Sunday, March 30, 2008
Here's a more detailed re-cap of my epic "Final Push" weekend: (also explains why I've been so beat this week during Taper 1).
5000 m open water swim
I had yet to swim 4,000 meters (continuous or broken), and this was freaking me out. I figured if I could swim 4,000 in the ocean, swimming that far in a lake would be cake. I wasn't sure if I would have anyone to swim with me the whole way since the water has been really cold but I found 1 sucker to go with me, which was really nice. My plan was to swim 40 minutes out from La Jolla Cove towards Scripps Pier and then back.
The water was surprisingly warm--about 61 degrees, and the conditions were flat and calm. Purrrrfect. I headed out and quickly settled into a rhythm. I felt so good. I found the usual northbound current and let it pull me. I looked at my watch at the 40 minute mark. Then I looked at the pier. It was only 5 minutes away. I hadn't come all this way not to reach the pier! My swim buddy and I agreed, and we kept going. I was elated when I reached the pier.
On the return, I searched for the southbound current, a few hundreds meters west of the northbound current. Suddenly, my arm felt slippery in the water, and I was being pulled along. Bingo! Favorable current both ways! A group of sea lions followed me for a bit. I stopped but they didn't seem like they wanted to play. They sort of glared at me as if to say, "Hey! You! You're in our hood! I saw you take that fish!" I decided to put my head down, do my best to ignore them, and swim away. I'm sure they were all thinking, "Look at that silly human with the deformed flippers trying to swim!" I've heard sea lions can be kind of aggressive, and was a little unnerved that this group kept popping up beside me. Luckily, they must have decided I was not a threat and let me pass.
I breathed towards my right side a lot, even though I'm normally bilateral but the sun was setting, and it was so pretty. I was mesmerized. I gazed at its hypnotizing beauty. And let the westward current pull me further and further into the open ocean, completely unaware. Completely relaxed and at peace. I switched to my left and realized the stairs to the Cove were waaaay over to the east. I was missing the entrance to the Cove! My swim buddy had warned me about this but I had poo-pooed him. Afterall, the mouth of the cove is sooo wide, and I'm not a freight ship! Miss the Cove? That's ridiculous. Well, I guess I AM a freight ship or something because I almost missed the entrance! At the last minute, I made a sharp 60 degree turn to my left and dove into the entrance.
I reached shore and popped out of the water feeling refreshed and exhilarated. Like I could bike 112 miles and do a marathon after? Maybe. We'll see. I did discover to my horror that my wetsuit had chaffed terribly under my arms and around my neck. Bad enough to leave some scars for a few months! Not enough Body Glide and a shitty wetsuit. I upgraded my wetsuit to a Zoot Synergy, which I like A TON better to fix the problem.
No Joke Ride (64 mile bike from Kit Carson Park in Escondido by Lake Wohlford up Palomar Mountain for 5500+ feet of climbing)
1st half of No Joke Ride up to Palomar Summit
Since I had just brought home my awesome new road bike (Look 585 Elle--her name is Pandora), I had been itching to climb. She told me she wanted to do Palomar so I joined a bunch of hard-core hammerheads for my first attempt at Palomar Mountain http://www.palomarsummit.com/, the highest peak in the San Diego County at 5500 feet.
my new baby--Pandora is out of the box!
We started climbing right out of Kit Carson Park in Escondido. Temps were already in the 70s; it was going to be a warm day. We were all in pretty good spirits, and I settled into a nice rhythm. Suddenly the grade steepened, and I was working. Dean reminded me that this was the "speed bump" on the elevation map. Whoa. What had I gotten myself into?
We regrouped briefly at the bottom of Palomar and then began some serious climbing. I felt good. The scenery was beautiful, I had an awesome new bike, and she was climbing like a dream.
going up Palomar
We turned up the south grade for the final 7 mile ascent to the peak. I sat back and spun on my new 18-lb bike with compact cranks and a 25-rear cassette. Switchback after switchback, we wound our way up the mountain. 2,000 feet, then 3,000 feet, an eternity until 4,000 feet. We were still climbing. Finally 5,000 feet appeared, and I knew we were close.
near the top
At the summit, I took some pics. I didn't want to stop but sometimes you have to smell the roses.
view from the summit
We regrouped at a little deli at the summit. I devoured some hot vegetable soup and an enormous blueberry muffin. It was delicious!
Palomar riding buds: Rick, Preston, Adam, Dean, and Jodi (l to r; b to f)
We wound our way back down the mountain at breakneck speeds. I hunkered down in the drops and leaned Pandora into the switchbacks. She loves cornering! I had been obviously impressed by her climbing abilities but I was equally impressed at her descending abilities. The altitude signs flew past: 5,000, 4,000, 3,000, 2,000. Each one had taken 10 minutes to reach going up. Going down, it only took a couple of minutes to descend 1,000 feet. My ears popped. At the bottom, I looked up. I couldn't believe we had just been up there.
view from the bottom--where we've been
The temps were now in the mid-80s, and I was hot. Good thing it was all downhill from here, right? DOH! We still had a major climb back up to Lake Wohlford. I was cursing and grumpy the whole way back up the cursed "speed bump."
by Lake Wohlford--are we there yet?
Don't get me wrong; I absolutely love Pandora but it's true what they say: no matter how nice the bike, you still have to pedal it. By mile 50, I was done pedaling. Where's the SAG wagon? We stuck with it, and pretty soon, we reached the start. Whoo-hoo! That heat really got to me! Good thing I'm doing IMAZ in a few weeks. Ha ha.
Last long run before taper--20 miles
I met a running bud for our final long run up the coast. It was gorgeous, sunny, and hot. I felt good too, surprisingly after my epic weekend. I also got to experiment with the heat a little. It was only 78 when we finished but my sensitive hide felt like it was 90! I got pretty grumpy at mile 17 and made a quick pit stop to guzzle some water. I had been sipping on my sports drink and hadn't been getting enough down. After drinking pure and simple H2O, I felt awesome. I took off for the final 3 miles, feeling almost disappointed when I reached mile 20. H2O--the amazing new sports endurance drink. Heard of it? This was a good way to end my "final push" weekend. My feet were too swollen to put into shoes the next day but at least, mentally, I felt confident.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
1. New Bike Porn:
I have a new bike announcement. My Look 585 Elle has arrived and has been officially indoctrinated into my bike family--whole post on that coming this week.
2. Palomar Mountain Ride:
Yes, I biked up a mountain...and it was fantastic!
3. IMAZ Training Plan Synopsis & Details
(including more on nutrition)
Lessons Learned During Final Push Week:
"You have learned well my young grasshopper..."
I successfully completed my "Final Push" week, and am now officially beginning my 3-week taper. Thank God, because I am completely wiped. However, I learned a verrry valuable lesson during my final push week, which, hopefully, I took to heart just in time. For my previous 2 half-ironmans, I would push as hard as I could the final 3 weeks leading into the taper, entering the taper completely overtrained. This forced me to taper way too hard leading up to race day both times, as opposed to a gradual reduction in volume (as well as upping the intensity). As a result, I felt flat and sluggish on race day both times (not to mention sick or injured).
My swim buddy on Friday mentioned that he liked to really focus on recovery during his final push into the taper so he could have a quality taper with key, race-specific workouts. Something really hit home with that statement for me. Early that week, I had been so tired from my previous weekend workouts (74 mile, windy ride Saturday and 17-mile run Sunday) that I had no idea how I was going to make it through to the next weekend. My weekend workouts have always had the biggest priority since that's when I do my long rides and long runs. I decided to focus on rest mid-week to arrive at the weekend fresh and ready to take on my weekend warrior battles.
I began scaling back and cancelling workouts as well as adding naps. Here's the weekly breakdown (*denotes altered/cancelled workouts to account for fatigue):
Final Push Week:
Monday: completely off (massage)
Tuesday: am bike (intense, hilly 60 min ride)--felt great!
*pm track workout (felt completely wiped; cut it short and only did 5 miles, including warm-up and cool-down; also scaled back on intensity)
Wednesday: am swim (took rest of day off; still felt exhausted)
Thursday: am swim (felt good for swim but exhausted by afternoon)
*pm tempo run (originally planned Olympic brick but way too tired; took 2.5 hr nap before run; felt awesome on run)
Friday: *cancelled am bike to sleep in b/c still exhausted
pm Cove to Pier and back swim (3 mile ocean swim)--the longest open water and continual swim I have ever done! Whoo-hoo! If I can do 5000 meters in the open ocean, I surely can do 4000 in a lake! Also, I learned that my wetsuit chafes horribly after 2 miles. Very valuable since I still have time to rustle up a new one and break it in before race day.
Saturday: 64 mile, long ride up Mt. Palomar (the highest peak in San Diego county; ride report coming soon). This ride was challenging, brutal, and absolutely awesome! I felt great.
Sunday: 20 mile run on the coast (some hills, some heat). I got a high at mile 17 and felt I could have gone a few more miles! I also learned I need to drink a lot more water than expected. Ran much better after a much-needed water stop. Learned a lot on this run and ended fabulously!
Lesson learned? You can't be a slave to the training plan. There's a real art and science to training. The science is drawing up an effective plan and using all the data out there to help you but the art (the hardest part) is listening to your body and knowing when to scale back (or push harder). A true training plan is flexible and malleable. I find myself constantly adjusting and tinkering with it to fine-tune what my body needs. Hopefully because I scaled back mid-week, I was able to hit my weekend workouts hard and effectively (without injury or illness; knock on wood), which should put me into a great position for the taper.
I learned A TON this week! Feeling tired but healthy and ready to rest up for IMAZ in 3 short weeks!
Now, I just need to master the art of the taper, which is no small feat...
Monday, March 17, 2008
The Training Plan--my new "bible":
During these final 3 "Build" weeks, I have been obsessively reviewing my training plan to the nth degree. I have highlighted my key workouts and reviewed my weekly volume to exhaustion. (Don't worry. During my taper, I'll divulge my secret training plan in so much detail, you're eyes will glaze over). I have followed this training plan so closely, it actually scares me. I've never done that before. The exciting thing is that I think it's working. My endurance feels superhuman, and I'm in the best shape of my life.
As the taper approaches, I'm focusing much more on detail. Everything is becoming very race specific. I know I need a few 4,000 meter swims at race pace to make me feel confident. I plan on making these ocean swims. If I can do 4,000 in the ocean, a 2.4 mile swim in Tempe Towne Lake will feel like a walk in the park. I plan on just 2-3 of these during the next few weeks. The nice thing about swimming is that you can still keep a fairly high volume during the first 2 weeks of taper and still easily recover afterwards.
As far as the bike goes, I'm pretty much there. I'm no longer worried about the distance. I wouldn't mind a few more short (~30 mile) rides in windy conditions. Saturday, I rode 74 in extremely WINDY conditions, and it wiped me out. I much prefer hills--at least you get to recover on the downhill! In wind, I just feel like I'm grinding endlessly in the same position forever, and my muscles seem to fatigue faster. I'm planning on 1 last high intensity brick at Fiesta Island during "Final Push" week. 4-6 laps around Fiesta will give me some wind and a solid 10K run in Mission Bay afterwards will give my legs a taste of what's to come. During the first/second week of taper, I plan (as long as I'm recovering well) on 1-2 high-intensity, short (~17 mi) rides on the Silver Strand (Coronado), guaranteed to be flat and windy.
As far as running goes, I am concentrating on injury prevention. My left achilles started acting up 2 weeks ago. I was seriously freaking out. I did a lot of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation, not to mention ibuprofen) during the first week and active stretching and massage the 2nd week. Yesterday, I ran 17 miles on the flat sidewalks (hard, flat surfaces are better for tendons) of Mission Bay with 0 pain. In addition, my energy levels felt great, and the run actually felt "easy". I think I'm in the clear but I will be pretty conservative during my mid-week runs during "final push" week. If I feel okay, I'll try a track workout tomorrow with SDTC as long as I promise to pull out if I feel any twinges. My grand finale will be 20 miles (Mission Bay again) this Sunday.
My nutrition has been coming together nicely as well. I have it dialed in (thanks to my nutritionist!), and I have back-up plans in case of emergency on race day. I've been focusing on getting lots of sleep (9 hours a night plus 1 hour naps), and lots of stretching daily. I've also been doing weights 2x/week for ~40 minutes, which has been great for my overall strength, endurance and injury prevention.
This week, I will write out my taper workouts in extreme detail so I have no choice but to follow my plan. That will restrain me from overdoing it during the final 3 weeks leading up to race day. I will also start writing up my "lists" of what needs to be done during the taper to help make myself feel ready (race list, race schedule, schedule bike tune-up, race visualization tactics, etc., etc.).
I can't believe after a year of planning and training that race day is so near! I have to pinch myself sometimes. Is this really happening?
Monday, March 10, 2008
Solvang, CA--a taste of the old country
Friday night, we met at the Hadsten House for dinner. I had steak and wine. Yummy. Then, stopped at Baskin Robbins for a 2-scoop, hot fudge sundae before hitting the sack. Hey, I had a big ride the next day!
Friday night dinner--(Brent, Chris, me, Rick, Elena (Joe's wife), and Joe--left to right)
Saturday, we arrived bright and early. The directors had organized a rolling start, which helped diffuse the 5,000 century riders on the course. I had been worried about packs of cyclists swamping the roads but the rolling start brilliantly thinned out the bike traffic. We unloaded the bikes and hit the road at 7:30.
Brent and me at the start.
Thick globules of tule fog clung to the valleys and meadows like wet, icy cotton sheets. The temperature hovered in the low 40s. Even though I knew the temps would rise to the upper 60s, I was freezing. I put on everything I had--arm warmers, leg warmers, toe warmers, vest, head band, and fingerless gloves (would have been full gloves but I left these at home, argh!). As we rolled out of Solvang (downhill, of course), my face and fingers burned angrily in the freezing wind. I cursed, shivered and pedaled to warm up. It didn't help--neither the cursing, the shivering, or the pedaling, although the latter held the most promise, all it did was produce more bone-chilling wind. I vowed to never again complain that an ocean swim was cold. At least I can wear a wetsuit in the ocean! I wondered seriously if I should have worn my wetsuit for this ride.
We headed into the countryside, and luckily encountered some rollers. Can I please have some hills? I desperately needed to warm up. I attacked the hills with glee, rising out of the saddle, feeling my warm breath expand in my chest. I began to take in the view. Rolling farmland stretched into the hills before me, dotted with black angus cattle and sleek, dappled horses. We passed an ostrich farm, and I giggled at the sight of the large birds with elegant black and white plumed feathers, awkwardly snaking their long necks through the grass and pecking the ground as they grazed. The hills were covered in a thick blanket of brilliant emerald grasses. Patches of flowers interrupted the velvet green in splashes of yellow black-eyed Susans, purple lupine, and white daisies. Golden California poppies peeked up from the roadside.
Gorgeous countryside on the Solvang Century
I realized I had been enjoying the scenery too much as I was now separated from my group. I began hammering to catch up. Groups of roadies passed me in small pacelines. I tried to hold on to the end of each one to no avail, glaring at their sleek Campagnolos, Times, BMCs, Cervelo Soloists, and Orbea Orcas. Drool. I looked around. I've never seen such a flagrant show of bike porn in my life!
Finally, a large peloton of about 30 cyclists passed me, and to my surprise, I held on to the back with ease. I was gliding along at 20 mph, enjoying the recovery. I had officially become a wheelsucker. I rationalized that it was legit since I wanted to be pulled back to my group. However, I have to admit, it was really, really fun. Until a girl in the middle of the pack crashed, and all of us had to brake and swerve to avoid a pile-up. I heard the sickening thud of her body hit the pavement. And bounce. She grunted as she hit. Luckily, she was conscious and nothing seemed broken when I passed by. However, it tomorrow was going to be a rough day for her.
I carefully pressed on, relishing in the safety of riding solo. Shaken but alive and well, I reached the first aid station in Lompoc at mile 25 and was able to regroup with my buds. I slammed some PB&Js and oatmeal raisin cookies and was on my way. The fog had lifted, the skies were blue, and the sun was out. There was still a slight chill in the air but I was comfortable when riding now. I had warmed up.
I was quickly dropped by the group again (that's what I get for always riding with stronger riders--argh!) and looked down in dismay only to realize my computer had stopped working. Torch's computer is an idiot box--1 magnet with a simple reading of speed, distance, and time. I guess the aero bottle dumped a ton of water on it at some point when flying over bumps, causing it to go on the fritz. Whatever, the reason, it drove me crazy to not know where I was, what mile I was at, how fast I was going, or how far I had left to go. I had to concentrate really hard on zoning out. In addition, a strong headwind had picked up, a force to be reckoned with. I hunkered down in my aero bars and found a low gear to spin in, trying to block out the misery and doom welling up inside me. Ross from the group called me to inquire on my whereabouts. "I have no idea. My computer isn't working. I'm on some back-country road all alone in the middle of nowhere." He assured me I was close to the next aid station, probably wondering what kind of crazy person he had chosen to ride with for the day.
Then, I hit a very rewarding descent and for a brief moment, could forget all my worries and enjoy the free speed. I especially enjoyed letting Torch go and allowing him to race ahead and catch the group of hard-core roadies ahead of me on their sleek road bikes with their well-defined quads and cut calves, despite the fact that I weighed a good 30 lbs less than them. Gotta love the TT bike. The next aid station (Santa Maria; mile 59) appeared shortly after.
Quick photo-op after stuffing my mouth with cookies.
After a regroup, more cookies and PB&Js, we were off and rolling again. The headwind had not relented. A tandem passed us at a good clip. Okay, actually, they were hauling ass! I swallowed my pride and allowed them to block the wind. I hunkered behind this group for awhile until my pride convinced me to try and pull for a bit. I zipped out in front for maybe 2 minutes before they pulled ahead of me again. Well, if you insist. I decided it must be fate and enjoyed the pull to the next aid station.
We turned and rode through Foxen Canyon. Gorgeous, scenic, beautiful...and 14 miles of a false flat. I have decided no matter how beautiful a bike ride is, after 70 miles, it just doesn't matter anymore. In addition, no matter how comfortable my seat is, after 70 miles, my ass is going to hurt. It just don't matter. Brent pulled up beside me and asked if I was okay, the look of pain in my face obvious. I told him I was hitting a low point but was waiting it out. I've also learned that on any long workout, there will be lows, no matter how great everything else is. I just have to be patient and have faith that the low will pass. It will pass. My ass hurt, and my feet had started to swell. I was struggling to maintain a 14 mph pace. It will pass. It will pass. Even if I didn't believe it. I kept saying it. I stared at the donkeys and cows grazing on the side of the road, trying to block out the pain with the scenic beauty. All that did was make me jealous. Why couldn't I be out there eating and laying around in the sunshine?
A steep hill came out of nowhere, winding up in front of me. "Interesting," I said aloud. Okay. Here we go. And I was up out of the saddle and climbing. I was worried the steep ascent would make my tired body completely exhausted but somehow, at mile 85, I felt invigorated. People were walking their bikes up the hill. Not an option. I somehow zipped my way to the top. At the crest, I drank in the view. I felt like a new woman. Butt pain--gone. Foot pain--gone. I felt wonderful. As we screamed down the descent at 40 mph, I felt like I could keep going forever.
The next 10 miles wound up and down like a roller coaster, making things interesting. I've come to realize I much prefer rolling hills to flats. This is very different from 6 months ago, when I avoided hills like the plague. At the crest of another hill, a wicked side wind kicked up, pushing Torch and me across the road. The death grip on the handlebars only made my weaving worse. Suppressing my panic and the feeling like I was about to be hurtled off the bike, I allowed the wind to take me a few feet across the road before gently leaning into it and trying to work my way back to the shoulder. The road turned and as I headed down the hill, the tailwind pushed me unwillingly to 43 mph, while I sat straight up in the hoods of the bike like a sail. Freaky! I was happy to reach the bottom where the winds were calmer.
We passed the final aid station at mile 95, opting to skip the stop. Stopping now would just tease my tired legs. Let's knock this thing out! Another steep climb arose, and we wound our way up. Eagerly, I alternated between climbing and seated, working my way to the top, settling into a comfortable rhythm. Since when have I liked hills? Now, they were fun little projects, breaking up the monotony of the miles. I knew we were almost done.
We snaked our way down, and I tried to enjoy the green hills, knowing our ride was coming to an end. One last final steep climb appeared out of nowhere with several switchbacks. I could see riders just beginning the climb behind us as we wound our way to the top. The traffic on the roads picked up, and more stoplights and buildings appeared. I knew we were reaching town. I actually felt a sadness rise up within me as we rolled into the finish. The ride was over.
Mark and Jackie at the finish. Time for steak and wine!
We met up at the Hitching Post (featured in Sideways) that night for dinner for a well-deserved post-ride celebratory meal and wine. It was a fabulous weekend and amazing century. I've already reserved my room in Solvang for next year.
dinner at The Hitching Post--Jackie, Mark, Brent & me (l to r)
In preparation for IMAZ, I've done 4 centuries over the last 2 months, each one a little easier than the last. This was by far, my favorite. I felt I could have gone farther. I felt like it may have even been possible to run quite a ways (26.2 miles?) afterwards. I felt energized and refreshed. Hungry, but invigorated.Route Details: