Chris Horner mumbled those words following his crash early in the Tour. Somehow he had managed to get back on his bike and pedal 25km to the finish, before being taken away in an ambulance. The broken bones were the least of his concerns, his coherence was non-existent. He had no recollection of the crash, of finishing, of anything, really. All he was concerned about was that he finished.
That's kind of how I felt about, well, anything I did this past week. The conditions were brutal, even by Summer standards. I feel that my unathletic DNA is the cause of my struggles with heat and humidity. I can't imagine there was much of that in Ireland, Scotland, Germany or Sweden when the people who helped create my family tree got together. The only thing I know is that, due to the Irish part of me comprising at least 50% of my genetic makeup, I am able to suffer better than most.
I went to the Wednesday Night Ride last week. There were a meager 12 people, and the temperature was still in the mid 90s. I rode there from Falls Road, which added at least 8 miles in each direction to my trip, so the ride was going to be in the realm of 2h30m. Because one of my water bottle cages broke (a while ago) I have been riding mostly with one bottle. I will occasionally, on really hot days, carry a smaller one in my jersey pocket. I did that for this ride, and was already through the small bottle by the time I got to Oregon Ridge. My HR was through the roof, it was disconcerting. Normally the ride starts AT 6pm, sometimes earlier. On this day, nobody seemed keen on pedaling, so it was at least 6:08 by the time we rolled out. I figured it may, on account of the conditions, be chill. Nope. Someone went off the front from the start, and while it was kept in check, another attack on Stringtown blew up the ride. In reality, without knowing the speed, it could have been not that hard. I'll concede that I felt terrible and it could have just been me. But, with only 12 people, if I got dropped, it was going to be a long, boring ride. I was able to put in one effort to bridge the gap, but then resumed sitting on the back of the line. I made it to Glencoe Rd with the group, before getting dropped after another attack just prior to York Rd. I'd guess this is 7 or 8 miles from the finish, so probably 22-23 miles into the ride. I sat up and soft pedaled home. I still had to go up Jerome Jay to get back to Falls Road. And I had approximately two swigs of water left. I was going to save them for the right time, so I waited until I had crested JJ and drank the remainder of the water, and then just freewheeled downhill until I had to pedal again.
Thursday was potentially a worse day. It was hard to tell. At some point, hot is just hot. Alyssa, Pat and I rolled out from Snake Hill around 6:30pm to do our 2hr Gunpowder Loop. I felt much better than I had on Wednesday, which was somewhat consoling.
Friday morning the decision was made to run early. I felt that if I swam early, and had to wait until later in the day to run, that the run would be bad, or I wouldn't do it. 5:45am and Pat was at our door, and he/Ed/myself rolled out for basically WNR loop. It was already 87 degrees. I didn't feel too bad, whatever pace we were running was actually okay (it was not fast, I know that) and I didn't feel like I absolutely needed water. We made it around the Harbor to the Rusty Scupper, and began our way back the way we had come. We took a detour up to Patterson Park, and I ran a few more minutes to call it 11 on the day. It was just after 7am, 91 degrees with a heat index of 100. I swam later in the day, and the pool was seriously on fire. I thought I was in Cleveland for a second. I tried on my new speedsuit, the Tyr Torque, and I felt the difference. I was excited to swim in it on Sunday.
In order to get the workout out of the way, and to be able to watch the TT/get on the road to NJ earlier, Zero and I rode at 6:30am on Saturday. The temp was not bad, but not much different than it had been at the same time on Friday morning. We did a shortened version of our normal Loch Raven loop, and while my legs didn't feel good, they warmed up by the end. I watched the Tour, impressed by Cadel Evans' ride, and Alyssa/Z/myself headed out around 2 to get to NJ. It was 4:30 when we got to the race site, and the field it's in felt like the surface of Mercury. I had planned on running a few miles, but that idea evaporated as quickly as my water.
Saturday night we were staying at a hotel on Route 1 near Princeton, so we took the opportunity to visit one of my favorite places: Princeton University. I've been going there since I was in high school for races, running camps, etc, but haven't been there in a few years. Also I was too dumb to get in. But we had a great meal at Triumph Brewery, while we quasi-eavesdropped on a date between two older people. The guy was digging his own grave; we heard him explaining the Tour/cycling to her for a long time, and at one point he took off his Road I.D. to show her. I was like yo, if she goes home with you tonight, mad respect.
Sunday morning we awoke to temperatures already near 90. I did the inaugural New Jersey State Triathlon in 2006, and was able to race again in 2007 and 2008. In each of those three years, I had terrible swims, decent bikes and reasonable runs. They changed the bike course by a little bit every year. It was only 23.5 miles for a while but apparently last year they figured out a way to make it 25.5. Always rather it be a little over than a little under. I've never swam well there, and the only thing I can reason is that the water is just too warm. I prefer cold water swimming (who doesn't) and the 88 degrees it was on Sunday was just too much for me. In the other years, it was maybe 82, 80, something reasonable. But this was just too hot. And the course goes out with the sun at your back before turning directly into it on the way in. I struggled with sighting, and as a result I probably would not be a good spokesperson for speedsuits because I swam abysmally slow.
I came out of the water and looked to my left and saw Alyssa. In normal cases, I would expect to be 60-90 seconds up on Alyssa, and 2.5-3min down on Tommy, and fairly close to Mike but over that distance probably still a minute back. I had swam 26:29 (probably 10-15sec to run out of the water to the mat). That was 5 minutes back to Tommy, 3:15 back to Z and Alyssa outsplit me to the mat by 4 seconds. And there went my day.
Overheated and disappointed, the wind had been taken from my sails. My foot hurt really bad running on the jagged asphalt of the transition area, and I got to my bike and had no motivation to ride. I passed one dude early, in the first half mile, and then didn't see anyone for a while, before I got passed. This is the first time I've been passed this year! I looked at the guy's cadence and thought man, I should have no problem riding that. I just...didn't want to. I could see really far up the road and just didn't see anyone. Normally I would expect to pull Tommy back in, but I didn't see him. Oh well. I rode as easy as I felt I could get away with, it actually felt much easier than even Thursday's ride. At this point, I just wanted to see how I felt getting off the bike, because with only one water bottle on the bike, and no salt, I was sure I'd cramp up and be walking.
As a heads up, I will include a picture below, but I wore my neon green Speedo. This is still the best thing I've ever raced in. I wore it in the first ever tri I did, and for that whole season. I thought that's just how triathlon was supposed to be. In the years to come, now it seems like everyone is on a team and has some kind of kit. I am proud to be unsponsored for 10 years now, and I know I warm everyone's heart when I wear this green bikini bottom.
So I come in off the bike, and I calmly go onto the run. My goal was now to run pretty easy, make sure my HR doesn't spike, and then that way I'll still have legs at the finish. With as much as I anticipated getting wet on this run, I wasn't sure if the no-socks plan was a good one, but I didn't want to have really wet socks, either. I made my way onto the terrible run course, and it was a just a few minutes before I saw Mike on his way back from the first turnaround. He was having a phenomenal race and looked really strong running. He led a big group of people, including Tommy, and then I saw the first placed girl. I felt like I was pretty far back and it may not be possible to catch her. At the first turnaround, well beyond the 1 mile mark, was our first opportunity to get a water stop. They really needed one as you left transition or something. I took an ice cold towel (that was clutch) and tried to keep myself as cool as possible. There weren't a ton of people ahead, but I went by a few very comfortably.
I lost my watch two weeks ago when I was in NJ, so I was racing without a watch. I felt like that was beneficial on this day as inevitably my splits would have been annoying. Around mile 2 1/4, the fire department had opened a hydrant and water was blasting out of it. It was actually kind of annoying to run through, as it just soaked you. I now had real sloshy feet. There's another turnaround, and I could tell I was making up ground on some, but not others. As we came by transition at 5k, I got a shoutout from the announcer, for my cool outfit. My parents were also there cheering, and if you know my dad, you know he is probably the best cheerer in the world. You can literally hear him from outer space.
I felt pretty good at this point, and while I know I wasn't running fast, I was running comfortably. Hit mile 4, where the animated gentleman at the water stop said something that really hit home: "if you can see them, you can catch them." Of course, that goes for those behind you, but I realized that anybody I still had in sight, I could reasonably catch. So, much like the driving peloton figures out how to dose their effort out to catch the day's breakaway, I measured my effort to catch those that I could who were ahead of me. This really meant the girl and the dude wearing the Duke kit. There was another turnaround at mile 4 3/4, and another hydrant blasting you in the face. The water was real deep, too, flooding the road. It was just around mile 5/the same mile 4 water stop that I passed the girl and the guy, and still had two people I believed I could catch. They were pretty far up, but you could tell by their form they were hurting.
With a half mile to go, I upped the tempo enough so that I wouldn't redline, but that I could make the catch inside of the last 0.2, that way I would limit their ability to try and kick. I moved by the one guy (45 y/o, some accomplishment there RM) and had another younger guy just ahead now. He had begun to kick a little early and looked like he was coming back, but we were less than 150 from the finish. My dad started cheering for me, the kid looked behind, and took off. I took off after him, but realized I was not catching him. I shuffled in over the line at 2:13:58, a truly weak time to match a feeble effort.
The bike course was 2 miles longer than in 2008, so I'll consider that about 5.5 minutes at the speed I was going, so even then it is still off my time of 2:05:10. I felt like I was in shape to go 2:03 on the old course, so maybe 2:08 something this year. With a bike course of 25.5 miles, I should have been able to ride that in 60-61 minutes, based even just on my EM effort. Instead, I rode 1:04:50. I've ridden a faster average there on my road bike. They didn't have my run split (or Zero's, interestingly) but my T2 + run was 41:16. Assuming a minute for transition, maybe just over, that would be a run of 40:15. Normally that's pretty discouraging, but considering the winner (who blazed in 2:00:xx) only ran a 38:35 for fastest run of the day (and I know he's normally a mid 34 guy) I wasn't displeased with that. Overall I finished 9th, but the kid that had just narrowly held me off got a drafting penalty and so I finished 8th.
The only takeaway I have from the day is that I managed 2.5 mile w/u, and then ran 5 miles after the race, and felt really comfortable doing that (13.5ish on the day). When we got back to Baltimore, Alyssa had an additional 2 hour ride on tap, so we went out just after 6pm for a Gunpowder Loop. I felt pretty good riding and would have been fine riding 2 hours, but Alyssa jinxed the ride by saying she didn't have stuff to fix a flat. So, ten miles out, she got a flat. And while I had a spare tube and CO2, I didn't have the stupid thing through which CO2 is conducted. I then had to ride back to the house, get a car and get Alyssa, who sat on the side of Route 40 in Skankville MD, where only one car stopped to see if she was alright.
So for the week, I managed 14km in the pool, 165 miles on the bike and 40 miles of running. I was, at 19 hours, somewhat expectedly tired going into the race, and that's okay. The 40 miles of running is the most I've done since the last week of April. I don't know what was going on, but I had a lot of weeks in the 29-32 range, with one week even coming in at 21. Then I was at 35 for the last four weeks. 40 is by no means a lot, but on just 4 runs, and one of those being a small 1.5 mile run off the bike one day, I'll take it.
In spite of the conditions, that's a good week. The lowlight of it was really just the race. Originally, Alyssa, Z and I were going to go up to NY to do this other race, the American Zofingen Triathlon, which was to be 1.5mi/69mi/15mi and would have been a lot more useful en route to next month's IM, but it was canceled due to lack of interest. I was content with not racing this weekend, as at this point, a weekend of longer training efforts is more productive for me, but we decided to do this race. In the end, it was whatever. I was okay with racing, but I would have also been okay with not racing. I certainly didn't need another race, particularly an Olympic distance one, but it's still more opportunity to spend (in theory) riding hard on my TT bike and running off the bike, and for this one, a chance to try out the speedsuit.
Mostly I think I need to start going to these races that everyone else seems to be able to find with downhill swims and friendly courses. How I magically come across races that have unnecessarily hot swims in non-current bodies of water (or, the Choptank), and stupid run courses is beyond me.
Today I feel okay, but my knee is really stiff. It's hard to explain unless you have the same problem, but it's not sore like "man you just did a hard effort," it's not able to bend or straighten without searing pain. This has been a constant source of frustration, as everyone knows, because I just never feel good, and don't think I ever will. I certainly don't wish it on anyone but it would be nice if someone else I knew had a similar problem so I could discuss it! I think it comes from the position on the TT bike, because I don't have the same level of stiffness after equally hard efforts on the road bike. Might just have to race a road bike down the road. Considering this past weekend, might not really make a difference!
My Team CYB teammates all had good days though yesterday, with Mike having his best race ever, finishing 2nd overall and having a great bike split. Tommy had a good swim and decent bike before a tough run, and technically finished 5th but got hit with another drafting penalty and finished 7th instead. Alyssa was just shy of her OD PR and was 8th overall. Considering the week of training she put in, that was pretty awesome. After the race we went to Varsity Pizza in Lawrenceville, which was delicious as usual and a great tradition I've kept.
For this week I think I'll be taking it easy today and tomorrow, and possibly Wednesday, before picking it back up for the weekend. I think I need to start bringing down the efforts like Weds Night Ride. One thing I've done in the last two weeks is recovery rides in the small chain ring. I really feel like it's been helping flush my legs and keeping the effort really chill when I need it to be. A few weeks until Luray, so these next two weekends are critical for longer efforts, and then I'll try and rest up for Luray so as not to get embarrassed there.
As a corollary to my LOTR/TdF post from last week, I realized that the Nasgul, the Ring Wraiths, were also 9 in number, as if they are a team of their own and represent the evil that tries to take away the yellow jersey from the Fellowship. Of course, Andy Schleck had virtually no shot at the win, and with the lightest amount of TT miles possible, that does not bode well for his future of winning the Tour. Just 42km of individual time trialing, normally the last one is at least 50-55km and there is generally another one (and a prologue!) so I don't see him winning anytime soon. Contador has already stated he will never ride the Giro again and is solely focused on winning more Tours (that is, if he gets cleared over the Clenbuterol) and I'm sure Cadel will be back in full effect to win again next year. In any event, it was a great Tour to watch, particularly the last couple of days.