Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crabtree Part 2

Friday night, Bart, Tyler, Lulu and I headed up to Wintergreen after work to grab some good zzzs in the mountain air and ride Crabtree and the Blue Ridge on Saturday. We rented the same mountain house we rented several times last summer. I just love it. From the moment we arrive, my body relaxes and I just feel "at home." We cooked up a big GF pasta dinner, took Lulu for an evening walk, and mixed up all of our liquids for the next day.

Bart and I originally had 120 miles on our schedule, but 120 miles in the mountains is just not doable from my perspective. So, instead, we decided to avenge the Crabtree loop and then add miles on the end of the ride on the Blue Ridge until we reached about 6 hours ride time. I actually was looking forward to the ride. My first time up Crabtree was such a shock and on tired legs and I was sure it was going to be MUCH easier the second time.

We woke to cloudy skies, predicted thunderstorms and windy conditions. Our seat to saddle time was pushed back later than we had planned, partially due to my sleepy eyes in the morning and partially due to our stupidity of leaving our bike helmets and shoes inside the front door rather than with us in the car when we arrived to start our ride at Reed's Gap. So after another trip up and down the resort, we finally started at 9 am.

Bart and Tyler planned to circle back a few times on the ride to make sure I was alive. Bart stuck with me as I cautiously descended Reed's Gap for the second time ever, this time in the wind. After we hit the resort, I gave him the go ahead to bomb down the rest of the way and I worked on my own descending skills. I rode my road bike this time, and there is no doubt about the fact that it definitely handles much better than my time trial bike.

At the Ski Barn, we were off on our loop and soon arrived at the first killer climb of the day. As I still worked super hard to climb the first hill (which has segments of 8% grade), I realized my ride was still going to be tough day in the saddle. I caught up with Bart and Tyler at the church right before the turn on Jonsboro where Tyler was fixing a flat. The next section, pre-Crabtree went pretty well, not super speedy, but I kept a good pace and just kept it steady through this relatively flat section. Right before the climb started Bart and I met up and exchanged water bottles (my road bike only carries 2) so I was ready to go. The first part of Crabtree is doable. It has some tough sections but also relief to give you hope. And then the fun begins. By the time you reach the sign that says that the store is in 5 miles, those miles click off VERY slowly. My legs were clearly not much better this go round and this time, my heart rate was sky rocketing and I was drenched with sweat. I kept reminding myself that I had ridden this before and that I could clearly do it again, but I wasn't so convincing. I stopped a time or two to catch my breath and each time I did so, my body just shook from the effort. And, I still didn't make it to the store without a short walk of my bike. I had really hoped to not walk a step this time, but I reached a point where it was walk or fall over. I chose walk.

Bart had a much better climbing day and he circled back a few times to check on me before we hit the store. At the store, I was spent. This climb for me is just not fun or enjoyable. Its tough on me mentally and physically and I just feel like it zaps whatever good training vibes I may bring into the day.

We refilled our liquids, ate a banana and some juice and headed back up to the Blue Ridge. Right away after leaving the store, you hit a short really steep section. I grinded my way up and refused to let myself stop during this stretch no matter how tough it got. Soon, I was at the BR and this time, there was no walking. At least a small achievement.

The BR was again like seeing mecca. It still is tough, but the climbs are more gradual. I think I'm getting more used to the descents as well. Once on the BR, there are a few uphills, including DB's favorite uphill in the sun, but a lot of downhill en route to Reed's Gap. This stretch went by fairly quickly and soon loop 1 was done. At the car, Tyler met up with us and then headed back to the house via Wintergreen mountain. After some serious debate, Bart and I headed back out onto the Blue Ridge. It was already getting late in the day and I was tired and wasn't having fun on my ride. But, I knew I'd feel guilty for not riding more so we set off. We climbed from Reed's Gap back towards 0 until we hit the part where you descend for miles. At that point, the winds had picked up and storm clouds lingered very close by threatening to let loose at any moment. We decided to turn around and head back and call it a day. Bart went ahead. . . he had one last piece of business for the day. Wintergreen Mountain.

I am not that brave yet, so I packed my bike up and headed up the mountain to sag for Bart if he needed it. He didn't. I stopped a few times on my way up and gave out encouraging words. He looked great climbing the mountain - strong and determined. I was totally proud - Crabtree and Wintergreen on the same day is impressive in my book. When I got back, Lulu joined me for my short transition run on top of the mountain.

We got a few minutes to relax and enjoy the mountain and then headed back home for a dinner party. In some ways, I'm a little disappointed with the fact that our ride was cut short. Once I got going again on the BR, I knew I had more time left in my legs, but in reality, we didn't have much more time left before we needed to leave to head back for dinner. In other ways, the shorter ride hopefully gave my legs a little more life for my long run tomorrow and they certainly still got a tough climbing workout.

For now, I'm done with Crabtree. I can climb it, but it still drains me. . . mentally and physically. And, right now, its just not a fun ride for me. So, on the 3rd, when we return to the mountain, its just the BR and me. For one last century ride.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Good Track Night

I am still working on my weekend report but decided instead to post about track tonight. I wasn't too pumped about going so I asked Coach Michael to join me for some extra support (and motivation). It worked! Some how my tired legs found a new rhythm tonight below 8 minute pace. Maybe it was Michael yelling encouraging words at me or perhaps just a little extra determination. But I ran 6 800s all below 8 minute pace which is HUGE for me. The last 3 splits were the fastest of the night - 7:50 pace; 7:48 pace and 7:48 pace. Yippeee!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Tortoise and ...the Bear


Last weekend was all about pushing the distances and getting comfortable with the fact that yes, I can complete the distance.

I was supposed to do my long run on Friday to give my legs one day off to rest before the long bike, but unfortunately work doesn't always cooperate with my training plan and I had two legal briefs that needed to be finalized and filed on Friday. That meant no morning run unless I wanted to get up and start around 4:30 am, and, I didn't. So I mistakenly thought I'd try the run post work. Nope, that didn't work either. By the time my day ended, I was beat, not mentally ready to tackle my longest distance other than a previous marathon itself and dreading the heat. So, Bart (who had just returned from the West Coast) and I decided dinner at Kona Grill was more appropriate. Their GF salmon, roasted vegetable salad and amazing cocktail were well worth it. Plus it gave Bart and I some time to dream about relocating to Hawaii or the West Coast.

Saturday morning's run was long and tough. We ran at West Creek out of convenience and started early. I did two 10 mile loops and then a little extra to finish. Mentally, I'm not great at loops because when I come back to the car, I want to be done, not just headed out again. The first loop felt hot, but my legs felt pretty good. Thankfully the sun wasn't blazing so temperatures weren't as hot as they could have potentially been. I made the loop with my four fuel belt bottles and a 1/2 gu every 2 miles. By the second loop, I was getting thirstier and I could definitely feel the miles on my right foot. I decided that I had enough liquids to go the Cap One loop and headed off. After crossing through the gates, I realized it might not have been a smart move. I don't always estimate my liquids well and I started to feel whoozy and get chill bumps right at mile 16. I stopped a cyclist and asked for salt tabs, but she didn't have any. At this point, I didn't want to turn back but wanted to just finish the loop. So I drank everything I had on me and prayed that the bathrooms by the tennis courts would be open. After some walk/run time to get there, they were. I downed a bunch more water, refilled my bottles and dumped a bunch over my head. It seemed to work, and I was able to run back up to the car for mile 20. At that point, I was feeling the joy of being almost done. I reloaded, picked some good tunes, and headed out to power out the last mile. Post run, per coach's orders, I headed straight to the ice bath to ice down my foot and hip. After getting out of the tub, the hare (Bart) pointed out my mascot (the tortoise) in the front yard. I laughed! He must have stopped by to pay homage to my long run of the day. While I'm getting faster, my long runs are still pretty slow. Considering the dehydration incident though, I was pretty pleased to come in averaging 10:30 pace for the run. If I can hang somewhere even close to that on race day, I'll be thrilled.


Sunday, I started my day much like the Bear. Grizzley and grumpy. I was tired and had no desire to ride the 115 miles on my plan. But, they were there and I had made plans with DB and the Schnupp group so I headed to WC to start my pre-ride miles. I'm glad I started early. My legs were not happy to be having to work again and my first few laps of WC were horrible. At this point I doubted that I would be able to ride 50 let alone 115. Amazingly, they started to warm up and soon it was time to meet DB and Ann and the Schnupp group. 20 miles in and 95 to go. The Schnupp group ride was advertised as a leisurely 28 mile Sunday social ride. My goal was to draft as much as possible and enjoy myself and my company for this loop. We headed out Patterson (up my favorite hill) and onto Manakin. I stayed in the back or in the middle of the pack and just relaxed. It was great to ride with the crew and definitely the highlight of the day. Someone's legs must have been feeling good though, because our leisurely ride turned not so leisurely as we turned onto Hermitage to head back into WC. As Richard put it, who decided to add a time trial down Hermitage today? At this point my legs felt okay though so I grabbed a wheel and hung on as we rode at a good clip back through WC and out to Patterson. Schnupp who is not afraid of traffic, then routed us down Patterson and up the rollers of Lauderdale. I was worried about the traffic, but actually the rollers were fun and soon we were back at Schnupp's house. DB, Ann and I chatted for a few and then headed back to WC to finish our miles. Ann had 40 on her schedule so DB and I looped WC a few times to keep her company while she finished up. We reloaded at the cars and DB and I headed out for Ride part 3 - the EF loop. Other than the newly chipped road in one section and the massive truck that passed us on Three Chopt, this part of the ride was fun and much easier than it used to be when DB and I first rode it 2 winters ago. The best part was on the Manakin stretch north of Broad where the wind was behind us and mid to upper 20s seemed like a piece of cake. I was praying that the rest of my miles could only go that well. When we got back to the car, I was at 85 miles - only 30 to go. DB agreed to go one 10 mile loop with me before calling it quits. This was where I started to really struggle again for the day. Bart caught up with us mid loop and was surprised with my slow pace. As I took inventory, I wasn't feeling so great. I did a great job on nutrition though so I knew it wasn't calories. But yep, nausea = lack of water. So I started drinking up again. As we headed up the Capital One hill, we saw a cyclist pointing towards the woods and saying something. Unfortunately DB had already started the descent, but Bart said, "Look at the bear!" A Bear? Yep, on our right hand side, in the meadow area and headed back to the woods was a pretty good sized black bear. WOW! Pretty crazy for West Creek. I struggled through the end of the Cap One loop and Bart rode with me 6 more miles while I desperately tried to drink more and more water. Must have been the key though because despite my angst at having to sit on the darn bike seat for another 15 miles, and the burning sensation in my left foot, my pace increased again over the last few miles and the nausea disappeared.

Finally back at the car and done with my 115 miles, I was ready to pack it in for the day and skip my transition run all together. But, for some reason I decided to check out how long it was and my instructions. Training peaks read as follows:

You are not going to want to do this but it is so important. Only a few more weeks of this Bethany - stay strong!

I laughed. Coach knows me well. I laced up my shoes, put on my ipod, and headed out for my 30 minute run. My legs surprised me. They didn't feel too bad, and by now, there was a good bit of shade on the road to cool the temperatures off. I finished the long day with a strong T run and then promptly sat in my car at WC and cried. I think I was just totally drained -- emotionally and physically. And, training for this event has been harder and more challenging than I ever expected. At the same time, I think I also cried because I was proud of my accomplishment of the weekend and was just emotionally overwhelmed. After collecting myself (and crying a few tears on the phone with my dad), I headed home for my second ice bath of the weekend. Still feeling a bit like the grizzly and ready to scavenge whatever non-sweet, healthy food I could find in the house.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

EF Camp and my east coast Kaloko

Time has flown since Placid Camp. Since last post, there have been more mountains in my training. Two weekends ago, I race the Over the Mountain Olympic distance tri with my friend Jill in North Carolina. And last weekend, I headed up to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Wintergreen resort for training camp with Coach Michael, Bart and six other training buddies.

First, if you ever want a great and challenging Olympic distance triathlon to add to your schedule, try Over the Mountain in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. I added this to my schedule late this year when I couldn't race Rumpass due to my hip injury and to help support Jill in her efforts to qualify for USAT Nationals. (She did by the way!) For me, my primary goals were to iron out my pre-race jitters and push myself hard for another race before Placid. This race was a point to point race so the logistics were a little complicated. Not having Bart as my sherpa and having to plan, sherpa and get my own stuff ready helped keep my mind occupied pre-race, and despite dozens of trips to the bathroom prior to the start, I think I did pretty well in the pre-race jitters department. I also raced hard - zone 4 pretty much from the gun which was a bit of a shock to my system given all the endurance training I've been doing lately for Ironman. I ran over my favorite tinted goggles with the car the day before the race, so my sighting wasn't stellar on the swim course. Not my best swim time, but not my worst either. The bike was my favorite part. Challenging - with two major climbs - but awesome scenery, fun descents, great pavement and support on the bike course and places where you could really get in aero and push. All criteria that make a fun bike. I dropped my chain at the bottom of the first climb but managed to stay calm and actually get it back on with relative ease. The run was hot, hilly and hard. My nutrition and salt as usual, may have been out of whack by the time I hit the run. I managed to push to finish under 10 min pace, but walked a lot and didn't run the run I know I'm capable of running. I was most disappointed in the walking and vowed that in the future, no matter how bad I feel, I need to keep moving, even if its a run shuffle.

Sunday, the day after the race, I practiced my new mantra in Pocohontas on my long run of the week - a 17 miler. TG40 joined me for the first 8 miles and it was fun introducing her to the park.

Last weekend, was essentially Torturefest 2. On Friday, we left work early and headed to Wintergreen for Endorphin Fitness' Training Camp. Thankfully when we got to Lake Monacan at the base of the mountain, the skies cleared, rain stopped and and by 2:30 we were in our wetsuits for a long swim in the crystal clear cold lake. TG40, who I convinced to join me for the first two days of camp, and I were swimming buddies and completed 4 laps around the lake before it was time to get out. It was awesome wetsuit endurance training. Next up, the long run. We changed clothes, organized our fuel and headed out for our long runs. I struggled a bit with my 19 miler - it was hot and humid, a little hilly and my right foot plantar was not cooperating. My pace was off and I finished 3 hours and 30 minutes later - 20 minutes slower than my goal time. I iced my legs in the lake, cried a bit in frustration, and then headed off to refuel with dinner and unpack.

Back at home base for the weekend, Coach Michael reviewed the course with us for Saturday's ride, we loaded up our water bottles with fuel for the next day and headed to bed. Our goal for Saturday was 100 miles - 2 loops, 2 times up the climbs at Crabtree Falls and 2 times down the scary descent at Reed's Gap. I had seen the course's elevations and I was already dreading the climb up Crabtree Falls where it climbs from 700 feet to 3200 feet over a span of about 17 miles. By the time we went to bed, my foot was throbbing and I had a terrible time getting to sleep. Part of it I'm sure was anticipation of the next day's ride - the rest was just discomfort and I suppose unfamiliar surroundings.

Saturday morning came too quickly. I managed to drink a juice box, and eat a piece and a half of toast with jelly and a few eggs before I could no longer get anything in. Thankfully, the girls morning started off at the bottom of Wintergreen mountain and did not include the descent down it. The boys flew by us and soon the four gals - Coach Sally, Jill, TG40 and I - were off. The first stretch was supposed to be flat or rolling like the hills we see in Goochland County. Coach Michael somehow forgot to mention the first major climb of the day we encountered shortly after the turn at the ski barn. I kept thinking to myself as I quickly dropped to the back of the pack, then off the back entirely, if this is flat, I am in major trouble. After grinding up the climb and a big descent, the roads did flatten out. The next miles were entirely doable, and I began to have some hope about the days ride. That is, until we hit Crabtree Falls.

Lance, Hawaii locals, one of my favorite woman pro Bree Wee and Lifesport training use Kaloko, a huge climb on the Big Island for their training. Although I've never seen it, from descriptions it is extremely steep and I would imagine, has quite a few switchbacks.

As I climbed the road at Crabtree Falls, it was definitely my Kaloko. Steeper than anything I had ever climbed before by far, seemingly endless and had switch backs the Tour de France should envy. Rather than looking at the hill/mountain as an opportunity to improve and a place to push and challenge myself, my self-doubt side came out in raging form. I was furious as I climbed - how could my coach have mistaken me for someone who could climb this? why am I here? I suck at this! how am I ever going to do two loops? My legs cringed from the long run the day before but my mind had also given up long before my body did. Somehow I managed to keep my legs moving in circles (I think my lowest speed was 3.6) and I made it to the country store - our first stop. I downed some grapefruit juice and tried unsuccessfully to convince another rider to trade McQueen for her Madone with a triple for the next part of the climb. From the store to the top of the Blue Ridge was another two or three steep miles with one or two short flat sections. As TG40 put it, I have never been so happy to see the Blue Ridge when we reached the top. Two loops of this crazy hard climb was not something I wanted to attempt. Once on the Blue Ridge, we seemed to settle in. There were a few climbs, but a lot of good downhills too. I tried to work on my descending skills and implement the tips that Coach Michael had taught us before the ride. All in all, not too bad and so I thought I'd face my last fear of the day, Reed's Gap.

From my Placid post, you know I don't like descents. Reed's Gap is a 2 plus mile descent from the top of the Blue Ridge, down past the guard shack at Wintergreen resort with numerous areas around or in excess of 15% grade. In other words, its steep. Before the start down, I reminded myself that I was in control of my speed and that my brakes would work. I went last and kept the first part on the slower side. By the time we reached the guard shack, I could smell my brakes (and those of my riding buddies too). We stopped around the guard shack, let our brakes rest, took a deep breath and then descended the rest of the way. Making this descent was huge for my confidence and stopping in the middle of it proved that my brakes would stop my bike if I needed them too. At the bottom, TG40 and I added on some extra valley miles to reach 52 for the day and then called it quits.

The speedy boys (including Bart) finished their two laps and the young speedy ones even climbed Wintergreen mountain to cap off their 100 miles. I have to say my fellow campers abilities did serve as some inspiration for me over the weekend. They can certainly climb, ride and run.

Saturday night we relaxed with a great dinner at the new brewery at the base of the mountain and headed to bed before our last day of camp. Thankfully, Saturday night, I slept.

Sunday morning Coach Michael showed some pity and shortened our initial workouts. We drove to Reed's Gap for the start of the day's ride. On tap - one hour north towards Waynesboro on the Blue Ridge and one hour back to Reed's Gap followed by a hard T run. Although my legs were definitely fatigued, Sunday's ride was almost easier for me. I'm sure part of it was mental - this part of the Blue Ridge was familiar to me and I knew I could do it. Coach Sally stayed with me and coached me for the uphills and I pushed myself on the downhills. My max speed was almost 40 mph. After the ride, everyone but Bart and I rode down to the guard shack to start their transition run UP Wintergreen mountain. But, because of my foot (and Bart's achilles), Coach kept us on the Blue Ridge for the easier slighter hills. I knew since I was given this out, I needed to earn my run and so I did. Some good tunes and the knowledge that camp was almost over allowed me to push myself for 52 minutes of good, hard running. Tyler, Greg, Grayson, Jill and Sally all get stud awards for running their T runs up the mountain.

I left camp with mixed thoughts - on one hand, I completed the hardest climb I'd ever done and two other hard days of training. On the other hand, I was disappointed and frustrated. I didn't like not being able to finish a workout and struggled with where I perceived myself in my training and progress in this sport.

The good thing about having a Coach is that they help you sort your thoughts out, tell it to you straight and get you moving on. That's exactly what Michael did today. It appears I need a healthy dose of mental training and belief in myself and my training. My body and fitness are there to do the workouts but my mind ends up winning when I doubt myself and my abilities. As Michael put it, I gave up on the possibility of even trying the second loop before my body ever got a chance to even try. Crabtree Falls, my Kaloko, could have been a totally different experience if I believed and faced it as a positive challenge.

So my goals for the next month are to believe in myself and my training and go after every workout I have left with a hunger and a desire to better myself. If my body gives out while I'm giving it my all, then so be it, but I'm not going to let my mind give up first. My Kaloko is already on my training schedule for the month and next time, I'm going after it.