The Road Back Includes Detours

This was supposed to be a story talking about how I’d be returning to triathlon racing for the first time in four years, and sharing some learnings from my hiatus and return on back.

But, well, as Mike Tyson once said, “everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And life, currently, is doing an awfully good job of delivering a left-right combination.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Deciding to Come Back At All

I’d wound up removing myself from racing altogether after DNFing at IRONMAN Lake Placid in July 2019. I’d come off the bike massively dehydrated despite consuming somewhere between 10-12 bottles of sports drink and another few bottles of water; as it turned out, I’d lost over 10 pounds and my kidneys were fundamentally unhappy. Two IVs and two anti-nausea pills later and I felt very good — a sign that I had been in good of shape as I thought I was to start the race.

Between then and the start of 2020, I went through a years-long process of figuring out what had gone wrong. What we found out is that there were a couple of issues; namely, lingering side effects from a major cycling crash in 2013 had meant I still struggled with thermal regulation, and I have minor vision and vestibular issues that are mostly corrected by prescription sunglasses (and not closing my eyes while standing upright). We went to Endurance Exchange prepared to kick off 2020.

And, well, we all know what came next.

2020 became a year focused on finding your own adventures and finish lines. And I realized that, after chasing the routine of 70.3 or 140.6 racing for nearly a full decade, that I was having more fun riding bikes with friends on epic adventures than I was trying to reserve a swim lane for 45 minutes and hoping that yet another COVID exposure wouldn’t turn itself into COVID itself. It was more fun to teach and watch my then four year-old skiing and, as a family, seeing Yellowstone in winter than going to yet another triathlon expo and finish line.

And that carried over into 2021 and the start of 2022. I wrote a lot here and took on more responsibilities around these parts, eventually growing into that editor-in-chief title I have today. For as much as I love the sport, I had zero desire to race. (It is one of many reasons my wife refers to me as the discount version of Slowman, but I digress.) I spent a lot of time riding bikes both outside and on Zwift, skiing, golfing, and occasionally swimming or running.

But, well, that itch started to show up while wearing my media bib at Lake Placid last year. And we thought it might lead into some decent content here, so, I plunked down my personal credit card, and signed myself on up during the Flex90 entry period.

The Art of Rolling With the Punches

One of my main reasons for buying in early was to take advantage of IRONMAN’s relatively customer-friendly policies — I can defer my entry by a year, or transfer to another North American race in 2023 if it’s open for registration at the time of transfer. No, it’s not a refund, but it’s about as close to one as you’re going to get. It’s a policy I’ve had to take advantage of before, and seeing as my worst bike crash took place just a month before I was supposed to do a full distance race, I figured it might be good to have some flexibility if need be.

Which brings us back to the open. Because flexibility is an absolute necessity these days.

My wife and I work a lot. As in, there were many weeks this winter of 80 to 90 hours for both of us while also honoring a lot of commitments for our now six year-old: swim team, ski team, Girl Scouts, etc. It’s a lot of inventing time to train when you can. On swim team days, that’d mean getting in a treadmill run during her swim practice. On ski team days, I could skin uphill and ski down, often giving me time to be able to see her. Is it perfect triathlon specific training? No. But it’s what I could do.

Life, however, decided it had other plans. We had a planned ski trip to Utah, and Ivy had a ski race on the weekend. She wasn’t having fun at ski practice that day, so we decided to pull her from the afternoon session and dropped our skis off for a tune. It was on the way back to our lockers that I found a patch of black ice while walking in my ski boots. Ass over tea kettle and an attempt to get my hands underneath me to protect my head earned me a die-hole punch distal radius fracture.

On the plus side, I did protect my head.

We still did get to go on that trip to Utah, and I did still get to ski (thank you to my orthopedist for that miracle). This week I got clearance to start riding and running indoors and was preparing for that when, well, Mother Nature laughed in my face.

I write this at the moment by the power of a generator and a MiFi device after unburying from 31.5” of heavy, wet wallpaper paste. (You can bet that I will be logging that activity in TrainingPeaks.) We aren’t scheduled to get power back until Friday at 6 PM. Zwifting is out. I’m not cleared to run outdoors. So we’ll see, maybe, about heading to the mountain for a skinning lap or two. That and running water, a hot shower, and not having to hourly reload the wood supply in the house.

It’s not perfect. No build to a race ever is. The journey twists and turns a lot, and you’re going to have no idea what’s ahead. But that’s the adventure of it. That’s the fun of it. Roll with it. Because you will get punched in the mouth at some point. And that’s OK.

See you out there. At some point.