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 was...so 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.