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.


margo said...

ha! you climbed crabtree?? our cabin is at the foot of that road on 56, right at the north fork of the tye river.

margo said...

and congrats on making it up! rich and i did the part from tyro to the country store once, and i thought I. WAS. GOING. TO. DIE.

SusieQ said...

Really great post - you are doing amazing training. (I think the fact that you are mainly training with young, fast, experienced triathletes is giving you a warped -and far too critical - perspective on your own excellent abilities). You are going to be more than ready for LP. I know it.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Are you going to do it on McQueen or the road bike, cuz I know which one I'd be riding... Way to gut out a tough, tough hill and loooong runs!

katebott said...

You are working hard and are going to be so prepared for placid! Believe in yourself... You have come so far and are so strong now!

TriGirl 40 Something said...

Good analogy to Kaloko! Great way to think about it the endless climb. Last weekend definitely deflated my confidence a bit. We'll have to tackle Kaloko again on fresh legs someday.

Your training and attitude are so strong - Placid better watch out!