running track

Last year was not a good one for me. I had the worst racing season I have ever had since I first started in multi-sport in 1983. In fact, I ended up doing just one of the half-dozen or so races that I had planned for that year, the sprint duathlon at Special Olympics of New Jersey “One More Tri” festival, in Asbury Park, New York, in September.

It’s a great set of events of events put on by SONJ and being in Asbury Park has a special meaning for me. Had an event that occurred there in 1907 not indeed happened, I would not be writing this column. For that is where and when my paternal grandparents met for the first time.

But then, after my almost totally-lost season was over, something much worse happened. After a four-year illness, my wife, Chezna, passed away on Oct. 25. We had been together since 1999 and married since 2010. She was a great lady and we had many wonderful times together, including at some races.

When you lose someone after a long illness that has a known outcome (as hers did), it is certainly not the shock that sudden death brings. But the emptiness is there. When she was gone, it really did hit me that she would never be going to a race with me again. Much more importantly, the love we shared, and all the things we so enjoyed doing together — from spending time with our children and grandchildren to going to the theater to traveling far and wide — were now in the past. How does one overcome that?

In the aftermath, my life really slowed down. My writing on multi-sport, and on politics (which I do regularly) slowed way down. One also has to take time to deal with all the mechanical details involved when a loved one passes. And of course, as I said above, even when death has been expected, it is still quite a downer for one’s feelings. So, along with everything else, my training slowed down and became irregular, too.

Since I started out in racing, my custom has always been to take off two weeks or so at the end of the season, but then get back into a light, but regular, winter training program. This past fall, that didn’t happen.

The two weeks stretched out to four, and when I did start training again, it was very sporadically. That lasted through the rest of 2018 and into this January.

But then, finally, I began to look at a schedule for this upcoming season, and I realized I really had to get back to it. At the end of January, I started back in on my regular 13-week program on which I cycle through the season.

And guess what? After a couple of weeks of sticking to it, doing my minutes (for the 36 years I have been doing multisport races, my workouts have always been counted in minutes, not miles), and adding some stretching and a bit of weight training, I started coming out of it. I started moving from post-death-of-my-life-partner to pre-the-rest-of-my-life.

But then, a) the spring weather in the northeast was cold and wet and not conducive to riding the bike. And b) it turned out that I had a whole-body allergic syndrome to — my late wife’s cat, whom I had brought home with me. It took about seven months before, with the help of my internist, I realized what was going on. I eventually had to take a pass on the whole season.

BUT—I have kept on exercising. Not race-training, but exercising regularly, mainly on my indoor bike and doing power-walking out-of-doors. And, even without racing on the schedule for this year, doing so has helped to put me back in control of my life in a major way.

It has helped me to look forward again, rather than back. And it has brought home to me how important regular exercise is for me, physically and mentally, and has been for so many years. And I am hoping to be able to get back out there racing — on the local (New York area) duathlon circuit — next year.

When you hit a major crisis in your life — and we all do sooner or later — think about how regular exercise, and racing for those of us who race, can help us get through it, in a very healthy way.

This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book is available at Amazon.comand Barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon and BarnesandNoble.

 His first book on multisport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog, March 15, 2019, and is used with permission.

 2019 marks Dr. Steve Jonas’ 37thseason of multisport racing. He began the season with a total of 255 dus and tris. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90s for duathlon. He has raced up to the Ironman distance, but now at 82, he is sticking to the sprints in both duathlon and triathlon.

Steve is a prolific author of books on multi-sport racing. His first (originally published in 1986) is still in print. In 2012, he published a book exclusively devoted to duathlon: Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides). All his books on multisport are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also long-time writer for various multisport periodicals, including the USA Triathlon blog. He happily joined Du It For You in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Flickr