Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Countdown to Merced

With my high school class's 30-year reunion happening the night before, obviously the Merced Gateway Triathlon isn't my big "A" race of the season. However, I'm not so elite that I'm hoping to podium in my "A" races so it all comes out in the wash. The weather forecast says it should be perfect racing weather Sunday morning and I'm looking forward to the race.

The Swim

800 meter swim in a 50-meter pool so I don't have to worry about wetsuits, freezing, or overheating. Ideally I'll be swimming at a 1:40/100 yd pace but, really, I'll be swimming at a 1:50/100 yd pace. Prediction: 15:00. Note that last year they didn't have timing chips so I'll be taking the Garmin along on the bike and run and derive my swim and T1 time from that and my overall time.

The Bike

24 miles of flat and rollers on country roads. I recall one significant roller but nothing steep. The race is also draft-legal so I hope I can do some wheel-sucking. Ideally I'd average 20mph but, really, I'd be happy to have a 19mph average. Drafting could really help this, though. Prediction: 1:15.

The Run

Six miles on a pretty flat course through neighborhoods and on a neighborhood jogging trail. Since the run is much flatter than San Dimas I am not going to save my legs so much on the bike. That could be a wise calculation or a disaster. Only one way to find out. Ideally I'd like to do this in under an hour but, really, I'll be happy to hit an hour. Prediction: 1:01.

The Race

Adding those times up plus throwing in two minutes for transitions and we end up with an overall race time prediction of 2:33. My race predictions tend to end up being really optimistic because I always neglect to take into account the cumulative effect of a triathlon so take them with a huge grain of salt...especially since that time would have won second place in my age group last year. I don't think so.

I do have two goals and one wish for the race:

Goal #1: Beat my friend Von. It's his second tri in ten years so this seriously needs to happen.

Goal #2: Beat my friend Lisa to the turnaround on the run. She can pass me after that. This might actually be do-able. I worry that I'll fry myself on the run trying to do it but sometimes you need to do that.

Wish: Come in 30 minutes faster than last year's time of 3:01:22. This one I'm really curious about. I doubt I'll hit that but my time should still be a huge improvement over last year.

It's good to have wishes. It's one of the things that separates us from chimps.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Time To Get Mental

As the triathlon season winds down and I move closer to my first half-marathon, my weekend long runs are actually getting long. I had my first 10-mile run two weekends ago and my first 11-mile run was last weekend. I am starting to get a small glimpse of the world of long-distance running (half-marathons and longer) and, at my level, how it differs than the usual 10k and 5k runs.

I have decided that I have to do these long runs non-stop. Not for physical reasons. Frankly, if I did break these runs into smaller chunks with short walks in-between, I might even do them faster. No, the reason I need to not stop is because it's becoming clear to me that running for over two hours is quite a mental challenge.

I'm doing these runs nice and slow, in the 12 min/mile neighborhood. When I'm running my lungs aren't on fire and I could easily hold a conversation with someone (not that I actually run with anyone, heaven forbid ;-). My legs, while they're taking quite a pounding, are holding out quite well at these distances (I'm told it's a whole new ballgame at 18-miles, though). So, physically I am holding up well (where "well" is defined as "being a zombie the rest of the day"). My biggest challenge seems to be the voices in my head telling me to stop:

"Do you really need to keep running?"

"Ooh, look. A shady patch under that tree."

"Wouldn't breaking this up into intervals be more effective?"

"Walking sure would feel great about now, don't you think?"

"I think you should stop and stretch your quads."

"You started your run at 9 instead of 7. Nobody would blame you for walking in this heat."

You get the picture. I'm starting to think that all that "talk" on the run is like inclement weather on the bike. See, my belief is that big earthquakes, fires, and floods are about the only reason to not ride your bike in Southern California. Rain? Bah! Put on a rain jacket and learn how to ride in the rain. Cold? Bah! The worst it will get is the upper thirties so throw on some layers and a pair of full-fingered gloves and learn how to suck it up in the cold. It's not just a macho thing, either. Someday there will be a race where it's going to be a bit chilly and, while your competition is putting on arm warmers in T1, you're already a mile ahead of them on the bike (this actually happens). Or you've plunked down good money for a 70.3, only to find out that the weather forecast is for rain but you already know how to handle that.

It's the same thing for running. By pushing myself through the training runs and not walking, I am preparing myself to face much worse out on a race course. Or so I'd like to think. I won't be hitting 18 miles for several more months so we'll see how it goes then.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Merciless Eating

One of the best things about starting this triathlon stuff in my forties is learning how my body reacts to all this training. When you're a kid, everything works. Five-day-a-week workouts twice a day? Yep, that works if you're 16. Eating everything in sight for dinner? Yep, that works if you're 16. Things are a bit different when you're 47.

One interesting thing I've noticed is that if I train really hard (a hilly century ride, two brick workouts in a day), I can end up with a feeling like a cold is coming on. I have found only one thing makes that go away: what I call "merciless eating". This came up again last week when I felt very tired. The same feeling I had the whole week after my last triathlon and which followed me on our family vacation the week after that. There I was, the week after that and I was still tired. Rest wasn't working (I didn't train the week after the race and only twice the following week) so I figured I would see if merciless eating worked on that. It appears to have done the trick.

What is merciless eating? It's pretty much what it sounds like: you eat a lot. Two breakfasts. A snack. Lunch. Maybe another lunch but at least an afternoon snack. A snack when you get home. Dinner. Dessert. And maybe a snack before going to bed. Don't laugh, it's been working for me. Makes that cold-like feeling go away and it got me un-tired last week. I don't even feel full when I'm doing it, either. Weird.

I would prefer that I just eat the right amount after my workouts but I feel like I'm walking a fine line. On the one hand, sure I want to recover from heavy workouts so I do eat liberally afterwards. On the other hand, though, I don't want to be a pig because I am trying to lose weight, too. Also, you should know that I'm not exactly weighing my broiled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli so I know exactly how many calories I'm taking in. I made fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy last night (steamed squash, too). I'm much better about eating lots when I need to, though, so I don't have many merciless eating days. However, this post-race fatigue thing was something new. I didn't have the cold symptoms at all. It was just fatigue. And the race was just a sprint--it took 74 minutes!

Oh well. Live and learn. That's what makes this sport so interesting.

Hills In The Heat

I learned a valuable lesson over the weekend. At least I think I did. I don't do steep hills in the heat so well. Cycling in the heat? No problem. I just drink more and the breeze blows the sweat off me which keeps me cool-ish. I can do that for quite a while. Going up steep hills for a few hours when it's over 90 degrees? Not so good. Especially on tired legs. I'm thinking that not having the cooling effect of a breeze is something I'm just not equipped to deal with these days.

The plan was to do two Little Tujunga Loops (if you click on the map you can see the elevation profile):

The first loop would start at 6:30 and go clockwise. At the end of the loop is a 7-Eleven so I'd fuel up, turn around, and do the loop counter-clockwise. I think it's actually a pretty good plan.

On the first loop I took every hill easy. If I felt like I was working my legs at all I dropped down into lower gears until it got easy (or until I reached first). On downhills, I coasted as much as possible. The idea on the first loop was to save my legs for the second loop. Much like in a longer-distance triathlon: save your legs on the bike for the run.

I got to the 7-Eleven and felt tired but good. I bought a Slurpee, Gatorade, a Snickers, and some potato chips, went to a nearby park, and fueled up. By the time I got back on road again it was pretty hot out. I had to stop a few times while going uphill and, finally, after seven miles I had to turn around and call it a day.

So the lesson here is either: long, steep rides need to wait for the winter OR I should have put ice water in my second water bottle instead of Gatorade so I could have poured that over my head. I'm leaning towards the former. I will need to test out that latter theory at some point, though, right? ;-) In any event, I will try this loop-de-loop again in November-ish so I'll know for sure if the plan is a good one or not.