The First Time Triaries (Entry #1)

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,...

Look Ma! No lane lines. (Entry #7)

When I arrived at Trinity College pool for a swim workout something was different about the pool. Had it lost weight? Maybe it was a new outfit? A new hairstyle? Were those new kick boards? No. Someone had stolen all the lane lines!  I was about to call campus security to apprehend the hooligans, when I saw Lynne and Janice with the kinds of smiles on their faces that only meant trouble.  Training trouble. To get the team used to the sensation of swimming in a scrum, they took half the group and placed us at one end of the pool and the rest at the other end.  “Swim to the other side!” Janice and Lynne instructed.  Oh, we’d be on a collision course as well.  We swam towards each other and somehow, no major crackups…we sighted our way through the churning waters. Later, they had everyone form two lines facing each other, about 6 feet apart. Everyone held a kick board, flipper or some other piece of equipment. One lucky swimmer then had to swim down the middle of this gauntlet as everyone splashed. I was one of the last people to go and Lynne exhorted the group “Splash more!”  We weren’t sure if it was because everyone had slacked off or if she was picking on me.  Regardless, as I swam, all I could think of was the poem “The Charge of the Lightning Brigade.”  Splashing to the left of me, splashing to the right of me, water in my mouth and up my nose.” I finished and it was ok, challening, but ok.  I didn’t drown...

The hills are alive with the sound of mucus (Entry #8)

Penwood Hills.  That has a rather bucolic sound to it, doesn’t it?  Rolling hills, sheep on a meadow, winding trails, ladies with parasols.  Sadly, that proved to be only a fantasy that I constructed in my mind as I confronted this workout. From the parking lot was a leisurely jog, just over a mile, to THE HILL.  IT was one of these hills that seemingly just kept going on and on, around every turn was more hill. We were istructed to run for 90 seconds up the hill and then jog down.  Rest and do it again, and again, and again and again. It was a nice night, but not that nice a night for running vertically.  My legs burned, my steps got a little choppy, my heart rate soared and the sweat poured.  But, like one of the little Billy Goats in “The Sound of Music” I kept climbing. Somehow, everyone got to the bottom of the hill before me, so I didn’t have a ton of recovery time.  But, oddly, I found myself enjoying the workout.  There was something about being confronted with this difficult challenge and perservering. I’m not sure if I could have run much longer, but I ran as long as I needed. And, I never would have done this workout by mself, but with a group, with our collective griping, made it oddly fun. Chalk another one up for team training. Published May 30,...

You’re all wet…suit. (Entry #9)

What does the well-dressed triathlete wear these days?  If you guessed a full-body suit made of .5mm thick neoprene rubber, you’d be right. It’s not the sort of thing you’d wear on the red carpet, but it does help keep you warmer in cold water and provides some very welcome buoyancy.  Plus, it’s very slimming. I received my wetsuit as an early Father’s Day gift (I’m assuming they were all sold out of Old Spice).  Lynne and I went into our lake to get used to it. Getting into the suit itself was an interesting experience.  Sort of like rolling really puffy Saran Wrap onto your body starting at your feet.  Nothing slides and you have to slowly hoist the suit on, inches at a time. Once suited up, I was aware of how incredibly snug it was.  Even breathing was noticeably challenging.  Moving my arms also felt restricted. I jumped into the lake and the water rushed into the small openings in the back of the suit.  But, otherwise, I noticed that I was almost floating.  I started to swim and that’s when the panic attack began.  Every time I tried to swim, bringing my arms forward, I felt the suit resisting, pulling them back.  I couldn’t swim freestyle.  Plus, visibility in the water was very limited.  I could see my finger-tips, but nothing further.  The rays of the sun shone down into the water, making the particles of silt sparkle like glitter, but that didn’t help me know where I was going. The quick, racing thoughts that accompany panic started ping-pong-ing around my brain.  “My arms aren’t...

Blinded by the light (Entry #10)

The sun was shining.  As we stood on the shore of Coventry Lake, the back of my wetsuit was getting lightly toasted by the morning rays.  The mellow warmth was a nice counterpoint to the brisk wind and the chilly waters, swollen from the monsoon that had just swept through the day before. The sun is my friend, I thought. We did one practice start.  A quick rush into the water, turning 90-degrees to the right, swimming to a buoy and then another 90-degree turn back to the beach.  As soon as we started, I thought, “What the hell am I doing?  I never swim this fast.  Slow down!”  There was some sort of frenetic magnetism to this moment, dragging me along at a speed that was not my own.  I put the brakes on and tried to better pace myself.  Then, we were hauling ourselves out of the water like the first fish that decided that life on land might be something worth checking out. Then it was time for the main event, a 1/2-mile swim across the lake to the house with the picket fence.   The way out to the house was manageable.  I breathe on my right and was able to use the shoreline as a guide.  The return trip was a different story.  Looking out into the open water each time I took a breath provided no reference point.  I counted ten strokes and then switched to breaststroke to get a visual on the lifeguard stand that was my landmark.  Blindness.  That’s what I saw.  Bright.  Incredible blindness.  My friend, the sun, who had so...

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Nothing from March 28, 2017 to April 3, 2017.