Writing this now makes it seem like summer was a lifetime ago, and in the scheme of miles and hours, it really was. The four weeks of July, in hours, were 22, 22.75, 20.50 and 27.33. I accomplished my goal of re-establishing some routines. The bike rides were going okay, the runs were coming along slowly. TCYB (Team Crush Young Butts) had planned on going to Set Up Events' Luray Triathlon in the middle of August. The original thought was to do the double (Olympic on Saturday, Sprint on Sunday) but after 14 months without racing or knowing how my knee would hold up, I decided one race would be enough. Right at the end of July I signed up for the race on August 14th.
Following the 270 mile bike week (not to mention 26km of swimming) to finish Get Tough Month, I figured the first week of August would be a down week, after all, I had certainly earned it. I took it easy in the pool, and didn't do anything significant until the weekend. That weekend I headed home for the wedding of a high school friend, so I took the opportunity to get in a run at Hartshorne. I knew going into it that I was taking a chance doing that. First, I hadn't really run on trails yet, and these are some of the hardest around. It's also where I broke my ankle back in 2003. Second, I had just run a 9 mile run two weeks prior, so it was going to be my longest run (by a good amount), however most of my runs were under 7.
I showed up to Hartshorne ahead of the Middletown South XC team's practice, got in 3, then ran about 7.5 with the kids. It felt great to run at Hartshorne, and even better to not get hurt. I went for a short ride after that, and then Sunday went out for a longer ride (62mi). While I have had to go home many, many times in the past year and a half, now that I could train again it was not as bad of a trip. More importantly, I now felt as if I'd be able to get through the race, which was the following weekend.
That next week started pretty normal, taking my usual fairly easy Monday and Tuesday before picking it back up on Wednesday. At PT that day, however, Brett really cranked on my knee. I didn't notice it during, but as soon as I tried to pedal my bike that evening, well, the pain was obvious. I could barely pedal. I kept hoping it would loosen up but no luck. I remember we did the Gunpowder loop in reverse, and I was just way off the back of Pat and Alyssa. I didn't want to hold them up, but I was going nowhere. I eventually limped home. The next few days were rough. It hurt to swim. It hurt to run. I figured it didn't even make sense to try to ride. As of Friday night, the evening before the race, I was not sure I'd even do it.
I called up Brett and asked him what I should do as a quick fix. I took an Aleve that night - something I try to avoid - and iced it, massaged it a little. Saturday morning we got up and headed to the race, and during my warmup run I felt awesome. I felt fresh, bouncy and relaxed. Figured what the heck, if it's too painful to race, I'll find out during the race. The swim was a non-wetsuit swim and turned out to be the most aggressive start outside of IM that I've ever seen. I figured I was in the top 10 out of the water, maybe as high as 7. I was psyched. I ran into transition and saw Pat (we were racked next to each other). I thought that was a good swim if I'm that close to Pat - but turned out he just had a really, really slow T1. He actually put 1:40 into me in the water. Yikes.
Onto the bike and there is a significant climb a quarter mile into the ride. I spun up in an easy gear to avoid the pounding on my knee. Passed one or two people on that hill, and then was moving well. I passed Pat shortly after. Then a few dudes, including Dirk, went flying by. It was tremendously windy on the course, and I felt like I was losing time on downhills and flats by being on my road bike. I thought I was in somewhere between 6th and 8th coming into transition, not including any of the next wave (40+) that may have made up the gap. I felt awesome heading out onto the run and really felt good competing again.
My first mile was around 6:20. Considering I hadn't been running under 7 at all on any of my runs, I didn't expect to run better than 7's off the bike. I figured if I felt good, I should just keep going until I didn't. No point holding back. Next mile was 6:19. Then 6:22. I was keeping that pace and on the 2nd loop caught two guys. I wound up running a 39:49 10k, which was a huge surprise, and finished 11th overall. In 2008 I also finished 11th, although my time was a little faster back then (swim this year was slower, as was the bike. 2008 my run was only 39:12 I think).
I was very pleased with the result, as it surpassed my expectations. Of course, David Glover and the Set Up Events crew put on a great race at a great venue, and it was a fun weekend with Team CYB (Alyssa, Pat, Zero) in Luray. My takeaways from the race were: 1) While I swam a little slower than I thought I could, I still had the 19th fastest swim. 2) My bike split, conducted on my road bike, was 17th fastest, and shows I still know how to race any kind of bike. 3) Your body remembers how to race. So even though I didn't think I'd run very fast, once I was in the moment, it just turned itself on.
My knee had held up through the race, and generally started to feel better. I ran 12 miles with Zero when we got back to Baltimore that Sunday night, again recording a "longest run since...". Because I felt like the week before was a little too light on the bike (just rode 58 miles on two rides, including the race), I picked it back up that following week, riding about 225. That included another Rocks 98 mile ride with Alyssa as what would be her last real long ride before Wisconsin, and then following it up with 54 on Sunday out in Frederick with Z and Alyssa. Frederick, as I've mentioned before, is always a hard ride but a good barometer of fitness.
We rode the ride all together, of course each climbing at different rates. It was the first time I've ever done that ride and been warm - normally I'm only out there in the winter and spring. My knee held up better than I thought it might on the steep pitches of Hamburg and Harp Hills, and after the ride we went for a "fast" 2 mile run around the pond at Frederick High School.
I was at a critical point in training now, because the summer was coming to an end, and Chicago Marathon was only a few weeks away. Could it be done? Well, certainly I could have finished it. But I wasn't going to go out there and run another slow marathon - I've already done that twice. I was beginning to dismiss the thought entirely. But another thought was gaining momentum. Would I be able to do Ironman Arizona?
I knew I would need to get my body running better, particularly on long runs. On Monday, August 23rd, I ran to Fed Hill Runners and back, so 14 miles on the day. I didn't get out to ride as much as I would have liked that week, as ultimately I went to San Diego on Thursday for the weekend. Many times when you take trips of a personal nature to visit friends, it can be tough to get out for training. This trip was probably the best training trip I've ever had. I woke up early Friday morning to swim with the Tri Club of San Diego at Solana Beach. I was definitely fearsome of sharks, as it was the same group a few years back that lost one of their members to a shark attack on the very same swim. The water was also absolutely frigid. Glad I brought my wetsuit, "for sure." The group was pretty chill, mostly an older group and pretty relaxed. Grabbed breakfast with them after, and then later in the day went for a run with Andy's high school xc team in the desert hills.
The next morning I went for a workout with Bryon, one of Andy's roommates. He's trying to get into triathlon, and would ride his bike to UCSD's track to do some workouts. I rode an old mountain bike the 10 miles with him on his road bike, we climbed through Torrey Pines, and got to the track. Once there, Bryon did some workout involving stairs and pushups and stuff, while I hit the track for a shorter workout of some 800s, 400s and 200s. Then we rode back. Sunday was going to be a big day for me - a long run with Eric. He's another Terp out in San Diego, and was running Chicago as well. He was doing 20, and I hoped to make it through 16. I didn't want to impede his workout, so I was fortunate there were a few other dudes there running about my pace. Felt good when we turned around at 8, but by 13 I was cooked. When Eric got back we had to hit Denny's HARD to restore some chemical balance (see also: Coke and some omelettes). It was a great couple of training days. Sidenote: the next week Eric ran a 1:12:10 half marathon at Disneyland, and was looking to go 2:30 at Chicago. But, like many, he did not have the best day out there.
August was now over, and it was another solid month. I ended that last week with 48 miles of running (on the heels of the 14 and 16 mile runs in the same week). For the month, it was a far cry from the volume of July, recording just 583 miles on the bike and 60,000m in the pool, but it was a good running month at 153 miles.
I was psyched though, those numbers would have been good last year for me. As a result of the two big months, I had recorded nearly 1500 miles of riding and 100 miles in the water. Pretty insane. Most importantly, I was starting to get my running back to a level that made me think, Arizona is possible. As we transitioned into September, where I planned on racing a little bit, it would become
(Also, sorry for the long posts, I'm sure they're a bore to read. I should have written things along the way and just saved them to post now, but back then I didn't have the desire to do it)