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Puddles of Sweat and Burning Muscle Pain
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Puddles of Sweat and Burning Muscle Pain

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By Chris Russell
Posted Sunday, 12 June, 2005

“Spinning Class” sounded like some sort of sewing circle, but there I was at 5:45 AM at the club getting yelled at in a darkened room by some lady while being subjected to disco music from the 70’s, (yes I remember, I was there). The room is full of happy cheerful people arranged in a circle on spinning bicycles like some bizarre sadomasochistic reading group.
“Ok, here comes a big hill! Everybody up! 60 seconds! Come on!”
Up? Up where? What hill? Are these people insane?

The whole time they are chatting away about their lives, loves and challenges. What is this? Some sort of exercise group therapy I’ve stumbled into?

I peddle away and try to do what they are doing but I am always on the verge of falling off the bike. I don’t have the rhythm for the ‘hills’ and my bike conditioning seems to be lacking. It’s like trying to rodeo-ride a bucking bronco. When I make a mistake the momentum of the flywheel punishes me. I play with the resistance knob, but it’s futile.

I am, however, getting a pretty good work out. The heart rate is up and the pores are open. Working out indoors makes me sweat. When the lights come up my bike is floating in a ½ deep pool of salt water. It takes a few rolls of paper towels to mop it all up. No one else had the Niagara Falls thing going on. Am I just working harder or am I some sort of endocrinal freak? Maybe I could spread a bag of that SpeeDee Dry stuff around like they do at the hazmat sites?

Biking – it’s actually hard work if you know what you’re doing…and I’m learning. When the knee doctor finally gave up on my bashed patella last fall I was banished from running for a few months. With a bad case of ‘climbing the walls’ and a serious attack of balloonification setting in I had to do something. I set myself on a swim-bike-lift schedule at the gym to see if I could stem the tide.

This agenda appealed to me for a few reasons. First it would maintain some of the rigor and conditioning. Second it would strengthen the knee without abusing it. Third, it would give me some new things to learn. I always like to learn new things. And finally, in the back of my mind I had been toying with the idea of a triathlon for a couple years.

Riding a bike isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It has actually gotten harder as I have figured out the proper form. Before this, the last time I rode a bike on the road they only had ten speeds. For my last bike race I think I had playing cards in the spokes to make it sound cool. We’re talking 35 years. A lot has changed!

I bought my first new road bike a couple years ago to have something to commute with. I remember the sticker shock. “Here’s a nice middle of the road model for $1,000.” The nice lady had said.
I must have been obviously in stress. I had recently sold a perfectly good Raleigh 5 speed for $10 at a yard sale. (100% manufactured in Nottingham England)
“I just want to ride to work…”
She read me like a cheap book, “Here’s a discontinued model for $600.”
That’s how I got my Fuji. I had a briefcase installed for my laptop and my wife ponied up for the shoes and speed-play pedals at my next birthday. It was love at first ride. It was so cool to be able to go a fast as the cars!

Through the long cold winter of 2005, I was able to talk my knee into coming around, partly because of the time spent in the pool and on the stationary bike. I got my number for Boston and switched back to putting in the miles and running all the great middle distance races the New England has to offer in the cold months.

In the back of my mind, I had a plan. After the marathon I would immediately transition to triathlon training. Not Ironman, but sprint tri training. This so far has worked out wonderfully.

Typically there is a physical and emotional letdown after Boston where the miles fall off and the pounds go on. It’s too early to start into a program for a fall marathon and you’re sick of running every day. In a nutshell you convince yourself that it is ok to take it easy because you’ve earned it by God! Then July rolls around and your 20 pounds heavier and have to start at the bottom of the mountain again.

I’ve always been of the opinion that cycling is easy and running is hard. I wasn’t sure that it would be enough exercise to be fulfilling or useful. With tri training I immediately reduced my running mileage to around 18 miles a week, but increased my work outs to 9 per week. Three runs, three bikes and three swims. Since there are only 7 days in a week that means you are doubling up on a couple.

According to my training philosophy you have to get one ‘speed’ workout in each discipline per week. That means a hard swim on Saturday and hard bike on Tuesday and a track workout on Thursday. The net result is you are constantly exhausted from something, but nothing gets over used.

It’s pretty much all good news so far. All my marathon aches have gone away with the low mileage. I’ve actually lost another 5 pounds since Boston!

I was worried I’d loose all my conditioning by not putting in the miles, but that is not the case. I’ve been monitoring my Thursday night track workouts and I’m right on my splits without any loss.

The CFO of my company is one of those serious biker guys. He’s got a bicycle that weighs as much as a large potato chip and cost as much as a small house. He’s a Lance Armstrong groupie. Naturally I turned to him for help. It turns out you don’t use all those gears, you only use the top 3 or 4 and when you stand up in the ‘saddle’ you don’t push, you pull. He told me how to do hill workouts and ‘spinning intervals’.

I went down to the bike shop to get my Fuji tuned up this spring. While I was there I thought I should get one of those shirts. You know which ones I mean. The biking NASCAR logo shirts. And maybe a pair of those cushiony shorts to protect the wedding tackle. I saw the Lance US Postal Service shirt. $179.00! And the shorts? $69.00! I can’t think of any compelling reason to spend 250 bucks on spandex lingerie.

I’m just going to wear my old running stuff. So what if my tube shorts don’t have padding? I’ve been married for 20 years and there are some bits I don’t use too much anyways.

I love riding the bike. My favorite thing is going faster than the cars. It freaks them out. They want to pass you, but they can’t without speeding. I can out accelerate them from a stop for about 300 yards before they catch me, and then they’re afraid to pass me because I’m flying like a maniac.

When I go on the road I bring my shoes and my pedals with me. If you can’t clip in, you only get half the work. It causes me some problems in security.
“They are bike pedals!” I yell to the guy screening the luggage when I see that look come across his face. That way I can put my pedals on anyone’s bike and get a workout in.

Sometimes I’m forced to ride the stationary bike in the gym. I set it on the hill program at the highest difficulty and sling great sheets of sweat. A couple weeks ago I was at Bally’s and had just finished a ride. While I was on the other side of the room retrieving 30 or 40 paper towels to wipe up, one of the gym guys walked by the bike. He stopped and looked at the great puddle as if trying to figure out what fluid could possibly come out of a LifeCycle. Transmission fluid? Coolant? Yup, it’s coolant all right!

There is one part of my quadriceps that burns in serious pain when I drive up hills. I’ve never felt such muscle fatigue running. I’ve felt nauseous and dizzy but never that level of muscle pain. It’s cool. It’s also true that the biking helps your hill running. I’ve found a new gear on the hills when I’m off the bike and on my Adidas.

I started to get cocky and attempted to do a trail ride on my mountain bike. I think those magazines that show folks in the woods on their bikes all happy and smiling, surrounded by nature, are guilty of false advertising. If it was a picture of me, I’d be face down in a muddy bog with the bike wrapped around me like some gory origami. My mountain bike hasn’t been tuned in awhile. It randomly chooses its own gears and typically it’s not a good choice. The bottom line is that trail riding for me is a lot like carrying a bike around in the woods.

I don’t care if I’m a biking weakling and wear the wrong clothes. It’s a blast and I think I’m going to be way over trained for this triathlon. I’m definitely going to come out the other side healthy and strong if I feel like running a qualifier in the fall, that is, if I don’t kill myself on that infernal machine.

Take my advice, swap out some of your running for some biking and swimming this summer. It will give your legs a chance to heal and keep you in shape for the fall race season. Pedal on!

 

 

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