A few days ago, I posted a video on Instagram of me riding through some incredible scenery in France. I managed to invade France, thanks to an unmanned toll booth on a sunny Sunday afternoon. (To be fair, a lot of people were commuting and I didn’t break any laws. Plus I was riding alone, well isolated).
I rode almost 15k through some incredible scenery helped by a nice tailwind, which was a respite after a steady 8k climb followed by a descent through terrifying 24 kmph crosswinds, with a Zipp 404 front wheel.(meaning the front of my bike weighs less than 4 pieces of toast). Luckily, I survived just with a little bit of moisture in my eyes and in my shorts.
People were wondering why me, a bonafide runner, who has logged thousands of kilometers in the last few years was riding my bike on a Sunday, which is traditionally reserved for Church and long runs.
Ok, nobody was wondering that. Nobody cares what you do and don’t do man, stop massaging your ego with this notion that people care about what you do. They usually check Instagram while taking a shit.
But why indeed was I biking on a Sunday? Why the blasphemy? Since last year I have had a sleuth of injuries in my lower back area and one fine day, 3 weeks ago just as I had thought I had put my wounds behind me *ha ha* I suffered some terrible pain through the hip. My physio pointed out it is the sciatic nerve which is agitated. And the same day, I got my bike out, cleaned the pigeon shit from it and then eventually I had to take it to the bike shop because the brakes weren’t working (because some asshole bike shop-owner in India had put Aluminum brakes on my Carbon wheels.). It took a week to fix, I rode an MTB everywhere until then which was fun but my road bike was up and running.
Anyways, that was 3 weeks ago. I tried to run today, for a mile and it wasn’t painful but I could still feel the agitation so, I just stopped. It’s better to be patient and let things heal. Delayed gratification yields the best results.
The thing is I have not done a race in a while. Plus I messed up the my only 10k race in Sierre a few weeks back, which caused an existential crisis in my life.(Not really, but it did bring up some serious doubts). I’ll be honest, my self confidence has taken a blow. I don’t define myself by race results, I was fit but since August last year I have had a sleuth of injuries, making my training inconsistent. In a way, not having goals helped me because I was not dealing with the pressure to perform. But at the same time, I cannot live without a goal. Nobody can. We all need some sort of purpose in our life.
Those activities we post on social media, thinking people give a damn about what we did and how fast we ran or how many pull-ups we did, they are our purpose: our motivation. They make us feel important and we all know that but we still do it. It’s sad that we live in a society where satisfaction has to be external and other’s validation of your own definition of success is so important.
I’d be lying if it wasn’t a small motivator for me. I mean, most of my motivation is to see how much I can fuck myself up out on the course. My main motivation is to empty my soul on the course but then, when I do it’s nice to do a post and raise a toast to celebrate that. And maybe raise a finger at the naysayers. 99% positive, 1% vengeance.
I’ve analyzed myself a lot and unlike from behind the keyboard, my persona is very soft-spoken. People say stuff which bothers me, at times they are inconsiderate jerks. They think they are being subtle and smart, but they usually are dumber than a flagpole. And I can’t punch them in the face. So I run very fast. It’s catharsis. People constantly undermine me because I have this tendency to speak the truth. Maybe it’s because I have achieved more in life at this age than they possibly could have. I took big risks, I screwed up many times but it also paid off. Maybe my success bothers them . Or maybe, they just hate my face. I don’t understand that emotion(jealousy, you can hate my face). I thrive when others succeed. I feel happy when I see others succeed. Through my injury, my training partners have become faster than me and I am happy because I know if I can put in the work like they did, I will good too. I am competitive but at the same time, I love them and celebrate their victories.
While I wait for this pain in my ass to disappear, I noticed changes in the way I have been riding my bike. Back in my Ironman days, a drop of rain would send me scampering to the trainer. A trainer, with 0 resistance and sensors that told me that my 40k Time Trial PB was 52 minutes (move over, Filippo Ganna). 2 weeks back, I returned from a 3 hour ride in pouring rain, where I didn’t have a rain jacket, it rained all the way uphill; it was severe winds and rain on the downhill which made me so cold that I had to stop my bike and do jumping jacks on the side of the road just to get warm. I returned home with blue lips and couldn’t stop shivering. But I got the job done.
Back then I never attempted inclines of more than 10% with the excuse that I ride with a 10–28 cassette at the rear. HTFU. It’s not about the bike. I climbed the 8k climb with an average of 7% without even using the last chainring of my cassette. (that said, I am pretty low down on people who’ve climbed it. Some dude did it at 20 kmph. Jesus. I need to work harder). Maybe it’s the burpees. Maybe I’m just tougher now. More mature. Maybe I understand what it means to compete now.
Whatever it is, I like it. On August 29th, a few days after my 31st birthday(fuck, I’m old) and the recurring injury is the Lausanne Triathlon. And for some fucked up math in my head, for a semblance of normality, maybe for the sake of having a goal, maybe to chase something in life, I signed up for it. And so, since Ironman Zurich 2017, this would be the first time that I would attempt a triathlon.
The old me always said: Swimming is my strength, I was swimmer since I was 12. And I competed at a high level when I was 14–16.
The truth is that’s bullshit. I could also recite the periodic table when I was 14. Now I can’t do that. Or swim like I did in 2004–2006. Half my life has passed since then.
Infact, swimming is a huge struggle with the lack of arm muscles. I don’t want to be a bulky runner and so I’ve focused on functional upper-body strength and stability. That plus the fact that I last swam 6 months ago, again during an injury cycle means I’m really not ready.
People usually have 1 weakness in triathlon: the swim or the bike or the run.
67% of triathlon is my weakness. I can’t swim as well as I used to. It will take dedicated practise and luckily, I have forgone my ego and the merry singing about my golden days. I cannot hang with the cyclists on a flat stretch of road, I’m not big and strong. I can’t push wattage like those people do. I can however, climb. And I’m not saying this out of my ass. I’ve raced so many people in the last few days and fell far, far back on the flats and downhills but caught them on the uphills. Lucky for me, the Lausanne course isn’t particularly flat and has some nice, punchy hills.
Plus my only strong point is running, which I am not able to do right now. I am kind of bothered by that but I’ll be patient. Run fitness would stay and frankly, I like 10k training padded with a lot of swim and bike. Maybe I will get a coach for a few months. I’ve already started reading Joe Friel’s “Triathlon Training Bible”.
Tl; dr: I got injured, couldn’t run, started biking, felt I’m a better cyclist and have a better mindset as an athlete and I’ve signed up for a triathlon on August 29th.
Past me: Came unprepared and gutted it out.
Present me: Comes prepared, embraces the suck and guts it out.
This doesn’t mean I am back to doing triathlons. I’m not going to do an Ironman. They are overrated, overhyped and frankly 180k on the bike is too long. I have no intention to run a marathon after that. I love marathons too much to run them on tired legs. Plus I’ve already done 2 Ironmans. They cost 750 bucks, just for the entry fee. And I’m trying to be less judgy here but the crowd there is not my type.
My main goal over the next few years is still going to be trying to break 30 minutes for 10k. Swimming and cycling would mainly be good cross-training modules. That said, I wouldn’t mind jumping into a few Olympic and Sprint distance triathlons from time to time, just to feel sharp.
So, hopefully this sciatic nightmare ends soon and I can start adding running to my bike/swim workouts and be competitive at the Lausanne Triathlon.
PS: If you see Nicola Spirig’s winning time in the picture above, it is 2:05.
She won the gold in 2012 and silver in 2016. So I can realistically set a target for myself based off that. Let’s see how this unfolds!