10 October 2013

I Love Triathlon

  Triathlon is a fun, adventurous workout. You get to swim (or in my case, perpetually almost sink), then ride your bike and then run. Three activities that I love to do and you get to experience the challenge of doing them all back to back.
  Your body loves this kind of variety. By combining different sports, triathlon could be the perfect workout as it does not overly stress any singular muscle group. The variety of training makes it safer on the muscles and joints than say just running constantly and putting a continued specific stress on the knees.
  "But Robin, cycling does not put undue stress on the knees and so how can that be bad if I only do that?" you may ask.  I read an interesting article on this subject a couple of years ago revealing that indeed, even too much of of brilliantly non-impactful cycling can actually reduce the bone density. Many cyclists who fall off their bikes suffer from broken bones at a higher rate than those athletes that include exercises that involve some impact on the joints; a bit of load bearing on bones and joints is good for your body! And while swimming is also weightless and wonderful, your body being the genius that it is actually begins to hold onto fat to aid buoyancy, so in the long run (or swim as the case may be), its effectiveness plateaus in ensuring a trim physique. Lesson here; there IS too much of a good thing. Your body loves variety and the Triathlon provides it with a perfect combination of enjoyable disciplines.
  Yesterday my Kiwitrainer Tri Team (a group of clients and friends who I manage to convince, bribe or lightly guilt trip into doing a Triathlon), competed in The Bonelli Olympic and Bonelli Express Triathlons. It was a blast. First of all, the location is wonderful and picturesque. In the middle of seemingly nowhere (my apologies to residents of San Dimas), there exists this jewel of a park with an exquisite backdrop of mountains on the horizon and a glimmering, glittering lake.
  Michelle relaxing and taking in the view at Frank G. Bonelli Park. This is part of the adventure. Traveling to a beach or lake in the wee small hours and racing as the sun comes out and up on a wonderful natural vista.
  For those of you out there looking to add an adventure to their active lifestyle, or for those that want to tick a Triathlon off their bucket list. Here is a short account of yesterdays race with some tips, reflections and advice for those tempted to give it a go.
  The first thing I do when I roll out of bed, half asleep on a race day is pound a glass or two of water. When you are sleeping, your body is still ticking along slowly doing its chores diligently while your subconscious goes AWOL with surreal dealings of daddy issues. While your mind wanders you are in fact using precious water throughout the night, so when you roll out of bed you are a little dehydrated. Getting some water into the system is of paramount importance. You are also going to be exercising and sweating so you need to be well hydrated. A few days before any race, make sure you drink a little more water than usual so that all your cells are plump and juicy.
  It is important to not do anything radically different on race day. Just like an actor after a long rehearsal process, the opening night is about having fun. The hard work is behind you. It is about being where you are, who you are, enjoying the moment and racing your race. Let me emphasize that point, you will race YOUR race. It is you doing your best for your reasons. Bad acting is forced and self-conscious and so is bad racing. Good acting is relaxed and honest and likewise, you will perform better by listening to your body with diligence and centeredness.
   I love friendly competition, but at the end of the day I really feel like it is privilege to be able to participate in an organized race. Yes you want to perform at your best but not at expense of enjoying the journey. Remind yourself of this as you get ready for your race; gratitude has an amazing ability to calm your nerves. For me, the adventure, challenge and friendship is the fun part.
  Breakfast is my usual fare of a slice of grainy bread (Ezekiel) and a cup or two of coffee to get my heart and cloudy brain kick started.
  The really fantastic thing about Triathlon is the camaraderie. I am lucky to have my team, and lady, around me on race day and clients who have become dear friends and whom I am excited to see embrace the challenges, the ups, the downs and the satisfaction of facing all that comes with an organized race.
  On Sunday Paul and Dan did their first sprint Tri. I know Paul is an accomplished athlete from his impressive displays in our pre-dawn workouts and his resume full of marathons and I have cycled, swum and watched Dan getting faster and faster on our hill runs at Kiwi Boot Camp. Jenelle, Todd and Tim were to compete in their first Olympic distances having undergone a baptism of fire in the form of a gnarly off road Tri with a mountain bike course straight from hell that we completed earlier in the year. Part of the pay off you get from doing a Triathlon is knowing what you sacrifice to get there. These are all extremely busy individuals. Jenelle had to pull an overnight shift a day prior to the race, Todd has a new born baby at home, Dan works in post-production (production companies= glorified slavery), Michelle is at school and works, Paul is in training for the New York marathon and Tim has a hectic and demanding work schedule. They all have excuses but said "Yes" to the challenge presented before them. I love that tenacity and toughness, it inspired me no end. I knew they were all capable and was completely confident in all of them to face their challenges and to get the most out of the morning. Hey, they train with me, what can I say, of course they are total rock stars! My method of training creates confident all round athletes ready to change and inspire the world. Creating heroes, it's what I do.
  It is important to stay relaxed when you arrive at the race site and pick up your race packet. As the time gets nearer to the start it is completely natural to feel a little nervous. The butterflies start flitting away and it can be a little stressful but take deep breaths and stay present. Panic doesn't help you or anyone. I was running a little behind on once occasion (or at least perceived I was) and in my haste I grabbed and vigorously cleaned my goggles with a towel that had an abundance of small rocks and dirt in it. My goggles were scratched to pieces and the swim became even more of a cloudy, astigmatic ordeal than it usually is. Don't panic, breath and take your time. Talk yourself through setting up your bike and area and remember, you are going to have a swim, go for a bike ride and than have a run.
  A panorama of the lake at Bonelli Park. Part of the fun and adventure of Triathlon is visiting a beautiful locale you haven't experienced before. I would not have guessed that this park was just 30mins from home! Previous races include a wonderful race in Crystal Cove in the O.C which is a magical area that we will return to again and again. Have a look around at local races, I know you will find something that both tickles your sense of adventure and will be a wonderful backdrop to your personal sense of accomplishment.
  Being a sinker I stay back in the pack and let those who swim like dolphin's, such as my client Tim, to steam off in the frenetic churnfest that resembles a shark feeding frenzy at the start most Triathlons. Testosterone and adrenaline, competition and water are not conditions for amicable relaxed niceties. When I was doing Ironman, a pro-athlete grapped a fellow competitor and punched him underwater mid-swim. Be warned, competition brings to the fore the scary insecurities lodged in the frail male psyche. By all means, if you are a strong swimmer then go for it, but if you are racing for a great workout and friendly competition, let the boys be boys and take your sweet time entering the water. I find that a leisurely stroll into the water helps dissipates the ball of adrenaline that comes with the excitement at the start of a race. My first few Tri starts I stormed Baywatch styles into the water and spent most of the swimming leg trying to get my breath back. Remember, run YOUR race. For me this means gently submerging into the water as I would in a inviting tepid bath and then enjoying the long, sensuous experience of slowly moving through water like some lazy Koi on ketamine.
  During the swim I am thinking about maintaining my rhythm. Keeping it calm and consistent. If a competitor accidentaly mounts me like some horny Mannity half way through, it is unpleasant and I may curse in my head but I just remind myself we are all in the same boat, or rather, without a boat in the same lake and collect myself then get back to my same rhythm. I remind myself how lucky I am to be in a situation surrounded by athletes challenging themselves and get back to the slow and steady pace  that I know with confidence I can maintain. Part of the beauty of an endurance event is knowing how to pace yourself. Triathlon is about preparing yourself for the next event. You want to come out of the water feeling fresh and invigorated. On the subject of feeling fresh, I usually take a little pee break durning the course of the swim. If you see athletes popping up their head suddenly and then bob around with a relaxed moving through relieved look on their face, odds are they are enjoying that timeless past-time of urinating on themselves. It is a good safe place to do it and definitely beats the experience of a porter potty.

 Avoid the messy melee of the Triathlon swim start if you are not a gung ho athlete. Let the mad rush subside and then journey into calmer waters.
You want to come out of the water with a smile on your face. This is me exiting the water after the 2.4mile Ironman swim leg. Sure I am exiting around the same time as what appears to be pot bellied pirate/Walrus guy in a speedo but you gotta leave the water feeling ready to kick some butt on land.
  Don't you just love being on a bike? Doesn't it hold so many great childhood memories for you? The magic of first getting the hang of two wheels, the independence and thrill of going on treks around the neighborhood with friends. In my case the neighborhood of Laingholm and Titirangi was far from a Suburban grid and friends often lived far across hills and dales. It was like a mini Lord of the Rings on barely roadworthy heavy steel bikes but I loved the freedom that two wheels gave me. I still love commuting and Spin classes. Cycling is just swell.
   Take those memories you have of all the joy you had on your bike as a child and use them to generate confidence on the cycle portion of the race. Get into your rhythm, not too easy on the gears mind you, you want to get from point A to point B with not too much dilly dallying. A gear where you can maintain a comfortable pace but that you can still feel a nice amount of work going through those legs is ideal. If I can feel myself deeply breathing, and I can feel a nice pressure through the pedals, I know I can't be too hard on myself regarding my work ethic. Enjoy the ride, take time out to encourage others when you pass them and holla at those studly young bucks and kick ass lasses that leave you in their proverbial dust. You are riding a bike in a Triathlon! Feel that innocent joy well up and keep making perfect circles with your pedals as you fly down the road of personal development!
   If you need some sustenance, and on a race longer then a sprint you usually, such as a goo, you can fuel up while riding. I like to take the opportunity to devour a goo or two when I am heading up a gentle incline. An incline means I am moving slightly slower and I have more control to fiddle with the packets. I also like to have a big gulp of water before I head up a hill.
  I passed Jenelle and Tim and Todd who were diligently grinding away. I assumed Tim was on his final lap of the three laps required in this particular race as Tim is a fantastic swimmer. Damn and good for him I thought. It is not unusual for a client to become stronger or fitter in some aspect then myself if I have coached them over an extended period of time. This year in fact Tony a client I lift weights with has blown past me with massive increases in his lifting strength. Of course the ego complains just a little, but that is nothing compared to the satisfaction I get from knowing that they have reached a level of success and accomplishment under my watch. In fact it is a privilege to witness their superior fitness flourish. It is a "job well done" for me when this happens. The essential reality is that everyone on the planet is stronger and fitter than me in some area and for me is a reminder that in we are truly all equals. Tim was a few seconds behind me in a Tri a year or so back and we had been having some friendly banter regarding the outcome of this race. I kept on at my own pace though, I was listening to my body and it was providing me with a nice beat of a wise internal drum. Did I advise you to race your own race already? Yes? Good. I can't emphasize that point enough. This is your life, your race, your body, listen to it and go with YOUR flow. As you near the end of the bike leg, set your gear to an easier level and spin your legs. Loosen up and get those muscles nice and relaxed and ready for a nice run.
   It was a shock to me the first time I got off a bike and went straight into a run. My legs felt like two lumps of dead frozen meat. Don't freak out. everyone feels that same zombie quad sensation, just give them time to adust. Keep your core nice and tight, have a swig of water and Gatorade (good to have a mix of both) and take in the view and settle into a nice groove.
  I love the running portion. I love the challenge and I love just letting my legs keep rolling smoothly under me as I begin to test my limits and explore my abilities as my comfort zone begins to slide towards the pain barrier. I don't like getting cramps, in fact I hate the sensation, so on Sunday it was a little unnerving when my hamstrings began to seize up and spasm around the 3 mile mark. Experience is a wonderful thing and having gone through similar nasty cramps in the past. I knew that if I kept my legs rigid with my toes curled towards me it acted like a mini dynamic hamstring stretch and I could sort of do this stiff leg shuffle. It is worrying that the legs may go AWOL and lock up, but if you start to feel a cramp in your hamstring, slow down and take a slow walk or try my patented straight leg technique. Facing these hiccups is part of the joy with the battle of attrition. You become stronger mentally from having overcome and adapted to the various ailments that pop up in an endurance event. It makes the experience more rewarding if not the most rewarding aspect of the experience. When I got off my bike doing Ironman and stepped onto the ground, sharp pains shot through my knees; I had been riding in a too high gear for over 100 miles and they just couldn't take my weight anymore. Rookie. As I did in this race, I adapted with an ugly little hobble and set about the tedious task of doing a marathon on two bung knees. Twas' a long and seemingly infinite road to the finish that day.

  Having a fun time towards the end of the run at Ironman. When I say fun I mean a miserable and extended battle with grinding knee pain. It definitely made for an authentic Ironman experience though, a nice test of my will and tenacity. It wouldn't be as fun if it was easy right?
  As I finished Bonelli the sun was getting high in the sky. Some studly bloke rocketed past me at the end. Normally I am down for a sprint finish but I was having such a nice self-satisfied time, I didn't feel any need to prove myself. I was very smug and New Age and glided in. What a narcissist I am. As I was finishing the sun that was now on full beam was pouring down on Jenelle, Tim and Todd who were still on the run course. Those poor bastards, I thought, but I knew that heat would be good for their soul and their self-esteem and resolve would be steeled in the natural furnace that is Pomona under a blazing desert heat wave. And finish they did with style. The sprinters were beaming, the Olympic Triathletes were sweaty and thirsty but all had enjoyed an exhilarating day swimming, biking and running. It was a rewarding, happy and fulfilling race and I was proud of my friends/clients for joining me for this wee battle against our mental and physical limitations.When the opportunity comes to do a Triathlon, take it. Say yes and you will love you, like I love me.

 A before and after pic of Kiwitrainer's Triathlon Club. Oh and then, we relaxed and refleced in one of the hot tubs they have available for rental in the park.

That is right. A hot tub with this view!
A wonderful way to soothe aching muscles and let the feeling of the accomplishment ooze through our weary bones while gazing on natural beauty, and, importantly sipping on an ice cold beverage. Bliss!
Frank G. Bonelli Park http://www.bonellipark.org/