June 29th, 2014 by Dusty
How good would my tales of exercise be if I was all “well, I busted out a two mile swim in a half hour and then ran like a gazelle for twelve miles and my heart rate never went over 110. Totes Pee Ar. Podiumed. I have a podium in my basement.” By the way, actual triathletes are almost annoyingly non-braggy about their accomplishments. If they do admit they made the podium after a race, they say “podiumed” (podium not being a verb in any language, and adding the -ed to the end makes it not a word in any language (and the fact that it is in the dictionary does not make me any less correct about this)).
With no risk of ever having to say I podiumed in any physical activity in which there are more than two contestants, I can jest with impunity. Which brings me to the meat of my story.
I am now in month three or so of training for nothing, and have gotten better. I’m going to type four words and then you can throw away every diet book ever written.
Eat less, move more.
I’m better than I was, which is sort of like having the biggest penis in China or being the smartest hipster. Who cares? If there is one thing that is relentlessly pounded home, it is humility. I think that’s why I can talk to a guy who finished a full Ironman with the third fastest time ever recorded and he doesn’t even wear a cape with that fact embroidered on it, as I would. That is probably because he has been humbled much more than I have. This also means I will have lots more stories where I get to laugh at myself. You can laugh at me too. Who cares, as long as everyone is laughing?
I have swum 2100 meters at one time without being shipwrecked, and I have ridden my bike 50 miles at an average of fifteen miles per hour. Two things I did not think I would ever do. Never mind the fact that my wife rode 100 miles at an average of 19.5 miles per hour and swam 3500 meters on the same day. She’s a robot or something. It’s just layers of humbling, really. For instance, my swim:
I was in Monroe Louisiana and found a gym with a pool about a mile from the hotel. It was 428 degrees Celsius outside, so I ran to the gym because I am an idiot. I decided, “This is going to be my 2000 meter day. I don’t care how long it takes or that I forgot my fucking goggles. I’m swimming until I have gone 2000 meters.” I borrowed some goggles from the chick at the front desk and got in the pool. I was the only one there for a while, and then a lady came in who was a physical therapist and she had three patients; two elderly ladies and a heavyset 30 something year-old red haired girl with Downs Syndrome. The older ladies bobbed around in the water doing exercises of some sort, I thrashed my way back and forth across the pool, and the redheaded girl put on a swim cap with a shark fin on top and started stretching. I talked to her for a minute because I was about to die and needed a break. Her name is Amanda and she loves to swim. Backstroke is her favorite. She thanked me when I complimented her swim cap, and I got back to the business of controlled drowning.
A few minutes later, just when I was finally getting a rhythm down and breathing more air than water…just beginning to make the mistake of thinking I was okay at this, I saw the shark fin out of the corner of my eye. She was gaining on me, and within a few laps had passed me. Congratulations to the new Mayor of Deflatesville – you just got chicked in a very special way.
But I finished my 2000 and did a couple more laps just because I was there, and then ran back to the hotel, which was an even dumber idea the second time, as it had rained and the humidity was hovering around 6200% and the whole town smelled like Louisiana. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about.
My next hurdle was a bike ride of significant length back home in Atlanta. I went to the meet up spot with the intention of this being an easy ride for beginners, which it could have been, I guess. It turned out to be a lesson in nutrition learned the hard way.
Most of the folks there just wanted to ride ten or fifteen miles, and some had never ridden a bike. I’m no athlete (have I mentioned that?), but I was planning on riding at least twenty or thirty. Luckily there was a girl there who was not named Lisa, and she wanted to ride 60 miles and try to hold a 15 mph average. Lisa is an athlete. I could tell not only by how she was geared up, but by the way she downplayed her heroic acts of athleticism. I attempted to follow suit. She told me about her last marathon and how she didn’t do quite as well as she’d hoped, and “Oh, I’m not a runner, I only held a so and so pace.” (you ran 26 fucking miles in a row. You’re a runner.), and I countered with “On my last swim I got smoked by a morbidly obese retarded woman.”
Based on my hours on the compu-shamer in the spin classes, I figured I could hold 15 for an hour or two, so I said, “If it’s okay with you, I’ll just ride along with you and I’ll turn around and come back when I am half as tired as I need to be.” So not Lisa and I headed off to the west. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to ride a real bike when you’re not being told to pedal with one leg and stand up, then sprint for five minutes and slow down and take a puke break and do it again.
In a couple of hours we decided to stop and turn around. Along the way we passed and were passed by all manner of exerciser – walkers, joggers, and at one point we zoomed past a fat couple on a bicycle for two. Two thoughts went through my head, and I’m only a little ashamed of one of them. First, I thought “I hope I made that really cool swooshy fast bike sound that fast people on expensive bikes make when they go past you. That is such a cool sound.” The second was “Holy shit, those two must be miserable. In what universe is it a good exercise plan for you and your wife to ride the same bike? I can’t even believe that was invented. Good luck with that.” We had gone just over 25 miles, and I felt pretty good. Then I got off my bike and started to realize the extent to which I may have been screwed. Light headed, legs all stupid and bendy, back starting to tell me to go to hell, hands hurt, and three toes on my right foot were numb. Since I had not prepared at all for a ride of any length, I had two water bottles. One had some kind of electrozymes I stole from my wife, and the other was empty.
Luckily on this particular trail there were lots of places to get water. If not, I guess I would have died and deserved it. Possibly just as luckily, not Lisa was generous enough to split some kind of fibrous sticky snack bar with me. It was kind of like a cliff bar, but looked and tasted less like a turd. “Thunder Jet Hammerbar – now with 13% more wolverine tusk!” whatever it was, it made a difference. This was good and bad – good because I was only partly joking when I said, “Okay, now if you’ll go get your car I’ll meet you at the intersection we just passed. Take your time. I need a nap.” Bad because I knew that if my body responded that quickly and noticeably to that little bit of food, I’d soon run out of gas and probably be eaten by wild animals.
One thing to consider when you go out and back – If you go out a certain distance, it is almost exactly as far to get back. Take some time – I know your mind is blown.
I was doing pretty well most of the way back. My legs were being total dipshits but functioning as well as I expected them to. My lower back was really starting to kill me more than anything. I was still keeping up with not Lisa for the most part, but I was good and ready to get off of my bike, put it in a large trash receptacle, and go home. I knew the last part of this ride was going to suck. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t always right about everything all the time.
I stopped every 8-10 miles to lay on the ground and stretch my back, and told not Lisa not to wait for me if she wanted to keep moving. I knew I’d get back to my car eventually. She probably didn’t want the guilt of leaving a stranger to die, so she lied and said she needed a break too. I hadn’t eaten a meal since the previous afternoon, and it was a stupid healthy meal with chicken and some kind of leaves, so that wasn’t helping. It is weird and demoralizing when you feel like you are pushing your legs with about 80% of your strength, but nothing is really happening.
I found a support tent for another group of riders about twelve miles from my finish line, and unashamedly offered them five dollars for a banana. They said they didn’t want my money and gave me a banana. I put the money on their table and said, “I’m leaving that there. You can donate it to charity or buy gum with it, but it’s yours. Thanks.” They gave me a Powerade too. Blue, which not only happened to be in season, but is the most delicious color.
Now my batteries were charged about 20% and we decided to just ride until we were finished. I told her to go on because I knew I wasn’t going to keep up. Over the next few miles I watched her disappear over the horizon and I wished her well. About five miles later I panicked when I wondered if I had remembered to zip up the little bag under my seat where my wallet, keys, and phone were. I reached behind me with my right arm to check.
Don’t EVER contort yourself in an unusual way when you are dehydrated. Just don’t.
My shoulder and back went into a spasm that teleported me through time and space, leaving me somewhere in 12th century Scotland being savagely beaten and chewed upon by three guys and their pet boar. Just as I was getting the best of them, I came back to modern day Atlanta where I was trying to unclip my dumb shoes from my dumber pedals before I went into a thicket of poison ivy. There is a thing called a “flying dismount”, and this was technically it, but without much control or intent. When I got my shoulder unstuck, I realized that my wallet was gone and I began a string of swear words that will never be matched. I had to go back. It had been thirty minutes since I bought the world’s most expensive banana, and the thought of going back…let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t have a gun at the time.
I guess anger and panic contain calories because I didn’t feel nearly as tired for the few minutes I was back tracking. I can’t even legally go to work without my wallet, since it contains all of my licenses and whatnot. I was insanely lucky that I found it about a half mile from where my shoulder went nuts on me. Then I turned back around and started back again, completely without morale. I have heard a theory in physics that as an object approaches the speed of light, it gains mass infinitely. It is this theory to which I attribute my bicycle becoming five, and then ten times its original weight. I actually got off at one point to check my tires – I was sure I had at least two flats. Nope. I began cursing the asshole who moved the parking lot because it definitely wasn’t where I left it.
“On your left”, I heard from behind me. I was then passed at a decent clip by a fat couple on a bicycle for two.
Sweet baby Jesus in a dri-fit onesie, if that doesn’t just make everything perfect.
When I got to the parking lot, not Lisa was there talking to someone about healthy stuff. I asked how far behind I was. “Five minutes”, she lied. Some lies are good. I went to my car after unsuccessfully trying to give my bike away and got in. There are levels of fatigue with which I had not yet become acquainted. I actually got scared I was having a stroke or a heart explosion or something. I was in my car and tried to start it with my house key. Then I looked at my keys again, decided on the right key, and again tried to start my car with my house key. I convinced myself four times that my house key should be used to start my car, and I had a moment of “Well, this is where I actually die.” I opened my car door and got out hoping someone would notice me when I collapsed and expired. I tried to unlock my phone, but I couldn’t make sense of the numbers. Now I was fighting actual panic…I grabbed what was left of my Powerade, forced myself to focus, chugged it down, leaned over to get blood back into my otherwise empty skull, and finally got my car started. With some air blowing, my brain started to cooperate again.
I am not interested in doing that part ever again, so I will be properly hydrated and fed the next time I do something like this.
I called my wife and told her of my small victory and subsequent brush with death, and she said “Wow, that means you’re doing it right.”