August 31, 2009

August - All About the Bike

If focusing on your limiter is the way to go, then August should be considered a big success for me. I logged my biggest month ever on the bike, wrapping up with 824.76 miles over 54:37:28. I only logged 845.96 miles in all of 2008. Things have definitely changed.

I had a moment yesterday on my final ride where I realized my preference may be shifting from running to biking. Some of this may be influenced by my injury and the fact that running caused it, but some is from having had the chance to get over my crash, stretch beyond my comfort zone and rediscover why I ever started biking in the first place. We did yesterday's ride late in the day and everything was different. The light was especially striking and I can't remember a time I've felt more at peace. I have a healthy fear of crashing and respect that biking can be a dangerous sport, but I'm no longer afraid.

I'm thinking of dropping out of my fall marathon just days after I signed up for it so I can focus on recovery and get back on my bike and work to improve before next season. It's taken me more than six years to get here, but I finally feel ready to try.

My foot was feeling about 90% this morning and I'm much more optimistic for the race. I started taper today with rest and another ART session which has already helped even more. I'm hoping I'll be able to test the foot with a jog by mid-week, but am more than happy to reserve any real running for race day. I'll have 26.2 miles to figure it all out.

August 30, 2009

That's All Folks

Today was my final long ride in Ironman training, marking the end of a seven-month journey. I still have light training to do, but am officially in taper so my life is about to drastically change. I'll be able to sleep until 7, stop carrying a huge bag of training gear everywhere I go and have one weekend where I won't be on my bike for endless hours.

So how do I feel about it? I'm experiencing mixed emotions. I wanted to arrive at taper looking forward to resting and recharging, but instead I've arrived battling an injury that could crush my Ironman dream. I've babied my foot and seen dramatic improvement since Friday, but if the race were tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to do it. I am thankful I have two weeks to keep on the path to recovery and I'm trying to stay optimistic. On the flip side, I'm incredibly proud of what I've accomplished. When I set out to do this I promised myself I'd give it everything I had and I did. I have no regrets and even surprised myself with the level of commitment I made. It has been incredibly rewarding.

I spent the weekend riding on Long Island with a friend so it made it feel less like work and took my mind off the challenges. I wasn't feeling 100%, particularly on Saturday, but I definitely felt good and don't feel I've lost any fitness. My foot was relatively pain free today and I was able to take some normal steps with my heel on the ground. I'm hoping to continue seeing improvement each morning.

I'm not sure what I'll do with all this free time. Maybe I'll embrace it and get the rest my mind and body desperately need. Or maybe I'll settle into taper madness by Wednesday and wish I had a six-hour ride on the schedule. It should be interesting to see how things go.

Biking (Saturday)
Distance - 32.41
Time - 2:07:48

Biking (Sunday)
Distance - 71.28
Time - 4:38:27

August 28, 2009

Focused on Recovery

Similar to the way I approach most things in life, I'm aggressively working toward recovery from this poorly timed injury. I woke up feeling much the same and decided to try to see a podiatrist. One had been highly recommended by my ART therapist. He is an Ironman himself and has treated many others with this same injury right before a race. The catch was that he was leaving tonight for Colorado so I didn't bother to call until noon and even then, it was to get a referral. But to my surprise, he said he would fit me in so I jumped on the train and got there as quickly as possible.

He confirmed it is acute plantar fasciitis, not at all uncommon and not the end of the world. He was really confident I would be in good shape for the race. He injected my foot with cortisone, gave me a night splint, put me on crutches and wrote me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory. He agreed with my coach that I can bike as usual and just said to baby the foot for a few days and let it heal.

I'm feeling a little more optimistic, but can't chase away the voice in the back of my mind that keeps saying "DNF." I've never had a DNF and if my first is at my first Ironman, I'll be destroyed. But I'll be even more destroyed if I don't try. So I'd rather try and fail than wonder what may have been.

I biked 1.5 hours today and felt good. I swam yesterday and biked for an hour, so I'm doing just enough to keep things going, but I'm also taking it easy. If the hurricane doesn't ruin the day tomorrow, it will be my final long ride before the race.

August 27, 2009

Unfortunate Twist of Fate

I woke up this morning and everything changed. Just 17 days from my Ironman, a nagging injury I've been battling for over 1.5 years came back in a huge way. I was unable to put any weight on my left foot due to severe plantar fasciitis pain. Walking was nearly impossible and completing an Ironman seemed unfathomable.

I spent every moment of free time looking for solutions. The last time my PF became acute I ended up taking a four-month break from running. Since I need to be able to run a marathon in a little over two weeks, I don't have the luxury of time. I had an ART session, which helped tremendously, but unfortunately the relief only lasted a couple hours. I iced whenever possible and took a high dose of ibuprofen. I talked to my coach and ART therapist about what to do right now to make this better. I stopped and bought a Strassburg Sock on the way home. And I got the name of a podiatrist to inject my foot with cortisone as an absolute last resort.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't emotionally crushed and disappointed. I spent the better part of the day fighting back tears and finally lost that battle somewhere around Wall Street while on my train ride home. I'm trying not to dwell on the negativity, but rather focus my energy on what I can do to get better and make it to the start on September 13. But I also need to be allowed to be upset. I have trained for nearly 30 weeks and was on track for what should have been a great race. Now I'm wondering if I can even finish.

The good news is that I was able to run 15 miles on this yesterday relatively pain-free. If I am incredibly careful and aggressive in the treatment I have a strong chance of being able to race somewhat normally. I need to be prepared for severe pain and discomfort but I know I can handle that. On the flip side, a few days off running and focus on the treatments might get me back on track. Only time will tell.

August 26, 2009


Ironman training is a bit of a numbers game. Progress and effort are measured in miles, meters, yards, beats per minute, calories, average speed, pace, watts, pounds, body fat percent, and hours per week. Now that I'm just a few precious days from taper, I thought I'd take a look back at some of the numbers that have gotten me where I am today.

Swim: 45 hours; 35 minutes; 15 seconds - 141,699.1 yards
Bike: 179 hours; 24 minutes; 12 seconds - 2,514.64 miles
Run: 96 hours; 16 minutes; 36 seconds - 641.45 miles

100+ mile rides: 6
13+ mile runs: 16

Bike Miles in August: 692.32 so far

Average Hours Per Week: 8-12 normal weeks; 20-28 peak weeks

This is just a snapshot of my experience over the last 29 weeks. I still have some big training before I start my taper on Monday, but it's a good time to reflect on everything I've done so far. A blogger friend I follow said this in his most recent post:

Regardless of what happens on Race Day - and a lot of crazy things can happen on Race Day - the fact that we've all gotten to this point in one piece is something that no one can ever take away from you. All those early mornings. The sweat in your eyes. The rain on your sunglasses. The skinned knees. The bee stings. All of that "hay" is in the barn because you moved it there. And that, by itself, is reason to celebrate. Take a minute to do just that. You deserve it.

It reminded me to be proud of my accomplishments and remember to celebrate. This is, after all, a hobby. Something I do for fun. It's been the most challenging, rewarding, frustrating, humbling and fun experience of my life.

My plantar fasciitis caused some issues today but I was able to deal with it and get in a solid day of training. I have an ART session tomorrow morning and am hoping a little work and some patience will get me to the starting line in good condition. I took an unplanned rest day yesterday to enjoy a little non-tri life. I have no regrets. I need to be able to wake up on September 14 and feel good about the choices I've made, including all the things I had to sacrifice to fit the training in. I'll never truly know if I've done enough, but I know I gave it my all and that is the most important thing.

Distance - 25 miles
Time - 1:35:00

Distance - 15 miles
Time - 2:23:54

August 24, 2009

Finally Ready

I did something over the last few days that I rarely do. I disconnected myself from pretty much everything - this blog, my training log, email - and balanced a huge volume of training with some much needed down time. It felt really good to take a step back and enjoy my hardest training weekend yet as though it was something I do for fun, rather than something I have to do to survive the race.

After the most mind-numbing ride you could imagine on Friday, 50 miles done on a 3.34 mile park loop, I drove upstate to Saratoga for the weekend. A friend generously invited me to stay at his place and offered to do much of my long ride with me. The minute I arrived I felt relaxed. I have loved getting out of NYC for training this summer. The forecast was less than ideal but we somehow got lucky and had two mostly rain-free days for riding.

My big day was Saturday, by far the longest training session I've ever done and the hardest brick on my entire schedule. I biked 116 miles over relatively challenging terrain, then ran 10 miles. My friend rode 74 miles with me so it barely felt like work. The last time a ride felt this way was back in June in Wisconsin. I wish I'd had more of that in my training. I pushed a fast pace on the 10 mile run, averaging 8:39 per mile. I'm not aiming for anything remotely this fast on race day, but I needed to see what I was capable of after such a long ride. When I finished this nine hours of training, I finally felt ready. I remember back in Lake Placid having that moment of clarity where I knew I could do the Ironman, but I wasn't even remotely ready. Now I am, with 20 days to spare.

Sunday was a perfect recovery day. I slept in while it rained and then did a 46 mile ride at a slow pace. It was really just for fun and while it was challenging due to fatigue, I had a great time. The rest of the day was all about relaxing and fun. I can't remember having this much free time in recent months. It was the perfect day.

I'm tired from the high volume, but I know my body is ready for this race. I can't control what the day will bring but I can be sure I'm ready to get to the start and give it everything I have. If that turns out to be enough, I should be in for the most memorable day of my life.

Biking (Friday)
Distance - 50.03
Time - 2:54:00

Running (Friday)
Distance - 3 miles
Time - 26:43

Biking (Saturday)
Distance - 116.48
Time - 7:24:31

Running (Saturday)
Distance - 10 miles
Time - 1:26:28

Biking (Sunday)
Distance - 46.37
Time - 3:12:38

August 20, 2009


I had an option to make up the missed bike time from Tuesday. I didn't have to, but if I felt up to it and had the time it would have been a solid choice. But at 6:15 p.m. as I walked to the subway, I decided to book a massage instead and was on the table by 6:30 for 80 painful but 0h-so-necessary minutes. A great alternative to 90 minutes on the bike in my opinion.

Massage is the ultimate indicator of just how beat up you are. My back felt fine, for example, but there were some unbelievable surprises lurking. I have never been so tight before, and my back is usually a mess. I asked for extra time on my feet and calves in hopes of alleviating some of my plantar fascia discomfort. While it was mostly painful, there were moments I've never been more relaxed. I really needed it so it turned out to be the best choice.

I did a short, speed focused swim this morning. Attempting to be fast in the water is so unnatural to me and is always a huge challenge. And sadly my "fast" is another person's warm up. I started out feeling somewhat energetic but lost a second or two on each set as I progressed. No big deal. It felt good to do something besides enormous distance for once.

I ran out of time today for all the things I wanted and needed to do. I am about two hours past my target bed time, but such is life. I'm squeezing in a medium ride early in the morning followed by a short, easy run, then I'm driving up to Saratoga for the weekend where I'll do my longest brick ever and the final big workout in my Ironman training.

Distance - 2,000 yards
Time - 36:21

August 19, 2009

A Dream Marathon

After years of distance running and a handful of marathons I found myself growing bored with the sport and needing a new challenge. The Ironman seed was planted, but I had the little hurdle of not knowing how to swim to get over. Then I had my bike crash, and with it came the long physical and mental recovery. Every bit of bike fitness I'd gained was gone along with my enjoyment of the sport. I fought my way back this season, all along trying to figure out how to improve my limiters - the swim and bike. I barely thought about the run, I knew I'd be able to do it as long as I trained. But I think I always assumed I'd try to have a faster bike and end up doing a survival shuffle at some point in the 26.2 miles. However, this past week and the process of laying out goals made me realize that my Ironman will be all about the run. In order for me to have the race I really want, I'm going to need to run a dream marathon. So the sport I'd grown bored with may just be the one that makes September 13 the perfect day for me.

I did my last really long run today. I covered 20 miles at a pace much better than Friday's 19 mile run. It was just as hot and humid so I started earlier and I decided to keep the pace easy and just get through it. I mentally broke it up into four sets of five miles to make it more manageable, and I vowed there would be no stopping this time. No laying on park benches regardless of how bad I felt. But then I ended up feeling good. I tried to keep my RPE consistent throughout, whether I was on a flat, uphill, in the sun or in the shade. I just adjusted my pace accordingly and had some miles slower than others, but in the end I remained pretty consistent. It felt easy. I fell into a “run forever” pace and wasn’t feeling any pain until mile 18, and even then it was minimal. It was by far the most comfortable 20 miler I've ever done. I have no idea why it was so drastically different from Friday. All I know is I desperately needed it and given the run is now my primary focus for race day, it was that much more rewarding.

Central Park was surreal. The massive storm overnight had torn it apart. There was debris everywhere and huge trees down, closing sections of the loop and bridle path. It forced me to weave around and keep varying my course, which I think made the miles fly by.

I followed the run with my biggest swim yet – 4,500 meters, which is over 4,900 yards or 2.79 miles. I was a little intimidated going in, particularly after such a big run. But it felt great and I swam really strong. I only swim in this particular pool occasionally and I swear I’m always faster there. It’s as though it has a current. It’s a little longer so the ping-pong effect is lessened, but otherwise it’s the same as my usual pool. I was in the water for what felt like forever. I was so shriveled when I got out and took about two hours to fully dry out. I covered the distance, which is longer than the Ironman distance, right on the high end of my race goal. If I can pull that off on race day I’ll be thrilled.

Distance – 20 miles
Time – 3:10:51

Distance – 4,921 yards (4,500 meters)
Time – 1:33:13

August 18, 2009

Goals and Reality

I finally started putting my Ironman goals on paper and had the first talk with my coach about them. Going through this process really got me thinking about how my goals will match up with reality on race day, making this all so much more real. It's no longer a lofty achievement I've been dreaming about for over a year. Instead it's something I've dedicated eight months of my life to and has been elevated to a status of importance unrivaled by anything else.

The Ironman is something I never fathomed I could physically do until I decided I had to do it. At first it was a total numbers game. I calculated what it would take to make the cut offs and cross the finish line. Then I started wondering if I could do more, so I crunched the numbers again and began imagining better finish scenarios. Finally the training took over and the goals took a backseat while I put everything I had into making myself stronger, more capable and more prepared to tackle this challenge. I learned a lot about myself along the way and to say I've changed is a massive understatement. I'll never be the same again, regardless of what happens on September 13.

I had another minor setback today when I missed a bike session. How important is that when I'm less than a month from the race? I really don't know, but I know it stressed me out. I obsessed over it for an hour before grounding myself back into reality - I'm just an ordinary person trying to do something extraordinary, and ordinary life gets in the way. People keep telling me the fitness is in the bank, the hay is in the barn, that I'm not gaining anymore, but rather maintaining what I have and starting the recovery for race day. That may be true, but it's hard to wipe the doubts from my mind sometimes and I think that's normal. A blogger friend I follow daily said it beautifully in his post today. At least I know I'm not alone.

August 17, 2009

Compression Obsession

I realized I've been in some form of compression gear just about daily for the past month or so. My compression obsession started with tights worn the night before a big activity and then for a night or two after to help with recovery. Then I eased into occasionally hiding some form of compression under my clothes at work, usually calf sleeves but I've managed full tights a couple times. Eventually tights became my nightly attire and I can't think of a day recently when I wasn't in them. I even walk around in public in the calf sleeves during a big race weekend. I have different kinds with varying amounts of pressure ranging from mild to medical grade. While I've definitely suffered the inflammation effects of training, I have to wonder - is my compression obsession slightly over the top?

Let's take today as an example. I felt relatively normal this morning after sleeping in my light compression tights. My legs didn't reflect the beating they took yesterday at all. But after a day of heat, humidity, walking around the city and sitting at a desk, my ankles had diminished a bit and my feet felt like sausages. I weighed myself when I got home and sure enough, I was up more than two pounds since this morning and my fluid percent was through the roof. So I pulled out the big guns and shimmied into the medical grade tights, hoping I'll have rediscovered my ankles by morning.

If swelling is the only lingering side effect from huge training sessions, I'll take it. I've been mostly pain free and I feel pretty good overall. I just wonder if I'll have a hard time weaning myself off the compression when the race is over. I'll need to rediscover loose-fitting clothing and PJ pants until I'm reunited with compression in the start of my next season after the New Year.

August 16, 2009

A Changer

Back when I did Horribly Hilly Hundreds, my coach told me it would be a changer - a workout that would change me either mentally or physically and I'd be able to do more after it. Today's ride fell into that category for a few reasons. It was the hottest day of the week, it was super hilly thanks to my skillful routing, and it was the longest ride I've ever done alone. It ended up being one of my slowest rides, but it felt like a huge accomplishment. It was a very long day filled with a million thoughts and observations. Here are a few I can remember:
  • About 3 seconds into my ride I ran into one of the guys I met on Wednesday's ride who gave me the new route. In a city of 8 million people, how is it possible to bump into someone twice in the same week?
  • I saw no less than five cyclists without helmets. I don't understand how someone can drop thousands of dollars on a bike and gear, and not spend another hundred to protect the most important part of their body. Idiots.
  • I only saw one other solo female today. Biking is such a man's sport.
  • There are a lot of wild turkeys in New York.
  • I'm not sure what's scarier - traffic or the 5-6 deer that threatened to dart out in front of me.
  • Harriman State Park is beautiful. I've been hiking there, but never biked there. I can't wait to go back.
  • Hills don't scare me anymore. I still move at a snail's pace up them, but I no longer panic when I see them coming.
  • Dropping your chain on a super steep climb, in the direct sun, on a road with no shoulder is just no fun.
  • Heat destroys me. I am praying for a cool to moderate day in Wisconsin.
  • I need to rethink my choice in tri top for the race after two solid months of testing it out. I'm not sure there is enough support for 26.2 miles.
  • The 10 minutes I spent quickly saying hello to all my friends at the local bar before my run was a bright spot in my day. It's amazing how something so small could be so positive and energizing.
  • Despite all the frustration with body fat and weight gain, I realized today that I love my body. It is strong, resilient and continues to amaze me each and every time I demand that it do more. Ten years ago I could barely get up a flight of stairs. I've come a long way.
  • I really miss food on long training days. Between the hours of 7:30am and 8:30pm I consumed: 160 ounces of Gatorade; 1 mini corn muffin; 4 hammer gels; 3 Luna Bars; 20 ounces of water; 1 Recoverite recovery drink; 1 glass of chocolate soy milk. I made up for it with a massive dinner.
  • I'm doing an Ironman four weeks from today!!!
The heat was intense today. I'm not sure what it actually topped out at but it was well into the 90s. It may not have been the ideal day to tackle such a hilly route but I'm glad I did. Here is the elevation map:

I leave you with a glimpse of Harriman. It made a hot, humid and uncomfortable ride totally worthwhile.

Distance - 99.30 miles
Time - 6:49:08

Distance - 8 miles
Time - 1:12:54

August 15, 2009

Busy Day

Today was busy, but for once it wasn't just filled with training. I also made time for relaxation and friends. I slept in again and felt great. My legs did not feel like legs that suffered through a very long, very hot run the day before. I did an easy 1.5 hours on the bike and talked on the phone with my sister and brother-in-law during it. Then it was off to the pool for a very long swim that pretty much wiped me out. And I'm going to get out of the water and do how many more miles on September 13?

I then spent a couple hours with my friends Debbie and Scott having dinner and wine at their place. They live right down the street but we have barely seen each other in the past couple months. It was totally relaxing and so nice to catch up with friends and take a break from the training madness for just a moment. Debbie made a phenomenal dinner, all of which surprisingly fit in my super restricted diet. However I ruined that by stopping for ice cream on the way home. I'm riding 100 miles tomorrow, I figured I'd earned it.

I mapped my route and am pretty excited to give it a try. I'm a little worried about the heat taking its toll on me but I have to train regardless of conditions so I'll be careful and listen to my body. This will be the longest ride I've ever done solo and I think the mental test will be good for me. It's a final hurdle in getting myself totally prepared for the long, solo journey I'll be making just one month from now.

Distance - 23.75 miles
Time - 1:30:00

Distance - 4,500 yards
Time - 1:31:55

August 14, 2009

Killer Heat

It's official. The heat totally destroys me. By the time I started my 19 mile run today, it was 83 degrees and humid with bright sun. I coated myself in SPF 50 and hit Central Park so I could mix up some loops and keep it interesting. I was actually looking forward to it since it's been nearly a year since I've run that far. But then I got going and my outlook changed. I decided to let the first couple miles set the pace and they spoke loud and clear. I wouldn't be setting any records in this heat.

They are paving the East side of Central Park so the asphalt is super black and super hot. I thought I would die so I moved over to the bridle path, the scene of my recent trip-and-fall disaster. I ran carefully and was so relieved to get out of the sun for a bit. I went back and forth between the outer loop, middle loop and bridle path/reservoir and somehow managed to piece together 19 miles. But it was miserable and it was slow. Each long run seems to be getting slower and slower and this one, I can confidently say, was my slowest all year. My legs just wouldn't go. I started around 9 per mile, then dropped to 9:10-9:20 and eventually deteriorated to 10+ for a stretch. Around mile 14 I had to stop and actually lay on a park bench with my legs up over the back. I was in hideous pain and thought I'd pass out. I only rested for the duration of a song but it felt utterly ridiculous to be laying on the bench in the middle of a run. I really wanted to go to sleep. I wanted to quit. My left leg hurt so badly I swore it was broken. The pain started early and lasted the entire run. Why do I love running?

With all the walk breaks, Gatorade buying breaks, water breaks and the sad park bench break, I'm not sure this counts as a real long run, but it was the best I could do in the conditions. I pray it isn't hot on September 13. We haven't had enough heat to train in so I'm not acclimated and simply cannot handle it.

I got back to the gym, had a recovery drink and spent a good 20 minutes foam rolling and stretching. It took every ounce of determination to suit up and get in the pool. I wasn't scheduled to swim but with the setbacks this week, my coach said I could if I wanted. I didn't really want to, but felt I needed to. After a hot shower I headed down to the pool deck and figured I'd just do what I could. I have a "floater" swim each week, it's 600 x 4 or 5 depending on time, focused on catching and pulling. It's a nice swim because it's a decent pace and gives me time to work on my form. I decided to give this one a try and figured I might bail after three sets. But that determination continued and I completed four sets. I was fastest on the first and gradually slowed with each, no surprise. But when I logged the time I was surprised to see that my pace was pretty strong. I haven't been in the pool for two weeks and I was wiped from the run.

My legs feel completely trashed and I've got a big weekend ahead. Compression and ibuprofen will be my best friends as I prepare for my big day on Sunday. I'll be riding 100 miles just outside NYC and running 8 miles after. I have a huge swim tomorrow as well, but I'm actually looking forward to that. Anything that gives my legs a break at this point is lovely.

Distance - 19 miles
Time - 3:05:01

Distance - 2,624.67 yards (I swam in a meters pool)
Time - 48:29

August 13, 2009

Humor and Inspiration

Since there isn't much to talk about on the training front, I thought I'd share two things that really brightened my day - one that made me laugh and one that inspired me.

Let's start with inspiring. In the August issue of Runner's World, an article titled "Small Miracle" profiles single-leg amputee Scout Bassett, a young woman who has risen above limitations to become a world-class, competitive triathlete. While most people in her shoes would have spent life focusing on what they couldn't do, she went out and competed in a track event for disabled athletes within hours of getting her new prosthetic. She finished last and said the experience was defining because it showed her what was possible. She went on to take Silver in the ITU World Triathlon Championships. That spirit of never giving up is contagious. People ask me all the time why I do this and the answer is: because I can. Hearing stories like this make me want to do even more.

And now for funny. If laughter is the best medicine, this provided a hefty dose today. Triathletes and cyclists are known for being gear obsessed. It's not uncommon to see cars pull up at races with a bike or two racked on it that easily exceed the value of the car. Anyone who enjoys cycling, or knows anyone who does, will find this video hilarious. Enjoy.

Biking (trainer)
Time - 45:00

August 12, 2009

Training Vacation

During this final stretch, I'm taking a vacation day each week so I can get in some more volume. Today was my first mid-week training vacation day and the plan was to get up early and do a medium ride and run. However, after feeling tired and beat up last night, I decided not to set the alarm and just wake up when my body was ready. Apparently I was even more tired than I thought because I slept until 9:40, well over 9.5 hours. I could have slept more.

The late wake-up led to a very late start to my ride but it was no big deal. I was on vacation. I hopped on the train and headed over the George Washington Bridge for my usual ride North on 9W. I was praying the Zipps would hold out on me and as I passed a bike shop right at the beginning of my ride, I couldn't resist stopping in to have them confirm I'd put the wheels on correctly. After this, I stopped worrying and I can honestly say they finally weren't on my mind.

The first stretch up to Nyack went very well. I averaged 17.25, but got caught in a downpour so I had to ride cautiously on downhills and curves. I planned my stop in Nyack to be super fast, just enough time to go to the bathroom and grab a Gatorade. But the rain started up again and was moving rather quickly to the East so I decided to wait it out a bit. I grabbed a muffin and chatted with the only other cyclists there on a Wednesday afternoon. I'm so glad I did because they gave me a route to avoid Haverstraw where the roads are narrow and the traffic horrible. When the rain let up I headed out on the new route.

It turned out to be fantastic. Not only were the roads nice, quiet country-like roads lined with trees, nice houses and eventually fields and apple orchards, but they were hilly and challenging as well. I can take this route even further and think I'll do that this weekend. It's so nice to get off the highway and ride some quieter roads.

I got home rather late and immediately did my run. My calf was not 100% so I kept the pace light and easy. It was getting dark and the view of the city was beautiful. I was feeling really good after my extra sleep and a solid training day. I'm going to keep prioritizing sleep this week and hope it gets me back on track.

Distance - 61.46 miles
Time - 3:59:10

Distance - 5.01 miles
Time - 44:47

August 11, 2009

The Home Stretch

Here I am, in the home stretch of Ironman training and suddenly every moment counts. Not that the previous 26 weeks of training didn't count, but things feel different now. Every missed workout makes me fear race day and the suffering that will ensue if I'm unprepared. Everything that goes wrong makes me think about it going wrong on race day. Every little twinge of pain or physical discomfort makes me worry about sickness or injury. And because of that, I did something today I rarely do - I listened to my body and decided not to train. I took an unscheduled rest day so I can hopefully go into the rest of the week feeling a little fresher and a little more prepared.

My legs felt really beat up from the weekend. I'm sure it's due to the change in sequence of my workouts and the fact that I was forced to do a long run on legs that had already biked 25 miles. I then rode 108 and immediately got into the car for a 6-hour drive and didn't eat an actual meal afterward. I've had minimal pain during training but my right calf and both shins were in bad shape yesterday. I could barely walk. I stretched, alternated heat and ice, soaked in the tub and massaged with the rolling pin and was still sore this morning. I was also exhausted after 7 solid hours of sleep. So at the end of a long workday and with a big ride and run looming tomorrow, I decided to skip my workout, make a nice dinner and do another thing I rarely do - relax on my couch and watch a movie. A whole movie from beginning to end without distractions and without being on the trainer. I haven't done that in about six months.

I got so relaxed I didn't attempt to put on my race wheels until 10:30 and inevitably struggled a little so I've decided I will not get up super early for my ride tomorrow. Instead I'll sleep late, get ready at a relaxed pace and hit the train post-rush hour to start my ride around 10 or 11 a.m. I'm only riding 60 miles so I'll still be done by early afternoon. I have a short run after that I can do indoors if it's too hot. I'm not going to stress over it. I took a day off work so I could do big mid-week training so I'm going to use the day for the training, but also for rest since it's a huge part of my race preparation.

I'm looking into getting out of town the week after next for my peak weekend. I will be running 19 miles on Friday, swimming roughly 4,500 yards and biking 1.5 hours on Saturday and then wrapping it up with a 115 mile ride on Sunday followed by a 10 mile run. This will be the end of my major volume and I'd really like to do it in a safe, peaceful place. I want to go back to Lake Placid, but the drive is a bit of a barrier so I'm considering the southern Adirondacks. There is also a chance I may be revisiting Vermont the following weekend so if it all comes together, I should have a pretty incredible ending to this pretty incredible training journey I've been on for the past 6.5 months.

August 10, 2009

Adapt and Move Forward

After a few setbacks over the weekend I was forced to adapt and move forward as best I could. It was frustrating at the time and I'd be lying if I said I just immediately accepted it and rolled with it. I hate admitting things are beyond my control and can't be fixed so it takes me time to accept the circumstances and shift plans. When I said this to a friend today she said an Ironman is all about adapting and moving forward. So in many ways, having things go wrong may have been the best training.

I was able to make up for some of Saturday's loss with a really great ride yesterday. We followed the Mad River Century route and I ended up covering 108 miles. The scenery was beyond beautiful and the course was relatively flat for Vermont. Normally I would seek hills but given how my legs felt from Saturday - totally beat up - flatter was better. Our pace was pretty leisurely, what we referred to as a "muffin ride," the kind of ride where you have coffee and muffins during breaks rather than just hammering straight through. Since I do a lot of riding alone I tend to go nonstop so this was a fun change. And yes, I had a muffin in Montpelier along with a latte and it was so much better than the Hammer Gel I should have been eating.

We stopped at mile 55 and some of the group was getting tired. We were planning another stop in Rochester, which should have been around 75 miles in and the plan was to eat lunch if the weather held up. The sky was dark and rain was on the way. But as most courses go, it wasn't measured perfectly due to where we started so Rochester didn't show up until mile 83. At that point, pretty much everyone wanted to stop except for me and one other rider. Quite honestly I didn't care if I finished either given everything the weekend had brought. If there were a quick and easy way to get back to the house I would have accepted it, but the group was struggling to find a ride and figure things out so I headed out on my own to finish the route. The rain started hard just as I was getting on my bike. I've ridden so many times in the rain this year so I'm used to it, but it doesn't make it any more fun. I was freezing for the first few miles, literally shaking and covered in goosebumps. My feet went numb right away, they always do. After 10-15 minutes I looked down and realized I forgot to start up my Garmin so I had no sense of how many miles it was to the house until I made it to the next town. As I passed through Hancock I saw the place where my first flat hit yesterday and was happy to still be riding even if I was alone, tired and soaked. I kept moving forward.

I saw various members of the group go by in cars as they found their rides. I half wished they'd just pick me up. They said if they made it back in time they'd grab me at Sugarbush but as I passed Sugarbush they hadn't made it back yet so again, I kept moving forward. But at that point I was feeling good because I knew I had just four miles to go. The rain had let up and I was in the final stretch. The house is on one of the steepest hills I've ever seen and I had decided I wouldn't attempt to climb in on fried legs, but as I turned the corner, I decided to keep pedaling and see what I could do. I was about to die when I heard cheering from behind, the rest of the group had finally arrived home and were cheering me on as I attempted the awful climb. It made me smile despite the misery. They drove on and I kept going but as I reached a small plateau and saw the 16% grade reading on my Garmin, I decided I'd done enough for one day and ended my ride there. I walked up the last few hundred meters in my socks leaving telltale wet footprints that the other rider who decided to continue later saw. I should have left the shoes on!

I didn't get to run after this ride and I don't care. I was just so happy to have recaptured some of the lost training and survive a ride on my seemingly cursed wheels. I had a lot of fun with a really great group of people and logged some serious training. I can't ask for more than that.

Distance - 108.03 miles
Time - 6:45:28

August 8, 2009

Six Friends. Six Hours. Six Flats.

Today did not go as planned. All started well with a picture-perfect, crisp, sunny day and six friends ready to tackle a spectacular ride over two mountain gaps in the Green Mountains. We were cruising along with no issues, everyone was feeling good. We rode about 20 miles before we were to attempt the first gap so we stopped at a corner to gather the group and make a quick bathroom stop. I was on cloud nine. I had my new wheels, my new Garmin 705 and as another cyclist we ran into said, it was a good day to be on the planet.

But as we took off, circumstances drastically changed. Within 200 meters I had a flat. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but rather alarming given I had brand new wheels, tires and tubes. I haven't flatted since last July. One of the guys offered to change it to save time. I wasn't going to argue. It turns out the Zipps are very hard to change and even after being incredibly careful, as he inflated the tube it blew. This was our second flat, not really a huge deal and not at all uncommon. Only I had just one tube with an 80mm valve for the deep back wheel so it quickly became a big deal. We patched one tube while we attempted to make a 60mm tube with a valve extender work. Again, trouble arose and the valve broke. Now we're at three flats only 20 miles into a ride. I wanted to quit. I wanted to cry. I wanted to wallow in self pity and anger but the group was so incredibly positive and so patient. No one was angry we had the setback and no one made me feel like I was ruining the day, even though I know I was.

We flagged down a truck driven by a very nice man named Jerry. Jerry took my friend Laura and I plus our two bikes to a bike shop a few miles away while the guys rode behind. We had called the shop and they confirmed they had at least one 80mm tube. They switched out my rear tire, the source of the multiple flattings, and we were all set. But then we asked them to check the pressure on the front and sure enough it was low. It had gone from 110lbs to 80lbs in just 20 miles. Not a good sign. Flat number four. They dug through the inventory and found one more tube and changed it for me. I was thinking my luck might be turning a corner. It was late and we were starving so we stopped at a local cafe for lunch with the intention of starting our journey yet again afterward. The day could still be saved.

Only after lunch, just a couple miles into the ride, I flatted again. This was the fifth. At this point I was losing my patience. We pulled over and changed the tire and before we could even get it onto the bike it flatted again. The sixth. When one gets six flats in a single ride it's a sign your day is over. I called the bike shop that sold me the wheels and they offered to come pick me up. I went through a range of emotions and swear if people weren't with me I would have completely lost it. My race is in six weeks and I have been missing big workouts left and right. My friends were life savers. They joked and kept things light and again, even as we sat on the side of the road for over an hour, no one complained and no one made me feel guilty for stealing a perfect training day from them. They tried very hard to keep me focused on the positive and while it's so hard to do that in really difficult times, they helped more than they'll ever know.

Then one of the most ironic things happened. A little dog ran up to visit us since we were lounging in her owner's yard. Her name was Zippy. We all got a laugh out of this since the Zipps were the reason we were stranded roadside. Zippy and her little friend Ginger made the stress and anxiety melt away and somehow, in the midst of what might be the worst training day ever, I found myself having fun. That's a pretty incredible thing.

My friends road back while I got a ride from the bike shop so I decided to do tomorrow's long run so I can hopefully bike tomorrow. It was rough to start a long run at 4:30 p.m. after biking 25 miles but I got it done. I was in a world of hurt from the beginning and actually had to walk at times. I passed my friends around Mile 3 and wanted to smile and wave and be chipper but I was miserable and in pain and I think they sensed it. When I arrived home they had dinner nearly ready and had bought all the stuff for smores since they knew I really wanted them. While I was in my ice bath one of them brought me a glass of wine. They talked about everything I gained from today and continued the effort to cheer me up. It worked. I can't change this, I can only hope tomorrow is better. And again I'm reminded why I'm in this sport. The people I share this lifestyle with are in a class of their own and never cease to surprise and amaze me.

The bike shop identified my rim tape as the issue so I'm praying everything is fixed and tomorrow's ride will be trouble free. But just in case, I'll be carrying at least four tubes. You can never be too prepared.

Distance - 22.82 miles
Time - 1:20:13

Distance - 16.04 miles
Time - 2:33:40

August 6, 2009

Green Mountain Training

Yesterday began my latest training adventure - a long weekend in Waitsfield, Vermont with fellow Brooklyn Tri Club members. We left New York at 5:30 a.m. and arrived by noon. I was running on 3.5 hours of sleep but the minute we got here I was energized. Our first order of business was a trip to Fit Werx, a local tri shop that I made a very special purchase from. I finally took the plunge and got Zipp race wheels. Unfortunately they had the wrong cassette so I couldn't get them put on just yet. In hindsight that would be a good thing. But I picked up the wheels today!

We had a very interesting ride to start our adventure. We went for a moderate ride, nearly 48 miles with incredibly beautiful scenery. But along the way a bridge was out and the detour led us to a hard packed dirt road with a XX% grade climb. We were all on road and tri bikes so it made for a very interesting ride. The downhill was downright scary with all the rocks and bumps. I had to stay on the brakes to keep from flipping over the handlebars. We survived it and continued on but as we arrived home we were at 42 miles and figured going for 50 would be fun. Only the road we chose ended up being dirt as well and this time it wasn't hard packed, it was loose with tons of gravel. I felt like I was doing an off-road ride on a Cervelo, not fun. And to add to it, the incline was ridiculous. I was going 3mph at one point and barely remaining upright. My back tire was slipping in the dirt and sliding side to side occasionally. The hill seemed to go on forever. We had a good laugh about it later.

The house we're staying in is beautiful. It's massive with gorgeous mountain views and there are only six of us. I essentially have an entire "wing" to myself. It's like heaven. This is the view out my bedroom window.

Today got off to a slow start after a lot of fun last night but it was worth it. We had breakfast and lounged around the house all morning and got started on the training in the afternoon. Our group divided up to do different things. Three did another ride and three of us went for a long swim in a nearby reservoir. It was absolutely stunning, the kind of place I wish I could swim all the time. The water was the perfect temperature, it was clear and there were only a handful of boats. All around us were beautiful views. I love it here. I swam roughly two miles and felt good. I was supposed to do a 17 mile run today but the late start forced me to push it to Sunday. No big deal. We dropped my bike at Fit Werx and did a nice 4-mile run in town while they installed the wheels.

Tomorrow is our big day, a 100 mile ride with two mountain gaps followed by a 6-mile run. We're grilling and relaxing tonight in preparation for what should be another incredible day.

Biking (Thursday)
Distance - 47.45
Time - 3:14:50

Swimming (Friday)
Distance - 3,520 yards
Time - 1:11:31

Running (Friday)
Distance - 4 miles
Time - 34:02

August 3, 2009

Blame It On The Rain

After a full day of rest on Saturday I was ready to get back to it on Sunday. A friend and I woke up at 5 a.m. to drive to New Paltz where the roads seem made for riding. I was really looking forward to it. The forecast had been sketchy, but only called for 30% chance of "showers" or "light rain" or "scattered thunderstorms." The weather man couldn't have been more wrong.

We drove up in rain and started our ride in the rain, which I really don't mind. You just have to go a bit slower and be more cautious. Neither of us were particularly dressed for the conditions so we knew we'd be chilly. The plan was to ride 84 miles on a 42 mile loop. It's a beautiful ride, even in the rain. There is barely any traffic, there are Catskills views everywhere, the roads are in decent shape and the air is so perfect. I absolutely loved being there and was riding well and feeling great.

But in the final stretch of the first loop the rain turned into a sheet of water and the visibility was minimal. We started to worry about cars being able to see us and decided we'd stop for a bit and see if it let up. We hopped in the car to stay warm and it continued to pour. Deep down I knew the ride was over, but I decided to do my brick run and hope we might be able to finish the ride when I got back. It was hard to go back out in the monsoon but once I did it was a good run. I ran on a rail trail so I had to be careful to avoid a repeat of Friday's fall. I used the time to think about the right thing to do - suck it up and finish the ride or call it quits for safety. Forty minutes later I called it quits. We attempted to dry off, changed our clothes and went to the local brewery for lunch.

I was incredibly disappointed about missing another long ride. I feel like the last real riding I did was in Wisconsin and that was so long ago. I've been sidetracked by racing, recovering, traveling, racing and recovering some more and am starting to feel like I'm falling behind. I scheduled an emergency call with my coach today to talk it over and he assures me I am ahead of where I need to be fitness wise and I'll be back on track with the bigger training in no time. As usual he made sense and made me feel a lot better. He adjusted my schedule for the week to account for the lighter weekend and the fact that I still can't swim due to a gooey elbow. I skipped my usual rest day and did some bike intervals tonight, I'll bike again tomorrow morning and then do a short run tomorrow night. On Wednesday I have my first long run of the week and then I'm off to Vermont. I think the increased volume will have me feeling back to normal.

A lot went wrong over the weekend. It definitely got into my head and had me feeling down and defeated. But my coach said something to me Friday that stuck in my mind. He told me not to focus on what I was missing or what had gone wrong, but to focus on the positive things I could do to heal and move forward, the things I could control. Just like I can't change that I fell, I can't control the weather and I made the best effort I could. I need to let go of the frustration and keep moving forward.

Biking (Sunday)
Distance - 42.65 miles
Time - 2:36:28

Running (Sunday)
Distance - 5.2 miles
Time - 44:44

Biking (Monday)
Distance - 22.32 miles
Time - 1:30:00

August 1, 2009

Rhode Island 70.3 Race Photos

As always I'm a bit behind in posting my race photos. Since I have idle time on my hands and not much training to write about, here they are!

The pros:

T1 at the beach:

On the beautiful bike course:

This face makes me faster, really:

On the run:

The finish chute:

In the home stretch:


Finisher photo:
Race medal:


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