Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day Two: Conversations with Demons

After finising the stick and one loop on Saturday, I felt pretty good.   I also thought I had an "easy" workout for Sunday:  a simple six mile run along parts of the marathon course that is generally pretty quiet and where, in the past, little nagging demon voices have chattered in my ear about how nice it would be to just stop and have Starbucks.  (Which, unfortunately, I did do in 2011, right after passing mile 14.....iditot me.)

But no.  By the time I got back to my hotel from Monona Terrace, my Coach had sent me a text with a revised training plan.  Sunday now called for a two loop bike ride and a 40 minute run.

Say what?

"Two loops and a 40-minute run".

Strangely, those little demons found me at the Residence Inn!  "Hmmmmm.  But I have to check out of the hotel!  I have to drive all the way back to Minneapolis!  I only HAD a one hour long thing and now I have a several (much harder) hour long thing!"

Enter stage left:  The good demons:  "Time to nut up", they said.

So I went to the Front Desk of the hotel and extended my stay for one more night.  (I had no intention of staying on Sunday night, but knew that I would not be back to the hotel to shower and change before check-out time (even late check-out time).  A nice feature of staying at the hotels out in Middleton is that, when you check in for Ironman, you get a coupon that is good for 11-months after Ironman.  If you go back to Madsion during that time and stay at one of the participating hotels, you get a room for 50% to 65% off.  It was worth it to me to spend very little money to extend my stay past check out time so I could get in my ride and run, have a nice shower, a little nap and then head back to Minneapolis).

I started my ride from Verona on Sunday.  The first loop was pretty uneventful, which is always good.  As I was headed toward Midtown Road (that last yucky hill), SOMEONE (either me or my demons) was yacking at me about how nice it would be to just do one loop.  "Why did I have to do two?  I knew the course... I had a successful day yesterday and the loop this morning was fine.  Why not just call it a day?"

The good demons responded:  "HEY!  is the bike course just one little loop?  NO.  Think of how great it will be to complete 150 miles of biking over the weekend.  Think of how strong you'll feel!  How confident!  Nut up!"

This little tete-a-tete went on until I got back to Verona.  I got off the bike, listened to the arguments for a few more minutes while I refueled and refilled water bottles. Then I got back on the bike and started loop two.

HURRAH for good demons!

The second loop had a different set of challenges:
1) I got stung by a bee.  It flew under my helmet.  At first I didn't realize it was a bee. I thought I got clunked on the head by an acorn.  I kept peddaling and the bee kept releasing venom into my head.  I finally stopped and pulled my helmet off.   There the little bugger was...dead as a doornail.  Fortunately, I am not that allergic so nothing horrible happened that day.  (The next following days, however, my forehead swelled, then the swelling sunk in to my eyes and nose.  I eventually had to see the doctor who perscribed an antibiotic and Claritn....).
2) My pace slowed down quite a bit.  DRAT.  I am blaming some of this on heavy training on both Friday and Saturday.  But I also know that this will happen on race day.  I am just not hoping for a big drop in pace.
3)  My tush got plenty sore (again, nothing new).
4)  I did not want to run after the ride.  Uh oh.

I got back to Verona, got off the bike and my legs were not happy about having to run.   Very not happy.

Then it hit me.   I've been here before.  I remember what this is like.  This will be a challenge.

Trust me.  I've done plenty of bricks.  I've done plenty of training races.   My legs start turning over just fine (eventually). 

This was different and yet strangely familiar.   This is my Ironman challenge.  Getting to move on the marathon course.

I got my shoes on and started my trot.  Got about 100 yards and walked.  Uh oh.

Walked for a bit and then tried to run some more.  Nope.  Walked.

I finally did my body check-in.  Were my legs really tired?  (No.....no, not really).  Was I really tired?  (A little but not really).  Then what was it? 

Oh....... my brain.   My silly brain was telling me that it was time to quit. 

"Nut up, brain."

I just clunked along for the 40-mintues.  It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fast, but  -- finally -- it was done.

I loaded up the car, got back to the hotel; showered, ate, napped and got on the road about 7:00 pm. 

Over the weekend, I completed 2.4 miles of swimming; 150 miles of biking and 2 hours 10 mintues of running.   Go me.

This was probably the best dress rehearsal I've had for race day. I'm glad that I went back to that old, familiar "give up" place and didn't. I now remember what I'll be up against on race day, and I've been working on mental strategies to get past it.

Physically I'm ready.  Those nagging demons don't know what they are up against this year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Big Weekend Review

So, here we are:  18 days away from Ironman Wisconsin. 

Training is almost over -- just a couple more and then it is taper and travel time.  

Last weekend was my last training weekend on the course.   I've trained on the course every month since April, so by now, I know it pretty much inside and out.   Last weekend marked the "biggie" for my training time there.  

I did hill repeats up and over Observatory Hill on Friday night.  I went along the Lakeshore path from Memorial Union out to Marsh Drive.  Then I turned around, hit the turn on to Babcock, up the flipping hill, back down Bascom (no Lincoln did not stand up....) and back out to Babcock. Repeat.  Several times.   At the end of the final loop, I ran up to Gilman Street and then back to Lake Street.   I felt pretty good and confident.

Saturday was the Madison Open Water Swim.  I was in the 2.4 wetsuit division along with 293 other close, personal friends.  (Actually, only two friends:  My Coach, who came in 1st place, swimming the course in just over 54 minutes, and another friend from my Masters swim group). 

I swam only okay.  Because the summer and the lakes have been so warm, I've done all of my tri events and most of my open water practice swims in my "swim skin", not my wetsuit.   I wanted to do this event in my wetsuit because by the time September 9th gets here, the water temps will be just cold enough that I'll need the warmth.  I also want/like the buoyancy that the wetsuit provides in the chaos of open water swimming with 2,499 of my close, Ironman friends. 

I forgot, though, how different it is to swim in the wetsuit.  My positioning got all befuddled and my form got squishy on the last quarter of the swim.   It took a lot of concentration to get it back together, which cost me some time.  All in all, I swam the course in just a touch over a minute slower than I did in 2011.  This was "okay", but I wasn't the happiest with my time.   I'll be doing more wetsuit swimming over the next couple of weeks to try to get back in to rhythm.

After the swim and awards, my Coach asked me to coffee, so we walked up to Starbucks on the Square, ordered, and sat outside and talked about the strategy for next couple of weeks and Ironman week.

Then he had a run planned for his day and I was supposed to do the full bike course (112 miles).  I went back to Monona Terrace, changed in to my cycling clothes and got on my bike.  I noticed that my bike computer was not registering any numbers.   I really wanted to know my speed/distance, etc. for the ride.  Especially THIS ride. 

I was close enough to the Terrace, that I turned my bike around and headed over to Machnery Row (a SUPER AWESOME bike store).   They looked at the computer, tried to fix it and nothing was registering.   I ended up buying a new one -- had them install it and then, finally, about 2 1/2 hours behind schedule, I started my bike ride.

The ride out to Verona (aka "the stick") was totally uneventful.  I actually like the route now.  I've got landmarks that I like to see (Irish Lane; the first and second stop sign; Verona's water tower in the distance). 

The loop wasn't too terrible.  I know where the big hills are; I know where the REALLY big hills are; I know the flats where I can just sit in aero and push a little. 

There is a detour on the route right now, though.  Construction along Highway 92 in to Mount Horeb pushes riders along another route.  When I was in Madison in July, I took one of the alternative routes, which was loaded with hills.  Last weekend, I rode the second alternative route, and, although it too was hill, wasn't quite as bad.

It was almost 4:00 pm when I got in to Mount Horeb.  I had only eaten breakfast (before the swim) and some of my solid bike nutrition by this point.  I was very hungry, so I stopped at the Kwik Trip and got a turkey sandwich.   Ate that, filled up water bottles and went along my way.

Again, I have visuals along the route that I like to see:  the turn off to Messerschmidt;  Mount Horeb; the beautiful high point before turning on to Garfoot Road; Cross Plains.....then the dreaded quarry.

The quarry in and of itself is not the dreaded part.  It is Old Sauk Pass -- the first of the really big three hills -- that is the dreaded part. 

I've ridden that (those) hills what feels to be a billion times this year.  Sometimes it is easier to get up them than others, but it is never easy.  Still, I know what to expect. 

After Old Sauk, comes a short burst of relatively flat and then Timber Lane -- a quarter mile of steep uphill fun.  Other hills may be longer, but this little bugger is a royal pain to get up.  I typically just get in to my granny gear and pedal up.

After that little fun fest, comes a nice stretch of flat and downhills..... ahhhhhhhhh....... recovery.......Until that last little turn and you see Midtown Road, the last of the three big hills.  This one has been a challenge for me in the past.   It isn't a straight hill.  You start going up angling towards the right, then there is sort of a sharp turn to the left.   You can't ride the tangents particularly easily because of traffic coming down the hill.... so it is a grind, grind, grind.  At the top of the hill is a section of false flats, which lull you in to thinking you can just relax and recover, but, no, you still have to gear down and pedal hard. 

FINALLY, you turn to the right and get some relief.  The final five mile stretch of the loop is down a nice, shady section and then you pop out on a flat section of the road where you can pedal comfortably while you look for Verona's watertower....

I got to the end of the 1st loop about 6:00 or so.   I knew that I would not be able to finish riding a second loop before the sun went down.  I was not willing to risk riding on country roads in the dark, wearing dark clothing. 

So, I texted my Coach and told him I was only doing the one loop, and went rode in to Madison.

I felt good after the ride -- thought it was successful.

The original plan called for me to run 6 miles of the marathon course on Sunday morning.  But, with my shorter bike ride, my ever-thinking (scheming) Coach had other plans for me......

Sunday's ride:  coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Final Four

No, not basketball teams.

I just got my plan from my Coach for the final four weeks of training before IM WI week.

Yippie Skippie!

The next two to two and a half weeks have some pretty heavy volumes, long distances and long hours.  For example, I'm doing a 20 mile run tonight.  Yes, tonight -- starting at 6:00 pm and ending sometime after 10:00 pm.

While some may think that this is totally crazy, there is a lot of logic to it.  For Ironman, I won't be on the run course until late, late, late afternoon.   I'll be tired and I'll be running as the sun sets and well in to the night. 

So for training, why NOT run after work (when I'm tired) and well in to the night?  Good mental and physical practice for sure.

I also have my last tri before Ironman this week on Sunday.  I'm doing the YWCA Women's sprint tri -- (500 yard swim; 15.5 mile bike; 3.1 mile run).  Super simple; super fun.  Well organized race full of women of all ages, sizes and shapes.  Incredibly welcoming to the first-timers.....

That is my morning.  I get to follow that by 70 miles of additional time in the saddle....all in a (Sun)day's work. 

Next weekend, I go back to Madison for my last training preview before Ironman.  On Saturday, I'll do the Madison Open Water swim (2.4 miles) and follow that up with 120 miles on the bike.  I'll ride the full Ironman course and then add on a few extra miles to get to 120.  Sunday will be an "easy" six miles on the part of the course where I've struggled the most mentally. 

Then I finally get to start to think about tapering.... there will still be lots of miles and effort, but there will be a hint of winding down. 

The last long effort is scheduled for Sunday, September 2nd, where I have to get in 75 mile of riding followed by a short run between 2 and 4 miles.  Hubby will be in Florida for his golf tournament and I'll be at home, mentally shoring up to leave for Madison on Thursday, September 6th.......

It really is just right around the corner.

Friday, August 3, 2012


August 3rd.  THIRD!

This summer -- okay, this year -- has been just whipping by.  

A year ago at this time, the idea that I'd be at a different job -- that Hubby would be displaced from his job -- was nowhere on our radar screens.  Not even a blip.  Today, I'm at that (very) different job and he is spending a lot of time on the golf course and watching the Olympics inbetween interviews.  (Color me JEALOUS).

Less than a year ago, I was excitedly putting together my 2012 race scheudule, which included 14 events.  Today, I have three events left before Ironman Wisconsin.


The good news is that training has been going well.   I'm putting in the time.  I continue to be injury free.  As with most of us across the country, the weather here has been unbelieveably hot and humid, so sessions are hard physically and mentally.  (Please, though, Triathlon Gods, work your magic so that September 9th is a nice, overcast, low dewpoint day with a high in the mid-70s and no wind.....)

Bib numbers were posted earlier this week.  Mine is 994, which feels like a very good number indeed. 

Those of us training for Imoo are in the midst of our peak volume/mileage weeks now.  This has meant for some very long nights for me.  For example, I had a 50 mile ride on Tuesday night and a 16 mile run on Wednesday night.    I get home from work, change, putz (and gripe) for a bit and then hit the trails. 

Because I'm a slower athlete, I'm getting back home about 10:00 pm, eating a little dinner, showering, watching the last 15 minutes of Olympics coverage and then its bedtime. 

I have a brick workout tonight (30 mile bike tonight followed with an 8 mile run) and then a 100 mile ride tomorrow (Tour d Tonka).  Sunday will be "light" -- 5 mile run and 2000 yards in the water.   (My most excellent friend and training partner-in-crime, Natalie, will be here this weekend, so we'll run together on Sunday, which will be a super treat). 

And so it goes until about August 29th, when taper kicks in.

I'm not complaining.  I asked for this.   Once I'm out the door and on the bike or trotting down the path or in the water, I actually enjoy the time and the training.  I've seen some great sunsets and other breathtaking views; even got to make "friends" with three deer that were munching on someone's lawn on Tuesday night as I rode by.  (I had to stop and watch for a while.   I really love deer.)

I will say that it is hard to fit every thing in artfully.  Sleep, friends, chores, "stuff" all have to get squeezed in around work (and my new inflexible hours -- ugh) and training. 

I can also tell it is peak time in that I'm hungry all the time and getting a little crabby. 

But I asked for this when I signed up to do the race.... and there is a finite time to go, so.... I just keep shuffling forward.

I have also been very happy with how things are working between me and my Coach.   We have a very good working relationship and the plan he has carved out for me is challenging.  He has also been great in communicating encouragement and recommendations right at the right time. 

Doing the majority of my training on my own probably will work to my advantage this year too.   Although there will be alot of others out there on the course, it really does boil down to just me, my feet, my heart and my head out there working to try to come in under 17 hours.

Which brings me to my last update: I've been working more on the mental aspects of racing.   I read "Iron War", which fictionalized account or not, is a great read.  I'm in the middle of "A Life Without Limits" and have learned through both books that  every one hurts at somepoint during Ironman -  -- even Chrissie Wellington, Mark Allen and Dave Scott.   

I found some great tips for getting though the bumps (and dark places) and have been practicing them during training and events too.   One I really like is to remember that the event will unfold in circles.  At the top of the circle, you'll feel great.  As time goes on, it may feel tougher (the bottom of the circle), but eventually, the circle completes, as you feel better and get back to the "top".  The truth is that I'll probably go through lots of circles on race day, but just being able to visualize moving through the bottom and back up to the top should help.

So..... it feels like it is all coming together -- bit by bit.  While I'm still nervous the cutoffs I know I have the endurance to do it. 

For now, I'm just going to keep shuffling foward toward race day.