Now you’ve got my attention…

I came over to Afghanistan with a million questions, but one thing for certain – training for an Ironman, or any triathlon for that matter, would be impossible.  There are only 5-6 pools in Kabul, and the only two indoor pools for winter training cost $30/day to use and for most people are off-limits for security reasons.  There’s no chance of running outside, and that puts biking (basically running with $3,000 worth of equipment under you) even lower on the list of possibilities prior to hell freezing over. All that, and of course we’re here to work – this place is notorious for slipping an 80-hour work week past you without even blinking.

But then I got to thinking (and getting fatter by the minute) – I’ve at least got to keep up my fitness…as I mentioned in the interview with Tri for Time, bearded is fine, but bearded and fat is simply not an option.  So I implemented my typical “working out while traveling routine”.  But the problem with that is that it gets BORING without an objective.  It also gets crazy repetitive, and it’s hard to convince myself to put up with the boring repetition without doing it for anything.  Body image and boredom locked in an epic battle atop my motivation, and I found myself riding a yo-yo of desire to continue.

But then something hit me – if I can figure out this pool thing, I might just be able to train for triathlon here.  I’m not sure for what distance, but if I could get a pool in the picture, hey – maybe, just maybe, I could work it out.

But the battle for a pool hasn’t been so easy, and I still haven’t figured it out.  But my far-from-dead motivation towards triathlon kicked in as this newfound hope threw it a life raft … granted, it’s still stranded with no land on the horizon, but there’s hope now.

Then I started looking around the house – I knew I had a treadmill and a spin bike.  My hatred of spin bikes, however, had kept me to the treadmill only up until now.  But my tri motivation brought me to look closer today – take a look.

Well I’ll be damned if that’s not a spin bike with adjustable aerobars!  I couldn’t help myself, and wouldn’t you know, that same distant hope of tri training in Afghanistan got me on the thing within 5 minutes for a pretty intense 75-minute spin…and it felt awesome.  Granted, I really dislike the trainer and have an even greater disdain for spin bikes on general principle, but if that’s all I’ve got I may just have to make it work.  The bike even held my attention – these aero bars are so big that I can actually fit a book on the upward slope at the end of them…a perfect spot for Chris McCormack’s I’m Here to Win (awesome book, by the way).  First time I’ve read on the bike, and maybe something that can help me pass the hours semi-productively if I were to take this on.

But really, would it be possible to train for an entire Ironman, for example, on the SAME spin bike, in the SAME place, locked in the SAME room for what will have to be at least a few HUNDRED hours?  And is it worth it?  What would life be like if I took nature out of Ironman training?

My hope for tri training now has a new battle – would I really have the mental toughness to pull something like this off?  And even if I trained my butt off, would I actually be able to do it well – the way I really want to do it?  How will the treadmill and the bike translate to the road?  So I turned today to the Beginner Triathlete forums – here’s what I got back.  Great motivation, and some really good tips and thoughts.  At least these comments have proven that it CAN be done, and that training on a spin bike for so long, if done well enough, will actually be enough to support me once I get on a real bike on race day.

So then I started to looking into swimming alternatives.  I can extend a few layovers in Dubai and use R&R for swimming, but that’s only every few months.  We’re looking at only a few real swims every few months.  There are guys, though, who have done this.  As the BT folks said, NBC did a story on two Navy guys who overcame this same thing by using exercise equipment, focusing on core training and doing movement imitation exercise with only a few sporadic real swims.

Well, all of this has certainly captured my attention.  I have quite a few more logistic questions to evaluate, and I need a rather serious self-check on mental toughness, desire, and sacrifice.  Who knows, maybe Ironman training is possible in Afghanistan, after all.  But can I do it?  That will, no doubt, remain a nagging question for the next few weeks.


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