May 1st, 2011 is a day I will always remember.
For it was on that day that I saw the fifth installment of The Fast and The Furious franchise, The Fast Five, and I have to say it was probably the best one. More importantly, they set it up for another sequel. Who knows - maybe they'll get to 10! And it reminded me of a situation I was in 10 years ago. It was July 13, 2011. I was leaving for Australia for 6 months on July 15, and TFATF had just come out. I went to see it. It was awesome. A few months later, America, and the world, would be shocked by the events of September 11th, which were credited to a tall, grisly dude with a heinous beard who liked caves. It was a tragic time, but once again I was greeted by the bad-assery of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, as TFATF arrived in Australia that November.
2 Fast 2 Furious came out 2 years later, and without Vin Diesel, and weak writing (and acting, courtesy of Tyrese), the only thing it gave us was a name for our second Hubs of Fury event in 2008. The third film, Tokyo Drift, was really bad. And I think everyone hoped it would just die there.
Fortunately for us, Fast and Furious came to the rescue. It did not disappoint; in fact, it revived the franchise. And then came The Fast Five. And in an interesting twist of fate, 10 years later, TFATF is once again connected to that September day, only this time, much like the BAMFs of the film, America came out on top. It wasn't more than a half hour after I got back from seeing the movie on Sunday when I received a text from a friend on the inside alerting me of the news, and until about midnight I absorbed as much of the coverage as I could. Yesterday and today I have been scouring the news for the details of this amazing mission. It is, without a doubt, the most awesome thing I've ever heard and I can't wait for the movie.
But back in a world that seems a million miles away, where covert black op missions include getting in and out of the pool without getting stuck talking to a million crazies, or figuring out which eating establishment will have the shortest line after TNT, life went on.
April turned out to be a really good month, both in volume and quality of work. Here's how I would grade myself:
Swimming - B. It's only half a letter grade better than March, and I feel better in the pool as of late, but I just took a look and saw that my volume (37,000m) was a grand less than March somehow. For some reason I thought I was only 34k for March. Either way, the volume is still pretty low, and while I still don't feel great, I'm starting to feel a little better. I saw improvement in my long swims, and am getting a little speed back.
Cycling - A. At 525 miles, my biggest April ever and steady improvement from March. More importantly, finally getting off the trainer (although did have a few rides on it early in the month) and some really good group rides. I'm riding less miles, usually on 3, sometimes 4 days of riding, but I'm getting after it again. Two trips to Frederick this month, including Sunday's trip out there (that's next). I feel better pedaling than I do walking these days.
Running - A. 167.5 miles this month is the most I've ever run in the month of April (keeping in mind these numbers only go back to 2004, college days don't count). And this was on an average of 4 runs per week. 7 of my 18 runs were 12+ miles. My foot has unfortunately been worse this month than any other, so that's been really frustrating, but I'm getting through it. My workouts on the track have gotten a little better, and if my foot DIDN'T hurt, I would feel great about running right now as my fitness really feels "there."
This past weekend was good, starting off Friday with a Friday evening long run with Brennan, Harvey and, of all people, Mike Prada. My foot was bad from the start, and only got worse, but we made it through at least 14 miles along Gwynns Falls Trail, past Coppin State/Mondawmin Mall and down through Reservoir Hill, etc. Saturday we timed a race in the morning, and then I headed out with Alyssa on bikes for a 3.5 hour ride. It was a) not as warm as I thought it was going to be and b) windy, as usual. Following the ride I joined her for her swim, which was, without a doubt, one of the hardest swims I've ever done. Lots of Band work, as the main set was basically all Band. Lots of 25s. My weak core was cooked by the end, but it was a great workout.
Sunday morning was another early day as I headed out to Frederick to meet OJ and Ben Ingram for the Frederick ride. This was my 4th trip out there this season, and each time has gotten faster. The last time I went out there 4 times in the winter/spring was 2008, when I ended up riding really well at Columbia. The temperature was borderline chilly, so arm and leg warmers were donned, and we got rolling. Rolling might not be the right word - barreling, perhaps? It was go-weapons-hot from the gun, as OJ was interested in attempting a CR (2:50, by his account. My fastest ride out here was a few weeks ago at 2:59). 15 minutes in, OJ needed to tap a kidney, so we let Ben ride up the road to hit the climb ahead of us. We started the climb about a minute down and I figured we'd wipe that out pretty quick, but as we were beyond halfway up and Ben still evaded our capture, I began to think: "is Ben going to ride faster than me at Columbia??" Holy shit, was he climbing well. For a guy who has ridden his bike probably 10 times outside, ever, and was tackling Frederick for just the second time (I remember all of my Frederick rides and it took me a long time to climb as well as he does now), he was killing it.
OJ, who has clawed his way into nasty bike fitness, created some space between himself and me, caught Ben, who then wisely sat on his wheel to the stop sign. OJ's time up Hamburg was around 18:50, Ben's was just under 20, I came through at 19:03. Yikes. I had to work on that one, this could be a long day. Along 40 we were moving at a rapid pace, and Wolfsville Rd came up incredibly quick (1h5m). Now it was time for Harp Hill, my least favorite of the climbs. I rode within myself as OJ gapped me and Ben. When it kicked up, I still felt okay and managed to bridge up to OJ right before the top. Apparently Ben's chain slipped and he had to put that back on, which is tough to start back up on that climb.
We flew along the flat part of Wolfsville, where Ben had to learn a lesson the hard way: don't mess with the rotation. This is a rare flat stretch of road on this ride and we like to ride it fast, each person doing their turn on the front. Ben decided he would move to the front, but he came from the back to do so. OJ got on his wheel, sat there for a while, and then blasted around him, to which I responded. We rolled Ben off for a little bit before slowing to let him get back on. He learned from his error.
Back on 40 and onto Greenbrier, OJ was mashing his monster gear and again put a little time into me at the top, and then we dropped into Boonsboro. Which is exactly when it started raining. OJ nearly lost it on a sharp left-hander, and at this point I knew that, despite our 7 minutes in the bank (putting our approximate finish under 2:50), we were going to be in for a tough ride home. We climbed South Mountain in the rain, and then descended. The rain was the coldest I've ever felt, and I was nervous about riding with the cars flying along as I don't like to ride anywhere near wet paint (shoulder lines). All of this cold rain I've ridden in has taught me that, no matter how good I was feeling before it, it saps my legs of all its energy and then I'm done. I made it up the last climb and was at 2:43 - the CR out of the question now with 5 miles to go, and I figure I'm not riding in the TdF so taking risks is not something I care to do.
On the descent, though, OJ must have gotten a flat and I couldn't hear him behind me, so I was confused when I waited for him at a light and he never came through. Ben came and told me about the flat. I sent Ben on his way and waited for OJ. His ride time for the day was around 2:52 to my 2:54 and some change. Pleased that it was able to be that fast despite the conditions in the last hour. I got back to Baltimore and ran 45 minutes with Ed and felt okay.
With all this time-dropping going on, it really makes me wonder how it all works. I mean, I have ridden 1:04:44 at Columbia before and it hasn't felt as hard as when I go for a ride out there and ride 1:19. I have ridden this Frederick ride in 2:54 now, but a normal ride used to be 3:10-3:15. I've also been out there for 3:30 before. So I'm hoping that my legs are ready to go in three weeks. Things I need to try and do before then include 1) get a new wetsuit and 2) get some wheels. Then I'll be ready to go. I have some times in my head of where I think I'm at right now, and should be able to do. I was going to look into doing the Terp Tri this weekend but opted against it because it's just too short. Instead I'll head out to Columbia and get in some good work on the bike and run course.
Now's the time to be careful because you can really overload yourself. Racing too much, too many hard workouts, not recovering well can all equal stale legs come race day. And then you get into a situation where I've been before, which is that you're overdrawing your account every week just to get to the line. On the one hand, you're super fit and you feel like you can go out and smash every day; on the other, you lack the killer punch when you need it. I always try different ways to get more out of myself - looking back on old logs I've noticed some years had a lot of days off. I probably felt more rested and could go hard every time I went out. Some years it's been high volume for a block and then nothing (particularly with cycling and swimming). Last year, as I got back into it, it became about the consistency of doing something every single day, and this meant high volume. As a result (and also because my body wasn't able to in some cases) I wasn't doing anything as fast, or even at a harder effort.
This year I've really tried to do my best and combine a few of these past seasons, with a focus on consistency, but lower volume; harder efforts on the days they should be hard, easier ones on the days I need them to be. And it seems to be working. I don't feel overextended, but I also haven't taken a complete day off since early February (96ish days now). If I don't feel like I'm going to swim well, I don't swim. If I miss a few days in the week of running, I don't sweat it. If weather is bad and I don't ride, I'm not worried. It feels good, because I know that come July, it's going to be a different story.