When you notice the heat of the day while whipping along on your speed bike at 27mph you know the day is suffocating. With a few miles to go on the bike I had finished every last drop of my 2 bottles of OSMO. I could have used another gulp or three. My legs were turning over the crank with unprecedented efficiency and took me to the front of the race. Biking along the super roads of Chicago’s lake front with just a 16lb bike is grandiose. The Chicago Triathlon is one of the biggest oldest races and I had just pedaled myself to 3rd position coming into T2.
Working with Tom Coleman at WN Precision is a rewarding experience. This summer I went over to ask him about my bike fit and came out of there with some pedal coaching nuggets. The fun factor, already high, just got even more involved, focused, and fun. Learning the new techniques had me doing much more mindful pedaling and very little ‘quad burning’ leg and heart fatigue type of riding. It takes a certain wisdom and confidence to train ‘easy’.
I have gotten pretty good at doing the ‘easy’ training. Yet, sometimes when I reflect on missing ‘too much’ V02 max training I can draw on past experience and know that striking a chord with the balance and flow of life will trump ‘hard’ training every time.
So when Tom made a couple changes to my bike fit and gave me some new pedaling focus late this summer, I took the time to ride at paces where I knew I could absorb the stimulus both mentally and physically which meant riding pretty easy. So easy that I have gotten in the habit of touching my legs to make sure they are flexing, “yep, there is more work going on there than I realize”, I think to myself.
When I’m training aerobically while being mindful my soul loves the movement and my being soaks up the stimulus each night with sound sleep and wonderful nutrition.
I am giddy with excitement these days. My health is awesome and I’m grateful. No big surprise there at only 38. However, I’m much stronger as an athlete at 38 with almost 3 decades of focus. That does surprise me; mostly for the magnitude of how much stronger I am now than say when I was a 33 year old professional triathlete or a 21 year old 400IM collegiate swimmer.
Recognizing why is part of the fun in the journey. Two strong reasons are having support from experts like Tom and recognizing internally what intensities to train at.
But there is way more converging than these two powerful reasons.
Being a coach at the Y is powerful stuff. Being a service to the community while doing something you love enriches your life. As much as I try to be a positive influence with the athletes I work with, they have an enormously positive influence on me. I learn so much from working with the wide variety of ages and abilities that we can service at the Y TriClub.
Being a dad is even more powerful stuff. Is it possible to overflow with joy? No, I don’t think so. Being a father is at times humbling but growing the ability to love and be loved is a foundation for life. Fostering an environment for our family to thrive is a complex and challenging dynamic that helps you seek out your best self.
I am one of those fortunate individuals that, ‘married up’. Hortense gives our family a foundation that lays the ground work for wonderful opportunities. With her love and support I can try to achieve being a great husband, dad and coach at the Y. Her patience and wisdom is harmonic with our life flow.
One other factor that I would like to mention as one of those converging forces improving my health is nutrition. I started out in my teens and 20’s eating really bad. Fast food was a go to item and since I couldn’t gain a pound no matter what I ate, it must not have mattered? Wrong! I got much better with my nutrition choices the day I married Hortense but it has been a process. Although I will always have work to do, I am definitely eating so much better than even a couple years ago.
These and other improvements to my health seem to be converging with a 1 + 1 = 3 kind of logic.
Life’s movement teaches so much.
My belief these days has shifted. My belief in my ability to compete with world dominating triathletes 10 years younger than me has improved. Belief is half the battle.
That belief was tested after having a sound swim and exiting the water with the leaders but making a ghastly error in T1 by getting on my bike while still wearing my speed suit. The hiccup cost me only 15 seconds but that is a lot of ground to make up on beasts that come from around the world and ride their bikes for a living. In the past a gaff of this magnitude would have been hard to overcome.
Today, I flew on the bike. I had a little too much fun though and with only a few weeks to refine my new found skills on the bike I was like a 5 year old with a new gun; firing it often and quickly without properly aiming. Bang, bang, bang. Wow that was exhilarating…bang, bang, bang.
In the past this kind of reckless riding would have spent me well before the 40k ride finished. Today, it took its toll at times but I still finished the bike with good energy and closing speed. I was able to ride through most of the field on the bike save for Hunter Kemper and Ben Collins while Stuart Hayes rode with me. I started the run in 3rd and enjoyed being at the front of such an amazing race.
Mentally the run went well but physically I was falling apart. The heat and humidity of Chicago pretty much broke me. I ran tough and was fortunate to hold onto 6th place with Stuart, Matt Charbot, and Jarrod Shoemaker running through me. The run was pretty slow but I’m thrilled with a 6th place finish! Submersing in an ice bucket brought my body around in a hurry and I was able to enjoy the performance.
The really fun thing about the day was feeling like a kid having fun racing his bike. That is an exciting realization for a 38 year old.