Bike, run, swim/drink – winter triathlons

The last couple of months I have been using some real nasty adjectives to describe my training. Painful, daunting, tiring, consuming, fun-sucking, and miserable are a few that come to mind. But on this beautiful Saturday morning, feeling fresh and energized, I embarked on a mini triathlon of sorts. I left half a gallon of sweat on the floor beneath my bicycle on an indoor spin. Then strapped on my runners for a brisk 8k jaunt. And then transitioned out of my dripping wet clothing, and embarked on a swim in my bath tub with the company of a tub of Epsom salts and a bottle of vino.
My body is refreshed and relaxed, and so is my vocabulary.

The beginning is not the time to quit

It’s one thing to have a dream, but to endure through the battle of getting there is the true test. The ups and downs are like navigating a roller coaster through the dark, and every twist and turn, upside down and right side up are completely unpredictable. I am only three weeks into this year’s training and I’ve already been through enough ups and downs to last the entire season. I have shed 30 seconds off my 800 TT’s in the pool, for the first time ever I have found rhythm in my running, and my legs have never felt more powerful on the bike. But in my success I have also found failure. A rocky start to the New Year has thrown me in a tail spin of self doubt where I have questioned every aspect of… well, every thing. There have been sleepless nights, confusion, indecisiveness, and I am constantly plagued by a jittery inability to relax, sit still or otherwise feel like espresso isn’t shooting through my veins. Which is ideal for pumping out two or three killer workouts a day, but much more unproductive for most everything else. I have also felt the consequences of physical pain. After destroying the bike in a two hour session this morning, I immediately hit the pavement for a run when I was greeted by a stabbing pain that shot up through my body like a knife. I grimaced through every step and instantly my head was teeming with negativity and frustration. My shin splints have returned. This is a huge step backwards. I was so patient, which is exceedingly difficult for me, and I have been waiting with my running, waiting until I was 100% and now here I am, right back to where I was. I can’t afford to falter now; not ever. As my timer signalled the end of the run, I hobbled gingerly and painfully back to my car, opened the door, and the floodgates of tears rushed down my face. With my forehead resting on the steering wheel, I sobbed tears of disappointment and anger onto the muddy floor beneath my feet. The whole half of my body felt numb and ached in an uncomfortable pain. Immediately I began to question myself. This isn’t even half of the physical challenges that lie ahead of me. photo (5)This is supposed to be the easy part. This is supposed to be the beginning to an amazing, fulfilling journey. So far, it’s eating me alive.
My father has been a constant reminder that I will face wonderful successes along the road but that I must be prepared to face defeat, and injury. It is inevitable that when you push yourself that at some point you will find a limit. I fully understand and appreciate the road I am embarking upon, I just didn’t think the obstacles would come so soon. I am only into the base building of my training and the thought of struggling at this point is unbearable. The snow hasn’t even melted yet and my mind is rushing with thoughts of defeat. If I can’t get through this, what lies ahead for me? In these moments though, I also remember that no one said this would be easy, at any point, beginning or end. Being defeated before you even begin is always guaranteed to end in failure.
Tomorrow starts a new week and with a little bit of patience and perseverance, I know I can start mending and getting back to where I need to be. I’m not ready to give up; in fact, it really isn’t an option. I’ll just bank this in the learning folder of life and keep trekking on, because even if my body wants to give out, I still have a mind of steel that won’t accept failure. If there isn’t something that kills me along this road, then I’m just going to keep going and going and going… But first I’m going to need an ice pack and maybe a few pain killers.

Just another day in paradise

I have found that my swimming training sessions are far more entertaining than running or biking. Unless of course there are epic crashes or run-ins with parked cars, but generally speaking, between near drowning, floundering, and sea creature flailing, swimming doesn’t require epic mishaps, it’s just an adventure every time.
On this particular morning, but not unlike every other freezing cold winter morning so far this year, I am draped in a titanic sized towel staring at the motionless water of the pool. I’ve become accustomed to the morning swims, but until I am fully submerged and awakened by the cool water, I usually just stand on the deck like a dumb donkey awaiting the crack of the whip. Sometimes I’m still waking up, other times I’m enjoying the calmness of the empty pool, and sometimes I’m quietly praying that my coach hasn’t brought those arm braces (Fulcrums) he keeps talking about or asks me to practice my sculling, tie my legs together, or swim another 800m time trial. I’m starting to learn that there are certain training sessions you come to loathe. The ones that result in me spitting up water, screaming in agony with each exhale, wishing my arms would fall off instead of continuing to propel me through the water, and puking in the pool. Most days I think that my coach is trying to kill me. In any case, of course when you wish things away, it seems that they always magically appear, as did the bright yellow arm braces on the pool deck, and the workout sheet which included ankle band, sculling, and 800m TT. I think my body may have instinctively turned towards the door as if the flight or fight response had suddenly kicked in.
As I hop in the pool with my bright yellow, awesomely awesome arm braces I feel like the special kid in class who doesn’t know how to swim and therefore needs special help. Not only am I the only one out of my group wearing these dumb things I also look like a dolphin who has its flippers caught in a six pack ring. And I thought that strapping my feet together and swimming like a demented sea horse was bad.
After managing to flounder through the first 400 with the Fulcrums and then bob like a seahorse through 300 with the ankle band, I still can’t shake the appearance of some off-the-rails sea creature. With a pull buoy squashed between my thighs I am now ass up sculling my arms back and forth as I motor along like a dying whale.
I know there is a method to the insanity of all these pool drills and that one day I will swim like a graceful mermaid torpedoing through the water, but in the meantime, I shall remain a hysterical spectacle for all to admire. 
By the time we are lined up for the time trial, I am mentally preparing myself for inevitable agony. In a TT I’m aiming to hit a time that my coach expects out of me, but my interpretation, in a nutshell, try to keep up to the toes of your training partner and if you start to lose them then swim harder. Usually I see those toes for the first 100 metres or so, then they move slowly inch my inch out of my grasp. I always try to reach out and grab them with so much desperation that my forehead crinkles, but it never matters how much I pull and kick or how hard I try, those toes stay out of my reach until they disappear out of sight and I am left with nothing to reach for anymore. It sounds horrendously defeating, but it’s actually extremely motivating to always have something to chase. Whether I can see it or not, I know it’s there, and it only drives me to be better.
By the time we are finished I am exhausted and sputtering up water. There is barely enough time for me to catch my breath, swim a few cool down laps, clamber out of the pool, and shuffle off to the dressing room where I am practically into transition. I peel off my soaking wet bathing suit, attempt to wring my hair of excess water and suit up in three layers of head to toe clothing. As I choke down a Power Bar, it’s off to the great outdoors where the harsh chill that I remember from this morning greets my lungs and whips at my face. Without much hesitation I silently yell some words of encouragement and we are off for a wintery 11 kilometre run. The workout in the pool is finished but my legs still have to carry me for another hour and 15 minutes through the snow. This is just another day of triathlon training; swim, bike, run, but sometimes all I hear is go, go, go.
At the end of the day I am chilled and beaten. I slink into a scathing hot bath of epsom salts and practically fall into a deep sleep. Sometimes these training sessions sound border line torturous but I love it. In some sort of twisted way feeling beaten and defeated makes me feel stronger. It really doesn’t matter how many sea creatures I resemble in the water or how many kilometres of snow you tell me to run in, I will always keep propelling through. Yes, it can feel awful when my lungs are screaming and my muscles are aching, but there is a brilliant satisfaction at the end of the day knowing that I survived one workout and I am that much more ready for the next one. After all, every step, or peddle, or stroke that I make, takes me that much further away from where I was and that much closer to where I want to be.