Friday, June 22, 2012

Triathlon that never was

Someone else's bike
So 2 weeks ago a friend and former track teammate from high school days asked me to join her in a sprint triathlon. I had mentioned several months ago that I was thinking about trying one out, so when this one came up she thought of me. I was flattered.

I was tempted.

My calves still aren't healed, so I said "I think I'll miss this one."

And then I began to think about the 2 out of 3 sections of the race that I haven't even tried in I-don't-know-how-long. I haven't been in the water in over a year. Haven't swam a single stroke. And I wasn't a strong swimmer anyway. And my road bike, the antique Italian once-up-a-time racing bike, was stashed somewhere in my tool shed with tools piled on it and a wheelbarrow pinning it to the wall. It has no kickstand, so technically the wheelbarrow was doing it a favor. But ask any true cyclist about that and they'll curse in Italian and tell you it's sacrilege.

The race day came and went. But it was on my mind the entire time. A sprint triathlon? I could do that. Swim 200 yards? I could do that. Bike 10 miles? I could do that. Run 3.1 miles? I just did that a few weeks ago. No problem.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I went out to the toolshed on Tesday night and dug my old road bike out from its tomb of yard tools. The tires were not simply flat. They were squashed in the permanent shape of the concrete below. Even when I rolled the bike out, the flat spots on the tires remained right where they were, rolling around and around. The tires had a layer of dirt on them that seemed rather permanent as well. The whole thing had a layer of dust and dirt on it. And it didn't roll with the kind of ease that it should. Something or other needed oil.

The first thing I did was get out the tire pump and try to pump up the tired, old, flat, flaky tires and their innertubes. I don't know when I last installed new innertubes, so I was halfway expecting a small "boom" followed by the tires instantly going flat again as I pumped them up. It has happened to me before, when a bike has been left sitting for so long that the tires turn to dust and the innertubes lose all flexibility and become brittle. But the tubes held the air without explosion.

I rolled the bike around to the back porch and started spraying WD40 on everything. Something was dragging, but none of the brake pads appeared to be touching, so I didn't know for sure what was the source of the problem. I just sprayed everything. I'm sure some bike expert somewhere reading this is cursing me now and saying "WD40 isn't for oiling a racing bike, you idiot!" Well, it was what I had, so cut me some slack.

Once I was satisfied that the tires weren't going to exploded on their own and the chain was still intact and the wheels would turn, I got onto the bike, fumbled with the toe clips and peddled slowly down my long driveway. I was still anticipating a sudden blow-out from the tires, so I rolled along in a kind of 'ready position' just in case. Nothing exploded or fell off or broke, so I started peddling harder and headed out for a quick lap of my neighborhood.

The quick lap didn't last long before I headed out for a longer ride. I had JUST eaten supper, and I was quickly reminded of what effect milk and biscuits tend to have on me. This was never an issue when I was younger, but it is now. They bloat me up like a bullfrog, expanding my stomach to what feels like 10 times its normal size.

When I was younger, I didn't have a stomach, so having it blow up like a small raft wasn't an issue. It just didn't happen. Now that I'm a little older and my physique is considerably less sleek, a bloated stomach combined with being bent over the handlebars of a racing bike doesn't go together well. My knees come up and there's something in the way. Oh, it's me. I'm a bullfrog on a bicycle. Yay. So excited.

I tried to sit up taller to get my big bloated stomach out of the way of my knees as I peddled, but it was awkward. Anyway, I wanted to focus on the bike itself, and on how well it was holding up. It seemed to be doing OK.

More than I could say about myself.

I rode about a half mile down to a stop sign located at an intersection at the bottom of a hill where I like to run. I briefly considering riding the hill, but I had discovered on the ride up to the stop sign that I was no longer at all familiar with the gear shift levers of this bike. I had no clue what I was doing. So I shot a U-turn and headed back, consciously choosing to shift gears a lot just to refamiliarize myself with which lever did what and whether I wanted to shift up or down and what that did.

1 mile, maybe, was all I rode. That's all. It should have been nothing. 1 lousy mile at most. Not even close to the distance required for a sprint triathlon.

I put the bike away and walked inside the house, dripping with the sweat of the season here in the Southeastern Humid States of America. It's a tropical jungle here in summer. I showered off and stretched a little. I figured I'd ride again tomorrow night and go a little further.

Tomorrow came. And I was sore. SORE! From that tiny little ride. Oh, how far I have fallen.


  1. Hey, at least you tried! Which is more than I can say for someone like me, who sees a bike and thinks, "EVIL"!

    Funny how simple things were back when we were younger though, hey? I can never recall getting puffed out or sore from riding my bike. And I used to go for miles!

    When we went out and bought new one's about ten years ago, in a bid to get 'healthy', I couldn't believe how soon it took for me to become pooped.
    I sold my bike.... Mboy still has his. It too is gathering dust and has flat tyres. :o/

  2. I have no advice: I do nothing for months then a 100k ride which hurts for months so I cant tide.
    then do it all again

  3. Ute, I probably rode 100 miles a day on my spyder bike back when I was a kid, with no gears to help, and I never got tired or sore. These days I love my mountain bike, but clearly I haven't ridden that one either in a very long time. I can't believe how quickly I get out of shape now.

    Unique_Stephen, that's how I've been doing things and it doesn't seem to be working for me anymore. I get myself all excited and then go out and do way too much. Then I'm in so much pain that I can't do any more workouts for the rest of the week. I tell myself that I'm getting into shape, but the mirror says the shape I'm getting into is the wrong one. These days, though, I couldn't even attempt 100k on a bike. I'm going to have to work up to a mere 10k first and that is very sad indeed.