I look back at my triathlon experience of ten years ago with great admiration. All the pain, every cheer, every milestone and every race brought a perspective to life that I would never have thought I would experience as a kid who hated PE class. But, it didn’t last.
The Great February Illness
In February 2012, I got sick. I was at my prime and the lowest weight of my adult life, under 200 pounds. As it turned out triathlon had become an addiction. The months leading up my sickness, I was desperate for a PR and was trying to keep up with the more “professional” athletes. My body said “no more races.”
And so, began a steady and slow return to life as an obese adult. The weight came back on over a few years. I still managed to ride the bike and get some runs in, but I was not seriously training on a regular basis, nor was I working with a trainer.
The Workaholic is Back!
In late 2013, the workaholic returned. I joined a local company as a sales analytics and operations guru and this role turned out to be far from a 9 to 5 role. The CEO had an extra special personality and required some baby-sitting, as did the Sales VP. I remember the day I walked into the office and said “F*ck it!” to self care and working out. It was simply too hard to protect your lunch for a nice ride. It was difficult to ride in the evenings as you got stuck on deliverables and winter brought darkness at 4:30pm. With an occasional ride on the weekend, my attempts to stick with an intensive workout schedule went out the door. That was a mistake.
Seattle or Bust
I moved to the greater Seattle area. I had family in the area and needed a reset. But after 17 years of life in Santa Barbara, CA, moving anywhere else was rough, especially a place with at least 5-months of rain and no sun. I have to say, Washington state is a gorgeous place to live. I see why everyone wants to live up there. But with all of these people, traffic, cost of living, and jobs became more and more of an issue. Seattle’s I5 is a freeway that going one mile can easily take 30+minutes, on a good day. Riding the bike was a rare event here, as was hiking and even going for a walk after work. The best moment is that I did finish the Skagit Spring Classic. The 27 mile ride through some exquisite, but soggy country side was proof I still had it in me. Of course, I didn’t walk for a few days after that. But as time went on, my remote job drove me into isolation and my diet started seriously south in terms providing nutrients over junk. After two years, I had to make a change and save my life. The miserable me left rather quickly for Boulder County, Colorado.
The Gorgeous Front Range
Boulder County, Colorado is a gorgeous place. It is also in the Front Range of the eastern slope of Rocky Mountains. Boulder is where Mork and Mindy (Wikipedia) lived. Boulder is also where very serious cyclists can be seen cycling in a blizzard, further proof you can do anything when you are prepared! What drew me to the area is not only the beauty, but the cycling culture. Boulder County has hundreds of miles of recreational paths. From the apartment I was living in Louisville, I could access that network from my door.
So why didn’t I ride? Yes, after two years of Colorado living, I only managed to get a handful of rides in, the longest of which was about 10-miles. As it turns out, my head was bigger than my muscles. That 10-mile ride did me in. My legs screamed, “give us a break”, while my head said, “let’s go 100!” Now, keep in mind, Denver is the mile high city and I was living at 5,360 ft above sea level. I was not used to the altitude. I was also not used to the extreme dry air and the pounding sun. Dehydration is too easy. I was living in one of the most gorgeous areas of Colorado and found myself stuck in my 400 sq ft community garden plot rather than on the bike.
Then came January 2019 and my health went south very quickly. I returned from a friend’s visit in Santa Fe, New Mexico over the holidays to Louisville and became very sick with severe cough, fever, stomach issues, lack of energy, tight chest, inability to focus, and extreme pain in my left calf. After a week of not getting better, I went to urgent care. Well, they were quick to diagnose it as bronchitis and sent me home with an inhaler and some antibiotics. I got better, better then I didn’t. The chest tightness wouldn’t go away and neither would the cough. Life as a coughing zombie was the new normal, which was tragic as I just started my dream job in analytics. After a second visit to the urgent care, I was diagnosed with asthma, given more inhalers, more allergy meds, and a word of caution to get out of town after an allergy test. The doctor suggested there might be something in my apartment trying to kill me, including my cat.
Allergy Meets GERD
After following the treatment for a few weeks, I got better. I was learning about asthma and its triggers and inspecting my apartment for what might be killing me. What I kept finding was a fine grey dust all over the place, almost like lint when you wiped it up. Then spring came and I turned off the heater. Then I started to get much better. The tightness in the chest and the cough subsided. Long story short, the allergy test revealed a severe allergy to ragweed and dust mites. I was also diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea and GERD (severe acid reflux). The first key to understanding what happened became the allergy to dust mites as the sleep test revealed a large amount of dust in the air and the air quality really started coming in to question. The second became my own eating habits with too much coffee, too much refined food, and just too much food. At this point, I had had enough of Colorado and decided to head for lower altitude and better air.
I ended up in San Antonio, Texas where I am typing this today. Not the prettiest city, but it does have a lot to offer. The cyclist isn’t the best, nor are the “bike routes”. But the people, the food, the accessibility, and the cost of living are easy to handle.
I have eliminated coffee and sugars for the last seven days and am feeling really good. My energy is coming back and my stomach feels more like it should. I am also monitoring the amount of food I eat in one sitting and am learning when to stop.
What’s the Point?
So, what’s the point of all of this? I wrote a really, really long blog post about my significant detour from the wonderful life of triathlon. If you’ve read this far, I congratulate you. For me, the point of all of this is to make sense of the last few years as I come to another fork in the road along my journey of life. It makes me realize that I never gave up. I may have digressed, I may have had some bad times, I may have been living in an apartment trying to kill me, but I persisted through it all. I didn’t let the negativity win. The voices in my head certainly challenged my resolve many times, but at least I pushed through it. I realize a change in attitude and a return to regular training is in order. Where it goes from there, we’ll see. Stay tuned and see where Aric ends up.