Monday. Ah the feeling of resting and recovery muscles. Almost as good as the feeling I get when I wake up and realize “Hey it’s Monday and I don’t have to swim, bike or run, yippee!” I actually feel pretty good considering I just completed my 5th training camp of the season.
We started camp on Saturday at 6 a.m. in the city with a swim up at Asphalt Green. At the start of the workout the coach said we should not feel exhausted at the end of this swim. I felt it was a harder workout for me than usual (exhausted would be a stretch). We worked on the pull part of the stroke. So with that comes having to pull something. Like a partner. That actually was not so bad as my having to keep up with my partner when we had to practice drafting. My partner was much faster than me. I had to basically sprint to keep up with her for the first 25 meters and then she just left me in the dust for the second 25. I really didn’t get the drafting benefit. But my fault for being so darn slow.
After the swim we packed our cars and bikes and headed up to New Paltz. Once we got up there we hopped on our bikes for a 4 hour ride. I have to say it was one of the harder rides I’ve done. Can’t say it was the hardest because I suffer from pregnancy memory when it comes to big workouts or even races like that. Once I finish I almost immediately start to forget the pain so I pooh pooh the difficulty factor. This time I tried to make note.
The ride was broken into 3 sections. The first section was ride up the mountain and then do out and backs on a hilly road (Clove Rd). Ride out easy, ride back (uphills) with effort. I’ve done that road before so I knew already what was coming. But it was good because one of the coaches coached me through the hills so I really tried to maximize my efficiency. The worst part is right at the end of the return trip, there is a tiny little lip of of a hill that kills me every time. I don’t know what I do but somehow I must contract my stomach muscles so hard when I stand and PUUUUHHHHHLLLL myself up and over that little hump that I swear I feel something go snap, crackle and pop right near my diaphragm. I think that’s where the expression “Bust a Gut” comes from. (Hmmm, or that could be a reference to the gut strings on a tennis racquet). Doesn’t matter, I busted it, whatever it is. Then we had to go back out and do it again, and again. The moment of cresting that little hill is a 100% effort on my part. “We do not remember days… we remember moments.” Ceasare Pavese
We started to head down the big mountain and I was already feeling relieved because once we were down the mountain I knew it was going to be flatter riding. I was riding and licking my wounds a little from the beating I just received from those craggy little hills when all of a sudden there was a coach telling me to turn right. Turn right? What? Huh? Sure enough, halfway down the mountain was a road and I see my other teammates heading off onto it so I follow them. We never did this road last year. I was immediately out of my comfort zone. This was unknown territory and I started to get very worried. What have they cooked up this time? (I had a little vision of my coaches going to dinner parties with their neighbors and instead of talking about stock markets or lawn car woes, they exchange pieces of information about new found torture devices for the visiting athletes. “Hey we just found a new hill in the area, this one will really crush them. Has a gravel bed too, you’ll love it! Dip?”)
And then the hills began. Not mountains, but good, generous hills. By now we were nearly two hours into our ride and more than a little fatigued from climbing up the mountain and doing repeats on Devil Road (I’ve renamed it to something more appropriate than Clove Road which sounds much too innocent). I make it up the first little hill on this new route only to be assaulted by a bigger one. I see two teammates pull off to stretch. Oh God, I warned my legs, don’t even THINK about stopping. But stretching sounded good. My hamstrings could have used it, but if I stopped I knew I wouldn’t easily get back on. So I keep clawing up the hill. Right there I had a moment that I wanted to record. I actually said to myself “right here, right now, remember this. This moment sucks. When you get your post-workout amnesia, I want you to remember this moment as it really is, this is hard, this is taking everything you have to get up this hill. And… say it again, this sucks.” Even now as I’m writing this, I don’t remember how terrible it felt, I only remember myself making note of how hard that was.
Then we had a nice long decline — went on for what felt like two miles (might not be quite that long). At first I was enjoying it. Sun was shining in my face, the scenery was beautiful. I thought “Oh, this is a glory moment, when everything feels great.” Then I realized who had planned this workout, and that I was being lulled into a false sense of accomplishment. Sure enough, I got all the way to the end of the road and there was a big orange arrow telling everyone to turn around and ride back. Shoot me. We have to ride back up that downhill we just came down? Pedal, Pehhdal, Pehhhdal. Then one of the coaches who will be doing St. Croix rode with me for a bit and that distracted me from the pain as we were talking about the heat and hills that I would have there. Then, when I was back to my solo grind, I heard one gal whimper behind me, “how long have we been riding? Are we almost done?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we had over an hour to go. Moments like that, best to not say anything. Just look ahead, mind your own pain and pedal.
Finally we got off the hills section and we had one hour left of flat time trial. Time to just ride as fast as you can after climbing hills for 3 hours. I honestly did not know how I was going to do that. But I actually think I did okay. Once we were off the hills my legs were so grateful that the torture had ended that they were willing to do anything I said. I think we were all hurting because I passed a couple of people I would never pass (and then we just played cat and mouse for the rest of the time passing each other.) It was interesting because I knew I couldn’t do another big hill, but I was okay to ride on the flats.
And then we regrouped at the cars and had to put our running shoes on for an hour run. Yep, a one hour run down a big hill and back up a big hill and then onto a flat. Finish, turn around and do it again. Keep doing until the hour is up or you have turned into salsa, whatever comes first. Oy, I was just going to do the best I could. I made it down the hill to the turn around point and a coach was standing there telling me to start my watch and time how long it took me to get back up the hill and all the way to the stop sign — exactly 1 mile. I had to walk up the hill (which I maintain is faster than my run uphill). Gravity was pulling me backwards and I just had nothing to propel myself forward. When I got to the stop sign my timed mile was 13:14. I then had to loop around and do it again, about the same 13:18. After that I just did out and backs on the flats, I wasn’t going to go down the hill again. I think the point of the “exercise” was to show us what pace we would probably be running in Lake Placid with the hills. That’s just shy of a 6 hour marathon and I’m resigned to the fact that will probably be my pace.
Good notes of the day. My nutrition worked fine. I did 2 bottles of my Infinit Formula and 2 bottles of plain water along with 3 gels during the ride. I felt like I had energy left for the run. I didn’t bonk at all. I sipped about another half a bottle on the run. I also felt strong enough to finish everything. My inner hamstrings had started to give out on the last part of the bike but toward the end I adjusted to an easier gear and kept spinning and trusted that it would go away — it did. So I think it is good that I am starting understand my personal phases of pain and what I have to do to get through it. My knee didn’t give out on the downhill either time so I didn’t get a chance to work through that but was a good lesson nonetheless.
The other thing I worked on all weekend was my pedal stroke. I definitely pull up on my pedal stroke but I realize now that I don’t start the downward motion soon enough. If I think of my chainwheel as a clock, I’ve been starting my downward motion at about 1 o’clock. It should start more like 11 o’clock. It should feel like you are pushing through 11 right through to 1 but because it is a circle it goes up and over 12. It’s hard to explain if you are not riding, but it was a missing piece to a pedal stroke of constant pressure all the way through. I practiced it on the uphills and the flats. It definitely helped.
Day one complete. 1 hour swim, 4 hour bike, 1 hour run. Eat, stretch, sleep and be up, out of the hotel and ready to run by 6:40 a.m.
Temperature — ridiculously cold, It was like 20 degrees out pre-dawn Sunday morning. We headed out to run the trails of Mohonk Mountain. They had already told us that we would be running repeats on a hill called Godzilla. I think the name pretty much says it all. The coaches gave an option for those with bad knees or injuries to run a flatter route. I took the flatter route. I had done Godzilla last year and basically had to walk up it anyway. I weighed the benefits I would get from running up and down a very steep hill with the damage I might do to my knees and I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I never make it past 8 miles without my knees giving out anyway so with a 2:30 run I knew I was headed for some pain with or without Godzilla.
First 2+ miles were a gradual downhill. The sun was coming up so it started to warm up a bit and was actually comfortable. But my joints were taking a long time to warm up. Nothing wanted to bend from my hips down. It was part cold, part stiffness from the prior day’s activities. I was really cajoling my joints into cooperating. Bend a little more, c’mon, just a little more. Around the 45 minute mark I started to feel some flashes of running. By 1 hour I was warmed up and keeping a slow but steady pace going but I had to keep reminding myself to engage my hipflexors. We were supposed to start our pickup at the 1:30 mark and I blew that (I was doing too much math in my head). So when the coach ran by me a 1:36 and asked how my heart rate was and I said about a level 6/7 he said to pick it up we were in our interval already. So my calculations to be a the top of the hill to start my harder effort were misfigured and I had to start running hard back up that same 2 mile incline we had run down. But I was doing okay for me.
Funniest part of the whole day for me was when one of my friends on the team ran by me and said “c’mon catch me” which was a huge joke because he is one of the fastest guys on the team. But it was good natured. So he ran ahead and I’m huffing and puffing my way up the hill and then see him go into an outhouse on the side of the trail. I started running as hard as I could to get to the little outhouse and then I pounded on the wall “HEY! Do hear this?” I yelled. “This is the sound of me PASSING YOU!” And then then I took off laughing so hard at being able to take advantage of the most opportune moment. I got to pass one of the fastest runners on the team. Okay it had to be with him locked in a room with his pants down, but you know strategy is strategy. Like we say in tennis, part of the game is showing up to the match on time. If you can’t get that part right, you can’t win. Later when I got to the top of the hill and he caught up to me again I declared “It doesn’t count if you pass me on the flats, you had to pass me on the uphill!”
After the 40 minute pickup (which I did the entire 40 minutes at a 10K effort) we went onto a nice flat easy trail for our cool down. There were a couple of people nursing some injuries and all of a sudden it hit me. Holy smoke. I was at 2 hours and 15 minutes and I had not felt so much as a twinge in my knee? Nothing. Not only that, nothing in my quads and nothing in hamstrings. Yes they were tired, but there were no cramps or pulled muscles. Nothing in my calves either. Wow, weird. I really couldn’t get over my knee. Somewhere in that workout I passed mile 8 (which is were I usually start to feel it go and everything starts falling apart from there.) But now here I was at 2:15 and from the tip of my head to the tip of my toes, I had no acute pain anywhere. Tired, sure. Pain, none. I can’t even say I had any discomfort (other than oxygen deprivation). I can honestly say if I had to run more, I could have. I didn’t want to, but I could. I even had enough energy. 2 1/2 hours had just flown by. It was a strange and unfamiliar feeling.
When we finished at 2:30 minutes the coach asked me how I was. I told him it was a miracle. I have NEVER, N.E.V.E.R, had greater than a 1:40 run without pain. And I didn’t even walk up the hill, I ran (well okay, it’s really more of a jog…) Granted I didn’t do Godzilla but my knee popped out last Tuesday trying to do my speed work on the Oval. This was a miracle. “I told you those standing hill drills on your bike were going to help your running. Believe me know?” I laughed. What that guy won’t do or say to get me to stand and climb on my bike. I was so happy that I truly felt joy in my heart. I know it sounds corny but for the number of times I have hobbled into finish a workout or a race, to finish feeling strong and confident is an amazing feeling. Now if I could just be strong, confident and faster that would REALLY be something.
We went back to the hotel, grabbed our bikes and went out for a flat recovery ride. This year it really was a flat recovery ride (I remember last year was not so flat.) It was actually fun because all the fast kids were slowing down so the slower people could ride with them. I ride faster on the flats anyway so it was an easy ride for me and at the end of the ride I ended up taking turns drafting off a gal. I thought that was a fitting way to end the last New Paltz camp because the two of us ended the first camp doing the same thing. Total ride was only 1 hour and I felt good enough that if they wanted me to spin for another I could do it. I couldn’t climb a hill though, that would have killed me.
For day two I also felt I did my nutrition right. I brought one water bottle with me with a full serving of Infinit and I also took two gels. I probably should have taken more fluids but it was so cold that I think my sweat rate was a little lower. I got the calories in and later on the bike I just kept sipping away on plain water so I think I got some hydration back. I didn’t bother to take any extra calories in on the short bike ride because I was already planning on having French Fries for lunch!
As far as the rest of the food went I found myself in my hotel room with no computer and no pen to write down everything I ate. So I did the next best thing, I sent myself a text message with all my food notes. So now I can just enter all my food for the weekend into my tracker because even though I worked hard, I know how easy it is to blow the caloric lead. I want to get right back into my rhythm of shopping, chopping, cooking and tracking because I’m just 1.6 pounds away from hitting my 45 mark and I really want to get there.
All in all a successful camp. I had no problems, no drama, no injuries. I worked hard. I tried to push myself and stay engaged in my efforts. I’m also tried to really pay attention to the process and how I feel at each different stage. Right now I’m feeling pretty good.
“Body awareness not only anchors you in the present moment, it is a doorway out of the prison that is the ego.” Echhart Tolle, A New Earth