Back Story: Part II

See yesterday's post for Part I

We weren't triathletes, we were a couple of gung-ho guys turning 40. If we were going to do a triathlon, of course we'd set out to do an Ironman. As with most non-triathletes, Ironman and triathlon were virtually interchangeable to us. Anyway, we had more than six months to prepare for the race—in the mountains of eastern France, in late June 2002—which seemed to be plenty of time.

I had a couple of mountain bikes and all those years' experience riding them—years ago. I had done a few 10Ks (slowly). I knew how to swim only in the sense that I would not drown soon if thrown overboard. I didn't consider these facts strong indicators of likely success, but neither was I fazed by them. The mindset was that we weren't exactly going to get into shape to do Ironman, we were simply going to get into good enough shape to gut out a brutal, just under the 17-hour wire, heroic race.

I started running, mostly—doing the thing I was already OK at, a common triathlete's predilection. Eventually I began riding my mountain bike, then got a trainer, then my Lemond Buenos Aires, a delightful steel bike that I continue to enjoy riding on "non-training" excursions. Swimming was my biggest challenge. Not only did I suck at it, but there was all manner of bureaucracy attached to it: finding a decent pool, getting there several times a week, being slower than 7-year-old girls. As I wrote in passing earlier this year, a Christmas gift certificate to the gym from my then-wife made all the difference. It was for a massage at the gym, but I needed to swim more than I needed to get a massage, and I needed to use the gift certificate—it would have been ungracious not to, and I wanted to—so off to the gym I went. I could barely swim a 50-yard lap. It took a few weeks to get to 500 yards.

I was fortunate to be working for a prince of a boss, Paul Wagner at Balzac Communications, and the then-wife was consistently gracious about me taking time to get in my workouts. Mostly, though, I did them apart from family time: swims were at lunch, runs were in the morning while everyone was still asleep and bike rides most often were on the trainer, in the garage, after everyone had gone to bed. (I wasn't sleeping much.)

But I was really enjoying triathlon. After a few months of running, biking and swimming my body was different and that was great. What I was especially fascinated by, however, was the vast world of triathlon knowledge and experience of which I had none. As many hours as I spent training I matched reading triathlon forums and blogs, as well as books and magazines. I remember reading Gordo, Gordon Byrn, who, among other things, said it takes years to develop a training base for going long. Well, yeah, I thought: If you want to live some kind of triathlon lifestyle, sure, that makes sense. But that wasn't what we were about. We were just on a crazy, one-time, "We're 40!" adventure. Right?

Part III in a couple of days.

Today's workouts: Spring break week and the pool was a zoo. At one point, there were five people in my lane swimming circle. I lasted 45 minutes, swimming a bit over 2000 yards. This came right after a one-hour, easy hill run at Tabor. I'll be complaining about Portland's crappy cloudy moldy spring weather before long no doubt, so I better give the city props for today's nice day. Nice by Portland standards, of course: A little sun, some clouds, calm, temps in the mid- to high-50s.

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