Monday. Well lots of news to report. Was down 2.4 pounds at WW on Friday so my small efforts during the weeks seem to have paid off. .6 to go and I’ve ridded myself of the pesky 3 that I was up from my Septemberfest and heading in the right direction.
Well I made it through my first Ironman training camp weekend and I have to say I feel really motivated and pumped to work harder. Up until now I didn’t really feel like my workouts had been much different other that being surrounded with absolutely everybody being faster than me (oh wait a minute, that’s not different either!). Workouts had been pretty much the same. This weekend was a sampling of what was to come and I’m glad I got my wake up call now and not later.
I think a lot about the process of turning dreams into reality. What really has to happen? It’s one thing to say “I want to complete an Ironman” and then another to truly grasp the process of what is involved to do that. “I want to lose weight” are just words until you visualize the process. This weekend I got an idea and instead of being demoralized (because I was still pretty slow), I felt reinspired. (Is that a word?)
The team couldn’t be a bunch of nicer people. It’s almost shocking how each and every person on the team is so warm and friendly to me. I knew a lot of the people on the team already from previous events so I wasn’t so surprised about them, but I was so surprised to see the warmth and generous spirit of the returning members. I must admit many of them appear intimidating (because they are so fit, strong and fast) but throughout the weekend a good portion of them stopped to ask how I was doing? Was everything okay? And just checking in on me in general. How nice is that?
Okay I know I have a bunch of detail people who want the nitty gritty of what my weekend entailed. For you:
On Saturday morning I picked Jaime up at 6:30 at her apartment. Jaime is small. Her bike is small. Her bike wouldn’t fit on my bike rack. We had to take my bike off and switch bike racks in order to get both of our bikes on the car. Her bike rack is much better than mine and I’m going to buy one http://www.orsracksdirect.com/saris-bones-trunk-bike-rack-3-801.html. I highly recommend it.
So we took off for New Paltz and got there in plenty of time to meet up with some of the other teammates and get our gear ready for the long day in front of us. We were told our transitions had to be quick and lunch was to be eaten in the car on the way to our next workout. I already knew they meant business.
Our morning workout was a hike. It was actually quite nice. We hiked up a mountain. At first it was just a speedwalk through the woods and I actually lead for quite a bit. Speed walking is something I know how to do. The others know how to run sub 7 minute miles or saunter. So I was getting quite a good cardio workout and chat with one of the alumnae until we hit the mountain climbing part of the workout. It was not that it was so hard as it was the trail was a little rocky and steep so I lost a lot of my momentum and that’s when a lot of people started passing me. But I kept up. When we got to the top there was long trail and people started running to catch up to the group ahead and of course that’s when I got left behind. But I just kept my power walk going and eventually caught up to them so I was pleased with that. I made note that my power walking skills were something I wanted to keep up with.
At the end of the 2 hour hike we ended in what appeared to be a small grassy area that was really just hiding a lot of mud. They had plastic sheets for people who didn’t want to get wet but I had my rain poncho to serve as my “exercise mat.” We then started a series of core exercises. Abdominal compressions, mini and regular bicycles and pull the chain crunches. Then of course the part I was not looking forward too, plank — except instead of doing just the regular plank and holding it, now we have to lift one leg at a time while doing it. As I suspected I was not too good at it. Then we did side plank and their compulsary move of switching to the other side without letting your hip or butt hit the floor. And the lovely little twist of once you are in side plank we have to lift our top leg up and down. Let’s just say I got a lot of mud on my hips and butt.
When everyone was doing the plank the coaches came along and pushed everyone’s butts down. I thought I was doing a pretty good plank until one of the coaches came over and pushed my butt down to flatten me out. OMG my core was so hurting. I last about two seconds after he walked away before I collapsed. The thing I hate is they count out 1 minute but they don’t start counting until everybody’s butt is up in the air! If you don’t time it right it could be another 15 seconds on top of the minute. Let’s just say I have lots of work to do. The core session lasted about 1/2 hour but much of it was talk and demonstration of the exercises and what muscles we are using and why. So probably net/net we did about 15 solid minute of what they call the TVA (Transverse Abdominals) exercises — previously known as all-that-stuff-Rhonda-made-me-do.
After core I had my first feeling of “okay, I see what I need to do.” Of course, I knew what I needed to do for the last year and half I’ve been moaning and groaning about getting better at core. But now the moment was here. I realized, I’m on top of a freakin mountain doing core exercises with my team. This is ironman training 101. They repeated over and over all weekend that this was the “easy” camp and now we would know exactly what we have to do so at the next training camp (which will be harder) we will be ready for the next level. No more in-the-future. No more “when I start ironman training.” Now I am in it. Reality has knocked on the door and on my butt and delivered the message in no uncertain terms. This is exactly what you HAVE to do. I felt inspired to do better.
Then we did a quick jog downhill to our cars. Now my knees were all warmed up and I felt okay to run. One of the coaches told me I didn’t have to run but I told him I was okay and my knees seemed strangely warmed up and okay. He suggested I might want to look into heat wraps to wrap my knees before running to help my joints get warmed up sooner. I thought that sounded like a good idea so I thought I would give that a try on Tuesday night.
Once we were in the cars we had 1/2 hour to get back to the motel, change into our bike gear and meet in front of the motel. Everyone did that well and at 12:30 we met promptly to start our 3 hour bike ride. This was the moment I was really nervous about because everyone had been telling me how hard the New Paltz hills are and they were going to kick my butt. Even Jaime in the car was going on and on about how hard they were and I have to say I had little butterfliess riding little bicycles all around my stomach.
They split us up into 3 groups. Advanced, sparkly and not so sparkly. ROFL. I guess you can choose not-so-sparkly for a variety of reasons. Of course I chose not-so-sparkly and was more than happy to ride with the slowest group. I mean this is an ironman team so the slow group is still going to be faster than most people. They waited about five minutes between groups so we didn’t assault the New Paltzians with 40 riders hitting the road at once.
When it was our turn to take off we started out single file and heading down a flat road. Fairly quickly I heard some kind of weird scratching noise coming from my bike. I hit the brakes and stopped. I pedalled for two minutes and it started again. Finally I had to stop and I told the guy behind me to go ahead. I pulled out three leaves that had become lodged in my back break (ah, Autumn!) and also noticed my brakes were not even so spent a few seconds adjusting everything and by the time I looked up the entire group was gone!! Rhut Rho. Time to get pedalling. It took me a few minutes but I caught up to the group.
Coach Kim noticed that I was on a different bike than I ride on Thursday mornings right away. (Kudos to her for noticing.) I introduced her to Sylvia and told her my other bike was Tina. She told me to start bringing Sylvia to practice for pacelining and bike handling skills and that I could take Tina out for my long solo rides. I was really impressed that she noticed what bike I was riding.
I quickly found myself at the front of the group with another guy (who I know is a fasty fast cyclist and had no idea why he was riding with us). The head coach is riding with the two of us giving us some tips and when then he tells us to keep going as he’s going to cycle to the back. I lose the other cyclist on a hill (he’s really fast) but I see him ahead of me for awhile. I turn around and see one person a good ways back but figure they’ll catch up after the hill. Little did I know that for the next three hours I would be riding alone!!!
I basically rode with the next pack just in sight but just far enough away that I was not catching them. I would start to close the gap but they were about 1/2 mile ahead so I was not going to catch them. I would only see them as red specks in the distance. Once the roads started curving I lost them. At one point I was riding, riding, riding and there was nobody in sight behind or in front and I started to get that creepy, I-should-have-paid-better-attention-to-the-map feeling. They told us from the beginning that this was not a guided ride — we had a map, a cue sheet and a cell phone, figure it out!! My plan to just follow the group was not working.
At one point I hit a “t” in the road and got nervous so I stopped to check my map. I had stopped for only one second when the head coach came flying up on his bike (I mean he must be riding over 25 mph on the flat no kidding!) He said “keep going straight until you reach the bridge that goes over your head.” He rode with me for awhile and was really complimentary — said my cadence was good, my knee position was good. He said in 9 months I was going to be fantastic. That made me feel really good. Then coach Kim pulled up next to us and she told me I was tucking my pelvis under and to straighten out the small of my back. I always concentrate on the top of my back. I didn’t even notice I was doing it until she said that. It was really weird to be out in the middle of nowhere on this road with two coaches riding right next to me looking at every little detail.
Coach Scott informs me we are starting our ascent and that this would be a long climb. Gulp. I didn’t relay how nervous I was. I just hunkered down and started to pedal. It was soon apparent that I couldn’t hang with them at all. Coach Scott tells Coach Kim to come with him and they tell me I’m doing great and just keep going to the bridge and off they swoop up the hill. I mean whoosh — off they went like there was no hill at all. So once again I was left to ride alone. Push, pull, push, pull. I wasn’t too worried because I knew the rest of the not-so-sparklies were behind me somewhere.
So I started climbing, climbing, climbing. I’ve done steeper, not sure if I’ve done longer but I just had it in an easy gear and kept pedalling, pedalling. I was certainly breathing hard but I wasn’t thinking I was going to fall off my bike or anything. After about twenty or thirty minutes I see the bridge. That’s it? That’s the big freakin hill? Vermont was much worse than this. Those hills heading into Valley Forge were harder on the Tour de Pink made me cry more than that one. My mountain in CT was MUCH worse than this. I was so relieved. I made it to the top of the hill. Woo Hoo. Smooth sailing from here. Or so I thought.
Once we made it to the bridge we were to look for a small road called Clove Road. I kept looking for the road, somewhat aware that I was heading back downhill. I kept riding, riding, looking for the road. Then I saw a tri-lifer coming back up the hill. I asked her where was Clove Road? She said just up ahead on the right so I kept riding. That probably should have been my first hint that some time had elapsed. I figured I would just go up there, turn around and come back.
I hit Clove road and pretty quickly I was aware of one distinquishing feature. It was all downhill!! Memories of the Coogan’s run up in Fort Washington — if you run down it, you have to run up it. Oh boy, more uphills waiting for me. But I had done the hard hill already, right? Right!?!? I kept riding, riding, riding. Nobody in sight. I come across a man making the most fantastic wood sculptures in his yard. “Have you seen any cyclists coming through here?” “Yeah about 200 of them.” So I knew I was on the right road. But every down hill was making me more nervous. I was aware I was going down the hills with some trepidation. I wasn’t sure I wanted any more downhills…..
Soon I saw groups of trilifers heading back. I kept asking “should I turn around? Should I turn around?” “Coaches up ahead” they would all say. This was where I made a tactical error. I had neglected to pay attention to the detailed instructions early on when they said to turn around when we were at the 1 hour 30 minute point. I just kept pedalling, pedalling looking for the coaches. When I got to the end the coaches were suprised to see me. “Why didn’t you turn around?” They asked. “I wanted to get to the end?” I said. “How long did it take you to get here?” I looked at my watch it said 2:10. I figured if we left at 12:30 that was 1 hour 40 minutes. “Well you have to make it back in 1 hour 20 minutes to meet the rest of the group in time.” GULP!!! OMG, I have to ride faster back?
I was screwed. Coach Scott said “don’t worry, you have a half hour to shower and change for dinner, you’ll just take the time out of that. Plus you’ll make up some time on the downhills going back.” Then he road up to me and said “don’t even worry about it, you are good on the hills.” Then he sped off. I wanted to scream after him “DOWNHILLS!!!, I’m good on the DOWNHILLS.” I suck on the uphills, I muttered to myself.
Okay, great I will have a whole ten minutes to shower, change and get ready for dinner. We were to leave at 4 p.m. to go a bike clinic and dinner. If I took 1 hour 40 to get back that would mean I get there at 3:50!!!! I started to pedal my brains out. I started to get in a bad mood. I started to get mad at everyone who didn’t tell me to turn around. I was quickly trying to blame everyone but myself. Me, the person who didn’t really understand the part about “when you reach 1:30 turn around.” I hadn’t looked at my watch until they asked me what time it was. That’s why I never saw any of the not-so-sparklies — they had all turned around to go back to the motel!!!
Then something strange happened. I let go of being mad and just sunk into the project at hand. Then something even stranger happened. I said to myself “you did great on getting here and you can do great on getting back there. Just hunker down and pedal. There’s still tons of light, it’s not going to be dark. You know the route now. It’s a beautiful day. This is beautiful scenery. Hunker down and train for the Ironman.” I was well aware that this was a changing point in my personal attitude. Nobody is going to be out there holding your hand race day. Yeah sure it would be nice if Michelle was there with me but you know what? Race day you’ll be on your own. Figure it out. So I just kept pedalling, pedalling, pedalling. And my muslces were getting tighter and tighter and tighter.
The biggest irony of the entire ride was a tiny bump of a hill that I hit on Clove road. Here I had been climbing, climbing, climbing back up Clove road and I was faced with this tiny hill — not even 200 yards long but it was like a little cliff I had to get up and over. It was so short it was insulting. But still it was everything in my power to not fall over. I knew if I got off my bike I could run my bike up and over it in 60 seconds. I knew it would be best to stand but If I stood I was pretty sure some muscle was going to snap so I had to just get up and over the bump while seated. I pushed and pulled and pushed and pulled and that crappy little bump was the hardest moment of the entire 3 hour ride. That little bump was harder than any hill in Vermont, any hill in Firmman. On that little bump I said I think I might have to fall over right now. How funny that the big mean mountain didn’t give me any problem but the tiny little bump almost did me in! Sweat the small stuff!
But I made it up and out of Clove Road and thought I was finished with my climbing. Of course I had totally forgotten about that nice downhill release I had hit on my way down to Clove Road. Now I had to climb back up that too!!! Shoot me now God, shoot me now! But now I was determined. I was even a little mad. I would not call in for help. I would get up this freakin’ hill if it killed me. I commanded my legs to keep spinning. I didn’t even know who this determined person was. I think 15 years ago I would have called a limo. Definitely would have stopped to have a cigarette to think about the situation. Now it was me or this hill. I will not let this hill get me. Spin, spin, spin. Who cares if everyone left you behind? Who cares if you are out on this freakin’ mountain alone? I don’t even care if I make dinner. I heard the hill laughing at me. “Screw you, I’m doing this!” So I kept pulling my heels up, pulling my heels up.
All of a sudden I heard a voice behind me, “Great Job!! You look great!” I couldn’t turn around. Then the A group was coming up the hill behind me. They must have gone down the hill further past Clove Road for extra work and were now coming back up. There were about 8 of them and every single one of them said something nice to me as they zipped past me. It was like a bunch of little angels popping out of the sky. And then the head cycling coach comes right up next to me and said “you look great. Great up!” Great Up!! Great Up!! I got a “great up” from the head cycling coach! I felt like someone just gave me a shot of morphine in the butt. My quads and hamstrings were all happy too. All my muscles were slapping each other high fives. Great Up!!! How absolutely silly that two little words could mean so much. My muscles and I felt the hill retreat defeated. We had won. We beat that freakin’ hill.
Then we got the reward of a big downhill. A couple of lagging A riders zipped past. We didn’t care. The hard part was over for us (me and my quads, hamstrings and glutes). We now just had to do about 1 hour of not-so-bad terrain. I knew there would be some hills left but nothing too bad. Now I was just going to crank it out. I was going to make it back with time to spare.
I hit one more big downhill. Ah yes this was the uphill that started the whole thing when Coach Scott and Coach Kim started up with me. I had forgotten about this big hill. I looked at it. Straight downhill, nice decline, my kind of hill. I told the gang (quads, hamstrings and glutes), “let’s do this.” So I threw it my hardest gear and started pedalling like a maniac. I was pedalling, pedalling I suddenly heard a voice pull up next to me “Great pedalling on the down hill, but you are sitting so upright you are a big wind bag, crouch lower, c’mon let’s go.” Coach Scott had appeared again out of nowhere. I lowered my body and kept pedalling. My speedometer said 36.8. Not the fastest I have ever gone but that’s fairly fast. Here’s the kicker. I’m going 36.8. My coach is tiny. I bet he doesn’t even weigh 145 pounds. He’s hunkered down pedalling down that hill. I’m behind him for two seconds laying everything I have into that hill. In two seconds he is so far ahed of me that I can’t even think of catching him. Did I mention I’m going 36+ miles an hour? I couldn’t get Sylvia into the 40’s on that hill. Don’t know if Tina would have but regardless he was out of sight in about 30 seconds. Wow, that was impressive.
So now I felt all motivated, supported and loved so I kept pedalling and pedalling looking at my watch and thinking I’m doing okay. I end up at an intersection have to ask directions and I get them. I head off down a long road, get to an intersection and pedal right past my Motel and out onto the highway!!! So I’m on the highway (plenty of room of for biking). I see the Motel 87 and think no it can’t be that way, so I turn around and start pedalling toward town. I see the McDonalds and stop. Hmm, it can’t be that way, I never passed a McDonalds. I turn around and head back. Then in the trees I see a sign for the Super 8 and realize that I had pedalled right past my motel and just wasted a good ten minutes on the highway. WHY DO I ALWAYS GET LOST?!?!?!?! I had to laugh out loud at that.
I pulled into the driveway. 3:45 exactly. I looked at my bike computer for time elapsed 3 hours exactly. Distance was 41 miles. Okay that was a pretty slow time for 41 miles but it was a lot of up hills. A lot of up hills. But more important I was back, in the parking lot, ready to take a shower and change and I knew nobody would really be ready at 4 p.m. I ran into the lobby and everybody was standing there in their bike clothes. I saw Jamie (she was in the group ahead of me) how long they had been back and she said about ten minutes. Ten minutes???? That’s how long I was out there riding up and down the highway!!! I was really happy. If I had just gone out with the second group I would have been with them the whole time and would have had some pacelining to help. Not too shabby!!
We all showered, changed and headed over to the Red Rooster for a bike clinic and dinner. The bike clinic was pretty good and I got some tips which I will share in a later blog. The dinner was — eh — nothing I liked to eat so I was happy to have had my chocolate milk and power-fu sandwich when I got off the bike. So I wasn’t really hungry.
I went for hot chocolate with a couple of teammates afterwards (skim milk for me and No cake — even though they were eating cake). When we got back to hotel I poured myself into bed at 8:30 extremely satisfied with my long day. I reflected on the hike, the core, the bike ride and the hills and realized that I was pretty proud of my performance. No I wasn’t the fastest or best or even close. But I climbed the hills, I remained focussed, I didn’t give up and I faced some demons in my mind. I realized that the thing I was proudest of was that in those moments when I thought I was alone and having to dig out some kind of inner strength to get through that workout that I was surprised to find that my quads, hamstrings, glutes and attitude all showed up for the workout. We were a team. I felt for the first time that now I really was on my way to becoming an Ironman. I still have a long way to go but now there was no question in my mind, I was going to go all the way.
So that was day one of training camp. Tomorrow I’ll relay all the fun stuff of day two!!
“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.”