Monday, September 8, 2014

Six Hours on a Bicycle

Can you imagine spending six hours on a bicycle with nothing to think about besides the thoughts in your own head?  I have, and let me tell you, there are a ton of thoughts in one's head.  Throughout these 30+ weeks of Ironman training, I've learned a lot about myself.  Dedication, fitness, drive, determination, and strength are the good things.  Exhaustion, chronic soreness, early bedtimes, even earlier morning alarm clocks, and lack of a social life are the bad.  In the end though, it's been an incredible journey and one that I can't wait to write the final chapter to in just 3 WEEKS!


Let me catch you up on the past several weeks.  Training has gone well (easy for me to say now that it's behind me and the taper has officially begun!).  A couple weeks ago I made the trip to Chattanooga for a preview ride of the bike course.  I rode all 114 miles of the course - now so graciously lengthened and extra 2 miles for a grand total of 116 - and gained perspective on exactly what to expect on race day.  With the exception of the 10 miles in and out of Chattanooga, the remainder is nestled in the beautiful North Georgia mountains.  It's rolling terrain and a fair amount of elevation change, but only one significant climb.  Compared to the areas I ride in Charlotte and Atlanta, it's nothing to be intimidated about.


I got off the bike and my legs felt very good, despite that having been my longest ride.  I was out of time to do the run I had planned, but I drove the North Shore portion of the course and witnessed the hills from hell that will likely be the land of the walking dead on race day.


Fast forward another couple of weeks and I was back in Atlanta for the Labor Day weekend.  As expected, I had a long brick and a long run on the schedule.  Saturday I rode in Cartersville at the Bud Plant, where the terrain is similar but with more turns and steeper climbs than Chattanooga.


The carnage from long brick workouts is impressive.  Between the 8 water bottles, wrappers from consumed nutrition, sunscreen, multiple pairs of shoes, sunglasses, hat, helmet, cooler, bicycle, and recovery food, you literally need an SUV to contain it all.


Recovery has been taken to a whole different level this year.  I'm doing my best to take it very seriously, including a recovery shake within minutes after long efforts, ice baths, compression gear, hydration, stretching, yoga, etc.  I'd like to say that I'm getting tons of sleep, but an orthopedic surgery residency + training for an Ironman just is not a conducive combination for excess sleep.


Speaking of recovery, I'm doing plenty of eating!  One of the highlights from the past few weeks was dinner at Baku.  These pictures don't do justice to the volume of food that was brought to our table, but I can assure you, I think I consumed a couple days worth of calories in one meal.

Sushi and Sashimi Platter
Dessert - Creme Brûlée, Molten Chocolate Cake, Key Lime Pie,
Pineapple Bread Pudding, Sorbets, and Assorted Tropical Fruit
 
Labor Day weekend eats were nothing short of delicious, which is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to my parents cooking.  Sunday morning was pure laziness and we feasted on poached eggs over tomato, spinach, and ezekial english muffin.


Sunday night I made comfort food for the whole family - vegan lentil walnut "meatloaf", mashed potatoes with vegan mushroom gravy, and roasted green beans.  It was the perfect evening for dining al fresco and spending time relaxing and chatting.


It's hard to believe that this will be the next to last training update that I'll share with you prior to race day.  After that, it will be an Ironman Chattanooga race report!  Several of my training partners and friends raced Ironman Louisville a couple weeks ago and the excitement of their race day helped to propel me through these last two weeks of peak training.

Week 31
Swim: 10800 yards
Bike: 9 hours, including 114 miles of the Ironman Chattanooga course
Run: 16 miles
Total: 14 hours, 30 minutes

Week 32
Swim: 10875 yards, including 4000m non-stop in 1:02
Bike: 6 hours
Run: 31 miles, including 18 mile long run off the bike
Total: 13 hours, 40 minutes

Week 33
Swim: 10650 yards
Bike: 8 hours, including 85 mile hilly ride
Run: 26.5 miles
Total: 15 hours

Week 34:  Early week recovery
Swim: 7500 yards
Bike: 8 hours, 20 minutes (including 82 miles Saturday followed by an hour run and 40 miles Sunday) 
Run: 23 miles
Total: 14 hours

And now, it's taper time.  Hopefully over these next three weeks I can set a few less 4am alarm clocks, string together some 8-hour sleep stretches, find some fresher legs, and most importantly, get really excited about the final chapter of this journey.

T-MINUS 3 WEEKS UNTIL IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Dog's Life

For the past week, I've been a dog owner.  It's a temporary title, but I'm gladly serving as caretaker and servant to Bailey while her Mommy and Daddy are vacationing on the West coast.  In no time at all she has settled in and is keeping me on my toes with her every need.  I'll let you be the judge from these pictures, but I think she has a pretty fantastic life.

Evening playtime - the more toys the better!
It's a beautiful Sunday morning to spend on the deck soaking up the sun.
The first day that Bailey was here she disappeared while I was making dinner.  I went on the hunt and found her curled up on the guest bedroom bed.  I wonder if she smelled the scent of her Mom and Dad?
Taking one for the team and enjoying some lazy time so that "sissy" can recover
from her half-ironman
Somebody might just have looked far too comfortable on the bed to make her sleep in her crate.   
Mission "Lazy Weekend Morning".  Toasty warm underneath her blanket!
"Does Bailey want to go for a run?"
We covered 21 miles of squirrel-filled streets over 5 days.  
Striking a model-like pose during a walk through Freedom Park.
It takes some serious maintenance and hard work to be so picture perfect.
There are two lounge chairs on the deck, yet someone had to be right in the middle of my studying and presentation preparation. 
Run hard, play hard, sleep hard.
It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.
It's the best day of my life!
So far I'd say doggy summer camp has been a complete success and I have one very happy puppy!

It's now just 7 weeks until Ironman Chattanooga and training has been going well.  I was nervous about how my legs would respond to the increasing running mileage, but I've been feeling good for each of my runs and recovering much faster than I anticipated.  My left glute has still been sore, but persistent foam rolling, stretching, and icing has kept it manageable.

Week 29 - Light training leading up to Lake Logan Half Ironman
Swim: 7100 yards
Bike: 5 hours, 47 minutes
Run: 18.7 miles
Total: 11 hours, 7 minutes

Week 30 - A couple of post-race recovery days, then back to the grind
Swim: 11000 yards (including 2x2000 for time - 31:01, 31:06)
Bike: 7 hours (weekend rain forced me onto the trainer for 4 hours)
Run: 34 miles (including a 17 mile long run - a new PDR!)
Total: 15 hours

Next weekend I'll be in Chattanooga to ride and run the Ironman course.  It should be a great test of fitness as well as an opportunity to mentally prepare for race day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lake Logan Half Race Report


1.2 mile swim, 52 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

Highlights
Swim  26:58  (1:25 / 100m)
T1  3:16
Bike    2:46:27 (18.7 mph)
T2  1:37
Run     1:35:37  (7:39 / mi)
Finish Time   4:54:51
Placement: 5th overall female

Pre-Race: Earlier this week, I was doubtful that I'd be writing this race report.  After a bike crash at 24 Hours of Booty 1 week ago, I was left with a broken bike and a very sore left hip and knee.  While the soreness improved each day, getting my bike fixed was a different story.  I finally got my bike back with a new base bar Friday night.  My pre-race brick was done on a spin bike at the gym, a couple miles of running outside, and a couple laps around the block to make sure  my bike and race wheels were in working order.  Race morning came painfully early - 3am.  Fueled with tea, peanut butter toast, and a banana, I made the 2.5 hour drive to Canton, NC, just outside of Asheville.  Despite giving myself plenty of time, there was a very long line of barely moving cars entering the race area.  We were ushered into a field to park, and I was more than a mile back in the field before finally being directed to my parking spot.  At this point, it was 6:30am (the time they said packet pick-up would close) and I had to hustle with my tri bag and bike to transition.  This is where having a friend or family member to act as sherpa would really pay off!  I made a mad dash from packet pick-up, to chip pick-up, to body marking, and finally transition just as they were announcing that transition closed in 5 minutes.  Excellent!  Once all of my gear was organized (or so I thought - I left my sunglasses and visor in my bag) , I gave a quick spin to my wheels to ensure the brakes weren't rubbing, and then grabbed my wetsuit and made a mad dash towards the swim start.  

Swim: No sooner did I arrive at the swim start when they announced 4 minutes until the open wave would begin.  I dove into the water (a chilly 68 degrees) to get acclimated.  And before I knew it, the gun went off and I made a quick start towards clean water and the first bouy.  I remember a bit of contact during the first 100 meters, but after that I had clean water for nearly the entire course.  My left tricep starting cramping about mid-swim, and I'm still not sure why that happened.  I had arm warmers on under my wetsuit, so I can only imagine that had something to do with it.  The final couple hundred meters take you under a bridge and into the spring-fed stream that feeds the lake.  I had heard that the water temperature drops 10 degrees in this section, but I think it was more like 20 degrees.  It was freezing!  Fortunately that was a short section and then I was climbing out the ladder at the dock.  Before looking at my watch, I felt like I had an "average" swim for me, feeling a bit more tired than I would have liked for that distance and feeling as though I could have swam a straighter path in some sections.  Seeing 26+ minutes on my watch definitely put a smile on my face though!  My Garmin measured 1.1 miles, so perhaps it's a bit short, but I still managed a 4th fastest swim among women (out of 189) and 25th overall (out of 528).  


T1: As much as I enjoy a wetsuit legal swim, I hate the time that I waste in transition getting out of it.  There was a third-mile uphill run into transition that I used to get my wetsuit down to my waste, but I still had to sit down to get it off of my ankles.  The lack of body glide also didn't help matters.  The whole process just felt sluggish.
14th / 189

Bike: As I was putting on my helmet, I realized that my sunglasses were in my transition bag (put off to the side).  I was too frustrated to waste the time going to get them, but also nervous how my contacts would handle the wind on the bike.  Fortunately, I adjusted and it didn't cause too much trouble.  This was the first year for the half-iron distance race, but the bike course for the olympic race is advertised as mostly flat and fast.  The more accurate description would be fast for the first 20 miles and then killer for the remaining 32 miles.  I got off to a great start, was more comfortable in aero than I have in a while, and was loving seeing the 20+ mph splits.  Around mile 20, however, the long open road because twisting sections through town with turn after turn that negated any speed you had built.  Then we hit the hills (mountains might be a better description).  I had planned to ride the bike at my ironman watts, so I made a conscious effort to drop into my small ring and spin up the climbs.  I tried not to let the fact that I was being passed bother me, since others were literally mashing up the hills and likely placing a toll on their running legs.  I kept leapfrogging with one of my training partners on the climbs before she eventually pulled ahead.  The climb at mile 40 went on FOREVER!  I was thankful for my new 12-27 cassette and although crawling up the mountain, felt as though I was in a reasonable gear for a steady climb.  Hopefully there won't be anything quite as steep or long in Chattanooga.  I had the course at 3000 feet of elevation change in 52 miles.  Normalized power was 177 watts (higher than my planned Ironman wattage, but I think all of the climbing contributed to this).  I was reminded the critical importance of reigning in too much power on the bike though, because I was ready to be done those last few miles - which would have only been the half-way point in Chattanooga.  I truly do think my biking has improved this season, but it continues to be my weakness across the field, putting me 26th out of 189 women.


T2: This went much more smoothly than T1, although I was yet again missing something left in my bag - my visor.  Fortunately it was a mostly cloudy day with temperatures in the upper 60s, so it wasn't quite as necessary as it usually is.
4th / 189

Run: The course is two laps on an out and back road with a run past the finish line and through a field between each lap.  The 3 mile outbound leg is a stead 1-2% grade, with the return 3 miles being a well-deserved downhill.  Leaving transition I was feeling better than my last half, which I attribute to my better attention to nutrition and hydration on the bike.  My goal was to find a steady controlled pace for the first three miles, then "cruise" at a faster pace on the return leg.  The first few miles were 7:37, 7:56, 7:33 and then I followed that with 7:20, 7:24, 8:01.  It's always a frustrating feeling to run past the finish line (where the olympic distance racers were finishing) and being directed out into a grassy field to make yet another loop.  I was beginning to feel the fatigue in my legs at that point, and set my sights on 1.5 mile increments as I ran back uphill.  I walked for ~10 seconds at two aid stations, before making the turn around for the final 3 miles.  (8:10, 8:05, 7:56).  I was definitely hurting those last 3 miles, particularly my left hip which has been a problem and then irritated by my fall, but was determined to hang on to what felt like it would be my best ever half-marathon off a half-ironman bike.  My final 3 miles were 7:35, 7:28, 7:23, and for the first time all day, I changed the screen on my watch over to total time as I rounded the corner towards the finish line.  I had only been watching my individual mile splits, had no idea what my half marathon time was, but was shocked to see 4:54 on my watch as a crossed the finish line.  I later learned I had run a 1:35 half marathon, which is a PR for me at that distance, even in a stand-alone 13.1 miler.  It appears the course was short though.  My Garmin kept dropping signal throughout the run, so I suspect it was a bit longer than the 12.5 miles I measured.  I went into this race with the hope to have a strong run, and I was thrilled that I had finally accomplished that goal.  I had the 3rd fastest run among women and can't help but love the fact that only 37 of 340 guys ran faster than me!  "Bike for show, run for dough."



Post-Race: Immediately after I finished, I was hurting big time.  More than any race in a long time, my legs were instantaneously painful.  I walked around, stretched, and downed a recovery shake, before finally starting to feel a bit better.   For a while though, all I really wanted was to lie flat on my back, but I knew better than to give in to that.  The awards ceremony had yet to start for the olympic distance race, meaning that it would be at least a couple hours before the half awards.  I gathered some food and trekked back through the field to my car.  Despite the stunningly beautiful race venue and great day that I had, sitting in a giant traffic snarl for 1 HOUR without moving from the parking lot was beyond frustrating.  Without pointing fingers and calling out the idiots who were directing traffic, SetUp Events has some major work to do from a traffic flow standpoint before next year.



All in all, a successful day of racing, and a huge PR!  Even if I corrected the slightly short course to the full 70.3, I would have been roughly 5:10, which would still be a PR.

The next race report you read will be 140.6 miles - IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA in t-minus 8 weeks. Ahhh!