Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ups and Downs

The past couple of weeks have been a mix of ups and downs - all seemingly stemming from increased training volume.  Let's start with the good stuff.  Royce and Erin came to visit last weekend and we had a great few days of sibling time.  Royce had an appointment with a customer just outside the Charlotte area, making my place a perfect hotel.  Check out my handsome little brother and his beautiful bride!  He cleans up pretty well when business demands it.

Friday afternoon we grabbed lunch from Laurel Market and spent the afternoon at McDowell Nature Preserve along the banks of Lake Wylie.  We all agreed that Laurel Market makes the absolute best sandwiches.  It was an oddly cool afternoon and between wind, overcast skies, and threats of rain we were actually chilled along the water.


The three of us + Kahlua set out on a hike after lunch, covering a few miles of trails.  Kahlua kept close watch on the water, but was never let off her leash to avoid having a very wet and muddy dog on our hands.

A lazy late afternoon was enjoyed by all, complete with long naps and lounging on the back deck.  That night we had a fantastic dinner at 300 East.  My picks from their restaurant week menu included a salad with port wine soaked cherries and goat cheese, miso-glazed salmon with brown rice and sautéed spinach, and goat cheese panna cotta.

Speaking of food, here's what I've been been eating over the past few weeks.

Veggie Burgers, Grilled Corn-On-The-Cob, Potato Salad
Caramel Latte from Not Just Coffee
My bribe and recovery after a 14 mile Saturday morning run.
Tofu-Lentil Stir-Fry, Kale Chips, Grilled Flatbread
Breakfast for Dinner
Veggie-filled Omelet and Cherries
I've been addicted to tomato sandwiches, especially on a new loaf of Hummus Bread from Great Harvest.  The combination of toasted fresh bread, home-grown tomatoes, and a homemade basil pesto makes for a simple and delicious meal.  One night I added a fried egg for an extra protein boost.

Sweet Chili Salmon, Turnips Two Ways (roasted and mashed), Sautéed Zucchini and Onion
Let's talk about training for a moment.  With t-minus 63 days remaining until I tow the starting line at Ironman Chattanooga, training has understandably increased in volume.  I was handling it well until suddenly I wasn't.  Two weeks ago I was ready to throw in the towel and forget about Ironman.  I was simultaneously feeling overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and generally frustrated with the feeling that I was always two steps behind.  In general, I excel with multi-tasking and thrive when I'm the busiest, but there is nothing easy about the weekly combination of 15+ hours of swim/bike/run, prep and recovery from workouts, 60-80 hours of work, reading and preparing for cases/conferences, eating, and sleeping.

It took me a few days to regroup and get my head back in the game, but I'm back and recommitted to the next 2 months of of training.  This quote was posted on an Ironman Chattanooga Facebook page juts as I was struggling, and it resonates strongly.  

Speaking of mental toughness, I needed every ounce possible to survive four hours on the trainer on a rainy Saturday morning.  4 x (45 minutes @80% FTP, 15 minutes @ 90% FTP) without recovery between sets was a test of my sanity and commitment.  Despite pouring a disgusting volume of sweat and being bored out of my mind, I completed the workout as prescribed.

24 Hours of Booty kicked off last night, and I've been looking forward to this weekend for many months.  It's a national event to raise money for cancer research and also provides a large contribution to our hospital's cancer center.  From Friday at 7pm to Saturday at 7pm, cyclists ride endless circles around the "Booty Loop," a 2.84 mile route through Myers Park.  My plan was to ride a few laps on Friday night and then wake-up really early on Saturday to knock out 100 miles.  Friday night's weather was perfect and the opening ceremonies were heart-wrenching and inspiring.  I rode 25 miles with my teammates and then opted for some sleep.

This morning I left the house at 4:45am and rode the short distance from my house to the Booty Loop to begin my 100 mile ride.  Riding in the pitch darkness with only flashing bike lights to illuminate the road was awesome and definitely my favorite hour of the day.  Aside from the boredom of riding in circles, the ride went really good.  My new favorite riding fuel is fresh Great Harvest bread smothered with nutella or crunchy peanut butter and jelly.  That, combined with a cup of Peet's coffee at the half-way point really energized me.

At the 85 mile mark, I made one last quick stop into "Bootyville" for a gel and water to fuel the last 15 miles and prepare me for my 8 mile run to follow.  Just as I was headed back out onto the course, I crossed a speed bump (the same one I had crossed multiple times earlier in the day), heard a loud crack, and was instantly crashing onto my left side.  My Felt Bayonet base bar snapped completely in half on the left side, obviously some sort of manufacturing defect.

The costs of the crash are a bruised hip (the same hip that has already been bugging me), a sore knee, and road rash on my leg.  Right now, I'm frustrated that it had to happen just one week before a key race.  However, I'm also really thankful that it wasn't any worse.  I can only imaging how terrible it could have been if it had happened while I was up to speed in aero position.  Now I'm just hoping Felt will warranty their faulty product.

So at that point, riding the remaining 15 miles wasn't much of an option.  Instead, I very gingerly rode the 1.5 miles back home while balancing on a single handlebar.  Remember that 8 mile brick run that was on the schedule to follow my ride?  Despite soreness and blood dripping down my leg, I sucked it up and knocked out a solid 5+ miles (cutting it short to avoid making the injury any worse).

In total between Friday and Saturday I rode 110 miles, all in the name of cancer.  If you're interesting in contributing to my fundraising effort, here's my page where you can make an online donation.

Last, but not least, I present to you the official training update.  

Week 26
Swim: 10500 yards
Bike: 4 hours, 50 minutes (no long ride due to working all weekend)
Run: 20 miles (including a 14 mile long run)
Total: 11 hours, 45 minutes

Week 27 - This was the week of struggle that I discussed.  For the first time since I started Ironman training, I intentionally skipped a workout.
Swim: 10800 yards (including 4 x 1000m at 1:30/100 pace)
Bike: 10 hours, 30 minutes (including the dreaded 4-hour trainer ride and a long brick)
Run: 18.2 miles (skipped one run and cut my 15 mile run short due to work)
Total: 16 hours

Week 28 - Regained my focus and knocked out some quality training.
Swim: 9600 yards
Bike: 7 hours, 50 minutes (including 110 miles at 24 Hours of Booty)
Run: 30 miles
Total: 14 hours, 45 minutes

All I have to do is get through a swim workout tomorrow (2 x 2000 yards for time) and then it's taper time!  My mind and body are definitely in need of some recovery.  Next weekend I'll be racing a half-ironman at Lake Logan!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Two Weekends In Atlanta

Grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable, because I have a three week absence to catch you up on.   The first week was the usual trauma drama - early mornings, late nights, and generally miserable.  To mark the conclusion of trauma as well as to race the Allatoona Triathlon, I made a trip back to Atlanta for the weekend.  After a frustrating drive and abundant traffic, it took me no more than 10 minutes to go from pulling in the driveway to being passed out in bed.

Saturday Lunch - homemade pizza, thai noodle salad, cucumber salad, and a juicy peach
Saturday I woke up feeling rested and ready to soak up a couple days at home.  The morning started with a trip to the farmers market, run with Dad, and a short bike ride with my new aero wheels.  Dad and Mom recently finished creating my favorite new part of the house - the underdeck.  Even on a hot summer day, you can relax in an adirondack chair and feel as though it is spring or early fall.  Bailey and I spent the entire rest of the day lounging and napping in our favorite spot.

Dinner was an excellent grilling meal that consisted of marinated tofu steaks, sweet potato wedges, and farmer's market zucchini and squash.  There are few better meals than a grilled summer plate finished with cold and sweet watermelon.

After dinner I put the final touches on my bike in preparation for the Allatoona Triathlon the following morning.  I was anxious to put the new wheels and helmet to the test.  Check out my race report for all of the race details.

In just a blink of an eye it was Sunday afternoon, and after a family morning at the race and lunch at Pure Cantina, I was back on the road to Charlotte for a short holiday week.  One night I stopped by Earth Fare for a salad bar dinner and paired it with toast and a homemade basil pesto from my garden.

The day before Independence Day, I was back in the car for what turned into a dreadful drive home, complete with a nearly 5.5 hour commute that forced me to miss my scheduled dentist appointment.  Friday the whole family ran the Peachtree Road Race (check out my race report!) and had tons of fun kicking off the 4th of July with our annual tradition.

Later that afternoon, we had a family cookout to celebrate the 4th.  It was a meal prepared by the whole family, including BBQ pork, kale and carrot salad, potato salad, peaches and mixed greens, and herb rolls.  Dessert was blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  Our stomachs were very happy!

Bailey soaked up plenty of attention over the course of the weekend, including some active time with a Sunday morning run, as well as moments of pure laziness.  She also served as a source of laughter in her Benadryl-induced state to subdue her terror of fireworks.

Corn hole was our evening entertainment prior to darkness.  Even Grandpa and Grandma got in on the action.  Ultimately, Royce and Erin proved victors.

Family pictures commenced as the sun began to set.  The weather was absolute perfection and we commented multiple times over the course of the weekend that you couldn't have asked for more comfortable temperatures and low humidity in July.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early for a long bike ride.  It didn't exactly turn out as planned when I arrived to find a group that was very obviously planning a much more aggressive ride than I had in mind.   I still managed to get in the miles, but it was far hillier and with much greater variability in power than I anticipated.  I was supposed to run 4 miles off the bike, but was really sore after racing the day before and opted to skip that.

Sunday morning brought a long awaited and highly anticipated "sleep-in" morning.  I can't even begin to remember the last day that I wasn't awake at 3am for a pre-trauma workout, 4:30am to swim, or 6am to squeeze in a weekend workout prior to the scorching heat.  I slept until 8am and it was glorious!  To make the morning even better, I enjoyed a cup of tea while lounging on the couch and was then presented with an incredible breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls (amazing!!), scrambled eggs, and fruit.  Eventually I did make it out the door for my 12 mile run, but the laziness was much appreciated.

Ultimately the wonderful 4th of July weekend came to an end and I was back on I-85 headed toward Charlotte.  The drive is painful and nothing I look forward to, but escaping to Atlanta and spending wonderful time with family will always be worth it.  Hopefully in just two short years I'll be living back in Atlanta and the drives will be only a memory.

As of today, there are only 79 days until Ironman Chattanooga.  Suddenly it's getting very real!  I can only imagine how much my anticipation will continue to grow over the upcoming weeks.  Here the training update -

Week 23 - A good week with some good quality training
Swim: 12500 yards
Bike: 8 hrs, 10 minutes (including a 74 mile long ride with 3400 ft elevation gain)
Run: 18.5 miles
Total: 14 hrs, 30 minutes

Week 24 - Work was a nightmare and training suffered.  Allatoona Triathlon on Sunday.
Swim: 3500 yards
Bike: 4 hours, 25 minutes
Run: 14.1 miles
Total: 7 hours, 30 minutes

Week 25 - Gradual return to regular training now that I'm off the trauma service.
Swim: 6400 yards (only 2 swims due to the holiday weekend)
Bike: 6 hours (including a tough 52 mile ride with 3700 ft elevation gain on trashed legs post-Peachtree)
Run:  29.2 miles (including the Peachtree Road Race and a "mental toughness" 12 mile run)
Total: 12 hours, 10 minutes

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Allatoona Triathlon + Peachtree Road Race

Swim - 9:27
Bike - 47:23
Run - 22:24
Finish Time - 1:20:36
Placement: 3rd W30-34

Pre-Race:  Racing a sprint-distance event may seem a bit odd given my focus on long-course racing this season, but the combination of being close to home and sponsored and managed by PT Solutions made this a natural choice for an otherwise quiet June race calendar.  Plus, "Two Dudes and a Chick" were reunited as a relay triathlon team, so it became a family affair.  I dragged home late on Friday night after work with a massive sleep deficit and wanting nothing more than to sleep.  Fortunately, I was a much happier person after a great night's sleep, and even happier after having my new set of Flo Cycling racing wheels installed on my Felt B12.  Smoking hot if I say so myself!

Swim - I've been spoiled with early swim starts this season thanks to an elite wave, but with this local race the women started after a few hundred men.  There were a few women who got out to a faster start than I, but I settled into clean water and had a fairly uneventful swim.  Just to add some fun, there was the joys of staring into the sun after making the first turn and swimming into men from earlier waves doing the doggy paddle.  The distance felt long, and I was less than pleased with a 9:27 swim split, yet I can't say it felt like a slow swim.  (1:54/100m)

T1:  It was a very short run from the water and into transition.  I elected to skip socks since the run was so short, which helped to speed my transition.  (0:47)

Bike: As soon as I started riding, I immediately noticed a high-pitched noise coming from what I thought was my rear wheel.  At first I was thinking it was simply the sound from the new aero wheels, but I quickly came to realize something wasn't right.  I finally stopped at the 2 mile marked and got off my bike, only to discover that rather than my rear wheel, it was the front brake pad that was rubbing.  I have no idea how much time I lost due to the added resistance and stop, but I was definitely frustrated and felt like I had instantly lost any chance of an overall podium.  Oh, and my water bottle popped out within the first mile, so no water on the bike.  I targeted my anger and focused on a strong and consistent bike and a course with rolling hills.  I have nothing but great things to say about my Flo 60/80 wheel combination and certainly loved their smooth and fast ride.   (20.3 mph)

T2: Another quick run - in and out fairly efficiently.  (0:37)

Run:  Here's where sleep deprivation and leg fatigue began to set in.  Exiting transition, you run a loop with a fairly steep uphill climb followed by a downhill section.  Running hills has never been my strength, but I struggled more than usual today.  The entire 3.1 miles was essentially rolling hills and I wanted nothing more than to be done running.  As I entered the finishing shoot, I was reminded of just how much pain "a short little triathlon" can inflict.  (7:13/mi)

Post-Race:  Racing at home with friends and family alongside makes for a great day regardless of a slightly disappointing personal race.  For what I thought was going to be a small local race, a field of 500+ and some really fast ladies brought a challenge.  "Two Dudes and a Chick" had a strong race and took 3rd place among the relay teams and I was 3rd age-group.  After a lengthy walk from the finish back to transition and packing up our gear, we gathered for a quick massage and awards prior to calling it a day.

Placement: 249 / 28692 women
                    1683 / 57170 overall

Fourth of July in our family is defined by the Peachtree Road Race.  This was our 10th year in a row participating in the 6.2 mile party on Peachtree Street (although I missed a couple years due to work and injuries).   We have our pre-race strategy down to a science, with a parking space near the Marta station at the finish, a short ride on Marta to the start, and just enough time to relax prior to herding into our respective corrals.  The weather was absolutely perfect - clear blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60s.  Corral A seemed to be less crowded than in years past and just a short time after the official start I was crossing the start line.  

In years past, I've been conservative in the first three miles, saving energy for the much more challenging second half.  However, year after year I am consistently disappointed with my result.  This year I changed my plan and went out hard from the start.  My legs were feeling good the first 5k and I was pleased with my splits - 7:02, 6:42, 6:45.  Then the hills of Peachtree began and my heart rate was already in the 180s.  The hills hurt just the same as they always do, but I tried to focus on my stride and running form rather than distance or pace.  My pace dropped over the second 5k - 7:36, 7:35, 7:30, but I was able to rally for a strong finish (6:25 pace for the final quarter mile).

My goal was sub-45 (a Peachtree PR), so in that respect, I was pleased.  Unfortunately, I have still yet to break into the top 1000 runners and obtain that coveted award.  After a stroll through Piedmont Park, I took a recovery jog back towards the start to catch up with my parents, who had started in Corral L.  I found them near mile 3 and proceeded to run/walk with them for their final miles.  Royce finished with a PR of 50 minutes, and Erin had a great race as well.  We refueled with fresh peaches, Mellow Mushroom pizza, and our annual 9am 4th of July ice cream sandwich, prior to making the trek towards the car.  In total, I accumulated just shy of 13 miles for the day, and later found myself to be ridiculously sore.

If you live in the Atlanta area, or even if you don't, I'd encourage you to sign up for the Peachtree Road Race lottery and join us for this fantastic event in July 2015.  The Perkins Family will certainly be there!