March 29, 2006

The Little Things That No One Ever Knows

Morning Workout
1 hour 35 minutes
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Evening Workout
1 hour

Random Comments: It was raining cats and ducks yesterday and the silly, somewhat incompetent, short-bus riding weathermen in Los Angeles said it was supposed to continue raining throughout today. So, naturally, I assumed I’d be powering through on the trainer this morning while I catch up on the latest episodes of Lost, The Daily Show, The Office or what have you. I don't know why I keep listening to the LA weathermen. They're idiots. Of course I woke up to sunshine. Beautiful bright sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky type of sunshine. Didn't rain a single drop today. Screw the trainer, I went riding in the great big outdoors. And that’s about the most interesting thing I can say about my ride this morning.

Swim 2.4 miles then bike 112 then run 26.2. Can you swim that far, they ask. I can’t even drive that distance, they say jokingly. And they always ask about the legs - it's the most obvious question. How will your legs hold up, they say.

They will. I can. Those are my answers.
I should make up little index cards to hand out.
They will. I can.

My arms will be tired, but they will somehow pull me through the 2.4 miles. And my legs will be even more tired, but they will manage, there will be enough energy to carry me to the finish line. I can do it, I know that. That's not the concern. The arms and legs aren't the worry. It’s the little things that nobody thinks of that are the silent killers.

Take a look at marathoning. You can run 16, 17 or 18 mile training runs for months and feel great. I could do a marathon, no problem. I am superman, you’ll think to yourself after these exhilirating runs where you feel like you can go on forever. You’ll feel confident. And no matter what people tell you, it’s not until you experience it yourself that you realize how quickly that confidence gets squished like a possum on the roads of Pennsylvania. You will realize the hard way that the marathon really begins at mile 20. Yes, you may feel like you’re on top of the world at mile 18, and you should hold on to that feeling as long as humanly possible because a few miles later may very well bring utter disaster, collapsing you into a wimpering little twit. It happens time and again. Without experiencing it, you simply can't predict how your body will react.

I've been swimming 2000-3000 meters regularly every week without a problem. Piece a' cake. But it wasn't until last week when I swam the non-stop 3000 meters that I realized my form was just the slightest bit screwed up. And that slight bit o' screw caused tremendous back pain. All I need to do is rotate my hips a couple of inches further. Just a couple of inches. Practically nothing, you say. But after 4000 meters of swimming, those inches are the difference between a fresh start out of the water and one really t-ed off, severely pained bike rider who's gotta get through 112 miles with a sore back and is guaranteed to bitch and moan and yell unmentionables the entire way. I don't like yelling unmentionables, especially on 112 mile bike rides.

People ask me if riding 100 miles is hard for me. Nobody asks me if drinking my water bottle is hard. But trust me, it's harder than you think. I've got a drinking problem. Whenever I take a sip of liquid while on the bike, my heart rate rises 3-5 beats. Five beats, you're saying, big deal. Well, when I’m huffing and puffing, panting and groaning my way uphill, with my heart rate toying the redline and just enough energy to get to the top of the damn mountain, a drink of water and five more beats slams me right over the edge. Apparently it is a big deal. You cheeky git.

Take small drinks, you suggest. Small quick drinks. One would think that's the answer. I even thought that was the answer. I tried it and we were all wrong. Small quick drinks raises my heart rate even more. I've had to spend the last few months sampling with my drinking. Sounds lame, huh? It is. I go out on rides and try to drink different ways. Small sips, big gulps, two chugs, three quick shots... And finally I figure out what I need to do. One big gulp every 10 minutes. Gulp enough to finish the entire bottle in six gulps. That's the only method that seems to work so far.

And then there's eating. When you run a marathon, you are only out there for a few hours. Sure you will eat some solids, but not a whole meal. The Ironman? I'll be out there for a timespan in which I usually eat three full meals. And that doesn't even count the continuous expenditure of energy. How do you eat when you're constantly moving and your organs are working at their peak? More importantly, what do you eat? What will my body accept and what will it reject? As you can imagine, it's hard to simulate what the stomach will be like after 12 hours of exercise without actually doing 12 hours of exercise. But I'm givin' it the old college try. I spend the training sessions trying new tactics. Fig newtons, cheese sandwiches, pretzels, peanuts... trying to figure out what works. I don't know the answers. Yet. I hope I find out soon though. Heaven knows, I want to figure it out before I hit mile 20 of that marathon and find myself battling all the other little things that no one ever knows.