Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hold On (For One More Day)

As I sat down on the side of the road on Sunday, contemplating whether I should, or even could, finish the race, the only thing I could focus on was:

I want my fucking t-shirt and medal.

When Ironman Louisville started up however many years ago, I never understood why anyone would do it.  It almost always produced obscene temperatures and humidity, and just didn't seem fun.  But when I traveled there in 2009 with Brennan to watch Alyssa compete in her first IM, I thought "hey, this isn't so bad."  It was mid 70s, absolutely beautiful.  Never before had I seen better weather at any race.  With the help of Brennan's friend P.K., a local, we got from the airport to mile 90 of the bike course just ahead of Alyssa coming through.  After coming to the rescue of a mechanical (broken pedal), we zoomed back to town and got ready to pedal to various spots of the run course to watch Alyssa.  The course seemed so nice, and it seemed like there were tons of spectators the entire way.  The finish line on 4th Street Live! is among the best in the sport, and the medal Alyssa earned was awesome - it was a little horseshoe. 

While racing on Sunday, I thought "man, this race was a lot more fun in 2009."

Since the 6 or 7 people that read this probably know how I did already, I'm sure you're also wondering WTF happened?  To answer that, I'll go back to the beginning of last week.

Tuesday - I went to the track workout with plans of running just a couple of easy miles, but I felt good and I wanted to stretch out the legs a bit, so I ran with Melissa's group through part of the workout (1200-400-1200, 1000-400-1000, 800-400-800).  I felt really comfortable on the first one, running just under 5:40 pace, and then pulled out a 71 on the 400.  I was going to call it after the 2nd 1200, but I felt alright and continued on the with the 1000 set, and ran a little bit quicker.  After the 2nd 1000, I was done, and felt good about the light workout.

Wednesday - I sucked it up and got in the pool, but didn't feel very good and was really down after the workout, frustrated with my swimming.  I rode an easy 90 minutes in the evening, and it was pretty windy - which reminded me of my Wednesday ride before Arizona last November. 

Thursday - Early morning swim before driving out to Louisville, Alyssa and I swam a short 1600m and I felt slightly better than Wednesday, but at this point I've resigned myself to a 1:10 swim on Sunday. 

Health-wise, I was feeling pretty good this week, with the exception of a canker sore.  I will get these from time to time, usually related to periods of overtraining, stress, or, just general sickness.  I wasn't really going to sweat it, though, because it came early in the week and I figured it should be good by the weekend. 

My memory of Louisville was admittedly a bit hazy, as Brennan and I had taken a 6:20am flight on Sunday, following the wedding of Arjun and Melissa in Chicago.  With fewer than 2 hours of sleep and much liquor consumed, we were somewhat out of it when we got picked up at the airport around 9am.  That, and we were whisked away to wherever P.K.'s girlfriend lived to pick up bikes, then somehow we found a McDonald's (and saw a dead deer right on the road!) and found the bike course.  I remember the bike course being crowded with cars and cyclists having to ride through them.  I don't remember how we got back into the city, but we parked and then were zipping back and forth on the course for the next 4 hours.  It was 7pm when we were done, we ate dinner and then went to P.K.'s apartment to crash for a few hours before an early flight back to Baltimore.

This year I had decided on driving out there, and Alyssa was up for it so we left Thursday around 7:30.  Following the earthquake on Tuesday, Baltimore was bracing for the potential wrath of Hurricane Irene.  I don't know if we drove through it, or some other weather system, but for five hours of our drive we were in a torrential downpour.  While it made the drive a little tough, it actually helped time pass a little quicker, and before we knew it we were in Charleston, WV, eating surprisingly good pizza in an otherwise unsurprising town. 

We had made fairly good time when we got to Lexington, and since it seemed lke UK's campus wasn't far off the highway, I wanted to go have a look.  This unfortunately added an hour to our drive, as the traffic was terrible and campus was super busy.  I like to run a lap on the track at campuses I visit, so I was disappointed when we found their track and it was gone - just dirt!  They were clearly renovating the entire complex.  My disappointment was abated by the UK women's cross country team that ran by us though.  To keep the spirit of Title IX alive, the men's team was out there too, for Alyssa.

Back on the road and we were in Louisville by 7:30, and we checked into the hotel - some 300 feet from the finish line.  We headed out for a shakeout run and there was a commotion a block up.  Apparently someone had climbed to the top of a construction crane, drunk as a skunk, and was threatening to jump.  I've never seen anything like it.  Nor have I seen anything like the people on the ground, all the les miserables of Louisville, filming with their phones.  When I caught a glimpse of the man on the scaffolding, who eventually came down, I swear to you that I recognized him.  I am 99% sure that this guy was driving in a car that was stopped at a light when we got into town, and he was throwing up in his car.  The timeline and level of inebriation was right, so I'm pretty sure it was. 

Crisis averted, it was time for dinner, then bed.  Friday morning we got up and headed over to the Galt House for registration.  Pretty easy process, and then Mike and I headed out for a little ride.  We just went out and did the first 12 miles of the course, enough to see the way out of transition (very flat, but road surface not great at times) and then we saw a hill that we didn't expect, so we went up that before turning around.  When we got back, I started getting a little stuffed up.  I thought maybe it was just allergies, as I tend to not do great with new environments this time of year (e.g., lots of trees) and occasionally have trouble in hotels.  I brushed it off and we went about our day, but by dinner it was a lot worse, and I caved and got a Claritin and some throat lozenges.  I still struggled to sleep on Friday night.  Part of that was definitely the obnoxious level of noise bouncing up from 4th Street right into our 10th floor, 4th Street-facing room.  I would have expected live concerts to have to finish by 10 or 11pm, but apparently they can keep going until 1am.  In case you are in the same situation, ask for a non-4th Street-facing room!

Saturday morning I woke up and it was not good.  Mike and I walked down to the practice swim, and we did about 20 minutes in the water.  The current wasn't as friendly as I thought it might be, but you could obviously notice it.  The water was warm, and it was dirty.  It definitely did not help me get better.  After the swim, Mike and I went for a 25 minute run and my body was starting to feel pretty achy.  We ate lunch, and then got our stuff to transition.  To avoid another mile walk, Mike and Alyssa rolled down on their bikes while I transported mine, along with our bags, in the car.  Then, we drove the bike course, to find out that it was much hillier than we thought!  The three of us certainly didn't mind, as the topography was pretty similar to Baltimore County, and most of our rides.  The out and back section looked tough, with a fairly fast, twisty descent into a long climb up to the turnaround, then back out onto the loop.  The last 20 miles or so looked like they could be pretty quick. 

All the while, I was not able to breathe.  We had even acquired a Neti Pot and I tried that to no avail - my nasal passage was so blocked that the water wouldn't go through.  I felt like I was coming down with a little fever, and I finally took DayQuil around 4pm.  We went to dinner that night as I called friend and triathlon confidant, Brian Shea, to ask if he had any suggestions for how I could get through the race.  I was not positive I could make it through the race, but since I could obviously wait until morning to decide, I took a NyQuil at 9pm and tried to go to sleep. 

I woke up Sunday and could breathe a little better, not much, and I was really, really dehydrated.  We went down to transition, and then over to the swim start, where apparently 6am was too late to get there and have a decent position in line.  Holy shit.  I was not going to sit in line from 4am on, that was for sure.  We were pretty close to the end of the snaking line, and just sat there as we heard the cannon boom for the pros (6:50am) and then age group (7:00am).  We eventually got moving and finally made it onto the ramp when they stopped athletes from getting in the water.  A few minutes went by and then all of a sudden paramedics were racing down to the water, where they had just pulled someone out.  He was a big guy, probably 250 pounds or more, and he was completely blue.  I have never seen anything like it.  They were doing chest compressions and racing him to the hospital, but you knew.  You just knew.  There was no way he was going to make it, and unfortunately, that was confirmed after the race.  It was upsetting, and the IM staff then had to regroup and try and pump everyone back up to get into the water.  And that's where my day started.

Swim - 59:42 (138th overall, 21st 30-34)

I did three things different in this race that I could possibly attribute this great swim (for me) to:

1. Shaved my legs
2. Wore my watch
3. Breathed to my right

I normally shave my legs, but this year I got real lazy.  I hadn't shaved since prior to Eagleman.  And really, it doesn't matter, it's not like that was making me swim terrible all summer.  As far as the watch, I didn't even turn it on, I had just forgotten to put it into my T1 bag so I had to wear it.  But the breathing to the right may actually have helped.  Normally I have trouble doing that and going in a straight line, so I just breathe to my left.  Which then means that I'm breathing basically every other stroke, and that seems to tire me out a little bit more.  My left arm will be more tired and my head/neck gets tired. 

Alyssa jumped into the water first, then me, then Mike.  I saw Mike just take off, but didn't see where Alyssa went, and it was just a sea of green and pink caps.  The swim starts off with a little shelter from Towhead Island, swimming upstream, before turning around and then coming back with the current to the finish.  On the map it looks like the first third is up and the second 2/3 is back, so if the current is friendly, most athletes can see a time close to what they would swim with a wetsuit.  I felt much more comfortable in this swim, and I think part of it is the time trial start.  Despite having to swim around many people, it allowed me to warm up and then get rolling, as opposed to a mass start where I feel compelled to go hard at the start, then have to recover a bit. 

As I steamrolled people, I thought "I have never felt so fast" - so thanks to all the slow swimmers for making me feel good about something on Sunday!  I rounded the far buoy and was able to sight the buildings for the way home.  The morning was also somewhat overcast, and even if the sun had been out, it would have been behind us on the way home, so I felt like I could just put my head down and go.  At some point, though, I looked and I was really far to the right of the buoys.  I corrected myself, and a few minutes later was really far to the left.  I don't know how that happened.  Either way, I felt like I was swimming forever, and while I was comfortable, I was also ready to be done.  Imagine my surprise when I exit the water and see 1:33:xx on the clock - that meant I had swam about an hour!  I couldn't believe it.  Then I started thinking that the water was probably super friendly and people probably swam under 45s because there was no way I swam that fast.  Either way, I wasn't going to complain.  I made it under an hour, which meant 2:39 faster than I went at Arizona last year, and it would be great if I could swim about the same time even at AZ this year.

T1 - 4:12

It was maybe 100 or 150m to run up the concrete to the transition area, where we picked up our bags.  I went a row past my bag's row, and the ground was really wet and muddy and my legs went out from underneath me as I tried to correct to my row.  I stayed upright, fortunately, grabbed my bag and went into the tent.  I had the top half of the speedsuit already off, stripped the rest and put on my jersey (yep, wore a jersey on the bike, best decision of the day).  I carried my socks and shoes with me to my bike so I didn't have to run on the mud in my Speedplay cleats, which tend to pick up mud quick.

Bike - 5:14:21 (76th overall, 14th 30-34, 21.38mph)

I rode 5:32 last year at Arizona.  The effort was not hard, but I got really tired after the wind, rain and the boring course.  Now with months of hard riding back under my belt, and a new bike, I felt like <5:10 was going to be pretty easy, and my goal was 5 hours.  As I don't ride with a computer, I rely on my watch to give me 10 mile splits so I can keep track and have some idea of how fast I'm going, but really I just go on perceived effort.  Can't ride faster than you can ride. 

In the first few miles I wanted to establish a rhythm but also had to be careful, since my late start meant I still had to pass hundreds of people.  I was pretty much hugging the yellow line, as the hordes of novice cyclists rudely and inappropriately rode all over the road.  I barely trust people I know to handle bikes properly, so I certainly don't trust people I don't know - especially not Ironpeople.  I passed through 10 miles around 26 low so I knew I was riding pretty well, and headed up the hill.  That was a cluster.  I slipped into the small chain ring and just cruised on by, and at the top it began to open up a little.  It was shortly after the top that I passed Mike.  But, I was so out of it that I didn't know what happened, and thought he was coming up on me.  He goes "you must have swam pretty well" and then I was just confused, I thought he meant I came out of the water ahead of him, which then made me think I must have somehow swam less, because I wasn't sure how I hadn't seen him as I came up on him.  I finally figured it out and continued onto the out and back.

That was pretty harrowing.  People of varying skills and stones meant there were people zooming down the hill on the left, there were water bottles rolling down the hill, bumps at the bottom, really dodgy.  I felt good though and rode up the hills really well.  My only concern was that, at an hour in, I haven't gone to the bathroom since the early morning.  The medicine had dried me up and despite my best attempts at rehydrating, I wasn't going to be able to make up the deficit.  And eating was very tough still as I couldn't breathe through my nose so I had to chew and breathe at the same time.  Otherwise, I felt okay.

Onto the loop, and as we headed into the town of La Grange, we were going into a stiff headwind.  This was not fun.  Coupled with a number of false flats, it felt like I was going nowhere.  But it's deceptive because I'm flying past people and nobody is going by me, so it's hard to say how I'm actually doing.  I had been riding pretty consistent 10 mile splits but then around mile 60, with a tailwind, my quads seized up.  They had just not been lubricated enough, and there was simply no way I was going to be able to get enough water to them.

I backed off a little to let them relax, and then found my rhythm again and kept going.  The same thing happened on the second loop though, in basically the same place (mile 90).  At that point I was thinking shit, I have 22 miles to go, another hour of riding and I'm at 4:12 or something.  This is not the day I thought I'd be having, and more importantly, how am I going to run??

When we left the people going onto their second loop you finally had an idea of just how few people were in front of you.  I exchanged positions a few times on the way back in with a couple of people and the last 10 miles were particularly annoying as we were treated to a cross/headwind.  I came into T2 at 5:14:21, which is an improvement on my soft time from November, but I wasn't real psyched.  I was, however, psyched that it was so easy aerobically.  I really do feel good about that distance and riding it pretty quick, so I expect to ride fast in November.

A few other notes from the bike:

1. I think I will always wear a regular jersey on the ride at these races.  Since I don't wear a one piece for the race, I can race in tri shorts and no top.  Then, just leave the jersey in my bag, packed with my food, thus eliminating the need for a Bento box or anything like that.  The less on my bike, the happier I am.  After the bike, I just take that off and put on a running singlet anyway.

2. I had acquired one of the little setups to put a water bottle cage in between the aerobars.  I don't like the idea of having them behind my seat, so I decided the front would be good.  In general, I liked it, but the cage did not embrace the Deer Park 20oz sport bottles very well, in fact at all.  So I either have to find a different cage or figure out something else.

3. Besides it tasting terrible, Powerbar's Perform drink is annoying.  When you tried to twist the top of the cap to drink, the entire top would come off.  Very annoying, very sticky.  Powerbar should do something about this.

T2 - 4:59

I took my time here, I ended up taking off my tri shorts and put on my running shorts, and changed into my singlet. 

Run - 5:52:08 (1136th overall, may as well have been DFL, 13:25/mi)

I can actually break this down to what I was thinking every step of the way.

Miles 1-3 (7:23, 7:00, 7:14):  Surprised.  My legs actually felt okay.  I was concerned about going out too fast, so I made sure it felt like I was walking.  7:23 up and over the bridge, 7:00 down.  Super comfortable.  Hey, there's Mike, how did he get in front of me?  (note: he had virtually caught back up to me by the end of the bike and then passed me in transition tent)  I feel okay, I can do this.  Don't think about being sick.

Miles 4-6 (8:13, 8:13, 9:13): Ugh.  I stopped in the bathroom in mile 4 to try and pee.  It actually hurt coming out, it was so dark.  Without that stop it would have been a 7:35.  Then I just had to slow down.  I was carrying a flask of orange Gu, and could not get it down.  At the aid stations, I could not take anything other than water.

Miles 7-10 (9:43, 10:55, 12:14, 16:28):  Uh-oh.  I was walking a lot more now, and by mile 10 I had come to a complete halt.  I realized that there was nothing I could have done, I was just too sick to have competed.  I was sad for a minute, but kept on.

Miles 11-13 (13:13, 16:50, 29:56):  Dammit.  Why?  All the time.  Can't catch a break.  It was here that I literally sat on the sidewalk for a really long time.  People were asking me if I was okay.  Then two cops came and made sure they didn't need to call medical.  I said I was fine, I just didn't want to do it.

Miles 14-15 (54:14): Yep, just sitting here, hanging out.  I looked pretty casual at this point, as I was just wearing running shorts and a white singlet.  My number was somewhat obscured by the singlet, which was covering it, and if I hadn't been wearing a chip, I don't know if anyone would have thought I was racing.  Here I was hanging out near the hotel, but not at it, because I didn't want to see it.  I waited for Alyssa, who had swam and ridden the shit out of the course (1:05, 5:43, was in 3rd in her AG off the bike, had the 28th fastest bike split of the day) but was struggling on the run.  Her coach, Hillary Biscay, was racing too and had passed her, and told her she had to finish.  And so it will be, I said.  I'll go with you.

At this point I was feeling very ill.  I hadn't eaten anything in 3 hours, because I couldn't, not because I wasn't hungry (I was starving).  I actually contemplated grabbing money from Alyssa's dad and walking over to Qdoba and getting a burrito.  The course also seemed very quiet, much quieter than 2009.  I remember riding our bikes on the sidewalk and actively having to avoid crashing into people, and the special needs volunteers were so loud, and the aid stations were loud.  I remember the Ford Inspiration Station kicking, and the Louisville U. aid station being awesome.  They were all physically there this year, but they were just quiet, and there were fewer overall spectators.  I also realized that, at 20 minutes per mile, I'm covering 3 miles per hour and that's going to be 4 more hours.  I had to at least do 15 minute miles so I could make it in a reasonable time. 

As we headed out onto the second loop, the two of us silently shuffled along the road.  I was able to run for a few minutes, then I'd have to walk, then I could run to an aid station, then walk.  The process was arduous, but the rhythm had us splitting miles of 12:24, 13:41, 12:05, 11:42, 11:40, 12:32.  It was the most I could do.  I couldn't breathe, and I was really struggling, but I was getting there.  Alyssa seemed to be doing a little better, but not much.  After we hit the turnaround and were on our way back, I felt worse but was buoyed by the fact that we were at least on our way back in.  Almost amazingly we split the next three miles at 13:30, 13:30 and 13:32.  I didn't plan it, that's just how fast you go when you walk for a few minutes each mile. 

At one of the final aid stations, it was probably the best thing I'd heard all day - Justin Bieber's "Baby" came on, and suddenly it was all good again.  Not that I physically any better, but I just felt better.  We hit mile 25 in 12:58 and then we could finally see the end.  We crossed the finish line together in 12 hours, 15 minutes and 20/21 seconds

What I said at the beginning, about all I want is my t-shirt and medal, I wasn't joking.  During my hours of quiet time with myself, enduring yet another beyond terrible day, I realized that I don't train for races to not finish.  I don't start races to not finish.  I work entirely too hard to go to these things and call it a day because it didn't work out in my favor.  On this day, I got sick.  I just needed my body to hold on for one more day and things probably would have gone my way.  But it didn't.  I could look back and say "hey great job doing as well as you did in the swim and bike being sick, and then finishing when it was really tough" but I really don't care.  I finished because I wanted my t-shirt and medal.  It could have been a 5k, it could have been a marathon - if it's a race, I will finish it. 

I got through the finishing chute as the sun was behind the buildings, so it was just starting to get dark at 7:45pm, and walked over to get some food.  It was freezing in this building, so the trip inside was brief.  I happily ate three slices of pizza, and then walked back over to the hotel to take a shower.  What started as a shower turned into a bath, where I then fell asleep for a few minutes, before going back down to meet the gang at Red Star.  Around 11pm we drove down to transition to get our stuff, and then headed up top of 4th Street to watch the last half hour of finishers come through.  While there, we took the opportunity to get some frozen beverages from Wet Willie's, our favorite Miami post-race spot (so it's cool that Louisville has one).  Since the race had been held up 10 minutes to evacuate the downed competitor, they let the official race finish go until 17:10:00.  We watched the last people come through and headed back to the hotel, ready to sleep. 

We woke up the next day and headed to Panera for some breakfast, and then over to Galt House for the rolldown allocation.  Mike ended up with a great day - 9:49 for 44th/13th with a 58:01 swim, 5:16 bike and 3:26 run, but as our competitive age group only had 6 slots, he was out.  Strangely, in W25-29, one of the two spots went unclaimed and since 3rd place had already earned her slot, it went to 4th.  But 4th wasn't there.  Neither was 5th.  Or 6th.  Holy shit.  Despite a terrible day, Alyssa's 17th place was not looking out of reason to earn the slot.  It finally stopped on 12, and the girl freaked out and gladly accepted.  Oh well.

Then it was over to Awards Banquet, which I did not go to in Arizona.  This was pretty fun.  The food was great, and they do a really good job.  And, Hillary and her friend, another pro from Australia, chilled out with us and we had some good chuckles.  After awards it was time to hit the road, and Alyssa and I made our way out of Louisville with some great weather to drive in.  I stopped a few times to stretch, and I unfortunately had another fairly severe case of hiccups (note: if anyone knows why this happens to me and only me following these events, I would love to chat).  We were going to stop in Morgantown, WV, for the night, and got there just in time to get some sushi from a place that closed at 10.  It magically stopped my hiccups, so that was cool.  Went to bed, woke up the next day and made the rest of the trip (after running a lap on WVU's shitty blue track), stopping in Cumberland, MD, for lunch.  The weirdest part of the day was for as nasty as it was on Thursday, it was beautiful on Tuesday, and we heard the SAME songs in the SAME places as we did on our way out.  Not strange if it's top 40, but these were some definite random jams from back in the day that you would almost never hear with frequency.  It was very strange, as if we were caught in some Bermuda Triangle wormhole.  I half expected to get back and the race never happened, like we were heading there this weekend or something.

Last November I was able to finish the Ironman, finally accomplishing that goal, and moreso capping the tumultuous year and change since the accident.  This year was a lot different.  Louisville was a race I signed up for largely because Alyssa and Mike were going to do it, and I figured I'd be in shape for it so why not.  I also wanted another opportunity to get the distance in.  Last year, it was Thanksgiving week, and I was tired, and I came back and it was cold, and I was ready to be done with training and racing.  This year, I still have a fall schedule of races and a return to Arizona.  And I'm more excited for it than I thought - I legitimately had concerns that I would finish the race on Sunday and be complacent and not want to do anything.  Maybe that's the benefit of having a bad day. 

The only thing I can say is that most people I know have not had bad days like that.  Most haven't suffered like that.  I wonder what would happen if they did?  Would they quit?  Would they continue, even though the marathon took them nearly 6 hours?  To put it in perspective, my 12:15 race was 711th out of 2439.  That's a lot of people finishing after that time.  A 12 hour race is faster than a lot of people could ever imagine going, so it would be disrespectful to drop out just because I'm going to be out there for a real long time.  I guess, if I had to, I would have completely walked the entire thing (I actually don't think it would have been much slower considering how long I stopped on the side of the road).

For now, a small break this week to let the legs rebound, and then next week will be light too as I head into the Lancaster Triathlon on Saturday, 9/10. 

Oh, and the medal this year?  It sucked.  No horseshoe.  Just some lame rectangle thing.  I was so mad.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Age Old Adage

What's that old saying that seems particularly applicable to me?

If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have any [luck].

While I do always have a chip on my shoulder, feeling like things just never seem to work out in my favor, this summer has been particularly oppressive.  Take this past weekend, for example.  Following the debacle of my rear wheel at Luray just the previous weekend, I decided I wanted one problem-free ride on Frankenstein before Louisville.  Just one.  The obvious choice was to go to Church Creek out on the Eastern Shore for their 40km TT on Saturday.  It's essentially the Eagleman course, in reverse.  Flat, fast.  3 years ago in my first time trial, I rode 58:55.  I didn't feel it was my best day, my legs seemed really stale that month, but it was a good result.  I figured I could go out there and do at least that again, but regardless of how fast or slow I went, I just wanted a good ride on my time trial machine.

It must have been on Thursday that Alyssa brought to my attention that the registration had closed for Church Creek and that there would be no race day registration.  Shoot.  But, fortune smiled upon me, as Alyssa then found another race, on Sunday in PA, that was about the same distance from Baltimore and seemed pretty decent.  Done.  Before I registered, I emailed the director to make sure it was going to take place even if the field was small (there were just 5 signed up by Friday morning).  He said yes, so I signed up.  The race was in Gardners, which was 18 miles past Gettysburg.  The drive on Sunday was pretty easy at 6am, and since I haven't been to Gettysburg in a really long time, it was cool to see it again.

Backtracking for a moment, last week's training was super light.  After the track meet on Wednesday, I actually took Thursday off completely.  More and more I've been feeling really just low and my motivation to train is non-existent.  The weather last week didn't help, with a lot of afternoon/evening thunderstorms of great intensity.  Following the Thursday day off, I ran with Brennan and Ed early on Friday morning.  Brennan was aiming to get in his weekend long run (20) and Ed was looking to do his Friday run (9) so there was a big spread.  I wanted to run 12 or 13, basically 90 minutes.  We crafted a route that would have been a lot more hood if it was run in the afternoon, but at 5:45am it was quiet.  It was also uphill for the first 35ish minutes, before we started coming back down towards the city.  I felt okay, still sore from Wednesday's track effort, but got through 90 minutes by 7:15 and was pleased.  I went to swim later in the day, but found that the pool was closed for a private event, and then I would have gotten kicked out anyway as another storm popped up. 

Saturday morning Alyssa, Z and I rolled out early for an easy 2.5 hour ride, which Mike and I chased with a 4 mile easy run.  My legs were a little tired but more concerning was my heart rate, which just seemed way higher than it should have been.  I hadn't ridden since Sunday though, so I figured maybe it was just that.  I had wanted to get into the pool later, but a few friends randomly descended upon Baltimore so we spent the rest of the day with them. 

Now it's Sunday morning, and I wasn't totally psyched to have to get up real early to go race again.  But I got up and went.  Alyssa came with me, and was going to do her hour run when we got there.  We arrive at this place after 95 minutes of driving, and it is assembling in a parking lot for some kind of fast food shack, Swirly Top, on the side of PA Route 94 (Carlisle Rd).  It was the entrance to this state park, Pine Grove Furnace or something, where the AT crosses through.  There were a few cars in the small parking lot, so it looked like it was going to be a pretty small event.  I went to warmup, looking to get in at least 40 minutes.  The race director kept telling us how flat it was, and that there were just a few rollers in the middle.  As I rode my warmup all I could think was "You ain't got to lie Craaaaaaiiiigg" because this thing was only going up.  Every so often you'd go up something steeper that would enable you to then go down a little bit, but the route was clearly going up.

I went out about 20 minutes and came back and since it was a little faster, I wanted to keep warming up until 10min before my start time (9:03).  I turn around and I noticed that someone was on my wheel - which is weird, especially on a warmup.  I saw a little patch of gravel and didn't want to ride over it, but as this person just showed up, I didn't know if he was sitting there, if he was going to pass, whatever, so I just went over it and then PSSSFFFTTT.  Rear wheel flat.  Shit.  Shit, shit, shit.

Now I'm about a half mile away from the start/finish, and while I had stuff on me to fix the tire, I just didn't even feel like it.  I had just 10 minutes, and it was not going well.  I couldn't get the valve extender off, it was glued on too tight.  Fortunately, some other guy was warming up still and saw me, so he went back to the start, got his van, drove back and picked me up, and then lent me his training wheel to ride.  But, for some reason it did not want to cooperate and I was having trouble getting it on. 

I was super frustrated - scratch that - really angry, and didn't want to ride anymore.  Alyssa was tremendously helpful in trying to get the wheel situated, because I was out of it.  Fuck, fuck, fuck.  I just drove an hour and forty to come to this stupid race, to have ONE day where shit doesn't go wrong, but clearly that isn't possible.  And yeah, I realize it's just a flat, and that they happen and whatever, but this is the second flat in 7 days I've gotten on this bike.  The other one came last weekend following the race, driving home.  How does a tire explode when you're not even riding it?  So, here is me officially telling Vittoria that this tire you make is complete shit.  I've never had problems with a bike before like this one. 

Whatever.  I get the wheel on and am ready to go.  The guy who loaned me the wheel started, and :30 later, I went.  We were last by many, many minutes.  Off the line, this guy got after it.  That probably helped me because otherwise I think if I didn't see anybody right away, I would have just phoned it in.  I was using him as my carrot, and for the first mile or 2 he stayed about :30 up it seemed, I certainly didn't appear to be making any headway into his head start.  Then the first bigger hill came, and I started bringing it back.  On the second one, it was all over.  Since I had ridden it in my warmup, I knew I wasn't going to be stupid and try and get up in my big ring, so I dropped down and was able to spin up.  I passed him, and two other people, real fast.  Then I just got rolling.  I wouldn't say there were false flats, as you knew you were riding uphill, but they were at a small enough grade that you could still push in the big ring and stay in the aerobars, but it was hard.  My HR was really high, I was working.  I managed to pass a few people and then saw a couple more ahead.  I tried not to stand too much, saving my legs a bit.  I had a watch going and would check my 5k splits, and I felt like I was going to hit the turnaround around 32 and change. 

It's 31 minutes now and I see people coming back at me.  Cool, maybe I'm riding really, really well, and picking these people up!  But where's the turnaround?  It should be here...Nope.  Turnaround was still another couple minutes away, because from mile 9 to 12.4 it was seriously difficult.  I finally get to the turnaround, and now you can see what you just went up.  I don't think I even pedaled for 3 miles on the way down, I was spinning out and I felt like I may as well just tuck in a little bit.  There was nobody in front of me at this point that I could see, and I just focused on keeping an honest effort so that none of the poor climbers behind caught me on the descent. 

For as hard as I was working on the way up, it was really difficult to work on the way down.  My HR dropped, and for the first half of the way back I seriously didn't pedal that much.  With a few miles left, I saw one person ahead of me, who I could tell was a girl, and I passed her inside the last mile.  It had flattened back out and I was pushing hard, but the finish was not coming quickly enough.  I crossed the line in 1:02:04 and thought holy shit, that is not fast.  I recovered pretty quick and while my original intention had been to ride another hour, I didn't want to have to ride on this dude's wheel so when he came through I asked if he wanted to go cooldown.  He said he wasn't going to ride, but he was thinking of running, so I said sure, I'll do that.  We just went out a mile and came back, kept it chill, but I felt really good. 

Got back and they were finalizing results, and here's how it shook out:

1. Scruffy college kid, 58:43 (!!!)
2. Some other guy, 59:35
3. Some really, really old looking dude, 1:00:02
4. Another pretty old dude, 1:00:45
5. Moi, 1:02:04

My initial reaction was, I can't believe I got TIME put into me by these old guys, how does that even make sense?  But then I realized I'm a week out from an Ironman, they appear to be cyclists, no big deal.  The kid that won went to Franklin Marshall College, and as he rolled out I noticed he got into a minivan with Colorado tags.  Makes more sense now. 

It took me 34:36 to ride 20km to the turnaround, an average speed of 21.55mph.  On the way down, I rode 27:28, or 27.15mph.  For the entire effort it was an average speed of 24.03mph.  For my effort, I was rewarded with an amazing certificate (something I would have made on my Gateway Computer when we first got Microsoft Publisher or something) and a check for $15.  Time trials are way better than triathlon.  I paid $30 for the race.  I won back half of that.  I put in a really hard effort, and was able to run off the bike.  I think next year I may just find TTs to do, and run off the bike.  It will save me hundreds of dollars each year and make me less angry because I won't be around triathletes.  And, since swimming sucks anyway, I can just do that when I get back home. 

Oh, and the elevation profile?  692 feet at the start.  1453 at the turnaround.  That's 760 feet over 12.4 miles, with 400 of those feet coming from mile 9 to the turnaround.  I don't know how to post a picture so I'll just link to the graph:

The temperature was around 70 when we got there, and had worked up closer to 80 by the end, and it was really humid.  The pads on my bars were soaked.  We left and headed back towards Gettysburg, and stopped there for lunch.  I realize that Gettysburg is quite the tourist destination but I think it must have been moving day for the college because there seemed to be a lot of college age kids and families.  It started raining, then stopped, and then as we got back into Maryland we could see the storms to the south.  Since I now had to get a(nother) new tire, I stopped at Race Pace in Owings Mills to get that done.  I should have just saved myself $160 from the get-go and not bought the tires I had.  I am hoping these new ones will not fail me.  Coming back into the city and it was one of the more insane storms I've seen in a long time.  Fells was already flooded and not long after I got home, a tree on my street (I know, rare in the city anyway) came crashing down on top of a car, totaling it.  My roommate's car was behind the one that got totaled, fortunately his was okay.  His car had gotten totaled in front of out old house earlier this year when a drunk driver crashed into it in the middle of the night.  The highlight of the day was Fox45 coming to check out the scene and since Ed and I were the only ones on the street, we were interviewed and got on the news. 

For the week, it was less than 10 hours.  I rode just twice for a whopping 75ish miles, and ran 32 miles.  Just one swim for 3k.  At this point I guess it doesn't matter a whole lot, other than confidence.  I swam yesterday and felt alright. 

In other news, the Vuelta a Espana began over the weekend.  It's cycling's third and final Grand Tour of the season, and unfortunately, the most boring.  I wonder if it was always as boring as it's been for the decade or so that I've been following.  Most of the race seems to take place through the desert.  There is very little variation in scenery, and while it does offer up some really, really tough climbs (among the steepest in cycling), it is just so boring it's hard to watch.  Most of the sprinters use it for prep for the World Championship race (late September) so they do a few stages then drop out.  Very few legitimate guys treat it as serious, and they are usually the ones who crashed out of the Tour.  And they seem to ride a lot of miles on highways.  Meanwhile, in Colorado, the US Pro Cycling Challenge is concurrently taking place, and it seems like a one week race was more enticing, and they probably have a lot of money because EVERYONE is there.  For us viewers it just means more cycling to watch, and then World Track Championships start this weekend.  I won't be able to watch much over the weekend, which is too bad.  I'll post again before I leave.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dimensia, What a Beautiful Name

"It means 'insanity'"

I am definitely losing it right now.  I just walked into 7-11 and stared at the drinks for about ten minutes before selecting what I was probably going to choose anyway - a Coke.  I am becoming increasingly incoherent, and my body really seems to be failing me.  I seriously just sat there and hemmed and hawed over what I wanted to drink following a failed attempt at getting in the pool.

With IM Louisville now in real sight (9 days away), I do realize that there's nothing I can do to increase my fitness above where it is.  I do understand that rest is best.  But, I still feel like I'm not doing enough.  I ran our 7 mile run on Monday, and Tuesday got in the pool for 3k pretty easy.  Wednesday I elected to head to the final BRRC Summer Track Meet, which would feature a mile and a 5000m.  It's almost embarrassing how far I've slipped in my "speed" since May.  Looking back, I was on the track more then than I was now, and doing some shorter, faster workouts, but the 5:20 I ran on Wednesday felt just as hard as the 5:00 I ran in May.  Crazy. 

I went into the meet with a goal in mind for the 5k, and the mile was serving more as a warmup.  I honestly intended on just running 5:30, and trying to negative split it and run comfortably.  The first lap (409m) I was behind the two Megs as we crossed in 83 seconds.  It was comfortable.  Then I ran 80.  Still okay.  Next was a 79.  Not too bad.  But at this point I realized I could run under 5:20 and thought that was worth trying for, so I attempted to pick it up.  I ran a 76 last lap, which is obviously not great, and the last 100 I was tying up.  I'll see what their "official" times have me at, but I had 5:19.7 on my watch. 

Yes, I finally got a watch.  I didn't want to have to get a Timex Ironman one, but I didn't want to buy another Polar as I never use the HRM feature and I still have faith that my old one will show up again.

Following the mile, I tried to keep loose as we waited for the 5k.  It finally arrived and there was a big field - 31 people toed the line.  It was crazy.  With nearly half the field comprised of people from my squad, it looked like a TNT workout, and was just as competitive.  My goal going into the race was to run under 17:30.  17:15 was going to be a stretch, but I thought if I felt good, I would go for it.  That meant splitting 5:30-5:35 for each 1600.  The first "mile" was spot on - 5:32.  I still felt reasonably comfortable, but something happened in the next 200.  I just...slowed down.  I had been running 41 for each 200 and then all of a sudden it was a flush 42, which meant 2 seconds slower for that lap.  Shit.  I went from 5:32 pace to 5:40 pace in an instant.  And, because I'm not a dummy, I realized that if I go into the well for a 5k ten days out from an Ironman, I am an idiot, I just reeled in the effort.  I figured slowing down was smarter.  I relaxed a bit, and came through 3200m in 11:21 (5:50ish 2nd mile), and hoped I'd have recovered enough to pick it back up from there.  I was, but only slightly, as my next 1600 was 5:46.  With a :39 last 200, I managed to run 17:46. 

While it was a little off my goal, in retrospect it wasn't that bad of a performance.  For one, it was on a Wednesday night, in the middle of summer, when I haven't run under 6 minute pace except maybe a handful of times since June.  And, despite being in "better shape" in 2008, it's faster than I ran the last time I did a 5k on the track in August (17:54).  Finally, while it may only be the 2nd 5k I've run since I got hurt two years ago, it is the fastest I've run.  So, I'll take it.

Unfortunately the meet wasn't over until late, which meant eating late, and then I was wired, so I really struggled on Thursday waking up and did not swim.  Then, later in the day, the weather was real bad so I did not get out on the bike nor did I make it into the pool.  I was running early today, so I just took the day off.

Woke up this morning and was tired and the delayed onset of 4 miles of track "racing" fatigue had settled in.  Brennan arrived at our place at 5:45 and off we went.  Brennan was doing 20, Ed was looking for 9 and I was hoping to get in 90 minutes for my last "long" run.  It was pitch black as we headed north through the hood, and then through hood park (Clifton Park) and finally on hood drive (33rd) the light started picking up.  35 minutes uphill, then we got to come back down.  It was a comfortable temperature but very humid.  I had told Ed that the run we planned would likely be more than 9, and sure enough it was (75 minutes back to the house).  He can obviously handle that, and it was cool because it meant I had less to run once we got back.  Brennan and I did a quick Brewer's Hill loop and then he continued on his way back home, done with his 20 miles by 7:30. 

I wanted to get in the pool this afternoon, but when I got there, there was a private event going on outside so pool was closed.  My only other option was to drive down to Locust Point, but I didn't want to go down that way with the Ravens playing the Redskins tonight in pre-season football, so I just went home.  It worked out anyway as I would not have even made it to the other pool before getting kicked out for another thunderstorm.

As I've said, I realize there is nothing I can do about my swimming immediately for next weekend, but I always feel better when I'm getting in the pool.  I have really struggled this summer with making it into the pool consistently, and I'm paying the price.  It's like I just don't have the energy, and I definitely don't have the motivation.  I just hope I can keep it inside of 1:10 next weekend.

I also went and got my bike looked at to make sure it's functioning properly.  It seems to be okay now, and I had to get a new tire for the front (300 miles and the Vittoria one just falls apart at the seams?  That doesn't seem right).  I also had them take a look at my position and since there were no glaring imbalances, the only conclusion is that my knee is just not cut out for the time trial position anymore.  This is probably pretty accurate, as the angle is pretty steep and my knee doesn't bend as well.  Especially when I'm trying to squeeze every drop of power out of it, it's just going to happen.  I may have to go back to racing on a road bike.  I'm going to do this time trial in PA somewhere on Sunday just to make sure it's cool, again I won't be going into the red to do it, just want to get the legs ticking over.

This little block of ironman training has really taken it out of me.  I would wager that other external factors are causing my fatigue and my general malaise, and maybe if I can get those straightened out I'll feel better and more optimistic.  I need to focus on those life things a little more after Louisville so I don't have the same problem before Arizona.  It really has caused me to go a little insane, or at least become imbalanced, which is weird because I have done less this summer than last summer, and should not have a problem handling the training.

You know that saying that all bosses always tell you: "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results"?  Well it makes me wonder, what does it make you if you do the same thing and expect the same results?  I would truly be happy if I could just run the same as I used to, or swim like I used to, or ride as comfortably as I used to.  That would be cool for me right now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We Won't Get Fooled Again

Or, the story of my weekend in Luray.

Last week I was feeling pretty beat, and in general haven't been handling things very well lately.  I am beyond tired, I'm annoyed at my fitness, disappointed in my results and more than anything, really, really banged up.  Not that I would wish my injuries on anyone, but I sometimes wish everyone could experience a week's worth of these workouts with my worthless knee.  As a result of all these things, I didn't do much last week.  Very light week in the pool, only getting in twice for very short workouts, and only running two days during the week for a miniscule 7 miles each time.  On the bike, it was also fairly short, with the highlight coming from Wednesday's longer ride (50+) riding up from my house to Oregon Ridge (20ish) to meet Alyssa, then riding the Wednesday Night Ride route.  In all, it was quite a dissimilar week from last year as I led up to Luray, when it was my first race in 13 months.  I remember going into that week excited, albeit nervous, to race again, and then got a scare when on Wednesday of that week my PT jacked my knee so hard that I didn't think I'd be able to race.  That time, I managed to miraculously feel better on race morning, and had one of my better races, relative to my fitness, of the past few years.  I had swam a 25:52 in the non-wetsuit swim, rode a 1:14:12 on my road bike and ran 39:49 for the 10k on just 6 weeks of running and riding. 

This year my ambitions were slightly higher, expecting to ride at least 6 minutes faster (I've ridden 1:08:12 on the course before) and I figured I would, at worst, swim and run about the same.  If I took out 6 minutes, that would have put me around 2:16 and I felt like that would be good enough for a top 10 finish, and with two weeks to go before IM Louisville, I'd be pleased with that. 

Friday:  Alyssa and I roll out from Baltimore around 4:30 and make it to Luray around 3 hours later.  The highlight of the trip was drinking a huge thing of Arizona Green Tea, then hitting some minor traffic near Harper's Ferry and having to squirm and wiggle in the car to hold in my bladder until we could get to a bathroom.  The lowlight was on Route 340, when we approached a vehicular accident, which I guessed was a motorcycle going over the rail on a curvy descent, before we got there.  I was right, unfortunately, and as we saw the mangled bike and the officer wheeling out some distance, I figured he must have perished.  This was confirmed later by Pat, who had gone through right after it happened and the M.E. was placing the white sheet over the deceased.  This was supposed to be the road we were going to be riding on on Sunday's ride, which we immediately nixed. 

The cabin we were staying in was a different one from last year, and the owner of the house was really harping on making sure we had 4WD to get up to the crib.  Thinking that it was probably just a steep, dirt driveway we didn't think much of it, until the other guys (Andy aka Chicken Tender Runner, Ben, Zero and Pat were already there) confirmed that it was, in fact, non-passable for their cars.  Alyssa has 4WD on the Tracker, so we felt fortunate we did not have to walk the half mile up the super steep climb as the other guys did.  They managed to get halfway up the road or so, but had to walk the rest.  Dinner was a pretty tasty yet simple pasta with meat sauce made by yours truly, and then we hit the sack pretty early (after seeing a little black bear waltz through our backyard).  The view from the cabin was insane, and in general the cabin was quite nice.

Saturday:  Arrive at transition and start getting ourselves together.  My bike has been throwing some tantrums lately and it did not feel like accepting air into the tires, so I brought it over to Race Day Tech.  He helped out, and I got myself situated in transition.  Over the years I have gotten the amount of stuff I bring down to quite a small level for these distance races.  Bike, helmet, sunglasses (both on the bike); flats on the ground with race number; shoes clipped into bike.  That's it.  The water had cooled down but it was still non-wetsuit, so all of us put on our pretty little speedsuits again and got into the 78ish degree water.  The swim course had changed slightly from years' past and looked really stupid.  As the gun sounded for our wave (the first one), we got out predictably quick.  Not really much jostling, but something felt off as I swam towards the first buoy.  My HR skyrocketed and I started thinking too much, about everything - life, why am I swimming so terrible, I should just stop - and then I wanted to stop swimming at the buoy and just breast stroke for a minute.  I decided against it, slowed down for a second and lengthened my stroke, and took a few deep breaths and seemed to calm down.

I seemed to be, at the very least, steadily moving up through the field, giving me the false impression of swimming decent.  I thought I took the right line at one point but I think it lost me a few seconds, and then we got to the far end of the swamp and turned back into the middle of it.  I still felt okay, but didn't really feel like swimming much anymore, so I was glad to be done.  Only towards the end did someone from the next wave (3min back) catch up to me, so I felt like I had done at least a little better than the last couple of swims.  Later, this was confirmed to not be true, as I swam 26:28.  This is the same time I swam at NJ a few weeks ago, which was in 90 degree water on a 90 degree day, where I was swimming into a blinding sun and generally felt like death.  Comparing a few of the other swims would lead me to believe the course was at least a little bit long, and I wouldn't normally say that but I think it was this time.  I was a staggering 3:50 back to Pat (last year I had at least kept it to 1:40, but this year he is swimming much better) and 2:45 to Z, and about 2:30 back of CTR.  I'm disappointed with my swimming still, but it's too late to fix it before next weekend, so I just have to deal.

In transition I ran along the beach, on the grass and up the dangerous steps into the bike area, and ran out with my bike.  Nothing special in T1, but I got onto the bike and people were immediately glad to see me because I was once again racing in the NEON GREEN SPEEDO and no shirt.  I was quickly dubbed "Speedo Guy" by the announcer and received considerable applause.

Onto the bike.  The bike course is flat for a quarter mile but then you turn left up a fairly steep, quarter mile+ long hill.  I felt strong riding up it, passing one or two dudes immediately, but something was wrong with my bike.  It was making an awful scratching noise and I felt like I was pedaling through molasses.  I rolled down the other side of the hill and pulled over to check out the problem.  Aha.  The rear brake was rubbing against the rim, someone had closed the little thing - I always leave it open because for some reason it is not able to be closed and spin freely.  I figured maybe the race day tech guy had done it when he was helping with the wheels.  No big deal, I'll get on my way and be fine.  Only it wasn't.  Not even close.  The sound was still just as bad, and I was going NOWHERE.  I don't get passed by people on the bike.  I especially don't get passed by people who are older than 40 (generally, there are a few dudes I know who are pretty sweet at riding bikes and will pass me).  Now I'm real mad.  I stop again at the top of this other steep little hill around 5 miles in and notice that the wheel is just not spinning at all.  In fact, it's not even centered properly.  I honestly don't know how I hadn't crashed out.  So I think I fix it, but in reality, I hadn't done anything.  For 26.2 miles I rode on this non-functioning bike and got passed all the way.  Somehow I still managed to pass people going uphill, but I was getting burned on downhills.  And the sound was real bad.  I finally pull into T2, again to raucous applause, but had ridden a beyond disappointing 1:15:36.  I was so angry I wanted to throw my piece of shit brand new bike into the lake.  Never in my life have I had a mechanical that has prevented me from riding, especially not one that just appeared out of nowhere.  Andy had passed me on the bike, making up the 6 minute head start I had, and I was just like fuck it.

T2 at this point was of no consequence, so I went out onto the run and decided I'd rather just keep the effort even.  Truly my only motivation now was to make sure that Ben didn't pass me, which was a real threat.  I had no watch again (getting old) and just ran.  The course was different this year, instead of two loops on the shitty rolling road it was one loop (out and back).  Half of it was paved - the first 1.5 and last 1.5 - and the middle part was on gravel, dirt and rocks.  Not very comfortable in the flats, but I managed.  Here is where I first glimpsed Mighty Matias, some 6 minutes ahead of second place, and Z was in 5th on the road, followed shortly by Pat.  They appeared to be having good races.  CTR was next up, making up his 6 minute stagger.  At the turnaround I was rolling the slower dudes ahead, but then as I trudged up the rocky hill, I saw Ben, FLYING.  Yikes.  With no clue how fast or slow I was running, but guessing that Ben was running in the 5:40 range, I realized I better be running at least a minute per mile faster than he is or I'm going to be caught.

I decided to not look back at all, until .2 to go, when I gave a quick glimpse and made sure he wasn't there.  I strided across the line in 2:24:36 - like 2 minutes slower than last year - for 24th place.  My run time was 39:56, which, all things considered, wasn't too bad.  It was the 15th fastest run of the day and only 7 seconds slower than last year, when I felt like I was going very fast.  And, compared to some of the other runs, was pretty decent.  It was also, sadly, my fastest 10k off the bike this year, with probably the least amount of effort (other than Rumpus, where I was literally jogging). 

Andy had ended up finishing 7th, a few seconds ahead of Z who was 8th, and Pat was 9th.  A great day for our little gang of buttcrushers.  Ben was 30th, on the heels of an admittedly weak swim, a solid bike and a great run (4th, 36:50).  Page County is no joke man.  Then it was Alyssa's turn, who probably turned out her best performance ever, finishing 2nd to Katie Gage Davison-soon-to-be-Palavecino.  Alyssa swam 2 minutes faster than last year, ran 2 minutes faster than last year and rode a mind-blowing 10 minutes faster.  Her bike split was better than mine, and was 2nd among women.  Insane.  At least everyone else did well.

When we got into transition and examined my bike, we saw that I had completely fucked up my wheel.  Brand new Zipp 808s.  They look like they are structurally okay, which I will confirm tomorrow at the bike shop, but they look messed up now.  I was a sad boy.  More disturbing was how they got that way, and that was in fact a non-centered wheel which was rubbing (or whatever gerundive is worse than rubbing) against the chainstay.  The wheel barely moved at all, which is no wonder why I didn't move at all.  When you've had the 3rd best split of the day at this race before and then you have the 63rd best, something clearly is wrong.  Aerobically I didn't feel too bad off the bike, which is why I think I ran "okay" but my legs were shredded from pushing pedals and going nowhere.  Then I started thinking, how long has it been a problem and I haven't noticed?  I put the wheels on at Eagleman, and I had trouble with them that day.  It was fine at Eagleman though, I know that.  I then didn't ride the bike again until Randolph last month, and it seemed fine that day, but I remember thinking at NJ that something didn't feel right and I wonder if it got knocked out of sorts around that time.  Either way, it didn't make the sound it did on Saturday, so I just didn't notice it I guess if it was a problem. 

Ben and I were the only ones who didn't get awards, which was sad, but we went and got lunch and made the best of our day.  We got back to the cabin and had to haul a ton of groceries up the hill - foolish Ben was concerned about the watermelon (which we did not even eat) and the beer, so he was pretty wiped by the time he got up to the top.  We then feasted on red meat while watching Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Dinner For Schmucks.  Classic Luray weekend.  Zero also helped figure out my wheel situation so I could at least ride on Sunday morning.

Sunday:  After going to bed pretty early Saturday night we were up early to ride on Sunday.  The weather was iffy at best, and looked like we might get rained out of our planned Skyline Drive ride.  But, it seemed okay, so we went.  We drove down to town and started there with 5 miles steadily uphill before the 4 mile serious climb to Skyline Drive.  It was epic.  Fog, drops of rain, and with my wheel markedly improved, I felt awesome.  I set a furious tempo to the top and felt great doing it, even though I hate riding that bike.  I no longer trust that bike, and more than anything it hurts my knee, which makes me think my position is not solid on there because I feel cramped.  I hate climbing on it too.  We get to Skyline and have to pay $8 to ride on it, and the woman was definitely trying to dissuade us from riding there due to the fog.  Fortunately, the fog cleared up after a few more miles of uphill and we enjoyed some scenic views from many thousand feet above sea level.

Andy and Pat were riding a little less and then running off the bike, so they turned around at 20 miles.  Ben was hellbent on getting to 80 on the day (never having ridden more than 70 miles I felt this was ambitious, particularly the day after a race and being on Skyline Drive), and me, Zero and Alyssa were staggered along the road.  We had Alyssa turn around a few minutes before Z and I did, and then we got right back into the climbs.  Ben had gone a little further out on his own, taking off, and then somehow got back in front of us, so he acted as my carrot up the climbs.  By the 3 mile climb back up to our day's high point at 3385ft, I knew I would catch him.  I got him with a mile to go and rode up to the top super comfortably.  I was loving it.  Those are definitely my types of climbs.  From there, it was actually a nice little trip back downhill into Luray, so it was pretty quick, and we needed to add a little time.  By the end of the 4 hours I was no longer wishing to ride my bike, and then we chomped on some McDonald's.  After that it was time to get back to the cabin and make our way home.

It was one of those weekends, a disappointing race but a fun weekend overall.  It was great to hang out with CTR, who we have never really hung out with much before, and always great to see Ben, even though he has to endure my old man jokes.  We were pretty tired upon returning to Baltimore, and yesterday I took pretty easy with just a 7 mile run.  Today was just a little bit of a swim.  Tomorrow heading to the track to race a 5000m, and as long as I can get my bike squared away with its necessary fixes, I'm going to do the Church Creek 40k TT on Saturday out near the Eagleman course.  I wasn't going to do it, but this weekend left a bad taste of no confidence in my mouth, and I want to ride that bike again well before heading to Louisville next week.  For the week it was pretty light at just 24 miles on 3 runs, something minimal like 6500 in the water and then maybe 130 miles on the bike.  This week will be just a little more than that and then next week slightly more chill. 

Race day is almost here, and I'm hoping for weather like we've been having.  The high today here was 86 degrees I think, and it felt almost cool.  As long as it isn't above that next Sunday I think I'll be alright. 

In summation, things I won't get fooled again by:

1. When someone down there says you need 4WD to get there, they probably mean it, and we're probably going to be walking up and down some gnarly hills.

2. My bike.  It better not fool me again into thinking that it operates properly when it CLEARLY does not.

3. Skyline Drive is hard.  Especially on tri bikes, the day after a race.  I like Luray, and the Luray weekend.  Maybe next year it will be Saturday race followed by spelunking or something non-training related. 

Great job to my Team CYB teammates this weekend!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Are You Ready to Rumble?

The answer was a resounding no.  Riley's Rumble Half Marathon, in Germantown, was the hardest 13.1 miles I've run on roads...ever.  But there was a lot more to the weekend than just this one run, so I'll start at the beginning.

Following the previous weekend/end of July, I needed a few days to get my legs back under me.  I ran an easy 4 miles on Monday night, and decided for Tuesday I would warm up and see how my legs felt in the workout on the track.  After a half mile (the workout was 6x1600m) I called it a day.  Just didn't have the legs for it.  I made it a mile and a half total for the day.  Wednesday morning I got into the pool for Alyssa's workout of 800 pull, 8x100, 600 pull, 6x100, 400 pull, 4x100.  It went much better than when we attempted it two weeks earlier, and it was the first quasi-decent swim workout I've had in a while, so I was happy with it.  Took the evening off and then didn't do anything again until an easy 2 hour ride on Thursday night.  I started off not feeling great, but by the end I had warmed up and the legs felt pretty good.  Just in time for a little three day block of training!

Friday morning, Mike and I headed out for a 3 hour ride to be chased with a 5 mile run off the bike.  I tried to keep the ride pretty chill, as the phrase of the weekend was energy management.  I've found that, over the years, I have been able to churn out considerable volume, and intensity, during the summer.  In my head, I rationalize it as "I'm not really racing, the fall is the season" blah blah blah.  But really, triathlon's season IS summer.  Sure, we have races as early as April around here and go into October, but summer is the season.  The likelihood of really cold weather (a la Rumpass or Columbia, most years) is reduced, and the water is usually warm.  In our case, this year, in particular, the water is really warm, as I have not and probably will not wear a wetsuit again until Arizona.  The proof is in the proverbial pudding, as IMLP a few weeks ago had a water temp of 77 degrees, meaning suits were allowable for those not interested in AG awards or Kona slots, otherwise no wetsuits.  Anyway, I've sidetracked a bit, but what I was getting at is that a typical year for me goes something like this:

Jan-Mar: Goal is to be consistent.  Do something every day.  Focus is generally more on running (easier to run in bad weather than ride in it!) and efforts are kept more in the middle - so things are never too hard, but never too easy. 

Apr-Jun: Goal is to get sharp.  Workouts start, and they get progressively harder.  Races begin, the earlier ones are used as rustbusters, before the usual Columbia-Eagleman show. 

Jun-Aug: Goal is to keep fitness, bring volume up, usually reduce intensity.

Sep-Dec: Goal is to race my final few races and then take some time off.

It's that summer period that I think I've not managed well in the past.  Following Eagleman, or any big race in mid-June, I think it's important to take a few weeks of down time as that is the end of the spring season.  I did a better job at that this year, but it's a challenge because all of a sudden the weather is good every day (at least good enough to go outside and do something) so you want to go out, and you have great fitness so you want to go crush.  Then I get caught up in doing some races in July, which not only cuts into my ability to record higher volume, but it also means I'm spending more energy.  Races take energy.  Not just to race, but getting there, doing the pre-race stuff, waking up super early weekend after weekend, recovering.  It's not easy.  And, sometimes unfortunately for me, I love to race. 

When I step back, and usually only in retrospect, I realize just how much energy I spend each summer doing these things.  Every weekend it's something else, there's never just a chill weekend.  This July alone it was a trip to ATL for the Peachtree race, followed by a trip up to NJ for a sprint tri, then it was Rockville 8k (fortunately I was able to force myself to NOT run this one, but I still went down there) and then another trip up to NJ for a tri.  The only "free" weekends were the past two, and the bulk of each was focused on getting in some decent volume ahead of Louisville.  Now, looking ahead, it's going to be a whole weekend in Luray, followed by maybe one chill weekend, prior to the ironman.  Racing, I've concluded, is just social for me.  Most of the time I don't care how I do, and, more often than not these days I use the races AS my workouts (see: BRRC meet from two weeks ago). 

One thing I know I'm doing better now than I did a few years ago is to realize and understand my limits and capabilities.  I can go out and crush, but what effect will that have on tomorrow, the next day, the following week?  When I look at my race results from past summers, I see just how tired I must have been.  Since the last summer I truly raced before this one was 2008, I looked at those results and workouts from back then.  I had lackluster results at both NJ State Tri (did that this year too) and Luray (this weekend, hopefully that goes better!) and I also raced the Church Creek Time Trial (40k) in a disappointing 58:57.  I remember going out the day after Luray to Frederick and crushing our ride out there with Dean.  I was in great shape and could go hard seemingly every day, but lacked pop when it came to racing, and my patience was non-existent.  I definitely was not ready for ironman back then, even if I claimed I was.  For sure I was faster, and didn't have a reconstructed knee, but I lacked smarts.

Back to Friday, which could be the name of the 4th installment of the Friday film franchise (Smokey's going to be back! and all I could focus on was my energy expenditure.  I felt okay and certainly if I needed to, I could have worked harder on the ride, but what good would have come of that?  I knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish over the weekend, and my brain has worked out a really good deal with my body.  When I tell my brain how much I'm doing, it tells my body how much energy it's going to require.  And I don't get a minute more than that from it, usually.  Friday's ride, other than seeing the most insane caterpillar of all time, was fairly uneventful, and the run off the bike was solid.  Other than recent races, I can't remember the last time I actually ran off the bike.  It was warm, and the sun was strong.  We headed out on the Wednesday Night Run loop, so along the water.  The pace was honest, and as we turned to come back up Fleet Street and Snake Hill, our speed had increased even more.  A solid 5 miles in, it was time for a quick bite to eat and then get in the pool.  The pool was gross, due to the high volume of filthy people and the pool temp hovering at or above 90 for most of the summer, there was a considerable film of algae on the bottom of the pool.  In order to remedy, they were shocking it with chlorine.  I could feel it burning me.  But I had a goal in mind, and there was nothing I could do, so I went on with it.  I haven't done a long continuous swim in a while, so I went in with the plan of swimming 3000m straight.  I felt pretty decent, got it done, 4k for the day, and it was time to rest up for Saturday.

Saturday's objective was the Lineboro ride, our 115 mile odyssey up through Hampstead and into PA, before returning via York Rd.  It's a long, hard ride.  Starting from the city means the first hour is slow, and really it's a good 2.5 hours before you are no longer going uphill.  It was super humid, and in order to avoid a bad day, I stayed really on top of my hydration.  2 bottles an hour, and kept on top of my eating as well.  My legs started waking up and I was feeling good by the time we hit Lineboro.  As we started to come back around into the wind, heading south, the ride was clearly taking its toll, but I still felt good.  I made sure to keep my sugar intake low at our pit stop in Glen Rock PA, so I didn't crash (like I sometimes do), and it was a good move.  We turned onto York Rd and the wind was full on now, but I felt great.  I was climbing well, and feeling better than I normally would at this point in the ride.  Of course, what goes up must come down, eventually, and I began to feel the effects of hours in the saddle by the time we got into Hunt Valley.  With 20ish miles remaining, I was just trying to conserve enough legs to run a few miles off the bike again, and was keeping Sunday's run in consideration as well.

Finally home off the bike and it was time for an easy 4 miles, which was definitely slower than yesterday's run, and then time to consume mass quantities.  In the few hours that I had between the end of the run and going to sleep, I tried to get in as many calories as I could, because I knew Sunday was another long day. 

Long, and early.  Originally it was just Ed who was going to go down to do this Riley's Rumble race.  Then a few more of us joined the guest list, and all of a sudden it was a Falls Road party.  But, with an hour drive and a 7am start, plus the need to register and run a few miles beforehand equated to a 4:55am departure from Zero's.  And, because I was so wired and tired from Saturday, I woke up at 3:36am and just stayed up.  Bleh.  It's one thing to do this for an ironman; a completely other thing to do this for some rinky dink half marathon you're not even "racing."

It was about 80 degrees and 94% humidity, among the grossest conditions I've ever felt, at 6am.  We ran 3 miles before and I was soaked.  I also felt the past two days pretty significantly in my legs.  Mike and I originally talked about running something in the 7:30 range to start the run, and then pick it up throughout the race, then run another 3 afterwards.  We went out slow from the gun, but it didn't exactly feel comfortable, and I was a unpleasantly surprised to know that our first mile was 7 minutes then.  I'm still without a watch so we went on Mike's, and it seemed like we were holding 7 pretty steady for the first 5 miles, it just never felt super comfortable.  The roads were brutal, either going up or down the whole time.  I actually felt good on the uphills, just the downhills were killing my knee.  We also noticed that the last two miles of the race were going to be mostly uphill. 

Somewhere around mile 6 and 7 we must have picked it up a bit, as we clicked a 6:40 or two, and then went into the third out and back section.  It wasn't pretty.  We saw GRC guys Karl and Sam way out front, killing it (they ran 1:16:30) and then Ed and some other dude were a few minutes back of them.  The rest of the race was pretty strung out, except for me, Mike and our running buddy for the day Thaddeus.  We were steadily moving up through the field, and aerobically I was cool, I just couldn't move my legs much faster.  Around 9 is where my legs dropped out, finally succumbing to the long weekend.  With 4 interminably long miles remaining, I went into conserve mode, which was well over 8 minute pace now, and may have even crept up toward 9 as I went uphill.  Based on Mike's watch, I thought we were on pace for a 1:31:xx, maybe 1:32, and I finished up at 1:34:41 (7:14/mi).  It was the hardest I've ever had to work to run that slow I think.  But, it actually went better than last weekend's run in Greenbelt, so I wasn't disappointed.  It just hurt.  And after the race I only had enough in my legs to do a half mile easy cooldown.  I didn't really care, what good was it going to be to shuffle through another 3 miles real slow?

Alas, even after that, the day was far from done.  Still had to get into the pool when we got back, and that felt good.  It was a little kinder than it was on Friday, and cooler than it's been.  I left the pool with fresher legs than I went in with, and that allowed me to run an easy 5 miles on Sunday night with Alyssa and Mike.  We probably made Alyssa run a bit harder than she needed to, but she handled it and we ran just over 8 minute pace.  I felt way better than I thought I would, and it was cool to be able to get in such a big block over the three days.

Energy Management.  That's what it all comes down to.  For Louisville, my concern isn't the course, or the distance, it's the conditions, and how I anticipate being affected by them.  Right now I could be swimming more, but I don't think it's going to help.  If I swam 5 or 6 days a week, I'd be that much more tired.  3 to 4, for now, seems more in line with my capabilities right now.  Whatever I swim is what I swim.  On the bike, I'm plenty fast, I just need to find a reasonable medium and sit there for 5 hours, eating and drinking plenty along the way.  On the run, I've got to stay cool, and run at an effort level I can realistically maintain for the distance.

I also am playing my chances a little bit.  I decided to do Louisville because a) it was still open in February and b) Alyssa signed up, and then Mike, I would have gone to watch regardless, and I would have been in shape from the summer anyway so I figured I may as well just do it too.  It will be a good chance to see if I can actually figure out how to handle the conditions, and another opportunity to get through the distance.  Ultimately, I still have another one down the road a bit at Arizona.  So I need to keep enough energy in the tank to get through Louisville, recover, and then make it to November 20th. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Into the Shadow Realm

August.  Bleh.  I remember posting last year about how much I despise August, and I probably posted the year before, and the year before.  The story is always the same.  August is a gross month to me, the Sunday of the monthly calendar.  It finds a way to bring you to your knees, it's as if the heat of July is trapped and at no point is it comfortable.  The days are hot and humid, and the sun is always that burnt orange color.  Not to mention that August 1st (yesterday) marked 8 years since obliterating my ankle in Hartshorne Woods up in NJ.  God, 8 years.  Insane.  There were a few years where I made sure to take serious time off in August, taking opportunities to travel or just chill.  There weren't any key races, and I needed to make it to, and through, the fall season in one piece. 

Boy how times have changed.  Ironman Louisville represents the earliest in the fall that I've ever had a BIG race.  And, along the way, I'll get to do an August favorite - Luray - as well as the possibility of returning to Church Creek for a 40k time trial. 

But first, last week.  Last week was...not good.  In fact, it was bad.  I might go so far as to say that it was the worst week ever.  Saturday, in the terms of singular bad days, may have been the worst training day I've ever had.  Following last weekend's dismal race effort, I took it pretty easy on Monday.  On Tuesday, I had my first ever massage, thanks to Alyssa, who took care of everything for me.  I know a lot of people who swear by massages, and after how wrecked I've been feeling lately, I thought it would be a great idea.  I went down to Silo Point and met up with the masseur and she more or less crushed me.  I left the massage feeling a little more beat up than when I went in, which I was told to expect.  I took Tuesday off completely.

Wednesday morning, the pool felt hard.  The attempted 30x100 did not go swimmingly, and I felt busted.  I didn't let that stop me from going to the 2nd BRRC Track Meet.  You know what did nearly stop me?  The 50 minutes it took to drive about 11 miles to get to Goucher.  I seriously should have ridden my bike!  Ed and I arrived at 6:28.  The meet started promptly at 6:30, with the race we were planning on running - the mile.  I had to sign in still, and put on my flats.  I literally ran 100 meters as a warmup.  And just those 100m did not feel good.  I knew this mile was going to be tough.  Having raced the distance three times this year already (2 road, 1 track) with the slowest being 5:07, I was hoping to run something reasonable.  Maybe it wouldn't be close to 5 flat, but at least under 5:10, right?  As the race started and I took off, both of my hamstrings felt like they were going to pop.  Maybe not even my hamstrings as much as the whole glute/piriformis/whoevenknows.  The first 409m was covered in a blistering 78 seconds and I knew my race was not going to turn out the way I'd hoped.  From there I actually managed to hold 79s and finished at 5:16 - for absolutely no warmup and for as bad as I felt, I actually wasn't too displeased.  After the race, Ed and I went for a belated warmup and got ready for the 2 Mile.

My original hope for that event was to run around 80s if I could, but considering that was difficult enough in the mile, I realized that wasn't going to happen.  I figured I'd try and start around 5:40 pace and, if possible, work down from there.  I settled into a good rhythm, and came through the mile in 5:35.  I was holding pace, but I couldn't lift, so my 2nd mile was 5:35 and I finished up at 11:10.  Not a great showing but it's about what I would have done at track the day before (had I gone).  To top off the meet, since there were four of us, we decided to run the 4x100m relay.  Ed led off and handed off to me.  I was moving so slow, it was embarrassing.  Little girls sprinted past me and an old man kept pace.  I ran 15.0 for my split - yikes.  I probably shouldn't have messed with it but now at least I'll be able to say I raced from the 100m to the Ironman this year.

Thursday I felt even worse.  I was just so sore, now a mixture of the massage as well as the track meet.  I made it up to the Thursday Night Ride, and although I didn't have a bad ride, I figured I should have ridden a little better since I hadn't ridden since Sunday.  Friday morning came pretty early, and as I stepped outside for a 7 miler with Ed, I was greeted by a swift kick in the face from my old foe, humidity.  My legs were now super tired, and whatever slow pace we were running felt a lot harder than it should have. 

Onto Saturday.  I have been running pretty consistent "long" runs of 14 miles for a while now, but I really hadn't gone above that since sometime during the colder months.  And, outside of the IM marathon, hadn't run more than 17 since November.  I figured maybe it would be a good idea to get in a longer run or two before Louisville.  I didn't want to do it on the roads, and I felt like I was just asking for trouble if I did it at Patapsco, so I settled on Greenbelt Park.  This park features a just under 6 mile loop that is shaded the whole time, and it's rolling, but not so technical that I feared going down.  I had managed to talk Brennan, Zero and Arjun into the run, and when we got there around 7:15 we saw Conrad was going to join us.  We jogged the half mile into the trail where the loop starts, and dropped water and food and bowel movements and got it going.  I was hoping to negative split each loop, starting out at a reasonable pace.  First loop was comfortable and while I know we were not running super fast, it didn't seem terribly slow.  On the second loop, we were warmed up and picked it up slightly.  I had us on pace to run about a minute faster over the course of that loop, when Conrad moved by me somewhere later in the loop.  He picked it up about 15 seconds over the course of the last few minutes, to the point where I felt like I was working a little harder than I wanted to. 

We stopped briefly for salt and water, but I was starting to not feel great.  I was sweating so much, and starting to feel lightheaded.  I told them that I'd set the pace for the first 10 minutes and then they were FTF.  In the course of those first 10 minutes, which are uphill, I was getting more than a little dizzy and was losing my feet from under me.  I had to stop, and told the guys to just keep going.  Zero stopped, despite my reasoning with him to keep going.  I would obviously make it, I just needed to reel the effort back in and stop if I needed to.  I figure I'm going to wind up walking a lot at Louisville and I could very likely be in that bad of shape, so I need to just deal with it.  A few minutes later, Zero had missed a turn so he waited up for me and then ran (slash that, basically walked) it in with me.  I had gone into a really dark place, the one I now just refer to as the shadow realm.  It's well beyond going into the red, because I feel like the red is when you're working very hard.  I wasn't working very hard on this run, my body just no longer wished to be outside doing things. 

This place reminds me of when Frodo gets stabbed by one of the Nasgul, and then Aragorn realizes he needs elvish medicine to fix him.  I became extremely negative, and while I wasn't in pain, my body had just given up.  I had stopped sweating, and just needed to get back.  We finally did, albeit about two minutes slower than our first loop, and regrouped with the others back at the car.  A big shout to Z for sticking with me when it was painfully slow and through my negativity-laced tirade - thanks!.  Since we started a couple of minutes late, and I ran a little slower, we were now pressed for time.  We had to get Mike back to his house so he could go to a wedding, and I had told Alyssa I would ride the last 50 miles of her 110 mile ride with her. 

Not thinking that I would have been that shredded from the run, I originally told her to plan to get there around noon, which would give me enough time to prepare but not so much time to get tired and not do it.  She had texted me to let me know how far out she was, and it was going to be around 12:45 by the time she got there.  I tired.  I couldn't eat anything so I just tried to get as many calories via Gatorade and iced tea as I could.  That made me feel even sicker.  I brought my body temp down with a cold shower, but it was going to be brutal on the bike.  The temp was now kicking it near the 100 mark again, and there was a hot wind blowing from the northwest it looked.  That's what happens when the humidity is lower, it's always super windy.

We roll out.  I'm still being super negative thinking super negative things.  Like, why is this town such a dump and full of such terrible people?  Why are there so many traffic lights and stop signs?  Why have we not had a beneficial wind one time this summer?  When the wind is blowing the way it was, it means we have a cross on the way out 40, and then go right into it for the hardest part of the ride.  I didn't pick up anything I would have deemed favorable until the very end, which was wack.  Since our loops are not true circles, we don't necessarily even have to get a nice wind. 

Since I am now without a watch, I had no long how anything was taking, but I knew I was not riding quick.  I don't think Alyssa minded, as her ride was quite long in the tooth at this point.  We made it through the furnace of Glen Arm and Manor, and into Loch Raven.  We made it up Providence, and then Bellemore.  I strangely felt better on the bike than I did running, even though I was completely cooked.  I was quite happy when the ride was done, the day had been long and tiring. 

But, as this was one of the few weekends with no excuse but to get shit done, so the decision was in my hands for Sunday: do I either a) sleep in, probably not ride at all, maybe get in the pool, and then run a few easy miles? or b) suck it up, get up early and go meet some dudes for what was probably going to be a very, very hard 100 miles?  I went to bed on Saturday around 10pm, and figured I would wake up and see how I felt, then make the call.  I woke up a bunch throughout the night on Saturday, hot and uncomfortable, and afraid I would oversleep.  I got up at 5:30, walked downstairs and ate, and decided "DBAP".  I packed up the car and drove the 35 minutes up to Clark's house in Reisterstown.  It was 79 degrees in Baltimore, the first time I'd seen it below 80 in a while, but up in Reisterstown it was an almost chilly 68. 

There were just 7 of us for the ride - Clark, Marc, Mark, Howard, Sue and Jim - and very quickly the pace was set at rapide.  While I typically like to ease into my rides, especially when they leave that early, they got it going from the start.  After a mile or two of downhill, it seemed like we were going steadily up for the next 10.  I had no idea where we were, I didn't recognize any of the road names and it didn't even seem like we were in Maryland anymore.  Maybe we weren't.  We could have been somewhere else and I would have believed it.  The conditions were pretty superb though, and I felt much better than I expected to.  But still, this pace was unforgiving.  I couldn't figure out how they were all going so fast, for at least two or three of them, this was faster than they are able to ride on our Thursday night ride.  Most of the work early was being done by CM2 (Clark, Marc and Mark) and I was doing my turns as well.  But, having ridden many rides of that length, and also knowing what I had done the day before, I was not in the mood to explode and have to ride it in solo, especially as I did not know the route.

We made it to Thurmont, which is a tiny little town near Frederick, and that's where this "brutal climb" started up to Camp David.  They made it out to sound impossibly difficult.  I just wanted to know how long it would take so I could measure my effort accordingly.  They said about 20 minutes, and that Mark had the best time up it at 19 minutes.  I figured Hamburg (in Frederick) is 20 minutes, and that's the hardest climb I've ever done.  I hope it's not as hard as that.  It wasn't.  Not even close.  It was actually way easier than I expected, and I rode up pretty comfortably in 20:57 (Marc was a few seconds back and provided the timing).  When we got to the top, we stopped and waited, but a truck came out of nowhere with a secret service guy asking us, dickly, "can't you read the sign?"  The sign said no stopping, apparently we aren't even allowed to chill at the top and wait for our friends for a minute.  Crazy!  Maybe they should put Camp David somewhere they don't want people to go at all.

On the descent, I normally just freewheel down, but apparently they had other plans as they just zoomed right off.  Nice.  I had just lit them up on the climb and now they're going to drop me on the descent?  I got to the bottom and around one bend couldn't see anyone, but I saw a road that Marc had mentioned by name, so I thought I should turn there.  This was a terrible decision.  If it had been a Choose Your Own Adventure book, I definitely would have ended up dead in the snake pit.  The road was loose dirt, rocks, gravel.  It was also straight up.  I couldn't stand, because my rear wheel would spin out.  It was impossibly difficult to ride up this hill.  I also didn't see anyone, and there was no way they were going to outclimb me, so I decided I was not right and should turn around.  Going back down was even worse.  I got back on the road and rode toward Thurmont.  I saw them, a few miles up, at a Sheetz.  Thanks for dropping me guys!

From there, it had started to warm up a bit.  We resumed our inconceivable pace, and with 45 miles left, I knew there was no way I could sustain it.  I finally cracked as we got onto some awful highway-ish road.  There was very little traffic, but the road was flat, exposed, re-paved and just very hot.  I was squarely off the back, and Marc dropped back for me.  I could not match their power on these flats, and I just asked how much longer until we stopped - because I was completely out of water.  4 miles, he replied, so I just sat up and pedaled for a few more minutes.  After the stop I was much cooler, and the road also tilted back up.  With the climbs, I felt better.  CM2 and I put a few minutes into the others and waited for them at a light, and I now knew where I was again.  10 miles to go, mostly downhill or flat until the last mile and a half uphill back to Clark's.  It was good that I knew where I was, because I got dropped again and didn't feel like chasing.  I finished up and was glad to be done.  108 miles.  Ouch. 

So that ended July for me, and I was glad to see it go.

Swim: C.  42,500m, considerably less than I swam in June (to the tune of 17.5k) and I don't know if I had one good swim that I was pleased with.  Last week was particularly disappointing, with how I felt following the massage and then only swimming on Weds/Thurs.  I should have put in at least 50k. 

Bike: A.  800 miles this month, which was pretty good.  I had a couple of decent rides.  Hard to remember back to earlier this month, I think I may have only gone to 2 WNRs but I did make it to a couple of TNRs as well.  I had some solid long rides, and at least one good race (Randolph). 

Run: B+.  At 170 miles, it was the most I've run in a July in a while.  I didn't have a great run at Peachtree, but I had pretty decent runs at both Randolph and NJ.  I did one workout on the track and had some decent other runs.  I had weeks of 35, 35, 40 and 46.  Just got crippled by the heat a few times. 

I've still been scratching my head as to why I've been seemingly more tired than I was last summer.  When I looked at July 2010, I wound up putting in 101,000m in the pool, 930 miles on the bike and 95 miles of running.  Obviously I have to keep in mind that a few things are different than last year, so they could explain it.  Since I had virtually no riding or running in my legs, they were fresh (albeit weaker). I had been swimming enough to handle that much volume, so I felt good in the pool just about every day, and my rides were definitely easier.  I was only running a handful of miles each week, and I didn't race until August. 

Following July of last year, I stepped down the swimming a bit as I bumped up my running, and I also brought my cycling down a notch (partially due to having a bad reaction to a PT session that prevented me from riding basically for a week).  August wound up being 60k in the pool, 583 miles on the bike and 153 miles of running.  I feel like that's about what it will be this month, considering the IM in that equation. 

It's been a weird year so far for me, I'm like Goldilocks.  Can't have it too cold, which was what it was for me basically until end of April.  Then I can't have it too hot, which is how it's been most of the rest of the time.  I hate it.  I have a four week period throughout the year where it's "just right" - maybe I should only race then.