The sound of zipping up your wetsuit early in the morning.
The small ripples you make in the water when you get in. The splashes other people make when they get in.
They squeal and make high-pitched noises, but you have done this so many times before in much colder conditions, you just sink into it quietly and don’t make much noise. Warm up slowly, get the blood moving gradually.
The even steady rhythm of hands entering the water, good catch at the front, full stroke all the way through, relaxed hand and high elbow recovers to the front.
There is a tiny drip-drop sound that droplets of water make as they drip off your hand when it recovers back to the front and then you smoothly, purposefully place your hand back in the water.
Your legs don’t make much noise when you kick steadily and smoothly. It’s more like a percussive beat in the background.
The sound of your breathing, quick strong inhale, slow steady exhale.
Your ears might be covered by your swim cap(s) and you are cut off from the rest of the world.
Consistent breathing every 3 strokes, sometimes every 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 strokes. At the very beginning and at the very end, maybe every 2 strokes.
Your heart beating in your ears. The hands, legs, breathing, heart all fall into synch with each other.
How is it that people get bored when they are swimming? How is it that they say they don’t have enough to occupy their minds and ears? As cool a gadget as it seems, I can’t imagine wanting to get the Finis SwiMP3 player, myself. There is more than enough for me to listen to. Maybe when I start swimming more than 5k I’ll think differently…
Cycling shoes clicking into pedals. When you can do it without looking down, when you know the feel of the shoes and the pedals and you’ve done it 100 times before and all you need to do is listen for the right sort of click sound. (There is a wrong sort of click sound that sounds like the right sort of click, but isn’t exactly the same.)
The sound of fully inflated tires against smooth pavement. Whizzzzzzz along early in the morning, going off to meet some friends for a long ride, or maybe just head off on your own.
The clean, well-oiled chain as it zips around the rear cassette up towards the front chainring and back around through the rear derailleur. Smooth and nearly silent. When the morning is quiet enough and the streets are empty enough, you can hear it.
The clacking-buzzing sound of the freewheel, when you stop pedaling and the back wheel keeps spinning and it makes that sound of freewheeling.
The steadier, slower rhythm of pedaling uphill. Move the bike, not the body, keep driving down and all the way around on the pedals. Steady, maybe slightly uneven rhythms. But it’s your rhythm, and when you feel good, you own that rhythm.
Up out of the seat and harder on the pedals, picking up the pace on the hills and pushing a little faster.
The sound of your breathing getting heavier on the hills. Most of the time you don’t notice the sound of your breathing, not like you do when swimming or running. But, on the hills you notice.
You don’t need to look at your heart rate monitor to know how hard you’re pushing, how much longer you can hold it like that. When you’ve done it 100 times before, you just know. And sometimes you push harder, sometimes you hold something back for later. It’s your rhythm, your choice.
When you go really fast downhill and stop pedaling, you probably can’t hear it any more. The wind is rushing through your ears, your helmet, your clothing so fast that all you hear is fast-moving air.
You take a drink on the downhill and re-fuel for whatever comes next. The sound of a bottle that is almost empty, liquid sloshing around audibly. Needs to be switched with another bottle you brought or one you’ll get at an aid station.
Brakes touching the rims. Slowing down slowly, steadily or abruptly. Metal rims sound different than carbon rims.
You can hear when your brake pads are getting too worn out, feel when the cables need a little tightening.
You can hear when your wheels aren’t true and the spokes need tightening.
You can hear when the brakes aren’t in perfect alignment.
You can hear when the derailleur needs a little adjustment.
You can hear when cars are approaching from behind.
You can hear around corners, sometimes, approaching cars from the sides or up ahead.
Not always, but sometimes you can hear another cyclist come up behind you.
Those guys with the disk wheel on the back, you can hear them coming a mile away. It’s like a noise Darth Vader would make if he were riding a bike, like some hellish, basso profundo, voof-voof-voof sound that is coming to get you and you are helpless to escape.
Who on earth would want to listen to music on a bicycle? There is so much to listen to, to listen out for.
Well, maybe on the turbo trainer. Yes, I will admit to making playlists and listening to music when stationary. But, never when I’m out on the road.
Pulling on compression socks, for a longer run, strapping on a heart rate monitor or a GPS to tell you how far, how fast, how hard. Small sounds, maybe the occasional electronic beep to tell you something is activated or there’s an error message.
I can understand people wanting to listen to music while running. Most people seem to run because they feel they HAVE to run – maybe it’s the cheapest, easiest way they can think of to lose weight or stay in shape. But, if you LOVE running, then it’s different. There’s plenty to listen to without music in your ears.
The sound of your feet hitting the ground. You can tell a lot from the sound your feet make, if you listen out for it. Pronation, supination, heel strike, fore-foot strike, strong ankles, wobbly ankles, short stride, long stride.
The surface you run on makes a big difference, too. The relative flat sound of running on streets, up and down sidewalks. The gravelly sound of running on paths. The crinkling, crunching sound of leaves and twigs and grass on a trail.
Your breathing is much more pronounced when running. Your heart rate will probably be more elevated than in the other two sections.
You can hear it more in your ears, feel it more in your whole body, your breathing, your heart pounding. It’s more like it was on the swim, but now the sounds from all around you are part of it, too.
Early in the morning, you can tell the changing of the seasons, predict the weather for the rest of the day by listening to the birds around you, even in the densest most crowded cities.
Need to listen out for cars, too. Hybrid cars have the unfortunate distinction of being the toughest to hear coming, so you need to be specially careful about them.
There’s always music playing in my head. Not full songs, but usually my favorite bits that I keep playing over and over again.
The bass intro to “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, up until “Very superstitious writing’s on the wall.”
The intro to “Back To Life” by Soul II Soul, up to “Back to life, back to reality.”
The chorus of “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon, as well as the line “Hot as a fever, rattling bones.”
Who knows what will play in my head next time. Something I heard on the radio this morning, something I heard 25 years ago at Danceteria (“A E A E I O U U, and sometimes Y-ii”? oh, no!), something my daughter played over and over again last week (“promise I made, promise I made, started to fade, started to fade”? hmm, okay…). I know I can’t sing worth a damn. But it always sounds great in my head.