The time has come to resurrect the blog of yesteryear. With all the hats I wear in life, the one that I’ve grown to miss this year is the one of writer. I read once that writing, a naturally cathartic process, allows us to organize our thoughts by taking some time to reflect on the jumble of things bouncing around in our brains. Plus, with any given problem in our lives there’s usually several unique choices we can make to deal with problems. Too often we allow the loudest voice to dictate the choice we ultimately make to solve our own problem. Writing, therefore, empowers us to think for ourselves and get at the heart of the matter. Writing, like exercise, can be hell. But after we’re done, we never regret having done it.
So, here it is, September, 2011. It’s been another amazing year. Now a husband, in my 6th year teaching, coaching runners and triathletes, and struggling to train again for Ironman-distance triathlons, I’ve been stretched pretty thin. The proverbial pie has been cut into pretty small pieces but I’m not down to crumbs just yet.
As we move through this life, I know that happiness is predicated upon attaining skills to meet new challenges. We are supposed to grow into more complex beings, integrating our knowledge, skills, talents, and experiences. And man oh man, it’s a lot of work pushing that boulder up the hill year after year!
As of this writing, I’m preparing for my 4th Ironman in Hawaii. It will be my 3rd IM of 2011. My motivation is coming back now after a personal best at Full Vineman. After Vineman, I think I could have been happy being done for the year. At Coeur d’Alene in June, I was just dusting myself off from being away from the sport for a few years. Cd’A served it’s purpose and toughened me up on the bike. At Vineman, I was intrigued to learn more about myself and how three years spent ultra-running along with improved nutrition on the bike gives me greater capacity on the marathon.
A target of mine has always been to ride a sub-5 hour, 112mi bike at Ironman and run a sub-3 hour marathon off the bike. That equates to averaging 22.4mph on the bike and then holding 6:52min/mi on the run. At Coeur d’Alene and Full Vineman, I’m about five minutes off in each leg. What I lack is enough power. Especially after conditioning myself to run 50m and 100mi trail events in 2009 & 2010, while enhancing my endurance, aerobic capacity, physical and mental durability, it’s done little to improve power on the bicycle, and nothing to help my swimming. But, what I’m concentrating on this year is durability.
If you want to be able to run well in the later stages of the marathon, you must be durable enough to keep pushing without the wheels coming off. Also, if you want to keep “racing” late in your marathon (as opposed to just surviving) you have to keep the calories coming in. That is why I’ve bumped my calorie intake on the bike to about 2000 calories. Doing so, gives me a full tank to run well through the entire marathon.
In his book, Breakthrough Triathlon Training, race director of the World’s Toughest Half-Ironman, Brad Kearns talks about how once an athlete has a deep base of endurance training and racing, then well-timed, quality sessions, and even races, do more to enhance peak performance than continuing to log weeks of Build-type training. Therefore, a few weeks after Vineman, I put myself through a tough 50k trail run out at Salt Point. My thinking was that this well-timed effort would give me a nice boost in running fitness while further enhancing my durability. The raced shelled me. I had no power on the climbs and it was tough being at a 50k trail run and under-performing as an ultra-runner. But, I reminded myself: this year you are not an ultra-runner.
August wore on and I resumed my triathlon training. After three weeks “off” with that 50k thrown in, my motivation to train has come back slowly. Those three weeks were planned down weeks, ones that are now permitting my mind and body for the final Build to Kona on October 8th.
Here’s where it gets interesting. On Monday, I conducted a 2:45 long run. I warmed up for about 40min and then jumped on 7min pace for 30min. After 30min I bumped it up to 6:45 pace. Then, I lowered it to 6:30 for another 30min. I’m running on soft surface with a bottle of Sustained Energy and Clif Shots. I have a HUGE emphasis right now on my cadence. I’m forcing myself to keep my leg turnover at 85-90 left foot-strikes/min. Conditioning myself to hold cadence, especially late in a run, is what I feels is probably, one of the most important factors in maintaining run speed.
After the half hour at 6:30 pace, I took a 5min jog and was pleased to discover, I had some gas left in the tank and actually wanted to run more, at a faster pace. I hit another split and just pushed hard. For just 3min I was running at 5:55. I came to a gate and decided that was enough. Any more, and I’d be over-reaching versus continuing to lean against my limits.
Starting the school year is a tremendous tax on my available energy. Learning about my 110 new students, Back to School Night, and recovering from that long run, left me feeling pretty flat, all week long. On Friday, I went out on the bike after school, and after 45min of warm-up, I skipped the turn to the big climb and just went on back to my classroom and called it a night. No energy.
Yesterday, after a good’s night’s sleep, I hopped on the tri-bike and did a ride I’ve always wanted to do: Santa Rosa to the lighthouse on Point Reyes. With my 2000 calorie bottle and plenty of water, I took the first half fairly easy. No caffeine and no music to the lighthouse at 62miles. I ate a Clif-Bar at the half-way, as well as a 100mg caffeinated Clif Shot, put on my iPod, with a special “lighthouse” playlist, and had two, approximately hour intervals where I worked pretty hard over rolling terrain. The idea is to train on similar terrain as I’ll find out on the Ironman course on the Big Island. I wore a base layer and arm-warmers to simulate riding in those hot/humid conditions. 125mi with about 8000′ of climbing, five weeks out from Kona, will be the biggest ride I’ll do. Specificity and quality of training is paramount.
I had parked my car near the far trail-head of the same trail on which I conduct my long run. I transitioned at my car and within 5min I was out on the run and was delighted (and somewhat baffled) by my pace. Since Monday’s strong long run, I’d been so lethargic, lackluster, and just tired. But, off the bike yesterday, I was able to run 6:05 pace for about 30min at my optimal aerobic heart-rate. Again, I was really emphasizing my cadence and getting in a gel and water.
Salt Point is paying off. My long run on Monday was the strongest I’ve conducted. There is a strength present that was not there in 2007 coming off the bike. Instead of fearing falling apart, and then pacing too conservatively, I’m more confident in my ability to run a sub-3 off the bike in Kona, weather conditions permitting of course. I know that I do have a choice to keep my cadence high, even when I’m suffering to beat the band.
Again, to run sub-3 off the bike, I need to run 6:52/mi. Naturally, it’s nice to come off a pretty hard 7hr ride and run 6:05 for 30min. This will play into my mental game coming off a 5hr bike ride in Kona. I want 6:30s to feel easy, and for as long as possible! If I’m averaging 6:30 to 6:40 for the first 10mi in Kona, and come in and out of the Natural Energy Lab with a cumulative average of about 6:50 to 6:52, then by golly, I can choose to keep my cadence high, use my aid stations wisely, and close out my marathon at 6:52 or better. Salt Point makes it so, as well as the training and racing sown this year.
And then, there’s swimming. If I have a Ph.d in running and a Masters in cycling, then I’m in about 6th grade on the swim. I don’t let it discourage me like it has in years passed. I’ve come to put a lot of stock in the notion that we can improve our limiters but it’s our strengths that we’ll see the most growth, for obvious reasons. I know that swimming is about flow and rhythm. Long and strong. With the bulk of cycling and running behind me, I’ll take the next 5 weeks to swim quite a bit, working up to a set of 10 x 400 and see if I can knock off a few seconds/400 from the set I did about 10 days out from Vineman. God knows I’m a land creature. I have more of a runner’s body-type. I may never love the swim, this is true, but my passion for cycling and enthusiasm for running will see me through, as they always will. Swimming humbles me and I better understand now, at 37, why that is important and why I must keep at it. If I can take my swim to 7th or 8th grade, then I’ll just be that much farther up the road late in the marathon. And that would just be pretty d*mn cool.
My best in Kona is about 9:35. Naturally, I want to improve upon that and, if the Hawaiian gods see fit to give us some reasonable weather, I’d hope to establish a personal best at the distance, improving on my recent PR at Full Vineman of 9:24. And if the conditions are poor, then they’re poor for everybody racing. The process doesn’t change. As Einstein brilliantly wrote, “Full effort is full victory.”