Triathon & Running vs. Cycling

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Yesterday someone left a comment about me doing a local triathlon in Manhattan Kansas. It got me thinking about why I didn’t pursue the sport more. I most likely would have made a ton more money, but the fact is that it didn’t interest me much.

What is there to look forward to in a triathlon? First, you swim, which I pretty much really dislike. Especially training for swimming back and forth in a pool. Then you do a time trial on a bike, which is the segment of cycling I dislike the most. And finally you run. I don’t necessarily dislike running, I just would rather be out riding where you cover 3 X’s as much terrain in the same time period.

Plus, the time consumed training. I really couldn’t have the swim and run training cut into my cycling time, it just wouldn’t be right. So, there you have it.

I have run a few races. I probably could have been an okay runner, but probably not great. During my semester at KU, I was “training” for the annual Turkey Trot running race between KU and the Haskell Indian College, which is in Lawrence too. It was snowy, so I was running in the indoor gym. The ROTC guys were doing a timed mile in their army boots and fatigues. I didn’t have a watch and asked the guy if he could time me too. He said no problem and I got into line to wait my turn.

I don’t exactly remember how many laps it was to complete a mile. I’m thinking 7 + a little extra. Anyway, I remember thinking after 3 laps, “Wow, I’m nearly half way done, this is so short.” So I just sprinted the last half. When I got done, I asked the timer guy what my time was and he was nearly crazy. He said I ran 4:16. He was so excited. I’d timed myself before running outdoors and could run pretty easily in the 4:30’s, so it didn’t seem all that great to me. I tried much harder this time.

Anyway, he took my phone number and told me he was going to talk to the KU track coach about me. The track coach called me the next day and I went over to see him. He was pretty into the whole thing, but I told him that I was a bicycle racer and that I was going out to the Olympic Training Center to live and race bikes. That was that.

I’ve done a few other running races too. A couple 10k races, a couple 5 k. If only my win percentage in cycling could come anywhere near my win percentage in running.

I did a half marathon once too. The Topeka to Auburn Race. I was out to dinner with a bunch of friends and it was snowy and we weren’t going to be able to ride on the roads the next day, so Catherine Walberg and I decided to run the 1/2 Marathon cold turkey. We hadn’t run a step the whole year.

It started pretty fast. Eventually I was only running with this guy Dave Halferty, the best runner I know of around Eastern Kansas. He ran around a 2:20 marathon and I my memory if correct, 1:05 for the half. I think he ran for KU. Anyway, about 3/4 the way through, it gets hilly, on gravel. Dave was “attacking me” on the hills, whatever that means, but it wasn’t a problem for me. Cyclists can run so well uphill, it’s the downhill that gets us. About 3 miles from the end, after he went hard up a hill I was beyond confident, thinking I was going to smear him at the end.

About 30 seconds later I was taking 12 inch strides. Trudi was following me on her MTB bike and kept saying, stride out, or something like that. I told her I was. It was like my legs were in molasses. I looked behind me and could see no one. But, pretty soon, a guy from behind came running by like I was standing still, which I was. He ran a few hundred meters in front on me, then went over to the snowy ditch and pulled down his shorts and pooped. I ran by him while he was having his issue. But, probably a minute later he came by, again, like I was standing still. I finished 3rd, but got beat by a guy that took a shit while racing.

I think I lost something like 4 minutes in the last 2 1/2 miles, I don’t remember exactly. I’ve never experienced anything like it since, where you don’t cramp, but just tighten up so much you can move your legs much or very fast. I had to walk backwards off curbs for a week I was so sore. After the race, Catherine told me her feet hurt and when she took off her shoes, her socks were completely soaked in blood. I have no idea how she finished, I cry like a baby when I get a small blister.

Anyway, I like the sport of cycling. I think it is the monotony of both running and swimming that dulls my interest. Cycling is never monotonous. Even the same training ride I’ve done for years never seems dull. I guess there is a reason that people pick their sports, or maybe the sport picks them, I don’t know.

Here is the photo from the Topeka paper of me finishing the Topeka Tinman Triathlon. It might be my 2nd worst sports photo ever, the first being the pictures from the Master’s Cross Worlds in Louisville last year with my helmet falling off the back of my head.

16 thoughts on “Triathon & Running vs. Cycling

  1. Just a KC guy

    Can’t stop laughing.

    And yeah, nice picture. I thought that was Gerry Lindgren for a second.

  2. tilford97 Post author

    Yeah-Bad photo. The story behind the picture is that I hadn’t registered for the race until the day before. The individual slots were full, so I had to start 5 minutes back with the teams.

    The day was super hot, 90 degrees when I rode my bike over to the start a 6 am.

    When I got off my bike, I grabbed my shirt with the number pinned on and put it on. But, it was way too hot. So I took it off and ran with it in my hand. It was so heavy from I had to switch it back and forth between arms.

    I had a bunch of friends on the course timing me and they told me I had over a minute lead with under a mile to go, so I was good.

    Coming to the finish about 500 meters out, I was just starting to put my shirt on when Trudi yelled to me that I only had 20 seconds to finish. I completely freaked out and sprinted the last few hundred meters full out.

    I did one of those triathalon things where I fell on the ground and couldn’t move. The medical guys came over and started doing their thing. I told them just to give me a minute and I would be alright. It was so embarrassing.

    Turns out the guy telling Trudi times was off by a minute.

    Anyway, the reporter from the paper called and asked me what I was wearing, because the photographer took photos of all the leaders finishing. I told him that I was the guy with his shirt just dangling from his neck, looking pretty stressed.

    And that was the picture. Great.

  3. VCScribe

    “If God had meant for man to run, he would have given him four legs like a horse. If God had meant for man to swim, he would have given him fins like a fish. God meant for man to ride, so He gave him the bicycle.”

    –Eddy Merckx

  4. Austin

    Great stories.

    I was a swimmer for 14 years before I started racing bikes. I also ran and cycled a bit, but it honestly never occurred to me to race triathlons. I just don’t think I’ve ever been impressed by triathletes as athletes in the pool or elsewhere.

    I have a pretty similar running story though. I’m a pretty mischievous person and in high school I would occasionally do something to get kicked out of swim practice for a day. One day my coach wouldn’t let me train because I had gotten in trouble for something, so I left and went to the cross country team’s practice. The most I had run a month at this point was probably 10 miles, so I wasn’t a trained runner at all.

    The cross country coach let me practice with his runners, and decided to make us run a hill that day. He set up a 1k loop with a pretty gradual pavement hill and told us to run the hill and 1k loop hard for the next 1/2 hour. I came over the hill by myself and spent the next 30 minutes lapping his entire team two or three times.

    Afterwards he said he was really impressed and said he’d be happy to put me on the team and allow me to just run the meets and not come to practice.

    But I think this is the point where I started to get really interested in bike racing, so I never really had motivation to do anything but ride

  5. Jeff Unruh

    That guy that dropped the kids off in the ditch was just lighter than you, that’s why he passed you for second. Your triathlon photo looks like the puffy shirt from Sienfeld! Good stuff.

  6. Wildcat

    I used to run, but my knees got so bad I couldn’t take it anymore. It worked out to make the transition into speed skating. I loved speed skating and competed for a few years, but the travel got to be too much. One of my coaches was a cyclist. He said he had an old Trek 1200 I could borrow and encouraged me to do a few group rides. It was black with not-quite-neon green lettering. Actually ended up doing a whole season of yard work for him to own the bike. I wish I still had it. Anyway, of course, I fell in love and never looked back.

  7. tilford97 Post author

    Ryan- I had done the fore mentioned Taxi triathlon in Manhattan and did the whole thing in a Speedo suit. I decided that it would be better to swim and run in cycling bibs, that ride in a bathing suit. Seems logical still now.

  8. Paul

    Are you certain that isn’t a photo of you as you were about to miss the bus to the airport in Santo Domingo or something?

  9. Ben

    So….. what was your time in the half marathon?

    I am nowhere near the athlete, I am a high 1:20’s half marathoner. That is ok for someone in their 40’s….. I think.

    I love the bike, but my back doesn’t. Running took less time but just this year, I began having knee issues.

  10. Chris Gruver

    Hilarious. The day you posted the picture of your helmet in wrong position was a cold one here in the NW. I put on my hat under my helmet so I thought. When I finished my ride an hour and a half later, I reached up to unbuckle and there was no strap. I had done the whole ride thinking I had a helmet on as usual. I had to seriously question my mind in that moment…

  11. tilford97 Post author

    Ben- I think my time was around 1:17, but I nearly walked the last 3 miles. Dave was a much better runner than me for 13.1 miles. I gave him a run for his money in one 5 km on New Year’s Eve.

  12. catherine

    Steve, you forgot to add that we rode 45 miles to Perry the next day in 16 degree weather because the thought of doing anything physical other than riding our bikes was a complete impossibility. I still remember we had to walk downstairs backwards holding the rails for a week.and also couldn’t pedal our bikes after that for quite a while.

  13. Redzing

    I once ran a 5k in 18:00 or so after coming off a successful season bike racing as a junior. I hadn’t run at all and did the race in boxers. Shin splint city!!


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