Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hamstring stretching and other lies

"Stretch" sounds like such a comforting word.

The first stretch of the morning - (almost) as good as a cup of strong coffee.

Streeeetchhh. Ahh.

Reality? Think of those medievil tortures. Wasn't one of them where they strapped the offender's legs and arms to four horses and have them gallop off? That. Is stretching.

I'm under strict orders from my physical therapists to do 20 minutes of stretching per day. I'm supposed to stretch between sports. Haven't they heard of transition times? I'd rather the extra minutes being used in a Porta Potty (I refuse to take care of business on my bike. Really. Would you pee on $12,000?).

So I diligently stretch my hamstrings, calves, feet, arms, eyes, earlobes - everything.

I guess I can't prove this hasn't been working because I've been doing this regularly and it's impossible to prove it if I'm doing it. Or not doing it. (What exactly am I trying to say? I know what I meant but I'm still confused.) All I know is my hamstrings feel like pulling stale string cheese.

But stretching has become my body parts' crack. (Ha ha.) Following my long ride or run, my legs want to be stretched more that I want a gallon of icewater. Or a donut. Is that what this stretching thing is all about? The encouragement of addiction? Does this make my physical therapists my enablers?

My muscles don't just yearn for the stretch in the Computrainer room or beside my truck with bike leaning against it to prove that I know what I'm doing. The grocery store, Blockbuster, in front of someone whom I'm trying to interview for an article.

At least I don't do the quad stretch where people lift their leg by their foot in the least effective way possible. That's just cheesy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bike saddles - a case of nerves

My ass has occupied more bike saddles than can be counted.

They say that first impressions are formed within seconds of meeting somebody. Sometimes a good time is had by all and other times it's been a bad relationship the first time buns touched leather.

There's lots of friendly advice - most of which has been considered. "Try Terry." Check. "Selle Italias - I swear by them." Oh, those have been worst of all.

Leather, faux leather, plastic, yak skin, sheepskin, human skin (or removal thereof.) - they've all been under my ass. Everyone loves something and hates something else. At times one person's ass's favorite is another's worst enemy.

I've recently, much to my bike coach's delight, changed from a saddle that he terms "The Sow" for a Fizik triathlon saddle.

Unlike most of my exes, The Sow and I continue to have a good relationship. It lives in the retiree bike saddles' equivalent of a mobile home in Florida - my closet. The Sow and I had our days in the sun. Actually, about 1 1/2 years in the sun. Then, one day, my butt and it had a falling out.

And that's another issue entirely. Why are saddles so fickle? For an undocumented period of time, could be months, years or days, that saddle is The One. You love it. Your butt loves it. Your bike time loves it.

Then, poof. They never call, they never write. The relationship becomes adversarial and the saddle turns into a bed of nails. You have to break up. A race, just like Valentine's Day, is a really bad time for your saddle to tell you this.

What I figure is this - a relationship takes work. There are going to rocky roads where the two of you can agree on nothing. What is comfortable in some areas of, let's face it, a very very close relationship, will be downright icky in others.

And who wouldn't be crabby and sick of each other after 112 miles? It's like having your sister poke you with a needle through the entire State of Iowa.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Triathlon is no place for nostalgia

Most people have heard about this triathlon season as one that is dedicated to my family - a thank-you card by seeing their daughter/niece/sister through a life-threatening stint in a hospital materializing in a slot in Kona.

This is the season that's closest to my heart. But as noble as this effort seems, there's a lot of frustration and self-doubt involved in this endeavor. Possibly even more than in previous seasons. And not just the thought that the stakes are high.

As every triathlete knows, there are great days and there are bad days.

There are days, like today, where I feel like chucking it all and New Zealand starts to look like a great place to live. My face gets red, the animals get scared as the volume goes up and there's a possibility something will be hurled against the wall and broken.

Then there's the other days.

Such as Saturday on my long ride, on which I rode the Livestrong course. A year or two ago, I had to do the walk of shame up a couple of those hills. Saturday I climbed them like there'd never been a problem. This wasn't luck. This was the combined effort of a lot of training and instruction of my coaches.

Then there's the week before's long ride on the roads of rural farmland. A farmer and I had a "race" between me on my bike and he on his tractor. By the time we reached the fence marking the end of his field, we were both laughing so hard. We waved and went our separate ways. We never said a word to each other but I bet he was telling people about "the funniest thing that happened today".

I know I was.

On the frustrating days I swear I'll go back to boxing or figure skating and I question why anyone with an ounce of sense in their body wants to do triathon.

But then I wonder why I always retreat to the nostalgic, positive parts of past experiences to try to convince myself that I'm justified in my decision. What I forget is that nostalgia is as misleading as hindsight. And that I don't believe that either contains 20/20 vision.

Instead, I'm left with the thought that with all of the sports I've done and all of the endeavors I've made career-wise, I quit right on the brink of possible success.

Can I, because of a day or week of complete frustration, look back on what was shaping up to be an excellent and promising triathlon season and realize it's just history repeating itself?

Frankly, I'm tired of nostalgia.

So tonight I'll steam and swear to god that this will be my last season. I'll sit here and pound the keys so hard that a quick run to Staples for a new keyboard will be necessary.

But tomorrow, or possibly later tonight, I'll return to my sport with my tail between my legs. I'll look at my workout and, tomorrow as I'm running or swimming or cycling, see why I learned to walk and talk again. And, with continued effort through good days and bad, be able to look my family in their eyes in August and say, "I love you all. Let's go to Kona."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pain vs. pain

So not a whole bunch of working out today. So no working out today. Fighting every natural instinct I've got, I lay around like a muscle-relaxed slug today. Flat on my back. Working my way through a book. I think it helped the sad muscles on my back.

In a sick way, inertia, ennui and a whoppin' big back injury teach me to appreciate my workout pain. Workout pain - as opposed to normal, run of the mill, injured muscle pain-pain.

Workout pain is wholly self-inflicted. It's predictable - my knees hurt if I run like this, my throat gets sore when I'm panting too much, etc. It's expected.

Athlete pain is a different animal than normal person pain. Burning your hand on the stove? It's different. Bumping your head on the hanging lamp in the dining room that for some reason hangs five feet off of the ceiling? Different. Hamstrings popping out from climbing too many hills? Getting warmer.

So tomorrow morning after the coffee is consumed, the ClifBar eaten and long after the muscle relaxants wear off, I'll be back on the bike for a day of CompuTorture and running. Willingly.