitness is getting there. Performance remains to be seen. I’ve done a lot, learned a lot, and been through a lot. My weight is still not where it should be, but I’ve made progress:

26 pounds lost over 1 year, while building a fair amount of heavy cycling muscle.

Tomorrow I’m riding in the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race, which I consider my first performance challenge of the season. I’m not out to win it or anything (fat chance, literally, with a Clydesdale division that starts at 190 pounds), but I do hope to lay down some effort that I can be proud of. And then right around the corner is my first triathlon of 2019, a sprint-distance rust shaker in Nashua NH.

It’s been a good first year, overall. I’m grateful to have found this sport, even more grateful to be able to practice and compete in it, and hopeful and optimistic for what it means for my future.

Crash

I went for a trip to Canada about a month ago, and brought my bike along so I wouldn’t miss any training days. I told my coach what I was up to and had him give me all my swims during the week, so that the weekend would just be run/bike. That proved more intense than I expected, and two days in a row in the pool had me pooped. I was looking forward to riding in new places, though, so I was pretty sure it would work out okay.

I went up on Thursday night, so my first ride was on Friday. I plotted out a route that seemed reasonable and would take me alongside a river. It was a city road, but there was a bike lane and a fair number of Strava segments on it so the circumstantial evidence pointed to it being an okay place to ride.

When I finally got out there, it had started to snow. Not a big deal for me normally, and I was already dressed for the cold. What I didn’t anticipate was the effect that melted snow would have on the pavement. I would find out soon enough though.

The road was two lanes on either side with a median in the middle. At an intersection, I slowed until I had a green light, then pedaled forward. Whereupon a car suddenly appeared, turning left right in front of me. I clutched my brakes and found myself hydroplaning. Everything went into slow motion. I wasn’t scared or surprised at that moment. I was just…annoyed. “Goddamnit,” I remember thinking, “I’m going to wreck my bike.”

And I did. I don’t remember how, exactly, I hit the car, but I was told later that I took out the rear view mirror on the passenger side with my hip (I definitely had the injury to prove that one). I think I then rolled over the hood and landed sort of in front of the car. I remember hitting the right side of my head on the pavement, hard. “Wow,” I thought, “that didn’t even hurt.” It was true, it didn’t at the time. My helmet had done its job. It would hurt later though. A lot.

An ambulance was called, I think by the driver of the car, and the police arrived, all within maybe ten minutes. It was only after I was in the ambulance that I started to feel anything besides adrenaline. That dropped away and all of a sudden I felt extremely nauseous and I noticed pain in my hip and knee. I was dizzy and couldn’t focus well either.

The hospital visit was pretty smooth overall. The diagnosis was a concussion, with nothing broken, just some hard bruising on my hip and some road rash. They let me go with instructions for painkillers and rest.

My bike, on the other hand, didn’t fare quite as well. However, it looked like the frame was intact and only the wheels, bars and components had really been affected. Considering that I still hadn’t paid for all of it, that was a very good thing.

Since the collision I’ve basically been waiting for my head to get better. I’ll write more about that next time.