I wanted to put down in writing, and through photos represent the journey which is Ironman Big Week training leading up to my 3rd and possibly final Lake Placid, under the guidance of Mat Dixon and Purplepatch. This is not intended to be a boring data report or an over the top emotional depiction, but rather a lighthearted account of the work leading up to a significant moment of my year so that I can look back on race day eve and recollect how far I’ve come.
4th of July weekend. Big mistake to put my last significant training weekend on the biggest holiday of the summer!! The combination of feeling tired, fun things happening and a lack of motivation got to me, but not in completely disastrous fashion. The plan for this long weekend included back to back 3 and 4 hour bike workouts, following a Thursday 3.5 hour double hard ride session and brick. Running was light, for the weekend, but I knew there would be a 2 hour run on Tuesday, which I was more fearful for the risk of injury than the run itself. As a bonus we received possibly the hardest swim session of the summer Friday, when I was expecting a leisurely Country Club workout after a night out for a friends birthday. Gerry called us together to say ‘sometimes due to traffic, an alarm not going off, etc, we show up late without adequate time to warm up’ and that today we would be preparing for this with a 20 minute BSE TT off the blocks without a stroke to warm up. It didn’t feel that fast but I was very happy with my result (1450 in 19:45, 1:21/100, 0:01 off my 1k TT pace!).
Saturday I was planning a big gear ride and opted to join the Gusto 4th of July Mt Baldy ride which ended up to be much more difficult than I had originally expected (7000ft in just 30 miles including 2000ft in just 4 miles as we climbed to the lifts). 3 hours turned into 4.5 and I was completely fried by the end however it was a fun and beautiful ride.
They closed GMR to be exclusive to cyclists, still there were at least two big accidents. Following was a 4th party at the Bungalow in typical LA fashion which prompted my second long ride to be moved to Monday but I got it in and had a good 2 hour run on Tuesday.
After Mammoth it was decided I needed a chance to stop and refresh the batteries. I was planning to race Ventura Olympic (Breath of Life) but my calves were still questionable and even if not I was completely drained from the weekend. As such I rode easy, took some down time and came back on the weekend to hit my main workouts. The results were in a word encouraging. I had a good swim Saturday (super solid splits!), proved I could run long with an easy 90 minutes following and came back to crush my bike workout the next day (6×10 min building efforts with last 2 BSE (324 watts, 341 watts)).
At this point I just wanted to feel on track, not derailed. I’ve been more tired lately than ever but I know this is how I should feel.
I spent this past weekend up at 8000 ft in Mammoth CA training with the Cloud 9 Endurance Team in their preparation for Ironman Boulder. I love destination training trips and have been looking forward to this for a while. My coached objectives were very clear and simple – 1) Practice proper fueling and nutrition and 2) have fun, that’s it! No watts, durations, intervals, etc. Unfortunately I fell short on both tasks to at least some respect but still it was an awesome trip.
Friday morning I rode up together with a couple other LA based triathletes. We arrived mid-afternoon to get in a beautiful swim in June Lake before an equally beautiful PM run in the mountains.
Saturday we had a colossal brick, which was intended to be 3 loops totaling 110 miles of biking with 3×3 mile run sections in-between. I chose to ride my P1 which meant no power. This was to encourage going be feel rather than chasing numbers at elevation which would either crush my spirits or leave me toasted on the side of the road. The beginning was fun, the middle I picked up the effort a little but still felt comfortable, then when I pushed up the pace in the last bike and run section I experienced a blow up like no other. The wind was strong on the last loop which created a fast out at 30mph (average speed for 22 miles!!) and a head wind coming in and back up to our condo like nothing I’ve experienced before, forcing us to work together in a pace line just to survive.
Following the workout I experienced either dehydration or elevation sickness which included pale skin, headache, 105 bpm resting HR and feelings of intense cold (shivering) even though my body was very warm. I was upset and even embarrassed by this because I had been preaching the importance of fueling and hydrating in such a big workout meanwhile I was the one on the couch in a death state while everyone else was having fun. This could have been caused by all the sugary crap I inhaled, concentrated Perform, gels, gu’s, candy bars, Red Bull, etc, or poor nutrition the day before (we had a real bad experience at dinner where after waiting an hour and twenty minutes our server came and told us there was no food left).
The unfortunate part of the weekend for me was that I let me performance impact my attitude when it should have been the other way around. I am getting to a part in the season where I get so paranoid about what I’m doing it’s easy to forget why I’m doing it in the first place, which is to have fun. I noticed the best performances from the weekend came from those that carried positive energy throughout, while training and when goofing around in-between. As I move forward I need to remember to keep it simple, let go of what I can’t control and always have fun.
In keeping with the trend of longest workout, having done a 7.5k yard swim in the pool two weekends ago, and a broken 28 mile run last Sunday, this weekend had me doing a 120 mile ride, my 6th ride in 7 days. I’ve been asked more than a few times why the excessively long sessions and to be honest, after my few years in this sport, I don’t know. I guess it’s to build both physical and mental resilience however I question these days at what point reward turns to risk with the amount of injuries that have been popping up. The bottom line is even though hard swims, 20 mile runs and 6 hour rides may seem ridiculous, in the context of Ironman there is no escaping the overbearing reality on race day that ‘YES you need to run a marathon off a 112 mile bike’. Having the right mindset and conditioning in the legs to get through 26.2 miles, and much more to race every inch, requires some tough days in the months and weeks leading up.
This week my bike miles were higher than normal, at over 250 miles and 15 hours, but my run miles are what’s significant. I did not lace up my shoes once, coming off of that big run last Sunday and the resulting soreness in my calf. I’m not quite sure what to say about it, other than I’m in the best running shape of my life and my worst. I can run farther and faster than in previous seasons but with the constant fear that my calf could give out at any moment. I have been icing, wearing compression, even got a much needed massage, but don’t know where it’s going to lead. I want so badly to show off what’s under the hood, and will inevitably have some anxiety in the back of my mind leading up through race day and all the way to 26.2 miles. I guess it’s back to the age long concept of trusting in the program and believing in progress, but I’ll just have to wait and see.
I will say it’s very exciting hearing from so many friends battling through some major workouts on the way to their A races. For an individual sport there is such a large component of comradery. Here’s my favorite post following Sunday’s Facebook update –
7 weeks out and the goal of this weekend was clear, run a shit ton of miles Sunday in the form of a 2.5 hour morning run and 40 min evening run. The mood was set on Saturday’s optional T26 swim (optional meaning ‘do it’ in my vocabulary) where the main portion was a ‘limbo set’, 8 x descending 200’s from 3:15 to 2:40. My biggest pet peeve in the pool is when people go too strong, especially in warm-up, then either get out or die by the end of the session. I aimed to reach the wall with 5-10 seconds rest even with the large interval to start while the lane next to me went out hard (5-10 seconds ahead), then were unable to complete the set, missing the last interval while the lane I headed came in a good 5 seconds early on the 2:40. Afterward Chris, who was second in my lane and is on the same Ironman training plan, shared my sentiment that it was a good workout, fast but surprisingly easy.
The reason I felt the need to go into detail on the swim is it parallels a theme that many make the mistake of in Ironman which is NOONE CARES HOW FAST YOU WENT OUT IF YOU DON’T FINISH! You will often hear people saying how ‘things were going so well until…’ I knew if I were to have a good run day I would need to pace myself on the front 90 minutes to finish the main set of the workout, alternating above and below IM pace each 5 minutes for the last hour. I lapped 30 minutes for data but turned off pace so that I could run by HR and feel. the first 30 ended up being a comfortable 7:24/mile at an awesomely low 135bpm, then 7:00/mile and 6/51/mile (still at 149bpm) before getting into the set, bouncing back and forth between 6:15 and 7:20/mile. 2.5 hours is a long run but I never felt tired or bored even through 22 miles, which was made easier by the 10 or so other triathletes I bumped into on Ocean Ave.
Later I made the return for my final 40 minutes on the pact sand path starting out super easy and stopping to take a couple pictures, before finishing off strong and controlled at 6:40/mile. I was only 0.5 miles from my apartment when my left soleus began to bother me, but it didn’t effect pace so I finished. Afterward the pain increased feeling similar to my last calf issue but in a different area. I woke up multiple times during the night, not because of pain but the anxiety of another injury. In the morning it felt much better but still soar.
2 Things – First, over 3 hours and nearly 28 miles is a lot of running for one day, especially considering where I’ve come from over the last few months. I was nervous to begin and happy until the last 3 minutes where my leg began to hurt, which leads me to my second consideration, trusting the program. I can’t be held accountable for what happens, good or bad, I’ve put all my eggs in the Purplepatch basket this season and am hoping things pay off. I am incredibly fit, but at the same time feel that my body is very weak and susceptible to injury. As I ran I envisioned myself like an egg, which is super strong if you were to try and crush it in your palm, but once a crack develops… well, you know.
Longest run done, next weekend it will be my longest brick, a full workday on the bike and run!!
This was my first BIG weekend in a while. What’s “big” concerning Ironman training?? A combination of volume and intensity to the extent of a 6 hour interval based brick Saturday and near 5 mile swim workout Sunday morning with a 100 minute run following. Without the intensity I would consider this like any other weekend, but to push an hour of near 300 watts in the middle of a 90 mile ride with hour run ending in low 6’s off the bike and then have a STRONG 7.5k swim session the following morning with long run after is a lot for one weekend. It reverted me back to my old practice of working out, eating as much as possible, then getting in bed and repeat. I don’t like putting everything aside for training but when necessary I’ll embrace the experience and enjoy the dedication.
I did make it to both a movie Saturday night and BBQ Sunday evening, relatively on time and without falling asleep! I imagine there will be fewer normal weekends then big weekends in the next two months, but I’m ok with it. The reward will be on race day!
This weekend was a big step forward in training with my running progress, culminating with 18×800 following a strong morning T26 workout. They say after injury to be careful not to increase more than either distance, pace or running terrain at a time, and thus the thought of 9 sub 6 miles on a hard curved surface in route to 14 had me apprehensive about the dangers involved. Therefore I opted to move the workout to the soft, straight and slightly elevated surface of Ocean Ave.
Very pleasantly surprised with the result!! Consistent 2:50’s on the way down and 3:00’s on the way up, to about the second every time, except for the last couple where I dropped the hammer a little. More impressive than the pace was my overall feeling throughout the duration. All the anerobic work we’ve been doing in the pool has helped improve my recovery time significantly to the point that I could hit 100’s on 1:25, feeling good after only a few seconds rest, than cruise sub 6/mile 800’s on the trail with only a minutes recovery through 13 miles or so.
I’m not a coach, nor a stage rider, so I’m not sure how indicative rapid recovery is as a performance indicator for a race as long and steady as Ironman, but I’m hopeful it’s a good sign. Either way I’m happy to be back to strong healthy running again with a greater sense of appreciation for every mile.
Sunday I had a 6 hour ride on the calendar but cut it at 5:30 so I could meet some friends for Memorial Day drinks. This time I opted for fun over training and indulged for quite a while. Not the greatest recovery practice after near 6 hours of exercise but got to live a little.