New Toys

Fact: triathletes love gear.  I truly think that triathletes are the craziest breed of humans in existence (proof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KTEgLKhjIw&feature=related) and that craziness simply carries over into wanting to spend obscene amounts of money on the newest equipment and apparel that will be updated in five minutes anyway.  There aren’t many people who are willing to drop a grand on a wetsuit that is rumored to take 30 seconds off a 2.4-mile swim time, but a triathlete will do it without batting an eye.

It’s kind of unfortunate that I chose the most expensive sport to participate in, but lucky for me, I also work at a specialty triathlon store.  It happened (like most things in my life) pretty randomly.  One day in August, I stopped by a store in Deerfield called Running Away Multisport to get a part replaced on my bike.  You know how there are some stores where as soon as you walk in, your heart starts to beat a little faster, and you just want to buy everything you see?  That’s how Running Away was for me.  With the colorful wall of running shoes, the beautiful display of bikes, and all the cute workout clothes, it felt like the mecca of triathlon.  While I was checking out, the woman who was helping me made a comment about how great it was to work there, and I impulsively decided to ask if they were hiring.  It turns out they were looking for a new person to replace the girls who were going back to college.  I met with the manager, filled out an application, and was hired the next day.

I love telling this story just because it shows that you can get more than you ever bargained for simply by asking.  I’ve been working at Running Away Multisport (known to most of Chicago as RAM) part-time since August.  The job is great in that it allows me to meet a lot of interesting people and learn about all the different products that are out there.  Working at RAM doesn’t necessarily give me extra money to spend, especially considering that a large percentage of what I earn goes right back into the store.  But I figure that the job is able to support my participation in the sport, and that in itself is a pretty sweet deal.

Despite the fact that I spend my days convincing customers to buy all the latest gear, I still consider myself to be pretty low-maintenance in the same regard.  In fact, up until this week, I’ve been committing a major cycling faux pas in that I have not been wearing bike shorts.  To be clear, I have in fact been wearing shorts—just not the bike-specific ones that has a thing called a chamois liner, which provides padding in all the right places.  Let me explain myself: the suspension system that keeps my cycling leg on my body is a pair of custom shorts that Dave made for me.  My running leg is held on the same way, so I use the same pair of shots for both.  We’ve been meaning to put a chamois pad in the shorts for a while now, but just never got around to it.  But as I started to do longer, more frequent rides, I began to find that bearing the majority of my body weight on one of the body’s most sensitive areas without cushioning was not a very pleasant sensation.  During Computrainer a few weeks ago, I was complaining to Melissa about the state of my discomfort, and she immediately blocked out time this week for me to come into the office and get new shorts made.

King, one of my prosthetists at Scheck, spent the week working on a new pair of shorts with the chamois pad embedded inside.  (Sidebar: most people don’t realize it, but to be a prosthetist, you have to be a beast on the sewing machine.  I firmly believe that both Dave and King could be serious contenders on Project Runway.)  I was in and out of the office all week getting measurements, trying on new versions, and making sure that the shorts formed perfectly to my body.  On Saturday morning, I met my friend Diana in the city for a bike ride.  It was my first time putting the shorts to the test, and the padding definitely made a big difference.  It’s hard to believe that I had been torturing myself for all this time by not having any cushioning down there, but I guess when you don’t know what you’re missing, it’s not all that bad.  But now I can actually understand why people are able to just hang out on the saddle for 8 hours at a time.  There are still a few things that need to be altered on the shorts, but I can tell that they are going to make riding a whole lot more enjoyable.

In other news, this week I finally got myself a real sports watch.  For those of you that care, it’s the Garmin Forerunner 405; for all my normal friends, it’s basically a watch that has both GPS and heart rate capabilities, so I’m able to accurately keep track of my distance, pace, cadence, elevation, calories, and heart rate.  Owning a Garmin is kind of like a rite of passage into the triathlon world.  For the longest time I told myself that I didn’t actually need one, refusing to buy into the consumerist mentality that dominates this sport.  Until now, I’ve kind of just been going off of what “feels right,” but as I am starting to get my training more regimented, I’ve realized that a Garmin really is an essential.  So this week, I took the money I got for Christmas and finally made the big purchase.

I spent the better part of my Saturday afternoon reading through the manual and configuring everything on the watch.  There’s a lot that the watch can do, and it’s kind of overwhelming, but I was able to familiarize myself with it pretty well.  I took it with me on my run Sunday morning and was shocked by how much I loved it.  I’ve never really been someone who’s into gadgets (I had a hard enough time keeping my Tamagotchi alive for over a day), but after spending some quality time with this watch, I can understand why some people are so obsessed. I love quantifiable data, so it was kind of fun to know all of my stats as I was going.  My favorite feature is being able to create interval workouts that are based on the different heart rate zones, so I can ensure that I’m training in the zone that is most effective.  In the end, I’m happy with my investment, and know that it’s going to be a great training tool.

With both real cycling shorts and a Garmin watch now in my possession, I feel like I can call myself a real triathlete.  From this day forward, I will no longer have to physically count my heartbeats per minute in order to divert my attention from the discomfort on the saddle.  If that doesn’t say legit, I don’t know what does.

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