Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ironman Training Journal, Fourth Month

I'm actually well into the fifth month, because this was a 30-week training schedule. In my head it's always been a six-month schedule, but six months would only be 24 weeks. Well, math was never my strong point.

Things are going... not too bad! I've made it into the third ten-week training phase, the peak phase, with two previous ten-week phases completed. This is when the workouts get longer. Still, I think I am in good enough shape to handle them. I have mostly good news to report on the training front:

THE SWIM: I'm getting better, slowly but surely. I started off at almost three minutes per 100 yards, which is a terrible pace and just barely under the cutoff pace for the Ironman swim. Yesterday, in my longest workout of this training cycle so far (3500 yards), my pace was 2:24 per 100. It had just recently dropped into the low 2:40's, but to have it drop to 2:24 on my longest workout yet was nothing short of amazing. (And I REALLY didn't want to go to the pool yesterday. I woke up dreading it, almost bailed on leaving the house, almost turned around and went home when I got to the Y at 5:30 a.m. -- but I stayed and had an awesome swim instead.) I've been watching YouTube videos, doing 600-700 yards of drills every time I swim, and even finally posted a video of myself swimming in the Pathetic Triathletes Facebook group. I got lots of helpful feedback, some of which I concentrated on implementing yesterday and some of which I have to go back and review a few more times. But I'm now feeling pretty confident about the swim. I will be swimming 3500 three times a week, and the Ironman swim is 4200, and it's downstream, and I'll have a wetsuit. So, can I do it? I think I can!

THE BIKE: No real improvement in speed, and I still can't ride comfortably in aerobars. But -- I CAN CHANGE A FLAT NOW!! I know people will find this hard to believe. I still need more practice before I can change it fast. But I have practiced quite a few times and now believe I could actually do it if I had to. Big and sincere thank you to the person who finally was the right combination of teaching me and pushing me to do it myself. As for improving my speed, one thing I will say is that all of my long rides so far have involved riding through places like downtown Bradenton, Tampa, and Palmetto, usually twice (out and back), and the traffic lights and stop signs inevitably slow me down quite a bit. Even so, I'm usually around 14-15 mph. A fast ride is 16-17 mph. I have promised myself that when my long rides get up over four hours, which is starting this week, I will go to more fun and bike-friendly places, like back to the Pinellas Trail and the Legacy Trail and Longboat Key. Hopefully I will be able to be just a little bit faster in those places, and hopefully I can get some decent practice with aero bars without having to worry about traffic.

THE RUN: Nothing really to report here. I'm anywhere between 9:00 and 10:00 miles depending on how hot it is. I'm still running well off the bike. I hope that continues. I mean, it's not like 10:00 miles is an awesome pace, but neither is it horrible in heat and humidity. Let me just say one more time -- it's easier to run well when you run in beautiful places. I think everyone has seen enough of my sunrises and sunsets and dolphins and palm trees and sea birds and beautiful, vacation-blue Florida skies to know that I live and run in a beautiful place!

My biggest accomplishments this past month:
*Buying a trisuit. It fits me so perfectly it's like someone painted it on me, and like it isn't even there at all. Yes it was expensive, but what is it worth to find something that comfortable to work out in?
*Finishing my solo Olympic tri in reasonably good shape.
*Posting my video for critique. I know I suck, but it's never fun to find out specifically how and how much you suck. Still, everyone was really nice about it, and I got some good tips.
*Learning how to fix a flat -- an accomplishment ten years in the making.
*180 workouts done, 90 to go. Still haven't missed one and I'm still ahead of schedule by 3-4 days.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Olympic Distance Triathlon -- Solo

Today I had a new, fun adventure. I did an Olympic-distance triathlon by myself, before work.

My training plan calls for an Olympic distance race-- 1500-yard swim, 25-mile bike, 10K run -- this weekend. And I had originally planned to do one at Fort DeSoto. I thought I had registered already, but it turned out I accidentally didn't. Once I realized that I hadn't registered, I didn't want to spend the $150 to do a race when I could do it for free on my own. (Especially when I had just spent almost $300 at the triathlon store on a tri suit, a sleek new sports bra to wear under the tri suit, and a new swimsuit.)

I am not a planner, but I planned this out pretty thoroughly. While I still consider this a relatively short-distance triathlon, it would still take me at least three hours, so I had to start as soon as the pool opened, at 5:30 a.m. It had to be on a Tuesday or Thursday because on Monday, Wednesday and Friday a master's swimming group swims there at 5:30 and takes all the lanes. I couldn't do it on the weekend because the pool opens so late on the weekends that I would be doing my run in the midday heat. And Tuesday had bad thunderstorms in the morning. So Thursday it was. I measured bike mileage and planned my run route around water fountains in Lakewood Ranch. I was ready! I was out of my house at 4:50 a.m. At 5:15 a.m., I was in the parking lot of the Lakewood Ranch Y, finishing my coffee and relaxing. I went in at 5:25... and the woman at the counter told me the pool was closed. "They're rebalancing the water," she explained when she saw the look on my face. "Because of all the storms."

I was kind of a jerk. I turned around and walked out without saying anything further. All my planning... this was the only day I could do it... should I go back to bed? No. I was wide awake from coffee and dread and anticipation. There was only one thing to do -- drive all the way to the Bradenton Y, almost half an hour west. I don't like the Bradenton pool; there's no bike lane on the road the Y is on; there are water fountains but they aren't ice cold like the ones in Lakewood Ranch. Oh well. Part of Ironman training is being adaptable, right? So across town I went.

As I shoved my bag in a locker and rushed to the pool, half an hour past my scheduled start time, I thought vaguely, "Maybe I should pee?" followed immediately by, "Nah, only 1500, I can wait." Every time I've made that decision in any race, it's been the wrong one. Every time! From the time I started my swim till the time I got to 300 yards, all I could think was "Oh my God I love this trisuit so much and I'm the fastest one in the pool right now and I look like a triathlete and it was totally worth all that money." Then from 300 yards on all I could think of was, "I have to pee." I should have just done it in the pool like apparently everyone else in the Pathetic Triathletes Facebook group does with no shame, but deep down I still believe what I was told as a kid -- that if you pee in the pool a red ring will form around you and the lifeguard will know. I have never peed in the pool and probably never will. Instead I had a miserable -- but relatively fast -- swim.

This time around I had googled how to use my fancy triathlon watch for triathlon (unlike last time when I didn't bother). So I knew which button to hit to start and stop transitions. Walking into the locker room, I thought how great it was that I didn't have to change out of a swimsuit like I usually do, but quickly realized that getting a wet one-piece trisuit unzipped in the bathroom to pee was about as much fun as putting on a sports bra immediately after a shower when your skin is wet. 10-minute T1 -- shameful. And all because I couldn't pee in the pool.

I ate most of a Clif bar while putting on my bike shoes at the car. I had decided to ride out to Anna Maria Island and back for my ride. I was flying on the way out with a sweet tailwind. Something was rattling big time on my bike and I could not figure out what it was. I stopped riding and tapped on various parts of the bike and everything seemed tight. Oh well; I kept going and stopped worrying about the rattling. I had also been worried because the padding on the trisuit was so light and I have such a history of bike seat problems, but I had NO problem today. Everything felt exactly right. My ride was perfect until I got to my turnaround point on Anna Maria. Suddenly the tailwind was a headwind and I was staring into very dark clouds to the south. Uh-oh. The radar had been basically clear this morning except for a few very tiny dots of green. Those tiny dots of green are totally fine UNLESS YOU ARE RIDING THROUGH ONE OF THEM!

I made it over two of the three bridges leading back to Bradenton before it started sprinkling. Everything to the south and east was an angry dark grey, and the headwind was bending the trees and grasses in half. I kept riding; what other choice did I have? It sprinkled, then it dumped, a torrential downpour that soaked me in seconds. I rode through it and came out on the other side with 5 miles left to ride back to my car at the Y. At least there was no thunder and lightning!

Back at the Y, I put my bike in my car and was changing shoes when the downpour started again. I sat on my tailgate chugging Tailwind and looking at the rain. To run in it, or to go inside and do 6.2 on the treadmill? What the hell. I was already soaked. Besides, at least it wasn't hot, with all these clouds. I headed out with a T2 time of four minutes (would've been two-something if I hadn't sat there hoping for the rain to end for an extra two minutes)

I ended up having a pretty amazing run, 8:30 pace for the first couple miles and just a little slower after that but still well under 9:00 miles. The rain stopped and the sun came out and the humidity cranked up several notches for the last mile, but by then I was so close to being done I could taste victory and didn't care. My legs felt surprisingly springy. The trisuit was great -- the most comfortable piece of athletic apparel I've ever owned, like a second skin. I was happy with just about every aspect of my solo Olympic:

*I was able to change plans at the last minute and pull it together.
*I rode and ran in the rain without too much bitching.
*My trisuit fits!
*My bike seat doesn't hurt anymore!
*Despite burping coffee for my whole swim and almost peeing in the pool, I still had an OK (for me) swim time.
*My legs off the bike felt way better than I could have expected.
*I could use my fancy watch.

The ONLY thing I wasn't happy with was my T1 time -- but I will have no problem peeing in the river at my Ironman, so that should get better.

Up next -- my solo 70.3 in August.