Time for a Reality Check

Here it is, nearly six hours after I embarked on my three-hour bike ride, and I'm finally ready to move on with my day. That's the reality of triathlon, baby. True, at the end of the week I total up my training time and post the hours and minutes spent running, biking and swimming. It's a useful number in tracking and assessing volume, but it hardly captures the enormous time suck that long-distance triathlon can be. Take today's bike ride.

I'm aiming to get going by 8 a.m., so by 7 I need to have my routine under way, beginning with the coffee consumption and subsequent visit to the bathroom. Then there's: getting the appropriate clothing on, then changing the clothes when you realize it's warmer than you thought; hauling the bike up from the basement and lubing the chain; gathering up the helmet, gloves and shoes; finding the sunglasses that should be with that gear but aren't....

Oh, yeah: water and food, got to pull that together.

It’s 10 after 8. Finally, the ride. I killed that ride! I powered it every pedal stroke, never letting up to be carried by the wind at a comfy 20.5 mph, no, I drove it to 23, 24, 25 mph. And into the wind, I worked hard to stay above 20 mph. I didn't feel like I was overextending myself. I just felt strong. It was great. All the riding work I’m doing this year really is making a difference. So the numbers on the ride are above, but what the numbers don’t say is that I was toasted pretty crisply afterward. I can’t just bounce into shopping or cleaning or doing yard work or whatever normal people do on a sunny Saturday.

I: wash my hands and face quickly, then strap an ice pack on my left ankle, then get a big bowl of leftover whole-wheat pasta and homemade spinach/basil pesto out of the fridge to refuel. I recline on the couch with the left ankle raised while eating the food and drinking water. Twenty minutes later—30 minutes after the ride—it's time to shower and, oh, yeah, shave the damn legs. Sure, I don't have to shave my legs but I tried it out five or six weeks ago and honestly, now, as a cyclist I don't think I'll ever be able to go back. So the whole showering, shaving in the bathtub (the only way for me to shave my legs without losing copious amounts of blood), then basically re-showering process is like another half hour.

Now I'm feeling dehydrated and very tired, so I drink a tall glass of water and plop down on my bed with some tunes still blasting from the iPod player in the bathroom. I'm exactly the right distance away; the music is quite audible but not loud. Even the rockers are soothing. I conk out for at least a half hour. Wake up feeling refreshed, put clothes on. It's nearly two hours after the ride ended. Six hours after the ride process started. Yeah, I'm finally ready to move on with my day—except, damn, I’m hungry. I need another 1,000 or so calories. To the kitchen I go…

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