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What 17 hours of training taught me
All great athletes are continually studying their sport, looking for ways to get better. Now, I’m now saying I’m a great athlete, but if I follow their lead I’m sure to get better. After finishing my first Ironman peak training week I was officially tired. With 17 training hours, there was much to learn with Mont Tremblant less than a month away.
When I looked at my schedule, the one thing that was stressing me out the most was an 18 mile run on Thursday. Now that I run my own business, I have the flexibility to get long training sessions in during the week. This is great so I don’t have to double them up on the weekend, but also means fewer people around to keep me company. But before I get to that, there were 3 other training days to get through.
Here’s the complete schedule:
- Monday: Easy Spin 60 minutes, Chest/Triceps
- Tuesday: Hill Repeats 75 minutes, Back/Biceps
- Wednesday: 3,600 yd swim
- Thursday: 18 mile run
- Friday: PT exercises, Shoulders, SMART
- Saturday: 100 mile ride, 5 mile run
- Sunday: 90 minute swim
Monday – An easy spin on the bike + strength
It felt great to shake out my legs from my weekend run and ride. And it was a great time to fit in a strength workout from the new LIIFT4 program that I’m following. Today’s lifting focus was chest and triceps. Although the program intends for you to lift heavy for 10 reps, I chose to keep my weights medium to work my muscles, but not overdo anything. I used 10s for chest, 5s or 8s for triceps and modified some pushups on my knees. I decided to follow the modifier during the HIIT portion of the workout, just using the muscles but not taxing the cardio too much. I love that every workout in this program finishes with core work. I never skip that. All that strength work in less than 40 minutes. Perfect!
Tuesday – Hill Repeats on the bike + strength
I knew these would be coming. Mont Tremblant has some challenging climbs. I had been considering using the access road to the Blue Hills Observatory. If you’ve never been there, it goes up to the top of Great Blue, the same mountain that houses the Blue Hill ski area. I’ve done the climb once before and it is almost 1 mile of constant climbing with a couple of steep sections. As if going up isn’t hard enough, it’s the descent that worries me the most. The road is in poor condition – potholes and gravel – and it kills your hands breaking all the way down. I contemplated whether or not I would go and finally told myself I NEED to do this. So off I went. I warmed up along some flatter roads and one gradual hill. With the gate closed I had no room to build any momentum. Deep breath. Go. I climbed nice and slowly and tried to focus on breathing whenever it leveled off. Keep pumping the legs. Try to save 1 gear to shift down for the last climb. Only stand when I need to. I made it up in about 8 minutes. I took a good couple of minutes to breathe and get ready to go down. I rode the breaks the whole way and was able to make it down without too much difficulty. Now to go up again. I really didn’t want to. I was nervous about making it up again and more nervous about coming down again. I told myself the worst thing that happens is I get off my bike and walk. I knew I could push myself a little farther that the last time. Up I went. I seemed to manage the climb better, taking more “rest” whenever the climb decreased and continue to focus on breathing. I could feel my wheel spin a bit on some gravel and pushed harder to get through. I made it up in about the same 8 minutes. Breathe. I still need to go down. This time seemed tougher. At one point a car was coming up so I stopped and just regrouped a bit. I made it down, hands starting to cramp from all the breaking. I was relieved that it was over. It was really hard, but it increased confidence for the hills at Mont Tremblant. It felt good to get back on a nice paved road and ride back home. After my strength workout I first drank my Recover to rebuild my muscles. Then my Shakeology for the daily nutrients I need and especially the magnesium to keep my legs from cramping when I swim.
Wednesday – 3,6oo yard swim
I met Janet and Bekah at Lake Massapoag for a swim. I forgot my watch, but was drinking my Hydrate so I had the electrolytes I knew I would lose during the hour swim. Luckily Janet let me borrow her watch. She did her first Ironman 2 years ago so she totally understands the need for data. The water was so warm that I decided to skip the wetsuit, mostly for the experience of doing a long swim without it. You never know what the conditions will be like on race day. The swim seemed much harder without it. My hips were tired from kicking so much more and I was a bit slower. I ended up completing 3,500 yards in 63 minutes for a pace of 1:48/100. I usually average 1:40/100 or less with my wetsuit so a marked difference. Lesson learned: always wear your wetsuit when you can!
Thursday – The big challenge. 18 mile run.
By myself. This is the single workout that I had been dreading the most for all of my training. The longest run I had ever completed was 16 miles and it seemed to go on forever. But I’m stronger and in much better shape now. This would be a good indication of my preparedness for the Ironman. Coach Peej said 16 miles at my easy pace and the last 2 at a faster pace. My plan: run 8 minutes, walk 2 minutes. I mapped out a general route to include some hills so I could use different muscles and wouldn’t get bored. I ate a pb&j and drank my Energize. I packed nutrition, Hydrate and some cash knowing I’d need to refill on liquids. I posted on Facebook to get some support and was on my way.
I checked in every 6 miles and was overwhelmed by the number of people commenting to wish me well. It totally helped. I maintained my pace and just kept running 8 minutes at a time and taking the 2 minute walks to breathe, drink and eat. 6 miles to get out of Milton. By mile 12 I was at the end of Wollaston Beach and popped into Dunkin Donuts for a bathroom break and some fluids. Off to the bike path to complete the last 6 miles. By mile 15 I was feeling proud that I was maintaining about an 11 minute mile pace, but was starting to feel tired. 8 minutes at a time. After mile 16, I was surprised that I had enough reserves to pick up the pace as per the plan. I thought of my good friend Lisa who always said “the quicker you run, the quicker it’s done.” So I dug deep and went for it. 10:47 for Mile 17. 10:43 for Mile 18. And I did it!!! And I was in good shape – no chafing, no cramping, no pain. Later in the day my left ankle was very uncomfortable, like I needed to crack it and I couldn’t balance on it. I kept massaging the muscles went to bed wearing my best compression socks hoping that would help.
Friday – Active recovery
My ankle was still feeling off, but the PT exercises really helped. I was happy to work on shoulders strength and was good about doing my SMART. This has been amazing in working out the tight spots building up from long training sessions.
Saturday – my longest brick ever: 100 mile ride, 5 mile run.
My kids had archery at 4 so I was aiming to be done by then. I woke up at 5 to prepare. I knew I would need Energize to get me through such a long workout. I started at 5:30 on my own and got 14 miles in before meeting BHCC. We added on about 42 miles with a ride down to Cohasset with a stop for a pain au chocolat at French Memories. It might not be the best bike fuel, but it is just like being in France. I was trying to keep my HR low and spin up hills to save energy for the rest of the ride. I met Shelley at Kelly field who was going to keep me company for the remainder of the ride. We headed out to Sharon, around Lake Massapoag and back to Milton. We added just enough so I hit 100 right in front of my house. I was really pleased with 14.8 mph average and almost 3,800 ft climbing. The best part was that I made it through the entire ride without any tightness in my shoulder. I’m guessing it’s the upper body strength work paying off.
It was almost 2pm which gave me just enough time for a quick transition before my run. Poor Mel the dog saw me with my running shoes on and started following me everywhere. But since he just got neutered I couldn’t take him. I did a few stretches and headed out for the run. I was feeling pretty good and found my running legs quickly. Peej said nice and easy – about 12 min mile pace. I decided to run 9 walk 1 because I had to be back in time. I was amazed when I looked down at my watch and saw that I was keeping a pace under 11 min miles. But by mile 5 I was spent. I couldn’t help thinking that if this were race day, I’d have 21 more miles to run. I decided that this was all I had prepared for mentally and that on race day, the adrenaline and excitement will carry me through. Total run time 54:33 (10;55/mile). I had time for Recover, a quick stretch and a shower and I was off to take the kids. Then we went to Five Guys for dinner and I had a cheeseburger and a salted caramel shake. YUM!
Sunday: 90 minute easy swim
I told Peej I was thinking of just doing an hour and she encouraged me to do 1:15. I couldn’t find someone to swim with, but I decided to go anyway. It was overcast and there was rain in the forecast so I decided that Massapoag was safer than Nantasket. I was the only one at the lake. Somehow I wasn’t nervous at all to swim alone. I inflated my swim buoy, put on my wetsuit and turned on my watch. I started nice and easy out to the first buoy. I figured I would have to do 6 laps. The first lap seemed long, but after that I was warmed up and in a groove. I felt like I was going slow but was swimming under 1:40/100.
It rained a few times and it cooled me off. The whole time, I felt like I was a little kid again at Cliffwood Lake. It was really wonderful.
After 4 laps, I finally felt tired. This is peak week after all. The last 2 laps I noticed by pace slowing a bit, but I wasn’t out of breath and felt like I could keep going forever. At the 1:15 mark I was at 4700 yards and decided that I had to get to 5,000 for a 5K. It wasn’t until later when I realized that 5K yards is NOT a 5K! Oh well. I was on top of the world after than swim and super hungry. I ate my banana and grabbed a ham, egg & cheese on an everything bagel from Dunkin Donuts. Then I took a nap.
I am proud of myself for the hard work. Somewhere along the way, I realized that although I really wanted race with Mike, that probably will not happen. We are at different places in our training. I’m really sad thinking that we won’t cross the finish line together and the way my training is going, I may finish before him so he may not even be there when I finish. But you never know what will happen on race day. The thing I do know is that Ironman is an individual experience about pushing myself beyond my limits. After this week, I know that I need to tackle it on my own and I am ready. And just in time as race numbers were released. It seems really official seeing my name on the list.
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