Sunday, June 10, 2007

Confessions of a Sick Athlete

Well, ladies and germs, time for your host to help himself to a sizable slice of humble pie, topped with a healthy dollup of crow.

I've got a tip coming up that will be posted here and going directly out to subscribers (which you, yes, YOU could become if you submit your email address at!) on the concept of "stealing" workouts -- that is, cramming in an exercise session when circumstances seem to be conspiring against all your best health and fitness intentions. I stand by it, but let's just say that the events of the last few days have made me realize that you can take these things a little too far.

Quick sum-up: last week my family and I met my wife's brother and HIS family in Hawaii for a few days. My wife, Heidi, and I had our usual pre-vacation subtle mini-spat on the plane. You have to picture the two of us, settled into our seats, our adorable three-year old between us, already excited about seeing her cousins and visiting this mythical tropical locale:

HEIDI: You aren't going to try to work out while we're in Hawaii, are you?
ME: Well...
HEIDI: I mean, we'll be hiking, snorkeling, swimming, and running after kids all week -- you don't REALLY feel the need to add a formal regimen on top of all that, do you?
ME: Here's the thing, I've got a triathlon coming up the weekend after we get back...
HEIDI: Perfect, you need the rest, then! Plus, when was the last time you actually took a week off from exercise? Seriously?
ME: I took a week off during our honeymoon!
HEIDI: In 1999?

I realized that if I was going to exercise in Hawaii WHILE KEEPING MY MARRIAGE INTACT (capitalization mine) I would have to do so on the sly. On the down-low. Under the radar. Like many wives, Heidi has a pretty much omniscient radar, so I knew that trying to work out without her knowing would be an exercise (ha, ha...) in futility. So actually getting away with it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. But I could maybe figure out a way to do it unobtrusively -- no scouring the island for the best equipped gyms, no daily, forty-minute round-trips to the local Olympic-sized swimming pool. I was expected to enjoy my surroundings, sip fruit-flavored alcoholic beverages with my brother-in-law and his family, and generally Be. On. Vacation. Oh, lord, the deprivation.

So I did what's referred to by those of us with severe fitness problems as "stolen" workouts, which as I said I'll cover in more detail in my upcoming tip. And as I'll proudly describe, I jammed in some pretty intense sessions of beach-sprinting, calisthenics and stretching, all outdoors, with improvised "equipment," in the lovely environs of Kauai. Being in a setting like that, when everyone has their shirts off pretty much all day, does something to one's motivation. Maybe I was the palest guy on the beach, but damnit, I was going to be one of the fittest. And failing that, I was going to be trying the hardest.

We got back last Tuesday, and on Wednesday I did a "brick" workout (that's triathlete-ese for a multi-sport exercise session) consisting of biking and running at full tilt for about an hour total, in preparation for the triathlon which was to be held on Saturday. Because I'd been away from my bike, and from "formal" exercise for a week, I really pushed it, figuring I had to catch up for my time off -- which when I now think about it wasn't really time off, but, if anything, time spent exercising more intensely than usual, supplemented by entire days of hiking, kayaking, snorkelling and the like. My workout on Wednesday was tough as hell, as I tried to replicate race pace and intensity over the same biking and running distance as my upcoming race: a tiny fraction of that of an Ironman race, but proportionately far greater in intensity.

Checking the results of past races on the web, I saw that my practice times easily placed me in the top three in my age group for this particular event. This meant that, assuming that a truckload of ringers didn't suddenly materialize in San Dimas that weekend, I could be pretty confident of a place on the podium. At a small race, perhaps, in a small California town, pernaps, but hey, a medal's a medal, and for someone who never did much in the way of competitive sports until I was in my 30's, they're nothing to be sneezed at. I went to bed Wednesday night practicing my acceptance speech.

Well, to quote Mr. Wilson, my driver's ed teacher, "WHAM! It happened." I got sick as a dog. Some witch's brew of two parts plane travel, two parts race-performance-anxiety, and seven parts sheer foolish excess laid me out but good for about three days, starting late Thursday night, continuing till this morning, when I blessedly began to feel just a touch more human again.
Needless to say, despite the pep talks I gave myself Friday evening, replete with images of a flu-infected Michael Jordan scoring 50-plus points a game just a few short years ago, I missed the triathlon, something I feel particularly guilty about given the fact that I'd cajoled a client of mine into doing the race with me, assuring him that I'd be there right alongside him to cheer him on.

So I was hoping that today's entry would be a triumphant report of a race well run, biked and swum -- instead, I offer myself up as a living cautionary tale. Don't leave your best game in the clubhouse. You know the new Reebok ad campaign about "Run Easy"? I've scorned it in the past; now I think they might just have a point.

Pace yourself, people.



mamacita chilena said...

Hi, just wanted to tell you that I stumbled across your blog, who knows how...but I love it! I'll definitely be checking for updates.

If I email you a training related question will you respond? If you say no, you're too busy, I'll save my breath (or my typing I guess).


Andrew said...

Fitness questions are always appreciated, Mamacita! Ask away, and thanks for your interest!