On one of my first truly long training rides a few years ago, I felt as if I had to go to the bathroom. But it was only about 13 miles or so into the ride and stopping so soon seemed like it would be, I don’t know, a little soft. Granted, I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone or fit into some hard core notion of a triathlete though I suppose I did want to “fit in” on some level.
So I passed up the opportunity to stop at the coffee shop.
Shortly after all I could think about was going to the bathroom. Bring out every cliche about having to really, really, pee. I saw two women from my training group pull into a parking area. I caught and followed them and we used the “au natural” facilities.
There were two important lessons learned that day:
No. 1: When you have the opportunity to use the bathroom, use it.
No. 2: Triathlon would alter my sense of modesty forever.
I thought of this on Friday as I did my five-hour bike ride. My course was on Grand Island, N.Y. as one loop around the island between Buffalo and Niagara Falls is 20 miles. (Currently, there is road construction and a detour making it close to 21 miles. But the principle still works.) I chose this particular route because (a) the loop keeps me passing my car so I always have a place to stop and get more water/fuel and (b) my race in Montreal has loops, so this would help me get used to the round-and-round type of course.
Somewhere on the first loop, I got that feeling of having to go the bathroom. Really? It’s just my first loop? Maybe I can stretch it for another loop?
Ah, but I learned my lesson and took the opportunity after lap No. 1 to relieve myself. Because one of the lessons I’ve learned through the process of triathlon is that you have to have plan to break a plan and the ability to change without pesky self-judgement is often a key to joy and success.
I then proceeded to ride the next two laps without stopping. A break between laps No. 3 and No. 4 let me refill my water bottles. Lap No. 5 brought me one more stop — to say hello to my dad. I asked my father if he would meet me at the conclusion of my five-hour ride. This would be the farthest I’ve ever ridden and I was riding alone. I had no idea how I would feel — physically, mentally or emotionally — and it would be nice to have someone there in case I couldn’t walk, had trouble with the motor skills to drive or was signing Ricky Martin.
Luckily for me after over 88 miles my only problem was some soreness in the lower half of my body. Refueled with chocolate milk and bagels from Tim Hortons I was pleased with my cycling efforts, though a bit miffed I didn’t get to 90 miles. Still, I found it surprisingly easy to let go of the 90-mile marker because my day was solid, my efforts were great and I felt right on target.
Often, I feel that training makes me loopy. I forget things, like going to the grocery store without any form of payment. I get giddy and act like I’m 12 years old.
But in reality, what training does is bring me into the moment. Some days, it forces me to confront the negative forces in my head and the power I’ve given away to other people and entities. Some days, it puts me in a world of pure joy and possibility.
Either way (or any shade of gray in between) opportunities present themselves in different ways, times, shapes and sizes. But there are always opportunities out there. And slowly, but surely, I’m getting better at recognizing them.