May 12, 2006

And Don't It Feel Good

There are certain understood rules of triathlon; certain things that triathletes know they should never – not ever - do before a race. Of course, the most common order is to not try anything new on race day for any reason whatsoever, even if the Lord God Herself and her harp-strumming naked cherubs appeared in some inspirational vision during your warm-up and told you otherwise. Just tell her no (Of course, you may go to hell, but I’m talking about race day here, not eternity. You’re on your own for eternity.) If you’ve been training effectively by eating cold pizza mid-way through your training rides and have a hankering to try out Gu during race day – don’t. Go find a pizza place. Want to adjust the saddle just a wee bit on race morning to make yourself more aerodynamic? Instead you might consider having a fellow triathlete take a baseball bat to your back. Oh, and here’s my tool kit, why don’t you saw out your pancreas while you’re in the mood to do stupid things.

Important Rule #2: Don’t listen to random radio stations on your drive to the race - you never know what song they will play right before you get out of the car. The Gods of Motivation don’t care how much you love or hate that song, they don’t even care if you listened to the entire song or just heard the first 8 bars, they are still going to imprint it on the forefront of your mind about 30 minutes into the race. You’ll be swimming along as calm, cool and collected as you can be on race day, focused on stroke after stroke when out of the blue it’ll hit you like the feet of that moron swimming two inches in front of your face. That song will suddenly pop right into your mind and you’ll immediately find yourself singing those lyrics. You may even start to smile and laugh for a little bit. Go ahead, amuse yourself. But know that the song ain’t leaving your brain for a long long time and four or five hours down the road when you’re still singing the same damn tune, that smile and laughter may be exchanged for something more on the angry and annoyed side of the emotional spectrum. Trust me, it is imperitive for your sanity and the potential physical health of those surrounding you that you listen to the right motivational songs before you begin your race.

Fortunately, we weren’t listening to the radio last week on our drive to St. Anthony’s. Unfortunately, my step-brother Craig didn’t need a radio.

Don't you hate when random songs pop into your mind and you can't let them go, Craig said to us. You know what song sometimes pops into my mind during a race? he asked in his rhetorical sort of way. And then he told us the song title. He didn't even need to sing it. The title was enough.

Aaaaawwwww shit, I thought. That’s it, I’m doomed. I don’t even need to hear the boppy beat of that timeless beauty for it to get lodged in my brain. Damn damn damn. The song title alone will have me humming it for far too long. Don’t think about it, I said. Everytime I started singing the song in my mind, I stopped myself. Don’t think about it. Don't think about it.

Lucky me, I must’ve figured out how to erase that part of my brain because I got through all of St. Anthony’s without the song piercing my consciousness. Whew, I thought after crossing the finish line. I'm free.

* * *
It was supposed to be an easy 90 minute spin on Wednesday morning. Sometimes there are so many signs telling me I shouldn’t be exercising, I wonder why I push forward. As for this quote-unquote easy spin, the omens began slapping me upside the head before I even really began:

• Woke up at Cat’s place and realized I forgot to bring my helmet (pre-ride)
• Flat tire (pre-ride) Stop and fix.
• Cadence sensor banging against pedal (30 seconds into ride) Stop and fix.
• Handlebars misaligned (60 seconds into ride) Stop and fix.
• Flat tire (yes, another one) (yes, the same tire) (5 minutes into ride) Stop and fix.
• Cat nearly getting clocked by a Subaru (20 minutes into ride). Shake and gasp.
• Both of us getting freaked out by a jerk in a pick-up truck (30 minutes into ride) Scream and yell.
• Me nearly getting flattened by a very large bus (40 minutes into ride). Clench and pray.

As you can imagine, I just wanted this ride to be over. In fact, I was unclear of why it began in the first place. I’d already had a crappy Lactate Threshold test the day before, I don’t know what I was trying to prove on this so-called easy spin. Truth be told, I could completely skip the workout and I’m sure my fitness level would not be affected in the slightest.

I was about an hour from home at this point when it happened. I didn't even see it coming. I mean, it was already 9 days after St. Anthony's, I thought I was free. Apparently I wasn't. Maybe it was the fear of the pending bus collision that knocked it out of me. Maybe it was the sheer annoyance of this ride and knowledge that I still had one more excruciatingly long hour to go. But I couldn't help myself. I smiled and laughed while I was riding along, singing the song. I silently cursed at Craig in my most sarcastic, light-hearted tone. I guess you just can't escape the power of pre-race suggestion.

So there I was, in the middle of my hellish bike ride, Walking On Sunshine, oh yeah. Walking on sunshine, oh oh.
And don’t it feel good!