race day preparations…

Ten days to go. Yes, that is ten. Just ten. 1-0. A measly little week and a half. Almost single digits now, folks. Yikes.

Yesterday, on a “short” two hour bike ride I saw the first signs of Ironman route prep on my bike ride:

first signs of Ironman

Oh my. It’s almost game time!

Advertisements

weekend failings…

This past weekend was the last big weekend of workouts before our two-week taper period leading up to Ironman.

Now, at this point in the game, long workouts are L-O-N-G. Like eat breakfast before you go and don’t get back until dinnertime long. And also at this point in the game, long workouts are hard workouts. Whether they’re hard because they’re long or hard because you’re tired or hard because you know how long and hard they’re going to be is anyone’s guess.

Dig deep and get them done, right?

WRONG.

Saturday was my last chance to get a 19 or 20 mile run in before race day. A couple of weeks back, I got a 17er in and on Monday I was hoping to fit in 20 miles after work but I was running alone and ended up no getting an early enough start at calling it at 16 when it was dark (you know, for safety’s sake).

Saturday was a trainwreck from the start. All I wanted to do was sleep in for once. So we did. Kinda. And then we had a late breakfast and went to the farmer’s market and the tree nursery and it got warmer and warmer as the day went on and I frankly spent the better part of the day dreading the 20 mile death march I knew I was going to have to log.

Finally I was able to drag myself out of the house but it was truly doomed – my mental game was absolute crap. After two miles, I almost called it. After 3, I was sitting on a curb literally trying to pep talk myself into pulling it together. It was pathetic. Mile by mile, I pieced together the most mentally miserable run perhaps of my life. And my times were slow to boot because mentally I couldn’t get out of my own way.I know how much your brain plays into this and yet, I could not get my head in the game to save my life.

So there I was, slogging out the miles. Ever so slowly. Ever so painfully.

Now. (Warning: potential TMI ahead…) I was running in my tri shorts in order to determine whether to run in them on race day or change pre-marathon. I had 16 miles in them earlier in the week and had started to chafe ever so slightly, so I had lubed up extra carefully and brought a reserve for mid-run lubin’. Around mile 9, I made a stop at an outhouse and reapplied, early I thought. Better safe than sorry… only it stung and I knew that was the last straw. Seriously, the straw that broke this camel’s back. I called in the reserves, duked it out for another mile and hubby came to the rescue.

Sunday, we thought we might get one last training ride in – a good 70 or 80 miles or so. But my mental game was STILL not in it. We took a turn onto the bike course and I couldn’t hack it. Twenty-five miles was enough for me that day. Too bad I messed up my hubby’s training day along with my own. (Thankfully he’s the most patient and forgiving person on the planet so he just picked up the miles today while I was at work…).

Apparently after 22 weeks of 9 workouts a week and being tired and hungry and rushed and cranky ALL of the time and just digging deep and getting them done, I was pretty much spent. I have sometimes halfway worried that I have only a limited amount of willpower, only so many times that I can dig deep before my reservoir is empty. And this weekend, I apparently just didn’t want to take the chance that these workouts would be the last ones I could grit my teeth, grin and bear it…lest I attempt Ironman with an empty willpower reservoir.

I had a hard time after each of the failed workouts, trying not to see them as bad omens or epic fails. And it took me some time. I’m not a quitter. Truly. But this weekend sure made me feel like one. Each workout that has not quite gone as planned (and there have been a few over the past 6 months) has an opportunity to be a learning experience. This weekend I learned that I will be changing my bottoms after the bike. But mostly I have learned that it’s good to take a break when you feel like you need one. Body or mind. And not feel guilty about it.

This weekend’s workouts were not exactly what I had planned. But even so, I can’t let doubt get the best of me – I’ve gotten the miles in, I’ve put in the work. Now to enjoy the taper weeks and try not to throw up every time I think about race day and  the fact that it is just 13 days away…

good news/bad news…

Yesterday, I completed 112 miles on the bike. Yes. 112. And yes, it took me ALL day (as you may recall, I’m not the fastest biker). The good news is, I know I can do it. The bad news is, I know I have to do it again.

We did a short swim first, starting at 7. Which would have given me the chance to simulate my race day morning, only I hate mornings so instead I hit snooze a ton of times and finally got up at 6:20, ran around the house like a chicken with its head cut off and headed to the lake at 6:40.

The swim was shorter than planned (haha, good news!).  But it was shorter not because I was super fast, but because it was a heck of a lot colder than planned. At least we are getting slowly acclimated to it in the off chance it doesn’t warm up a whole lot in the next three weeks. Bad news – 55 degrees for an hour 15, hour 20 is a whole lot of cold as far as I’m concerned.

I learned a few things yesterday – first of all, don’t leave a third of your nutrition in the freezer when you leave the house (see above – snooze button). So, the good news is, I probably won’t do that again at least in the near future. The bad news is that I came up a tad short on the  nutrition end of things. The good news is I can finish the bike course on less nutrition than planned. The bad news is my marathon would pay for it.

Second lesson of the day? Even though it was pretty overcast for the most part and even though I’m pretty dark skinned and generally tan/rarely burn, I put on sunscreen after getting out of the lake and hopping on the bike. I learned I should definitely re-apply after the first loop. The bad news is, my back/shoulder blades area and my cheeks are rocking a nice little mild burn (which good news: will transform itself into a tan tomorrow and bad news: reinforce the whole triathlon=crazy silly tan lines).

We biked the Ironman course, which has 2,306 feet of climbing according to Ironman.

IMCDA bike elevation

My Garmin tells me I climbed 6,585 feet. So I’m not sure what that means other than: Bad news – lots of climbing, good news.

IMCDA bike elevation garmin 06.01.2013

 

Either way, I have NEVER been SO HAPPY to get off of a bike. Ever. Good news is, after my next 112 miles, I don’t have to ever ride that far again. Bad news? I have to run a marathon. But race day, if I feel how I felt yesterday, I would do anything – ANYTHING – including running a marathon, so long as you didn’t tell me I had to turn around and bike another 112 miles.

it’s just $50 more…

Once upon a time, I was standing in the kitchen, declaring to my hubby my decision to do a half-Ironman. It was a somewhat random decision and a little out of the blue, so not surprisingly, Hubby asked “Why?” To which I confidently responded, “Well, I know I can swim. And I know I can run. And any fool can ride a bike!

That was then. But now?

Turns out, NOT every fool can bike. SIGH. Almost every fool can bike… I appear to be the grand exception.

Ok, maybe I’m not a completely awful biker but that is how it feels a lot of days. More days than not an individual who I’ve deemed NOT worthy of passing me for one reason or another goes whizzing, I mean WHIZZING past me with what appears to be virtually ZERO effort. Let’s agree that: a) there is a good, valid reason they’re faster than me, like the fact that they’ve probably put a lot of time and effort (and $$) into biking and therefore deserve to be faster and b) I’m not a great biker, probably because I haven’t put in as much into it as the speedy bugger that just passed me. 

Here’s the thing about biking that I’ve discovered. Unlike running, which you can do with really pretty minimal equipment, and swimming, which is almost purely technique-driven, biking is hugely gear-driven in my opinion and way more so than the other 2 sports involved in Ironman.

Weight, rolling weight, cadence, road vs-tri bikes, racing wheels, threads-per-inch, carbon frames and super fantastic components and accessories just to name a few things… All of these things can add up to have an effect on race day. And each of them is “Just $50 more…”. (Actually many of them are just $100 more or $200 more, but I digress.)

If you’re me, you learn about them 5 or 6 weeks before race day.You know, when you’re spazzing out about making cut-off times and freaking out about trying to figure out all of the logistical stuff and squeezing in a couple of last looooong bike rides and its too late to do much about a lot of them.

Cool gadgets. Aero bar hammocks? Whoa, what’s that? (I’m sure I need one…)

The latest and greatest tri shorts? Spandex colorful enough that your family and friends can find you in the crowd of athletes (and flattering enough that you’d dare drape yourself in skin-tight fabric from your neck to knees for the duration of the day (12-17 hours?) when thousands of athletes better looking and in better shape than you and thousands of spectators will see you and judge you based on how well you are pulling off said spandex…). And more importantly, comfortable enough that it’s tolerable for that long?

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

There are stats that will show you just how expensive completing an Ironman is. And I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical of the numbers. The popular figure seems to be $10,000. That seemed like an exaggeration at the time but I may be changing my tune.

But here we are, just 29 days from race day and new gear seems to be appearing at our house – if we don’t pick it up in the store, it magically arrives at our doorstep almost daily (oh, e-commerce, how I love and loathe you…). Cases of energy gels for training. Protein powder. New running shoes. Drink mixes. Water bottles. Shorts. New tires for race day. Neoprene cap and swim booties, just in case the water is freezing.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

Another bike fit to fine tune a few last minute things (Cha-ching)…which leads to a new bike seat or two to make the aero position tolerable (Cha-ching, cha-ching). You may even be as (un)lucky as me and have to try a bunch of different seats to find the one that will work.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

I haven’t kept track of our spending for Ironman. I guess if I were to add anything to that $10,000 figure it would be to say that I think a lot of the spending is front and back-loaded. Gear to get you up and going. And then all the last minute stuff you discover you “need”.

And that’s where we’re at. Broke, exhausted, grumpy, tired of energy gels and surrounded by a mess of FedEx boxes. There are a lot of things we’ve decided to pass on (like $300 on renting race day wheels to save 10-15 minutes).  But hopefully there are also a lot of things that we’ve “invested” in that besides draining our accounts will hopefully also more and more ready for race day. Here’s hoping…

It’s like this – only my bank account does NOT say 1-0-0-0-0-0-oh so you can’t help but  feel broke when you get home!

warm enough for open water…!

SUNSHINE!!! Sunshine means good things for the lake and good things for race day. I know I’ve been complaining a lot about wind and cold lately. Heck, last week I was bringing in my flowers overnight because it was dipping below freezing and we were still wearing long sleeves to run and beanies under our bike helmets in the morning. Well, the weather gods finally decided to take pity on me and give me an entire week of sunshine and warmth for my sanity. Thank goodness.

Sunshine!

Honestly, jumping from 50 degree days to 80 degree days literally overnight made running outside a little hard since we had no time to acclimate (there is just no pleasing me, I know!).

But a week of sunshine and 80s means really good things for the lake so I’ll stop complaining. We’ll take it!

USGS Lake CdA water temp 05.11.2013

Which means it’s time for open water swims! Last Friday, May 10 was our first open water swim. And thanks to the 80s, we got to swim in 55 or 56 degrees instead of 50 or 52. And believe me. Five degrees makes ALL the difference in the world. I’ll be honest – I was really kind of dreading it but it was infinitely more tolerable than I thought it would be. And had I forgotten anything I needed for the swim – and I mean ANYTHING – I would’ve been ok with scratching the whole thing and waiting till later to jump in. But it wasn’t to be. We were in for about 30 minutes and I could still feel my feet when we got out. If that was the temperature on race day, that would be just fine.

Looks like its just about time to quit the pool swims and spend the last 6 weeks getting reacquainted with chilly waters, waves, other people, sighting into the sun, murky waters with bug-eyed fish staring up at you and swimming with others. Have you done your first open water swim of the year?

you know you’re training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene when…

More than a few things that have occurred to me during training that have made me chuckle over the past few months so I thought I’d share a few I’ve written down.

  • In your car’s cup holders, you have a water bottle (recently emptied or recently filled) and energy gels – GUs and Hammer Gels…and a spare granola bar or Clif bar in your glove compartment. Just in case.
  • And also, you have these things in your purse. And your gym bag.
  • Your tri team says “Hey everyone, its 47 degrees in the lake… let’s go swimming!” (WHAT?! No thank you!)
  • It is 32 degrees outside and snowing sideways. Your friends are cozied up in bed or reading a book and drinking coffee and you are halfway through your 60 mile bike ride.
  • Same as above, only 25 mph winds, or driving rain….
  • The 1st thing your friends ask you when they see you is “How is the training going?” Because a) they are excited for you; b) they never see you and c) they don’t know what else it is you do these days. And frankly, you don’t either.
  • You come home to packages on your doorstep and the contents? Ironman Perform drink mix, Perpeteum drink mix, 60 energy gels, and new running shorts.
  • You’re hungry. All of the time.
  • You know for a fact that if you swim early in the day and run or bike after work, you will sweat chlorine. Profusely.
  • Your laundry piles up three times as fast as you used to and you only have time to do it about a third as often as you used to. You do the math.
  • You’re praying that the race day water is at least 62 degrees. (Normal people recognize that swimming 2.4 miles in water this temperature is still too freakin’ cold.)
  • You can eat, drink and blow your nose on the run and the bike (and you have to remind yourself not to do the latter when you’re relegated to the indoors).
  • It’s super annoying when people talk to you like a sprint triathlon is the same as an Ironman.
  • Spring training doesn’t mean baseball, hot dogs and sunshine. It means windbreakers, rain jackets, and beanies and gloves on the bike. And dark ominous clouds and threatening raindrops on the horizon.

Eight weeks to go! How do you know you’re training? 🙂

IMCDA image

the weather gods must hate me…

Springtime in the Pacific Northwest is an awful and horribly unpredictable time to be trying to train for an Ironman.

Each weekend, as training progresses, there is a longer and longer ride staring up at me from that piece of paper on the counter. And each weekend, there is a terrible weather forecast staring at me from the computer screen. Bad on Friday, bad on Saturday and worse on Sunday. Substantial chance of rain, slight to middling chance of snow, windy as all get-out, a very good chance of you getting wet on the bike ride and 100% chance of freezing your bum off on your bike.

There are some who say that training in poor weather makes us stronger. And to an extent, I would agree.

But there are times when I cannot take any more. These are those times.

Each weekend that I have a horrible, awful, no good, very bad ride, I think it can’t get any worse. Two weekends ago, I had a 4 hour ride to squeeze in and the option between a bad weather forecast on Satruday and an even colder, wetter, nastier forecast for Sunday. So I took my chances with Saturday and found myself riding for hours in blowing gusting 25 mph winds  with snow, rain and hail to boot. My feet were frozen after 50 minutes. After 2 hours, I wondered at what point I should be concerned. At 2 1/2 hours, I stopped in a outhouse for shelter to warm up my feet. At 3 hours and fifteen minutes I had to stop in another outhouse to re-warm up my purplish, reddish feet. At 4 hours and fifteen minutes, I was relieved to see the “finish line” but I couldn’t show it because my face was frozen in a perma-scowl due to the blowing rain and snow (and the tears and snot running down my face probably didn’t help).

Last weekend, we had sun. But the wind was possible worse than the week before – strong and constant. At one point, I realized that I should’ve easily been cruising down the hill, but instead I was cranking away as hard as I could to go TWELVE MILES PER HOUR. DOWNHILL. That’s how windy it was. Not cool. Not cool.

Mentally, these rides are taxing too! I’m worried I have a limited amount of mental toughness and that I’m going to use it all up on getting through these dumb ol’ training rides…

I had high hopes for this weekend, but once again we have projected sunshine and nice weather until Friday, with WIND projected again for this Saturday and Sunday.

I’m not sure what I did to offend the weather gods, but I sure hope race day brings nicer weather. Because right now, more than anything, I just want to ride in calm, pleasant weather. Especially on race day. I need to find a sacrificial lamb or groundhog or something to appease them before then… anyone got the inside track on what the weather gods prefer? Squirrel? Deer? Gold? Anything?

grumpy hip flexors and reality checks…

I realize this training go-round that I’ve not really delved much into my actual training plan. Many people go about training differently. Having had previous success with using a training program for my previous two 70.3s, I decided to stick with a 24-week long Ironman plan from one of Matt Fitzgerald’s books. In addition, I have a lot of resources and individuals with whom I’ve consulted as to what kind of training plan they used and how they would recommend we go about doing this. In general the plan calls for 9 workouts a week – 3 swimming, 3 biking and 3 running – with brick workouts a couple times a month. The first 70.3 I did, I got pretty darn close to hitting every workout . Last year, I was a lot more realistic about whether that was entirely necessary considering my goal was not to win the whole race, just to finish.

This year, I figured that I’d be pretty happy with 6-8 quality workouts and on weeks where time was especially tight, I’m making sure to hit the long runs, rides and swims, the interval training, the hill workouts, etc. and dropping the foundation workouts if necessary (what could arguably be considered “junk” miles).

I’ve been trucking right along, (scheduled to clock in about 4 hours of running, 6 hours of biking and 3 hours of swimming alone in Week 13) but what’s been clearly missing in all 3 years is any dedicated time for strength training and any time for stretching. They are the “assumed workouts” – the ones we all know we should do but are so often guilty of skipping because we’ll do them later or because they must not be that important if they’re not written into the plan…

This year has been no different . All of the biking and running I’m doing, added to the fact that I commute a little over an hour each day to and from a job where I sit at a desk all day at work and no stretching during the day or after workouts, meant that some of my muscles were getting pretty grumpy with me.

Two weeks ago I was doing a mental check-in and it was clear I needed to start doing something to provide some relief to my tight muscles, especially my hip flexors, which had been pretty vocal the past 2 or 3 weeks. I was starting to feel creaky and downright OLD. It became crystal clear that if I didn’t do something to head this off at the pass, there was a lot of potential for my hips to become a much bigger problem in training for Ironman. If I didn’t do something it seemed, my tightly wound hip flexors might just snap. Ick. Sounds messy. And dare I say, an untimely inconvenience.

As a result, Week 11’s resolution was to spend more time stretching and strength training. The guys at Mobility WOD have some good stuff for all sorts of fixes and I found this to be a painful (yet helpful)  addition to my days:

But I also know that I’m flat out awful at committing to stretching for more than a few days in a row, which is a big part of the reason why I’m in this position in the first place. So I also added in one evening a week for yoga – 90 minutes dedicated specifically to stretching and  focusing on erasing the tight spots with some added core and balance elements as a bonus. And of course, mentally it’s refreshing to focus on one thing and one thing only – not falling over.

After three weeks, I think I feel some improvements. Whether it’s the yoga or the mobility wods, I’m no longer in fear of my muscles snapping. Now on to Week 14 and figuring out how to NOT get that same crick in my neck every time I’m on the bike…

on confidence builders…

We all need them. Confidence builders. Building blocks for our egos to stand upon. Things to make us climb over our doubts when they persist. Kick them to the curb. Tell them stupid, good for nuthin’ what-ifs and mebbe I can’ts and what-if-i-can’ts to go find a home somewhere else.

You know, I’ve been doubting a bit lately. I think it is a natural stage of training, I guess. You’re on a path that you hope leads you to success – the finish line in this case – a 24 week journey in which everything and anything could go wrong. It’s natural to think that, maybe, perhaps, you’re not doing quite enough. But week by week, workout by workout, you build your strength and endurance and your mental strength and stamina alongside it.

Last weekend, I passed one minor hurdle and gave myself another ego building block: I took a short bike ride up the first hill of the Ironman CdA course. It was only a 17 mile ride, but it was enough to know I made it up the first long hill. And that was good. Good to know I can do it. Good to know my indoor training rides and (thus far) relatively short outdoor rides have done enough  to make it that far at least once.

Now I know that 16 miles is hardly anything when you think the entire course is 112 miles. It’s peanuts, really. But I did feel better. And I think its important to remember and record these things – to celebrate the little things – especially in times of doubt!

This weekend, I was able to add more building blocks for my feeble mental game to stand upon and they couldn’t have come at a better time. Hubby and I were able to ride 52 miles on Sunday – the bulk of which was on the actual course. So now we’ve seen ALL the hills on the course and we’ve been at the top of them. And I was able to do that just 18 hours or so after I ran 10 miles. Again, that may not seem like much. But I ran 12 tonight and it was easier than I anticipated.

So right now? Right now I feel pretty good about things. And I think I’m gonna try to stay on top of that positivity wave just as long as I can make it last!

Top ‘o’ the hill!

Bring on Week 13!