Tuesday, March 31, 2009

3 Days to start of the season

Is it time to leave yet? I hate this last part, when you're so close but you still have so much to do! I dropped off my bike today to get tuned up for the race. Of course, this was a pretty last-minute thing and the mechanic gave me a hard time because I really need it tomorrow but of course every person with a bike has theirs in the shop right now for the pre-season tune-up because the snow is finally almost gone. I don't need it to be thorough, I just need it to run smooth! I'll be a better customer next time and make an appointment, I promise. I get to pick it up pretty much just in time to pack it. I'm a little nervous about that because I have never had to pack my Cervelo up before. Not that I think it will be all that different, but you never know. It's pretty much always a pain no matter what anyway. It's too bad I'm so tall, because surely a smaller bike would be easier to stuff into that box.

I had some good, short workouts today. I ran in the shoes I intend to race in and they feel pretty good after a long layoff. Also dropped my run pace another 20 seconds a mile. It was one of those days where I was just dreading going out for my workout, because for some reason I always have a harder time getting out the door for the shorter, taper workouts, but then I finally do head out and something like that happens to make me feel better. I'm almost scared about how well things are going. It's pretty much the exact opposite of this time last year. It's nice to be able to write good things instead of spending the whole time complaining. But I'm sure there is plenty more weather whining to go, just not today. Tomorrow if I have time you will get packing whining. I haven't even started, but at least I made a list. Haven't got a clue where my wetsuit is though.

In other, unrelated news, I'm actually going out tonight. Normally, by 8pm you will most likely find me in bed. I'm probably not asleep yet, but I will be soon. Nope, tonight I am going to a concert. I don't get to go to many concerts, but this one I just couldn't resist. Tonight I am going to see New Kids on the Block. It'll be like I'm 10 years old again. I love nostalgia. It's just too bad I no longer have their posters on my wall or my 16 magazines with them and Fred Savage on the cover. I even had "Hangin' Tough" in my head throughout my bike ride this morning, which was silly because it was an easy workout and I didn't really need the motivation. I know, even when I was in 5th grade it was social suicide to admit you liked New Kids because it made you a huge dork. But I'm much more secure with my dorkiness at this stage in my life.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Four week build = DONE

I am not sure I can adequately express the relief I felt upon finishing my training earlier today. It has been a tough four weeks, and I am enthusiastically anticipating my taper week. But it has also been a really good four weeks with a whole lot of progress. My run paces seem to have dropped about 30 seconds per mile, and steadily dropping. I can finally really see some serious physical changes in myself from all of this training and watching what I've been eating, plus the accompanied weight loss. I've still got more to lose, but it doesn't seem anywhere near as daunting and I think I have very little left in my wardrobe that I wouldn't be able to fit in. Also, when I finish the race in California next week I might actually find myself able to look at my pictures on asiphoto for the first time since 2007.

So basically, things are going well. I was definitely not excited about my training today. First of all, it was raining. And it dawned on me that I haven't had to deal with training in the rain lately. The good part about the rain is that it is not snow. I had a split run today with a bike ride in between. So first I hit the road at 6:45 for the first, hour-long run. It was in the high 30's then and just sprinkling a bit. I took a short break after that and then decided to do my ride on the trainer. I briefly contemplated going outside, as I often ride in the rain, but my bike was already on the trainer because of the sweat test and I didn't feel like having to clean it up after, so I popped in a movie and started pedaling. I haven't had a trainer ride that was just get on and ride in over a month, and I forgot how mentally painful it really is, especially when you've been doing so much riding outside. At least intervals give you something to do. I set my watch to beep at the end so I didn't have to stare at the time, but at one point I decided to peek and almost got off right then and there when I saw I still had 48 minutes to go. I was just tired. Tired of it. And the part of my body that spends 15 hours a week attached to my bike saddle was not happy. But hey, eating a Clif bar with bare hands when it is sitting on a table next to you is a whole lot easier than digging around a zippered rear jersey pocket with gloves on.

Like always, the time passed eventually, and then I got to change clothes again and head out for my second run. The temperature had not gone up at all, and I was immediately glad I hadn't decided to brave the intermittent sprinkling that had been going on during the first run, because now it was just plain pouring. I didn't care, I was almost done. I love when I hit the turn on an out-and-back and know that all I have to do is run home and I'm done. My shoes were sloshy, my gloves weighed 5 pounds a piece and water was pouring off of my hat, but I was finally all done. I'm exhausted, but I made it through.

Now comes the best part before the race: resting! It's not like I'll be sitting with my feet up all day every day, but I'll be doing a whole lot less than I have been lately. I also have to find some time to get my bike tuned up. Oh, and pack. I made the list already and it never ceases to amaze me how much you have to bring to do a race. I'm leaving for California on Thursday to enjoy some weather in the 70's from what I can tell. It's going to be awfully chilly in the mornings, but for me, it will seem warm. It's time to start a new season!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is it time to taper yet?

I know, triathletes usually hate tapering, right? Well, I'm ready for a bit of a break. I still have at least 1 more day of real training to go. I say "at least" because technically I don't know yet what Monday has in store just yet. Under normal circumstances, Monday is just an easy 3000-yard swim, and I'd definitely call that a nice recovery day and just what I'm looking for right now. But my training is delivered to me in 4-week blocks, and I can't yet see past tomorrow. So for all I know it might be an easy swim accompanied by an "easy" 3-hour bike ride and an hour transition run. I don't think that's what it'll be, just saying that it remains to be seen. Whatever the case, as a whole next week should be a whole lot easier, comparatively speaking.

I'm currently finishing up a 4-week build, which is longer than the normal 3 I've been doing since I started in November. Then of course the fun rest week. Again, I think triathletes tend do dread rest weeks, but given the amount of training I've been subjected to at this point in the season, I enjoy every day of those rest weeks. Ok, except maybe for the eating less part, but it's a small price to pay.

Today is Saturday, and for about 5 years now for me, Saturday means long ride day, much like many Ironman triathletes in training. The sun continues to rise earlier and earlier, so I can get started earlier and earlier. Today that was just after 6:30, after a quick breakfast. The best part about the start of the ride was that it was finally above freezing, which meant that I could concentrate on riding rather than wondering how long my water supplies were going to remain drinkable. I had no idea how much mental energy that had drained from me the past couple of weeks until I was riding today and did not have to think about it. I was actually riding a bit faster as a result. It was still only in the high 30's, but this time of year that's not too bad for first thing in the morning. It was also exceptionally foggy this morning, which is another reason I think for the slightly warmer temperatures. The fog stuck around for a good two hours of my ride, and I never saw the sun as it remained overcast. Unfortunately, it also remained pretty cool. It was supposed to get up to around 60 today, but even by the time I was finished it was still only 45 degrees, which I found pretty incredible. But hey, at least it meant that I wasn't overheated in my warm bike clothes. And the other nice thing about fog is that it usually means that there is no wind, which there wasn't today.

So one interesting thing about today's workout was that I spent the final hour on the trainer. This was not by choice. No, this was for a sweat test. Now, anyone who has ridden with me on the trainer or in a spin class knows that I sweat a LOT. We're talking ridiculous puddles under the bike. Honestly, it's almost embarrassing, especially in a 45-minute spin class when I've got a pond under my bike while nobody else seems to have so much as a drop. I'm not sure if it's because I'm working harder than everyone or if I'm just an exceptionally sweaty person. Although even last winter when I often rode my trainer with a group of friends in someone's basement, I'm pretty sure they were working fairly hard, and although they did have sweat on the floor beneath their bikes, nobody even compared to me. They would call it "Lake Zahr" what I would leave behind.

Anyway, as quickly as I could I popped the bike on the trainer and then (here is where I will ask you to turn off your mental imaging. Is it off? Ok, good) I had to weigh myself without clothes and with whatever food I planned to eat, which in this case was just a couple of gels. Then - and this is the really important part - put my clothes back on, and finish out the final hour of the ride. I had to keep track of how much fluid I consumed and then when I was done, I got off, weighed myself without the clothes again, and noted it. Had I not consumed any of the gels I would've weighed myself with those as well, but I absolutely needed them. So easily accounted for by being in my tummy. I consumed 32 ounces of fluid and was still a pound lighter than the first weigh-in. I'm no mathematician, but I think that means I lost 48 ounces of sweat in 1 little hour. That is a lot of sweat.

But of course, the long ride never ends there, no matter how much you want it to. Nope, it was time for the transition run. I thought today I'd finally be able to wear short sleeves, but since it was still in the 40's, I had to settle for just the shorts and long-sleeved shirt. At least there were no running tights or gloves involved. Aside from the fact that about halfway through I sincerely doubted my chances of making it through that run, I did start to feel better and managed to finish.

At the end of any long workout such as that there are always three things I want to do upon finishing: eat something, take a shower and collapse into a heap - not necessarily in that order. It is such a difficult choice to make, and unfortunately they are all pretty much mutually exclusive. Although I've never actually tried eating while in the shower. Maybe it'd work and I just haven't broadened my horizons enough. I suppose I could collapse into a heap and eat, but it's not quite as satisfying as standing in front of the refrigerator and taking whatever you can find in there. As much as I'd love to just collapse, I like the idea of doing that a whole lot better after I'm clean and warm and dry. I got the recovery drink in first. The only problem with showers is that usually it involves standing up. I can't wait until the weather gets a bit warmer and I start spending my weekends up at my parents lake house. After a long ride and run up there I grab my recovery drink, walk straight down to the dock and lower myself into the water, usually with my clothes on. I tell you, that is the way to end a long day of training. It's just too bad that the lake is still solid ice.

My first race of the season is one week from today and that just seems incredible to me. My entire 2008 season was almost a complete disaster. The only bright spot was a tiny little sprint I actually managed to somehow win, but I'm pretty sure only because 99% of the competitors had never done a triathlon before. Just hoping to start things off on the right foot. I just wish that it didn't mean I had to box up my bike and take it on a plane. That was the only good part about not racing Kona last year: when I went to watch, it was the first time I'd gotten on a plane without lugging my bike with me since 2004. However, that little reprieve was not worth not racing!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

4900 by 6:30am

This morning was tons of fun. I got to get up at 4:20 to drive my parents to the airport. The Manchester airport is about a 10-minute drive, but their flight was at 6. My mother loses her mind when it comes to traveling, so she absolutely must be one of the first people at the airport for a flight, so we had to leave extra early. If we hadn't already learned on a different flight that the check-in counter doesn't open until 4:30 and security doesn't open until 5, I'm sure I probably would've had to have brought them at like 4. It's not like I've never gotten up that early before, and normally I'm up between 5 and 5:30, but I was just plain tired this morning. I got up at 4:30 yesterday as well, and then last night one of my cousins was in town just for one night on business and I hadn't seen him for over a year and a half, so I had to go see him for a bit. That got me in bed around 9:45, which really isn't that late under most circumstances...

The convenient thing though is that my gym opens at 5 (although you can usually get in a little before that) and you can probably walk to the terminal from the gym in about three minutes, so it just meant that I got to get in the water for my long swim workout super early. In the pool at 5am with my choice of lanes and ready for a nice 4900-yard workout. This was a tough one, and I was more tired than I should've been, but it was kind of nice to be done with such a long workout by 6:30 in the morning. That left me plenty of time for my favorite post-swim treat: sitting in the sauna. It's such a nice way to wind down after a tough swim and maybe sweat out some of that chlorine so I don't have that super-dry feeling the rest of the day. I also recently read that it helps your metabolism and can lower blood pressure. Not sure I believe that, but luckily my blood pressure doesn't need to be any lower anyway.

As for the other workouts of the day, the bike ride involved something I haven't experiences recently: I got too warm. Not that it was really incredibly warm out - although relatively speaking it was tropical - but I was just a tad over-dressed for the temperatures in the mid 40's. I even decided to live dangerously and skip wearing the shoe covers, and luckily I didn't wind up with frozen toes as a result. But I did have to take off my gloves and my skull cap I had on under my helmet. A nice transition run in shorts after that and that took care of another day of training. Four more days until it's time to taper!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lovin' that arctic wind

I've got this great Gore-tex jacket I bought a few years ago on sale that does a fantastic job of blocking the wind on bike rides or runs. It's good enough that I don't have to really layer up underneath it, even in temperatures in the single digits. It was a great purchase and I'm glad I've got it, but if I have to wear it one more time before, say, November, I might just go a little bit crazy. I guess I didn't have to wear it on my run this morning, but I had just gotten off the trainer and sweat off probably 5 pounds and it was in the 20's outside with a windchill down around 10 I think and it just seemed to be the best option, unfortunately. So once again I was off in my thickest tights, hat, gloves and Gore-tex jacket. Unfortunately it is also like a sail when the wind is blowing right at me, which of course it almost always was in spite of the fact that I ran a loop. That's just always the way it seems to go.

So with that blast of arctic wind blowing in my face for much of my run, it wasn't the greatest workout I've had lately. It also came after quite a difficult ride with some 10-minute intervals I did at 15 watts more than I did last week. And at least needing to know the wattage forced me inside so I did not have to endure the cold and wind outdoors on the bike. I really just can't get over how cold it's been since spring arrived. And tomorrow I get to bring my parents to the airport at 4:30 in the morning so that they can go down to St. Martin and bask in the sun for 11 days. I'm only a little bit jealous, though. I'm sure I'd love the warmth, but I think I'd go crazy if I was just going to spend a week and a half lying on the beach. Throw in some surfing and hiking and then maybe we'll talk. And besides, I'm headed to California in a little over a week so I've got something to look forward to as well. Even if it does mean the coldest water I will probably swim in all season. Maybe that will make me faster... although that certainly wasn't the case the last time I raced there!

In fact, it was my second slowest half ironman swim ever, only surpassed by the first one I ever did which was without a wetsuit... or adequate swim training, for that matter, as well as having to be redirected towards the finish line by a volunteer in a kayak. It was also the most comical T1 I've ever witnessed. You've never seen triathletes move so slowly. It was unusually cold that morning on top of thr 53-degree water, so everyone was taking their sweet time putting on extra layers for the bike ride and working with numb fingers. You'd think that me, coming from New Hampshire would've been fine riding in whatever the temperature. But I took the time to put on tights, a long sleeved-jersey, a skull cap and I think I even wore gloves. Overkill? Yes. But I was so sick of being freezing cold while riding my bike! Let's just hope that this year it is not like that!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lots of training... and why is it still so cold?

I was determined not to have a repeat performance of last weekend's water bottle issues. The simplest solution to the problem would be to just wait until it got warmer, or ride the stupid trainer I guess. But thanks to the weather.com hourly forecast, if I wanted to wait for it to get warmer I'm not sure I'd have enough daylight to get the ride in. That's the problem with this time of year, the "high" temperature is usually only reached by like 3:30 in the afternoon, when the bitter cold of morning finally relinquishes to the power of the sun.

It wasn't quite as cold yesterday morning as it was a week ago, 21 this time instead of 16... or at least it was when I first checked, then last check before I walked out the door it was back down to 19. Seriously? Why am I not skiing instead? As further precautions to guard against the frozen water bottles, first I started with warm water. Because, well, then maybe it would take like 5 more minutes to turn to solid ice, right? I also carried one of my bottles in my jersey pocket. I had thought about doing this last week once they were already frozen, but I figured all it would do was make my back cold. That was really all I could do, since I had futilely hoped that maybe since it was spring it would be warmer out this weekend, but that of course didn't happen. I started drinking earlier, exposing my face from behind the mask so that I might at least be hydrated in the beginning of the ride, as opposed to last week where I waited long enough that it was too late.

In spite of the ice that had formed on top of my aero bottle, I was able to drink from it for at least a little while. I could see the water in the bottle on my down tube was still in liquid form, so I thought maybe I'd make it this time. Well, eventually the straw on the aero bottle stopped working and in spite of the water in the bottle being liquid, the top of the bottle was frozen and I couldn't get any of it out. Great. Eventually I pulled over to eat something, which would've been difficult while riding considering my annoyingly thick gloves (not thick enough to keep my fingers from being frozen) the zipper on my pocket and the giant water bottle blocking my energy bars. The bottle in the pocket was still 100% liquid, so that was a good sign. Unfortunately, it had made my Powerbar rock solid. Powerbars are not as much fun to eat frozen as, say, those Charleston Chews you might've put in the freezer when you were a kid. I managed to snap off half of it and clear the ice out of the top of one of my bottles before setting off again.

Another stop a while later had me thawing the tops of all of the bottles so I could drink from them, although they were still filled with ice chunks. I figured that would all melt pretty soon since it was getting later, even though it didn't seem to want to warm up at all. I fully expected by then to want to ditch my face mask, but I still wasn't ready, and it had already been 3 hours. I chewed on my aero bottle straw and sucked the ice out of it so that was finally functional.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, and involved me drinking water, which was a huge step up from last week. I rode by Crotched Mountain ski area and the conditions looked great because it was still so cold. I honestly could not believe how cold it still was. The sun was as bright as it could be, there wasn't even a hint of wind, and yet I was frozen.

There was some big state-wide thing going on this weekend about maple syrup making and all of the sugar houses were hosting events. It's bad enough riding by breakfast restaurants and getting a whiff of all of the delicious things cooking inside, or even just someone's house and you can tell they are making a nice, big family weekend breakfast. But it is torture to ride by a maple sugar house when they are serving pancakes right in front of your face and all you've got are a couple of gels and rock solid Powerbars.

By the time the ride was over, right at 1:00, there was still some ice in my water bottles. Still in the 30's. I had laid out some shorts for my transition run, but quickly dug into the run-stuff drawer to find a pair of tights before grabbing my hat and gloves again. I swear, if I ever get to run or ride in short sleeves I'm probably going to go a whole lot faster just by virtue of busting free from all of those layers. The run was cold of course, but it went well and I was very happy to be able to relax for the rest of the afternoon and even squeeze in a little nap. I only wish I hadn't felt too lazy to cook any more substantial food because by the time dinner time rolled around, I only had enough stamina remaining to cook eggs. I'm lucky I even did that much, but I knew I needed some sort of protein.

This morning I hit the road again for an easy bike ride... in the cold, of course. Well, not so cold this time, but still colder than I feel it should be since it is spring, after all. The sun wasn't out to start, but it did eventually come out, which made it slightly more tolerable. After that it was time for my long run. I decided to live dangerously and not wear a winter hat, but rather just a run cap. I still wore stupid gloves though. The wind kicked up as a cold front was supposed to move through during the afternoon (seriously? I thought it was already cold enough...) so that made it extra fun. That run finished up the biggest volume week I've done in a very long time. I'd be able to tell you exactly how long, but last season when I got injured I stopped keeping such careful track of my training because I didn't want to be reminded of how much less I was able to do. Anyway, I was quite tired and just counting down the minutes until I'd be done. And boy, was I glad when it was over.

Just to top off the first spring weekend, it snowed for a bit late this afternoon, luckily long after I was safely indoors. Otherwise I might have jumped in front of an oncoming car just to put myself out of my misery. And tomorrow is apparently supposed to be especially cold and windy, probably in the 20's. I am eternally grateful that Monday is the day of no outdoor workouts. It'll get warmer someday, right?

Friday, March 20, 2009


In case you hadn't heard, today is the first day of spring. Or, as I mentioned before, winter, jr. Today was the coldest day this week, about 35 I think tops for my bike ride and run today, complete with that feeling where you can't really articulate words because your face is kind of numb. But the snow is melting, more and more grass is visible on the places that see sun when it happens to be out, and there is no sign of further snow to come... although I wouldn't rule it out just yet, since we often get a sneaky April snowstorm. I heard they got snow in New York City this morning, so apparently we are better off than they are.

So the days are going to continue to get longer and the chances of good weather are going to get better and better, this weekend is looking pretty good, although I am going to have to be careful tomorrow with my water bottles to start the ride, I'm thinking. I'm really starting to have a lot more fun training now that I can ride outside. Although it'll be nicer when I don't have to wear quite so many layers. But just think how light I'll feel when I finally don't have to wear ten pounds of extra clothes? Speaking of which, time to prep the bike for tomorrow's long ride...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why do they yell out their windows?

If you're going to ride a bike outside on a regular basis, you are going to encounter people yelling things at you out their windows. I can't possibly comprehend what compels these people to do this, or what they feel it accomplishes, but there will always be people like them. I am fortunate enough to live in an area where it really doesn't happen to me particularly often, maybe once a month if that, but it still perplexes me.

I've got news for you window-yellers though: 95% of the time, I can't even hear what you are saying. I am assuming that you are trying to make me feel bad by yelling something derogatory - although I still can't figure out why you feel the need to yell at people on there bikes. Does it make you feel better about yourself? But anyway, if you are trying to insult me and make me feel bad, you are doing a bad job of it, because I have no idea what you said. I had another one today, who slowed down as he passed me and yelled from the driver's seat over his friend in the passenger's seat, and I have no clue what he said.

This is just one of those things I will never understand. A few that I have actually been able to understand in the past, was one "Go to France!" I am not sure if this meant he thought I should be in the tour, so maybe I should take it as a complement. Then there was another person who seemed genuinely concerned about my safety and told me that I should be riding on the sidewalk... which is funny both because we are not supposed to do that and because it was like 7am on a Saturday and there were no other cars in sight. Annoying drivers are just something we'll always have to deal with. I've had one person actually pass me and intentionally slam on their breaks and move over to force me to slam on my brakes. I've had a complete idiot drive by me while I was going about 35mph down a hill only to quickly move over to the right lane and slow to turn in front of me. That one scared me so much that I screamed at the woman, but I am sure she was oblivious.

I also did once manage to get hit by a car, although that sounds more dramatic than it really was because I somehow didn't fall off my bike. This van took a left turn onto the road I was on, drove right next to me for about 20 feet and then went to take a right turn directly into me. She bumped my thigh and pushed me off into a gas station parking lot where she stopped. She looked like she had probably had her license for about 20 minutes, and her friend who was with her looked incredibly relieved that she was not the one driving the car. Aside from just being shaken up and a slight bruise on my leg, I was far more preoccupied with my bike and if anything had happened to it. Luckily, my bike was also fine. I just told her to be more careful next time and considered myself extremely lucky. So watch out for crazy drivers!

Training is going well. The weather is getting a whole lot better which just makes training about ten times more enjoyable, as does the progress I'm seeing. Running in shorts, starting to get the faintest hint of a tan on my face and my legs, not freezing on the bike or worrying about ice. Now if only the last of that pesky snow would go away!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

This post isn't really going to be about St. Patrick's Day, it just happens to be St. Patrick's Day, so it seemed like a no-brainer title. No, instead I am going to offer up a funny story about my mom. When I tell you the story, you may think I am mean for thinking it funny, but she thinks it's funny, so I'm allowed to, too.

Valentine's Day weekend my parents had gone over to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner. Because this winter has been so brutal, pretty much anyone who does not have the NHDOT salting their private residence was going to have sheer ice for a driveway. Mom is typically quite careful when walking on ice, but apparently this was just too much for her, as she managed to take a nasty spill when she got out of the car. I saw her I think two days after it had happened and she was very noticeably limping, and I suggested maybe she should go have someone look at it. She figured she just had to give it some time, so I didn't press the issue.

In the following weeks, sometimes when I'd see her she'd be limping, sometimes she'd be fine. I'd suggest again maybe she should go to a doctor, but she said that every time she would think maybe it was time to go get it checked out, she'd wake up one morning and it'd feel a whole lot better. Mom's version of exercise is very different from mine, but she does go to the gym and walk around the track on occasion, and she had done that a few times, only to wake up the day after and once again find herself hardly able to walk. So finally yesterday she went in to see a podiatrist. Diagnosis: she broke her foot. She has to wear one of those boot things for 4-6 weeks. The doctor was quite impressed that she had not been taking anything for the pain. But the best part of the whole thing is that a week from tomorrow she and my father are going down to St. Martin for their annual trip, and had she gone to see a doctor right away, the boot would be off by then. Although she did say that now she'll probably be able to get on the plane first. She has a strange obsession with being one of the first ones on the plane. Me? I'll wait. They give you a seat assignment for a reason, and who wants to be on a plane any longer than necessary?

So anyway, she just thinks it's kind of funny that her foot has been broken for a month and she's just been walking around on it like it's going to magically heal itself. It's her first broken bone. So if something doesn't feel quite right and it's not getting better on its own, maybe you should go see a doctor, say, sooner than a month after you injure yourself. And be incredibly careful walking on ice. The aunt's house she was going to actually just last winter broke her ankle the same way.

In other, silly news about my family, I find it kind of funny that I have so many adult relatives on facebook. But apparently that is not all they are doing. Another one of my aunts had a birthday yesterday, and my uncle got her a Wii. My aunt is in her 50's, so that seems like an odd gift. But apparently she loves it and even had my grandmother playing it. Then my mother tried it and she decided she loves it so much she's going to get one. Who would've thought?

By the way, I know I'm part Irish and I know that everyone eats corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day, but I won't be. First of all, I hate it. And second of all, they do not eat that in Ireland! We need to stop this madness!

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Monday... and it's NOT snowing!

An incredible thing happened this morning: it didn't snow. I didn't have to think about when I was going to get my swim in, or if the gym was even going to open due to bad weather. I could just get up and go. It was fantastic. That easy, Monday swim always makes me feel better after a grueling weekend of training, so it was nice to finally be able to get it in early in the morning for the first time in I believe three weeks. According to the calendar spring starts on Friday, and it is finally starting to look like it around here. I won't complain about the black snowbanks that are left behind, because the blacker they are, the less snow there is, even if it is pretty disgusting to look at.

Yesterday was another tough day of training. An interesting one, too, although not in the same way that Saturday's training was interesting, (frozen bottles) thankfully. It started out with an hour-long run. I have not done a run as my first workout of the day in I think four months or so, since all of my runs now come after bike rides, so that was a change. It used to be how I did all of my runs, typically as the sun was coming up. I do notice that running later in the day usually makes me faster, but I still always enjoyed running in the morning and feeling accomplished so early upon arriving home. So this was different. It was in the mid 20's when I went out, colder than it's been lately but again I was finally able to go out when my hair wasn't sweat-soaked underneath my hat so that was helpful in the situation. My legs felt tight and tired from the day before, but I got through it.

That was only the beginning though. After a little break with the Sunday paper, I headed out on my bike for a couple of hours. The nice part about this ride is that it was supposed to be nice and easy. It actually made my legs feel a whole lot better. By then it was sunny and in the mid 40's, which relatively speaking is nice and warm. Then, after finishing up with that, it was time to change back into the run shoes, put on some shorts and head out for an hour and fifteen minutes more of running. I've never really done anything quite like that. I'm sure I've run more than once in a day at least a couple of times, but never that long for each. For the first time in a very long time my heart rate was actually too low when I was running. I wasn't going much slower than the first run, but it was just way lower. It might have been my own fault for kind of feeling nervous that I could crack at any moment, but I don't really know. I do know that when I was finally finished for the day I was very glad to have another successfully completed week of training behind me. Two more tough weeks to go before the taper for California. I still can't believe how close that race is. If they didn't keep moving it then it would probably be this weekend, which is even scarier to think about. I wonder where my wetsuit is? At least I know that it will fit this time!

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, I just have to offer this one thing. I don't usually talk about anything political but this is driving me crazy: How exactly did AIG intend to pay these "contractually obligated" bonuses had the government not given them all of that money?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

More outdoor riding and stupid, avoidable mistakes

I am thoroughly amazed that for two weeks in a row I have been able to do my long rides outside. I guess I'll take snowy Mondays if it continues to mean that the weekend weather is going to be good. This weekend is not supposed to be quite as warm as last weekend was, but I'll take it. However, all did not go exactly perfectly. This week of course the sun was coming up later, so I couldn't start as early as I did last week. I have a strange obsession with starting my long rides as early as possible. Essentially, towards the end of the ride I don't want to be thinking to myself, "I could be done already if I had just started earlier!" So depending on the circumstances, I usually aim for as soon as it is light enough. Definitely a different thing this time of year than it is in the summer. Yes, I've started as early as 4:40 in the morning (that particular day it was supposed to get close to 100 degrees and it really did matter that I finish as early as possible) But today it only meant 7am.

The major problem with this is that of course it is March, and very much still winter in spite of the slight temperature reprieve. And of course it is coldest in the mornings. So what was the temperature when I set of this morning? According to my thermometer, it was 16 degrees. This is the part where you accuse me of being crazy, and I really can't argue with that. I've never ridden when it was that cold out before, but I knew it was supposed to warm up. It actually didn't feel as bad as a ride I went on back in December that was somewhere around 24 the whole time and incredibly windy. For example, this time no ice formed on my face mask.

I was surprised actually at just how long it seemed to take to warm up. Sometimes the sun warms things up quickly... and sometimes it doesn't. And the fact that there is still plenty of snow on the ground surely doesn't help. Because my mouth and nose were covered by my trusty face mask, which I wouldn't have made it far without, I didn't drink anything for the first chunk of the ride. I couldn't bring myself to expose my face to the elements. I wasn't really all that cold, amazingly enough, although my fingers were giving me some trouble for a while, and it took at least 2 hours before I could shift back into the big ring with my left hand because it just stopped working. At least the other one worked.

I had gone about 14 miles before I thought about maybe braving the cold and drinking some water. It was then that I noticed what should've been an obvious inevitability, given the circumstances: my water was all frozen. I had four bottles that weren't going to be of much use to me since they were nothing but neatly-contained blocks of ice. Crap.

I considered my options. I could've just turned around right then and gotten some fresh water bottles that weren't ice, but I just didn't want to do that. even if it probably was the smartest thing to do. I could tell that at the rate things were going, waiting for the bottles to thaw on their own was probably not a viable option, unless I was willing to go another 3-4 hours without water. Even if it warmed up to 40, which was probably as good as it was going to get, that probably wouldn't melt them very fast. I remembered a gas station at around mile 44 on my route that had a big convenience store in it and thought maybe they would have a microwave for the typical convenience store nasty burritos that I could use to defrost them. The particular route I was on didn't supply me with a world of options, so that seemed to be my best hope.

I pedaled on, preoccupied with whether or not I was suddenly going to just hardly be able to turn the pedals due to dehydration. I'm no stranger to riding under-fueled though. I used to not really take in anything on rides until they got close to the 4-hour mark. I'm not supposed to do that anymore, but I know I could if I had to. I also once rode 112 miles over the Kancamangus highway from my parents house at the lake, climbing up to 2800' on nothing but a bottle and a half of water. I didn't plan on it, but my stomach was bothering me and I just couldn't stand the idea of putting anything else in there. Although I think if I recall correctly I took a 3-hour nap right after. Still didn't eat.

But anyway, it was still way colder out than I thought it should've been, but I don't know exactly how cold. I miss my old bike computer with the thermometer on it... even if sometimes you're better off not knowing. I happened to notice in my aero bottle the shadow of liquid bouncing back and forth on the top, tanting me. I tried to take a sip, but the straw was frozen. I had managed to get a couple of slushy sips from my electrolyte bottle, as maybe the freezing point was lower on that one, but that didn't last either. After about 35 miles I pulled over for a minute to eat half a Powerbar - an ordeal that is much easier when you can stop and remove bulky gloves, as I came awfully close to falling over the last time I tried to do this with those stupid gloves on - and I took my aero bottle out from between the bars and downed the little bit of liquid H2O that still remained on the top. It was mostly coated in ice, but that water sure was good.

I continued on, ironically riding along a flowing river and considering going over and dunking my head in, but thought better of it. I finally reached the convenience store I hoped would be my savior, thinking my microwave plan was brilliant. It might've been... if they had one. Crap, again. I was only 18 miles from home, even if I still had to ride for another 3 and a half hours I think at that point. I knew I could make it home to reload, but the remainder of the ride would be questionable at that point. So my other back-up plan was to swing by a friend's house about 12 miles closer than mine, and beg for help. They're athletes, so they know. I made it to the house and was ecstatic to see a car in the garage. My timing was perfect, just before taking the kids to swimming lessons. I had trouble articulating my issue because my face was cold enough that I couldn't talk quite right, but I ran my bottles under the hot water and tried to chug as much as I could. I saw that it had now warmed up to 39 degrees, even if it didn't really feel like it.

After that little pit stop and some drinkable water, albeit still full of lots of ice chunks and therefore almost painfully cold to drink, I still decided to head for home to swap for some less bulky gloves, lose the now-unnecessary face mask and thaw the straw of my aero bottle so I could drink from it. That was easy enough, just a run under the faucet and I filled the ice-lined bottle with hot water so I could finally drink from it. I never drink enough unless the straw is right there in my face. Then I could finally set off at full water capacity without fear of icing and finish the last two hours of my ride. This is the hardest part since I had to finish out the last hour and ten minutes with my heart rate about 10-15 beats above where I did the rest of the ride. Not easy after all that riding, especially when a whole bunch of it was done dehydrated.

But somehow I finished, after spending a bunch of time wondering why I had never really encountered this issue before. Aside from previous unwillingness to ride in such cold temperatures, I realized I've just never had to do rides this long this early in the season before, so I would never have felt the need to start so early. I also had to do a 50-minute transition run afterward, even though all I really wanted to do was collapse. I sucked down a gel , changed into shorts since it was all the way up to 45 by then, and hit the road.

I was fairly skeptical about how that run might turn out. It's never good to dig yourself in a hole as far as hydration is concerned early on for such a long training day. It can make the end of said training session quite unpleasant. It was also the longest transition run I'd done since 2005. For a while I was on the never longer than 30 minutes plan, but I guess I'm off it now. I always felt like you could fake it through 30 minutes, but that extra 20 made it seem a little scarier.

It was one of those runs where I often wondered how my legs were still moving forward. It was also one of those runs where I was basically just waiting to bonk and start hallucinating and considering hitchhiking home. Even on a 30-minute transition run once I finally had to just walk the last mile home because I had nothing left. On that outing I had briefly considered taking a couple of the Clif Blocks that were left in an open package on the side of the road (not something you see every day on the side of the road when not running on some race course) but, you know, it was open and surely could've been sitting there for a while. But this time, I didn't have to stop and walk. I felt like it could've happened at any moment, and my legs were not happy with any hill I had to try and run up, but my pace wasn't terrible and I finally finished. Again not thrilled that I was not somewhere with a seat in the shower.

So I'm glad I could ride outside, but just let that be a reminder that just because you can dress warm enough for the cold weather, doesn't mean your water isn't going to freeze on you. And those rides are a lot more enjoyable with water. Hopefully this will not be an issue from here on out because it just won't be that freezing anymore. But I'm not going to bet on it. I'll just maybe consider starting a little later next time, even though just today not finishing until 2 didn't thrill me.

Now I must continue drinking all of the fluids I can get my hands on.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hill workouts on windy days

I've established that Mondays are the snowy days. Well, Thursdays are the windy days, and usually the colder-than-normal days. I know this because Thursdays are now hill repeat days, and every time I've done a hill repeat workout, it has been windy and cold. The degree of coldness has fortunately become a lot less severe, but that still doesn't mean I enjoy running when the windchill is 15 degrees in March. But again, at least it was sunny.

I'd never done hill repeat workouts before this season. I always just sort of ran up the hills when I came to them, which given where I run is certainly often enough. Hills have never really been my strong suit when it comes to running. I got good at them on the bike a couple of years ago, before my power-to-weight ratio started to suffer, and not because my legs weren't as strong... but anyway. I'm 6' tall, which if you didn't realize, is pretty tall for a female. By default I am going to be more gravity-challenged than your average female runner. In other words, I suppose while it might be physically possible for me to get down to 120 pounds, I don't think I'd be able to run very fast. Yet for some reason I actually kind of like this workout. There's just something kind of fun about going all-out for a few repeats. It also breaks up the run nicely. So in spite of the wind and cold and having to wear gloves, a hat, tights, etc. yet again, it was a good workout.

I also booked my trip to St. Croix for the 70.3 in May. I signed up for it months ago but finally sat down and got a hotel and a flight. In my research though I learned that one, there is a very good chance that my bike will not arrive on the island at the same time as I do because the last leg of the flight is on some prop plane from Puerto Rico, and two, it is probably the hardest half ironman out there. I was intimidated before, but after reading several race reports, I am even more intimidated now. At least I'll get a very mini vacation out of it, going down Friday to Tuesday. Glad I set it up to not leave the day after the race because that is never fun at all. I should try not to think about it though because three weeks from today I'm leaving for California and I definitely have to get through that one first!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rain this time, getting better

When last I wrote, it was snowing. We got a good one, too. I never bothered to check the official tally because it's depressing either way. Although I'll admit that for a few seconds yesterday as I set off on a little run on the once-again snow-covered driveway so see the snow-covered trees in the sun, I actually thought it was kind of pretty. You know when it's prettier though? December, like around Christmas when you still think snow is kind of fun. But hey, since the sun is so high in the sky these days, by the end of the day the driveway was no longer covered in snow. No, it was slush instead. And today, thanks to rain, it is heavier, sloppier slush, but there is a bit less of it.

Yes, this morning there was rain and lots of it. But that at least is a step in the right direction because rain does not need to be shoveled or cleaned off the car, and it tends not to make your early-morning drive to the pool treacherous. Apparently there was some freezing rain in places, but aside from the aforementioned slush-covered driveway, the roads were fine. And I think rain helps to melt the snow, so I guess I can deal with it. And the knowledge that three weeks from tomorrow I am headed to southern California for my first tri of the season. It seems impossible that it is already that close, especially considering the mounds of slush I just had to dodge on my run, but it is.

The only thing that really makes me nervous is that it was just about this time last year that I got injured. It was the injury that sent me on a downward spiral of epic proportions, and it was an injury to a part of my body I didn't even know I had. It was a day or two after St. Patrick's Day, and I was feeling pretty good about my running progress. I was doing winter track workouts and getting faster. My first race was a mere week and a half away. I went out on the most basic, average run ever. Just an out-and-back route that I had run hundreds of times at a comfortable pace. Inevitably, if you are going to get injured on a run, it will happen when you are as far from home as possible. My 7-mile jaunt had reached just beyond the turnaround so I could head back home, shower and get to work. Slowly this strange pain began to develop way down in my lower back on the right side, really more in the glute. Huh, never felt that before. I kept on going because, well, I still had over 3 miles to go and what else was I supposed to do?

I stopped to see if I could stretch it out, maybe it was cramping. Ok, well, that didn't help in the slightest. I tried that a couple more times and then decided to just sort of limp/run the rest of the way and figure it out later. If I walked it would take too long, and walking didn't seem to hurt any less. Well, by the time I got out of the shower I could barely even walk. I was holding on to walls for support. I went in to work and tried to hide the tears that threatened to well up whenever I had to get up and move around. Partly due to the pain, but partly because I was so worried about what I had done to myself and how long this was going to last. The thought of walking 10 feet to the copier was enough to scare me.

I knew how close the race was, and a tiny part of me thought that maybe this would just go away and I'd be ok to race. That afternoon I went home and even thought that maybe I'd be able to get in my bike workout since it was a nice day. I didn't even make it a mile before I turned around and rode home, again in tears. What was I going to do? The next morning I tried swimming, and even that hurt. Not so much kicking but just the physical act of trying to keep my legs up. I did the entire workout with a pull buoy because I had to do something or I was going to go completely out of my mind.

I didn't get to race. I took the trouble to pack up and bring my bike anyway, just in case there was some sort of miracle, but deep down I knew. I met some friends out there at the airport who hadn't seen me in a while and they noticed I was limping and I told them that maybe I'd still race, but I knew what would happen on Saturday morning. I knew not to bother with carbo-loading or making sure to stay hydrated.

So that was my first and so far only experience with not doing a race that I had signed up for. Well, unless you count in 2003 when I had signed up to run the Los Angeles marathon when I lived there, but I moved back to NH a few weeks before the race and didn't go back for it. I will say that I did enjoy not getting in that freezing cold ocean and not being nervous about anything, and since I had registered I had access to the transition area and got some really good pictures, but I hated watching. It really hit me when I was watching the runners and I saw the sign for the finish line and the turn-around and I wished I could be out there running.

A few weeks later when I finally got an appointment with someone since it wasn't going away I found out I had injured my sacroilliac joint on my right side. Again, who knew I had one of those? Never heard of it before then. I hadn't run more than a few jogging test steps through the living room in five weeks. I could finally bike and swimming didn't hurt as much, but I had signed up for a whole lot of triathlons, not aqua-bikes. I was panicked about missing so much running at such a key time. I started running for about 20 mintues at a time, still in pain but apparently not making things worse. I ran the Big Lake half marathon two weeks after I had started running again and experienced minor pain in my SI joint, but major pain in my untrained run legs and even greater pain to my psyche as I finished nearly 30 minutes slower than I otherwise might have. A week after that I finally had a pain-free run. I wasn't sure I'd ever have one of those again. But reality set in: I had a lot of catching up to do.

You often hear stories about people who are out with injuries for months at a time and then still somehow come back and have great races. I was not one of those people. Really the mental damage was far worse for me than the physical. That never helps. I spent the rest of the season setting new personal worsts. Well, I never actually went slower than my first half ironman, but I was close. And I sure has heck set a new personal worst for the half marathon, in the form of a run that took longer than my 56-mile bike had. Now that takes talent... wait, I mean complete lack of it. Timberman 2008 was definitely the worst race experience I have ever had. Although limping the final 3 miles in Lake Placid in the pouring rain to finish close to 90 minutes later than I am capable of wasn't a picnic either.

So that one stupid day in March nearly a year ago set me off on that really fun downward spiral. I had a couple of other little random injury-type things happen, again to things I didn't know I had (there's a cuboid bone in my foot? You don't say?) I put on a lot of weight because who needs to be careful about what they're eating when it doesn't matter anyway? I used to be way heavier than I am now, and certainly even way heavier than my recent indiscretions, so my body certainly knows what it's like to be fat.

Somehow, I kept going. I absolutely thought about giving this all up entirely, thinking that I couldn't possibly get back to where I was. I thought I had screwed up just badly enough that there was now no going back. To tell you the truth, I'm still not entirely convinced, but I've got some people who seem to believe that I can, so I'm going to give it another shot. After spectating in Kona this year rather than racing, I was reminded how much I want to get back there.

So I signed on to get coached by Jesse at QT2 Systems, who for some strange reason actually wanted me on the team after my awesome 2008 racing season. I am not sure he knew exactly what he was getting into, because what he got to start was certainly nothing remotely close to the 2006 Lake Placid winner. But he coached me anyway and told me it would get better. It's taken a few months, as I started back in November, but a funny thing has been happening lately: things have been getting better. I'm relentlessly hard on myself, and nothing is really ever good enough so I wouldn't really allow myself to be happy with the small bits of progress that were made in the beginning. But lately, I've finally started to see some numbers I like and can actually be happy with. Am I fast? No. Am I close to where I was before? No. But lots of progress has been made, and for the first time in a very long time, it actually seems like it might be possible to get close to where I was before. I just have to make sure that I don't hurt myself again.

California last year was the beginning of the end for me. This year I am just hoping that it is a new beginning.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Another Monday, another snowstorm

24 hours ago I was finishing up a nice long run in shorts and getting the slightest bit of sun on my completely un-tanned legs. Now I am in the midst of yet another snowstorm that dropped another 6" or so and erased the memory of the lovely, spring-like weekend. Today was heavy, wet snow, too. All of the other storms this winter have been light and fluffy because it has been unreasonably cold, but this is just thick, heavy, messy snow. And the worst part is that it just won't STOP! It has been going all day and once again it looks like January outside. So apparently my bike ride tomorrow will be inside. But at least this time I don't mind as much because I spent the weekend outside. It also means less disgusting laundry and no need to clean my bike. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to clean a mud-encrusted bike without a hose? The stupid hose is still buried in snow, and so there are a lot of crevices on my bike that are still full of dirt, but there is only so much you can do with a bucket and a sponge when your fingers are freezing. I honestly contemplated taking the bike and putting it in the tub!

How many more weeks do I have to survive this? Hopefully not too many more. At least I've got that little trip to Oceanside coming up in less than four weeks now!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Outdoor rides

Of course when I finally break down and purchase a computrainer, the weather turns nice enough for some outdoor riding. No problem, I am sure this won't last and there are sure to be plenty more winters of indoor training in my future. For now, I'll take advantage of it. Every once in a while the timing of these bonus nice days works out perfectly with the workout schedule. Of course, just as often it seems to work the opposite, but for now, luck was on my side. The forecast for Saturday and my 5 and a half hour bike ride was for partly cloudy and a high of 55. Normally this time of year when we are treated to high temperatures they are accompanied either by wind, rain, or my favorite: both. Not this time. A little breeze, sure, but not really much to contend with. Perfect.

I prepped the bike on Friday night and made sure I had all of my outdoor gear ready to go. So yesterday morning when I woke up as the sun was coming in my window a little after 6, all I really had to do was eat my breakfast, get dressed and hit the road. Of course, at that point it was only 30 degrees out, but I'm one of those people who likes to start my workouts early, so I dealt with it. The only really tough part was walking my bike past the icy part of the driveway that never gets sun and stubbornly refuses to melt, but once I got past that, I was on my way.

My clothing choice was good enough that I was never really cold except for maybe my toes in a few choice spots. Sometimes the air would feel 15 degrees warmer depending on where I was, and then I'd hit a valley or something that was way colder. It was so nice to be going somewhere instead of watching the 300th movie on the trainer this winter. I love movies, but when you watch that many of them, by default you wind up watching quite a few that are absolutely terrible.

I picked a loop that I figured probably wouldn't be too bad in terms of leftover snow, ice and water on the roads with wide shoulders. It takes me down into Massachusetts through a state forest and then back up north of the border to finish it out. There aren't a whole lot of cars on that route, especially early in the morning, and it's got some good, sustained hills on it which is good for me. On a few back roads I encountered some serious frost heaves, which are just going to be tons of fun for the next couple of months. For those of you fortunate enough to live far enough south that you do not know what frost heaves are, it's sort of like if there were some huge underground creature that was trying to burst through the pavement from underneath only it didn't quite make it through, just created a massive bump. They're not so much fun on a road bike, but were greatly appreciated when I was a kid on a mountain bike looking to go off, you know, "sweet jumps".

The roads were wet in spots and basically me and my bike were a mess, but I didn't care. And only once did I come across a large patch of melting ice that I couldn't get out of the way of due to the fantastic timing of a passing truck, but somehow managed to stay upright as I noticed it just in time. I rode for about 3 and a half hours and went back to the house to get more water and shed a couple of layers for the remainder of the ride. I might have even been able to get away with shorts at that point, but my tights were such a mess that I figured I might as well just let them get dirtier rather than let me get dirtier.

There is definitely something about outdoor rides that makes them just feel like a lot more of a real workout than a trainer ride. Obviously moving actually helps. And fighting wind and hills. I would've gladly called it a day after completing 98 miles (I know, I could've gone and done the other 2 to make it an even 100, but I don't really care about that kind of thing anymore and didn't want anything to put off any further the nap I was so focused on as my reward) but no, time for a 40-minute transition run. The good part about that was for once I didn't have to deal with tights, a jacket, gloves, hat, etc. Just shorts and a new shirt and I was off. Yep, it was hard. And I hate that I live in sort of a valley so there is pretty much no such thing as a flat run, but at least they usually end easier than they start.

After the whole ordeal I was certainly exhausted. But in a good way. Whenever I finish a workout like that I'm almost always torn between just sitting or lying down for a couple of minutes or just getting that obviously-necessary shower out of the way. It's just too bad standing is involved in that second option. But after getting clean and eating some of my delicious home made chili, I was finally ready for that nap I had been thinking so much about. This was one of those cases though of being too tired to sleep. I just lied completely still with my eyes closed for about an hour. I think it was equally satisfying.

Just a quick note about my night last night. I went with some friends to see "Milk". It was one of those cases of us wanting to go to the movies, but there not being a whole lot of good choices. Two of us had already seen Slumdog Millionaire (highly recommend it) so aside from Hotel for Dogs and that Mall Cop movie that somehow has made millions, this was the choice. And it reaffirmed to me why I almost never actually watch the movies the Oscars nominate for best picture. Can you say, boring? Or maybe I am just not cultured enough. Slumdog was an exception though. That was a good movie. This one was not. I did manage to get some sleep during it though that I missed out on at nap time earlier.

And as you know, today we were robbed of an hour of our Sunday. Here are two propositions for if I ruled the world: 1. Fall back shall remain the same, gaining an hour on a Saturday night. But spring forward shall now occur at 3pm on Friday afternoon. And 2. Leap years will no longer include February 29th, but will now have a June 31st instead. Really, who wants an extra day of February?

So when I awakened this morning and saw my clock said 6:45, which in and of itself to me is considered sleeping in, I was not happy to learn that really it was 7:45 because I didn't change it last night before I went to bed. The good news was though that I noticed right away the sun coming in the window. I drove home in rain last night and expected more of the same this morning, but apparently it moved out rather quickly, so I wasted no time getting ready to head out on my bike once again. It's amazing how much less mentally taxing a 2-hour easy ride can be outdoors rather than inside. I think I actually zoned out to the point where I don't even remember much of what happened in the middle. Just an even messier bike that I still haven't cleaned off because I've been way too tired!

But the weekend was not over yet, as I discovered doing some math that more than half of my weekly training volume falls on these two days. Just one 2-hour long run standing between me and another completed training week. I wanted to lie in front of the TV and fall asleep to the Harry Potter movie marathon on the Family Channel, but I had to get out and run. At least this was the second run this year where I've actually been able to carry water without the fear of it freezing on me before I was able to drink it. I also got to wear shorts, and am hoping that this winter sun gives my legs a little color quickly so that I don't have to scare passing drivers with the whiteness.

My legs were tired, but I was running much, much faster than I have for these long runs recently. Seriously, like a minute per mile faster, and I didn't even really feel good. Still not fast enough but faster. It managed to make me feel a little better. Although I was certainly quite tired when it was all over, an hour later than it should've been because of the clock change.

But what's on tap for tomorrow? The easy day. Just an easy swim. But that's not all. Apparently, we should expect 4-6" of snow. Yep, after two days in a row of temperatures in the mid 60's and seeing some grass exposed, not to mention there finally being a pathway around the ice remaining on the driveway so I can ride straight from the garage, it is going to snow again. We seem to always get stuck in these 7-day patterns where it snows every week on the same day, and lately that day has been Monday. I am going to try not to get too irritated by it, seeing how quickly last week's storm managed to melt given the warmer weather. That, and the fact that I don't have to deal with any outdoor workouts anyway. I guess it will be back to the computrainer on Tuesday, but that's what I got it for, right?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I finally got a computrainer

A lot of my talk has been focused on the bike trainer lately. That finally may change soon as currently the forecast calls for temperatures in the 50's this weekend.... but we shall see. But for at least a few more days, the inside bike workouts will continue. But what can possibly make that easier to bear? A computrainer, of course.

I have wanted to get one of these since I learned they existed. In the meantime, I've been using an old trainer my father bought probably sometime around 1998. He's a cyclist, and he picked one up to ride in the winter. I think he might have used it three times. He's just more of an outside-on-warm-days-when-it's-not-raining kind of rider. I can't say I blame him. Sometimes I think about how nice it would be to look out the window on a day I'm supposed to ride, see that it's raining and just put it off until tomorrow. But of course, that's not going to get me anywhere. But anyway, I think I started using it in 2004 once I decided to do something other than spin classes at the gym to keep myself in cycling shape while it was too cold to ride. Bottom line: the thing is old. It isn't a bad trainer. Actually, it has served me quite well. It's got a shifter thing to adjust the resistance to I think a grand total of three levels, but it doesn't really matter because that cable has long since rusted through and doesn't work anymore anyway. At least it rusted through while it was in the hardest setting. So I just shift the gears.

It's only really noisy for about the first 15 minutes until it warms up and stops making this loud buzzing sound, the origin of which I don't care enough about to try and figure out since it always goes away eventually. The problem has been that this year I've been given some specific workouts to do that involve some very low cadence work at a best effort intensity. With my old trainer, I can do one or the other, but not both. I can obviously pedal as hard as I can for each interval and get my heart rate up, but the resistance isn't hard enough to get my cadence anywhere near low enough for this kind of strength-building. On the other side, surely I could just pedal slower, but that isn't exactly taxing. So I had been doing the best I could, but really, it seemed like it was time to get the computrainer and actually be able to measure my progress. So I was on the phone last week with Fast Splits, the trusty "local" tri shop (down in Massachusetts) and last night at about 6pm UPS showed up at the door with my new computrainer.

Then of course comes that combination of excitement and dread. Ok, I finally got my computrainer and can really get started. But man, now I've got to try and set the thing up and figure out how the heck it works. I hate learning curves. Amazingly, it didn't really take an incredibly long time to get everything hooked up. I think the software is going to take a bit longer. I got too tired last night to figure that part out though, so I called it quits.

This morning I had a 90-minute easy ride to do. For my first computrainer ride I suppose I could've done something more interesting, like ridden some course or used one of the real course videos, but I opted not to even hook up the computer and just use the ergometer mode and hold a steady wattage the whole time. I figure I've got plenty of time for playing. I think I calibrated it correctly, and off I went. First computrainer ride was a success, although I barely used any of the fun features. Tomorrow I really get to test it with some higher wattage stuff and lower cadence stuff. And although I'm sure it will be fun to play with, I really, really hope that the forecast stays true for Saturday and I get to do my first outdoor long ride since early December. Nothing like riding by the ski area on your bike.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Well, at least the sun is out

I slept great last night, thanks to a less-than-stellar night on Sunday. I groggily rolled over and opened by eyes a bit to see the hint of daylight coming in the window. Huh, it must be getting kind of late. Except I peeked over at the clock and saw that it wasn't even 6am yet. Wow, the days really are getting longer. Then I heard a bird chirping. Spring must be coming! The clocks change this weekend! Oh, but wait! Look a little closer there. Remember how we got that fresh foot of snow yesterday? Oh. Right. But see, the snow stopped falling and the sun is out. Let's go look at the thermometer and see what the temperature is. Oh, 10. Great. And it's windy. Even better.

Apparently someone thought it would be funny to turn back time to early January. I have always expressed how much I hate the month of March, it's just that I don't quite remember how much until it shows up again each year. "Spring" supposedly arrives in March. Astrologically speaking, that is. For those of us stupid enough to live in New Hampshire, it's really more like winter, junior. So you get more sunlight, typically a few taunting days that are unseasonably warm, and a few more sneaky snowstorms often of the heavy, wet variety just to destroy your hope of ever seeing grass or leaves again and leave us all threatening to move south, but never wising up enough to actually do so.

The painful truth is that spring does not exist around here. We don't really have late fall, either. We go right from gorgeous fall, which really is nice, to our winter preview, to endless winter, to winter junior, to mud, and straight to summer. April really isn't that nice, either. Every year when we finally make it through March I start to think that maybe, just maybe I can expect some warmer temperatures. Then I am reminded that the average temperatures in April are still only in the 40's. In case you weren't aware, that is not warm. Not at all. We often have a few more sneaky snow events in April as well. I even had some snow days as a kid. Heck, the first race of any kind I ever did was a 12K road race in my home town in the middle of May and it snowed. It's like we're never safe. Granted, there was that one, glorious March when I was in college in Boston where we had some freakishly warm days in the upper 80's, but something tells me I shouldn't hold my breath for that kind of anomaly.

So what does all of this mean? Another foot of snow. More snow to melt and mess up the roads, plus a couple of days to start the week with highs in the 20's and windchills near zero. That means that it is very likely that I will not be riding my bike outside anytime soon and I really need to find more movies to watch because I've watched almost everything at this point. I did think of one other good thing about the trainer as opposed to outside this morning: you don't have to worry about being fashionable. If you are in your basement alone, you can wear that old jersey that is faded and doesn't really fit right with the broken zipper, and those bike shorts that still work fine but might be a little too worn out to be seen in public, and nobody cares. This is on top of some of the other good things, including: always knowing what the "weather" is going to be like, never having to worry about idiot drivers on cell phones or red necks yelling things out their windows that 9 out of 10 times you can't understand, catching up on the movies and TV shows you miss because you go to bed at 8:30, having water, food and a bathroom readily available, never having to call for a ride, not needing CO2 should you get a flat, no need for that helmet (although I did once manage to fall off the stupid trainer, so maybe I should consider it) and if you are riding for time you don't have to try and figure out how long certain routes will take, you just stop when you reach the desired time.

None of that makes riding inside better than riding outside, but I have to make myself feel better somehow. And that didn't stop me from having to venture outside for a transition run on the icy, snowy roads and the zero-degree windchills. But like I said, the sun was out. We can't have everything. And yesterday they did finally open up the pool at 4:00. It was a weird day. You would think people around here had never seen snow before. The gym is never closed. I've been there on some pretty snowy mornings and they have never even considered it. And I am positive that when I worked there they never closed due to weather. But at least I got it in.

And the other good news is that any precipitation in the forecast for now is rain/snow, not just snow, so that is progress, right? Just have to get through the next couple of below-freezing days and know that it at least theoretially should get better from here. Just have to wonder how many more Saturday long rides will have to be endured in the basement.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My first indoor time trial

About a month ago I was informed by my coach that indoor time trials actually hurt more than 5K races. I figured that couldn't possibly be true, given that every time I line up at the start of a 5K race, which I think has happened four times in my career, I wish it was a half marathon. I was not designed to redline for a short period of time, I don't enjoy that kind of hurt. However, I can somehow tolerate being moderately uncomfortable for extended periods of time, hence the long-course racing I usually opt for.

But this was on the bike. This wasn't running. Surely it couldn't possibly hurt more than the throat-stripping, heavy-breathing, leg-burning pain of going all-out for 3.1 miles.

I was wrong.

It hurt. A lot. A lot more than I ever imagined it could.

My pre-race rest week ended with a couple of incredibly easy days, topping out with a 1500-yard easy swim and a 30-minute easy bike ride on Saturday morning. These extremely shortened workouts also guaranteed me some extra sleep, including I believe a solid 10 hours on Friday night. So I certainly felt rested coming into Sunday. The nice part was that my heat wasn't until 1:00 in the afternoon, so there was even more extra sleep to be had.

After my pre-race "breakfast" I hit the road just after 11, bound for Boston. We were due for a bit of snow, but at the time the sky was merely overcast, so I decided to put my bike on the roof rather than play the game of Tetris that is trying to fit my 58 Cervelo in the trunk of my compact Nissan Sentra. Unfortunately, the further south I got, the messier things got. It was March, but it was snowing and it was cold. In the 20's, so it started out as a light, fluffy snow that just kind of blew all over the road. But the further south I got the messier things seemed to get. The roads were wet and I had to wonder if there was ice, and of course the visibility was just great, given the road crud being kicked up by the tires of the cars driving in front of me. I knew my bike was now being splattered with the mess, and contemplated stopping somewhere to put it in the car, but I figured the damage had been done and I might as well just get there.

After only one brief slip on the somewhat icy road I made it to Landry's Cyclery on Commonwealth Ave in Boston. Parking in Boston is free on Sundays and I actually managed to grab a spot pretty close as someone was pulling out. Not close enough to keep my fingers from freezing when I pushed the bike down the sidewalk, however.

The time trial had heats starting I believe as early as 7:20 in the morning, so by the time I got there, there were a whole lot of people there. I knew the time trial was supposed to be around 10K, but we didn't know what "course" we would be riding. I was informed upon entering that the course they had chosen was the last 6.4 miles of the Boston marathon, backwards. For those of you who are unaware, this meant that it was almost entirely uphill. This is not good news for current fatties such as myself who still have 20 pounds to lose and don't have a particularly good power-to-weight ratio going on at the moment. Oh, and my favorite thing right now is weigh-ins, especially on scales that add 3-4 pounds to what you really are. How is it that the scales at these things always weigh you heavy? And just so you know, this is not my own wishful thinking, everyone said it was heavy. Those few little pounds make a big difference when they enter that data into the trainer you will be riding and make your ride considerably more difficult than the riders around you while you struggle uphill.

So that fun part was over and I got to go around back to the parking garage that they had converted into a trainer-filled warm-up area. I found an empty one and spun away aimlessly, not really knowing what I had gotten myself into. I still thought it couldn't hurt more than a 5K. Ignorance is bliss. I spun for 20-30 minutes, I didn't really pay attention but more or less was just killing time. Finally we went inside as our heat approached. I somehow got coaxed into the "elite" wave. There was one other time that I had been convinced to do that: my only duathlon in 2007, where I came in front of only two other people in my wave - one who just happened to somehow be slower than me, and one who I had seen early in the race walking the opposite direction of the bike course pushing what was obviously some sort of mechanical failure. Needless to say, I do not enjoy elite waves. And in this case, we were talking about extraordinarily strong cyclists, mostly males. Great.

I found my slot and waited to get callibrated and set for my doom. Some guy came around and asked my weight again, which made me wonder why they had taken the trouble to write it down earlier when I had come in. Looking back, I probably should've lied. Nothing like telling strange men your weight when you are way too heavy in the middle of some of the fittest cyclists in the area. I didn't take a good look, but I am pretty sure I was the heaviest one in the wave, which did not bode well for the uphill ride. However, I still did not expect it to hurt nearly as much as it did. Nor did I expect it to take as long as it did.

We were lined up in two groups of 8 with a big screen in front of us showing our wattage and where on the course we were, miles per hour, how far behind, all of that fun stuff. We stopped pedaling for a minute and then they sent us off. I had been told what wattage to go off at, and I tried to hold it, but the wattage kept jumping between about a 30-watt span and I couldn't seem to settle in. It started out much easier than it ended, so my heart rate was only about 180 for a while. However, due to the uphill nature of the course the miles certainly were not ticking by as quickly as I might've hoped.

I had been focusing most of my attention on the wattage, trying to keep it where I was supposed to, and only after a few minutes did I take a moment to look up and realize that I was dead last. Great, not again. Running, sure, I'm used to that. But biking is supposed to be my strength. But anyway, I still had a long ways to go. Much further than I would've liked. The time went by incredibly slow. And the more time that passed, the more I lost the ability to think or see straight. My heart rate crept up as the hill grade increased. I thought it incredibly mean to make the time trial uphill. I was amazed at how long it was taking to get through the miles and rarely looked at the clock. Only occasionally did I glance at the top of the screen to see my little green bike guy indicating my spot on the course, so far behind everyone else's. Yes, I know, I was behind mostly men who can do 8-9-hour Ironmans, but it still isn't fun to be last.

I had finally reached the worst part of the hill that led us to the finish. My legs had nearly stopped working entirely. My wattage was dropping, my thighs were burning, my heart rate was 187, I'm pretty sure there was drooling, and I wanted nothing more than to give up and stop pedaling, but I still had what seemed like so far to go. I don't remember how long the others were finished before me, because I was only focused on getting through that stupid course. I stood up a few times, hoping that maybe a change in position might make my legs feel a little better, but that didn't help. I had actually lost feeling in my arms from the exertion as my heart rate had reached 190 and I still had a ways to go.

I shut my eyes and pushed, hoping for some sort of relief in my legs, but I had almost completely lost the ability to pedal entirely, just blown up and exhausted. I couldn't sprint to the finish. I couldn't go hard at all. I had nothing left. There were two of us left still going and the last maybe quarter-mile mercifully flattened out and I looked up at the screen waiting for it to end. I honestly have no idea what was going on around me, I just know that finally, when I was the last one to finish, I was elated that I could finally stop and let the intense burning in all of my extremities subside. I couldn't do anything but rest my head on my hands and try to catch my breath while my heart rate slowly came down and the burning very slowly subsided. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get up and make room for the 1:40 heat to take over.

Yes, that was far more painful than a 5K. I don't think I've ever drooled or had clouded vision in a 5K.

It took me somewhere around 22 minutes, I'm not really sure. Again, I was too delerious to pay much attention. I managed to get up and get back to the warm-up/cooldown area, but all of the trainers were taken. While I was waiting I started to waver a bit, but at least managed to stay on my feet. Considering the snow, I had a good excuse to just pack up and get out of there, which I did soon after. That was an incredibly taxing 22 minutes, and I would take a 6-hour ride any day over that.

I opted to stuff the bike in the trunk on the drive home, and this time the weather got better the further I went. By the time I got home it wasn't snowing at all. I put my bike back on my trainer and rode for 90 minutes, then went out for a 45-minute run. Well, it was a great first mile and a half. Then I just felt dizzy and sick and nauseous, as well as having an incredibly high heart rate for no apparent reason. I made it home anyway, a bit after dark, completely spent and ready for bed in spite of the fact that it was only 6:00. But at least I was done.

So that was my day. I hope at least the time trial will help boost my fitness a bit, although I am not going to lie and say that I'm not disappointed in how it went. I am the worst person at pacing, ever. But right now I'm a bit more preoccupied with the fact that we are in the middle of a blizzard which will give us likely at least a foot of new snow, if not more, and at this point I am just about ready to blow my brains out just to avoid dealing with more winter. I know, it's my own fault for living here, but I can only endure it for so long. I'd like to maybe someday actually ride my bike outside. At least there are no rides or runs scheduled for today, although my swim is being postponed since I can't get there just yet. It'll happen eventually, I just have to wait for the snow to lighten up... which might never happen.

Ugh, it's supposed to make me stronger, right?