Another two weeks of silence have passed here, but it's been anything but silent in my world. I was tackling the final build phase of round one Ironman training while battling the worst cold I've had in ages. The week following my speedy century was a general bust, I managed to get in a handful of moderate workouts to keep loose, but no real training occurred until the weekend. Even then it was after sleeping propped up on pillows after taking a cocktail of cough suppressants. My comeback was another solid 100 on the bike with a great brick run after.
The following week went rather smoothly with nearly everything nailed in the plan. The only hiccup occurred last Saturday during my final long workout attempt. I set out in the wee hours to do a hilly century course in reverse - to make the hills even harder - and was navigating this alone on my Garmin. I was riding a bit old ladyish out of the gate due to my lack of familiarity with the roads and the newness of the experience of navigating, but I was doing it and it felt very empowering. Until I got lost. I wasted at least an hour coasting around with a puzzled look on my face before just winging it and hoping I'd eventually find the route if I rode in its general direction. I watched my average plummet into the 13s and felt the temperature rise at least five degrees. I wasn't happy.
I never fully rallied after the setback. I took no less than eight wrong turns, rode through a pile of gravel while looking at the map and nearly bit it, narrowly escaped a clip-and-fall at a busy intersection that would no doubt have damaged my ego more than my physical well-being, and dropped my chain twice, both times about halfway up a steep hill. The clock was ticking on but I didn't feel I was getting anywhere. I had been out for over eight hours and had only covered 88 miles, but decided I'd had enough. My boyfriend picked me up and I called it a day.
It wasn't the swan song I wanted for my cycling training, but it is what it is. One of the allures of this sport is that you never know what the day will bring, what your body will decide to do or how you will feel. I felt great, but my execution was terrible. It happens. I rallied with a solid 45-miler on Sunday in the sweltering heat and at least had the satisfaction of feeling like I can still ride a bike.
After a 17-mile run this morning it's officially taper time. My race is in 17 days so at this point, the hay is in the barn as they say. There's definitely a lot less hay in there than before my last Ironman, but I'm confident the horses won't starve to death. On one hand I don't feel like I trained for an Ironman, but on the other hand, I did some significant work with a lot of quiet, not-so-exciting aerobic sessions designed to get me through without re-injuring myself. Seventeen days before Ironman Wisconsin last year I was in tears as I limped to a podiatrist and set into motion a chain of events that would blow my world apart.
Aside from today starting my official taper I'm also in my final preparations for my trip to Italy. I'll be in beautiful Tuscany by tomorrow evening and will be on my bike by Saturday. I'm incredibly excited and looking forward to the most unusual taper I'll likely ever do.
As I wrap up this round of training, I thought about the numbers that triathletes get so obsessed with. We post our weekly miles, yards, hours, minutes, average heart rates, calories burned and paces. I used to race to a computer post-workout to log my training so I could see these numbers. Now I often wait days to log a block of training. I know I did it and seeing the numbers doesn't make it any more real. Going into the Ironman last year I had ridden five centuries, completed several runs over 15 miles with two over 20 miles, and swam tens of thousands of yards including at least five or more sessions of 4,000 yards each. This year I've logged just three century rides so far, two of which were personal bests for me. I've yet to cover more than 15 miles running, but my most recent 15 was a major breakthrough in my post-injury running life. I've only done one swim workout of more than 4,000 yards, an Ironman distance swim this past Tuesday. I'm a little fatter, definitely wiser and a lot happier.
Can I do this? Sure. Will I set any crazy records? Sure. Let's not forget I had to walk the entire marathon at IMWI. I could likely just show up in Lake Placid and set a PR. Will it hurt? Sure. More substantial training definitely would have made this easier. Am I excited? Absolutely. I'm not scared, I'm not nervous and I'm not obsessing over the little things that are plaguing many of the first-timers right now. I'll go to Italy, have the time of my life, come home, rest up and race an Ironman. And when it's over I'll let my body repair a bit and ramp up for my next Ironman in September. By the time that one rolls around I'll most likely have logged the same preparation as last year and just might be able to surprise myself.