Thursday, March 25, 2010

A’s Training Week Recap

A week ago E and I got in a “test set” on the bike trainers inside. It was after work and it was appropriately hard as each interval kept getting shorter and was supposed to be all-out and fast. Then we ate dinner and when I headed for bed, E headed out to work. He didn’t get very far as our second car, which hasn’t been driven much, wouldn’t start. I was floating in and out of sleep, ignorant of all of this, while he cleared space in the garage (which we had just tidied the weekend prior, thankfully) to push the car in and hook it up to the battery charger.

The next morning I woke to a full-blown spring snow storm, grabbed Izzy-dog, and headed out for a tempo run (3 min at ½ marathon pace, 2 min at 10 k pace, repeat for a total of 30 min in a 60 min run). It was dark when we started and very quiet. Slowly we watched the wintry day unfold as our run progressed. The footing was wet, but not too sloppy and not yet icy. It was a great run. Our loop took us over trails and neighborhood roads we are well acquainted with, it felt like running with a comfy familiar friend. The paces were challenging, but do-able. The only thing missing was E. On our last effort we were cruising around the Twin Lakes and spotted one of the elusive neighborhood owls – always a treat. Then it was off to work for me. Thankfully the car started on the 3rd try, it would have been a sloppy bike-commute.

During the day on Friday, the storm ended up dumping a bunch of snow, but the temperature never dipped much below 30. E drove home at ~10 am after working all night and said the roads were awful, but by the time I headed home around 5pm, things were quiet and slow but very drivable. The next morning we woke up to 7 F with 14.7 inches of fresh snow and plans to hit the trainers for a 2.5 h over-under LT set.

Less than 9 min later, E was on the phone with work and we soon realized he was going to be heading in to work to deal with a problem that came up overnight. We sneaked in breakfast first at Dot’s Diner in NW Boulder, but the planned Costco trip (to make up for last week’s uber-fast spree through the store for essentials) would have to wait. I was probably going to be on my own for the day, without any new movie or TV show DVDs from Costco for my bike ride, either. I got some laundry started in the washer, did a few other chores, then started to prep for the trainer ride. As I was filling my water bottles up at the kitchen sink, I looked outside and saw the brilliant sun on the snow. It was only ~37 F, but they were predicting highs in the 50’s for the day. And it was sunny. I made the immediate decision to ride outside that day on the cross bike. I figured the over-under sets would work fine on the road, and the cross bike, especially on the road, would handle any residual road-gunk (sand, water, etc.) from the storm just fine.

The decision to ride outside was one of the best choices I have made in a very long time. The roads were clear. The sun was strongly shining. The air was fresh and clear (no brown cloud!).What I chose to wear, however, was one of my worst recent choices. I donned a buff for the head/ears, a long sleeve undershirt, fleecy bib-knickers, low socks, mountain bike shoes, and a fleecy team jacket. It was sunny, and supposed to get up into the 50’s. I was all set and I looked good, but soon was freezing. Luckily, I grabbed my overmitts for the hands, but the bare skin on the legs was causing my feet to freeze. I had been too lazy to throw a waterbottle cage onto the bike, so two jacket pockets were being used for bottles. The third pocket was used to hold my phone and other goodies that I always carry, including a bit of food. This left no room for my “spare” tights, which I left at home. At ~ 50 minutes, I stopped and put hand warmer packets in the toes of my shoes, but there was never enough air flow there for them to really start heating. At ~ 90 minutes I stopped at a park to use the unheated pit-toilet and spent a few moments in sun with each shoe off rubbing my toes and massaging the blood back into my feet. Then it was off to hit the intervals, which went well. Afterwards, I was thinking about the Clif recovery hot-chocolate waiting in the cupboard at home as the temp had never risen much above 40 F. That and a few cups of tea and I was back to normal. The rest of the day was spent making cookies, starting a batch of granola, and washing more laundry.

Sunday I did a mini triathlon. Again I was training solo. The big item on the docket was the run of the day, but before I could get to that, a swim and bike needed to get done. I got organized, which took longer than expected, and headed over to Flatiron Athletic Club, which would be my transition zone for the day. I jumped in the pool for a 40 min straight swim just in time to complete the effort before Jane Scott’s Master’s class would start. The 40 minute straight swim can get boring but I did my best to spice it up by imagining myself swimming open water back in Sullivan Lake in NNWW Washington state (that is not a typo, Sullivan Lake is about as North and West in Washington state as you can get, roughly 10 miles from both Canada and Idaho). I also broke it into 300 m segments, which were taking roughly 5 minutes each, before I’d check my running time on the watch.

Then it was out of the pool and into bike gear. This time I brought tights and overbooties for the legs and feet. I was dressed perfectly for my preferences, even though this day I saw many more riders than on Saturday, and many of then wearing shorts or kneewarmers only with some exposed leg (I was the only fool with bare skin the day before, even if it was less than 8 inches per leg). I tooled around to the east and south of Boulder, areas we rarely ride. The fresh snow made all of the mountains look very spectacular, it was a beautiful ride. It did have some tempo pieces, though, so not all at “Scenic Sunday Drive” pace. I also included and interval up The Wall, made famous in American Flyers and a bit of recon on the bottom dirt section of the Koppenberg Circuit Race course which is scheduled for this next weekend. It was smooth and firm and rode very well and fast with the cross bike, at least up to the first wooden bridge where I turned back around. Then I got to ride downhill Marshall Road, to the west. This has to be one of my favorite roads in the whole county, it is peaceful and scenic.

Soon I was back in Boulder, off the bike, and changing into running gear. The weather was getting very nice, but I had only packed running pants for the day. I ditched my undershirt and ran in just a long-sleeve technical t-shirt. Armed with 24 oz of drink (carbopro and nuun) I headed east and south back towards the Koppenberg course. This time I inspected the top portion. The paved road was sandy, but is chip-sealed, so most of the sand was trapped in the chip-seal and not moving around (this should make it pretty safe for the bike race). The dirt portion on the top was slightly damp, but firm and smooth, not tacky. I was doing 20 min race pacing, but paused the 2nd effort to do some course inspection of The Hill. Goodness, it was slick. I was off on the side (it would be the right side if you were coming up the hill) in the “grass” but it was all I could do to not slip and fall and get sucked into the mud forevermore as a fossilized triathlete. Off on the left side of the “road” portion there was a full-bore river raging, draining all of the snow melt off the mesa top. Even though the roads were drying out nicely, the hill was a soupy, gloppy mess. I carefully picked my way back up to the top, then found a sturdy weed to dig the mud out of my treads before resuming the run. By the end, I had a stellar run in the bag. The day brought ~ 5 hours of solid training, but I was pooped and in need of some more fluids (24 oz was maybe half of what I needed for that run, oops!). A full Nalgene bottle of drink, 24 oz bottle of water, and a 15 minute sauna later and I felt like $1,000,000. One thing of note: I had my first road-rage trash hurled at me when a red-neck pick up truck threw their gas station soda pop cup at me. It was a Big Gulp, I think. They must have sensed my need for more fluids! Luckily their aim was poor and they missed their target: my head.

Once home E and I swung out for a nice dinner at Café Blue before he headed back to work at ~6:30 pm. Once I was on my own, I called family, walked Izzy, used the NormaTec, and finished making the granola before hitting the hay.

Monday we carpooled in to work. I was planning to start up my big project at work, but was delayed due to the equipment needed more cleaning. I biked home from work and then headed out for an easy run with Izzy. It was windy, but warm and nice to be outside. My body was starting to feel the work form Sunday. All Sunday I felt great. Strong. Fit. Etc, etc. Monday was a challenge. Things were tight and sore, but it the way that lets you know you worked hard, not in an injured way.

Tuesday I headed off to swim while E got some more sleep (he worked most of the night again). Then another major storm blew in, this time dumping 11.6 inches of wet, wet snow. I was supposed to get in some hill climbs on the bike, but the weather was not going to allow that. I kept trying to talk myself into simulating the efforts on the trainer, but there was no hiding the fatigue in my body. With many folks out sick at work and with plenty of work stress from my about-ready-to-start project, I decided to skip the bike or wait for another day. E and I took a much needed night to cook together and veg a bit on the couch.

Yesterday my project’s start was again delayed, so I headed home at a normal time, while E was still at work working on a newly surfaced problem, and took Izzy for the Long Run of the week (short this week, it is a rest week). I could have used a bit more clothes, and headlamp by the end, but it was another really, really good run. And no fatigue (I think skipping Tuesday’s bike was a good call, even if it was a hard one to make, I don’t like to skip workouts AT ALL).

Today the plan at work was to start bright and early at 7am. I begged off being here until after the swim. I figured get in a little “me time” when there would be other folks to cover that part of the start and then I’d be willing to be here as long as it takes to get things rolling along today. A snafu with a newly installed piece of equipment had us trouble shooting most of the morning. But now we are back on. It’s go time, and, well, I gotta go. Later.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

E's About 7 Weeks Out to St George

With just under 7 weeks to St George and less than a week until some big projects start at work promise to lead to some crazy times at the Rydholm household. But, we'll manage. We hope.

We've switched some workouts around due to potential work constraints and that led to the longest ride of the year this past weekend on a beautiful, classic Colorado kind of day. Our longest swim of the year (5.1 k) was done under skies that went from partly cloudy to completely overcast on Sunday morning.

The biggest challenge of the weekend was getting most of our Costco shopping done in 10 minutes after finding out that the store closed much earlier than expected.

For me, the most humorous point was hearing A through the wall ask Josh whether he dislocated her shoulder when we were at Tri-Massage.

Time to make dinner for A...


Friday, March 5, 2010

The next phase of Progression

February has now ended, and with it the Olympics have opened and closed, the last glass has been raised for stout month, and another Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon has been completed. We got in a good block of training, and enjoyed life.

Now March is upon us and it seems like more than just the flipping of another page in the calendar. Our workouts have more purpose and focus (and are longer in duration!), and free time is getting tighter as both E and I have work obligations ramping up. The athletic focus is Ironman St. George. The work focus is projects that will finally be going Big Time, requiring us, the engineers, to provide technical support to the other staff running the manufacturing-scale equipment (this is just a little stressful, but also exciting to see our projects move into their next phase of progression).

All this has me thinking. Actually, it started a few weeks ago after Mt. Taylor and while the Olympics were still going on, I just haven’t had time to sit and reflect enough on it yet to get something composed enough to post here, but I digress.

Anyways, lately I have been thing about progression and growth. It fist started after Mt. Taylor was done and I noticed the close groupings of my finish times. Each year has its own story (the first year when I was only a few months out from peaking for agegroup worlds in Cancun, the year I got food poisoning AND forgot my bike shoes, the big-headwind-on-the-bike-down year, the “let’s try the ski up with no skins” year, the year of the new bike, etc.) yet all but 2 of the 7 finishes have me finishing within an 11 minute span that falls between 4:41 and 4:52. And I really want to be consistently under 4:30, which I have only done once, and just barely. Despite this fixation on a 4:30 finish time, I have not significantly changed my training, preparations, or mindset going into the race since year 2 (the goal year 1 was to finish and scope it all out). I want to “play with the big girls” without doing the work to move up to their level.

And that, my friends, is the problem: I keep putting the same “variables” in and expect a different output back.

I am a smart and intelligent person. I would never expect to use the same ingredients in a cooking recipe and get a tastier result. I would never expect to run the same chemical process at work and have a better yield or faster cycle time. Why, then, am I expecting to show up to Mt. Taylor with a good fitness base but no real hill climbing work, no snowshoe races, no change in training volume, effort, or composition (ratios of hard, easy, long, etc.) and expect to magically be 15-25 minutes faster than I always have been? Since the mountain is not getting shorter, less steep, or closer to Grants, NM, the only way I will race faster is if I get stronger, faster, smarter, or fitter. None of these changes come from wishing for them, they come with harder and smarter training.

This was a rough realization for me. I honestly had been thinking why can’t I break out of this mold and race faster at the Quad? I did the same things I’ve done every other year, and…… Oh. Yeah……Right. Guess it doesn’t work that way, does it. Well, shoot!

I’m only thankful had this little self-awakening before doing the next 2 ironmans, for that is something where I am also no newby yet feel like I have not yet reached my fullest potential. And so, with this little gem of knowledge re-learned, I continue on my athletic journey. A journey with a jam-packed 2010!

To keep focused and on track as this busy year progresses, I need to stay keenly aware of the fact that it doesn’t get any easier. The training, the personal choices and sacrifices needed to reach a challenging athletic goal all get harder to do as the bar is raised to a higher, better, faster goal. Exponentially so. Just to achieve past success takes a bit more effort, so any improvement will always require lots of creativity and hard work.

With that sobering, thought, I am ready to proclaim I AM READY. And I don’t mean maybe.

I am taking rest and recovery seriously this year (that almost seems like I’m showing my age, but faster, longer, harder doesn’t cut it anymore, I am no longer a twenty-something…..). I am making true efforts to make our healthy diet even healthier (tonight’s crock-pot dinner of red cabbage, sweet potatoes, apples, vinegar, and summer sausage is colorful, from scratch (except for the sausage), and anti-oxidant rich). I am willing to get on the trainer any night the schedule says to (we finally made peace sometime in February, the trainer and I), but I am also trying to hit target workout times right on the nose, no extras. I’m getting good sleep. I’m scheduling regular massage and supplementing that with good home-care. And I’m dreaming big, excited by the challenge, ready for the journey.

This brings me to my second reflection point of February: why I am an athlete and why I race. I started thinking about this during the Olympics when a high-school friend from long ago mentioned on facebook that she has the hardest time watching the Olympics, or any sporting events, because she finds it heartbreaking to watch people’s life-long dreams shattered in a split second if things go wrong.

While I think she has a point (there is no do-over in the Olympics, no insurance that if you Try Hard you will have Success, no assurance that you won’t get hurt), I also think she has completely missed the point. When an athlete shows up to the Olympics, or to any major event for them, they don’t bring their B-game. They bring their A-game. Something they have thought about, dreamed about, trained for, sacrificed for. Along the way they have grown and changed, shaped by the challenge before them. If the stakes are high enough, they might be a bit nervous, but also in awe of the opportunity they have had to grow, change, challenge, learn new things about themselves and what they are mentally and physically capable of, and now humbled by the opportunity to compete and further test and challenge themselves.

Yes, only one person wins the Olympics. They do not give out finisher’s medals, you have to be top-three to get hardware there. While everyone stating each competition might feel they are worthy of a medal, only 3 people will come away with one. And that can be heartbreaking. But rarely is it will-breaking. Even in defeat, we saw Olympians who were gracious, honorable, and continuing in their journey of learning and self discovery. And when it matters most, like at the Olympics, is when we give the most of ourselves. Todd Ludwig’s performance during the first Nordic Combined race was a classic example. This man had come out of retirement for these games because the US had a chance to finally medal in a sport where they have long lingers at the fringes. During the race he worked hard at the front while the lead pack drafted off of his efforts. In the final sprint to the finish, he ended up forth and was clearly frustrated that he had no medal to show for his enormous effort. Yet his teammate, Johnny Spillane, had hung with him and earned the US its first Olympic Nordic Combined (silver) Medal. And now the bar has been raised and more work will be needed to compete with the best in the world....

Bottom line? This is not a pony-ride, folks. You don’t expect to put in your penny and bob up and down for a few minutes while the music plays, and then have that very thing happen. To dream big, to risk big, is risky business. It can be very rewarding. It can be very disappointing. But, to me at least, it is also very life-giving. Taking that risk is hard, but the journey is oh so very worth it.

Here’s to hoping you all have something worth taking the risk for. Dream big….