About six weeks ago, I wrote here that my goal of completing a triathlon was my version of a midlife crisis. Turning 44 and watching my weight creep back up over 225 after getting as low as 205 (my marriage day weight) was disheartening. I have type 2 diabetes (thank you, Coca-Cola!) and was facing the prospect that my window for significant physical activity was rapidly closing.
Being a married father of six kind of rules out skydiving and mountain climbing for me, so this seemed like the kind of "big" physical challenge that carried an aspect of uncertainty. Could I really do this? A sprint triathlon for a forty-year-old is no big deal, but I was pretty sedentary before starting out on training for this event.
So what did I do this past week? I swam for 600 yards on two occasions. I biked for 30 minutes, ran for 10, and then walked for 20 (these are called "brick" workouts because when you're done, your muscles feel like bricks). On Saturday, I ran four miles in 50 minutes, and then yesterday, I biked 20 miles in a little more than an hour-and-a-half, followed immediately by a 30-minute walk covering two miles.
It was in the walk that I realized that I'm doing things physically today that I've never done at any point in my life, much less middle age. I played football and wrestled a little in high school, but I never took that seriously.
In college, I could run a mile in 6.5 minutes, but I also smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day. Twenty years ago I was 24 years old and weighed about 190. But I also smoked and drank to excess on a regular basis. Could I have trained for a triathlon back then? I'm sure that I could have, but I sure didn't, and I wouldn't have been interested in doing so, either.
I quit drinking about five months after turning 24, and that caused my smoking to increase dramatically for the next couple of years. I got married at 27, and two things happen to a lot of men that happened to me: having a loving wife means you're less concerned with staying fit and looking good, and my wife was (and still is) a tremendously good cook. I put on 30 pounds in the first year I was married and never took it off until last year, when I went from 265 to 205 by radically changing my eating habits in response to the diabetes diagnosis.
Physically, I never did more than walking and occasionally jogging while losing the bulk of my weight. But since the end of 2011, I've been backsliding into bad eating habits and avoiding exercise. However, the past six weeks of training have brought me to a place I've never been before. I can run for almost an hour and still function for the rest of the day. I biked 20 miles yesterday, and I'm walking around today (but sore, ouch! so sore).
The triathlon is 19 days from today. I'm no longer wondering or even worried if I'll finish. Now I'm actually starting to think about finishing times and maybe even competing for a spot in the top three. My body is transforming itself in ways that I never experienced, even when I was younger and it would have been easier to achieve this level of fitness. Who knew that my midlife crisis would actually turn out to be productive?