Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting Tough

Every so often I set up these little "Get Tough" blocks. Sometimes they last a long weekend, sometimes a week. I had always kind of did them on my own, but the naming rights belong to OJ. Usually in March of each year he'll attempt a week straight of 5000m/50mi/8mi (each day) of swim/bike/run, respectively. That's pretty big. Especially to have a 300+ mile bike week. I'm not sure what his final outcome is every year, since I don't do the whole thing with him, but even if he's coming close, that's still pretty gnarly.

In the past I've used weekends like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day to focus around big blocks. You know the weather's usually decent, there will be people to ride with and non-athletes are doing other things so the roads don't seem to be as bad. I feel like the blast of riding miles helps immensely, especially when focused and done at the right time before a goal event. I usually get in 250-300 miles over the 3 or 4 days, and then I feel like my body can "live off the fat" for a few weeks.

This year was a little bit different. Swimming was going okay, but I just wasn't able to ride or run very much. I kicked things off with 4th of July weekend. At this point, I had gone for a 4 mile run with Ed, so I felt like 4 miles was something I could do, and would stick with that distance for now. I went up to LBI for the weekend, and brought my bike. My standard LBI ride is just the length of the island and back, making it about 40 miles. During the week I was making sure I was getting in the pool for 5000m a day, and then I managed a 40 mile ride Saturday, 30 mile ride Sunday, and Fri-Sat-Sun ran 4 miles each, while on the island. I came back on Monday to ride the Loch Raven loop with Alyssa, and it was a few minutes faster than the previous time I rode it.

I thought Get Tough Week would just be that - one week. I figured I would catapult things via 4th of July weekend, then try and record training every day that next week. It was on that Thursday, July 8, that I made my return to my Thursday Night Ride up in Owings Mills. This was one of the first group workouts I had found about and gone to when I first moved here, thanks to running into Peter Bolster out on the roads. He told me about the group and since June of 2005, that's become my go-to ride during the week. I've gotten so much faster because of it.

Saturday, July 10, was a big day for me, as it marked one year since I had been hit. I had intentions of going out for a great ride, but when I woke up and saw the rain I figured I was better served not tempting fate. I took it as a sign and pushed my ride til Sunday. I thought it would be an appropriate way to "celebrate" if I put in a real big day to bring to a close my Get Tough Week. I wound up riding 84 miles - not even sure how I made it through that, honestly, and ran 4/swam 3600m.

So the results of that Get Tough Week were good. 24000m in the pool, 204 miles on the bike and 21 miles running (up from 15 the previous). I had also worked up to a 6 mile "long run."

Now I didn't want to stop. I figured I knew my body only had so many runs in it each week, and that I needed to save the efforts. I was trying to get into the habit of swimming every day so I swam that Monday (7/13) and just kept going. Get Tough Week was quickly turning into Get Tough Month. The previous week at track I managed 3x1600 @ 6:10, 6:00, 5:59, then 2x400 at 87/78 and then an 800 at 2:58. It was, to say, surprising. The next week was hills on Bellemore, which I was able to run much better up than I was down (still a big problem, as my knee/quad aren't strong enough to handle the steep downhills right now).

My goal was now to ride a little longer each week for my long ride. First week was the 84 mile version of Rocks with Alyssa, the second week was now the PA ride with Pat. We drove up to TriSpeed so that it wasn't too long of a day, but it still wound up being 94 or so miles. The ride is hard, and it was hot. But it's one of my favorite rides because of Leone Springs, nicely situated around 2.5 hours into the ride. I started chasing the Saturday long ride with another ride on Sunday. The day after the PA ride I went out with Pat, OJ and Zero for the Loch Raven loop, and was real tired. The next weekend, so now 7/24, I rode the longer version of Rocks (up to Aberdeen) with Ben W. and Alyssa. It was probably the hottest day I've ever gone out for something that long, maybe the hottest day of training ever. 96 degrees at 9:30am. Apparently got up to 106. It was a very tough ride, just under 98 miles. Chased that on Sunday with a Hunt Valley 56 mile ride the next day with OJ and Alyssa.

So now I've had three weeks of steady progress, with the last three being 204/209/221 on the bike, and 21/26/17 running. I was starting to get a little tired and knew my body needed a break.

Somehow I was pulling off decent track workouts, as in I was negative splitting intervals (never happens) and running super consistent paces. The 27th we did 800-800-1600-800-800-1600-800-800, and I was able to be 2:59, 2:56, 6:00, 2:59, 2:55, 6:00, 2:59, 2:45. I didn't have great turnover, and in general it wasn't comfortable to run at all, but I was getting through it. I figured I would eventually take a day off, so I wanted to push the volume a little bit this last week of July. 25,600m in the pool and 23 miles running were solid, and that last Saturday of the month I decided it was time to really get tough. A hearty crew consisting of Adam Z., Ben W., Zero, Pat and John Eisenhardt for a little left from the city, embarking on the PA ride. It was a weird day. Ben's spoke broke an hour in and left his wheel, to me, unrideable. But he barreled through it. Adam, who hadn't ridden more than 70 this year, and also weighs way more than any of us, struggled on York Rd. In fact, everyone started struggling as I made them ride up Jerome Jay at 90 miles into the ride. It was hot, as was the theme of the summer, and exposed. By the time we got to the top, nobody wanted to even pedal anymore. Everyone was slumped over their bars. This is where I started feeling strangely good.

That ride turned out to be 114 miles. That's a long day. With enough left in the tank for Sunday, Pat and I met OJ for a tough 45 miles in Cockeysville and chased that with my first brick workout - a 5 mile run in Loch Raven. So not only was I doing my first brick after that weekend, but was doing it on the trails.

July, as a result, turned out to be the biggest month of training I'd ever put in on the bike and swim. 101,000m in the pool (62.7 miles) and 928 miles on the bike, including the last week of 269. 94.5 miles of running. It really had been a Get Tough Month.

My takeaways from July were that 1) it was really hot. Like, scalding hot, all the time. I remember one day driving to the track with my arm out of the window and it seriously felt like it was in an oven. 2) no matter how little fitness you feel you have, if you've done it before, you can do it again. It may be dormant, but it's like a sleeping giant. Once you wake it up, it's back in full force. 3) I'd rather ride in the heat with no wind, then in any temperature with wind.

It was a great month. I managed to train every single day, even with big days and big weeks. I was looking forward to August.

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