Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ironman Journey in Numbers

Its been an adventure this last year.  Its crazy to see the training that has lead me here, and a confidence boost to know that I have put in the hard work to propel me to that finish line.

Ok numbers from the last year:

Bike - 4882 miles - 322 hours
Run - 1697 miles - 239 hours
Swim - 357 km - 147 hours
Strength Train - 48 hours

Foam rolling/stretching/massage - didn't record but about 3-5 hours a week.

Other numbers:

2 - Countries I've lived in during the last year

5 - Pairs of shoes

1200 miles - How many miles run on my favourite pair of shoes

6 - missed training sessions

5 - Races this year

1 - Bicycle has kicked my ass all year

20m - length of pool

3 - blisters

6 - Days until Ironman.

1 - Excited triathlete :)

140.6 - Biggest physical challenge of my life.

Afraid of my Bicycle

This is inspired by an awesome someone in my online tri club.

Just like riding a hear that a lot.  Supposed to mean its easy, you never forget how to do it.  I disagree.  Riding a bicycle can be terrifying, and getting on one for the first time in over 10 years does not feel familiar and easy!  Especially when you mix an uncoordinated wanna be triathlete with clip in pedals and tri bars.

In triathlon, especially non-drafting the bike is where you are going to be spending most of your time  - well for most people...unless you have an injury or completely blow up on the run.

So you better be pretty comfy on that saddle (which can be a whole other blog post on saddle comfort).  Easier said than done, the last year my bike has become a strength of mine, I posted the fastest female bike split in my last 70.3, but its pretty crazy to think about where I started 15 months ago.

*Queue cheezy back in time music*

Ok I want to be a triathlete, and as much fun as the recumbant bike is at the gym I cant quite race on it.  So time to bike shop, bikes are like 200-300 bucks right?  (Insert incredulous look from husband who used to race mountain bikes) "Umm they are a bit more than that".

Start looking at used ones on ebay YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!?!  These things with no horse power cost nearly as much as the motorcycle I was racing!! For what?  Some metal and cables, little bit of rubber?

Luckily Blair knew a lot more about bikes than I did (paint up rubber down was about the extent of my knowledge).  One thing that worked out well was Blair always wanted a Specialized bike when he was racing, so he started looking at them for triathlon bikes for me, I'm so happy he did because now that I know more about bikes and fit Specialized was the right brand and bike for me.

First question, road bike or tri bike?  There is a lot of debate over this. Go with the road bike you can ride in groups, stability, and if you dont like triathlon you can still use it in social settings, if you do you can add tri bars.  Tri bike - more unstable, better aero dynamics, better hip angle for running off the bike, pretty sport specific and you will rarely find bike groups that will let a tri bike tag along.

At the end of the day, I wanted to race triathlon, not bikes.  In my usual fashion leaped all in and went with a tri bike.

So after an exhaustive ebay search (too cheap to buy new) found a deal on a Specialized Transition Elite, an aluminum job done up in my favorite colour.  Entry level tri bike, that was a bit too big but hell I wont be fast enough for the bike to matter that much I'm just getting started.

A big box shows up on the doorstep, a flury of screws and allan wrenches and a box of bits turns into a sharp looking triathlon bike...without pedals...what do you mean it doesn't come with pedals?!? From my limited bike experience pedals are kind of essential!  Then I learn about clip in pedals (that are called clipless...I swear this is just to mess with newbies).

Ok we have pedals now we are in business, bike is ready to ride.

A week later...yup bike is all ready...just sitting there...its too windy to ride...those clipless pedals are scary...(insert more excuses)...

Another week sure looks good in the living room...I cant get the hang of unclipping standing still how am I going to do it on the road?  I'm totally going to fall on my ass.

It took just over 2 weeks for me to take my bike outside, I had terrifying images of me trying desperately to get my feet out of those pedals while doing a slow motion fall (which happened eventually anyways), being blown off the road with the wind, and generally looking like an idiot.  Not a great start to my triathlon ambitions I was too much of a scaredy cat to get on the road.

(First ride notice lack of bike shorts...jersey...or bike shoes)

I did get some progress in the triathlon ambitions during that time though, I went to the pool once and felt like I was going to drown doing one length of 25 meters.  I've never had swim lessons and had no idea what I was doing.  I spent 10 minutes getting the nerve to swim the 25 meters back, was nearly hyperventilating and got out of the pool.  Yea this is going well.

Ok, I need to get outside on this damned bike.  First ride was terrifying, I was wobbling all over the parking lot, I don't remember riding a bike being this hard?!  Panicking as I tried to unclip my clipless (WTF) pedals.  Don't even get me started on turning around.  But I was determined.

It took another ride just in the parking lot trying to stay upright before I ventured on the road.  Now if it had been here in Scotland with itty bitty roads it may never have happened, but I was in Texas with huge roads and big shoulders so I finally got out there.

I was wobbly, but starting to get the hang of it after a few rides...then I tried the aero soon as I dropped down my bike took on a life of its own swerving side to side.  Adrenaline and heart pumping went back up, ok that didn't go well.  Thinking how the hell will I be able to race this thing when I feel like its going to throw me off when I go down into aero position.

I can handle a motorcycle with a 600cc engine on a race track knee dragging on the ground in the corners like its the most natural thing in the world...and a bicycle is getting the better of me.

Well it just took practise.  Lots of time just doing 10-20 minute rides trying to stay calm and in control of the bike, and even more time in parking lots working on bike handling.  I started to get more comfortable, relaxed, started to focus on what my legs were doing instead of a panicked death grip on the handle bars.  Dealing with the insane cross and head winds in Texas forced me to get used to tough conditions and stay relaxed.

Once I felt good on the road, my bike became my favourite toy and a strength.  That fear didn't completely go away, for the first 5 or so months I was in Scotland I didn't get off my trainer because I was scared again of the little roads here with no shoulder.  Once again just had to get out there, now I feel good on them (but still cautious).

I forgot how difficult the bike felt in the beginning, how scared I was, 15 months seems like a lifetime ago.  Now the bike feels like the most natural thing in the world.  I love the way my legs feel applying power to the pedals, slipping through the wind in aero position.

I've been looking back on old workouts and races to motivate me for Ironman, and I looked at the power output on the sprint Duathlons I did earlier in the year.  Well the power I put out in those short races feeling like I was going hard is the same power I plan on putting out for Ironman over 8x further than the sprint.  Its been a year of getting to know my bicycle very intimately, and I cant wait to see what I can do at Ironman - 6 days.

Carpe Diem

Friday, August 9, 2013

Taper Madness Roller Coaster

Taper Sucks

Ok Wednesday was a soul crushing kind of workout that had me freaking out and wondering if I was going to be suffering through this Ironman with legs that didn't feel like they had put in all those miles this past 10 months.

It consisted of 3 min at IM to 70.3 watts, then 2 min above that to threshold and repeat 3 times, easy for 5 min and repeat 2 more times for a 1.5 hour ride.  This was effort that last week I was holding for 4 sets of 45 minutes no problem, not breathing heavy feeling strong.

It nearly annihilated me.  Ironman Watts, HR was 20 beats over what it normally was, legs felt powerless, and I was working so hard I felt like I was going to puke.  WTF.  10 days out and I couldn't hold IM watts for 3 minutes...never mind the 5.5-6 hours I will need to hold it race day.

The last week I hadn't been feeling so hot either, the drop in training had everything aching, tightening and generally feeling exhausted and like shit.

I quit the workout early, something I've only done 3 or 4 times since this started last year.  It was a hard mental hit.  But I was killing myself to hit something that shouldn't be that hard, and decided to listen to my body.  So I took off the bike shoes swapped them for my Newtons and head out for the run.

Ugh.  I felt like I was slogging through mud, stomach wasn't happy, well crap.  I draw a lot of confidence from how I feel off the bike, and if I feel like this race day its going to be a hell of a long day.  I could hit the paces I was aiming for but HR was high and it felt like a lot of work from step 1.  Ironman is too damned long to be working that hard from the first step, I don't think I would be able to hold it.  When last week I held it no problem after a 4 hour bike ride.

Ok I know this is the taper, don't freak out.  My body is rebelling from not getting its hit of endorphins and all the good stuff it likes from the high volume and intensity.  After that workout I felt like I had the flu, head was hot, body was cold stomach did not want to take anything in.  Not feeling like the invincible athlete on a high of performance that I was feeling before.

So I e-mailed my Lucho a rambling note, not even sure it made much sense, complaining of pain and tightness and fears of crashing and burning in this race.

His words back to me were simple, and what I knew in my head essentially the unload of fatigue is cause me to feel out of sorts, brush it off and rest up.

So I had a glass of wine a hot bath and went to bed early hoping the next day would feel better.

That was rock bottom.  I woke up the next morning feeling like myself for the first time in a week or two.  That sparked something up in me, I had a swim on the schedule and I actually felt energised and wanted to attack it.  Even more shocking in the water I felt wicked strong and smooth, not dragging my ass through it.

Now the 2nd session on the schedule was a nap, and the 3rd said "Nothing else today".  Wellll.....I was feeling good and I just got a delivery, a new pair of Newton MV3 racing flats that I was excited to try out.  So I went out for an teeny little run, just 3 miles.  Oh man did I need that.  I felt fluid and like running was the most natural thing in the world, no slogging through mud today.  Not on the schedule but mentally was great for me, just feeling back to normal.

That has continued today on a bike ride today holding IM watts not even getting my HR into zone 2, breathing easily.  Thank-goodness.  I knew in my head I hadn't lost the fitness, but I'm so glad I'm on my way up from the rock bottom of taper madness.  I forgot how much it sucked, but don't despair and don't freak out and over train if you find yourself in this position, it will pass!

8 days to Ironman

Carpe Diem

Friday, August 2, 2013

One workout can turn it all around!

No one workout is going to make or break this race, but oh man can it get me excited!

It was one workout that got me hyped up, funny how a few hours on the road can turn around how I feel and how thinking about the race effects me. That topped off with a chat with my coach and I'm counting down the days (15) until race day.

I haven't been feeling the most motivated my last 2 big workouts, a 20 mile progression run Sunday, and a 4 hour ride with intensity followed by a 9 mile brick.  I think my mindset is starting to shift towards taper, and I have never been good at tapering.  I have a bad habit of shutting down and skipping workouts telling myself its good to get rest, when really I need to stay loose, not doing anything crazy, but at least do something instead of sitting on the couch for a week before the race.

Sunday 16-20 miles was on the schedule depending on how I felt and it was one of the few times I've ever thought I'm just going to do the minimum before I even got out on the road and saw how my legs felt.  Some possible big changes are coming down the line as to where I live, and some family tragedy had me very distracted, and I just wanted to get home.

Then I got on the road, I don't remember most of the run, it was a progression run so starting first half easy and then build effort to zone 3, I took a more rolling route than usual, and ran entirely off effort.  I had my watch on, no HR monitor, but I don't think I looked at pace once, just lost in my own head. My legs were feeling surprisingly good, warmed up right away, but I just wasn't in the head space to push, so took it easy the first 13 miles, realised how far I had gone and that I should be picking it up, so stopped holding back but still wasn't working hard, I knew this would be one of my slower long runs, but just put in the miles. Last 3 miles kind of woke up and realised how close I was to 20 miles, legs were feeling good and I hadn't been pushing at all so I figured ok I'll put in a little work the last 3, finish it strong around zone 3.

Avg pace 7:32 - WTF???  I was seriously expecting around an 8min pace and would have been happy with that for the effort I put in.

But still that didn't get me excited.  I was distracted.  Thats just a run on its own, I need to ride further than I ever have before.  My longest ride so far has been 95 miles and an extra 17 miles is still an unknown.

Heres what got me excited.

Brick Workout Wednesday

77 miles on the bike, with a 9 mile run.  Getting close to race day I'm not riding as far as usual, but this had higher intensity than race day, to get a similar stress on my body, with some rest intervals much lower than race intensity.  Average watts were right at race wattage.

Going into this race was like Sunday, little motivation, knew I had to get out there and get it done, but procrastinated for a few hours.

I got on the bike and thankfully my legs felt good, it would have been a rough day if they didn't.  First interval felt rough, but after that legs started getting fired up.  Started to feel good and want to push.  My power meter crapped out half way through the ride so had to go off of effort for the last intervals and I think I had a pretty good idea of what the watts should feel like.

I've trained all year on power, and my power meter has been very sketchy the last few months so I'm keeping my fingers crossed it will work on race day, if not all of the miles I have put in the past year give me on ok idea of what it needs to feel like - never ride completely dependant on external feedback, know your body!

It started getting tough the last 45 min, the above race watts had my legs feeling heavy and struggling to get my HR as high as it was on the previous intervals.  I was starting to wonder how this brick run was going to feel because this was getting hard.  HR and breathing were easy, just the muscles in my legs were starting to feel like they didn't want to push.

Pack up the bike in the car and head out on my run.  Theres always those first few moments of the run where you wonder how the legs are going to feel, will it be a good run?

Magic...thats how my legs felt.  I started the run thinking I cant wait to get this over with, to feeling like I could keep running forever.

The goal of the run was to go 20 seconds faster than race pace and see how my stomach felt.  Well stomach felt solid, legs felt like they were pulling me forward and I had to keep holding back so I didn't run too fast.  I used to feel like this for the first 3 miles on brick runs then my legs would turn into bricks themselves.  Not this time, the consistent miles and nutrition have my legs still going strong.  9 miles later I felt like I was just 9 miles into a long run, like the bike ride hadn't happened at all.

If I feel this good on the run at Ironman Kalmar its going to be a spectacular day.  I know it wont keep feeling effortless, its going to get hard, and I need to keep that it my mind and be prepared for it, but that felt pretty damned good.  It started getting me thinking just maybe I could beat my marathon PR in an Ironman (3:34) but thats getting ahead of myself.  I'll survive the swim and stay calm, ride steady on the bike and see what my legs are capable of on the day.

Paces for the day
Bike - 20.3mph
Run - 7:40

I still get giddy looking at those paces, its a shock to see what my body is doing lately.  Going into this I was hoping to hit 17mph on the bike, and 8:30 pace on the run, I thought that was going to be a stretch to expect that kind of speed.

Now I'm starting to re-evaluate, training isn't race day though so the day will dictate.  I had a good talk with my coach.  Sometimes you have race day magic where everything feels good and your body is at 100%, sometimes you only have 80%, it happens, I've experienced that a few times.  So, if I have 100% on race day its going to be spectacular, and he said if I have 80% on race day then use all of that 80% don't let it get in my head and keep fighting.

Now time to get my ass on the road for my last long run.  14-16 miles with 10 * 1 min hill repeats, its been a long time since I've done those!

15 days, I will be an Ironman.

Carpe Diem.