Chain Smoker to Triathelete

I started smoking when I was 17 or 18. At the time I smoked just for the sake of it , maybe to be cool. But before I realized it, I was addicted to cigarettes. I still remember telling myself , I am gonna try every brand once and I will quit before I get addicted. Before I realized it I was in college and had more freedom during the day, and the next thing you know –  I was addicted to cigarettes. I came down to the US for my undergrad and since I did not have a car and I hated walking down to the gas station for a pack in the fuckin winter(my first sem in the US was a spring semester in MINNESOTA, FML), I started buying cartons and  every time  I stepped out I had a cigarette dangling off my lips. I pretty much never thought of giving up smoking, because I had reached a point where I knew no matter how hard I tried I was going to fail. Fast forward to grad school, somewhere in 2011, I was lifting weights and tried to be regular but I was still smoking as if there was no tomorrow and still enjoyed getting drunk as fuck on Friday nights! Somewhere along the line I came across nicotine patches, I tried to be extremely sincere and did not smoke for almost a month and the patches do help. The first week was the worst, I threw up, got dizzy but stuck to it and was clean for a month and then I slacked again. In the mean time one of my buddies Md Shariq had registered for a 5K and wanted me to do it. I just said yes for the sake of it and was sort of looking forward to it at least when I signed up . The day before the race I was up till 3 or 4 AM drinking old monk ( for those of you who haven’t tired it, you need to!) and was praying that my buddy does not show up in the morning to wake me up ( I am glad now that he showed up and since I said I would drive him to the race venue , I did not have a heart to say no). So that was my first 5k and I think I was coughing so much that I wasn’t able to throw up properly but all that I was coughing out was mucus.

What did I learn from the race? That I am an asshole and could not stand the fact that women beat me. My time for the race was 28:10. My buddy on the other hand won the race with a time of 18 minutes. When I looked at his time, that’s when I realized, “Oh! so all that running he does actually pays of and damn is he fast”. I figured he was fast when I saw him at the start line , but a 10 min difference between our times gave me a better picture as to how bad I sucked.

Here is a pic of me prior to the race. A complete running newbile!!If you zoom in you can tell I am wearing Jordans. I thought these shoes were as good as running shoes if not better. FML

465868_10150828378238799_779497485_o

There was a part of me which said this is just BS , you are not meant for long distance running, just stick to lifting weights. Somehow that one 5k, turned into occasional runs in the evening with my buddy with a quest to beat my previous time. It didn’t take me long to understand, that the entire ideology of, If I don’t win I don’t see a point in running, is wrong. I, without realizing it wanted to beat my previous time and I did not care if the person ahead of me was a female, a male or a kid. I just wanted to beat my time and be a better athlete than what I was yesterday. Now that’s training mistake number 1, try and go as hard as you can every time you run! . After a few 5k’s I decided I should sign up for a 10k and since I was not dying in a 5k I should be fine for a 10k. You can tell from the pic below that I was still a running newbie, I decided to start in the front so I end up with a better time :/ Had no clue about gun time vs chip time.

334393_10151308346198799_1518664494_o

I was actually impressed with my time (50:30) even though a lot of people overtook me in the first mile and I felt I was really slow even though I was not. It’s all relative! I had done it unbroken, my pace was faster than my first 5k and was pretty close to my then 5k pace. Then came winter, and I went back into hibernation and lifting weights. I was still smoking at the time and was experimenting with nicotine patches and wasn’t really successful.

337413_10150550709623799_2089007293_o

At around 2 AM one night, randomly surfing and killing time I saw an advertisement or an article, I forget what it was , but it was for a half marathon in New Bedford, MA( I lived in New Bedford at the time). I was like, ” I should do this, I’ve done a 10K and I wasn’t dying, maybe if I slow down a bit I can pull of a 21k”. I started pestering my buddy to sign up for it, for whatever reason he decided not to sign up but he said he would pace me and run as a bandit. I never understood the logic, but I was happy that he would pace me and not run his own race. I obviously had not trained for this since I was in hibernation. So the only thing I was relying on was my overconfidence and self pep talk – it’s just twice of a 10k, it can’t be that hard.  I had a goal to break 2 hours ( gave myself an additional 10 minutes based off my last 10k race). Prior to the race I stuck a nicotine patch so I didn’t crave a cigarette before the race started and I was still smoking the night before.I somehow finished the race unbroken, but not surprisingly in pain and in agony and missed my  sub 2 hour goal by 1 min and 29 seconds.:(

Pain and Agony

Pain and Agony

885576_10151574860108799_1044231436_o

My buddy on the other hand was having a ball. He could have solved math problems at this pace.

883786_10151582632508799_247959196_o

The icing on the cake was the medal. I remember trying to walk and I was unable to for almost a week, it wasn’t DOMS, but it was my knees ( my knees were just not ready for 21 kms of poundage). During this time I was still on and off with my smoking. Fast forward to 2014, I decided that I’ve done a half , its time for a full. I had moved to a new place and had started using Chantix consistently and was weaning off the smoking. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to muscle my way though a full, especially if I was smoking, as luck would have it I found this amazing training group in Pittsburgh – Fleet Feet. They had marathon programs where about 200 people would meet every Sunday and you would be divided into pace groups and maps were given to you and every pace group had a leader to pace you. All you had to do was show up and just follow the person ahead of you. They also had water stops set up. My goal was to break 4 hours , and during my training I had broken my goal for 2 hours in the half which I had missed when I had attempted it for the first time. As luck would have it , I missed my goal by 34 seconds. I had almost given up smoking during this time all thanks to Chantix. Now I had no idea what to do, I certainly did not want to run another marathon anytime soon just to break the 4 hour mark. Had you asked me in 2012,  whats the difference between a 5k and a marathon I would have said a marathon and a 5k are the same thing, and had you asked me to run 42 km, I would think you’re just fuckin stupid and why would someone even want to do it. My brain would not have been able to comprehend the fact that someone could run 42km. So, after the marathon I wanted something challenging and new to break the monotony and something which was less stressful on my body. I was sort of aware as to what a triathalon was all thanks to google/youtube suggestions and the rest was taken care by my curiosity. So.So I asked my buddy , to sign up for the half Ironman ( 70.3). It took some convincing but I finally talked him into it. We signed up for Ironman Muncie 70.3 2015. In the time leading up to Muncie I had relapsed for about 2 weeks and then started Chantix again. At the time I could only doggy paddle 2 lengths of the pool and did not own a bike.  While training for the 70.3, I had set a new goal to break 1:45 in the Pitts half marathon. The timing was perfect , the Pitts half was about 2 months before the 70.3 which meant I got to train with fleet feet again. All I did was show up to the sunday runs and tried to hold an 8 min pace for as long as I could. Considering how unlucky I am, I missed my goal by one second, my net time was 1:45:01 in the Pitts half, but I wasn’t really upset since I had broken 1:45 in a prep race about 2 months ago and I had just recovered from a flu and pittsburgh is a pretty tough course. I later went on to complete my half Ironman in under 6 hours and felt- “this wasn’t that hard, and was probably easier than a marathon”.

Click here for the article on the comparison between a 70.3 and a 26.2.

I still wasn’t completely smoke free after my 70.3, I was still bumming cigarettes if I stepped out with one of my co workers who smoked .I still have some chantix left over, in case I ever get drunk and buy a pack and before heading into a downward spiral I get up next morning and pop in a chantix to kill any cravings I might have. My buddy and I have now signed up for IM Coeur d’alene and I have moved to Philly because of work.The winter is going to be brutal but I guess I have to suck it up, I am still looking for a group like fleet feet which has organized runs and has everyone training for a common race, that way everyone is consistent and you run with the same pace group every week and you get better as a group.

A lot of times I have wondered why haven’t I gotten faster if I’ve been running for 3 years? Well I did get a bit faster, but consistency is the key. You are not going to get significantly faster in a 5k if you are training for a marathon and putting in long slow runs and not doing tempo or intervals. They key to getting faster is to run faster which means track workouts and tempos! and I never did them. I did however learn to sustain a certain pace for longer distances as a result of the Sunday runs. After my marathon I haven’t really raced a 5k, so I do not know how much faster I am over the shorter distance. Also after my marathon in 2014 and my half ironman in 2015, I did not continue to run. I took a break and played soccer, lifted weights, traveled . As of now ( late 2015) I am not really lifting, I’m just focusing on my swim and plan to start running seriously in Feb. Till then I plan to bike indoors and just swim and lift occasionally. Also, I haven’t bought a pack in over 4 months now. I occasionally still do crave cigarettes and try not to give into to the urge.

Here are my race times in the past 3 years

My first 5k – 28:10 (April 2012)

My 10k – 50:30 ( Oct 2012)

First 13.1 – 2:01:29 ( March 2013)

My PR on a 5k – 22:42 (April 2013 )

My average 5k race time then : ~ 24 minutes and 30 seconds

Second half marathon – 1:54 ( March 2014)

Pitts Marathon – 4:00:34 ( May 2014)

Pitts Half marathon  – 1:45:01 ( May 2015)

Ironman Muncie 70.3 – 5:56 ( July 2015)
or you could just check my races out at athlinks 🙂
http://www.athlinks.com/athletes/238147739

So that has been my journey in terms of races and getting faster and/or running longer. It’s been an enjoyable journey so far, looking back I have no regrets of going to bed early on Sat nights so I could get up at 6 am on a sunday for my long runs. I never even thought in my wildest dreams that I could quit smoking or run a marathon or sign up for an Ironman. But I’ve realized that besides consistency in training, one of the most important things is to believe in yourself . I remember spending 6 weeks in the pool , 4 days a week and all I could swim was about 75 yards and was wondering how am I ever going to swim a mile. Well I never gave up and believed that I was going to do it, that lead me to be consistent with my training and before I realized it I was swimming ~2500 yards in the pool easy.

I still have not quit smoking, I might smoke or bum one from someone once in a month or if I come across a buddy who I used to smoke with. I hope to be able to resist the urge moving forward, as a back up I still have chantix with me. But from smoking a pack a day to smoking maybe 1 or 2 in a month is something I am proud of. I still do crave cigarettes occasionally, but the urges are not that bad where I need to go and buy a pack immediately. They wear off within 15-20 minutes. Hopefully by Aug 2016 I am completely smoke free and am ready for my Ironman.

At the end of it I would just like to say, take small steps at a time. Quitting smoking is hard, its not impossible. If need be talk to a doctor about options for quitting smoking. Had you asked me in early 2011, would I ever do a marathon I would have said a NO, had you asked me will I ever do an ironman? Even before I said a no, I would have failed to believe that normal people can do it. Had you asked me, would I be able to cut down smoking to a point where I would be fine if I did not smoke for a week? I would have laughed and lit up another cigarette. Your body and your mind are remarkable. Your body adapts sooner than you think and you need to believe that what you are aiming for is achievable. If other people have done it , so can you. It is possible to quit smoking and lead a healthy lifestyle and even participate in endurance sports even if you have been a smoker all your life and have been a couch potato for a while .

Failure is the stepping stone to success, if you fail in your first attempt to quit smoking, keep trying . If you could not run a 5k unbroken, be patient and keep trying. It’s only a matter of time before the persistent efforts pay of.

#chantix, #smoking

Advertisements

Bike 101

The bike is probably the most confusing investment a triathlete with a non cycling background can make. What kind of bike bike? Road bike or a tri bike? Carbon or Aluminium ? Why is that one more expensive that this one even though they look the same? What size fits me? Unfortunately I went through all that and spent months researching the bike and the components related to a bike , so I’ve decided to break it down which can hopefully help someone reading this make a decision and in general educate themselves about the anatomy of a bike

Road Bike vs Tri Bike

If you are just getting into triathlons, a lot of people suggest getting a road bike first and then seeing how you like the sport . If you enjoy it then go for a tri bike and they argue that handling a road bike is easier etc. In my opinion if you know you are going to complete a triathlon especially the longer distance ones ( 70.3 and 140.6), I would say just buy a tri bike even though it might be slightly expensive, rather than worrying about selling your road bike and then buying a tri bike. Also, if you are training for longer distances you are probably gonna be training most of the time indoors on a trainer ( more on that later).

Cost

At the end of the day, the difference between an entry level bike and a top end bike is the quality of components used. Yes, having carbon fibre components are light and expensive as fuck. For example carbon fibre wheels might cost you around $1600 per wheel.  Chances are that if you have a $1500 dollar bike and someone else has a $4000 dollar bike, the difference is primarily in lighter weight and better quality components and you two might have the exact same carbon frame. Items such as carbon cranks cost over $500. You can upgrade you bike slow and steady and find good deals on each individual components of the bike.  So if you are on a budget try and get an entry level carbon fibre bike ( below 2000) and then upgrade it slow and steady. Also if you get a 2-3 year old model, that’s fine, chances are the bike just had a new paint job and a newer components , and has the exact same frame.

Aero bars

if you for whatever reason decide to buy a road bike or own a road bike already and have now decided to get into triathlons, getting clip on aero bar is the best way to get aero  on your bike and shave of those precious seconds . If you have an entry level tri bike and are looking to upgrade your aero bars, it should be one of the last components you upgrade coz good aero bars start around 300 bucks and you can have better time savings by investing a lower amount in an aero helmet. Another place you could use that money is in a power meter, a power meter is THE training tool and helps you pace your self in longer races. An expensive bike or an entry level bike with a power meter, pick the one with the power meter!

Crankset

You can break down the crankset into 2 components :

1- The crank arm ( This is what the pedal is attached to )

2- Chain rings ( This is what the crank arm is attached to via a spider)

The crank-sets come in various sizes

53/39 ( standard)

52/38 ( standard)

52/36 ( Semi Compact)

50/34 ( Compact)

What the fuck are these numbers?

The first number (53,52,50) refers to the big chain ring in front. Its the number of teeth on the outer/big ring.

The second number ( 39,38,36) refers to the small chain ring on the inside.Its the number of the teeth on the inner/smaller ring.

Uh ok, so what do these numbers mean?

Well too put in bluntly, the bigger the ring the faster you can go.

So I should get a 53/39 instead of a 50/34 ? Why bother with a smaller crank?

True, but it also requires more effort 😀

So which one should I pick?

If you are on a budget, I would suggest going for a compact. If you had more money to spare I would buy a 52/36 and a 50/34. With the 52/36 you get the top speed of a standard crankset , and you have a smaller small chain ring in case you need it . I would not even worry about the 53/39 unless you are the HULK 🙂

Cog

These are the circular things at the back of your bike on which the chain runs. They are usually a 10spd or an 11 spd. And usually not all rear wheels are compatible with an 11 speed. Talk to your bike mechanic or look up details before purchasing an 11 speed cog as an upgrade to ensure your rear wheels is compatible

Cogs are denoted with a hyphen in between two numbers.

12-25 ( smallest cog/ring at the back has 12 teeth and the largest cog/ring at the back has 25 teeth ). But you must have noticed you have various cogs/rings in between. Those cogs/rings are in between the range of 12 and 25(13,14,15 etc) in this case.

Note : Over here the smaller cog/chain allows you to go faster, and the big cog/chain allows you to go up the hills and is a granny/easier gear.

Which one should I use ?

If you intend to ride or race in the flats a 12/25 is good with a 52/36 crank set.

If you intend to ride or race in this hills, a 11-28 or a 12-27 with a 52/36 or a 50/34 is a good choice. If you had to make a choice and spend money on only 1 cog and 1 crankset, I would suggest go with a 50/36 and a 11-28 at the back. If you are unfortunate to have a standard crank set up on your bike with a 12-25 cog and you are planning on racing IM wisconsin or something similar, you are SCREWED because of the hills. You will probably end up walking those hills and your legs are gonna be jelly by the time you are ready for the run. So never show up under geared on your bike, you WILL regret it. So in that situation I highly recommend “investing”  in a new crankset and/or new cog which allows you to get into relatively easier gears than if you were riding a standard crank(52/36 or a 53/39).

10 spd cog vs 11 speed cog ?

Its the number of cogs available to you ? 10 simply means 10 cogs, 11 means 11 cogs. The 11 cog means you have more cogs to chose from to fine tune your ride. But you need to keep in mind, not all wheels are 11 spd compatible.

Tires

The accepted nomenclature for tires is CC*mm ( 700 * 23CC, 700 * 25CC). Ypur road/tri bike is probably riding one of these, just check the tyre and you should see the size on it.

Which one should I pick? Latest research has shown that 25CC tires are faster for the same pressure compared to 23CC’s. So if you thought thinner was faster, you are wrong. It has to do with rolling resistance, go look up rolling resistance if you are really interested in knowing why.

So what are clinchers, tubular, tubeless?

               Clinchers – Is what most bikes come with. If you get a flat you remove the tire, then fix/replace the tube and put                   the tire back on.

               Tubular – This is when the tire is somehow sewn to the tube and then glued to your bikes wheel. Tubulars are                    more expensive, slightly faster and if you get a flat, it takes time to fix them since you have to glue a new tubular                   back again.

               Tubeless – This is interesting. You glue your tire to the rim and then fill the tire with a sealant. All minute tears                       and punctures are sealed immediately.  But if you were to somehow rip this  tire in a race ( very                                           unlikely) , its a big headache to put one back.

What would I recommend?

You probably got clinchers with your bike, its best to stick to them. If you do have spare cash,try going for a better quality clincher.

Front Derailleur 

This is the metal thing which help you change the gears on the front between the big chain ring and the small chain ring. There are plenty of options to chose from and then again the question is , is it worth the money? Should you invest in another part instead of this? Well, this is one of those things which will not really make you or your bike go faster , it only helps in better quality shifting and might be made of a better alloy so might be a few grams lighter, thats about where its benefits end. So unless you are really annoyed with the way your current gear shifting is upfront, its not worth spending money here unless you just have money with you and have no idea what to do with it.

Rear Derailleur 

Well, if there is a front for the big and small chain rings, there has to be something  in the back for the cogs. So the rear derailleur helps in shifting of the gear in the back (i.e. go up or down in the cog). Upgrading this component again does not really have any benefits in terms of direct speed. A better component might just provide better shifting and might be a few grams lighter.  But if you did have spare cash for whatever reason, and you had to pick between upgrading either the front or the rear derailleur , go for the front instead.

Tubes

Tubes are what go into your tires, its a similar concept to a car tube. You can get spare tubes for under 7-8 bucks. Tubes also have a size range. So if you googled bike tubes you would see them in a range of 22-28 CC, which means they are compatible with tires upto 28CC

Shcrader vs Presta

These are the valves which allow you to pump air in your tube.

Does it matter which one you have ? No, as long as you have a device which can inflate them in a race. I recommend a buying a Co2 infiltrator and a pump which is compatible with both the valves.

Trainers vs Rollers

The trainers allow you to mount your bike and then ride your bike without really moving. In trainers as well you have a wind, magnetic and a fluid trainer. The wind trainer makes a lot of noise, the flui trainer is expensive. The magnetic trainer is a good middle ground. I recommend looking up a deal and buying one online.

The rollers require you to balance yourself on rollers.

If you are gonna be training indoors , just get yourself the trainer. You can do crazy hard intervals on it and focus on speed and one leg drills rather than worrying about balance. If you know how to balance a bike, you know how to balance it. The rollers wont make a difference.

Miscellaneous :

These are items you will need but you can do without them for the time being if you don’t have a race sometime soon and plan to train indoors:

1-  Co2 Inflators – When you get a flat during a race, what do you do? You use a Co2 cartridge which attaches to an inflator which you then use to fill air. Generally for triathlons people carry 2-3 16gms co2 cartidges.

2- Allen Key/Tire level – Get an Allen key set to screw water bottle cages or other things to your bike. The tire level helps you get the clincher tire of the rim when you have a flat tube.

3-  Seat Caddy – During a race you need to carry your repair kit ( Co2 inflator, spare tubes, tire levers ). All these fit into a seat caddy or if need be you can stuff all this into an empty water bottle and mount it on the water bottle cage.

4 – Pump – If you are going to be riding outdoors on indoors, tires lose pressure pretty fast. Just buy the cheapest one you can find on ebay/amazon which has a scale on it . That way you are consistent every time and you know what you are putting in and don’t burst the tire.

5 – Power Meter – This is an expensive investment. I would recommend this only after you’ve done a few shorter races and have decided to compete longer distances and wanna train seriously. The power meter will be covered in a separate post .

6- Coach – This is similar to a power meter, a coach can’t help you unless you have a power meter. But i have a heart rate monitor, uh well it isn’t accurate and the most effective way to train. If you are gonna be hiring a coach, you are probably serious , if you are serious you need a power meter.

7- Helmet – If you have a triathlon signed up, wearing a helmet is mandatory, also if you plan to ride outdoors you should wear one for your own safety. But I would recommend not buying it from your bike store and see if you can find a deal online. Also, if you are training indoors and your race is a few months away , you can space out your investments. You can try and look up deals on aero helmets ( alien ones) online and look for deals, you should get one under 300. if you are not willing to spend that much, get a road helmet, they usually run from 50-150 bucks.

8 – Saddle – You sit on this a lot, if you think you could be more comfortable on a better saddle, go to a bike shop to try and sit on a few and see what fits you best.

9- Degreaser/oil – Its only a matter of time before  which you need to clean your bike. If you been riding outdoors you might have to buy it sooner, if you been riding indoors primarily, you could wait a few months before shelling out a few bucks on this. You need a degreaser and oil.  Watch this video by GCN on how to clean your bike.

10 – Water bottle/cage – you will need a water bottle cage for races, I recommend buying a cheap one from amazon. There is a lot of hype on carbon fiber and weight. To put it simply its not worth the money. If you are training indoors you can space this investment out and just keep a bottle next to you.

11 – Speed/Cadence sensor – This isn’t the best investment when it comes to training or pacing, but if you are on a budget and do not want to invest in a power meter, you can get a speed/cadence sensor. It’s a start and you can use the speed/cadence sensor to try and stay in the 80-90 RPM range . Its suggested that the higher cadence saves your legs for the run , so rather than pounding a big gear at 60 RPM, try going in an easier gear at 90 RPM. j]Just a note, speed isn’t the most accurate way to gauge your effort, a tail wind and a downhill , you could be touching over 40 miles per hour, on a hill you could be at 10 mph, The speed varies a lot depending on terrain and wind, hence the power meter is the way to go if you really wanna train seriously since the power you generate does not change based on the terrain and wind.

#aerobars, #cogs, #cranksets