The latest in a series of posts about the writer trying to go from couch potato to triathlete. Check out previous posts here.
So I took nine weeks (the length of the Couch to 5K program) and learned to run, and kept at it for several more months. At this point it was summer, I was dropping weight and loving the warm weather. For the most part, it took me just 30 minutes a day, a few days a week, and the only cost was $90 for a pair of shoes and $13 for compression shorts (also very, very much worth it.)
With such a small time commitment to maintain my run, I decided it was time to move to the next athletic feat (going in reverse order of most triathlons): cycling. I’ve done well at catching up on certain activities of my youth: I’m good at video games, pretty good at dancing, and I still remember all the lyrics to “Bust a Move.” You know how the saying goes, “it’s like riding a bike.” I’d find out, because I hadn’t been on one in 15 years, at least.
Due to those 15 years, I was terrified of reacquainting myself with a bike. Especially in a place like Salt Lake City, where half the population seems to own a $1000 rig and one of those fancy racks on their cars. They dart in and out of traffic and plow through massive hills.
I had my wife’s 15 year-old sparkly purple bike with cracked tires, and the bed of my small pickup to tote it around in. I found a local park with long, straight paved paths, and to my surprise, the old saying is true. After a few awkward moments, and no shortage of glances at my sparkles, I got the hang of riding again and started to pick up speed.
If you have a bike, and can ride comfortably on it for an hour or so at a time, then it’ll work for your triathlon. I knew my wife’s bike wouldn’t suffice, but it did give me confidence that I could indeed ride one again.
As if you couldn’t tell by my trick for shoe buying, I’m cheap. In my mind, if you can acquire something of value for a lesser price, you go for it. You can purchase a good, light road bike for $1000 dollars, but you can also find good deals on used bikes. I checked secondhand sporting goods shops, online auction sites, and others until I found one on a local classifieds site. For $500, I bought a high-quality racing bike that was a few years old but well maintained. New it probably ran about $1700.
After riding it once, I also bought a bib with padding in the sensitive region. It’s $45 or more, but so, so worth it. You don’t want to mess with the monkey butt.
I rode a couple times a week, for about half an hour. Then one Friday afternoon or Saturday morning a month, I would go for an hour. This allowed me to cover 12 miles - conveniently the distance in a sprint triathlon.
Another word of warning: get a helmet. Never get on your bike without it. I know - one saved my life.
Racing tires are thin, and you have to be very careful for cracks and uneven portions in the pavement. My tire got wedged in such a crack, and before I could get my feet out of the stirrups to bail out, I tumbled. I don’t remember hitting the street, just waking up and dragging my gear out of the road I was riding on. I had been concussed, but my helmet absorbed most of the fall and was nearly snapped in half. Without that helmet, I could’ve had serious damage to my brain.
I took a couple weeks off, bought a new helmet, and haven’t had any problems since. Spend the $17 on that helmet. It’s worth it.
So there I was, still fat but getting thinner, with two aspects of a triathlon mastered, with rarely more than 30 minutes a day invested. With my confidence higher than Snoop Dogg in Jamaica, I started to look for a race to run, and considered how to approach my old nemesis the swim.