Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I am the Tin Man 

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“I probably looked like a stroke victim at a physio session rather than a finely tuned athlete...”
Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous October day. The sort of days that we are running out of. If I was going to do it, this was my last chance. I'm talking about my semi-annual triumph of "umph" where I combine three activities into one protracted consumption of calories. The Tin Man. Not an Iron Man, but that's fine. I know The Tin Man as I call it, is a real event normally called a Sprint Triathlon but I still feel what I do isn't really the same. Swimming in a pool isn't the same as swimming in a crowd in open water. Stopping to change your shoes isn't the same as jumping off your bike and breaking into a sprint (which is painful I imagine). No, I swim 750 metres in my own lane in a comfy pool, then I bike 20 kilometres, then I change my kit and finish with a 5 kilometre run. This is the format of many charitable or introductory triathlons. The first time I tried it, it took me about 110 minutes. The second time I was closer to 105 minutes. The time I wanted to match or beat was 1 hour, 45 minutes. I haven't been swimming much lately so I thought it might be tough. Turns out, all of my times were bad individually, but it's not about individual times.

The swim did not start well. After 2 laps I had so much water in my googles I had to stop to fix it, but I didn't stop the clock. After 36 laps (about 810 metres; only later did I realize I only had to do 34 laps) my time was 16 minutes. Almost a minute slower than my best time (which, to be honest was for only 34 laps).

Then I rode the 3 km home to switch bikes (I know, it's complicated). The ride went as well as could be expected in stop-and-go traffic. At an average speed of about 25 km/hr, I was done the 20 km in 48 minutes, but I still had another 2 km to get home (so to be clear, 3 km to the pool, 3 km back then an accidental 2 km just to get home, I've really ridden about 28 km). Once home I switched shoes and as I started the run I figured, hey, even a 30 minute run would give me a better time.

As I started jogging I felt like I probably looked like a stroke victim at a physio session rather than a finely tuned athlete but after a minute or so I was in a comfortable stride. Not the tempo I usually run but at this point all I'm thinking is "take it easy, settle in". By the time I was on the home stretch I was feeling fine. My time? 28 minutes. All in, I was done in 1 hour and 32 minutes. More than 10 minutes faster than I done before.

Do I think I'd ever be able to do an Olympic duration triathlon (1 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run)? I doubt it. I've done days where I've swam 1200 m and run 5km or just a couple of weeks ago I biked 50 km and run 6 km but I was done for days afterward and after 1000 m swim, I'm usually ready for a nap, not a ride and a run. This time around, I took Sunday off, and ran 7 km on Monday and felt fine. But one after the other? Maybe I could do it if I ran 10 km more often but it won't happen this year.

The funny thing is, 90 minutes of what sounds like a rough workout, really isn't that hard at all. My experience is that riding solo for 4-5 hours to do 100 km on the bike is a lot harder. Physically and especially mentally. After riding 100 km on my own, I'm almost in tears, not from pain, but I guess the combination of exhaustion, pain and loneliness. I can't describe it but I get a kind of despair at 80 km knowing there's another 20 km (or 50 minutes or so in the saddle). I'm sore, I'm tired and there's no one to help me, so you just have to buck up and hammer down. My goal on the bike is to do a proper "century", a 100-mile ride which is 160 km but I haven't been on the bike enough for that this year (or any year).

Saturday, as I approached home, I looked at my watch and saw my sub-30-minute time, I actually raised my arms and whooped. I don't think anyone saw or heard me and if they had they might have thought I was just another runner who had stepped in something. I know I should test my mettle in a real event, but the idea of doing the same thing in a crowd, being passed by older, more sun-wrinkled men and women, and not having anyone see my yelp – well, it makes an accomplishment that should be celebratory seem a little sad. Plus that's not why I do it.

Resting heart rate: 64 BPM
Blood Pressure: 106/80
True Age: 10 years younger than real age

That's why I do it.

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