How did I get here?

I’m a runner. I completed my first marathon last year. I was doing 20+ km every week on long run Sunday. I completed a very successful training campaign for the Calgary half-marathon in late May. I ran an aggressive 1:57 half marathon and added a quick 5km in 27:58 on the same day (fun add-on with the event)…and a 2nd medal. Challenge achieved for new personal bests in both distances. I was flying high and thinking about my next goal. Should I train for a marathon this year? What’s next?

It’s been a busy spring/summer for me. I turned 50 in April. I dedicated myself to my other hobby, golf, this year! I’m dedicated to lowering my handicap, golfing 2 times a week and practicing as much as I can. I bought new golf clubs in April. They arrived in mid-June. I immediately hit the range and found myself mired deeply with the shanks with the new clubs. It’s the worst thing to happen to a golfer. The only way to work thru it was to go to the range the next day and the next day and the next day. I hit the range every day for a full week and finally emerged happy with my new irons.

I don’t know when my big right toe started to hurt, but I reached a point where I realized I needed rest and professional care. I remember feeling “something around mid-June and then by late-June I knew I couldn’t continue running. I also stopped any range work as golf is “tough” on your push off foot.

I believe training hard and meeting my time goals for the Calgary half + 5km combined with the intensity of the range after getting my new clubs led to an inflammation and/or tear of a tendon on my right toe.

I know what you’re saying “But Dennis, I already read your injury post, I know all about this!!” You can read it all in my injury blog post.

My Recovery

I basically had to stop running. It was getting more painful each run and I knew something was wrong. I went to my physiotherapist who thought it was likely a tendon issue, but recommended an x-ray to make sure nothing was broken. My doctor sent me for an x-ray, and…no breaks, so that’s good news!

I also cut out any extra golf range time and stuck with two tee times a week only. My golf game has suffered. Golfing with no practice while I’m working thru some swing improvements has been hard. My toe injury has impacted my swing. I likely picked up a bad habit on the downswing trying to protect my toe that I’ll need to resolve.

I started cross training. I have a mini-home gym in the basement with: a treadmill, rower, elliptical and a recumbent bike. I minimized my walking to 1 walk at noon a day. Otherwise, I was rowing, on the elliptical or biking. This also meant that I was stuck in my basement a lot. I sure missed running and walking outdoors.

I attend physio monthly to care for my back/neck. So now I’ve added management of my big toe. So I’ve had some extra physio appointments. It’s been going well. I’m finally on the mend and I’m on a return to run plan. I finally started running again last week, but it’s a really slow plan.

I need to progress thru each level. Each level has progressively more running. Each level has to be done 3 times with a day of rest in between. So essentially, each level is a week. Luckily, I skipped Week 1 and Week 2.

  • Week 3: (Run 2 mins : Walk 30 secs) x 8 – Complete (20 minutes)
  • Week 4: (Run 3 mins : Walk 1 min) x 8 – In progress (32 minutes)
  • Week 5: (Run 4 mins : Walk 1 min) x 8 – 40 minutes
  • Week 6: (Run 5 mins : Walk 1 min) x 6 – 36 minutes
  • Week 7: (Run 10 mins : Walk 1 min) x 3 – 33 minutes
  • Week 8: (Run 15 mins : Walk 1 min) x 2 – 32 minutes
  • Week 9: Run 20 mins
  • Week 10: Run 25 minutes
  • Week 11: Run 30 minutes

That’s basically 3 months to get up to running 30 minutes consecutively. It feels like forever for someone that was running 4-5 hours a week. But I’m happy to be outside and I’m happy to be running.

PTO Canadian Open Triathlon in Edmonton

Me and Big Blue at the PTO Canadian Open

But Dennis “when are you getting to the punchline? How did you get here? That’s the title of your blog!” I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

I work for Alberta Blue Cross and the company does a lot of fun and great things in the community. I always seem to be busy when a volunteer opportunity comes up. But I always said that if the right event came at the right time I would love to volunteer….and it happened!

I saw a call out from our street team to come out and support the PTO Canadian Open Triathlon in Edmonton. This was a big event with large sums of money given to some of the top triathletes competing.

I arrived just in time to see a co-worker cross the finish line. I knew Don was training for an ironman because we chatted about marathons in the past. It was super cool seeing him at the finish line and cheering him on. I also bumped into our CFO at the event and she competes in triathlons as well. Cool!

I had an awesome time. I hung out with the ABC street team. I walked around with Big Blue for a shift and I handed out more cowbells to the crowd than I could count. I emptied 2 full shopping bags of them to the fans in the grandstands.

I also made the YouTube coverage of the Men’s event from Sunday. Just as the leader of the race comes around the corner, he veers over to the crowd on the right. And we’re there to give him high-5s! Look at 5:19 of the coverage. Look Mom! I’m on YouTube!!!

PTO Canadian Open Men’s race – highlights

Can I complete a triathlon?

By running a marathon, I accomplished a goal that I didn’t think was possible. I thought I was going to be a full-time runner for the rest of my life. I had no intention of adding another summer hobby. Between running and golf, I don’t have much extra time in the summer. But I’m always looking for a hobby for the winter. Some virtual golf is fun, but only 1 time a week. And there is only so much running I can do on a treadmill in the basement.

My injury has me thinking. I’ve enjoyed my time on the recumbent bike. I used to bike every where as a kid. I grew up in a small city. You could bike anywhere! I bought a nice road bike 20 years ago, but it wasn’t the right time.

I also grew up as a teenager at the local YMCA. I took a ton of swimming lessons. I never reached my lifeguard class, but I think I was close. I still have fun in a pool with the various swim strokes I learned: modified front stroke (keeping head out of the water), back stroke, breast stroke, side stroke and the frog. Yes, I learned the frog stroke in swimming class and thru google I just found out it’s actually called the elementary back stroke. I learned something new today! And, of course, I did a lot of treading water.

I’d guess I made it to Star 4 at the YMCA. That’s likely the level below moving into lifeguard training levels. I mean, I was a great swimmer. But that’s 35 years ago!

So I started chatting with my co-worker about triathlons a little. The biggest barrier for me would be investing in a road bike.

I’m a terrible window shopper

One thing that I really enjoy is internet research. The internet is a wealth of knowledge if you know how to use a search engine. There are a ton of articles and videos on triathlons, road bikes and reviews.

So I started looking at road bike reviews and guesstimating how much I might need to spend to get an entry level road bike that I could use for training, that wouldn’t break the bank, and I wouldn’t immediately out grow.

I have a tendency to jump all in on something. And with this injury, I knew that I was missing more intense training. If I buy a bike, I’m jumping in.

During my research, I discovered a couple of things:

  • A competitive road bike is expensive, starting at $5K and up. I really wasn’t willing to spend that much on a whim. I mean expensive is relative. To me, spending $5K or more on a bike was expensive, but $3K seemed reasonable. And there are a lot of great bikes in that price range.
  • There are a lot of bike components to worry about and the better the components the more expensive the bike. It breaks down easy though: buy the best bike with the best components that you can find in your price range.
  • Bike supplies are short…really short. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to start up a new sport. There was just a competitive triathlon in town AND there is a huge bike race this weekend, the Edmonton version of the Tour de France. So combined with supply issues, I didn’t find many bikes that would even fit me.

So after a week of research, and trying a couple of bikes, I bought my ride! I jumped all in. I picked up the bike on a Friday. I pretty much stayed in the shop all day as they built the bike for me so that I could see it and test ride it. The bike is beautiful.

Cube Attain SL

And I had to buy a lot of supplies with it: helmet, riding gloves, riding shorts, a bell, water holders and bottles, pedals, shoes, etc. I invested in myself and my excitement in this new direction.

First thoughts

First bike ride

I love riding! Immediately, I had the bike out for a 27km ride on the first night. I was pumped. I loved being outside. I loved going fast. The bike was awesome! My fitness level from running translates well into biking. I put two long rides together that first weekend. I was in heaven. I found a new sport! Exciting!

I need to build up my ability to handle long rides on a road bike. My butt was definitely sore after the first ride!!! But that will slowly happen as long as I don’t push myself too hard, too fast.


At this point, with a solid background of running and on the way with a phenomenal road bike, swimming is my weakness. Luckily, I live in a community with a private lake that is actually used for triathlon training and events.

So, I searched my basement high and wide to find all of my old swimming gear. I have a full set of SCUBA gear somewhere including: masks, snorkels, fins, water shoes, and most importantly a wet suit since the lake is freezing. I think the wet suit will provide me with a little bit of buoyancy as well. I also have some googles hanging around somewhere.

An endless search through boxes for an hour and I finally found what I was searching for….in the last box, hidden in the corner.

So I headed to the lake with my wetsuit and googles to try my first swim. My expectations were way too high. I struggled right away to perform a proper front stroke with my head in the water. I’ve spend too many years with a front stroke with my head out of the water. I was gasping for breath after a few strokes. I may have ingested more water than air on my first trip to the lake.

The highlight of my first swim was overhearing a kid say to her mom – “Look mom, a SCUBA diver” as I walked into the water in my wet suit. Haha!

According to my Apple watch, I managed 100M in front stroke, 100M in breast stroke and 2m of mixed which could only be described as “not sinking”. Looking back, that’s actually not bad. A pool lap is 25M, so that’s 4 laps of front stroke and 4 laps of breast stroke in 14 mins without drowning!

Swimming will be the biggest barrier of entry for me. Even though it’s the smallest part of a triathlon, it’s the hardest to train. Living with a lake this close will help in the summer, but in the winter, I’ll have to hit the swimming lanes in a pool.

I’ve booked myself a swim assessment at The Meadows rec center with a coach next week to determine my current skill level, goals and next steps. From there, I’ll look at a class or some private lessons to improve my swimming. Baby steps!


The week after I bought my bike, COVID hit our family. I’m happy to report that my wife and I are healthy. My wife picked up COVID. I’ve been fortunate enough to be COVID-free, but at this point, I might as well have it.

We’ve been isolating from each other for the last week in hopes of keeping COVID out of my system. I’ve been isolating myself from pretty much everything just in case. I don’t want to expose anyone. Quite honestly, I expected to test positive in the first few days. I’ve been out to pick up some groceries for us with a mask on. And I had to pick up my Jeep which happened to be in for service when my wife was exposed.

Otherwise, I’m isolating. And all I have is my work outs. I’ve been avoiding golf and range sessions just in case. I’m not doing any shopping or errands. It’s been tough.

But I’m super grateful to be back running outdoors, even if it’s baby steps. And I’ve been biking 3-4 times a week. I considered biking to the dealership to pick up my Jeep since I didn’t want to risk calling a shuttle. Thankfully, the driver was willing to pick me up as long as I was wearing a mask.

During this isolation time, my ability to work out in different ways has saved me. My heart goes out to any family who has had to suffer with COVID and the isolation. It’s brutal being stuck in the house, and not only having to isolate from the outside world, but isolate from your spouse. It’s been really hard. But we’ve managed and we’re going to be OK!

My first “brick”

This week started my YouTube search for triathlon coverage. So I started to pick up on some of the terminology. And my triathlon buddy said “Oh, you did your first brick!”

According to a brick is:

  • “…when you run off the bike, your legs feel like bricks!”
  • “The workout helps lay the bricks of a good triathlon foundation.”
  • “It’s an acronym for bike-run-in-combination.”
  • It’s also a term that Dr. Matt Brick coined when writing about his bike-run and run-bike sessions while training.”

Essentially a brick is a session where you train 2 out of 3 of the triathlon in succession. This helps prepare your body and mind for the experience of biking, running and swimming on the same day in a triathlon. Also, while you are training 3 sports in a week, there has to be some overlap, either on the same day separated by time or in succession.

So, I trained my first brick session on Sunday with a 30.76km bike ride followed by a 6.25km modified run. I call it a modified run since I’m still on my return to run plan. Honestly, I probably pushed things a little too hard on my toe since Sunday was supposed to be a day off from running. But I’m bored out of my mind and needed that feeling of a long run Sunday effort.

The toe is fine. And I loved biking and running on the same day. It was a very strange feeling coming off of the bike and into a run. My calves and hamstrings were tight when I first started. Then I started to feel some tightness in my shins and quads. It took about 10 minutes and then my body relaxed into my running form.

I loved training both bike and running on the same day. At this point, I need to make sure I listen to my body and slowly build up my distance in both the bike and running. I’ve leveled up to 25-30km bike rides very fast. My fitness level is there but I need my body and muscles to catchup. Slowly, saddle butt pain is lessening. I’m also on my return to running plan, so I cannot jump into long distances in running yet.

Wrap up

My turn around spot in Nisku about 12.5 km away from my house

I’m not officially a triathlete yet. I haven’t competed in an event nor have I signed up for or committed to an event. I need to confirm that I’m up for the swim portion. But I believe it’s only a matter of time as I look at swimming for a winter hobby.

There is still some time to swim a little in the lake, but I’ve been a little gun shy since my first adventure. I want to look into where I stand with a swim assessment before I move on too fast. I also have some training aids on order that should help: a pull buoy and a kickboard. This will allow me to build up my swimming muscles and practice breathing without the fear of sinking!

But I did it my first brick and I loved it! That’s 2 out of 3 disciplines. The question remains “Will I love swimming?”. Only time will tell.

And will I love the extra training required for 3 disciplines instead of just running. Training for a marathon was super tough. I was on the road 5 days a week training and I spend a lot of time on recovery. Training for a triathlon is harder.

I’ve seen recommendations that you train all 3 disciplines 3 times a week. That’s 9 workouts with only 7 days in a week. That means at least 3 days a week with double training if you plan for one rest day a week. And likely 2 hard days of training a week compared to a single long run Sunday. I’ll need to add a long bike ride day. Phew, that’s a lot of training.

But I think I’m up for it if my mind and body will cooperate. It would be easy to put pressure on myself and over think things. For now, I’m trying to enjoy the journey that I’m on. Enjoy learning new things. Enjoy training new sports. Enjoy feeling new muscles that I didn’t know existed. Enjoy getting more fit than ever…again!

3 Responses

  1. You are amazing Dennis. I know you will succeed in your goals as you are one determined individual! 💪 mentally and physically

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