While I usually focus on the intake of calories, it’s a sad and inevitable truth that taking them on board also requires contemplating how to burn them. Unless, of course, you’re a method actress like say, Renee Zellweger. who dutifully got doughy for the Bridget Jones’s Diary series of movies.
I digress, I am sadly not paid to gain weight and as gaining weight doesn’t pay, I regularly engage in a number of activities to try and burn those pesky calories at a faster rate than I consume them. Yoga, pilates, weight-training, horse-riding. Happy to do any and all of them. But running? No thank you. Just wasn’t built for it. So it came as quite a surprise to everyone, not least of all me, when I heard myself agreeing to train for a duathlon (run, bike, run) with a friend, Catherine, at the end of last year.
Now when I say “train”, don’t get some fancy notion of us working with a coach, joining a running group, or even aiming to run non-stop for 30 minutes at a time. What I mean is I bought a pair of “proper” sneakers, and started getting out there at a brisk walk, breaking into the occasional jog, a few times a week. Having a partner really helped. I mean, running is so boring! The biking part wasn’t too hard, although I was sad to take the shopping basket off the front of my bike.
Over the last 12 weeks I’ve found that I’ve even enjoyed getting my heart rate up above 170 on a regular basis and the muscles in my legs have definitely gotten a little more toned, but that’s been about it. My fantasy of pounds magically rolling off me hasn’t happened, but no matter.
Back in early January we picked an event that seemed doable: 2 mile run, 6.5 mile bike, 2 mile run, around Lake Folsom, near Sacramento, CA. Race day was set for April 5. Having a goal seemed to help me focus and I started to incorporate morning “outings” at home and away, taking photos along the way: the coast of England, London, Vegas, Auckland, Hong Kong, New York.
My schedule often not being my own, it turned out that the race was going to fall at the end of two and a half weeks of crazy travel to Asia and New York and I’d be doing it jet lagged up to the eyeballs. Oh well, the race must go on. So one Friday night at 11pm, straight from JFK-SFO, I arrived at a nondescript hotel just outside of Sacramento to meet Catherine.
The next morning we staggered out of bed at 6.30am and drove 30 minutes to get to Lake Folsom where a series of races were happening that day – all of them far more important than our little “ice breaker” duathlon. Despite not having time to use the loo before the start of the race because we cut it far too fine, we made it. My time was 1.27:19 which included a bathroom break (such an amateur) and a slow transition to get on my bike. For your entertainment, here are a few things I learned along the way:
- Taking the shopping basket off the front of your bike is the first step to using it for “real” exercise
- Other competitors do not wear skater helmets when biking
- You never, EVER, ride your bike in the “transition” area
- Training with a partner is a must, but don’t expect to race with said partner. We got separated and I didn’t find Catherine until the finish line
- Your age is tattooed on your left calf in black Sharpie and it doesn’t seem to come off. Ever
- Going to the bathroom before the race begins is a good idea
- So is getting to the start line about 10 minutes before the “off”
- When you are at the back of the pack you will probably spend a lot of the race alone and may occasionally wonder which turn to take next
- You will feel really proud of yourself if you can figure out how to use the gears on your bike properly and don’t have to dismount to get up hills. I know this, because I accomplished it
- Throughout the race you will likely swear never to do this ever again. A few hours later, euphoric, you will sign up for at least three more races
- Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the feeling of looking at your Polar heart rate monitor and being told that you have burned 775 calories in less than 90 minutes.
It felt so sweet all day long to indulge a little, especially in a mid-afternoon glass of wine. We deserved it. Cheers!