This morning I got the first half of my long ride done before the sun came up. My reward for that was that the rest of my ride was filled with sunrise over the Manatee River, song birds in the trees, pelicans soaring over the water, and, yes, even a dolphin. Lesson to me: get up early and get the long ride done, and do it somewhere pretty. It was so much better than my last long ride, which was 40-something miles of full midday sun on Highway 41 and a jersey splattered with dead love bugs, just like my car windshield.
I'm 10 weeks into the 30-week training schedule for Ironman Chattanooga. The thing I'm the most happy about is that I still haven't skipped or cut short a single workout. In fact, I'm actually ahead on my schedule and have put a few extra workouts in the bank. I did this because I assumed I would skip some workout days on vacation in Arizona and on my work trip to Savannah. Actually I ran every single day in both of those places, so I still have workouts in the bank! It's a great feeling to know that I'm at 100%, although I do worry a little about the psychological impact when life causes me to miss a workout. Oh well, cross that bridge when I come to it.
Overall, things are going... well. I'm afraid to be too optimistic. I've had this feeling before, where I was like, Ironman training is awesome and I never have trouble motivating myself to do workouts and I'm in perfect shape, et cetera, and then had it all tank to the point where I hated life, spent most of my time dreading workouts, and was miserable to live with. So that could happen again. At the moment, though, everything is good and I'm not complaining. Could it be better? Yes, and there are still some things I could do to make it better, which maybe I will do before the Third Month Update and maybe I will not.
SWIM -- There is one good thing about swimming and one crappy thing. The good thing is that, mentally, I don't really hate it. Partly I'm sure that's because the pool is back to feeling like a giant warm bathtub, just how I like it. I don't spend my whole workout dreading the next part of the workout and wanting to get out. All my swim workouts for the first stage of training have been 2500 yards; next week they go up to 3000 yards. The actual Ironman swim is 4200 yards, so I know I will be able to do the distance, and I SHOULD be able to do it in the time limit. The crappy thing is that I'm still a lousy swimmer. Not only am I not improving, I'm actually getting worse, despite religiously following the intervals and drills in the training program I'm using, and actually watching lots of swim videos on YouTube for the first time in my life. I have slid from 67 minutes for 2500 yards to 70 or 71 minutes, and it has been a very steady and consistent slide, where I literally watched my time going from 67 to 68 to 69 to 70 minutes over the weeks. I do not know the reason for this. I watch the swim videos and I swear I am focusing on every single element of the stroke and doing my best to make it look like it's supposed to. Full extension of arms, check. Rotate body, check. Keep head down, check. Keep one goggle in the water when breathing, check. Make sure angle of hand entry is correct, check. Bend wrist and arm the right way to pull, check. Pull all the way through, check. I mean, I know I have no kick, but lots of fast swimmers have hardly any kick. I'm not getting tired; my endurance feels limitless right now. So what the heck?
Somehow, my catch is bad. I know that's where the problem is, but I don't know why. You know how swimmers always say, "Feel the water"? I don't feel the water. I don't feel like I'm moving myself forward through the water at all. Is this because my upper body strength in general is so bad? Maybe. I mean, I can't even do a push up without using my knees, and I can't do a pull-up at all. Supposedly we use lats in swimming, but I am pretty sure I don't have those muscles. At least I have no awareness of them working, when I'm swimming or at any other time. I'm not really sure how to fix that, except... noooooooo... strength training. Which I SO do not want to do, and don't know where I would find time to do anyway. Maybe the answer is to reconsider my hard NO to 5:30 masters swimming classes? I'm now starting my swims at 6:45 a.m.; can't I just get up a little earlier? I don't know. Maybe.
One other good thing is that it's warm enough to get back to ocean swimming, even though I'm still wearing a wetsuit and will probably continue to until water temperature gets to 80, even if I'm the only person out there wearing one in those temps. Who cares? Comfort first!
BIKE -- As always, my biking is mediocre. But I do have a system that's working for me. I have three rides a week -- one long, one short (a little over an hour) following a swim, one brick (bike followed by run). I do my long one on the road, my short one in spin class, and my brick on the trainer in the garage. My mph on the road is never that great because there's really nowhere I can ride here without lots of stop signs and traffic lights, but I figure time in the saddle is most important. Some people think you should not train for an Ironman on a spin bike, but I disagree. One thing spin class is GREAT for is strength training for my legs. With loud pumping music, black lights, and an instructor going around the room checking your watts and yelling to ADD MORE LOAD if she thinks we're not working hard enough, my legs get a very good workout in spin class. They are usually shaking when I'm done, but boy are the big leg muscles getting BIG. On the road I listen to audiobooks and have a tendency to cruise along in Zone 1 heart rate; in spin class that is impossible. The trainer in my garage sounds depressing, considering the high heat and humidity with the door closed and the love bugs with the door open, but when I crank up the music I find I am able to enjoy the punishment. Plus it is rewarding to see the giant slippery puddles of sweat accumulating on the floor, and to watch the looks on my neighbors' faces when they walk by and look in.
There are two things that must be addressed with the bike in this next month. The first one is going to shock anyone who's been reading my blog for a while: I'm going to learn how to change a flat tire. I know, I know, I have always sworn I would not do this. But I truly believe I am going to be in shape to do this Ironman in September. And I do not ever want to do this training schedule again -- this will be my ONLY Ironman. And I just can't have my race end because I can't change a flat. I don't know exactly how I'm going to go about learning -- having guys at the bike shop show me once doesn't work (I go home and can't remember what they said); YouTube videos don't work (I need feedback if I have a question). Anyone who thinks they can teach me how to change a flat -- I'll take you out to dinner anywhere you want if I can actually change the flat after you teach me. Multiple times, if you also nag me to practice it afterwards.
The other thing is that damn bike seat. While it is tolerable in that it doesn't quite create open sores, it is a nagging discomfort that is definitely stopping me from getting anything like my best effort on the bike. As 50-mile+ rides start to become an every-weekend thing, I know I need to address this problem, no matter how expensive or inconvenient. In fact, wouldn't TODAY be a good day to look for a new bike seat? Why yes, it would.
RUN -- I am happy to say that I'm the fastest I've been since moving to Florida. I'm still not fast like I used to be. I remember when my marathons were always under four hours, and my pace on regular runs was always under 8:00/mile. Not anymore, but I am happy to say that unless I'm running in midday sun, I'm reliably under 9:00 pace. And the other day, on brick day, I ran my first sub-8:00 mile in Florida. It was on a very hot, humid afternoon AND right after 45 minutes of pounding my legs on the trainer. I am happiest of all with my running right now, and especially that I can run well off the bike, which has always been something I was relatively good at.
My last update for this month is that I finally registered for an actual triathlon -- a sprint next Sunday. I can hardly believe it myself, but I did. I am simultaneously looking forward to it, and dreading the inconvenience of packing up all that gear for a race that (hopefully) won't last more than an hour and a half. Stay tuned for a race report next weekend!