Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Double Brick

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are certain workouts on my schedule that I anxious about completing and prior to starting have no expectations of successfully achieving their expectations. I call these my “Michael, you’re crazy” workouts. Last night, one of those workouts was on my schedule. And, to top it off, according to it was 89 degrees at 6:45 p.m. when I started and the humidity was 90% [felt lik 116 degrees]. West Creek was a sauna.

Here was last nights’ plan – a double brick:

Brick: I want you to perform a pair of bike/run combos at zone 4 intensity [i.e. right below AT]. Run easy for 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes easy on the bike. Now, I want you to bike for 25 minutes followed by a 15 minute run - both in zone 4. Take 5 minutes rest and then repeat. Cool down by running for 5 minutes and cycling for 10 minutes easy. Recover through stretching and a recovery drink.

Before we started, I took 2 salt tablets to try and beat the heat (my attempt to be better at nutrition after last weekend). The first brick was hard but for the most part I felt good. I kept my Garmin displayed on cadence and HR to try and simulate race feel. Team Nature’s Path was also cycling around West Creek and I managed to hold them off during my first cycle segment. After a quick transition to my Newtons, I headed off on the run. I haven’t run in my Newtons for a while and each time I do I remember why I love them. They make my feet feel light and my turnover faster. At the mile mark, my watch read 9:38 and my HR was on target, but climbing quickly. I had to slow down momentarily to keep my HR in check and tried to focus on staying relaxed. Pretty soon my time was up and I was back at the car. Brick 1 done.

During my 5 minute rest, I changed the lenses in my sunglasses to clear since it was getting darker out, grabbed a big gulp of cold water, put 2 electrolyte strips in my mouth and changed back to my cycling shoes. The 5 minutes flew.

As I started back out to Brick #2, I was worried. I was certain I would lose speed this lap and my HR would be higher quickly. To my surprise, I struggled more to keep my HR up on the second bike brick than the first. The loop went quickly and the wind from being on the bike felt good against my hot sweaty self. Back at the car, I transitioned quickly back to my Newtons, grabbed my Garmin and set off. “Only 1 more run to go. Almost done.” The 15 minutes on the run felt good. I was relieved since I had such a terrible run last weekend and because it was my second run segment. Towards the end I felt like I could relax in my pace and my HR was staying constant in zone 4 where it was supposed to be.

Back at the car, I had a huge smile. I finished my “Michael, you’re crazy” workout. And, better yet, while I certainly breathed hard and sweated buckets, I felt pretty good doing it.
Post workout, I allowed myself to look at my splits - completely the reverse of what I expected. And, are these the splits from the same person who raced last Sunday?

Bike 1, 18.7 mph ave; Run 1, 9:45 mph ave
Bike 2, 18.3 mph ave; Run 2, 9:37 mph ave

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Tough Day on the Trails - Charlottesville Olympic Race Report

Yesterday, prompted by an invite by some C'Ville co-workers and encouraged by my coach as good practice for Timberman, I raced the Charlottesville Olympic. My personal goal for the Olympic was to practice my transitions (and the crazy shoe thing I hate), relax through my swim, and have a better run than White Lake. I managed the first two goals, but the third was a complete flop, much like my two face plants on the trails . . . more on that later.

We drove to C'Ville on Saturday afternoon and met my co-worker at the race site. Bart and I did our workouts for Saturday on site - a 30 minute bike and an easy 20 or so minute swim in Walton lake. As a result, I got to test the killer hill out of transition a couple of times and ease my fears about getting on my shoes while heading out of the park. After our swim, we loaded up into the car and headed out on the bike loop. In our car that isn't close to the ground and doesn't exactly corner like a race car, I was a little concerned about the hilliness of the course and curviness of the descents. Oh, well. Too late now.

On our way back to my colleague's house we detoured to the UVA aquatics center and watched his wife compete in the local championship "parent relay." Despite having not swum in a long time, she did awesome and her relay took 2nd. Her 3 kids were grinning ear to ear with pride.

Saturday night Bart and I did dinner on our own at Petit Pois on the Downtown Mall. Our dinner was fabulous, but although I was careful with my order, it must have contained something I can't eat (most likely culprit is a some non disclosed seafood other than the shrimp or some undisclosed flour). Post dinner my face was flushed and stomach that was far from happy. I downed 2 Benadryl to try and control things the best I could and went to sleep, hoping that my allergic reaction would be fairly contained.

Although I slept soundly thanks to the Benadryl, it was clear in the pre-race morning that my system still hadn't gotten rid of everything that bothered it. I ate my obligatory cup of white rice and banana and headed to the race course. My transition prep was interrupted by several more trips to the bathroom and I am sure I started the day on a close to empty, if not empty tank.

Swim - My goal for the swim was to stretch it out and try and find someone to draft, hopefully if possible one of my fast MW co-workers also in my age group. Unfortunately, she was too fast and I lost the lead pack quickly. Plus, my toes were a little crampy at the start. That eventually stopped at the first turn buoy, and I did settle in behind TG Coach Grandison and TG LMS to do a little drafting. I took it fairly easy through the swim, kept my breathing constant and steady and just stretched it out. Bart and I joked before the swim that he would pass me sometime in the water and he did. About 3/4 through the first lap I saw two white caps passing on my right. The second drafting swimmer had my hubby's distinct stroke, and I knew it was him. I think I laughed in the water and just kept swimming.

T1 - T1 was quick since I left my shoes on the bike. I mounted successfully and started up the first small hill. Still riding, I got 1 foot in. At the crest, however, I heard a rubbing noise on my bike. Thursday night when we rode, I had some brake rubbing issues and it sounded much the same. I didn't want to ride the whole course with my brake on, so I stopped my bike, put my other foot in my shoe and adjusted my front brake. Then I was off to face the big hill both feet in my shoes and ready to pull.

Bike - The bike was actually much better than I anticipated. On the bike, the course seemed less hilly and twisty than it did the night before. The worst hill was definitely the one out of the park. I struggled gaining my rhythm the first few miles, but then, on one climb about 4 miles in, I found it. The rest of the ride felt challenging, beautiful but comfortable. Definitely a ride that if I lived in Charlottesville, I would repeat for training. On the down side, my ave HRs were low in high zone 3 versus the mid to high zone 4 they were supposed to be, which means I didn't push myself hard enough on the bike. I also didn't do a good job of eating or drinking on the bike. It seemed we were either ascending or descending and I didn't have much time to fiddle with my bento box to find salt pills, eat a bar or drink much. As a result, my nutrition stunk, which added to my earlier stomach issues didn't bode well for the last leg. Total intake - probably 3/4 bottle of sports drink, 1 Gu and 1/5 a Cliff Nectar bar.

T2 - After successfully getting out of my shoes on the last flat and dismounting, I had a rather slow T2. Forgetting I had a big water bottle on the front, I tried to rack my bike by its handlebars versus the seat. After a few fumbles and a curse word, I finally turned it around and got it racked and plopped myself on the ground to get my shoes and socks on. I took my time a little bit in transition and headed off for the last leg with running belt in hand.

Run - As an after thought, I should have not used my fuel belt on this run because any less weight on these billy goat trails might have helped. I've did a few trail runs in training in order to practice for this but had never "raced" a trail. By this time in the race, I was hot, lacking in nutrition, and not feeling great. My legs felt awful and my HR immediately spiked as I labored up the first of many hills on the trail. I did get to meet and spend some time leap frogging with another EF teammate Brian who I learned is also doing Timberman. We both cautioned each other to watch our step and continued racing. I walked most of the uphills, but tried to keep plodding along. About mile 2, Brian was the first to trip. After making sure he was okay, I continued on the trail, reminding myself to watch 10 steps ahead. Towards the end of the top of the figure 8 on loop one, there was a big hill and then we headed down to the first aid station. They were out of water and I was hot, so I emptied my water bottle in my fuel belt on my head and headed back into the woods. The cool water felt good and I started to increase my cadence. I was running well then THUD! I tripped and did my first face plant of the day. My clothes, hands and knees were a little dirty, but I was more embarrassed than hurting at this point. I walked the next few minutes and then up the switch back hill and then started my run again right before the next aid station. Soon we were out of the woods. Thank heaven, I thought, only one more loop. As I ran by the finish line, my time was slow, my two C'ville colleagues were finished and I knew I needed to pick up the pace on the second loop. The start of the second loop seemed a little better. I took a GU at the aid station and headed back into the woods. I was cautious where I stepped and it seemed a little easier knowing it was the last loop. My chills, however, I get when I'm lacking in salt appeared some in the second loop. Towards the end before exiting to the aid station again, I hit a straight level stretch and I picked up my pace and started to feel good for the first time in the run. That must have been my curse. THUD! Down again I went, and this time it hurt. What spots of my body missed the dirt last time, caught it this time. My elbows were bloody and my left knee throbbed. All I could think was I hope I didn't hurt myself on this stupid trail before Timberman. I sat on the side of the trail for a minute collecting myself and even thought about quitting and walking back to the parking lot. By this time though, I only had about a mile or mile 1/4 left and I knew I could at least walk it. I remembered TG KO's awful feeling after a DNF and seeing strong pros walk their runs after bonking and decided I wouldn't quit. I walked a bunch and jogged a little bit to the opening by the aid station. The volunteer helped me wash off my hands with water (they had refilled by this point) and I headed back to the woods. I did run some of the second part of the figure 8 and was really happy to see the open clearing near the point when the trail heads back out to the road. With the finish line in sight, I wanted to finish as soon as possible, kicked it into high gear and tried my best to finish strong. My run/walk/fall time was terrible.

My race pictures ought to be lovely. Post race, I was covered in dirt from head to toe and required a dunk in the lake to get cleaned off and an ice pack to my already swelling left knee.

The day after, I think everything is still working. I'm definitely bruised and scraped up, but I think I'll be fine to return to training tomorrow with an easy run and swim and get back on track for Timberman. Lessons learned - pay more attention to my nutrition (and HRs) on the bike and eat at home the night before a race.

The good news - next year I won't have to do this race. Instead, I will hopefully be on my way to being an Ironman in Lake Placid.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blue Ridge Part 2

I am definitely not the King of the Mountains. However, after my second Blue Ridge ride yesterday, I certainly have a greater appreciation for the agonized faces of the Tour riders as they grimace up the long climbs in the Pyrenees.

Our ride Saturday was 50 miles on the Blue Ridge. My stomach Saturday morning wasn't cooperating at all from the start. Apparently something I ate Friday wasn't gluten free or I had the touch of the stomach bug and, I couldn't stomach anything (or keep anything in) but a half a banana pre-ride and was feeling nauseated through most of the first 20 miles. But, I had come to ride the BR so. . . a little upset stomach wasn't going to hold me back; it just didn't give me the greatest legs for my day's challenge.

About 20 of us (TGs, hubbys and Maramarc boys) started off at MP 23. Our route was 10 miles down, yes predominantly down to Reed's Gap, our starting point for the last ride, 10 miles back to our starting point, then 15 miles down (again mostly down) to milepost 38 and back up to the start. With my stomach feeling gross, my goals for the ride were 1) to finish, 2) feel comfortable riding McQueen in the mountains and 3) learn how to conquer my fears of the descents.

I did finish; felt fairly comfortable on McQueen although realized that my flat time trial gearing isn't ideal for the mountains and did improve from the last time on my descents. My Garmin recorded a speedy 38 mph. The hills seemed longer and a few a bit steeper than the last trip. And, as with the last time, each time we rode down, down, and down all I could think about was how in the world was I going to make it up, up, up. There were two particularly "memorable" climbs of the day - the first, a winding 3-4 mile long steady and seemingly never ending climb up from MP 38 and the second, the last big climb of the day, probably only a quarter mile, but straight up in the sun, when my legs screamed with every pedal stroke.

As I rolled into our starting/finish point I was exhausted and doubt I could have gone a mile further. At the same time, I'm pretty sure I was smiling and glad I had finished this rewarding and challenging ride.

Post ride, we headed back to our Wintergreen house for the weekend, cooked a bunch a burgers and dogs, celebrated our accomplishments with some Mai Tais and had a great time hanging out with my fellow team mates.

Although I still can't fathom how I am going to be able to ride the mountains of Placid for 112 miles next July, I know these hills are making me stronger. And hopefully, after many more returns to the BR, I'll be ready.

Pics to follow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A fun week of workouts

With about six weeks left of workouts before Timberman, I tried to reengerize my workouts some this week by adding some group workouts and new adventures. Monday night and Wednesday night marked my return to the Masters routine. Monday's workout was tough and included 3 500s on 2 minute or faster pace. Wednesday night also included some longer swim sets (400s) but much to our disappointment (yeah right!) it thundered and our practice was cut short at 1700 meters. I missed Masters most of May and June so it was fun to be back in the pool with friends and push myself hard in the swim.

Tuesday night I skipped out of work on the early side and headed to West Creek to meet up with the TGs and another surprise workout with Blake. I technically had a threshold brick scheduled for the night so I promised Michael to work hard and keep my HR at threshold for the ride. Given the prior Tuesday's workout, I didn't anticipate this would be a problem. And, it wasn't. Blake's directions weren't entirely clear (at least that's my story) so Karen, Shawn and I got some extra hills and mileage on Genito road. Our focus for the night was to push the down hills in a big gear as an added bonus, work on strength by riding in our hardest gear from the intersection of Manakin and Miller's lane back to the West Creek parking lot. My ride in all was much stronger than the previous week and I surprised myself by being able to make it up all the hills on the return in my big gear. Close to 30 miles averaging over 17 mph. Not a bad ride for a Tuesday. The run afterwards, like most bricks after a hard ride, sucked. I couldn't get close to the pace I've been getting on the track and 10 minute miles for 3 1/2 miles felt awful. My "not fun" run was far outweighed by the company of the group, catching up in the parking lot post ride and a great ride.

My new endeavor for the week was a trail run. In preparation for Charlottesville Oly and to appease my running coach Brenda to run less on the road, I hit the trails off Riverside Drive with TG40 and Fave on Thursday morning. Trails in general are tough and these in Forest Hill Park were no different. Spider webs, switch backs and humidity made them even more special. I hate to admit it, but spider webs and all, I had a great time. I even convinced them to give it a go next week too.

Today's a rest day -- tomorrow marks our return to the Blue Ridge. Can't wait.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Taking the Plunge

Last night Bart and I took the plunge, and booked round trip tickets to Lake Placid to volunteer at Ironman USA 2008 so that Monday, July 21st we can sign up for Ironman USA 2009.

I'm still nervous about the hills and tackling this challenging race as my first Ironman, but its time to stop waivering and doubting and just dive right in.