New Things Suck and I LOVE IT.

I was dead last in The Austin Premier League’s Fantasy Football A Division in 2017. In 2012 the loser had to wear a speedo to a barge…

I was dead last in The Austin Premier League’s Fantasy Football A Division in 2017. In 2012 the loser had to wear a speedo to a barge party, 2013 was a stand-up comedy routine, 2014 was getting hunted by a paintball team, 2015 was a sexy calendar shoot, and 2016 was hanging a pair of testicles from your vehicle’s trailer hitch for 3 months. This year’s punishment? A triathlon. To satisfy that punishment, a “Sprint” Tri would do the trick. Unfortunately, that would not do the trick for me personally. I’ve had an IronMan on my bucket list for a long time and when I scan the foreseeable future, I don’t see any better opportunity than now to attempt it. Grip It and Rip It.

Triathlons demand competency in swimming, cycling, and running. I’ve never trained endurance for any of those disciplines, but suffice it to say I’ve had enough experience in swimming and running to allow me to focus on actually building endurance in those. Cycling has been a different story…

It’s true that you never forget how to ride a bike. I don’t remember the last time I actually rode a bicycle, but it could be well over a decade. The thing about road cycling is that there is a LOT of other stuff that goes into it besides just hopping on and peddling. You now have to clip in and out of your pedals (with special shoes), your gear shifts are also your brake handles, and you need to be prepared to deal with the things that happen on 50–100 mile rides. It’s a LOT OF NEW EXPERIENCES. For me, I’m usually really bad at new things. I don’t have many natural gifts like “picking things up quick” or easily memorizing things. I get by on pure perseverance. The next few paragraphs should explain a little bit more what I mean by that.

For the first two months of IM training. I didn’t own a bike. I was using stationary bikes at the gym and spin classes for my cycling training. I finally bought a bike and all the requisite gear. I was ready to hit the road for the first time. I pull out of my driveway and clip into the pedals just fine. About 30 seconds in, I approach my first intersection. I pull up at the light (I’m first in line at my side of the 4-way stop) and unclip successfully. As I’m anticipating the light to change, that nervous feeling (which I know comes from being unprepared) starts to creep in. My light turns green…showtime. I give the still clipped in pedal a hard push and roll into the intersection. This is the point in time that you clip in your other foot and continue to pedal. I couldn’t clip in my other foot…and the bike was losing its momentum from my initial push…and I’m in the middle of a 4-way intersection with traffic backed up in all directions. This was not good. My heart was beating WAY TOO FAST for the physical effort being given because I was nervous. The inevitable happened and I came to a complete stop in the middle of the intersection. Fortunately, I did not fall over, but by this point, I’m getting honked and cursed at (probably laughed at too). In a completely panicked and not logical move… I use my unclipped foot to awkwardly pedal through the rest of the intersection. Physically injured? No. Pride injured? Yes.

After the wonderful first two minutes of my real world cycling experience, I have a few pretty good laps around my neighborhood. I’m making sure I’m comfortable switching gears, getting out of the saddle, and building the habit of NOT JAMMING THE FRONT BRAKES when I feel I need to slow down (we don’t want to be doing forward summersaults on our bikes do we?). At this time, I decided that I need to practice clipping in/out from a standstill so I can avoid intersection stories like the one above. I pull over (in a barrier protected bike lane so there is little chance to get hit by a car) to practice. On my first attempt, I unclip my left foot but inadvertently lean to the right. At first, I didn’t think I had a problem but in about .25 more seconds, I realized that my center of gravity had shifted too far to the right. In a microsecond, I attempt to analyze my options. I could A) quickly unclip my right foot, B) somehow get my unclipped left leg over to the right side of the bike (likely impossible without tearing ligaments in my hips or right knee) or C) try to eat shit as gracefully as possible. After a pathetic attempt at choice A) I opted to go with the unlisted option D) which was to yell “Timber” and pray that I don’t break my wrist. I didn’t really yell Timber, but I did probably look an idiot. Keep in mind that I’m wearing the full assortment of pro bike gear, so the old man that happened to be watching this little episode, and would drive by to check on me momentarily, probably had a few good chuckles. We are now 1 hour into my first bike ride and it’s bike 2, MF 0.

I made it home with what I thought was no additional issues. I was glad to get some of these bozo moments out of the way while I was by myself, so on a group ride, I wouldn’t completely embarrass myself. It wasn’t until the next morning, as I was about to go out again, that I realized I had a flat tire. First, ride flat tire?! What are the odds?! Apparently, the odds are the same as any other ride you go on. Anyways, let me ask you, how confident are you (yes you the person reading this) that you could change a bike’s flat tire in a reasonable amount of time out on the road? If your answer is at all like mine, then you may do what I did, which was remove the wheel and take it straight back to the bike shop where I purchased the bike. I had the guys show me the best way to do it and then they actually had me practice doing it myself. I felt pretty good after that.

I never made it back out on the road that weekend as the weather turned pretty nasty and I had some unexpected work items pop up. That week, I continued to train on the bike on my indoor trainer and had the next Sunday circled for a morning rip around one of the local bike trails. Sunday morning arrives. I went for a swim and then went home to gather all my bike gear and throw it in the car. Under Garment? Check. Helmet? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Compression socks? Check. I was ready to roll. I hopped in my car and headed to the location where I thought the trail would open. As it turns out, there aren’t great available directions to some of these bike trails so I ended up going to the wrong place. I finally found the right spot to go (which was about 10 miles the other direction) and headed that way only 30 minutes behind schedule. No big deal I thought to myself. When I arrived at the location, I was pretty excited. This trail was about 12 miles long, paved, and no cars allowed. I was really looking forward to this. I do a quick bit of stretching, lean the bike against the car and go to my trunk to grab my cycling shoes…except they aren’t there. In the shenanigans that were taking the front wheel of the bike off (to fit in the car) and gathering all the other crap for cycling, I forgot my MF-ING SHOES!!! Now I’m pissed at myself for not being more thoughtful. I decide that I still have time to go home, get my shoes, and make it back before the rest of Sunday’s schedule interfered. As I’m loading my bike back into the car, I notice something that isn’t right…the back tire is FLAT…again.

As it turns out, the thorn that caused the first flat tire but had not really been removed from the tire, so when we replaced the tube it just punctured the new tube. To recap, the beginning of my cycling journey is: getting stuck in first intersection attempt, falling over while unclipping, TWO flat tires, forgetting vital gear for the ride and going to the wrong location. Bike 6, MF 0.

Fast forward to today. I replaced my bike tires with super durable “GatorSkin” tires to avoid further punctures and I just recovered from a bout with the Flu. It’s been 2 weeks since that first outdoor ride and I’ve got this weekend circled for another attempt. Come hell or high water, I’m going on a 2-hour bike ride on Sunday. There are a couple reasons I’m sharing this story. The first is that it’s pretty hilarious. It makes me laugh thinking about it. When I’ve recounted this in person, it’s gotten a few chuckles as well. But the more important reason I’m sharing it is to highlight how bad things can suck (especially when it’s new). As completely ridiculous as all this cycling stuff was, it’s actually NOT UNUSUAL for me. As I mentioned before, I’m rarely good at things naturally. If you know me personally, you KNOW that this type of stuff happens to me a lot. It happens because I need to touch a hot stove more than the average person to learn it’s hot, but also because I CONSTANTLY SEEK OUT new experiences. At this point in my life, I actually get PLEASURE OUT OF THE PAIN that is learning new things. I know in advance that it’s going to hurt (physically or mentally depending on the discipline) and I embrace it.

If there has been something you have been wanting to try, but are worried about the pain that might come from learning something new, hopefully, this little anecdote pushes you over the edge to give it a shot. Pride is not that valuable anyway :)…Grip It and Rip It.

MF