Zen and Karma

Some situations in triathlon seem to mix both zen and karma.

Yesterday we explored the yin and yang of being fit. The takeaways are vexing. No matter how fit you are, there are always ways to be fitter. That’s the yin and yang effect. We’re always going round in circles.

Or, when you have all the time in the world to train, it’s easy to take things for granted. That’s a genuine risk in living in places where the weather is seldom bad. there’s almost never a reason not to go outside. Training can eventually get boring and stale.

Finding ways to train despite the weather is a zen thing to do, such as MTB in winter

Yet the opposite occurs when you don’t have enough time to train because the weather is always crappy. Frustration creeps in. That can lead to a persecution complex.

The really nasty thing is when karma swings round to bite you in the butt. People who take great weather for granted go lax in their training or overdo it and wind up injured. Then they’re forced to sit inside on beautiful days, pinned in place by issues such as shin splints, plantar problems, stress fractures or IT band issues. That’s training karma for you.

The days you miss are the days you miss the most.

By contrast, those of us who struggle to get outside from December 15 through February 15 because the weather’s freezing or the roads are slick and dangerous can spend so much time on the indoor trainer or treadmill we forget what it’s like to feel the actual freedom of the road under our feet. Or some folks get so taken with the digital feedback they get from tightly controlled indoor training sessions the outdoor world just feels loosey-goosey to them. Like…what’s the use in training if I can’t measure every watt of my effort?

Karma can be tough to overcome in these cases because you’re actually engaged in a fight with your own mind. Then it becomes: “The more you try the more you die.” Karma is the tarsnake of your existence.

But I’ve learned a few lessons over time about the difference between tensing up and fighting yourself in the present and learning to relax and allow the mind and body to release from its physical bonds or ruminative state.

When bike wobble hit me during a hilly ride in 2012, I crashed off the road and broke a collar bone. Later, someone told me the secret to recovery from bike wobble was actually to loosen my hands––which I can assure you is your last instinct when the handlebars and frame are swinging back and forth by six inches––and calmly pinching the top bar of the bike between your knees to effectively stabilize the reverberations.

The same holds true when running under tough conditions such as darkness or distracting precipitation. It can be hard to relax yet that’s one of the most important aspects of balance and response. The stiff and reactionary runner is more liable to trip, slip or go down to the ground.

And we all know how important it is to relax while swimming. Our breathing becomes easier and good swim form comes from learning how to be most efficient in the water.

Karma has a much harder time dragging us down physically and mentally when we aren’t our worst enemy. Fighting yourself is the biggest drag of all. And zen you’re sunk.

Zen and motion do go together.

So you should practice relaxation techniques during training. That can mean big picture (yet simple) stuff such as relaxing about your expectations toward the weather or other conditions that impact your plans.

It can also mean learning techniques to relax in the actual events for which you’re training.

Concentrate on spinning rather than mashing on the bike pedals.

Learn to shift your stride form forefoot to midfoot to heel and alternate muscle use and pushoff.

Use drills to simplify elements of swim stroke rather than trying to manage them all at once.

All sports have their challenges and all athletes have their own form of karma that makes them even harder.

Be zen. Let karma fall away. Leave it behind. The road and water ahead awaits.

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The yin and yang of being fit

At times during our fitness careers, we arrive at points in training and racing where the progress can literally be felt. I had one such moment late this past week. Having just returned from riding, running and swimming in Tucson, I had one tired day on Wednesday where my body felt like the Millennium Falcon when it fails to zoom into hyperspace.

Uh Ohhhhh Veeeeewwwwooooouuuuummmmmm

You know the sound: Veeeeewwwwooooouuuuummmmmm in a descending tone. So I napped it off that day.

But the next day I ran and felt light from head to toe. Even walking around during the workday felt great. Tall and strong. Young and vigorous. I thought to myself: “Gosh it would be great to feel this way all the time.”

Letting down our guard

The Catch-22 in all these good feeling days is that it encourages us to let down our guard. We start to feel invincible. Take fitness for granted. Have a cookie. Drink a Coke. Stay up a little late.

And then the sound comes back: Veeeeewwwwooooouuuuummmmmm.

Such are the cycles of fitness and endurance training. It’s hard to remember how damned good you can feel when distracted by the pleasures and temptations of life. Yin and yang.

Days of wandering

At the peak of my running fitness during my mid-20s, there were days when I was in such good shape it almost felt out of control. One early summer day I ran three workouts; morning, noon and night. Still, I wasn’t completely tired out. I’d even paced a guy on speed work during the noon workout. His speed was my mid-tempo running.

I was young and fancy-free those years, working part-time for a running store and ‘living the life’ of a ‘full-time’ athlete. So I know how that works. How it feels to be so fit it almost hurts to stand still. It’s both awesome and tense at the same time. Pleasure and pain combine. Some days I’d simply start off running and wander about until I felt like running home. That existence was like a combination of Forrest Gump and that Matthew Damon character in the movie Good Will Hunting. I was brilliantly stupid about my life. Fit and unfit for the world at the same time.

And damned proud of it.

Cycles of existence

Later in life, I got obsessed with cycling and put in four thousand miles one summer. My weight dropped to 163 lbs and yes, I felt light and fast on the bike that year. It ‘helped’ that I was technically out of work while dealing with my late wife’s cancer and the vagaries of working for companies small enough to fear that having an employee with a cancer-ridden spouse was a risk to their existence. So it was a yin and yang situation being so fit and being virtually out of work. I still had freelance gigs, but the pressures were immense. It was more like ying and yang and dark matter all around.

These days

The main benefit of having this life experience to build upon is learning to know how much of anything is enough. These days I walk an interesting balance between doing whole bunches of things and know how to let up when I need that space. I’m reminded of that Jackson Browne song:

Well I’ve been out walking
I don’t do that much talking these days
These days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
For you
And all the times I had the chance to

These days, I’m happy to join in the fitness pursuits of my wife and our friends. Some days I dial it up and go hard. Other days I let the training just rollllll by. Sometimes I race and wind up on the podium. Other days I come home with the race swag and just enjoy having been part of a life celebration.

Overall, it’s the feeling of fitness and standing tall that satisfies my soul. The amazing feeling of being fit is worth every second spent pursuing it. The yin. The yang. And all points in between.

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Who needs that kind of baggage?

Having just gotten home from a triathlon training trip, I got thinking about the physical and rhetorical aspects of baggage, and how much we like to carry. Traveling by air these days forces one to make choices or face big charges for “extra” baggage. So many of us have a native tendency to overpack, but now we have to pay for that extravagance. It literally pays to travel light. But then there’s also the mental baggage we carry around with us…

A fellow airline passenger sleeps off mental baggage in an unconventional manner.

Sometimes it’s hard to leave behind the work baggage we carry around inside our heads. It can take days to leave that stuff behind. By the time you’re free enough of the obligations rattling around inside your noggin’, it’s time to go back to work again.

Recently I made a decision to unleash some mental baggage strewn across the highway of my past. I’ve been a member of a locally run health club for the past year because our health insurance policy promised that we could join and be compensated up to $25 per month for membership. That’s exactly how much I was paying. It would have been a wash.

It turned out that only a small selection of clubs in our area actually work with our health care provider, so I absorbed the monthly fee the past year. We have a family membership at a much nicer park district facility near our house. That’s where we run and swim and lift.

So the local club membership attendance was being squandered. Plus the club is the same facility to which I’d belonged many years ago when a friend owned the place. I did the marketing for him and was a frequent visitor. But the upkeep these days was lacking compared to his fastidious style. The showers were ancient, creaky. The stalls themselves showed signs of rust, while underfoot the floors were squishy and did not appear clean. I’m no germophobe, but something about those showers gave me an “ick” feeling.

Tarsnake.

Beyond that, there were long-ago memories of the business dealings associated with the club. My friend sold the membership list to a real estate group. We planned to combine it with another club and strike a deal with a hospital to create a medically-affiliated health club. The deal fell through. Then the hospital stole the plans and built their own facility. At that point my contract with the group was dissolved and we all went our separate ways. That’s one of the tarsnakes of business. When you try new things, they don’t always work out. That all felt like baggage in my head because I could not help thinking about it every time I went back.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. There was also a member at the new/old club that I truly do not like. He was one of two guys from a former business networking group to which I belonged… who felt it was their duty to attack me online during the runup to the 2016 election. I’d see him now and then working out at the local club. Though I’ve tried to forgive him, the crappy things he said to me online were lodged in my brain. I’ll admit I’ve sent him a couple missives of my own, which isn’t an example of good character on my part. So I’ve decided to clean the slate of him, forgive him for being a jerk, and remove myself from any situation in which there might be contact.

Because it’s clear I could never change his mind about a single thing he believes, much less receive an apology for the insulting attacks he made toward me on political grounds. That’s baggage I don’t need following me around. Not at a health club. Or anywhere. I don’t wish the guy any harm. No point in any of that. But I also don’t need his brand of nastiness in my life.

Somewhere down there is sanity.

So I stopped by the club and closed down my membership. Perhaps he would consider that “winning” on his part.

But in this life, so much winning is actually being mean enough to people they want to be rid of you.

In that case, I’m happy to “lose” and leave that baggage to soak into the dirty, soggy floorboards of a health club that really isn’t all that healthy for me. Who needs that kind of baggage?

Of

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It’s a SAG thing

Out west in Tucson we had a SAG van trekking around the mountain roads with us to support our rides. Knowing the SAG truck is there can be quite comforting at times. It’s easy to get too hot or too cold when you guess wrong on your riding gear. Adding layers or removing them can be key to a successful ride. SAG provides nutrition too, which is critical to solid riding under any conditions.

My concern going into triathlon training camp was that I’d not be fit enough to cover the miles mapped out by our leader, Steve Brandes. However, my indoor riding paid off and I was confident and capable on every ride and climb. Even riding the twelve miles up to nearly 7000 feet on Mt. Lemmon went well. I wasn’t leading the bunch, but that’s not something I ever expected to do. I’d put in some hours on the trainer but was not sure how my legs and lungs would feel on three and four-hour rides. Plus I had a decade in age on nearly everyone there.

Good legs

This is where I sag. See below.

To my pleasant surprise, I had “good legs” the entire trip. At some places going up Mt. Lemmon I even burst into a smile. The views were incredible as we ascended and descended. Looking south from the winding road I could see urban avenues stretching far to the south of Tuscon until they disappeared in the haze.

I love peak experiences like that when you’re riding in an environment so far out of your ordinary experience the world feels completely new and fresh. As for the physical act of riding, I know my body well enough to find a groove and keep rolling.

My wife Sue was always slightly ahead, pedaling in her strong and steady fashion despite the fact she came into the camp a bit tired from two weeks of business traveling on top of her normal training schedule. She’s a tough woman however who wasn’t going to let a little tiredness stop her. Frankly, I was grateful she was a little tired because I could keep her in view on the climbs. We stopped along the way to sip and eat and share a Clif Bar kiss a few times along the way. I told her, “This is great, I’m having fun.”

Always grateful

Always I’m grateful when body meets mind in a joint venture like that. It doesn’t always happen. During the Madison Half Marathon two years ago I came into the event with a calf twinge that turned into an outright cramp at six miles. I was forced to drop out and asked an official to call the SAG wagon for me. Walking home four miles was not my idea of fun.

Cindi Bannick, Madison Multisport
Steve Brandes, Madison Multisport

I hopped into the SAG wagon and introduced myself to the driver, who turned out to be (if I recall correctly) none other than Cindi Bannick, wife of Steve Brandes and director of Madison Multisport.

My wife had just started training under Steve’s direction that fall, so the convergence was interesting. What are the odds?

Well, the odds are actually pretty good that you’ll cross connections in these sports. It’s a small world in any respect, this universe of endurance athletes. You’re going to run into someone you know eventually. The goal is to not do that literally, lest you injure yourself.

The inside of my calf muscle.

In any case, I so welcomed that SAG van at that point in the half-marathon. My calf felt like an overdone lobster right out of the pot. There are days when an athlete simply needs to bag it and look ahead to another day.

This past year I came back to Madison and completed the half-marathon, albeit limping my way along like a lobster with only two legs. I was sagging from the waist on down due to weak hips as illustrated in the biological illustration above.

It’s funny how connections in this sport can happen even if you’re just another SAG sack trying to get home in one piece.

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The cold that stings

I embedded the video using code rather than the URL that WordPress allows you to do. Here is the updated version. Apologies for the techn0-mixup.

We Run and Ride

Some training trips are best communicated in pictures. I have lots of words in my head of course but will let these images most of the talking right now. This is a video of our ascent up Gates Pass south of Tucson, Arizona.

I felt so good on the bike I even pulled now and then. Thanks to Tucson Bike Rental for the Specialized Roubaix steed. And thanks to coach Steve Brandes and Madison Multisport for organizing this great trip.

On our way through south Tucson to the climb to Gates Pass (the video above)

But here’s a weird aspect of the one ride. We climbed twelve miles and 4000 feet up Mt. Lemmon. That was fine. I rode really well and enjoyed climbing through canyons and between the massifs like a Tour rider (on vacation.)I had good legs. It was a peak experience in a multitude of ways. The…

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The cold that stings

Some training trips are best communicated in pictures. I have lots of words in my head of course but will let these images most of the talking right now. This is a video of our ascent up Gates Pass south of Tucson, Arizona.

I felt so good on the bike I even pulled now and then. Thanks to Tucson Bike Rental for the Specialized Roubaix steed.  And thanks to coach Steve Brandes and Madison Multisport for organizing this great trip.

On our way through south Tucson to the climb to Gates Pass (the video above)

But here’s a weird aspect of the one ride. We climbed twelve miles and 4000 feet up Mt. Lemmon. That was fine. I rode really well and enjoyed climbing through canyons and between the massifs like a Tour rider (on vacation.) I had good legs. It was a peak experience in a multitude of ways. The scenery. The switchbacks. My heart was lifted and life felt good.

An Anna’s hummingbird made an appearance during our last-day hike.

But the descent was so cold I almost could not function. We kept it to about 16 mph and it was still really cold. No one could have anticipated that effect as the day turned grey and the west winds curled around the cliffs. 

Then, out of the sullen sky comes this fucking bee that stings me on the neck. I have a swollen lymph gland today to show for it. Woke up with a puffy neck to boot. My entire chest started to compress from either the chill or the shock of that bee sting. I’ll never know which.

Arizona is a stark place sometimes. But then it’s also so damned beautiful.

I’ll say the entire trip was wonderful. I rode really well every day. Swam decently and got some little runs in too. On the last day we got out for a leisurely hike in the Catalina mountains with my longtime friend Sally who lives in the Oro Valley. That’s where the Anna’s Hummingbird buzzed our heads. 

Sue and I at the base of the mountains in the Catalinas

Had a great few days with a marvelous group of people from who we learned a bunch and laughed a lot. Fun stuff…Except for the cold-ass bee-stingy almost felt like I was going to die the downhill part. (LOL). Well Arizona, thanks for the memories. Every one of them.



Posted in bike accidents, bike crash, Christopher Cudworth, climbing, cycling, doing pulls in cycling, healthy senior, triathlete, triathlon, triathlons | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pulling for everyone in Arizona

Pulling a portion for the group on the south side of Tucson heading for Gates Pass.

Entering a training camp with 20 other triathletes is always a novel experience. Sue and I just spent four days in the company of athletes from every level, facing the challenges of riding and swimming and running in our own way. But the hallmark of every camp I’ve ever attended is that you wind up pulling for everyone.

By that I mean you come to care how other people are doing. How to handle the fatigue that builds up from doing three sports a day. Getting the right nutrition into the body.

Because when you care, you also learn. The conversation among athletes tells you as much about the sport of triathlon as the training itself. We were also fortunate to have two world-class athletes to visit our camp. Ben Hoffman was second at Kona and related the volume and intensity he needs to compete at a world-class level. We also heard a talk by Sara True, the ITU triathlete that has transitioned to Ironman and finished fourth at Kona last year.

Suzanne Astra, Sarah True and Christopher Cudworth

Both gifted athletes shared the challenges of racing at the top. The ups and downs of failed races and massive triumphs. Sarah related the additional challenge of facing acute depression in the wake of the Rio Olympics. Her testimony was inspiring in an entirely different way.

The social aspects of triathlon are both highly personal and publicly profounds. Sarah encouraged us all to consider not just the “how” of doing triathlons, but the “why” as well. And pay attention to your craft.

Which means paying attention to others as well. Don’t let the personal journey become so self-centered that it wipes away the real you. There’s a simple rule that works for everyone: It’s great to push ourselves and pull for others. Where have we heard that before?

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Mortal soles

Wanda (left) and Benny loved to help me write.

Last evening we made the decision to allow our cat Wanda go to a peaceful end. At fourteen years old, some of her vital systems were failing. It would not do to see her suffer through weeks of difficulty. Our family took time to say goodbye to the kitty that had joined the family when my wife’s girls were quite young. And so, like many such passings, this one had a tinge of both loss and transition.

A cat called Wanda

I’ve known Wanda for six years. She was one of two pets that my wife owned when I met her; a big black dog named Zack and Wanda, the tuxedo kitty with the tiny black spot on her white nose.

Before Sue and I married, she moved from a rental house on one side of our town to another because the house in which she’d been living was being sold. After all the furniture was carted over and hauled into the new house, it was time to go back and get the cat.

Ride along

I volunteered to fetch the kitty even though I did not know Wanda all that well. I’d certainly never put her into a cat carrier. She wasn’t all that willing to go, especially for a relative stranger like me. But I half-coaxed and half pushed her into the carrier and hustled out to the car as quickly as I could. On the way driving over to the house, I saw two giant green eyes emerge from the carrier. Then that precocious black and white face. She had pushed her way right out of the zipper.

Something in that moment made me love that cat. Whether it was her spunk or spirit or kitty soul, I don’t know. But the moment she crawled out of that carrier making that big broken…Mee*yoo*uuw of hers I was smitten.

Benny and Wanda frequently shared our bed for naps

The more I hung out with Sue, the more time I got to spend with Wanda, and we grew closer. And yes, I meant to meld that sentence together to speak about both Sue and her cat. Love grows in ways that we don’t always understand.

Then Zack the dog moved out to live with her ex. So it was just us and Wanda and her kids for a while.

Two Cats

Which somewhat opened the door for Sue to accept another cat into our lives. That would be Benny, a rescue provided to us by our vet and triathlon buddy Jeff Palmer. Benny (originally named Bernie, or Burnie) was a stray that crawled up into a car engine for warmth. The little guy got burned and injured when the engine turned on. Fortunately for Benny, he recovered. Then we adopted him… only to have him escape out the back door a few months later. He lived outside for ten days before my wife’s daughters caught up with him in a neighbor’s yard. Stray Cat Strut? He ate like a hog when we brought him back home.

Up to Four Cats

Wanda (left) Mercury (above left) Apollo (above right) and Benny (lower right) sharing space

Then when my wife’s eldest daughter moved back in with us we had four cats living around the house as Mercury and Apollo joined the gang. I can testify that having four cats around was often entertaining and great company, but that is too many cats to have in one house. That ultimately resolved itself when her daughter Stephanie moved out with her other daughter Sarah and boyfriend Boone. We were back down to two cats.

Plus one dog

Chuck and Wanda sharing the warm sunshine on the front stairs

Then my daughter and her boyfriend moved in with us to save money for a house and plan their future. That meant our dog Chuck, who was also once a stray that my son Evan found on the streets of Chicago, was coming to live with us. It took a week for the cats and the dog to work things out, but they did. They pretty much learned to ignore each other.

So it’s been largely a peaceable kingdom with two cats and one dog. Except the cats like to try to eat the dog food and the dog likes to try to eat the cat food. Neither is good for the other. And so on. So we keep them apart around feeding time. Mostly.

She loves you

The running joke around the house was that Wanda had become something of a girlfriend to me. “She looooves you,” the girls would say when Wanda came meowing around me with that split voice of hers. She’d roll over and allow me to pet her belly and nuzzle her neck.

Wanda. The green-eyed cat.

However, when I was petting her a few years back, she gave me a warning nip with her sharp teeth. That led to a case of cellulitis in my hand that required antibiotics to cure. That treatment killed off my good gut bacteria, and I got a case of c. Diff. an infectious disease of the gut that can cause serious trouble and even death if left to its own devices.

So I had to take antibiotics to treat that condition as well. And during treatment, every training ride and run was a guessing game of when I’d have to go to the bathroom. And let me tell you, it would not wait. So I dosed up on Immodium to race in triathlons and got through the summer that way. Finally, my gut returned to somewhat normal, but I’d learned my lesson about taking a cat nip for granted.

Mortal soles

I thought about our mostly happy history together as Wanda lay there on the table yesterday. Her feet were tipped up with pink paw pads visible between black and white fur. Something about that vision hit me deeply. All those days of walking this earth as a kitty were coming to an end. Tears flowed out of my eyes and we all hugged each other. I’ve seen so many things close to me in this life pass away, the experience gutted me in ways that are hard to explain to anyone.

For Wanda, those 14 years were loving ones. The vet’s assistant watched as we all cried and left the room. “She was lucky to have you,” she said quietly. That made me think about Wanda’s time on earth, which totaled some 5,110 days (or so). That’s been her mortal life. She even survived an attack by a dog a few years back, and she really gave it back to that, dog teeth and claws, when she spun and around and nailed him.

Wanda’s 5000 days were good in cat years, equivalent to almost 60 human years. And human beings don’t have all that much more time on earth. 85 years is considered a fairly long life for most, and that’s 31,025 days. I’ve lived 22,265 days. Talk about a gut check.

Precious days

Every day is precious indeed. Yet all our anxious thoughts can have the effect of tossing these precious days aside. The Bible warns us not to worry our days away. So do psychologists, work mentors and yes, even triathlon coaches. Stop worrying so much! Let it happen! Let the training work for you! Enjoy the session, the race, the event! You only live once!

Sometimes it takes a solid reminder like the passing of something you love to appreciate the value of our mortal souls and our mortal soles. I’ll grieve the loss of our kitty because she was sweet and loving despite the bite she once gave me. That’s the nature of life itself. We get to taste the bitter with the sweet. We even invite it upon ourselves with these endurance ventures in which we engage. These runs and rides. These swims and transitions and podium wishes. The Bostons and Konas. The first time around the block after an injury. The last time around the old neighborhood before a move. The memories build and the days fly by. Try to keep up.

As for Wanda, I hope she gets to enjoy a different kind of cat nip in kitty heaven. She deserves a good life in eternity.

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Chill factor in Chicago

When a friend and I lived in the City of Chicago for a couple years, our apartment was situated on Clark Street overlooking Lincoln Park. We lived on the second floor of a building commonly called a two-flat.

Our landlord was a curious guy named Horace. We’ll change his last name here because he no doubt has living relatives. I was pretty sure he was dead by now, but I just looked him up on MyLife and Facebook and he’s still very much alive in his 90s.

What I’m about to share about the man is true. He was massively cheap with the heat in the buildings he owned. During the cold winters of ’83 and ’84, the temperature in our apartment dropped below fifty degrees at several points. I recall staring at the thermometer in our apartment and wondering if I could survive the night.

Keeping the buildings that cold was against the law in Chicago, and still is. This morning the Chicago Tribune carried a story about landlords who break the civil code by refusing to heat their buildings well enough. That was Horace, and I bet it would still be the case if the City did not crack down on him. He was retentive in a variety of ways.

No so sexy advice

Once when I was invited to his office to discuss the rent and some other business, he engaged me in a conversation about my dating life. Apparently, he’d noticed the young woman I was dating enter our apartment late in the day, so he felt compelled to offer up some sexual advice. “Never come when you’re having sex with a woman,” he warned me. “It gives them too much power over you.”

Even then I thought to myself. Isn’t that the point? Love is the ultimate risk of emotion and commitment. Sex is the expression of a willingness to take that risk, and live with it.

Breakup lessons

That woman and I broke up when I moved out of the city a few months later. She was so angry with me she punched me in the arm. I suppose I deserved that for leading her into a relationship that I likely could not fulfill. But I really did have strong feelings for her, and with any other circumstance in life at the time, it might have worked out between us. But another relationship won out. Suffice to say she took revenge in a way that hurt me years later. Such are the real risks of love and sex.

Engaged to pain

The fact of the matter is that I was engaged in a relationship with pain at the time. Running all those miles on the streets of Chicago was intense. In 1984 I raced 24 times and won a number of those races as a result of all that training. I was sponsored by a running shop, the closest I’d ever come to being a professional runner, which was truly a rare occupation in those days. I wasn’t good enough to go any farther or faster than that, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, and living with the pain of that effort.

There were nights when it was so cold outside the only way to get in a workout was to mount a bicycle that I owned on MagTurbo indoor trainer that I’d bought and pedal away until sweat broke on my brow and dripped down onto the floor. I was not a cyclist at the time, but strapping myself to that bike was the only way to raise my heart rate and force the oxygen through my lungs until carbon dioxide came pouring back out.

Nights of wonder

Still, I recall lying under those covers in that chilly Chicago apartment with the thermostat showing 48 degrees and thinking, “I’m not going to let this get to me.” And I didn’t. Threw on another layer of blankets and breathed in that cold night air until sleep washed over me in all its mercy.

The rest of my life has offered up some serious tests of character and will. I’ve faced the cold winds of death itself as a number of people close to me succumbed to disease and age. Yet sometimes, when the weather turns cold, I’m reminded of the chill factor in that Chicago apartment. That’s when I take stock of any situation and think to myself, “I can make it through this too.”

How about you?

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Closed for business. As if.

Our two-mile drive to the fitness center was all for naught this morning. It was closed for business due to overnight temperatures exceeding twenty-five below zero.

Plenty of places have been closed for business across Illinois. Workers in a wide variety of fields have either taken a day off or worked from home if their jobs allowed.

In my case, there’s hardly a function of my employment that I can’t do remotely. So I had a pretty productive day. For better or worse, that’s how communications works these days. The interconnected world never shuts off.

Screen time

This is neither a good or a bad thing. It just is. Every week my phone offers a screen time assessment to tell me whether I’ve spent more or fewer minutes and hours checking email, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin and more.

More than most people thanks to my line of work, this is my world. Sometimes it wears on me to be “on” 24/7 in case there are messages critical to my job cropping up that require action.

Hook me up

Yet when it comes to escaping all this digital communication through fitness activities, technology has chased us down there as well. I’ve long been a Strava user, the app that tracks your every step of a run and every inch of a ride. Or thereabouts.

Then there’s Garmin. My new Fenix 5 watch does amazing things including measuring my heart rate, aerobic versus anaerobic efforts and stress levels. It lists about twenty activities one can measure from indoor cycling to taking a dump. Well, that’s not quite true. The dump part. But it does measure Body Mass Index, and you could probably subtract that last bowel movement and get an accurate number of what’s inside if you really tried.

Data points

Which is exactly my point: There are some things that simply don’t need to be measured. That’s one of the tarsnakes of training these days. The data is all great, but the point of working out isn’t really found in all those numbers and figures. It’s ultimately how it makes you feel that matters.

Which is why there are days when I openly leave all the gadgets home and just go out and run or ride. I also never perfectly relax in the pool unless I leave the watch off. Just keep swimming…

The point here is that it truly can help to take a few moments where you are Closed for Business when it comes to all that data. Just let some things happen rather than measuring every twitch and fart that you accomplish.

There’s an art to embracing the idea of Just Do It and all variations in between. We should not forget that in the wave of information washing over us daily.

Posted in Christopher Cudworth, Tarsnakes, triathlete, triathlon, triathlons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments