This weekend was good Ironman training. Saturday was the "tough love" ride. 70 miles of hills. Several thousand feet of climbing. 10 of us started out from Carmel Valley. It was chilly but we were going inland and would be climbing so conditions were favorable.
pre-ride talk--making sure we all know where we're going
We headed through Rancho Santa Fe and up Del Dios Highway towards Lake Hodges. Let the climbing begin! Del Dios is a long, gradual climb, and I relaxed and took it easy. I felt good and was happy; that climb used to kill me. The hills were covered in a thick, green velvet. I have never seen San Diego so green. Guess that's one of the benefits of a devastating fall fire and a very wet winter. Patches of wildflowers dotted the grass. I can't wait to get out to the desert for some IM training this weekend--I bet the wildflowers this year will be spectacular.
At the top of Del Dios, a small group of us spotted a Port-a-Potty and made a dash for it in a moment of unified "group think". It was the heavenly blue oasis. It even had toilet paper. How luxurious. We then wound our way into Escondido, regrouping for a quick photo-op, thanks to Brent, my new designated blog photograhper.
Left to right: Alex, Harper, me, Carlo, Brent, and Greg
We were quickly on our way again, winding past several stretches of farmland and a temptating winery (Orfila). Hmmm, do you think a few glasses of wine would dull the pain of the tortorous hills that were looming in the distance? Beside the winery was an emu and ostrich farm. They are such large birds! They were very active too--maybe it was the cold weather; maybe it was the strange creatures with wheels for legs riding past. Whatever the reason, they all started running--sprinting--down the pasture! It was absolutely hysterical. Can I take one home? I thoroughly enjoyed riding by all the farms, cattle, and horses. We even got to go by the famous Wild Animal Park (unfortunately, none of the animals were visible from Hwy 78).
We then turned down Bandy Canyon Rd. Let the climbing begin! A steep hill rose straight up before us. It spiraled up and up into the heavens; I trusted that this mountain had a peak somewhere above. My heart leapt into my throat. Could I do this? As we started climbing, Alex said jokingly, "Rachel, I hate you." I focused on nothing but turning the pedals over. Timed getting up out of the saddle for the steepest pitches. Finally, we crested and struggled to recover.
We turned on Highland Valley Rd and headed towards Ramona. Another steep ascent, just as steep as Bandy Canyon appeared out of nowhere. We were climbing again. I remembered looking at the elevation of these climbs--one alone had been 1200 feet. Hmm. This is what 1200 feet in a mile feels like. Got it. I felt as if I was at a 90 degree angle on Torch. I was gripping onto the handlebars for dear life, praying I wouldn't flip over backwards, willing each pedal down for each excruciating stroke. And then we crested. We barely had time to recover before another climb would appear.
After about 4 of these, the road flattened out, and I realized we were almost into Ramona. I breathed a big sigh of relief. "Rachel, I don't hate you anymore," Alex said. I laughed at him. I had forgotten his earlier statement. Agonizing, gut-wrenching hills do that, I guess.
"It's like a shot of Jack. Tastes like crap going down but you feel great 5 minutes later," Alex commented on the hills.
"Wanna do them again?" I replied. No one took me up on this offer.
We regrouped again at a little market off of Hwy 67. I downed a Twix, Red Vines, and half a Red Bull. I would pay for this mistake later. The rest of the ride was very pleasant. All the hard climbing was over. We headed down Poway Road, a wicked fun descent. Then, we went up Pomerado and headed home on the 56 bike path. I didn't feel too cold or too hot. However, I did get a funny-looking arm warmer and leg warmer tan. What would Style Man say?
We enjoyed a post-ride meal at Soup Plantation in Carmel Valley. I was quite pleased at how good I felt.
"I thought the ride would be harder," I commented. I got several dirty looks.
"It was hard enough!" Rick replied (one of the members of our group). I paid for thi scomment dearly. My stomach, after all the crap I had eaten, began rebelling. I guess I was past due. Unfortunately, I was unable to eat properly the rest of the day due to gastric distress. This did not bode well for my long Sunday run.
Sunday, I woke up and met my group at the train station in Solana Beach. I was nervous--this was to be my longest run ever (18), and my stomach had been bothering me. I hadn't been able to eat enough the day before and knew I would be sluggish, at best. We hopped on the train and rode up to Oceanside. Most of the group would run back to Encinitas (12 miles). I was to go back to Solana Beach (16) and add two more. Gulp. I was equipped with my Cliff Blocks and Fuel Belt (filled with InfinIT--a complete carb/protein/electrolyte drink). The weather was very pleasant--low 60s with a cool breeze--perfect for running.
I felt pretty good surprisingly and ran with the easily with the group. At mile 5, I noticed the callouses on my feet were burning. They have been getting bigger and bigger lately, forming blood blisters under the callouses on my long runs. It felt like I had rocks in my shoes. I told myself it would go away eventually. Eventually, when my hips started aching, I didn't even notice the pain in my feet. See? It worked. No more foot pain.
I found a little dirt path alongside the road and picked up my pace. I zoned out and enjoyed the ride for a few miles. Hooked up with one of my running buds and turned down Neptune, a very scenic coastal stretch in Leucadia. The pavement was very rough, and the road was slanted. My feet and IT bands started bugging me. We were only at mile 10. How was I going to make it to 18?
A steep descent led towards Moonlight Beach, and I slowed to a shuffle as my knees and quads reminded me sharply of my ride the day before. Then, a steep ascent rose up before me, and I slowed to a walk without question. My running buds all dropped off at the parking lot. They were done. I had 6 more to go. It seemed like a long way. This was the lowest point of the entire run. I gave them the finger and told them I would see them in a bit at Naked Cafe. Then, almost ceremoniously, I started running.
When I hit the coast again, the low had passed, and I felt good again. How did that happen? I didn't care. I let my mind drift into oblivion as my legs kept chugging along. There's a quote out there about Ironman: "If you feel good during an Ironman, don't worry. You'll get over it." I reversed it on this run to help me get through the lows: "If you feel bad during a long run, don't worry. You'll get over it." This helped me immensely. I could simply wait out the pain, the lows, the agony, knowing in a few minutes, it would be gone, and I would be numb again. I fell quickly into my zone, somewhere between this universe and the next, slipping into the cracks of time, like the individual grains of sand in an overturned hourglass.
I fell in and out of a rhythm. Lows and highs. During the lows, everything would hurt. I felt sluggish. I realized 18 miles was a verrry long way to run. I felt like I had been running for a looong time. I wanted to share with people I passed on the street. I had to remind myself they probably didn't care about the crazy girl deliriously running down the street for a very long time. Instead, I smiled at them and counted the number of people who smiled back. Their smiles warmed and energized me, fueling me onward.
At mile 16, I hit another low point as I passed the Solana Beach train station, where I had started. I had to stop at a light, and I felt all the muscles in my legs seize up. When the light turned green, I coaxed my legs forward into a shuffle. Surprisingly, after a few moments, my legs found their rhythm again, and I was running easily down the road. 17 miles passed uneventfully, and I realized I was going to make it. The last mile flew by; I felt exhilarated. When I reached mile 18, something inside me wanted to keep going. I made myself stop. We can run farther next time, I told myself.
And I will....