Also known as, October, Part Deux.
One of my flaws (I have many, this is just one) in the past has always been I do not like training like a "triathlete." Sure, I run, ride and swim, the key components of training and racing A triathlon, but it doesn't mean you are training FOR triathlons.
Coming up as a not-really-that-good runner, I was used to running. I know how much my body can handle, I know workouts I need to do, I know what types of races will come from the fitness I'm in. When I began swimming in college, I was at first doing it as cross training on days off from practice, then as I started transitioning to tri-training, I began swimming with the Multisport Club at Maryland. A few were decent swimmers, and led us through some workouts. The final piece, cycling, came by following Tri Guy Tommy around PG County and DC.
Over the years I evolved, and especially when I moved to Baltimore. Due to a different accident, I had taken a few years out of the multisport game, so I hadn't swam in close to 3 years. I still hated swimming and did only the bare minimum that I could compete in Olympic distance races. I was running like a runner, and I was riding with other cyclists. I rarely did any "triathlon specific" workouts, such as, for lack of any other term, brick workouts, and most days I was only training in one discipline. I was relatively fit, but my speed was still an asset because I could generate a fair amount of power on the bike, and I was running well. Fine for a 2 hour race, not enough for anything longer.
Fast-forward to 2008, when I first attempted the half distance. I had been doing triathlons for 8 years at this point, but never anything longer than an Olympic. I was getting in long rides, and doing longer workouts, but there was still a disconnect. I very rarely did bricks, in fact, if I went back through my training log I'm sure it was once every blue moon followed by whatever racing I did. I was committed to changing that for 2009, and while I started to, obviously that came to a quick end in July.
For the first half of this year, I clearly had little to no structure in my training. It was more like do whatever you're able to do, whenever you feel like doing it. When the notion that I could race again came about, though, I knew I had one chance to get it right. In normal years, I spend a large part of my time focusing on running, for a number of reasons:
1. I enjoy running
2. My friends run, and most of our group activities are runs
3. It's easier for me to do that in the winter
4. There are more running races I can and like to do than there are triathlons
In 2008 I raced 27 times. 1 bike race, 7 triathlons and 19 road races. In 2009 I had done 7 running races and 3 triathlons by the time I got hurt, but I probably wouldn't have done more than 12 total running races and the number of triathlons would have numbered 7 or 8. I was starting to bridge the gap, so it only made sense that I also made an effort to train for the events that were important to me.
So enter 2010. One thing this injury has left me, among other things, is slower. I am not as fast as I was. I'm using that to my advantage, for now. I liked doing running races because I was somewhat fast. It was this somewhat speed that also put me in the hole in a number of races, including triathlons. Because I wasn't doing smart, specific workouts, I didn't know how fast I should really be trying to run off the bike. Now, while I'm slower on paper, I've had some good runs off the bike this year because I'm running smarter. And, more importantly, I was doing the workouts I needed to do.
I wasn't able to physically run off the bike until sometime in late July or August, but once I was, I tried to include it more in workouts. They were short runs at first, 4 to 6 miles tops. Again, great for Olympics, not enough for anything longer. And after I made it through the two races in October, I knew I had about two weeks of intense, specific workouts to get ready for Arizona.
I've always been fine with doing workouts on my own. Throughout most of college, I only trained with two people - Tri Guy Tommy, and Tom Stott. Running I've always been fine doing on my own, but I enjoy the social aspect of it (not to mention there's almost always someone who will run with you). Swimming was one of those things where even if I didn't want to do it, I'd just get it done. I didn't need someone around. The bike is kind of different. I have no problem riding on my own, and most years I'm not riding enough to really notice it - but this year was different. In the summer I had a steady stream of people to ride with. I didn't have to do any long ride (see: over 4 hours) by myself. And even if there isn't much talking going on, you're just not by yourself on far away roads. The summer rides were very, very hot, but there wasn't much wind. By late October, this was completely flipped. The days were now quite short, and the temperatures had come down. More than anything, our wind systems made it seem like we were constantly being hit by hurricanes. And it always seemed to be at its worst when I had to ride.
After all that fluff leading in, here are the 4 workouts that gave this post its title:
Sunday, October 17: I had gone to a wedding in Wisconsin on Friday with Melissa and Arjun. It was, to say the least, a traveling fiasco. I was trying to fly back in super early on Saturday to spectate the Baltimore Marathon and get out on my bike after, but I missed my flight and didn't get home until way later. I had gotten virtually no sleep and was exhausted when I got back. Sunday morning I was going to ride up to old TriSpeed (Timonium) where I would meet OJ, he would accompany me for the nearly 78 mile PA ride, and then I would ride home, where I would run off the bike. Due to a child-watching situation, he wasn't able to ride until 12:30. Then it became 1. So I left (for a near 7 hour ride) at 11:45am. 15 minutes later my phone rang - he couldn't meet me until 1:30. Shoot, I think that's just too late now, I need to get this in. I forged on by myself.
Leaving the city headed north is an awful way to start a ride. The first 10 miles feature traffic and traffic lights. It's also completely uphill. And as soon as I made it out past Oregon Ridge, I was also dealing with a gnarly wind in my face. I was already miserable and I was barely 2 hours into the ride. After Hampstead, I picked up a tailwind that pushed me to Leone Spring, where I stopped briefly for a quick refill. This was 3 hours into the ride (50mi) and it was nearly 3 o'clock. Then an amazing thing happened - I didn't so much as unclip from my pedals for the next 3h42m. That's right, I went from Leone Spring, blasted through my usual pit stop in Glen Rock, all up and down the hilly, exposed York Rd, into Hunt Valley, up Jerome Jay (at mile 90 this really hurts) and home through the city, without stopping at all.
I had done, in my opinion, a good job with my nutrition, so I didn't feel too cooked. It was, however, almost 7pm by the time I started my run. Heading out for 9 miles at 7pm isn't too bad normally, just after 115 miles on the bike it's a little tougher. My run down to the Square was a surprisingly quick 6:35 or something, so I just tried to keep it around that pace. I finished the run at 1:00:58, and was tired but pleased. I proceeded to eat an entire pizza.
Wednesday, October 20: Three days later, after a little recovery, I was back at it. This time for not as long of a ride, but still a long one. I didn't start until a little later than I should have, but I had a tailwind out Route 40 so I picked up some time. I was feeling good and powered through Rocks, hitting the gas station in just over 2 hours. The way I was moving I felt I might ride in 4h30m, which would have been good. But then Old Federal Hill Rd, the gauntlet of misery, reared its ugly head. The wind was now hitting me squarely on the chin, and my energy dropped. I was not excited to be out there, and just kept ticking the pedals over, knowing that each one was at least getting me closer to my destination. I had to text Pat from the road to let him know I'd be a few minutes late to run, and as I got home just after 6 (4h43m ride), I threw on my running shoes and ran down to meet Pat. I was already a few seconds quicker than Sunday's run, and having Pat to run with helped keep the pace honest and kept me from losing my mind. That run turned out to be a minute faster than Sunday's at 59:57. It was another 83mi/9mi day.
Saturday, October 23: This was the day I had been looking forward to. I was going to go out to Frederick, do my Five Hills of Frederick (53+ miles) ride, ride back to Baltimore, then run 9 miles again. At first I thought I had Pat as a lock for going out there, but then he had husbandly duties. Then I thought OJ would be able to ride, but he was a no-go. Shoot. It didn't look as if I'd even make it out there, because it hinged on getting out TO Frederick but not driving BACK to Baltimore. Fortune smiled upon me as Alyssa was going out there to run on the AT that day. I rode my bike and my things down to her house on Saturday (should I count the extra 3.5 miles of riding?) and we hit the rode just after 7:30am. It was...cold. I had arm warmers, leg warmers, booties, long gloves and my vest on. I figured it would warm up, but it was definitely starting off cold. I didn't have much to eat in my house so early in the ride I stopped at DD and housed a few donuts. Good fuel for the day to come. I don't know why, but the beginning of the ride I felt awesome. I thought I was riding pretty well up Hamburg (in hindsight I rode 20:30, but when I was out with OJ it was 19:43. I'll blame it on the cold). I was not feeling great up Harp, and it was a little windy at this point. It also was not warming up like I thought it would. Climb up to Greenbrier and everyone and their mother was hitting the AT, then descended into Boonsboro. There I picked up the slight breeze home, and made it to the top of South Mountain in just over 2h32m. I didn't think that was very good, and I was marginally disappointed.
Alyssa had parked her car here, so I was able to drop some stuff off. I took everything off before I reassessed and decided the arm warmers and vest would stay. I took off again and got rolling, and before I knew it I was at the top of the last climb with 5 miles to go, and I was at 2h57m. Where did that come from? I didn't think I'd ride faster than 3h15m, but the last 5 miles are super quick so I would surely be under 3h10m. I was inspired, so without crushing myself, I rode pretty quick, covering the last 5 miles in 10:34 and finishing up at 3:07:37. Only a few minutes slower than I rode with OJ, probably the 3rd fastest recorded time AND I was by myself - I don't think I've ever ridden the ride solo.
Since I still had about 59 miles to go, I just rolled right through Frederick and onto Liberty Rd. This road is evil. You'd think that it would be downhill all the way back to Baltimore but no, there is tons of climbing. You're either going up or down, but the downhills never seem steep enough for you to NOT pedal. It's also barren. As in, nothing to see, and very few places to stop. I had gone pretty far on just two water bottles (they had Gatorade in them) and since it wasn't very warm, I was doing okay. But my energy began to dip and I was struggling. Finally I made it to the 7-11 I normally stop at, after 4h45m of riding. I slammed a Coke, ate a cold taquito, poured some Gatorade in the bottle and kept a Snickers in reserve. I felt much better and got back on my way. I was getting closer to Wiggleville (Libertyville) and soon enough was back at Falls Rd with just 12 miles to go. It had finally warmed up a little, and I felt good as I made it home - 112 miles in 6h19m (3h12m home). For being on my own that was great, especially for half that ride taking place in Frederick.
Once again, it was time to run. It was 3pm, the sun was strong and the wind was whipping. I put on a hat but had to keep it backwards so it wouldn't blow off. 9 miles was the plan, and I hit the Square in 6:15. Way quick. Decided I would keep that effort going and whenever I hit the wall, I hit the wall. Fortunately for me, I didn't. I got back to the Square and ran 5:52 home, finishing my run at 57:21. Way faster than Wednesday and right about half Ironman effort.
I felt awesome that, within the span of 7 days, I had gotten in 3 long rides (two IM distance or more) and 3 great bricks. These were the types of workouts I should have been doing for years. In reality, though, I don't know that I could have done these workouts a few years ago. My pain threshold, physically and mentally, is greater now than it was then. Total saddle time was somewhere near 18 hours with another 3 hours of running - only 1 of which was with someone. That was a lot of alone time, and yes, it gets pretty boring. But I couldn't expect anyone was going to ride with me, since either seasons were over or the distances were longer than they needed to be riding.
I wasn't done, though, as the day after the Frederick ride, I woke up early to drive to College Park. One of my favorite runs is from College Park to DC. Depending on the route, you can make it anywhere from 9 to 13 miles just to get there, and then running around the Mall is always a fun way to add on some distance. This particular Sunday was the Army Ten Miler, and Cheese was racing. Pat and I left CP Metro Station just before 7am and headed down the Northwest Branch Trail. It was dark and quiet, which made for a nice trip as the sun came up. We got to the Capitol and were around 1h12m of running, so we still needed much more time. We ran along the 10 mile course prior to the runners arriving, and then watched for a few minutes as people we knew went by. It was a gorgeous morning to race or just run around DC. Continued the run down to Lincoln, then back up to the Washington, jumped in the race again, and then finished right at 2 hours at Smithsonian Metro Stop. I was calling it 17 miles, equaling my longest run and an capping a solid weekend. Bagel Place was a natural stop in CP on the way home, as it was a beautiful day. After I got home, Zero joined me for a 2 hour ride in the afternoon.
For that week, my volume was low in the swim at 8100 meters, but good on the bike and run, at 228 miles and 52 miles, respectively.
The following week, leading up to Halloween weekend, was going to be the last real big week I could put in. I wanted it to be big on the bike more than anything. I rode 50 on Wednesday and 60 on Thursday, both windy days, before setting up for Friday. Friday was going to be very hard. The plan was to go to Cambridge and ride on the Eagleman course. I was hoping to do a warmup on the bike, then hit the bike course hard, add on a little at the end, cooldown and then run 12 miles off the bike. In a perfect world, the sun would have been shining, it would have been around 70 degrees and wind would have been light. But the world is not perfect.
Friday October 29: I woke up Friday morning and heard the wind howling. That was here in Baltimore. I could only imagine what it was doing out on the Eastern Shore. It was also not warm. I debated just scratching it and saving it for another day, but I wasn't sure when I'd be able to, as I had Godsey in town until Tuesday. I had originally thought of doing it Saturday, but I didn't want to be gone for 10 hours on a Saturday while he was here.
After finally pulling the trigger, I hopped in the car and drove out to Cambridge. It was maybe just over 50 degrees now, and when I got out of the car at Great Marsh Park, the wind knocked me over. There was absolutely no way I could ride in this. But, I was already here, so I had to do SOMEthing. I put on all my clothes and started pedaling, barely staying upright. The Choptank was so rough you could have surfed the waves it was producing. Had there been a race that day, they would definitely have canceled it. I made it the 10 miles out to whatever road that is that takes you straight into the Wildlife Refuge. This is where I experienced the headwind. It was tough, and I know I wasn't going that fast. I was annoyed because I was not concerned about effort today, but rather speed. I wanted to know how fast I could ride. I got out onto the Refuge and picked up a tailwind for a while, which was nice, but short lived as soon I turned again and was getting nailed by a serious crosswind. That's the problem with strong directional winds - 3/4 of any ride you're getting crushed.
I made it to Dorchester High School (about mile 46) and sat down for a second. I pondered whether I could do another lap, or if I was better off going back in. DBAP, right? So I went back out. The wind was meaner, the air was colder and the sun was getting lower in the sky. I rode that lap just 3 minutes slower than the first one and finally was able to head in. I guess it was at least 92, but probably more like 93 or 94, and it took me a whopping 5h10m to complete. I fully expected it to be 4h30m. I returned to the car and it was 5:20pm. I unhappily put on my stuff to run and then thought about how I would do this. I felt like it was going to get pretty dark if I went out 6 and back 6, and those roads, while not heavily traveled, are very dark and there's only a narrow shoulder to run on. Other options were a series of out-and-backs, but that didn't seem enticing. I knew if I got back to within sight of my car I would stop.
I headed out and my first mile was a disappointing 7:10. It took me longer than usual to warm up, pedaling for 5 hours (I mean, pedaling the entire time, not once being able to freewheel) had taken it out of me. The wind was just as bad running. I hit mile 2 in the neighborhood and then mile 3 in that weird section and was at 21:04. Now onto the dangerous road. It was so boring and lonely out there. I felt like people driving by must have thought I was crazy, as you don't see anyone out there running normally. The long stretch to the turnaround was awful. I don't know how I do this when I race at Eagleman, it really is a terrible run. Anyway I made it to 6 at 41:50 something, so just under 7min pace.
Now I was heading back, and it was dark. I tried to quickly scurry off the main road to be in the protective confines of the neighborhood, and was surprised to see I was still only just running 6:58 pace. I thought I'd be faster for sure. With 2 miles to go now I had to eat a quarter mile straight into the wind - that was rough, but then I had it somewhat pushing me on the way home. I finished up at 1:23:34 for 12 miles, certainly not bad considering I didn't have food or drink for that period of time. It was almost 7pm and I had made it through this awful workout. Time to go home.
Saturday I rode an easy 50 miles, went out for Halloween (Saturday's costume was lazy, I was Jenn Sterger. So basically short shorts, tight shirt and a picture I drew of Brett Favre's weiner). Sunday we woke up, hit Patapsco for 12 miles, including a 6:55 mile up Gun Rd, which I was very psyched about, and then went out again for Halloween day. This time my costume was a little better, Zero and I were Will and Carlton from Fresh Prince, in their Apache dance costumes.
All in all, it had been a hard two weeks. That last big workout represented the 4th big brick, and was the longest I've ever run off the bike (outside of half ironman race) AND was the longest I've run off the longest I've ridden. This year I've now had 3 rides of 112 or more.
I still don't know if I'm really ready to race, but I've certainly done about all I can to prepare.