With Ironman Canada only 6 weeks away, my key workout this week was a half-ironman simulation. I decided to repeat the Barely Legal HIM course that I directed last October. It's convenient, fairly safe, and full of rolling hills. Perfect.
The night before I was kind of nervous. I would be completely self-supported. No one cheering me on. No aid stations. No finish line. The task of going 70.3 miles for a mere workout seemed daunting. Frankly, it seemed like a lot of work. I hoped I could a) do it and b) do it with flying colors since I have to do 2x that in 6 weeks. Since I have been trying to plan key workouts hard enough to freak me out beforehand, I patted myself on the back for this one. Then, to make it harder on myself (because a 70.3 in itself isn't enough), I ate a really greasy dinner the night before: fatty ribs and a large fudge brownie, ala mode, of course. Oh, and lots and lots of corn on the cob. Following this, I went to bed late and didn't sleep well (probably because my stomach hurt from the fatty meal). After tossing and turning all night, I woke up at 5:00 am to realize my period had started. Whoopee. I tried to no avail to eat breakfast. After forcing down a banana, it was time to go. I packed several Cliff MoJo bars. I would have to try to eat more on the bike.
I arrived at La Jolla Shores, pleased to see that the water was silky smooth and glassy. I knew the swim would be wonderful. Fog was still clinging to the ground but I knew it would get hot, and fast, as soon as it lifted. It would be a great day for heat training. I met a small group of 4, and we headed into the water, shuffling our feet to avoid the rash of sting rays that had recently invaded the beach. I wasn't worried about the rays. I was a little freaked about the jumbo squid invasion, however. I knew they weren't particularly dangerous and more of an issue for divers than swimmers but during my tossing and turning the night before, I'd had a particularly vivid nightmare about getting dragged under by numerous tentacles from a massive, 20-foot squid who had decided to take up residence at the Shores. Shuddering imperceptibly, I shoved the goulish images out of my mind as I dove into the chilly ocean waters.
The water was in the low 60s, still a bit cold for July but I was donning my wetsuit, and as soon as we swam past the breakers, I felt fine. The other 4 guys were way faster than me (which I had been prepared for), and I let them zip ahead, focusing on my rhythm and staying in my zone. The water was very calm; it was almost like swimming in the pool. Sighting the 1/2 mile buoy (from the Cove, not the Shores--more like 3/4 from the Shores...give or take) was difficult since it was due west in the Pacific but since I was the slowest swimmer, no problem! I just sighted off the other guys. Hee hee! We reached the turn-around quickly. I couldn't believe how suddenly the buoy had popped up. I zipped around it and began letting the current take me back. I felt calm and relaxed. I was really enjoying myself. I even caught sight of a few (harmless) leopard sharks, the sunlight reflecting brilliantly off their rich brown and tan scales. I refused to touch ground until the waves washed me almost aground, very good practice for T1 but also, I was trying to avoid all the rays I kept spotting in the shallow water! I hopped up and ran over to the truck to get ready for the bike. I glanced at my watch; about 34 minutes. Not too bad! My stomach felt greatly improved. I used the few minutes of downtime to gulf down a MoJo bar (yummy!) and chase it with some water. This worked so well, I might try it on race day!
About 10 people joined me for the bike. It was kind of fun to have training partners for each stage. On the other hand, it was good for me to go at my own pace and practice swimming, riding, and running alone, since this most closely mimics race day. Turns out I was alone for each phase most of the day anyway. The bike was somewhat hilly with 3 prominent hills and rollers in between. Plus, we would be riding about 20 miles east, which in San Diego in July, translates to heat. It would be good practice. Canada can be hot, or so it's rumored, and I want to be prepared.
We rolled out and were hit with La Jolla Shores hill right off the bat. It's not very long (about 1 mile, 7%ish grade) but it is steep and my right hamstring has been a little off. After a day of rest, it felt very stiff. Climbing with no warm-up was not fun. Luckily, the no-bullshit hill right off the bat, also forced my hammy to warm up more quickly. I didn't hear a peep out of it for the rest of the ride after that. Hammer it into submission, I say!
We reached the bike path and I "oohed" and "aahed" at the baby ducklings with Mama Duck at the pond, much to the amusment of everyone else in the group. They were probably the highlight of my ride. The heat was rising steadily; I just focused on my hydration and used mental imagery to block the heat out of my head. It's mostly mental. By the time I reached Black Mountain Road, I was riding solo. The front pack had pulled away and the back pack was somewhere behind me. I was stuck in the middle. Story of my life. However, I valued the opportunity to simulate what I would experience in race day. It didn't bother me at all. What did bother me was when the pack behind me caught and overtook me at mile 22 on Camino del Sur, a road that is nothing but up and down rollers. As I struggled to maintain a decent pace while fighting the heat (and keeping in mind I had a half marathon to run afterwards), the back pack took off. I didn't attempt to try to chase them down. They had mechanical issues earlier, and I knew that was what had prematurely slowed them. In reality, those riders are normally faster. I had to let them go. Still, it was a big piece of humble pie I was forced to swallow, and I wasn't all too happy about it. Probably karma after my gloating for chicking that guy up Torrey Pines the other day.
I spotted a park on the left and stopped to refill my water. I couldn't believe how much fluid (and calories) I was putting down. It was HOT! And I was on top of it. I quickly continued on my way, patting myself briefly on the back for such a quick and efficient stop. I spotted Brent climbing up San Dieguito as I zoomed down; he blew me a kiss. I glanced at my computer to track how far ahead he was, just for shits and giggles. Previous rides where I had paced myself quite conservatively and taken my time at stops, I had been up to 40 minutes behind him. Today was different. I reached the turn-around and began climbing San Dieguito. I was only 4 miles behind him, about 15 minutes. Quite an improvement! I smiled inwardly. I've noticed my performance improves when I think I'm doing well. However, when I think I suck, my performance really suffers. It is SO mental. I think I'm awesome; therefore, I'm awesome. Seems simple. The trick is to not let the blows to your ego (there will be many) affect you inwardly and to find little boosts throughout the day that lift you up and carry you forward.
As I reached the crest of San Dieguito (where it was particularly hot and miserable), the pack with initial mechanical problems passed me for a 2nd time. Where did they come from? Wasn't once enough? Ugh. How humiliating. Turns out, they had stopped at a gas station for a water refill before starting up San Dieguito, and I had ridden ahead during that time. At least I wasn't too far back. I kept them in my sights this time, only 1/4 mile behind, until a red light sealed the deal, and I had to reluctantly let them go...out of sight AND out of mind.
I headed back to the coast, relishing the cool westerly breeze coming off the ocean. Yes, it was a headwind (not a wimpy one either) but it felt soooo good. I reached the base of Torrey Pines and diligently climbed up the inside. One last mean pitch before I could cruise downhill back to transition...I mean, er, the parking lot. I glanced at my computer. I was 1.2 mph over what I thought I could do on such a tough course. Whoo hoo! Not too shabby. And on top of it, I felt fresh. I hadn't hammered; I had stayed within my limits. I hope I can get that kind of performance on race day.
My parking spot was highly coveted, and I waved dozens of frustrated drivers on as I changed into my running shoes and downed another MoJo bar. I was doing awesome on calories! For the whole day, I took in about 1200, about 2x as many as I managed in CA 70.3 in early April. And I felt awesome!
I was worried about being able to run 13.1 miles after all that, and in this heat. My legs didn't fail me. Glancing at my GPS, I realized I was running waaay too fast. I kept having to slow down, sloooow down. It was a good feeling. I reached a trail that wound its way to the Cove and was awestruck by the obscenely gorgeous views of the ocean. I had no problem slowing to gawk at the ocean as I trotted by.
The Cove was a zoo. Running on the sidewalk was a joke as I elbowed and shoved families and strollers aside. I guess I was a little pissed that they all got to go to the beach while I had to run a half marathon (after the swim and bike). Finally, I ran in the street, deciding this was a better option. There were so many cars looking for places to park, I was moving faster than traffic anyway! Ugh. Beach traffic in San Diego in the summertime drives me bonkers. It gets so crowded July and August!
Soon, I was in the residential section of La Jolla, running by smaller side beaches and surfing beaches like Wind 'n Sea. My blood pressure dropped two notches from boiling again. My legs felt awesome. The run course is littered with small rollers the whole way, making your body work extra hard. The bonus is you never get bored, and my legs love rollers because I'm constantly using different muscles. I was very pleased with my pace and how my legs felt on the hills. I felt amazingly strong.
I reached the turn around in Pacific Beach and refilled my bottles. I had already gone through all 4 (32 ounces total)! Man, it was hot! I normally go through 4 in only 13.1 miles. Today, I was drinking 2x what I normally do. Probably explains why I felt so good all day. The return home was faster than the trip out, as is always the case for me. Around mile 8, I hit a runner's high. The miles were elapsing so easily. My legs ran under me effortlessly, and I relished the cute little houses, tiny gardens, and numerous, private, tucked-away beaches (with their deliciously cool breezes).
I reached La Jolla Shores again. My watch hit 13.1 miles. I had done it! And I was 30 seconds/mile faster than my goal pace! There was no finish line. No one cheering my name. It was a little anticlimatic. But I was very proud of myself. Doing an unsupported half ironman workout is WAY harder than doing a half ironman race. I grabbed some water and ice cream from the local market before heading back down to the Shores for a dip in the ocean with Brent and Alec. Afterall, I had an awesome parking spot. I couldn't let it go to waste without some beachtime!