Recipe for joy

For so long in my life I have either been too injured (horrifically bad roller hockey accident leads to back surgery with a 10 year recovery, fractured pelvis from running too much too heavy, etc.) or just too damned lazy to experience the pure joy of physical activity.  But in the last year I have experienced this feeling more than ever (or at least that I was intuitive enough to appreciate).  I look better (not vainly, just honestly) and feel physically and emotionally better than I think I ever have.

I’m not a “life is good” kind of guy and my glass is half empty more than most.  I’m hard on myself and have never done anything “perfectly” and  know I never will.  It’s the striving for perfection that feeds me and keeps me coming back.  So for me to say that I am even encouraged… is monumental.  The negative feeds the fire for me.

But… damn I feel good right now.  I don’t hurt.  I have physical, emotional and mental energy.  And I know this will sound corny and ridiculous to some, but I know why.  I have finally found “my” sport.  Triathlon.

It has nothing to do with being “good” at it.  I would classify myself as slightly above average at best.  Maybe top third of the field on a good day.  But this matters absolutely ZERO to me.  I have finally found the sport that challenges me, pushes me and gives me the most pleasure.  I love the people, the workouts, the challenges and the effort it demands.  But what I love most of all is that it doesn’t hurt…

Now, don’t get me wrong.  The Innsbrook race last weekend was VERY hard and with the effort came pain, but of a different sort.  See, when I was training to get back in shape and run a marathon, I constantly found myself exhausted.  My knees sounded like I was stepping on crackers with every stair I climbed.  I hurt, physically, so bad sometimes all I could do was just lay down for the rest of the day.  And that was after a 15 mile run.  I was miserable after each run over 20 miles and even had to take days off of work to recover.  I hurt.  I was starving all the time.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I dreaded every long run.  I accomplished my goal of running a marathon.  The I very nearly quit running altogether.

But triathlon is different.  Granted I am no Ironman and at this point have absolutely no desire to ever be.  I know how hard running a marathon was.  I cannot even fathom running one AFTER biking 116 miles and swimming 2.4 miles.  However, what I discovered early on was that you don’t have to be an Ironman to be a triathlete.  There are plenty of triathletes in this world but very few Ironmen/women.  While I have the deepest respect for them, I’m having too much fun running gloriously short distances and doing speed workouts to ever think of going the Ironman route.  I’m sure this will probably change as I meet the challenges of each successive distance, but the bottom line for me is how I feel.  I love sprint distance triathlons.  They are fun, challenging and still give me an hour and a half workout on race day.  my body says this is perfect.

How do I know?

I don’t hurt.

I WANT to work out.  I jump at the chance to get as many workouts in during the week as I can.  Why?  BECAUSE I DON’T HURT!!! You can’t understand what this means to me.  Just know that for the first time in my life I can work out more than twice a week without being in real, physical pain.

Let’s take today for example.

I got up this morning and met the Krak-A-Dawn crew for a ride.  Due to some mechanical problems we didn’t get in quite as many miles as I had hoped, but I rode 18 miles.  Sounds ok?  Right?  But then I loaded up my bike and went to a local swim club and did an “aquathon”.  This was a 400 yard swim followed by a 1 mile run, repeated as many times as you want for an hour and a half.  I did three repeats of this and then I took a stroke clinic to look at my swim techinque.  So today I swam roughly 1500 yards, ran 3 miles and rode 18.  This, to me, would be the equivalent of running about 14 miles.

But. I.  Feel.  Fan.  Tas.  Tic!

I got home, ate everything that wasn’t nailed down (the children hid in their rooms and were, thus, safe) and kept waiting to feel miserable and tired.  But it never happened.  I spent the afternoon shoveling dirt into the trailer for my lawnmower and hauling/unloading it into a new planting bed I made.  And I STILL feel fantastic.  No pain.  No exhaustion.  No overwhelming fatigue.  And instead of dreading a workout tomorrow, I can’t wait.  I am going to do a run/swim/run with a really good swimmer (who will, undoubtedly, drop me like a rock in the water) that is 3mi/1mi/3mi.  And I know that I will wake up in the morning comfortable and ready to go.

Add to this the fact that I am losing weight (183!!  Woot!  One seventies here I come!) and my new “thin man” jeans are already WAY too big (when I started triathlon training I was wearing a size 38 to 40 pants and XL shirts (I’m 5’7″), now my 33s are too big and all my LARGE shirts are just that… too large…) and you have a recipe for joy in fitness.

…and you know the best part?

…when all my distance junkie buddies bag on me for not riding 60 miles or running 20…?  I just smile, turn short, go home happy and NEVER LOOK BACK.  Why should I?  I feel great, am in the best shape of my life and… you guessed it… I DON’T HURT.  I can’t wait til tomorrow… and the next day… and… :0)

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