In 2013 I wrote here about my plan to do my own personal mini-triathlon, with a bike start/finish near my apartment building in downtown Port Moody and the run/swim sections at Sasamat Lake.
Since then, I’ve completed this mini-triathlon at least once every summer, except in 2016, when I had a bad hip injury that made running impossible.
I do this little triathlon mostly for fun, but also as a way of pushing myself and testing myself because the old competitive drive has never completely left me. You might ask why I don’t compete in one of the many sprint- or Olympic-distance triathlons in Vancouver or places nearby. There are several reasons, but the main one, ironically, (since I’m a runner) is that the running part would hurt me too much. Even 5K or 10K on pavement is painful and damaging for my arthritic right knee.
By designing my own triathlon (a laughably short one), I can create a course that suits my limitations, costs nothing, and doesn’t require me to “get serious” about my secondary sports of cycling and swimming. I don’t have to buy the road bike I would need to be competitive in triathlons—my mountain bike works for me wherever I go, and I’m usually on a lot of trails. I don’t need to bother with getting coached in swimming—after countless “stroke improvement” classes in high school PE, I’m convinced that swim coaches would never run out of suggestions on how my front crawl could be improved.
I can do my triathlon whenever I feel good, when the weather cooperates, and when the road up to the lake is relatively safe for cycling (i. e. weekday mornings).
So far I’ve never done my full triathlon with anyone else, though last year my friend Doug Alward pushed me on the bike and run sections. Keith acted as a rabbit for me on the bike leg a couple of times, but he really prefers to chase me in a car and be my official photographer—lucky me! Thanks for the photos, Keith!
My mini-triathlon has four parts, as follows:
- Start on the bike path in Klahanie. Ride 8K up to the north beach at Sasamat Lake, following the bike path until Alderside Rd.
- Run around the lake counter-clockwise. 3K.
- Swim a roughly triangular 500m with a stump and the big Rock as turnaround points.
- Ride 8K back to the start.
I figure it makes a lot of sense to swim after running. Running is the best way to warm up for cold lake water, and there’s no way I’m going to bother with a wetsuit!
2018 edition, August 1, 2018
Conditions: This was the first cool day after ten days or so of intense heat. It remained cloudy throughout the triathlon. These turned out to be perfect conditions: cool for cycling and running, but comfortable for swimming because the lake was exceptionally warm.
The start: 7:48 a.m.
The ride up to the lake is all-out for me, unlike the run, because I don’t want to push my knee too hard. The first kilometre is difficult for me because there are lots of stairs and steep undulations. I run downhills very cautiously and put most of my weight on my “good” leg. Lately I’ve noticed that steep uphills are awkward and sometimes painful for my knee too. So my first kilometre here was very slow; after that I was able to run faster and enjoy myself, especially at the end when I was running on the beach and the pavement to the finish.
I was pleased with my run. I set my course PB back in 2014, with another good run last year. This year I was 15 seconds slower than last year—age-grading tables do not lie!
Ride back to start/finish
What’s the big deal?
For me, it’s a big deal simply to be able to run—after all, my surgeon told me seven years ago, after my second knee surgery, that I was completely finished. And I wouldn’t continue to run if it was painful. I’ve figured out my limits.
I miss competing somewhat—the recognition, the sense of accomplishment, and especially the social part. I’ve met so many wonderful people through running, and there’s nothing quite like exchanging stories after a race.
Doing my mini-triathlon at least once every summer is both a celebration and a challenge. I don’t get the camaradarie and real competition of a race, true. But I sure push myself hard on my bike. Once in a while, I like to test the limits of my aerobic machine. I invariably ride faster on mini-triathlon day than on any of my other frequent rides to Sasamat Lake throughout the year.
I’m careful on the run, but it’s a good test of my agility compared to my usual runs in the easy trails of Mundy Park.
During the swim, too, I push myself harder than usual. My summer swims are usually meant for cooling off, enjoying the beauty of the lake, and soothing sore muscles. This year, however, I’ve been doing short swims almost every day because of the heat. Last summer I was still recovering from a shoulder injury. This year I noticed I’ve got my full shoulder strength back, and even the unusually choppy water didn’t faze me.
Riding up from the beach for the last segment of my mini-triathlon, I was humbled by the pain in my quads—a reminder that I’m not used to cycling after adding a run to the mix! But once I got out of the park, it was all downhill, and boy! was that fun. I could even ride fast on the bike path for the last 2K of the trip, because there weren’t many pedestrians—the cool gray day had discouraged them from coming out.
Yes, I was very pleased that everything went so well. I didn’t set any PBs—but I didn’t have a weak segment, either. Moreover, I didn’t feel unduly fatigued after what, for me, is an endurance workout.
I didn’t have any fellow competitors, but once again I had Keith’s enthusiastic support—it means a lot to me! And he gives me all of these great photos to share and to help me remember another wonderful summer day.
Life is not simple: going deeper
I often recognize that one thing I love about working out is the simplicity of it. Workouts are something over which I have control and choice. They give the undisciplined life of a freelancer some structure. If I want to create athletic goals—my time for a 5K run, or my triathlon, or how many chinups or benchpresses I can do—it’s easy to measure my progress and my “race day” result.
The other parts of my life, by contrast, present me with too many choices. I’m often bewildered and overwhelmed. How do I choose my priorities? How much time do I spend on work, learning, writing, reading, enjoying my closest relationships, and developing new friendships? How do I hang on to the inner strength and peace I feel during my best times—more of the time?
Although I’m healthy (and thankful for it!) I have my physical and emotional demons like everyone else. This blog doesn’t record what my mind says to me during sleepless nights or lethargic afternoons when fears and doubts sometimes drag me down to what seems a hopeless place.
It’s seldom despair, but more often uncertainty I grapple with. One of my current editing projects is leading me to read books about near-death experiences and spiritual dimensions. As someone trained in biology, I am conflicted in my evaluation of these books, but I’m reassured by some words from Albert Einstein. Within his many essays about religion and mystical experiences, one can find snippets like the following: “the problem of God . . . is too vast for our limited minds,” and “Science without religion is lame, and religion with science is blind.”
So even the greatest scientists have recognized the immensity of what cannot be known, though they are driven to explore and create theoretical/mathematical frameworks for a universe that extends beyond our comprehension.
Scientists also delve in the opposite direction: the equally infinite smallness of the microscopic and subatomic worlds. Huge strides are being made in unlocking the codes of all life. Every organism, from a one-celled bacteria to each human being, has its unique DNA code (and several companies exist now that will sequence your DNA and analyze what it means in terms of your health, longevity, and biological relatives). We can build DNA ourselves; Dolly the sheep made cloning famous in 1996; and much has been much written about the ethics of “designer babies.”
Maybe we can play God but it seems the more we know, the more we realize how much is unknowable. Some people say there is no God; others say we can “play God”; some people say we are all God, and enlightenment is understanding this Oneness in all.
My restless brain feels ready to burst, sometimes, knowing there is no end to learning, no end to exploring outwards and inwards. That’s why I seek the simplicity of my simple workouts and my straightforward blog posts about them.