Category Archives: Cycling

Why Being A Lazy Athlete Is Awesome


Dionysus – An Early Lazy Athlete

Michael Jordan said that part of being a professional athlete is doing what you love, even when you don’t love doing it. So why not live up to the converse – being an amateur athlete is about doing what you love, only when you love doing it!  I love to run, bike, swim, climb, and surf, but I don’t like training. Training feels like work, but sports for me are for fun and fitness. Once you set goals for your sports, it becomes like a job, complete with the guilt that goes along with feeling like you’re not working hard enough. I think most athletes I know who compete have this sort of goal-oriented mindset – they want to hit a particular time, or qualify for a major race, or place in their age group. The language of fitness and competition is filled with words about fulfilling your goals, losing X amount of weight, or completing a given distance.


Apollo – Clearly Another Lazy Athlete

All of that is fabulous if these are the things that motivate you.. But I’d like to propose an alternative way of approaching sports – that of the Lazy Athlete. A Lazy Athlete is one who doesn’t care about times, competition, training, metrics (other than for curiosity), or goals, but does sports purely for the fun of it. Naturally, this rules you out of some of the longer races like marathons, half-Ironmans, and the like, but the up side is that you don’t really have to train! I participate in a host of events each year, from half-marathons to cycling events to olympic and sprint triathlons, but have never really trained in the sense of having a schedule and goals. I try to maintain a good mix of running, cycling, and swimming, and try not to have too many consecutive days of not exercising. If I have a longer-distance run coming up, I’ll throw in a couple of 10-12 mile runs, but other than that I won’t think much more about it. I listen to my body – if I don’t feel like doing a long run, I don’t do it.

Does this limit me from competing at my potential? Absolutely! But so much is gained in exchange – total freedom from guilt, complete relaxation on race-day, and most importantly, the feeling like I could maintain this routine for many decades. For me, exercise is like brushing your teeth – it’s mandatory, and something you need to get used to doing every single day…for your entire life. Lazy Athletes have sublime patience, because we have many years to compete in the events we want. Instead of having a particular time goal, my objective is to participate in races in interesting and beautiful places around the world. The fitness industry seems to be particularly geared to setting goals, but there is a real freedom when you get rid of goals and just do stuff for the hell of it.

I have deep admiration for professional athletes and dedicated amateurs who devote countless lonely hours of hard work to their sport. But for those who think this is the only way you can compete in races, I say be Lazy! Sure you won’t win your age group, but think about all you get in return!

    Whidbey Island Triathlon

    This was my second triathlon, and was a hell of a lot harder than the first! The Whidbey swim is the normal .5 miles, but the bike course is longer at 19.5 miles and has a couple of decent hills. They say it’s a really beautiful route as well, but I didn’t really notice as most of the race I was in more of a survival-oriented mindset and just didn’t look around nearly as much as I should have.

    Setting up the logistics of a triathlon can take a bit of planning. Here, because the first and second transition areas were in different locations that were several miles apart, we needed to plan out how to register, set up all the gear, get the car where we wanted it, and get ourselves to the start line. That involved registering in one place, driving to another, riding our bikes to the transition area with our swim gear, walking back to the car, driving to the parking area, walking to the run transition area, walking back to the car to get changed, and then walking to the shuttle pick-up to catch the bus to the start line. Well, despite being there 2.5 hours early, we barely made it on time to the start!

    The swim went well, though not quite as well as the Seafair tri. I didn’t wear a wetsuit and am wondering if that somehow slowed me down a bit. Perhaps the buoyancy of the suit gets more of you out of the water, reducing drag enough to overcome the added resistance from the neoprene. I’ve actually come to enjoy the chaos of the swim start – it can get a bit rough, the water can be choppy, your goggles fog up, and you need to deal with navigating while all the time pushing hard to maintain your pace – but each time after leaving the water, I’ve been pretty discombobulated. Like last time, I was a bit dizzy from all the jostling around and needed to make the mental shift to bike riding. It’s actually kind of hard, and each time I’ve worried about falling right off my bike as soon as I start riding.

    I left the transition area doing pretty well, but then all hell broke loose… At Seafair, I got passed like crazy on the bike, often by those fancy and expensive tri bikes (naturally, if I could afford it, I’d have one too) and I was determined not to have that happen again. No sooner did I start going down the first hill than one of those very bikes zipped by me with that irksome whir that sounds like a jet engine compared to my little VW bug. At the bottom of the hill was a T-intersection. I followed the rocket bike as closely as I could down the hill and cornered aggressively around the turn. Well, as soon as I started that my back tire skidded out. Fortunately, I didn’t totally wipe-out but I did manage to ride right off the road, over a ditch, and into some bushes.

    I don’t remember much at that point, being still dazed from the swim and my off-road excursion, but I do remember some people clapping and congratulating me on not falling over! I grabbed the bike and started walking back to the road, when I noticed a hissing sound coming from the back tire. Sure enough, I had gotten a flat. That very morning we’d had a discussion about whether to bring the spare or not. On a sprint triathlon, I figured if I ever got a flat it wouldn’t be worth trying to fix and I’d just sit out the rest of the race. Well, for some reason in spite of this I brought the spare. A volunteer bike mechanic who’d strategically stationed himself right at that intersection came over to help. I’m not sure who he was, but he had a big beard and drove a pickup with his dog in the front seat. He saved my race. He got the new tire on way faster than I would have been able to and I was back in the saddle before I knew it.

    I think this was post-wipeout…

    I still struggled on the bike leg – I went through all my water and started to feel dehydrated, which didn’t help matters either. One of the quaint ironies about triathlon is that they write your age in big black letters on your calf, meaning you can see just how much older the guy whipping by you on the bike really is! On the one hand, it’s neat seeing the wide (and really pretty random) distribution of ages in the results, but on the other hand it can be humbling to see really fantastic athletes in their 40s, 50s, and older shoot by.

    The run leg went OK and I made up some of the ground I’d lost on the bike, and I sprinted into the finish where thankfully they had plenty of liquids to get me re-hydrated on that hot day. I learned a number of things from that race that I’m sure are obvious to more seasoned racers but that were pretty revelatory for me:

    Ever wonder what a cross between Henry Rollins and the Incredible Hulk would look like? Hmmmm…the angrier Brav gets, the faster Brav runs!

    1. If you’re eating gels and power bars before the start, these can actually dehydrate you a bit. So I think it’s best to drink water on the bike instead of a sports drink. I actually installed a second bottle holder for the bike – I’d happily pay the price of a less aerodynamic profile for having plenty of liquids to keep me hydrated. I’ll be taking one sports drink and one plain water in the future.

    2. Take the corners conservatively! I have no desire to be a professional, or even to win my age category, so there’s absolutely no sense in pushing the envelope on the bike and risking an injury that could knock out weeks of training and screw up the rest of my season (not to mention climbing, diving, and all the other stuff I love doing). It’s just not worth it.

    3. I need to take time after the swim to get my riding game on. I think my transition time is fine, so I probably can devote a couple extra seconds to calming down, catching my breath, regaining my equilibrium, and coming out of the transition in a less frantic way. That’s hard when you’re pumped up from the swim and chasing every second.

    4. I need to be a bit more careful about what I do the last few nights before a race. I’d had a few drinks the night before (including absinthe, if you can believe it, which one of the local pubs started carrying….mmmmm, not a great idea before a race) when I shouldn’t have had any alcohol, and I didn’t get enough sleep (catching the 5:20 AM ferry didn’t help). Before Seafair, I’d gotten tons of sleep, hadn’t consumed any alcohol for a night or two before, and felt like I had a better race.

    5. I’m getting killed on the hills. I took the bike to the shop this week and put on a different cassette with a higher range of gears. Before doing this, when other athletes would talk about “spinning” up a hill, I’d more describe it as VO2-maxing up, since I’d literally gotten my heart rate right up to max trying to mash out my lowest gear. Of course, the biggest issue for me on the bike is training time. I spend probably about twice as much time swimming and running as biking. Not surprisingly, my biking is about half as good as my swimming and running!

    My race buddy Rutilio sporting a Utili-kilt. Rutilio had a great race! And no, the ambulance in the background was not for me.

    Ultimately, my philosophy with triathlon is pretty casual – I don’t have a training program (it’s no more specific than trying to swim twice a week, ride once, and run twice) and often I’ll substitute a training session for a mountaineering trip. I don’t want to start taking my training so seriously that it starts to get in the way of other stuff I love doing, so I pay a price in terms of race day performance. Maybe next year I’ll do a more disciplined 8 week training plan before an olympic distance race…

    Anyway, the Beaver Lake tri is coming up next week, and I might add one more and maybe a few 10Ks or half-marathons before the season is over. I never thought I’d like racing so much – I’m not sure why it is, but the energy you get from racing and the sense of accomplishment after pushing yourself hard is pretty satisfying.

      The Chilly Hilly 2011

      The Chilly Hilly is a Bainbridge Island bike race (and long-standing tradition) sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club.  It’s a 33 mile course that essentially circumnavigates the island.  This year lived up to the name – the temperature never topped 40F.  Although not particularly long, within those 33 miles are 2,675 feet of elevation gain.  By way of comparison, the entire 200 Seattle-to-Portland ride is only some 300 feet more.  My normal cycling route consists of about half the course, including Peterson Hill – one of the steepest inclines on the island.  But to my surprise, that hill was just the first in a series of hills on the route, and it wasn’t even the steepest or longest.

      The Chilly Hilly 2011 was also my first cycling event – I only first bought a bike maybe six months ago.  I had originally planned to stop a few places along the way to drink cider or buy some baked goods, but since the weather was so cold that day, I just pushed on through.

      Here’s an important lesson – don’t go over about one and a half hours of cycling without eating anything.  My normal route, almost exactly 1.5 hours, is fine without eating, but beyond that my energy rapidly degrades.  Although I never had to get off and walk up any of the hills, it really was a struggle getting up each one of those after the 2 hour mark (I finished the course in 2:34).  I also got pretty chilled, which I think is also a result of not eating enough – the same thing used to happen to me during long training runs.  I think it was a problem with fuel rather than a problem with strength since I wasn’t particularly sore the next few days.  

      The race is really a happening – cyclists literally fill three or four ferries that morning to Bainbridge Island and you can see everything from expensive carbon-fiber triathlon bicycles to mountain bikes to rusty commuting bikes with baskets (there was even a unicycle).  It also takes you through some absolutely beautiful scenery.