Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Big Easy Experience

When we pack our bags (and bikes!) and travel to races, it’s often for more than just the “race.” We, or at least I, seek an experience. I hope to get a taste of the local culture and see new and different cities/venues.  Well, the big easy was certainly a different experience (I’ll leave it at that)….so it shouldn’t of come as a surprise when we were thrown a few obstacles on race day.
I rolled into transition around 5:45. Body markers were not only there to slather us with ink, but to also “the swim has been canceled.” Disbelief. What? Seriously? But the wind is way less than yesterday.  Moments later, when the race director confirmed this, I started shaking. We were told it would be a duathlon, so we figured a 5k run to start the day instead of a swim.
 Video of the water race morning.
Then the news became a bit worse. They couldn’t set up a 5k run course, so no duathlon, just a bike-run. There was NOTHING I could do to change the situation. I had to “be an athlete about it” and deal with the adversity. I came to this race with 4 goals: 1) fastest amateur swim split; 2) fastest amateur bike split; 3) fastest amateur run split; 4) fastest amateur.  Goal one was dead. But 3 remained in play. During my bike racing days this winter I always wished the time trials I did this winter were longer, and here was my shot.
The pro start was orderly and spectator friendly. They announced each athlete to the line, and off they went -30 seconds apart. The amateur start on the other hand, a totally cluster-F.  By the time I walked towards the line I had been at the race for 3 hours-hunger was soon to be an issue. I enjoyed an additional Roctane GU and moved into the corral. I was hurdled like cattle towards the mount line. Every 3 sec. 2 athletes were shoved through.  I started towards the beginning of my wave. I wanted to start last (rather chase than be chased), but I was ready and sick of waiting. 

So….on to the race:
Bike:  The bike course is flat, with the exception of a few small bridges in the first and last 5 miles.  I couldn’t get around the mobs of people for about 2 miles. It was ridiculous. I went around a cone and got yelled at by an official. The road was packed. I stayed calm and just dealt with it. Within 5 miles I was able to finally get into my rhythm and speed. Time wasted, but other faster cyclists would have to deal with the same issue. Head down and race!  I settled into my quarq powered wattage plan. I felt great. My legs were cooperating even though I was worried I went into the race a bit tired.  The next 25miles were into a strong head wind. It hurt, but I was moving right along. I felt strong, and could feel the benefits of training with my new BFF: Quarq. Steady, steady, steady, strong strong strong.  Then, my power began to fade. NO!!! I wanted this, and if I could hold my power up I didn’t think there was anyone that could out bike me. Slipping, NO! GU, need more GU. Energy was back up. We made the turn around and I couldn’t wait for the tail wind. It was still hard. I was hurting. I focused on leg turn over and pushing the pace.
With 10miles to go I hit another slump. I needed something to get my engine going again. A guy, Carlos (no clue who he was, but I saw his bib and decided to act like this was my new training buddy), made a strong pass. I jumped out of my saddle and went with him. Power come back up, now! I remembered Chris telling me that opportunities would present itself- opportunities to race, opportunities to change my plan and go with it, opportunities to dig. I sat a solid distance behind him and zoned right in on his back. Power was back on. Up and over the last bridge.  I looked down and saw that I’d be close to the 2:30 mark. This was going to be a new bike PR. At this point all I wanted to do was make it back to transition without getting a flat. The roads were awful, with potholes galore. I rolled in and saw my computer still under 2:30. I was aiming for a bit faster, but with the wind…solid!
Run: Where the heck am I? This format of racing left you to wonder all day how you were doing in comparison. But, this was MY challenge. A race against myself. A race to build confidence, a race to challenge myself, a race to take risks. Here was my risk. Run- FAST! My plan was to start fast, settle in and find comfort at this uncomfortable pace, hold on for dear life.
I ran out of T2 (or was it T1 since we never had a T1??) moving pretty good. My pace was quick, but my legs didn’t feel all that stealer. Let’s just say my first two miles at 6:20 were already uncomfortable. I quickly reminded myself that last weekend I ran 11 miles averaging 6:30 pace (and this was after a very solid 4.5hr ride). I can do this.  Grrrrr, come on legs. I was back on. The run hurt from the beginning. 3 miles in I started looking to see if there were any age group women ahead of me.  I didn’t see any. This meant I passed them all on the bike. Yowsers. 6 miles in my feet were on fire. Still holding onto 6:30 pace. The road surface was less than par. I constantly had to focus on the ground to make sure you didn’t trip or land wrong. 8 miles in, I saw a girl behind me, close behind me. Oh no, was she always there. Did she start before or after me. Who cares, just run faster! Ouch! Coke, now. 9 miles in, only 4 to go. 2x2 miles. I was going to break 1:30 for the first time, but by how much. Could I hold onto this pace. My average was sliding up. Mile 8: 6:40. Ugh! I am fading. My feet were killing me and the surface was getting worse. Chip seal would of felt cushiony in comparison. Then we made a left turn and the head winds hit. The run was incredibly lonely. No one cheering, and it seemed like there weren’t many competitors even out there because of the point-to-point nature of the course. I was searching for anyone/anything to will me on. Nothing. Up to me. My pace slowed more into the head wind and I was-a-hurtin'. Mile 10-12 were closer to 6:50. Heck no, I want 6:30. I forced the pace back down. I actually threw my nutrition at the last aid station, threw my head down and just asked my body to suffer more. Right turn, head wind gone, whew. Sprint towards the finish. The announcer brought me through the line, announcing that I was the first amateur to cross the line. Dang, I passed all those studetts. But now I’d have to wait. Shortly after crossing Sarah came up to me. We compared splits and quickly knew she got me on the bike and I got her on the run (but not by enough). Man, the swim would of helped me ;-)
After the race I felt really empty. I felt like I didn’t get to put together the full race I wanted. I felt like something was taken from me. I know it sounds extreme, but I went to this race looking for something…looking to prove something to myself…looking to build confidence. It took a while, and a good nights sleep, but once I talked through the race with Chris I realized my goals were accomplished. I ran a great 13.1 miles on pretty tired, untapered legs. My power output on the bike was strong and I executed my race plan. Oh, and I even made my way to bourbon street before nights end.
Congrats to Uli on an awesome race amongst a stacked pro field!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

All dressed up with no where to go...

Yesterdays workouts were smashing! My day started with a solo 2hour trail run, all in zone 2 heart rate. As the run went on I felt better and better and better. I never felt like I was working, and my hr confirmed just that. 16 miles later it was time to quickly fuel so I could get to the pool for the masters workout. Wednesdays are usually long/endurance free sets, which fit perfect into my need for a 5,000+ yd swim workout. Make that 5,700yds! And I felt amazing. This was by far my best swim workout to date. I've been working on a few technique changes and I feel like it's finally producing results. All in all it was a killer morning.
Today was suppose to be another hard one: a shorter swim, good effort bike, and a long transition run with plenty of speed work. I was up by 5a.m. Felt tired, but well-it was 5a.m. so nothing out of the ordinary. My legs felt great, but I'm pretty sure I slept through my swim workout. The change in weather didn't help either. Cold, rain, and crazy winds. I tried to venture outside, only to nearly get blown off my bike and into a swamp. That wouldn't of been pretty!
 I got off the bike and texted Chris. "Power low, legs feel great, just lacking energy." He responded with one word: "Rest!" Suddenly the decision to cut workouts short, move things around (I won't get away with not doing this long hard t-run as it's already been added on for another day this week), and listen to my body is becoming easier.I can honestly say that if I wasn't training with power I wouldn't realized how off the mark I was. My heart rate was fine for the ride I was suppose to do, but my power was way down. This confirmed what my mind was telling me, and allowed me to properly access things!
So my shoes were laced up, but for today have no where to go...
It isn't always about how hard we can push it, or how long we can sustain...sometimes it's about being SMART!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Power Training

 Over the last 2.5 weeks Quarq power training has become a staple in my daily routine (ok almost daily, last week I had one day off the bike). Right now Chris has me in learning mode...and I'm anxiously soaking it all in.
The first thing I realized was how much of my training time was spent either in zone 1 or zone 3+. When I go easy, I go very easy. When I go hard, I go very hard. This seems fine and dandy, except that ironman training is all about teaching ourselves to settle in and hold high zone 2/low zone 3... with the ability to surge into the higher efforts when necessary, only to quickly settle back into that z2/lowz3.
So things are-a-changing. Here are a few changes I've experienced since incorporating power into my training:
1) Zone 2 is my friend, so it's time to hang out a bit and get comfy in it's presence. I spend a lot more time in that zone 2 power and heart rate.
2) Heart rate takes forever to catch up to power...power is instant, and can change with each stroke. Power doesn't lie!
3) It will take work to get my power output to settle into a constant output and hold it. (Sometimes watching my power number jump up and down 20 beats makes me wonder if one leg is working while the other is along for the ride).
4) Climbing a hill in z2/3 is not easy. Sometimes I watch granny's go by and have to remind myself: "All good, I'm building power."
5) Going downhill in z2 is not easy. I've learned to work the downhills.
6) After a year of jumping on group rides, or with whichever friend was riding the longest on any given day, I've spent a lot more time focusing on me and adhering to my set workout goals. It feels good.
7) Within just 2 weeks I can feel the difference in my power output. I'm more consistent and my pedal stroke is much smoother with fewer breaks in the stroke. I'm already a believer.
8) My average pace for the same rides I've been doing on a consistent basis is up 1.5-2mph. This isn't necessarily because I'm going harder. It's because I'm riding more consistent. No spinny spin spin. I settle in, hold the pace and go. Every minute I'm on the bike is work...and my legs feel it when I'm done.
9) Checking out my power readings makes it a lot easier to truly measure my level of fatigue.
10) Although this training is more focused and precise, I'm still taking plenty of time to enjoy the views! Here's a few shots from Double peak...after a painful -but very fun - hill repeat workout.

Training with power has been an exciting change...just one of the many since starting with Chris!  I'm all in. I listen, respond, perform and respect the knowledge he shares.  This is already helping me gain confidence and know that my goals are well within my reach. And when my mind waivers he's been there to get me back on track. Our vision might require patience, and hard work...but I'm all in!!! and ready for the ride :)