I spent this past weekend training with about 25 of my QT2 teammates in Ludlow, VT. It was set to be an epic weekend of training and it certainly did not disappoint. After a short bike workout and a nice, open-water recovery swim on Thursday morning I packed up the car and headed west, arriving at my home for the weekend at about 3:00. Unfortunately, nobody else got there until closer to 3:45, so I spent some time hanging out in my car, but at least it was finally sunny and nice outside for the first time in a month or so.
After unpacking the cars many of us set off on a nice, tough run that was to include a 5K hard interval in the middle. My team consists of some of the best runners you'll ever come across in any triathlon, and I am, well, not. So although we all left the house at the same time, I was definitely on my own for this one. Especially because they were so far out of sight that I wound up doing my run on a different road entirely from everyone else. But at least I missed them coming back the other way since for some reason my run duration was longer than everyone else's (quite possibly because it just plain takes me a way longer time to cover the same distance as everyone esle) Even though I had been dreading the run, especially after sitting in a car for a couple of hours and the fact that it was not only humid out, but also fairly hot - something we haven't experienced yet this summer - I actually didn't feel that bad. I was completely soaked with sweat from head to toe - to the point that my shoes were making squishy noises with each step - but it was a good start.
Most of the other athletes had arrived by the time we got back and cleaned up. We had some pizza for dinner that night. Apparently the consensus was that the pizza wasn't good at all. Personally, I thought it was fantastic. But that probably has a lot more to do with the fact that I have been severely pizza-deprived for the past 8 months. I'm surprised I was even allowed to have any, but I thoroughly enjoyed my two slices once I was given the official okay. After that, Cait, Chrissie and I spent a very long time formulating a list of all of the deliciously indulgent foods we are going to eat during the week following Lake Placid. It includes things as simple as cheese and crackers and peanut butter and jelly, along with some of the more obvious: ice cream, nachos and an array of baked goods. The list was several pages long, and we certainly have our work cut out for us that week!
Friday was poised to be the longest day of the weekend. I'm normally all for starting the training just about at the crack of dawn, but given the volume we were going t be dealing with over the 3 days, I am glad that we were scheduled to start later so I could sleep in. Of course, sleeping in for me is anything after 6, really. I was up at 6:45 and ready to make my breakfast. First up for the morning was just a nice, easy 30-minute swim at a local state park that was opened just for us to use. It was a beautiful morning and the water was pretty comfortable in our wetsuits. Also, the short, easy nature of the "workout" almost made me forget that I was about to get on my bike for 7 hours.
It was somewhere between 10:30 and 11 I think when we were finally ready to roll out for our 7-hour ride. I don't know why adding just one little hour to your usual long ride can make it sound so daunting, but it does. A nice feature of the day was more sun than clouds, which is definitely not what the norm has been as of late. It was cloudy for a bit early on and certainly looked like it might have rained, but we were mercifully spared from dealing with inclement weather. We rode from Ludlow, where Okemo Mountain is, over to where Killington ski area is, so I apparently without realizing it just pre-rode most of the bike course for a little race I'm doing this Saturday. Many of the roads were fairly quiet and low-traffic, so it was a great route to take. I always find that reaching the halfway point on these rides always seems to take way longer than the second half. Luckily we were smart enough to turn around a bit before we hit halfway time-wise, because it seemed as though we had ridden more down than up so far, which would of course be reversed on the way back. Not to mention the wind that had kicked up and would surely be in our faces for most of the return trip.
For whatever reason, I found myself riding much of the second half solo. Probably better than drafting. We had a SAG wagon roughly every 20 miles to refill on sport drink, Powerbars and gels when needed. It was a very nice thing to have, although after about 4 and a half hours I found myself desperate for just plain WATER. This desperation for something not consisting of sugar made me reluctant to consume much fuel at that point, so I started to wonder if maybe I'd find myself in a bit of trouble before I made it all the way home. Thankfully, with about 30 miles to go I rolled up to a few of the team members who had stopped at a convenience store to stock up on a few supplies. In their case it was Gatorade, but thanks to Jesse, I got my water and felt 100 times better as I set off to ride the final stretch into the wind.
I knew that I had lost time on the return trip and would be pushing beyond 7 hours at that point, so I really wanted to try and go as fast as I could to finish up without going over too much. There was one last hill to climb with about 15 miles to go, and the rest was nice and flat and I was able to push the final stretch back to the house. I was surprised actually at how good I felt at that point. I managed not to get caught by too many of the teammates who had followed behind me after the pit-stop, and was glad to be done with almost 138 miles in 7 hours and 9 minutes.
But for the triathlete, the workout never ends with the bike ride. It was time to run. Lately these transition runs have been an hour, but given that we were approaching 8 hours of training on the day, I only had to run for 30 minutes. After over 7 hours on the bike, it was over in the blink of an eye. I felt surprisingly good and finished in my typical surprisingly-slow fashion, but at least I had survived the day. Even more important to me than a shower at that point was brushing my teeth after a day full of sugary fueling products. At that point it was about 7pm, and of course I was tired enough that I was more interested in just lying down than eating anything, but I'm not so sure I would've made it through the rest of the weekend if I just went to bed, so I joined the rest of the team for a small portion of a 6-foot sub.
Saturday was the day that seemed the least intimidating to me. The hardest part was going to be over with early: a 2-mile swim time trial. Or at least some distance in that vicinity, as it was impossible to anchor the paddle-boat that served as the turn-around in the surprisingly-deep lake and the wind surely altered the GPS-measured distance a bit. I had slept pretty well (who wouldn't at that point?) although would've loved staying in bed a bit longer, but we had to hit the road fairly early to head back to the state park for our swim.
We took our time putting on our wetsuits and getting in the water, and were less-than-enthusiastic when we were told that we should do a 10-minute warm-up. Without the fanfare of a race, Jesse called out, "ready, set, Go!" and we were off. The "course" was out to the boat that was about a quarter-mile away, four times. In spite of our fairly large group I at least managed not to bump into anyone in the midst of our mass-start. I went out fairly hard and tried to head in a straight line towards the tiny boat in the distance. Just like in a real race, I found myself swimming alone with nobody to draft off of. Without intermittent buoys, it was difficult to figure out if I was headed in a straight line. After I rounded the buoy that we had started from and finished my first lap, I saw that I had already been swimming for over 14 minutes and I really wondered how I was going to keep up the pace for another 3 laps.
Somehow I managed not to ease up the effort as I completed each lap. The time went by faster than I expected and finally as I approached the boat for the last time to make my final return to the finish I found myself on the feet of Keith and Pam. A few times I thought about trying to swim past them, but whenever I pulled out of their mini-draft I didn't make any progress around them, so I just settled in on their feet and let them drag me to the finish. I was tired but not exhausted, and definitely happy with that swim.
Of course, the day didn't end there. Next up we had a 4-hour recovery ride and a 1-hour transition run. We headed out at about the same time as the day before, but obviously for a much shorter day. We went out a different road that offered a bit more traffic early on, but wound up on a nice stretch of empty, flat road before turning around to head back to the house for a pit-stop. I was happy that my legs didn't feel too bad, although my biggest issue at that point was just that I really didn't want to be sitting on my bike saddle anymore. I had been on my bike every day for close to two weeks, and after a while it just gets uncomfortable, but at least the effort was nice and easy and my heart rate was nice and low. After a quick stop we went back out the road we had started on the day before to finish up the four hours. It had gotten cloudy at that point and was barely spitting rain at times. But with less than 20 minutes to go, it finally really started raining. So much for a dry weekend. Although it actually somehow managed to stop between my finishing the ride and heading back out in run attire.
I felt like I was moving along pretty well on my transition run and my heart rate was really low. Unfortunately I just didn't work hard enough to bring my heart rate up to where it maybe should've been and ended with another less-than-stellar pace. However, any disappointment I felt was quickly replaced with the excitement that it was time for my massage! Probably the best addition to the weekend were Jim and Katrina: the massage therapists who would work on each of us for 30 minutes. It was probably just what I needed to get through the weekend.
That night we headed out to Pot Belly's Pub for a nice dinner out. Given that this is a ski town in the off-season, we pretty much comprised the entire clientelle that evening. It was a fun night out, although towards the end of the evening I thought I might just have to fall asleep right there at the table, so I skipped the run-analysis portion of the evening that took place when we got back to the house. I was way too tired to sit upright any longer.
I slept great that night - and again, who wouldn't - and when I went downstairs Sunday morning it was not too surprising that it was the quietest I had seen the kitchen. Nobody was up yet. I felt like I could've slept another 1, 2, maybe 10 hours, but I figured I might as well get up. We got off to a late start with our mere 1-hour recovery ride and didn't even start until about 8:30. It was overcast and started raining after about halfway through. Of all of the rides to get rained on, the shortest was probably the best one.
I would've been happy to have just gone back to bed at that point, but next up was the part of the weekend I had been dreading the most: the long run. I tend to dread all of my runs lately, because each one seems to be more and more demoralizing. Either I feel like crap and run really slow, or I feel like I'm running fast and then find out that even though I felt good I was still running really slow, so kind of a lose-lose situation. Plus, I wasn't sure how my legs would find the energy to get through the 2-and-a-half hours with the final 40 minutes in zone 2. I hadn't done a long run like that in one stretch since before Mooseman.
We started from the state park where we had been swimming from, with some nice dirt roads and again not much traffic. I enjoyed the route itself and the quiet, but the run itself was less than enjoyable. It started out well enough, I ran with Lauren for a while. But she is tapering for Ironman Switzerland in just two weeks so I lost her after about 40 minutes when she went to finish up. Slowly but surely, anyone who had been originally running near me pulled on ahead and I was left alone again. My legs actually didn't feel all that bad, but my heart rate was inexplicably high. It was to the point that I felt like I was walking up some of the hills to keep it in check. I seriously wanted to cry, or at least just stop running. I keep thinking it has to get better at some point, but I'm running out of time and things just don't seem to be getting any better. I was told it probably had to do with the humidity, but that excuse didn't do much to make me feel better. What the situation did do was make it a whole lot easier to get my heart rate into zone 2 at the end, because it was already almost there anyway without even trying. I actually even borrowed someone else's heart rate monitor after about 90 minutes because I thought maybe there was something wrong with mine, but nope, just high.
But at least it went by faster than I expected it to, even though several times I just wanted to stop and make the whole experience end. I like training, it's just that after months of running and almost no positive feedback, it gets a little old. Sooner or later improvement just isn't good enough anymore. I don't consider it an accomplishment to be better off than I was this time a year ago, I can only see how far away I am from where I was three years ago, and I don't think I'm old enough yet to be able to blame it on old age, even if I did finally turn 30. (yes, I finally said it, I'm not in my 20's anymore) But enough negativity, at least the last of the long runs are done....
After we spent some time lying around, we headed back to pack up the house. I couldn't believe the weekend was over. 17 and a half hours of training in 3 days. Nice. And really, just such a great group of people to spend the weekend with. I am just so glad that I can be a part of it (and hoping the great running skills start to rub off sooner or later!) A sweep of the house and one last stop-off at Subway, who we apparently cleaned out of tomatoes and cucumbers over the weekend, and it was time to head home.
Now, after two weeks of 30+ hours of training I am in a recovery week. Good timing, because it's raining again, and of course set to do so every day until the end of time. I got a great night's sleep and am currently putting off another nice recovery swim in the lake. It will be nice once I get in there, but why rush? There are only 4 weeks to go for Lake Placid and I can't believe it. Part of me is really looking forward to it, and part of me is dreading it because for the first time in three years, it actually matters to me how it goes. Two years ago I had already qualified for Kona in Arizona, and once I crashed halfway through the ride it just became a matter of finishing in one piece. Then last year after being injured all spring I was pretty sure it wouldn't go well anyway, so it wasn't a surprise that it was a disaster. This time it matters and I really want to have a good race. I keep being told that it's possible, but for whatever reason I can't see it myself yet. For now, all that I can really do is get the last bits of training in, rest, don't do anything stupid and hurt myself, rest, eat right and rest some more. In less than 4 weeks, we will know how it all turns out...