Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Routine and Ritual

Every night before I go to bed, I pack a bag for my workouts the next day. I throw a pair of bib shorts over the saddle of my bike, hang a jersey on the chair and tuck a pair of socks into my cycling shoes.

If I'm spinning indoors at M2, I like to make sure I have my spare pedals set aside, a water bottle in the refrigerator and a some chamois creme within reach.

On swim days, I pack a small blue bag. A swimsuit, a pair of goggles, a set of hand paddles and a waterproof watch go inside.

Run days are easy. I take that same blue bag and throw in a pair of shoes, a pair of shorts and a shirt. Socks in the shoes, of course. No more running in the same kind of crappy cotton socks I wear to work!

I count my vitamins and supplements out into a small container, and fill a small plastic bag with just the right mix of Recoverite and protein powder.

I do all of these things every night. Welcome to life as a a triathlete.

Swimmers aren't a superstitious lot. They don't believe in jinxes. They don't wear the same shirt every day because the first time they wore it, they had a good day. (They probably wear the same shirt every day because they're just lazy.) But there are a few traditions I picked up during my days as a swimmer.

They all have to do with hair.

At some point during the season - usually at the hardest point - you stop cutting your hair. The chlorine's probably burned it to a crisp already anyway, so why waste time, effort, or cash on it? And you know it's all coming off at some point anyway, so why bother?

During the final few weeks of the season, you stop shaving, too. For a lot of guys, this is pretty awesome. They get to grow cool beards. It's not so awesome for me - I only grow a very slimy-looking mustache and goatee - but I do it anyway, because, well, that's what you're supposed to do.

All of this not-cutting builds and builds over the hardest weeks and months of training until you look like the world's most fit hobo... and then, the night before the race you've spent your entire season training for, you shave. Head, yes. Face, yes, thank God. Legs*? Yes. And you know what? It feels f---ing awesome

If you've done it right, you come out of that hotel bathroom looking like a completely different person. And that completely different person looks ready to crush.

Seventeen days.

* - Plenty of cyclists shave their legs on a regular basis. I don't. The swimmer in me won't let me -- you never shave your legs until the night before your big meet. Never, never, never!