Triathlete Update – “The Goo”

14 Jun

We’re following Club W Triathlon Training Program participant P.J. Roth as he trains for his first triathlon. Here’s what’s on his mind:

I get it now.

It’s not actually the training that discourages people from becoming triathletes.  It’s not even the financial investment in equipment and clothes that neophytes must bear if they want to become a “player” in the Asheville Tri scene.

No, it’s what one advertiser refers to as “energy food option” — what I will politely refer to as the “goo” — that keeps people from getting involved with triathlons.

That nutrition should factor into comparative performance isn’t exactly a news flash.  I have even thought so far ahead as to wonder what I should eat prior to the event on the big day.  But the only thing I know about sports nutrition, however, is that football players love not to drink Gatorade, but instead to dump the greenish liquid over the head of their coach when they win a bowl game as if to say, “thank goodness, we don’t have to drink this radiator fluid today.”

So it was with some interest that I attended the “nutrition” class in our Tri Club training.  Jeff, our trainer, was something more than matter-of-fact as he discussed the merits of goo and its ilk.  In actuality, he waxed enthusiastic over the mocha-flavored version of goo.  I myself was initially impressed with the packaging:  a cheerfully-colored foil packet containing a “shot” of “gel.”

The apparent beauty of goo is that all you have to do — and I’m guessing here since Jeff didn’t mention the technical aspects of ingesting goo — is pull one packet out of your pocket, rip it open with your teeth and squeeze, thereby facilitating the flow of a room temperature gelatinous substance into your mouth while pedaling away on your bike. Think warm jello which has yet to firm up here.  The combination of electolytes and sugars found in the stuff then powers your body on for more minutes than it might otherwise be inclined to do.

After tasting the raspberry version first — maybe that was my fatal mistake — I quickly decided goo was out. 

“And if you don’t care for shots,” Jeff thankfully went on to point out, “then you can try these” by which he meant mounds of some other type of nutritional nightmare called “blocks.”  The color of unoxygenated blood, “blocks” have a passing resemblance to my favorite movie candy: “Dots” but Dots on steroids.  I waited patiently and optimistically for the plate with the samples to make their way around the table to me.  Surely these had to be more agreeable to my refined palate than goo.

But all things are relative of course and here was no exception.  The “block” was less repulsive except that biting into one was like scraping off a huge chunk of the plastic-tasting chocolate used to form the eight-inch high easter bunnies.  Whoa, I thought, I’m only carving this off half of one of these mounds.  What would it be like to be pumping away on my bike, short on oxygen, and suddenly shove a golf ball in my mouth?  Can one actually fill one’s mouth with plastic and still breathe?

Will there come a point in the race where, feeling tired and despairing as to whether my holy quest will fail, I succumb to the cheerfully-colored packet?  Picture that quintessential moment in the movies; the music starts quietly but increases in volume:  dah dah dah dah day dah dah, dah, dah, yes, the theme song from “Rocky”!  Suddenly I’m wearing vintage gray sweatpants and a black knit cap, I’m running up stairs made of energy food option blocks, up, up, up, all the way to the top . . . and when I get there, I’m going to smile and, from the green and red and yellow remnants stuck between my teeth, the world will see that a box of Dots, rather than goo, helped get me there!

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