Monday, August 31, 2009

Rest week!

I was looking at my season plan for 2009 the other day. It's crazy to think that this long journey started way back in November, and how it's really almost over. I know, I've got 6 weeks left before Kona, but I'm pretty sure that 6 weeks is going to go by mind-blowingly fast, as those kinds of weeks tend to do when I wish I had more time to train. It's not only amazing to see how far things have come in this stretch - taking me from a hopelessly far-gone out-of-shape flabby mess back to Kona-qualifying age grouper - but to realize that I have now been "on the program" for 41 weeks. No wonder I'm so tired! Sure, there were rest weeks built in like always, which included more training than many people consider their peak weeks, and there were two weeks - one after St. Croix, one after Lake Placid - which included very minimal training, but other than that, it's been swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run, maybe some lifting, more swim, bike, run... day in and day out.

I know that sometimes triathletes can get a little crazy when they have a rest week coming up, but I was very much looking forward to mine. Especially this time around. I had that very easy week after Lake Placid, and then it was four straight weeks of building back up to big volume training to prepare for Kona. I am not one of those people who comes off an Ironman and can just magically start training like crazy right away and not feel the effects. I was freakin' tired for a considerable amount of time after that race. I swear my legs still feel like lead weights when I try to run most of the time. Yesterday was a split run: one hour run, zone 2 for 33 minutes at the end, a 2-hour ride and then another 1-hour run. The first run went great, actually. For most, the pace I finished up with would have been considered a dismal failure. For me, it was a great improvement, so I was happy with it. I felt like I had worked hard and kept my heart rate exactly where it needed to be, building the whole time.

The bike ride started about 90 minutes after the first run. It started out ok, I guess, but later on I was just trying to get through it, wondering how exactly I was going to get through that second run. I didn't give myself much time to think about it as I transitioned from bike to run and hit the road once again. It seemed right from the beginning that my rest week would be starting at least an hour later than I needed it to. My heart rate was astonishingly low due to the fact that I was physically incapable of running any faster than what most would consider a brisk walk. I was only slightly above recovery run pace. Usually when runs go badly I try and pinpoint exactly why I am feeling so terrible. Any pain? No. Lungs burning from breathing so hard? Definitely not. Too hot out? Nope, fall appears to be here, gorgeous weather. Bonking? I don't think that's it, either. I really have no idea what it was. I just had nothing. I wanted nothing more than for that run to be over. I willed myself to continue for the first 30 minutes, considering stopping many times throughout. Finally I did stop, on a rural back road shaded by the trees. I slowly paced back and forth, trying to look like nothing was wrong so any cars passing wouldn't wonder what the heck I was doing. I still couldn't figure out what was wrong. My quads just felt incredibly tight, like solid bricks I was trying to move. My feet were tired of smacking against the pavement.

I walked back and forth for probably 3 minutes or so, before I finally decided that there was no way home but to run there, so I might as well get going again. I didn't know how to get myself through this one, and it seemed so unfair to end on such a bad note after having such a good run earlier in the day. Finally it somehow dawned on me that maybe it would help if I counted my strides to check my cadence. It at least gave me something to do and took my mind off of all of the miserable thoughts I was having. So I counted. One minute at a time, over and over. Coach put an emphasis on cadence way earlier in the season, but I hadn't really thought about it much lately. I'm supposed to do my runs at a cadence of at least 88. Well, first count had me at 84. So now I had something to do: try to get the cadence up. It took me several tries, but I did finally manage to get it consistently up to 88, and I'm not sure I could've gone much higher. My heart rate went up and my stride just felt incredibly choppy, and I'm not even sure that it made the pace any faster. But like I said, it at least gave me something to distract myself and get through the last 20 minutes of the run. I'm not sure my long legs were designed to run at such a high cadence and actually make it anywhere. Proportionally, they are out of control - my inseam is longer than that of my 6'4" brother.

But hey, at least I was done. I didn't like ending on a sour note, but I also knew that either way I still got that rest week, and more importantly, two consecutive days without running, which was much needed. I still had an easy 90-minute ride today as well as an open water swim. It appears that the fall weather is upon us as it was barely 70 I think today, and quite breezy. The lake was warmer than the air and it made me not want to get out. There are leaves starting to change already.

Now that today's workouts are done, tomorrow is a total day off. I am definitely looking forward to that. After this rest week there are two BIG weeks of training and then it is basically already time to taper, which just seems crazy. I have no idea how much time off I'll be getting at the end of this season, but I will say that I am looking forward to a bit of a real break. You know, not like one of the ones I've had earlier this year where I had to come back and do another big race very soon after, but a serious break where I don't have to be back on form for months. Don't get me wrong, I'm already excited about training for next season and have a full slate of races lined up, but I think I will be more physically and, more importantly, mentally prepared to attack that training after a good, solid break! That said, I'm definitely still excited to go to Hawaii and race again! But for now, I'm going to enjoy a rest week and some sleeping in tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Long rides in "tropical" storms

Today is Saturday, which of course means getting on my bike for a good, long time, just like almost every other Saturday. The not so good news leading up to today was that there was a tropical storm headed for New England. Great. Riding my bike in the rain is definitely not one of my favorite things to do, although I consider it a necessary evil. That is especially because I consider riding in the rain less evil than riding my trainer inside and avoiding it. I'd rather get soaked than pedal for hours and not get anywhere. The only good news in the situation was that it appeared that the further north you went, the less horrible the storm might be. So it worked out fine for me to once again spend the weekend at my parents place up on Squam Lake.

I got up at 5:30 this morning after going to bed at about 8:45 due to complete exhaustion and then spending a few wakeful moments trying to tune out the sound of the wind and rain outside my window. It was pitch black out at that hour, another sign that summer is coming to a close as not too long ago it would've been bright and sunny by then, but at least it kept me from needing to rush. When the daylight started to illuminate things through the clouds I could see the lake looked like a nice, stormy day on the ocean. The wind looked pretty harsh and it was only in the low 50's. Two weeks ago on my long ride I just wanted to make sure I finished up before it hit the lower 90's. It's amazing how quick things can change.

Most of the time when I go out and ride in the rain I just try to ignore the fact that it is raining. This is one of the reasons why I actually prefer to do these kinds of rides alone - the other reason being it's not fun to ride on someone's wheel when the road is wet, as their wheel just kicks up water and road debris in your face. I often find that others will spend much of these kinds of rides talking about how annoying it is that it's raining. Yes, of course it would be better if the sun was out, but it really isn't that bad if you just put your head down and pedal along like you always do. Oh, and be sure to be extra careful on downhills and sharp corners, but other than that, just suck it up and do it. It also helps to just remind yourself that at the end of the day, you will be warm and clean and dry, hopefully sitting with your feet up, and eventually it will all be over.

I've been mercilessly spared lately from riding in horrible weather, so I guess I was due. Sometimes it poured, sometimes it only drizzled, and rarely was the wind ever really all that terrible, so all things considered, it could've been a whole lot worse. That was another thing that made me feel better, knowing that however bad the weather was going to be today, I was 99.9% sure that I'd definitely been out in worse. I was right about that, for sure. While temperatures in the low 50's aren't exactly toasty, it sure beats a rainy day in the 30's, something I have some experience with. It's also not so much fun riding by houses and by the smell knowing that they actually started a fire, in August. I'm not ready for that yet.

Needless to say, I did not pass another cyclist while I was out today. I did pass several runners though, and I was reminded that although a cold Powerbar is a lot easier to unwrap on the fly, it is also a whole lot harder to chew. After 6 hours, just like I knew would happen, the ride was over. It poured extra hard for about the last 15 minutes, just to make sure I was extra anxious to get off that bike. But like always, the day never ends with a bike ride, and it was time to head out for a nice, hour-long transition run. My favorite method of mentally dealing with this one when I'd really rather just go straight into a nice, hot shower, is in the grand scheme of this long workout, what's another hour? Almost nothing. Just run out for 30 minutes, turn around and come home. So that's what I did. I was cold and wet and had to face a mean headwind on the last mile, but it was over pretty quick, and I actually felt pretty good after all of that running in heat and humidity I'd been doing. Now if only I didn't have to clean up my bike before I could finally go inside and stay inside, but I knew I'd be happier having it done right away rather than forcing myself back outside sometime later. And my non-rusty chain would surely thank me.

So now I am just how I envisioned: clean, warm and dry after a long, hot shower and now decked out in nice, warm clothes and even socks for the first time in a long time in a non-workout situation. Luckily this horrible weather is only going to stick around for the remainder of today. Because while I can mentally deal with a rainy ride every now and then, I definitely start to lose it when it happens all the time. You probably only have to go check out my entries from June, the sunless month, to get an idea on that one. In spite of it all, upon my finishing and shivering while I downed my post-workout Endurox, I finally realized that spending 7 hours wet and cold is still better than getting a real job!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Timberman weekend report

Another Timberman has come and gone, #8 for me. Although it was strange to not participate in the half, it was also kind of fun to do something different. The weekend began on Friday afternoon when I made my way to the Fast Splits tent at Gunstock ski area, home of the race expo. This was after an hour-long recovery bike ride in overcast skies and soupy humidity brought on by a hurricane that was just brushing us by. The tent was like a sauna for about an hour or so... until the wind picked up and the storms came through. Just as I was waiting in line to pick up my race packet for the sprint the skies opened up and without warning it started pouring. That lasted about 3 minutes. Then it happened again, this time for a bit longer. I had found myself back in the tent only to become trapped when the torrential rain, nearby lightning and loud thunder stranded everyone under whatever cover they were nearest while we all waited out the storm, wondering how long it would take to pass. Thankfully, it finally did stop and we were once again free to roam the open field without fear of being soaked. My relay partners for Sunday's half showed up and we picked up our packets for that and then drove down the street to get some dinner before heading home to get some rest.

For whatever reason I didn't sleep very well, but that can't stop you from racing. The applesauce still had to be consumed though. Since the sprint is much smaller there is no reason to leave at a ridiculous hour of the morning, so my friend Kevin, who was staying with us and doing the half, dropped Trent - another friend staying at the house - and I off a little after 6 when we easily got a pretty good parking spot at Ellacoya. It was still very warm and humid, but at least at that point it wasn't raining. Transition set up was minimal since of course it was just a sprint and I didn't need all kinds of nutrition or anything, no socks, no glasses since it was so overcast and might rain, so there wasn't a whole lot to do except talk to my friends while we all wondered why we were putting ourselves through this.

Of course my wave went off way after most others. No matter how they do it, I'm almost always way down the line. The waves were set to go off 6 minutes apart, although I have no idea why. The swim would take just over that for most participants, why did we need so much time between them? Well, I'm not sure if that was the reason, but somewhere along the line, just after someone commented on how calm I looked, I overheard that they had apparently changed it to 4 minutes between each wave, so I was heading off a bit ahead of schedule. I was worried when my teammates Cait and Chrissie weren't among the women in the water as I lined up at the start, but they made it with a bit of time to spare.

The water at Ellacoya is amazingly shallow for an amazingly long way out from shore. This meant that had I chosen to, I probably could've walked the course. After some dolphin dives to at least make it look like I knew what I was doing, I discovered that many people in the waves in front of us had elected to do just that: walk the course, or at least stand for a moment to collect themselves. There was also the usual crowd of breast-stroke kickers, their flaying legs always seeming to aim right for my goggles. For whatever reason, I chose to avoid these obstacles by swimming further and further to the left, away from the buoys. Although I felt like I was swimming strong, I exited the water in a time that would suggest otherwise, probably due to the fact that I made the course much longer than it needed to be. My coach still wonders what the heck I do when I get out on a swim course because my training times apparently indicate I should be swimming a lot faster. But oh well, still plenty of race to go.

T1 was quick enough without stuffing gels in my pockets or adding the sunglasses. I hopped on the bike and had a surprisingly hard time clipping in before I finally took off. I have no idea how to redline for a whole race. I spent the time wondering if I should hold back a bit or if I really was supposed to go hard enough that I thought I might throw up the entire time. I just tried to go fast, feeling that the deep breathing I was doing was enough to indicate I was going hard enough. It was raining a bit, but nothing terrible. Unfortunately I found myself continually trapped behind people and cars. There were cones lining the roads at points and a surprising amount of traffic. At one point a truck passed me and then moved over to the right to turn, forcing me to go around to the left. After the turn around I and a few others had to pass a school bus on the left for the same reason. I got trapped behind a car as I was going downhill, but he wouldn't pass the much slower cyclist in front of him, but there wasn't enough shoulder for me to pass him on the right. Eventually I passed him on the left as well. The scariest part was as we were approaching a fork in the road, going downhill fairly fast and approaching a line of stopped cars. It wasn't until I was dangerously close that I realized how close to the shoulder they were, and how there were a couple of much slower cyclists already there and there wasn't enough room for me to squeeze through, and not enough time on the rain-slicked roads at my current speed to come to a complete stop. I was forced to hit the brakes as hard as I could without skidding out, frantically calling out, "on your left! On your left! On your left!" The woman I was approaching started yelling at me, as though I could do anything about my closing speed except maybe slam on the brakes and flip over my handlebars. I somehow managed to slow down just in time to fall in behind her, and when the road between the shoulder and the stopped cars opened up a bit, she moved over and let me by. That was NOT a fun section of the course. I wound up averaging a pitiful (for me, especially in a sprint) 20.6mph on the obstacle course known as the bike route.

Off with the shoes, off the bike and into T2. The shoes were on quick, grabbed my hat and number and took off, trying to at least look like I was moving fast. The course is a slight uphill most of the way out to the turn-around and that makes it a slight downhill on the way back. I ran for probably 3-4 minutes before I started to feel like crap. I was breathing so hard I sounded like a fat kid trying to run the mile in gym class. The road kept on going up and I was definitely not enjoying myself, but I wanted to go as hard as I could. I saw Cait coming back the other way and at that point all I could do was stick my tongue out, indicating my exhaustion while she returned a similar facial gesture. I approached the first mile marker and looked at my watch. 7:34. What? You have GOT to be kidding me! I am starting to taste blood in my throat and all it got me was a 7:34? I ran the first mile in Lake Placid in 7:25 and felt like I was effortlessly floating. I practically gave up right then and there, but kept my eyes focused on the runners coming back in the other direction, wondering when I was finally going to reach the turn.

I finally made it and turned to run back, so close to the pain being over. This downward slope made things a whole lot easier, and I approached mile 2 and looked at my watch. 6 minutes had passed since mile 1. I don't know if the mile markers were screwed up, the uphill/downhill affected me more than I realized or if suddenly I was amazingly faster, but that definitely made me feel better. I had also realized that not only was I passing tons of people, but I actually never got passed on the run course. For me, that is amazing. I even got complements. Hah, those people obviously just don't know any better.

I neared the turn towards the finish line and did my best not to slip on the grass. I considered trying to really kick it in for the final stretch, but I quickly remembered that I have no kick, so I just kept on running until it was over. It hurt, but the pain was gone quickly and of course I wondered if maybe I should've gone harder. I certainly could've done better on the bike if it weren't for all of the people weaving and trying not to get hit by cars. It was kind of fun though. I wish that all of my speed workouts could just be short races, it is so much better than trying to go hard on my own.

After the race we were all confused about who came in what place, so basically I didn't know until they announced my name that I had won my age group. This, of course was after they had taken out the first two who had come in second and third overall. This was my first taking home of the big Timberman syrup. Tim and Cait Snow of course were the overall winners, Cait came in 5th out of everyone including the men. Jesse, my coach, came in second. My relay partners for the next day, Leslie and Trent, came in second and third respectively in their age groups. All in all, it was a pretty good day. And to make it even better, the rain had stopped.

We packed up our stuff and got something to eat before coming back and resting a bit for the afternoon. Of course you can never really get too relaxed because there is that annoying bike drop off thing to deal with. I hate that part. It poured on the drive over, but luckily stopped for the unloading of the bikes. By the time we got back we only had enough time pretty much to make dinner, get our stuff ready and relax a bit in front of the TV before we went to bed.

We had decided that we would leave the house at 5am. The park opened at 4. Under normal circumstances, I myself would've likely planned to arrive by maybe 4:15 at the latest. I know what a nightmare parking there can be and I always feel more relaxed just getting there and geting that part taken care of. I can always take another snooze in the car once I'm there. I am often ridiculed for choosing to leave so early. Since this wasn't my big race and I wouldn't be swimming anyway, I let others dictate when we would be leaving. We made the left on route 11 at about 5:20am, and almost immediately came to a dead stop in a huge line of traffic. I knew how far from the park we still were. I knew what a bad idea this was. But I guess it was good to experience it so I know why I do what I usually do. I figured the best thing to do would be to just wait it out since of course everyone in this long line of cars had to get to the exact same place. I wasn't stressed or concerned, I knew I had plenty of time since the relay wave wasn't until 8:10 and of course I was just the biker anyway. Luckily my breakfast was also right there in the car.

Apparently my friends who usually chose to arrive after me said that it had never been so bad. Maybe Timberman has gotten just a little bit too big for the venue. We waited in the line for 45 minutes or so, finally approaching the entrance to Ellacoya. A cop was coming through and knocking on everyone's windows, telling us to go to Gunstock and take the shuttle bus. Great. It looked like we were about the 10th car in line to get shut out. Oh, well, next year when I am really racing I will absolutely be one of the first cars to arrive.

Trent dropped off Kevin, who was doing the whole race since he was just our runner, and we continued on the Gunstock. I was getting worried as we were driving there since there were very few cars in our little group and I wasn't positive we were going in the right direction. Thankfully every few minutes we'd pass another school bus and I felt more confident that we were going where we needed to. It was surprisingly far away, but we got there and parked. Leslie, our swimmer, called and was there and ready to go, thankfully, and also informed us of the insane lines for the porta-potties - more evidence that maybe the race has gotten a little too big. Lucky for us, we still had time to use the real bathrooms at Gunstock with no lines before we hopped on the bus.

It was nice not to feel stressed before the race, especially when we arrived a bit after 7. It was almost eerie though when we got there. Many of the racers were out doing little warm-up runs, nobody seemed to be heading towards the water. Normally at that point you probably wouldn't even be allowed in transition anymore, and yet there were people everywhere. It didn't make sense. Finally it became clear when we found out that apparently there was a bad car accident that had taken most of the police and happened on the bike course, so the race had been delayed, although nobody knew for how long. Someone said they wouldn't be surprised if it was 9:00 before we got started. Well, I guess it didn't matter that much that we were late. There were even still people there ready to body mark us.

We finally got into transition and I got to check my bike, that had of course been soaked overnight. It wasn't raining that morning, and didn't look like it would anytime soon, so that was good. Some of the pros were even still just sitting in transition, so nothing seemed particularly urgent, not that there was much for me to do. Thankfully though, they announced that the race would soon be starting, and after all of that, it was only about 30 minutes late. Not bad considering what we had walked into.

I didn't have much getting ready to do at that point, considering the relay wave went off an hour and ten minutes after the first wave, and I'd be starting probably somewhere between 30-35 minutes after that, so we walked down to watch the swimmers go off. I found a porta-potty with no line by walking out on the run course, finding out that the downside to not doing the swim is that you can't pee in your wetsuit at the start of the race. After a very long wait, Trent and I watched the second to last wave go off before heading back to transition so I could get ready. It was cool to be in there with all of the athletes coming through. We got to see some of our friends come in as well, including Kevin who gave us an emphatic, "that sucked" as he ran by. Well, that would be his normal response given his feeling about swimming, but something about the way he said it made me think that this was no normal bad swim for Kevin. And when I did the math and figured out his swim time, I realized that it was even worse than usual for him. I just hoped his day would get better from there.

We finally decided to head over to the relay pen and wait for Leslie to come through. A few of the people in the relay came through with amazing times, like 24 minutes. What's it like to swim that fast? How do they do that? It didn't feel like that many relay teams had come through when suddenly I spotted Leslie running past the wetsuit strippers (because of course she didn't need them) and stopping in front of us, bent over and breathing hard like she had just swum as fast as she could. Nice. The chip was mine and it was time to hit the course.

I wasn't really that excited about the race. Truth be told, I have a really hard time getting "pumped up" for just about any race. I can't stand the waiting around before. But once I get out there, things change very quickly. I knew I had 56 miles to push hard, pass as many people as I could and have no consequences since I didn't have to run. I didn't run into nearly as bad the traffic issues as I had the day before in the sprint. The course seemed a lot easier this time around. I only wished that I had taken the time to start counting the people I was passing from the beginning once I got out there. I was worried that by going off in the last wave it'd be lonely out on the course. It definitely wasn't, as there were hundreds of people for me to get by.

It was far too early when I saw the pros coming back in the other direction. I saw one trapped behind a truck flying down Marsh Hill, trying to whistle loud enough to get him to move out of the way. Although there is plenty of room out on route 106, there isn't much shoulder on the other roads, so if you're stuck, you're stuck, even if you're a pro. That sucks sometimes. At least it didn't happen to me that day.

The time flew by, and I think I only got passed 3 or 4 times. Once was by another relay guy in a 1-piece time trial suit and some weird-looking aero bars with his elbows so close together they were nearly touching. The only thing that really annoyed me out there was this one guy who I was about to pass who took a gel and then just tossed the wrapper up against a guard rail, nowhere near an aid station or anything. Seriously? How hard is it to hang onto the wrapper until you get to an aid station? I wished there was an official around.

I felt like I was working in surges, like I would get a good rhythm going for a while, but then I'd have to dial it back a bit. I'm still working on getting my hill climbing back, so I was losing speed there but getting it back on the flats and downhills. At one point a random dog decided to join in the race out on route 106, only to drop out and run across the street after having run alongside the bikes for probably a quarter-mile. He was pretty speedy.

The miles ticked away and before I knew it, I was approaching the park, trying to hammer out that last bit of speed. Of course, no matter how many people I passed, there wasn't enough time to pass all of the slow people in front of me, so when I got into the no-passing zone before the turn into the park I was stuck behind this woman who not only thought she needed to go 12mph downhill, but nearly needed to come to a complete stop to make the left back towards transition. Come on, lady, I have relay team members who need me! The only good part about that was it gave me the opportunity to take my shoes off on the bike so I could run through transition in bare feet instead of my bike shoes. I was off the bike in 2:32 after averaging 22mph. I was immensely glad that I did not at that moment have to rush off and try to run a half marathon, so I happily handed my chip off to Trent to let him do it.

Of course, if you know QT2, you'd know that the day never ends when you finish your race. I had actually been thinking a lot about that earlier in the week, that if I wasn't on the team I could just worry about the races instead of always having to go off and run some more or bike late at night after returning home from a race. I'll admit this is my least favorite part of the program. However, in this case, it wasn't so bad. I had to do a 1:10 transition run at that point, so the easiest thing was just to head right back out on the course, only I wouldn't have to worry about trying to go fast. It was hot and humid at that point and I saw more than one person stopped and sticking their heads underneath the hoses people were nice enough to set up in their yards. I also actually saw two separate people get mad at kids who squirted them with hoses, and one guy yelling out, "please don't get me wet!" Seriously? You're worried about getting wet in a race where you start by swimming in your clothes and spend the rest of it sweating profusely and dripping water and Gatorade all over yourself?

I got to spend the run cheering on my friends and not having to worry so much about the fact that my legs felt like crap and I was running incredibly slow. I saw Kevin heading in the other direction and he was only able to say that it wasn't his day, and I felt really bad for that. Later we learned that he had bronchitis, so at least there is a good explanation, since he was certainly in a position to have a good race. Luckily there is always next time.

I finished up my run and confused a lot of people while I was out there. I also wondered if people got confused seeing the "R" on my leg and wondered why any team would choose me to be their relay runner. Trent ran 10 minutes slower than he ran last year and told us he would do, and we spent a lot of time ridiculing him for costing us the co-ed relay team crown since we had come in second. Of course, it really wasn't that big of a deal. I would've been lucky to have had a 2-hour half marathon split given the conditions. We got some food and I got back in the water to do the open water swim I had completely forgotten about the day before. The water was gorgeous and warm, so I just swam in my tri clothes and it actually made me feel a lot better. The awards were given and that was pretty much it. Another Timberman weekend was over. I can't wait to do the whole race next year and hopefully actually be ready to have a good race rather than just getting through it after Lake Placid like I have in the past.

I drove home in the rain and almost immediately had to head out for yet another 1:10 run. I told you, it never ends! I think I finished up at about 6:45. The run actually went pretty well until there were about 7 minutes to go and I suddenly felt like I might just fall over and have to hitchhike home, but luckily I made it and I could finally relax. I guess this means that summer is almost over.

The rest of the week has been spent training, as usual. The weather was still pretty nice for the most part and I even had some good workouts. Yesterday included a 10x400 on the track in which I actually didn't completely fall apart by the 7th repeat. I mean, I spent the rest intervals doubled over against a fence, but the point is that I pushed myself and hung on until the end and did it better than I did in the lead-up for Placid. Today's swim speed workout wasn't so great, but I'll take what I can get.

Tomorrow brings a long ride in a hurricane. This one will probably not be fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Timberman weekend is here

August is slowly getting away from us but Labor Day isn't quite here yet. That can only mean one thing: time for Timberman! The only bad thing about this weekend is that once it's over I usually come to the crushing realization that summer is almost over. But let's not talk about that right now...

This is the 9th running of Timberman. I have participated in all but the first one, which fell the summer after I graduated college (hard to admit that) At that point in time I had no idea that there were other triathlons besides Ironman Hawaii and I certainly didn't have any idea that I'd be doing races myself at some point. I was running about 3 miles at a time, a routine I had started at the beginning of my final semester as a way to lose weight and get in shape for my final basketball season. Up until then you never would've caught me running voluntarily on my own. I despised it. Running was punishment for messing up at practice. Why would I do it on purpose unless a coach was making me?

But then I suddenly found myself heavier than I had ever been - which is saying a lot - and finally wanting to do something about it once and for all. So I started with a mile. I wish I knew how long it took, although if I had to guess I'd say that I probably tried to run way too fast a pace, then walked a little, then ran too fast again, then sputtered to the finish. It was awful, but I made myself do it every day. Then I did a mile and a half. Then two miles. By the end of the semester, I was running 4 miles on the treadmill. This was huge for me. I never knew I could run that far in one stretch, and I liked how it felt. So when I graduated and moved off campus, I kept on running outside a few times a week, interspersed a bit with riding the old mountain bike I'd had since I was 12.

Fast forward to the following spring. I was still running on a regular basis. I had built up to 6 miles for a while, and then one Saturday morning I was on the treadmill and just figured, what the heck, what if I juts doubled it? So I ran 12. It took me two hours, and I was a bit wobbly when I left the gym, but now that I had done it once, I decided to do it every Saturday. That was at some point in the winter, and I briefly got this crazy idea that maybe I should try and run the Boston Marathon. Thankfully, that idea was fleeting once I was faced with that whole qualifying thing. I knew I could've run as a bandit, but if I was going to run a marathon, I was going to be an official entrant.

So the next best thing was to run in a local road race, the Bedford Rotary 12K. There was also a 5K, but I opted for the longer race, a trend that still continues. I had seen the signs around town for years, but never taken much notice until the year before when I had finally started running. The race fell about a week after my college graduation that year, and I considered entering but decided I wasn't enough of a real runner to do it. But now I felt like I could handle it. I had also signed up in March for my first triathlon. After running regularly and adding some spin classes, I became aware of the race while house sitting for a relative who had done it a few times. She encouraged me to go for it, so I signed up and added my own pitiful attempt at swimming to my training schedule, which I based off the highly scientific book: "Triathlon 101".

But first, a road race. The race takes place the weekend before Memorial Day. That did not stop me from running my first race in the snow. Not kidding. I remember lining up at the start in my cotton Emerson College t-shirt over a skiing long underwear base layer, some compression shorts under the basketball shorts matted to my legs from what started as a soaking, icy rain. Before the gun even fired I thought to myself that if I were to continue racing, I was probably getting my worst racing weather out of the way on the first attempt.

With temperatures in the upper 30's the pouring rain that started the race turned to large, wet globs of snow somewhere around halfway through the race. I'm pretty sure I would've laughed a lot harder had I not been so tired from trying to run as fast as I could. It took me over an hour, but I was quite happy with how the race went. Also, since I had signed up as a "Fillie" or the running equivalent of triathlon's athena, I had also won my very first running trophy for winning the category, merely for weighing more than 140 pounds (at 6' tall, not so hard to do) and beating the only three other women in the quite large race field willing to admit they weighed as much. Winning a running trophy is definitely not something I ever imagined myself doing.

One month later I ran a 20K race the day after I turned 23. In another twist of irony, I'm pretty sure that I still hold the New Hampshire record for 23-year olds in a 20K. I'm guessing this is mostly because they don't hold this race anymore and I may well be the only 23-year old who has ever run a 20K in the state. More importantly though, another month after that I did my first triathlon, the Danskin women's sprint. Before I had raced, I heard some people discussing the Timberman triathlon when I worked at the gym. My father had given me his old road bike and we had been riding together, usually somewhere around 30 miles of outright trying to kill each other - surely the reason I got good at biking so quickly. If only he was a runner! Anyway, I had found out about Timberman thanks to the internet, couldn't believe there was a half ironman so close to home. I had thought about doing it, but it took some convincing before I decided to go ahead and sign up. Imagine, I signed up for Timberman the first time at the end of June. That is definitely not the case anymore!

My first Timberman took place at the end of a string of literally 95+ degree days for about two weeks straight. Race day was to be no different. It is a heat wave that probably has never been matched before or since. I remember eating Wheaties for breakfast and my parents drove me to Ellacoya, where the traffic was backed up so badly that the athletes were getting out and walking. The race start was also delayed because of this. I walked into transition and didn't know a soul, just set up my area and wondered what to do next.

I was in the last swim wave, designated for the first timers. I had no wetsuit so I wore some tri shorts I had invested in and had a bathing suit top pulled over my sports bra. The sprint used to be run on the same day as the half, so after exiting the water in roughly 44 minutes, which would've been longer had a kayak volunteer not pointed me in the direction of the swim finish after I veered off course, found myself in the mix of the sprinters coming out of the water, their race having started well after ours. I rode my dad's '98 LeMond Zurich road bike, threw on a bike jersey and took the time to put on bike gloves and put on my Camelback since I had no clue about aid stations. Did you stop to get water? I had no idea, so instead I thought it would be best to haul 70oz of fluid on my back.

In the beginning of the bike I was surrounded by other people because the sprint racers were on the same course, but after 7.5 miles they got to turn around and I was left very much alone on the course. I remember thinking my lungs were goingto explode when I pedaled up the biggest hill on the course. I think I ate a banana, a rice krispie treat and a Gatorade energy bar (yes, they made those) that had come in my race bag the day before. It took me 3:03 to complete the bike course, and now I got to run in 95 degree heat and the oppressive humidity that accompanied it.

I had no clue about nutrition. I think I had a little bag of gummie bears in my back pocket to help get me through. I spent much more of the run walking, some of it near tears because I thought I was melting and wanted nothing more than to curl up under the shade of a nearby tree and just fall asleep. I wasn't sweating. Most of the other people in the race were done already. Someone I knew even drove by on their way home after finishing, and I still had like 6 miles to go. There were some clouds that taunted us with the relief of showers, but they never materialized, and I was left in the blazing sun. I somehow finished, in 6 hours and 20 minutes, and decided immediately that it was by far the hardest thing I had ever done. I walked directly into the lake to cool off. The only post-race food remaining were a few bagel halves and some besically empty jars of peanut butter. There was evidence that there had been pizza, but it seemed to be long gone. Luckily, my parents were nice enough to take me down the street to Sawyer's for the most well-earned brownie sundae I had ever eaten.

Of course, immediately afterward, I was plotting about how I would do better next time. That was 7 years ago, when the sickness overtook me and it hasn't released its grip since. The following year I had upgraded a bit by purchasing a wetsuit, forgoing the bike gloves and Camelback and adding clip-on aero bars to the old road bike. Unfortunately I flatted halfway through the bike when I ran over a screw, but still improved my bike time to 3:00 flat even with the lost time from the fix, and crossed the finish line in 5:37. I finished second in my age group (out of four) and there was still even some pizza left.

Every year after that I did Timberman four weeks after completing Ironman Lake Placid. Now, it took me a lot of tries to learn that 4 weeks just isn't really enough time to do well at Timberman. Actually, in the 5 times I have done the combination, only twice has it actually worked out relatively ok. The first time wasn't bad, actually set a serious PR, probably based on the fact that I had walked a fair amount of my marathon 4 weeks prior due to Clif bar-induced stomach shut-down, so the recovery may have been quicker. Then in 2006, when basically nothing could go wrong for me, that didn't either. Every other time it hasn't gone so well, but I hated the idea of not doing it because I love the race so much. Of course last year Timberman marked absolute rock-bottom for me in the worst racing season ever, and it took a new coach who doesn't let me do whatever I want even if it's not good for me to tell me that I will instead be racing in the sprint. I will miss not racing the half, but at the same time, I'm kind of glad I don't have to do it. As a compromise though I will be doing the bike as part of what I'm hoping will be the winning co-ed relay team.

It's just funny how much things have changed from that first Timberman. Firstly, it's a good thing you don't have to sign up as early anymore, because I never would've been able to do that first one and might have been too intimidated later on to sign up for my first one so far in advance. I know how to use aid stations now, except for last year I'm usually done in time for there to be plenty of food left. It has always felt like the race where I became addicted, and I'm glad that I can sleep in my own bed when racing there. I'm also glad that next year I will be back for the half since I am doing Ironman Utah instead (surely you can expect a lengthy post about my not doing Lake Placid in another 11 months) but at least I will be back for what I consider to be my favorite race. In the meantime, I better somehow awaken my fast-twitch muscle fibers for tomorrow. You know, all both of them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cigna 5K Race Report - A Family Affair

There is something about the month of August that completely sucks all of the training motivation out of me. It's finally legitimately hot out and feeling like summer, the biggest goal of the year has past and I still have some residual tiredness from racing a few weeks ago. But really? I still have to go out and train? Oh yeah, I do have kind of a big race coming up in now just 8 short weeks...

But first, a few little races here and there to fill in the gaps. I was spared from racing in a sprint triathlon last weekend, as apparently many of my teammates had to do. I was not sorry I was not among them, because I definitely didn't feel ready to be racing anywhere for any distance. I didn't feel ready on Thursday either, but I did anyway. It was the annual Cigna 5K in downtown Manchester, NH. This race typically has about 5000 runners of all abilities - from serious elite athletes (we're talking 13:53 for the winner this year) to people who will walk the course in over an hour. They make it a big corporate challenge and invite companies to build teams and race against each other, awards going to the fastest teams. It's also just an easier thing to deal with for most normal people, running 3.1 miles on a Thursday night after work rather than getting up early on a Saturday morning to be somewhere.

I'd run this race twice before, in 2006 and 2007. 2006 of course being my "fast" year, that was when I set my 5K PR of 19:25. The following year I ran a 20:05. I am incredibly inconsistent at everything but half marathons, it seems. But anyway... One fun thing about the race this year was that both my older sister and younger brother were also running. My sister ran a couple of marathons before I thought I was physically capable of running more than a mile and is currently training for a half marathon at the end of September. My brother took up running just as a way to stay in shape. He ran one other 5K a couple of years ago, but his time for that one shouldn't really count because he was being nice and hanging back with his then-girlfriend. I'd love it if one or both of them would ever do a triathlon, but I definitely haven't gotten my hopes up on that one.

Somehow amidst the sea of 5000 runners plus all of their friends, I ran into both of them pretty early, even though we had all come separately. Where is the best place to find who you're looking for? Near the porta-potties, of course. I gave my brother, Johnny, a gel so he could feel more official. I left my sister, Katy on her own since she is more of a race veteran than I am. This race is so big that you sign up either as a competitive runner, under 23 minutes, a recreational runner, under 30 minutes I think, or a walker. Each category has a different color for their bib numbers and you line up accordingly. I was in the competitive category and they were in the recreational category, so we didn't get to line up together. Good thing, because both of them ran with their iPods and I am not sure I want to be associated with iPod runners ;) We also ran into my cousin Conor, wearing a bib number. I've got a lot of cousins, and while none of them are following in my footsteps, Conor is about the least-likely candidate for running a 5K. I mean, he was athletic and everything growing up - playing football among other things - but he definitely wasn't the kind of kid you'd find enjoying the running portions of practice. In all fairness, neither was I. But then again, I also didn't grow up and start smoking and spending much of my free time at the bars. But that's just Conor. He was wearing incredibly old non-running sneakers with a giant hole in them, long shorts and one of those reversible basketball jerseys. He also told us that, "I ran a mile-and-a-half about two weeks ago and I almost died!" He finished off with his trademark laugh. You'd have to meet him to understand, but you almost can't help but smile almost any time to come in contact with him, never knowing what he might say or do next. We certainly don't hang around in the same circles now, but he was a ton of fun to hang out with when we were kids.

So none of my relatives were going to be running with me on the night. Instead I joined up with my friends Leslie and Kevin who I had gone over to the race with and had taken off to warm up a bit. I'm clueless when it comes to warm-ups. I ran down a side street about a hundred yards, ran back and decided that was good enough.

We had lucked out with the weather this year. It's one of those events that almost without fail winds up happening on the hottest evening of the summer, but this was not the case. It wasn't too humid, it was sunny and it was somewhere in the 70's. I made my way down Elm Street past the walkers and slower runners and found my way somewhere towards the front. Of course, I have no business being in the front of a race like that with such a field, but you learn from experience that almost nobody else does either, so you might as well get up there somewhere so you don't have to run by all of those people who line up for a 6:00 pace when really they are probably going to be running 8's. I found Leslie and Kevin, adequately warmed up. Kevin was going to pace Leslie to her goal 6:36 pace I believe was decided. The first mile is slightly uphill, so the plan was for them to start at a 6:41 first mile. My goal for the first mile, given to me by my coach, was to take the first mile out in 6:35. I hadn't really given much thought as to how I was going to accomplish this, but very quickly decided that I should probably try and hang with them and then maybe speed up a bit as we approached the first mile. They were then going to take off for the faster second mile, and I would hold my own pace as long as I could. Ok, plan decided on in 20 seconds while listening to the National Anthem. Done.

Did I mention I can't stand 5K's? Because it's true. I'd rather be at the start of a half marathon. They don't hurt nearly as much. I am absolutely terrible at trying to do anything "fast". Check out my fastest paces over almost any distance. You will find that there is not a huge difference between the paces for the shorter stuff and the longer stuff. This works out well for me for the really long stuff, but it lessens my edge considerably once the races get shorter and shorter. This even goes for biking. My best Ironman bike split speed is only .3mph slower than my best half - unless you count Clearwater, and any of you who have been there should know that it definitely shouldn't count. Of course it is because I hate the short races that they are good for me. I am terrible at speed workouts. I don't like to push the pace, and being in a race makes me push it harder than I would on my own. I just had to remind myself that it would be over quick. Although my memory told me that even 20 little minutes of trying to run as fast as you can may feel like an eternity.

The crowds were lined up and finally, the gun was fired and we were off. I had no recollection of how to try and run fast. I accidentally ran a 6:52 mile as part of a workout a few weeks before Lake Placid, only because I didn't know what a 7:15 felt like, and of course destroyed the rest of the workout by doing so. But ever since I raced, my training runs have been at abysmally slow paces. Part of it was the foot, sure. And then part of it was the raging blisters I got as a result of adjusting my foot strike a bit to not make the foot hurt. Inside my racing flats was a sea of band-aids and athletic tape. I didn't feel like I deserved to be wearing racing flats, but my training shoes were causing the blisters in the first place. I don't know what else the problem is, but lately I just haven't been able to run much better a pace than what others might consider fast walking. So I didn't know what to expect it to feel like when I suddenly tried to run a 6:35 mile... and follow it up with two more, hopefully not much slower ones.

I don't know if Kevin planned it this way, but it was really easy to see him since he opted to wear an orange shirt. It was probably just because orange is his favorite color, but at least I could follow him without much trouble. When we all first took off, I think I spent most of the time trying to get a good rhythm going, trying to think about my form and not dropping my arms like I tend to do, and keeping my eyes down on the ground in front of me in the hopes I wouldn't trip over a manhole or someone else's shoes. Kevin and Leslie took off in front of me and I didn't try and catch up right away. Kevin was wearing a Garmin that would tell him his pace, but I figured that in the beginning it might take a few minutes to settle in, so I opted to hang back. Or maybe it was just that I couldn't keep up. I'm not sure. What I do know is that for once I didn't want to take the first mile out way too fast and have to blame my bad race on that.

My heart rate was rising, and I was still trying to run my own approximation of fast while gauging the people around me. Somewhere early on this guy in jeans and a polo shirt ran by, bent over at the waist with his hands hanging close to his knees. He zoomed through the crowd ahead of me and I never saw him again. If that guy actually ran the whole race and finished that much faster than I did, I may have to quit running.

We approached the clock at the first mile and I saw the seconds ticking closer to that 6:35. Leslie and Kevin had appeared to slow down earlier and I was slowly catching up. I crossed the mile 1 marker right at my goal pace and right on their heels, just in time for them to take off. I suppose I could've followed, but I didn't think there was any way I could hang on, so I let them go. We made a left towards the one water station on the course. I opted to bypass the water, because what good could it have done me over such a short race? We got to enjoy some downhills at this point and I tried to figure out how I should approach the second mile. Net downhill, might get some time back. But could also try and go way to fast and just wind up suffering in the 3rd mile and having to slow way down. I didn't want to blow up. I also didn't want a really slow time. And why the heck did my stomach feel so weird?

I let out a relieving burp that was loud enough for another guy passing me to give me a nod as if to say, good one. That seemed to have relieved some of the pain, but it didn't completely convince me that the evening would pass without my spewing applesauce all over Canal Street. Since the second mile was more downhill, I reasoned it shouldn't hurt as much and maybe I should try and not destroy myself now so that I could go for it in the last mile. So I tried to find something that was genuinely uncomfortable, but not painful. We were approaching the sign for mile 2 and I saw the clock tick past 13:10. So much for even splits. My eyesight is good, so it was still a ways off and it was somewhere between 13:20 and 13:25 when I crossed. All I could think about was the fact that most of the people I know run that kind of pace for a half marathon, and there I was struggling to maintain it only two miles into a 3-mile race. Why can I not figure out this running thing?

My legs started to burn as I am also blessed with an apparently complete inability to clear lactate when it builds up in hard efforts. It also seems to kick in at extraordinarily slow paces. I wondered for a minute if I'd have to slow to maybe a 9-minute pace. Up in the distance I had my eye on the tallest building in the state of New Hampshire: a grand total of 21 stories. I knew the finish line was just beyond that, so the closer it was, the closer I was to being done. Unfortunately, it still seemed incredibly far away. I pressed on. The minute or two where I was considering giving up had passed, and I just kept on moving, eyes focused ahead and waiting for the left-hand turn that would take us back up to the finish. The only good news at that point was that I wasn't getting passed by tons of people, so at least I hadn't gone out way too fast only to fade in the end.

Finally, the turn approached. The good news? I was almost done. The bad news? Standing between me and the finish was by far the biggest hill on the course, marking an almost straight uphill finish before a bit of a level-off in the home stretch. The better news was that I actually had something left in the tank to actually run up the hill rather than sputter and die, as would be my normal result. I even got to pass some people before I neared the crest and started feeling like I was going to puke. I passed the 3-mile clock and noted that it was 20-something. I was supposed to go 20:35, but the finish line appeared way too far in the distance for me to get there in time. I tried one last time to run faster to the finish, but like always, that attempt failed. I actually let out a little smile as I noticed my aunt and uncle, Conor's parents, cheering from the sidelines. I crossed the line in 21:22, a 6:53 average pace.

I guess I should be glad that it is 2 minutes faster than I ran in November at my first race of the year, the first step in a long road back. But all I could really think about was how 3 years ago I ran it two minutes faster. Where did that speed go? Is it still in there somewhere? If it is, why can't I find it? I was more demoralized to learn later after looking through some old training logs that I ran almost the exact same time for a 5K in 2003, when I had no idea what the heck I was doing. So I feel like I'm like 6 years behind in training now and have to start over. But I guess then that would put me only 3 years away from being fast again. I don't know, I guess I've been thinking about it too much. I would also just like to say that although I am personally very disappointed that I ran a 21:22, I do not think that is a crappy time for just anyone. These are only my personal standards, and it is based on the fact that I know I've done better before and I just can't seem to figure out how exactly I was able to do that. Also wondering if there is some sort of mental block in my brain or if maybe someone was slipping some sort of illegal-yet-athletically-enhancing drug into my Wheaties back then. You see, I'm not allowed to eat Wheaties anymore...

But anyway, these were thoughts reserved for later on, when I was alone and had too much quiet time to mull over why I suck so much. And just so you know, I am hard enough on myself that in 2007 when I ran 20:05, I thought that sucked too. After spending a few minutes with my hands on my sweaty knees and waiting for the vomit urge to pass, I was able to congratulate Leslie on her race, coming in just over 20 minutes. She had been aiming for 20:30 I believe, but her pacer knew that she could do better, and she did. She probably could've run even faster than that. When I at least could still see them she looked like it was easy. Of course at the time my own heart rate was about 183.

We stood and watched the runners come across by the hundreds. Soon enough I spotted Johnny, easy enough to spot because he is 6'4". He had a smile on his face, and he seemed to have actually enjoyed it, telling us how he had the theme from Rocky to get him through. I know what I said about iPods during races, but maybe I should consider it. He finished in 24:45, 7:58 pace. For a guy who never really tried to run fast and certainly isn't built like a runner, I was quite proud of him. He might even do another one. We somehow missed Katy, even though we were still waiting when she crossed, but she had gone about 15 seconds per mile faster than her goal, so she was also quite happy. It was fun to have both of them there.

Now that it was time to walk some I had to start limping because of my foot. For whatever reason, it hurts when I walk but not when I run. I guess it would be a lot worse the other way around, but it'd still be nice if it just didn't hurt at all. At least the blister shielding I had done seemed to have worked. We went out to celebrate Leslie's great race, all feeling more tired than you would think after a mere 3-mile race. Oh, and Conor did finish. I think it was about 34 minutes. I am not sure if he is going to make a habit of these, but I'm pretty proud of him, too.

In the days since there has been more training, including my first 6-hour ride in quite a while. There has been more berating myself about the crappy running, as well as going back and forth between never wanting to run another 5K and trying to do one every week so that maybe, someday I might actually get better at them. The night of the race I also literally didn't fall asleep at all due to the caffeine I took beforehand. You take caffeine at 6am before a 7am race, no problem. Not so much when you take the caffeine at 5:30pm. Whenever I'm tired I also tend to get a lot more irritated and that didn't help my fixating on the race performances. That took me a couple of days to recover from. Not sure I'm actually quite there yet even now. I have felt like I'm in a fog or something during all of my training. My legs feel like they have lead weights on them when I try and run. My pace now seems about where it was in November and December. I just want to know what it feels like to get off your bike and actually have the slightest bit of confidence in your running ability, instead of wondering how long it's going to take this time before you crack. Maybe someday I'll get to find out.

Oh, and yes. I really can make a 5K race report that long.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back at it

I suddenly remembered sometime mid-week that this is definitely the quickest I've ever jumped back into "real" training after an Ironman. The first week after I did about the same amount as I have always done, the difference this time being that I was told what to do instead of just kind of doing what I felt like. It all pretty much added up the same either way. Except, of course, for that whole thing about riding my bike the day after the race. But usually that "do what I feel like doing" thing is the way I would go at it for at least another week, but now I am paying someone who seems to know what he's doing to tell me what I should be doing, and he had me back on the structured training starting last Monday, so of course I did what he said.

I hate starting the training back up after a big race. Especially when the race went well and you felt good, you suddenly wonder where the heck that nice, tapered, invincible feeling went. Everything seems hard again. Monday started me off with a 2 and a half hour bike ride, which normally I could almost do in my sleep. It didn't go too badly, certainly slower than it would've been a few weeks ago, but by about 6:30 that night I was wondering why suddenly all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I'm wondering if it was because I had just done my first workout of any significant duration. It's funny how certain things take more out of you than they used to when it hasn't even been that long.

But oh, Tuesday it was time to go out and run. That did not go so well. First, my foot is still, um, off I guess would be a good word for it. It hurts sometimes when I step wrong or twist it in some weird way, but for the most part I can run without it bothering me at all. Except I think I've started altering my stride to compensate, because with the issue being on the outside of the foot, I seem to have developed a blister the size of a quarter on the inside part of my heel. It was impressive enough that I considered taking a picture of it, but thought maybe I should spare anyone the sight. So I set off for my run, which was to be 1:20, nice and aerobic. I have an issue with starting up running again after any amount of time off, it suddenly feels like an out-of-body experience. It's like I completely forget how to do it. The first mile wasn't terrible. I actually don't quite remember where exactly things started to get really, really bad, but I do know that almost immediately my pace began to slow. I stopped once or twice to adjust my shoe. Then at the halfway point I decided to stop completely for a minute or two and see if that made me feel any better. Of course, I had to sort of pretend I was looking at the horses on the farm I happened to stop near, so anyone passing by in a car wouldn't offer me a ride home. Because, you know, I may have taken them up on it.

But hey, had to get home somehow. I took off again, at a continually decreasing pace. A couple of miles later, I spotted a nice, perfect seat-level guard rail in the shade next to the lake. So I decided to sit on it for a few minutes. Maybe just to adjust my laces. Yeah, right. Ok, still close to two miles from home, with no possible shorter route to get there. Unless I swam, which actually might have been quicker, even with my running shoes on. Less than a mile later, I sat down again. I don't know what exactly was the matter with me, I just felt like crap. It was hot, I was sweaty, I was thirsty, I wasn't used to actually training... but had to get up and run just one more little mile. Again, I could've probably swum a faster mile, but I did eventually make it home and enjoyed the sweet taste of my Endurox and hoped that the next run would be better.

Thankfully, it was. I'm still not doing great, and I can tell that even though there is no pain I am still compensating for my foot issue, but I haven't had to sit down in the middle of another run, or even entertained the thought.

Also this week I've had to get back into the weight room. I hadn't been in the weight room since the end of January, and I didn't miss it. I mean, I guess I miss the feeling of being stronger, but on a nice summer day just about the last place I want to be is inside a gym lifting weights. At least it wasn't any heavy lifting and it doesn't really take too long. Did some swimming in the lake without my wetsuit since it's gotten pretty warm and of course my next big race will be done without it, so I'd better get used to swimming without that crutch.

My bike rides got increasingly better as the week went along and yesterday I met up with a few people to ride the Timberman course. I will be racing the sprint in two weeks and I'm doing the half as a relay, of course the bike portion. Have you ever done a relay? I did it once, and I remember thinking before that maybe I would feel guilty about not doing the whole race, but I didn't at all. It was fantastic. Get to T2, hand off the chip, let someone else run 13.1 miles while me and the swimmer get to go be the first ones in line for the post-race food. Maybe I'll feel different this time because it's Timberman, and since it was my second race ever - first half - in 2002, I have done it every year. Seven times. The first year I was almost positive I was going to die during the race, but I finished, and found that there was pretty much no food left by the time I got there and almost everyone was gone. At least my parents were there to take me out for ice cream. Then last year was a complete and total disaster that marked rock bottom for me and my triathlon career. For some reason though, I just really love that race. I'm glad I'm going to get to do it again next year. Currently, I am glad that I am not racing the half, but I may change my mind come race day, not that there is anything I can do about it.

Anyway, me, my QT2 teammate Michelle, and Hannah and Noah who recently joined, headed out at about 8:00. First of all, the weather was gorgeous. It really has been finally for about the last week or so. We are finally getting our summer after missing out on the first 6 weeks. There were also way more people out there riding than I had ever seen. Not that it was crowded, there were just tons of cars and lots of athletes out training. After only one wrong turn, we had a pretty good ride. I started to get the tunnel-vision in the last 3 miles or so, and if that stretch hadn't been downhill I'm not sure I would've made it, but at least I didn't have to run afterward. I was TIRED though. It's funny how something so simple, like riding my bike 5 and a half hours, normally an "easy" long ride, suddenly can take so much out of me after not doing it for a couple of weeks!

And today, well, recovery ride and a nice long run. Maybe not "nice" but at least still better than before, and we're heading in the right direction. So my first "real" week back at training is done, and I am of course wishing I had a few more weeks to prepare for Kona. I officially completed my registration today, booked my flight earlier this week, confirmed my spot in the QT2 team rental house, so there is no turning back now. More real training this week, including a 5K on Thursday night... which I am of course not looking forward to. Seriously, how is it that I dread 20 minutes of pain more than, say, a half marathon that takes at least 90 minutes?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Week of recovery is almost up

It has now been 1 week since I completed my 10th Ironman. I had been looking forward to a real week off and it did not disappoint. Well, possibly the only disappointing thing was that indulging in whatever not-so-good-for-me foods I had been fantasizing for months prior didn't prove to be nearly as much fun as I thought I would be. Truly the eyes are bigger than the stomach. In fact, I actually had myself an unplanned 20-hour fast when my stomach finally revolted on me Wednesday afternoon and I found myself unable to even stand the smell of food until sometime the following morning. I don't even know what set it off. Chicken salad for lunch maybe? Who knows? I'm actually looking forward to getting back to eating right starting tomorrow. I can just tell what a difference it makes with how I feel. I'm sure my stomach will thank me also. I will, however, miss eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast and switching back to egg whites, which I have not missed in the slightest. I had a child-like moment of excitement as I poured myself a bowl yesterday morning and a toy came out! But I'm a good aunt, and since I don't really have much use for an Ice Age character pencil topper, I gave it to my 6-year old niece.

There was a tiny bit of training this week, mostly in the form of hour-long easy rides at insanely slow speeds in which my heart rate shot up with little effort. I probably would've been even slower, but so far I've been too lazy to switch out my race wheels for the training wheels. I had an easy, painless swim and today I went out for a run for the first time. I mentioned before how my foot decided to bother me in the final 2 miless or so of the marathon last weekend, and since then it's been hurting. I experienced the same thing last year, only to a much greater degree. I got it checked out on Friday and the doctor agreed that it was the same issue, but not nearly as bad. So I opted to give running a shot today as planned. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. Bottom line is that it didn't seem to make it feel worse, so hopefully it will only continue to get better. I was ridiculously slow, but whatever. Aside from the foot, all other residual soreness seems to be pretty much gone. That includes the bruise on the shoulder from my graceful acrobatic maneuver over that cone at mile 25.7.

It's nice for things to be so different this year. Last year at this point I was aimless, lost, dejected. I was about to hit rock bottom at Timberman. I thought maybe I'd sign up for some fun events, but I opted instead to stop entering events and having horrible results. It's nice to have some real goals again, and actually believe that I have the ability to attain them.

I have also spent the week sleeping lots, eating the occasional ice cream, staying up too late (last night was midnight) hanging out with friends and family, swimming just because I wanted to get in the water and not because I had to do a workout, and looking forward to training again!