Monday. Last New Paltz Camp of the season is over. I guess the best words to describe it would be “unseasonably warm.” In other words freakin’ hot! In some ways it was good to train in this unexpected heat — let me think about that and I’ll bet back to you on exactly what those reasons are. Of course I was worried about myself but as I saw younger, stronger, faster teammates than me dropping like flies I quickly became worried for the whole lot of us. A couple seemed to do just fine in the heat — we’ll just call them abnormigines. The rest of us suffered in the first of many sweat fests of 2010.
On Saturday we all drove the bike course that we would be riding on Sunday. It was a 40 mile loop that we would ride twice. Driving it in the car first put a little assurance than everybody wouldn’t get lost despite the cue sheets and maps provided (as well as marked turns on the actual roads). I followed along intently as we drove to make sure I wouldn’t get lost. It seemed straight forward enough.
Then at noon (90 something degrees) we got on our bikes and rode up to the top of a mountain. I’ve done this climb a million times. (Okay maybe 6 times). It’s hard but definitely doable. I tried to pace myself watching my heartrate (which was just fine and a couple of times over the weekend my watch actually yelled out – ‘pick it up slacker!’ in the same sardonic voice from the gps thingy in my car which kind of freaked me out.) When we got to the top of the mountain we had to climb another winding hilly road to a parking lot where we would begin our workout. I hadn’t gone up too far when my heart started that wild beating thing and moved up into my throat and I started shaking. I pulled over and stopped in the shade. I looked at my watch and my heartrate was high but only like 150 which is not dangerous scary. I’ve seen 150 plenty of times and had been willing to plow through it. But all my Danger-Danger-Will-Robinson alarms were going off so I just wanted to wait until my breathing got down to normal. A little scared, a little unnerved but in 100% self-protection mode. I was not going to kill myself for any training plan.
The sad part was I had in my head that if I didn’t move from the spot where I stopped and got back on my bike at precisely the same spot I would have ridden the entire distance. In retrospect I have to laugh at my stupidity. Why not just walk your bike up? No. I couldn’t do that. I had to get back on my bike in the same spot. What an idiot. So I got back on my bike and it felt doable. Went up another hill — whole body starts shaking again, heart moves up to throat a little faster this time. Pulled over and repeated. The shaking was getting more pronounced. Again I waited until my breathing returned to normal and started again. I had to stop for a total of 3 times on this one stupid little driveway just to make it to the top. I was more than a little worried. What was the shaking thing about? My heart was doing that beating out of my chest thing that I thought was gone. I also had that prickly feeling and that cool rush that comes over your arms that I think is a sign of heat stroke. Great that would be just my luck.
There are a bunch of reasons for my heat exhaustion definitely the biggest being the heat. But I also think coupled with a bunch of other little factors (my doctor had just upped my medication by a smidge on Thursday so maybe that helped with the heart palpitations?) I am carrying 30 more pounds that I was in 2008 (though I think after this weekend that may be down to 25). I got my period on Friday so I may have been systemically a little depleted. I’m not sure I took enough pre-workout calories and hydration. I just came back from another heat exhausting weekend in Florida and maybe I never really rehydrated/recovered from that? I think you have to really load up on the hydration for two days ahead of time and I’m not sure I really did that (okay, I’m sure I didn’t really do that.) So I don’t think it was one thing that made me have a shake down. I think it was like a recipe, put all those factors on a bike and put it on 92 degrees and let it boil.
I got to the top and sat under a bush. Waited until everything stopped shaking. Was weird to take off my cycling shoe and see my foot shaking on its own. We were about to embark on a 3 hour run. I didn’t even know what to think about my shaking feet. Everything stopped shaking fairly quickly and my heart palpitations seemed to go down quickly. Maybe about 1 minute? But it was enough to scare me. I had plenty of water and nutrition with me. Packed up my hydration holster and headed out onto the trail. I didn’t have even the remotest plan of actually running. Too hot. I stopped at the rest room. Definitely felt better. Proceeded down the trail. It was shaded. Hmm. Not shaking. Took my little inventory. I don’t feel that terrible. I’ll just power walk. Then I started my New Paltz dialog. Same old conversation I’ve had with myself for years up at these training camps. It goes something like this.
Okay. So here you are. All alone on the trail once again. What are you doing here? What are your intentions?
I’m here to train.
Train for what? You could be down having an ice tea at a nice cafe and look at all these sane people sitting here on the rocks just relaxing and taking in the day?
I’m here to get stronger. (Notice I never say anything about Ironman in my head. It’s always about getting the mythical stronger.)
Okay so if you are here to get stronger what are you doing about it? What can you do right here, right now in this moment using what you have to get stronger?
I can walk faster. I can pump my arms. I can start counting off the strides. Okay, here I can run a little, it’s not so bad. I can run this one little section, right here. To that tree, I can run to that tree.
And this is pretty much how my head works up the trail and then down, down, down toward the water. Wait a minute. I clearly remember the coach saying we are climbing to the top and the running downhill would be on the way back. I ask a couple of rock sitters if they have seen a bunch of people wearing red run by. They look at my like I’m insane. “Too hot for running” the guy says. Yeah I forgot to mention it was a bunch of lunatics wearing red running by. I was going the wrong way. So I turned around and trudged back up. Almost all the way back and I see the sticks in the road pointing to go up the mountain. By now I’m feeling pretty normal. Just hot like everybody else. I find little patches where I can run and just keep moving. I seek out every patch of shade and avoid the sun like a vampire. Otherwise I just walk.
When I meet the team coming back down I turn around and join them in the run back down. definitely feeling normal. Hot and out of shape but no shaking. I see how hot everyone else is feeling. How did I make it through 137 miles in the desert only a year ago? Maybe time to start sitting in the sauna again? But we also had a week of sitting in Morocco before we started to run in the desert. We had no acclimation for this at all. This heat wave caught everyone by surprise.
My last hour of the run was out on a flatter out and back and pretty much everyone on the team looked like that had been thrown into a washing machine. They looked haggard and tired. There are no smiles anywhere. I was just doing my jog/walk thing. Pick a point, jog to it. Pick a point, walk to it. Pick another one. Like we do in Central park – Lampost to lampost. Seems to be how I get everywhere. Lampost to lampost or tree to tree. I now had plenty of people to run with because now they were all in my world. The fast people having to walk. Not knowing how to do it. I get a couple of different people involved in my game. A couple of people head back for shade. Ironically, as usual, I feel best in my last hour on the wog (walk/jog). I guess I made it to the other side. My body parts just gave in and said “okay, we all told her we don’t want to do it but she is insisting so here we go again. p.s. we hate you.”
When the 2.5+ hour slogfest was over we headed back to our bikes (coach shortened the run slightly due to wilting athletes). I was walking to our bikes with one of my fav teammates (who is a lot younger, faster and stronger) and I confessed “I had to stop on the climb up the driveway.” She looked at me nonplussed and said “Oh I had to walk too.” Really? She had to walk up? Here I was thinking it was just me. I think of her as so strong and young and skinny. Why would she have to walk up? ‘Cause it was freakin hot that’s why. But right then and there I was reminded of one of the greatest benefits of training with a team is that when you see other people suffering along with you, you don’t feel like such a complete loser. But then again, had I not been with the team I wouldn’t have even attempted that crazy climb. I guess that’s what they mean by a double-edged sword.
The ride back to the parking lot was pretty much downhill and everybody wanted to just get the heck back. I was very nervous going down the big hills. I was on my road bike and felt very uncomfortable. I was really gripping my brakes and my bike was not slowing down enough for my liking. Then it was just a ride back to the cars. One of the guys on the team kept pretending to stop for something and then would miraculous jump back onto the road right in front of me so I could draft off of him. I knew what he was doing. Normally I don’t like to be that coddled but that day I was okay with it. I appreciated him pretending that he wasn’t waiting for me but I knew he was. (There is another guy on the team who waits for me on long rides but he rides around in circles until I catch up to him). See another reason why teams are good. Even the fastest of the fastest guys will have your back. (That always makes me a little flumoxed when I see someone that fast be kind enough and thoughtful enough to wait for the slowest person).
We all melted into our cars. 4.5 hour sweat fest done. Some cars peeled out of the parking lot so fast. Everyone wanted to get the heck out of there. All I could think of was a slushy. I don’t actually think I’ve ever had a slushy but I knew I wanted one asap. I pulled over into the Mobil station and they had a big ice machine and I had it with Pepsi. Why doesn’t Pepsi taste as perfect as coke? But it had to do.
I was well aware that in 13 hours I was going to be back on my bike for a six hour ride and I had better get rested up toute suite! In the back of my mind I was worried about the shaking, the heat and my overall suitability to even be out there. I had the sneaky feeling that I may have finally after all these years met my limit.
Stay tuned for day 2.
Article my Mom found showing how normal people enjoy New Paltz.