Monday. Well our fifth and final New Paltz training camp, completed! I have to say I had a great weekend. Was just what I wanted, a chance to hunker down and do a long ride and run and see how I did. I think it went great. A challenge but great. Not only did I think I did well, I was so proud of my friends because they all looked like rockstars out there. Everyone of us has battled once or more than once this season the fear that maybe we didn’t have what it takes, maybe we were sick too often or whatever. This weekend, I think, dispelled a lot of those fears. Yeah, this is nothing compared to doing an Ironman but I think they threw some hard workouts at us and we all did it.
We started on Saturday with a 4 1/2 hour ride. Even though I rode for the entire time, I only got in ~57 miles (not sure I started my odometer on time) because a good amount of the time was spent climbing a mountain. (Compare to Firmman where I did 56 miles in 3 1/2 hours). The distance limiter this weeked was the hills. We had one section that was a 5 mile climb. No kidding, 5 miles, uphill. Correction, not uphill, upmountain. It went on forever. That alone had to cost me 40 minutes and a lot of ego. When we finally got to the top we had to go back down and climb back up. We had a time limit of 2:30 to regroup at the top of the mountain so I didn’t go all the way back down the mountain, just about five minutes down for a 15 minute climb back up. That was hard.
Fun part was pacelining (riding in a line very close to one another) with a bunch of different people. I find I can keep up with most of the group as long as we are on the flats or downhills but I am one of the slowest climbers on the team. I know it is my excess baggage and hopefully that will change over time, but right now I console myself that at least I’m building muscle through my struggle. Of course my larger ASSetts help me in my descent down the mountain so I can usually catch up with people there. You have to love physics. Gravity — it giveth and it taketh away….
There was a small group of us that kept playing catchup with one another. I’d pass them, they’d pass me. One gal is a great climber — I pass her on the flats and downhills but she can climb like a Mountain Goat and leave everyone on the mountain in her dust. We joke that together we make one mean cyclist — if we could just find the right bike relay race… I could always see a couple of red jackets (our team colors) on the horizon so that kept me motivated to keep trying to reach them. My chain kept dropping a lot (I was not shifting properly and it needed a slight adjustment). A small annoyance in the big picture.
At one point (before the mountain climb), I felt the presence of someone coming up on my left and I saw it was two guys from the team. Fairly big guys and they were about to pass me. I suddenly had flashes from my Tour de Pink days last summer when those guys from PA would yell to me as they were about to paceline past me “Whoo Whoo, jump on the train!” So I quickly just jumped behind the two guys from my team and I stayed 4 inches from the second guy’s wheel and caught such a draft for a nice long ride that dropped me just behind a couple of my other teammates. That was so much fun to get right behind them and ride with the big guys for a few minutes (I hung on for a good while and I think we were defintely riding in the mid 20’s — felt like at least 24 mph but I wasn’t going to take my eyes off the road to look). At that point it was very gently rolling flat and that’s my best terrain. Then we hit a small hill and whoosh they took off without even knowing I had been hanging on for the ride. I never would have thought to do it if I hadn’t ridden with those guys last summer so kudos out to them!! Fun, fun, fun.
After the riding and the climbing for 2:30 we descended down for some time trial work. One of my big problems (besides lack of direction) is I didn’t know exactly where our time trial started. I should have paid more attention to the map and directions. Okay, everyone stop rolling your eyes, I did not get LOST! I didn’t have to call anyone to pick me up from East Podunk (although I did take one wrong turn with the coach standing there pointing in the opposite direction!!) Okay, I admit I don’t always pay attention to things around me. I seem to fix my eyes on the road and the horizon and just pedal — totally oblivious to what is around me. “I saw you pass when I was at the deli.” One teammate said to me. There was a deli? I didn’t see it. “I stopped at the Mobil station.” What Mobil station? “Did you see the dead deer?” What dead deer? I have no idea where I am even though we’ve ridden these roads before. At one point I said to my friend Nacho “uh, are we still doing the time trial? I’m not sure how much more I can do at this pace.” She said “what are you talking about? We’re almost at the hotel!” Until I see the Sushi restaurant I have no clue…. Oh boy, I need to study the maps more. But all good. I felt strong and like I could have kept going (on flat surface, no more hills please.) And I have a bunch of splits on my watch — just not sure exactly what they correspond to!! LOL
After our 4.5 hour bike, we had to quickly change into our running clothes and run for 1 hour. I wasn’t in pain at first, I was just doing my slog until they made us turn and run down a steep hill and then up a hill and down a hill and up a hill. My butt was screaming such profanities that I can’t repeat them. I didn’t know that your butt muscle can reach all the way down to your bone and squeeze it like a python. Oh. My. God. that hurt. I didn’t make it all the way down to the end of the road (where I believe there was one more hill waiting for me) as my time was up and I had to turn around and run back up and down, up and down the hills we had just run up and down, up and down.
When I got back up to the flat part I was really worried. I feared I wouldn’t be able to run the Ironman if it hurt this much for a 1 hour run. But then right at the magical 40 minute mark (and flat) my legs loosened up and went into their little shuffle and my heartrate went to somewhat normal and I knew I was okay again and I would be able to keep going if I had to. It’s just a matter of waiting it out for me. Eventually my legs come back. It’s those darn hills…… One of the gals on the team said afterwards — “there is no way we’ll do a course with hills this hard.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the Degree of Difficulty — the IGA hill in Lake Placid that is definitely this hard…..
So that was Saturday — done. Felt good and proud of myself for getting through it. Most of all I was happy that I had not bonked. My nutrition was good and I was not in any pain — (that glute muscle choking was to be expected and went away). So I was able to shower, recover and go out to the team dinner which to me is the sign of great progress and better nutrition. (Camps 1, 2 and 3 I was totally wiped out.)
Sunday morning we got up and did a 2 hour 15 minute run. I had a hard time with my breathing and heart rate during the run. At first I couldn’t get my breathing under control. Our warmup was up a hill which was not the best for me, but eventually I made it to the top. I couldn’t get air into my lungs and my heart rate was at a whopping 120 (that’s really low). Then we had to run up and down a series of hills. The first hill we went down I couldn’t get my heart rate going. It was stuck 124. I thought perhaps my heart rate monitor wasn’t working because I was certainly breathing hard. I had to walk back up that hill. It was too steep and I was running so ridiculously slow that it made no sense to try to run — I just opened up my stride and walked up as fast as I could. I guess I was more fatigued than I thought.
But then it got better. I made it down and up the next group of hills I was doing 13 minute miles which is not that good considering it was only mile 3 and 4 but the hills were very steep. My biggest problem was I couldn’t get my heart rate over 126. On the uphill I think I got it to 130 which is ridiculously low. Yet my breathing showed effort and I thought my legs were moving. I was okay with this becuase we were supposed to be running at marathon effort + 2. (If you run an 8 minute mile then run a 10). But in my case marathon effort + 2 is sitting at the bar having a cocktail so I have to kind of keep it in perspective. I just tried to run at pace from which I knew I had a little leeway to pick it up later.
At the 1:30 mark we were to run back up onto the flat road (yeah! hills done!) and start picking up our pace for 30 minutes. I thought I did this really well for me. I felt like I had great cadence going and good posture and felt strong and focussed. Only problem, according to my heart rate monitor, I was still not working. It was just stuck at 130. It wasn’t that I was running next to anyone (which might have given the heart rate monitor a misread). I couldn’t understand it. So I just had to go by perceived effort. I was really pleased that I felt good on the flat and that I had something extra left to give. So I give myself a C- on the hills and B for the flats for performance and an A for effort all around. Not bad for me. We finished with a 15 minute cool down jog and then we piled into our cars to go back to the hotel to grab our bikes.
Back at the hotel we all grabbed some quick food (for me, banana, TLC peanut bar and chocolate milk). Changed into our clothes and went out for a 2 hour “recovery ride.” I say “recovery ride” because the hills I had to get up and over were harder than the 5 mile climb I did the day before. Of course, we were all fatigued at that point and any hill was going to seem worse than it really was, but everyone was moaning and groaning on one particular hill. I was shaking at one point and I knew the bike wanted to stop but I refused to end my training camp weekend with getting off my bike or stopping. I have to say, that was every ounce of my being to push/pull this body up and over that hill. Short but so steep, tears started to form in my eyes. Not kidding. But after that it really did flatten out and I got to spend some quality time on the rolling flats. I had lost my group on the hard hill but I didn’t care, I was happy to just keep spinning along and I was so happy that I didn’t fall off my bike.
I caught up to one of my teammates, “Nacho” who had a flat. I could tell she was exhausted and I know that feeling when you are just so tired and then something like a flat tire happens. You just feel like packing it and calling a taxi. But there is some strange law of the universe that when it’s not your flat, you feel okay. I can’t explain it. If it had been my flat tire, I would have felt the same way she did, like “oh come on, give me a break….” Like it was the last insult fifteen miles from the hotel. But since it wasn’t my tire, I felt fine about stopping and fixing it. I can’t explain it. When it is for someone else, you find the energy. Plus this is this is the same gal who during my first week of training was the only person who waited for me while I was doing my hill repeats so I’ve always felt she deserved good karma. I was happy to repay a kindness.
It’s funny that those three flat tires I experienced in my Disney Half Ironman have served me well in the last year. Whenever I get a flat now my first reaction is, it’s not 100 degrees in the boiling sun and it’s only 1 flat? No big deal!! So I find I can change flats pretty quickly now. Just goes to show that even an awful experience like 3 flat tires in one race can serve as a good lesson for later on.
While fixing the tire two more of my good friends “Thelma and Louise” (dubbed for their run ins with the law in Central Park) rolled up to join us. (We have given ourselves all little nicknames — mine is “Towanda” like from the Movie Fried Green Tomatoes). So Thelma & Louise, Nacho and Towanda made a nice little paceline to catch up with the group. This is was fun for me as well. We did great pacelining and rotating — very impressive. Next thing we know we caught Coach Kim and one more of our teammates and had six of us to paceline back to the hotel.
That was the end of training camp #5. I really can’t believe that I have finished five New Paltz training camps. Even more than that, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. From being petrified before the first one. Scared by the second one. Nauseated by the third one. Rejuvenated by the fourth one and finally inspired by the 5th one. I’m ready to meet the challenges of the longer distances. I’m ready to continue to fight to do this. I’m not feeling tired or jaded or frightened (although maybe I should be.) I am also not afraid of this coming weekend’s 5 hour bike ride. In fact I look forward to it. I still love the bike and if not for the big hills, I would stay out on the bike all day everyday. But I have to lose some of the junk in my trunk to make the uphills less painful.
I can’t worry about the number of pounds I have to lose. I can only concentrate on the process of healthful eating and exercise and let number reveal itself. I am acting “As If” I am already where I want to be. I am eating healthy quanities and quality food. It may take a long time, but the good news is I’m not going anywhere. This doesn’t all suddenly stop come race day. This is a lifestyle and I have to be happy with living it and I am. I’ll just keep getting better and better.
Unbelievable that in 4 more days I will have gone 3 months without a sip of any alcohol!! Whodda thunk it? I will admit that the nice weather yesterday was calling for a nice glass of wine and putting my feet up with a good book. I have decided to give myself the option to enjoy a glass or two after the St. Anthony’s race on April 30th. IF I want it. I don’t want to pollute my bloodstream before the Bronx Half, Hook Mountain or St. Anthony’s. But if I make it through all three of those races and maybe have a good result at any one or them, then then I may do a little celebrating with a really good, GOOD, glass of wine (or two) at the end of April. But only if I feel like it and feel like I can process it.
So that’s where I am. 118 days or 16 weeks until Ironman, but who is counting (besides me?)
Towanda, righter of wrongs, queen beyond compare! …
AKA Rumble Girl!!