Yesterday's ride confirmed a something about triathlon that I have known for years but just recently came to fully understand and appreciate.
I've been riding a bike since I was a kid. I started banging around the neighborhood like everybody else, spent many hours pedaling around delivering papers, and got interested in BMX & freestyle in the years right before I began to drive. I started mountain biking in college and it never occurred to me that riding a bike would be anything other than fun.
I bought my first real road bike 6 years ago and did a few triathlons mostly because a few of my riding partners were doing them as well. The bike part was always my favorite, I never liked running much and swimming wasn't a whole lot of fun either. I moved on to road racing and cyclocross to continue to compete without the running and swimming, but my focus had changed significantly. I worried more about watts, results, and crossresults points than about having fun.
The joy had been sucked out of riding.
But that's nothing compared to training for an Ironman.
I started training in January for IMLP, logging 7-12 hours per week, watching everything I ate, and spending a lot of time alone just pounding out the miles. After the first 10 weeks of my program, my right knee developed some mild pain. Pushing through that for the next 5 weeks was hurting more and more, so I shut it down two weeks ago to try and fully recover. I stressed over the injury for nearly two months worried how I was going to heal while still maintaining fitness, and whether I'd be well enough to complete the event itself. At best I was looking at a very long day, 14 hours or more, and at worst I wouldn't even be able to start.
Looking back, most of the training time and miles have just been stressful. Not relaxing or enjoyable at all, but something else to maintain and worry about. It is for this reason I don't own a dog: they are one more thing that requires time and maintenance.
The recent time off got my knee feeling better but that's no way to prep for an Ironman. My physical therapist/coach/friend told me to ride this weekend, I needed to get out and put some time in as we were under the gun. To stay close to home I took the 29er out to the trails behind our house.
OMG what a great time. This ride reminded me that cycling is supposed to be fun. Cleaning some fresh twisties, dropping off steep rocks, railing the switchbacks, and point and shoot downhill runs are so much more fun than being hunched over a set of aerobars pounding out the miles all alone. Crits are great too and of course cyclocross.
But even with cross somewhere along the way riding my bike(s) got way to serious. Thom came to the same epiphany in his 3.23.09 post. There's no reason not to enjoy each and every ride.
If the Ironman doesn't happen because of my knee, I'm comfortable with that and would not try and sign up for the race in the future. Why? Triathlons are not fun. Training for triathlons is not fun. Maybe it is for some people, but not for me. Sure, there's a lot of energy at the start and the finish but very little about the actual race is enjoyable either. Most people do them for the accomplishment of finishing or breaking a personal record and not the enjoyment of the actual event. This is now seems to be a waste of time.
All this said, I do want to finish the race for the same reason I signed up to begin with: to complete a grueling endurance race before I die. My motive for doing the race hasn't changed, nor has my desire, but I've not caught the Triathlon "bug" if there is such a thing that's for sure. I do hope that my knee holds up to the training... and through the race. If am able to finish, I hope I do well and finish before it gets dark. I hope my wife, kids and friends will be there at the finish so I can thank them for the sacrifices that they made.
After July 26th I'll leave the multi-sport cr@p to the tri-geeks. Let them chase negative splits, smooth transitions, and worry about fueling strategies.
None of that fits my definition of leisure time, so I'll simply go out for a ride.