The First Time Triaries (Entry #1)

If you have worked out with Team Training New England in any of the prior years, you may know me as Lynne Tapper’s husband or “the guy with the camera.”  My given name is Leland Brandt and I (deep breath) have never…done a triathlon.  I’ve never thought about, fantasized about, or even had nightmares about doing a triathlon.  I’ve been content as the family sag wagon, spectator and silent (or not so silent) partner.  And yet, today I found myself huddling with 13 other people at Cornerstone Aquatics Center for an open-water swim clinic as preparation for my first triathlon.  How the heck did I get here? I’d like to say that this is part of a life-long goal.  It’s not.  There was little that appealed to me about this sport.  The hours are atrocious (who needs to get up that early?).  I didn’t learn to swim until I was 13 (long story), my bike sends me “I miss you” cards, and running is a civil war between my body and my brain.  But, as 2012 was ending, I decided that at my ripe old age (42) it was time to be a little less comfortable.  I christened 2013 “The year of saying “Yes” to things that don’t quite scare me, but certainly make me uncomfortable.”  However, that’s a mouthful, and frankly, too much to contemplate.  So, I’m using the shorthand of “The Year of Living Uncomfortably.” Part of this movement has prompted me to start attending networking functions, because I’m more “business shy” than I’d like to admit.  Having to get up in front of strangers and describe...

This is a nightmare! (Entry #2)

I was drowning. Or at least, I think I was, since I don’t have a lot of experience with drowning, but it sure seemed like I was drowning. Under the water when I didn’t want to be?  Check. Flailing like an upside down turtle.  Check. Water going into places where it shouldn’t?  Check. Yup, I was drowning. This was a major bummer. Where was the help? They said there’d be spotters. Didn’t they spot the guy with the complexion of 2% milk out there in the water?  My skin should’ve been reflecting the sun like a solar array.  And yet, no one paddled over with even the most casual of a, “so, are you drowning or are you just a terrible swimmer?” Maybe it was all the bodies around me, chopping the water with their fists and feet, churning the already murky lake into a frothy, wet fog.  Maybe I was too slow and far behind.  Maybe I was off-course? I started to think that this was a rather lonely way to go.  No drama.  Just the muffled beats of fluttering feet above me as I sank. I’d always wanted one of those dramatic “Die Hard” kind of deaths.  This is mostly because I’m not terribly dramatic in my day-to-day life, I thought I could be in death.  You know, the witty one-liner as I fell off the side of a building, crashing onto the roof of a Checker cab (Look it up. I’m a New Yorker at heart).  This would be while saving the day, of course.  Your basic, glorious passing. Instead, here I was drowning and not...

Brick by brick (Entry #3)

I’m something of a lucky guy.  I’m married to a woman who loves to exercise. For the most part, Lynne’s happiness peaks when she’s sweating over her bike, the road, in the water (I’m assuming she sweats in there as well).  She sets a great example for the rest of the family, but it’s hard for us to keep up.  My usual choice was to not even try.  But, for those who’ve been reading along, this year is different. So, after dropping the kids off at school, Lynne had invited me to ride along with her, indoors, for one of her workouts.  Instead of saying, “I’m planning on donating a kidney in an Albanian youth hostel, so I’ll be taking it easy today” I said, “ok.” I got home, skipped my usual bout of procrastination, and hopped on the bike.  Now, I didn’t set any land speed records, but I did get through just about an hour’s worth of cycling without my usual complaints.  It did help that we had an episode of The Good Wife to keep us occupied (they have TV during the triathlons, right?), but I kept spinning my wheels. When I hopped off, I had gone just over 12 miles, the distance I would need to cover for the race.  That felt like a good accomplishment, though I hear they might have these things called “hills” in our race.  However, I have to admit, my tush wasn’t the happiest camper. Then Lynne said, “I’m going to run 2 miles now.”  At this point, I’m usually ready to call it quits, but instead said, “you know,...

Ode to a Workout Leader (Entry #4)

Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., I pulled into the parking lot at the University of Saint Joseph.  The first group track workout.  A few people were milling around, but I was, sadly, in the right place.  I’d been running, but it was time to find out what kind of shape I was in, since there would be other people running at the same time.  How many times would I get lapped? After some quick pointers, we began warming up and then started running around the track.  Sometimes we stopped to do some form of calisthenics, pushups, situps, burpees (an aptly named exercise if there ever were one). Running around a track is sort of like running on a hamster wheel, but a lot flatter and without the benfit of the wheel part.  Four laps to a mile.  It seemed like a long four laps.  Four long, lonely laps.  These are the sort of running laps that usually very quickly become walking laps for me. But today was different. Normally, when I run, I’m alone with my thoughts.  This is not always a good thing.  My thoughts sound like this:  “Why am I running?”  “Is that a stitch in my side or do I have appendicitis?”  “Is my foot really on fire?”  “This would go much faster if wolves were chasing me?”  “I think jogging is really Yiddish for ‘runs like a turtle’ ”  These thoughts, in case you couldn’t tell, are not conducive to a long run. But, instead of being alone with my thoughts on Saturday, I had the luck to have two different workout leaders accompany me...

Kick It Real Good (Entry #5)

Our most recent swim workout at Trinity College reminded me of the great Elton John song, “Someone kicked me in the face tonight.*”  I found myself humming this catchy tune as we practiced our swim starts in the pool.  I’m not sure exactly what we were supposed to be practicing, here are the possible options: A)  How to get kicked in the chin and not stopping B)  Attempting to swim while boxed in by two swimmers, each close enough to know if I am wearing deodorant C)  How to take a breath while simultaneously not swallowing all the water being churned up by 20+ swimmers D)  Not colliding If these were the goals of this drill, I think I did pretty well.  I managed to actually get a lot of practice on item A in particular.  And to that unknown person out there who seemed to nail me repeatedly in the schnoz with their foot…time for a pedicure. However, if the goal was to simulate the chaos of a swim start in the safety of a pool, mission accomplished.  I knew I could stand up, reach a wall or, worst case, that the lifeguard and several workout leaders stood nearby to help out. The oddest part, as we did this drill, I found myself laughing.  Since there aren’t a lot of pool-based comedy clubs, I can assume you haven’t had this experience, so let me assure you that laughing underwater and swimming are a bad combination.  Swimming en masses was so crazy, so chaotic so devoid of any rules or organization that it was absurd.  And so I found...

Riders in the storm (Entry #6)

For one of our bike rides, we ended up going through the hillier streets of West Hartford.  In the rain.  On the one hand, it was a great way to get used to riding in bad weather.  On the other hand, it was raining. We went round and round the course, up the hills and down the hills, up the hills and down the hills.  At least I remembered my rain coat this time. It was a great way to see how differently your bike behaves in the rain, since I would normally never ride in the rain.  For that matter, why was I riding in the rain today?  I did notice how long it took my brakes to slow me down, how bad the visibility was and how wet my tush was at the end of the ride. As we pulled into the parking lot, the rain finally started to taper off.  The lesson I learned is that it’s a good idea to have a spare pair of socks after a workout. Published May 21,...