Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Turning Point

Moving on...

I had a little momentum going into June now, mostly in the pool, where I was getting in some decent swims. I decided since I wasn't racing, and had no goals, that I would just try and swim 5 days a week and build up my volume slowly. My knee still hurt when I did things, so I didn't want to be in a situation where I was punishing myself for no reason. I had swim weeks of 16800m, 14000m, 8000m, 19400m and 26500m. But I still wasn't running, save the 2 miles I ran with Zero down at Alyssa's Old Dominion 100 Miler. It was dark, drizzly and on the trails. I was surprised I made it. I took another 10 days off from running after that (that was June 5).

In the meanwhile, I was attempting to at least ride my bike once a week. Usually this meant riding to Fed Hill on Mondays and following the guys as they went for their run. It would turn out to be short, easy mileage. Hardly enough to call it a ride, as soft pedaling at 8-9mph doesn't really get you anywhere I've found. Still, one week I had Alex and Tank to ride with for a little bit, and another week Alex and I went along the Shady 7 route. It was embarrassing to me to try and feel good about doing that little, as never in a million years would I have thought 14 mile in 75min rides would take that much out of me.

June 15 was a bit of a breakthrough day. Two days prior I had watched most of my friends suffer at Eagleman. I felt like it was about time I started running. I did one mile on the track, and it felt uncomfortable at best. My splits were 1:54.3, 1:46.8, 1:40.5, 1:33.2 = 6:54.8. Seeing as I had run that one mile race just over a month ago at 6:15, I was surprised it was that hard for me.

Then came the day that really got me back. It was Monday, June 21. I had gone home to visit my dad for Father's Day for the weekend, but due to oppressive heat we didn't get out on Saturday or Sunday. Monday evening, after it had cooled down a bit, he and I headed out to Sandy Hook for a little bike ride. The Hook is a cool place, albeit unforgiving at times. It usually has a very strong directional wind, and during the summer is filled with BENNYs - but some summer nights during the week aren't bad and this was one of the better nights. It's a little over 6 miles end to end, so we rode out and back and did a small loop twice. It was 13 miles and took us an hour and one minute.

During the ride my dad suggested that I "take off" or "do some sprints" or something - which I scoffed at and said "what's the point?" I told him the purpose was to ride together, although I know he was just saying it to hopefully ignite something for me to start thinking, perhaps, like an athlete again. When we got back to the car, the ocean looked inviting, and I happened to have my goggles in the car. I told him I was going to just jump in for a minute. It was now about 8pm, so there was still light, being about the longest day of the year, and the beach was surprisingly crowded. I maybe swam 400m - definitely wasn't in the water any more than 10 minutes. The current was strong so I swam close to the shoreline. The water was as clear as I've ever seen it in NJ and the temperature was awesome.

I came out of the water and felt exhilarated. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, I thought, but maybe I can get my little sister to run with me when we get home. It was now about 9pm, so it was dark, and I made her go run to the end of the neighborhood and back. It was probably 1.75 miles, but I didn't care. On this day, I had "done" all 3 sports again. Now I was determined to not look back.

The next day I got back to Baltimore and headed to the track. I did an 800m warmup in 3:22, and then was going to do 1600m as hard as I could run. This week was much better than last, with my splits at 1:28.3, 1:29.4, 1:28.3, 1:27.1 = 5:53.1.

That was a Tuesday. On Wednesday I would face my first significant challenge: back on the bike, on a real actual road ride. I met Alyssa at Oregon Ridge Park just around 5:30pm, and we were going to do the Wednesday Night Ride. It's a 30 mile figure 8-ish in hilly north Baltimore County. Knowing that the organized (and also super fast) ride started at 6, my goal was to not get beat by them. They usually ride just over 1h20m, and I didn't know how long it would take us, but we didn't start til 5:50 I think. It was going to be close.

I hadn't been on a road ride since at least November, when I made it out two or three times to Gunpowder. After that, a lot changed. Jordan Rapp, professional triathlete and winner of IM Canada and IM Arizona last year, was hit by a car while on a training ride in California. It was almost identical to my accident, although due to him going through glass, he was in much worse shape than I was. Shortly after, two guys I would ride with on my Thursday Night Ride, Larry and Joel, were riding together on Falls Road up at Butler Road when an older lady driver hit the two of them. Joel would make it, not without some serious damage, but Larry did not.

Whether drivers like it or not, there are more people riding bikes nowadays. Some for competition, some for fitness, some just to get places because any other way is too expensive and it's more earth-conscious. Meanwhile, roads are more and more congested with drivers, who are on the phone and texting, and shoot just too old to be driving. With these instances fresh in my head, I did not want to ride anymore. You can say the same, but until you've gone through it, you can't understand the fear in the same fashion. It fucking hurts. A lot. And it ruins every ride you go on after that.

Back to the ride with Alyssa, though, and as soon as you start the ride you go uphill for a mile and change. My heart rate was through the roof. Once I settled in I felt like we were riding okay, but since I haven't had a computer on my bike in a few years, I had no concept of speed or distance. Was just out to pound my brains in and maybe feel alive again. At this time I also had the rush of "I don't want OJ to catch me and then make fun of me for riding so slow," so I was going as fast as my legs would allow. Somehow we managed to stay in front of them and rode the ride in a little under 1h50m. I found out later that the usual group of speedsters didn't show up, and someone had a mechanical, which kept them at bay. But hey, I made it. 30 miles.

Definitely too soon to say I was "back" but it was a great start.

I was keeping my runs to less than 2 miles for now, but that Saturday, just a few days after the 30 miles, I was determined to make it through my old Loch Raven 48 mile loop. The first half felt fine, but by the time I made it up and out of LR, and then still had to go up Bellemore, I was cooked.

The next Tuesday was another 1600m on the track. I was already feeling a bit better about running, and my splits showed it: 1:24.3, 1:24.4, 1:24.3, 1:23.8 = 5:36.8. The day after I did the Oregon Ridge ride again with Alyssa and we were 3 minutes faster than last week. I ended June on a positive note with that ride, and the month totals looked like:

71,800m swimming (pretty sure this was the most I've ever swam in a month)
204 miles on the bike
18 miles of running

I went from riding 0 miles to being able to ride 48 miles. I remember when 48 miles was a long ride for me. I remember Tom Stott and I riding to DC, bonking, him stealing Snickers bars from a Giant in Bethesda, getting lost and that ride being 42 miles. That was 2001.

I went from running a 6:55 mile to being able to run a 5:36 in just 14 days on almost no running. I remember being a freshman in high school working real hard to run a 5:27.

While it may have seemed insignificant at the time, and certainly doesn't mean anything to anyone other than myself, I'll look at that 13 mile bike ride with my dad as the turning point for getting myself back together a little bit. As of right now it's been 129 days since June 21, and I haven't missed a single day of training. So thanks, dad, even though you don't read this, for the little boost.


Funnyrunner said...

Ryan, that's great that you're picking it up again - I'm so happy for you.

If it makes you feel any better, I'm in pretty good shape and I can't run a mile in 5:36.

I live off of Falls Rd. on the other side of Oregon Ridge, and there are a LOT of cyclists on Falls Rd. (and your blog made me shiver, because I ride up Falls and take a left on Butler as one of my usual routes). I ALWAYS give them plenty of room, and it pisses me off when cars don't give cyclists any room at all - as if 10 seconds is going to make or break their days. There was actually an article in the Sun about it - and some a-hole wrote in and said he would "NEVER" yield to bikes on the roads. Hope he goes to hell.

fbg said...

Hey, I'm finally getting around to reading this since I didn't read any blogs in the past month. I guess I knew half of this story already, but filling in the blanks and the details is great. Hell yeah. Smash it up this weekend, dude!