It’s my own fault for not being better prepared and letting off the gas.
Trainerroad announced the 2014 8 Days in California Challenge, and I’m very ill prepared to ride this in just a week and a half. The only thing I can do to make it easier on myself is to take a new FTP test based on my newly found lack of bike fitness.
It sucks when you have to take an FTP test to make things easier on yourself.
Although I don’t expect it to be as grueling as the Tour of Sufferlandria, I’ll be bringing a bucket to this one.
Yoga whoops me. It whoops me good. I have a healthy respect for yoga. It’s eclipsed only by buffets on the list of things that expose my personal weaknesses.
But I have a hard time dealing with all the spiritual stuff commonly associated with it. I’m not saying it’s not real, and I’m not knocking people who are into for those reasons.
If that makes your day better, improves your experience, helps you deal with buttheads at work, that’s great. More power to you! I’m just saying I roll those little invisible eyes in my head that no one else can see every time I hear that stuff.
Again, I’m not saying those aren’t real and powerful things. I know that feeling is real–I get it from running.
Running is my flow. “Scottyasana”–Sanskrit for “Fat Jesus Lizard”.
Yoga, running, rock climbing, surfing…whatever. I think it’s pretty badass if anyone can get this amazing experience out of any activity that doesn’t involve a Schedule I narcotic. If you can find anything in life that makes you feel this good and is good for you at the same time, DO IT!!!
What I don’t fully understand is the need to talk about it at length.
Let’s say you go to a yoga class at your gym (or watch a video). It may be that the person teaching the class feels a ton of inner awareness or connection/oneness with the universe. I’ll go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt and concede that.
But what about the other thirty people in the class? How many of them are feeling that–really feeling that? How many of them are just faking it because they think they are supposed to be feeling it because you keep talking about it?
I know for a fact that some of them (at least one) are thinking, “C’mon! I just wanted to do a tough workout that includes a little mini-nap at the end! And now you’re talking about crystals and soul rainbows during the nap part!”
Again. I get it. I know that feeling you’re talking about. But do you really have to talk about it (so much)?
And why would you want to?
One of the cool things about running/runners is that they generally don’t talk about this zen experience they have while running.
Don’t get me wrong. They will talk your ear off about running. They will drone on endlessly about their splits, their resting heart rate, and what they felt like 16.37 miles into the race. They will spend so much time at the water cooler telling you about how dehydrated they are from their last workout that you’ll dehydrate yourself just to avoid dealing with them at the water cooler.
I do it (here) all the time.
My poor wife.
But what I won’t talk about often, especially with people who don’t run, is that feeling I get from running. I’m more apt to mention it in passing with a fellow runner. And even then there’s a look in their eye that immediately lets me know whether or not they understand what I’m talking about and if I should carry on.
And when I do talk about it, there’s no way I’m going to divulge the full extent and details. That’s such a personal thing. Really, it’s too personal for me to put into words.
And if I could, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.
Besides the fact that this feeling is so personal, I also feel like it’s something of a secret about running that I don’t want just anyone to know. I just found it one day. I was never looking for it.
You have to earn it, and it usually happens by chance. Just because you know it’s possible doesn’t mean you always get to have it, even though you walk out the door every day looking for it. At least that’s my experience.
Could it be that everyone doesn’t get a connection to the universe every single time they practice yoga? And can we talk about it a little less?
Maybe, just maybe, people can find it on their own.
I’ve hit a rut.
I’m working out consistently…well, running at least, somewhat consistently…but not having an immediate purpose if starting to take its toll.
My spring so far has sort of been built around rugby. I’ve already played one March tournament in Savannah, and I have another one coming up in NOLA in April. The plan was to make it out to rugby training with The Red Eyes once a week, maybe make a B-side match to help fill out numbers here and there, and get all my other fitness through running and some cycling on the off days.
The problem is that even rugby training jacks my back up. Bad. And the tournament I played a couple of weeks ago left me unable to run for about a week. I’m still going to make it to the NOLA tournament, but nothing in between now and then rugby-wise.
But I’m not amping up my SBR for some reason. I’m chalking up some of that to work travel and spring tasks around the house, but I’m running out of excuses.
Luckily, my Fall schedule is loaded with races–a couple of big Oly distance tris and a couple of 13.1 races right after that. So I’m going to have to start buckling down soon whether I like it or not.
Did I mention I’d like to come into serious tri training this season with a 5k PR?
Yeah…I’d better get on that.
As always, another tremendous event put on by The Running Zone. A really nice course, great volunteer support, and incredible food and atmosphere after the event. RZ has set the bar pretty high over and over…I wouldn’t expect any less.
This was the inaugural running of this event, and I’ll go ahead and make the prediction that it will blow up next year (get in early). It’s a medieval themed race, complete with a sword fight at the start line and crowns instead of medals for all finishers. They did a great job of keeping the race in character from start to finish.
But enough about the race…let’s talk about the race.
The Missus was registered to run this event with her sister–her first race past 5k, but she suffered a calf heart attack (ouch) a couple of weeks ago and had to make a tough game-time decision on whether or not to race. It came down to walk/jog and risk more injury, walk and (hopefully) not get injured, or donate her bib to someone (me) who had a long run scheduled for that day anyway.
Needless to say, nobody wants to walk 10 miles, and the injury risk for someone who runs to augment other fitness wasn’t worth it. So I lucked out!
This course rocks, rocks, rocks. It’s crazy fast, has a nice long section on a private road, water stops every two miles, but not much shade. Heat became a factor.
My planned long run would have been at about 10 minute pace, 8 miles or so, and I hadn’t planned on racing this distance, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself. I was going in with a 10 mile PR of 1:18:32 from 10 years ago on a much tougher course. But I’ve been running intervals and tempos at a decent clip lately, so I was going to go for it and see what happened.
Realistic goals were 1:21:xx, but I thought I could crack 1:20:00 if I played it right. I’ve been doing a really good job of race management lately, and I knew the recent speed work would help me feel out my pace.
I guessed if I started somewhere between 8:05 and 8:15 pace I’d have plenty of information after 2 miles to figure out the rest of the race.
I’m very happy with the way I split this race!
8:09, 8:02, 7:56, 7:58, 7:53, 7:50, :7:47, 7:54, 7:42, 7:30
I started right around the 9:00 pace group, thinking that would give me a chance to get some momentum by passing people early, but not too quickly. After the first two miles, I was pretty sure I’d be able to sneak in under 8:00 pace. I was feeling really good, and I’d positioned myself between the 8:30 and 8:00 groups, so there was lots of space.
Running tempo runs in the heat of the day in training paid off big. I was in a pace I knew I could hold for several miles with temperatures in the high 70s, and it was cooler than that. I knew it was going to get hotter, but once I could smell the finish line I thought I’d be able to hang on. My plan was to run two mile segments and bump the pace up a little for each one.
I took a splash of Gatorade at mile 4 and committed to hanging without any more liquid to squeeze time.
I started sipping a Gu at mile 5. Between that and the Gatorade, I was amped. Training without sugar really pays off when you get into a race and allow yourself to have it. It’s like rocket fuel…borderline PED.
Around mile 6 it started to heat up and I noticed a lot of people around me fading a little. I was passing more people, and I wasn’t getting passed by anyone. That’s good on one hand, but also a little scary…did they know something I didn’t? I was doubting my plan just a little.
That accounts for the little pullback for the 8th mile. Just after the 7 mile mark I caught the 8:00 pacer, and he was all alone. I asked if I could hang with him until the 8 mile mark. I wanted to settle down by a few seconds pace and make sure I was going to able to go at it for the last two.
I pretty well emptied the tank on the last two, trying to accelerate the whole way–finished with a 1:19:02, 30 seconds off the PR. Forgot to stop my watch at the finish line, which accounts for the difference in times. A good thing–that means I was so spent I wasn’t thinking clearly. Woohoo!
I was extremely happy with that result. I won’t lie, for a flash I thought, “Ugh….just 31 seconds faster for a PR?!?!” but I quickly realized that would have meant every one of those splits would have been 3 seconds faster, or I would have had to come up with an extra 30 seconds on the last mile. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done either of those.
Besides, my goal for the year is to get faster. And if this is my starting point, things are looking good!
My theory is that a conspiracy took place to have someone hit me in the back with a pipe while I was
skating training sleeping.
Either that, or I’m just getting older. This is the way my back used to feel for a couple of days after playing 80 minutes of rugby at 2nd row. That was one of the major factors in stopping–mostly because I was not much value to any team at any place other than 2nd row.
Now this is the way my back feels for 5 days after playing rugby in general.
The Missus says I need to focus on engaging my core and pushing my hips forward before coming into contact. So…a head’s up…
The next time we are about to collide, don’t be surprised if I ask you to hold up a second while I transition from tree, to down dog, then slowly roll my spine into the correct position and get centered.
Then you can run over me and it won’t hurt quite as bad.
I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to focus on fast instead of far for this year. I took some time off after the Tour of Sufferlandria (a whole week off the bike) to recharge and get ready for some new stuff.
Lots of new stuff actually.
This spring I’m committed to (gasp) rugby for the for first time in a long time. Well…not too committed, I’m only going to practice once a week. But there’s an Old Boys tournament in NOLA this April, and I want to show up not only fit, but also with at least some of the strength and rugby mobility I’ve lost over the past couple of years.
It also helps to have held a ball recently.
This actually fits in pretty well with my efforts to try and get a little faster. I’m focusing a lot more on fast twitch in my non-rugby days with intervals. You could make the case that I’m more committed than the average rugby player because I’m going to training once a week and actually doing something on the other days. 😉
And then there’s that mobility issue–back to yoga.
The Missus has a YogaGlo subscription, and when I started checking out their offerings for endurance athletes, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m getting in a couple of short sessions each week focusing on hammies and hips, but also getting some arm and shoulder work in.
The missing piece to my whole plan is swimming. I’m not going to get in nearly enough. Saturday morning Masters is one tough workout a week, but that’s my only access to a pool. I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze in at least one day of OWS, but that sort of depends on the availability of partners.
The hope is I can make it to the end of April without any injuries, a little more speed, a little more strength, a little more mobility, and ready to switch things up a little.
Here’s the general schedule:
- Mondays: moderate bike + stretch yoga
- Tuesdays: run intervals + stretch yoga
- Wednesdays: easy bike + long yoga
- Thursdays: tempo run + rugby
- Fridays: long slow bike + stretch yoga
- Saturdays: masters swim + hard run
- Sundays: long run
I just thought of something while wandering around the grocery store aisles. This is changing my not-so-well-put-together plan for 2014.
I’m going to take a year to forget about going far, and just focus on getting faster.
I’ve heard this idea discussed on the ZenTriathlon podcast pretty often, and it ran through my mind while doing the Tour of Sufferlandria also. It always seemed right, but just not what I wanted to do, so I kind of ignored it.
I like going far.
And fast hurts.
Over the last year, I’ve proven to myself that long isn’t a problem for me. True, still no 140.6 on my resume, but I’ve done the long swim thing, the long run thing, and the ride-the-bike-hard a lot thing.
What I haven’t done (ever) is the fast thing.
And here’s what I realized today…
My ability to go long is not going to be limited by my age. But my ability to go fast is a place where age has probably already caught up with me a bit.
I can always go farther, but I won’t always be able to go faster. So I’m going to go faster this year and keep everything relatively short. That means nothing longer than a half-marathon for runs, nothing longer than an Olympic distance tri, and a lot of time swimming intervals with a masters group.
And more yoga. And more lifting. And more weight loss.
Stage 9 – Violator
- Duration: 1:08:31
- Power: 303 watts
- Average Cadence: 80
- TSS: 89.4
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 1:47 pm on Sunday, February 2
Ugh…I purposefully never did this ride before today because I wanted it to be a surprise to me. And because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.
Violator starts off with the typical warm up. Then you do some sprints, followed by a few sprints, then ending up with a nice little set of sprints.
Violated–64 sprints in all.
Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Granted, I didn’t get to watch the video because when I went to download it my link was expired. Luckily, the fine folks at Trainerroad still let you pull up the profile and do the ride, you just don’t get to see the cool cycling footage and read the sadistic jokes.
I watched a documentary about Bo Jackson instead. It’s all good. I’ve contacted The Sufferfest, and they’ve already gotten back to me with a link for the download. And I’m probably happier not having seen the video and knowing I’d missed all the cadence queues. Again.
So this ride was probably easier than it should have been, but my legs are scattered, covered, smothered, topped, chunked, diced, broiled, charred, and toasted.
And I did it all for this:
A little badge on my Trainerroad profile that says, “I really WILL beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow.”
This Tour was a lot of fun. I think they did a great job keeping the pressure on everyone, and these rides weren’t just suggestions–do them or get dropped!
Also, it’s great that they raised so much money (over $57k at posting) for the Davis Phinney foundation for Parkinsons.
One of my former rugby teammates has Parkinsons, and it’s something I’ve talked about before. It’s especially viscous to see the disease attack people like Pat and Davis Phinney–people who are active and healthy. This is the part where I ask you to click on the link for the Davis Phinney foundation and make a donation.
Can’t wait to do this ride next year!!!
Previous Stage Reports:
Stage 8 – Blender
- Duration: 1:44:26
- Power: 314 watts
- Average Cadence: 84
- TSS: 140.5
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 2:19 pm on Saturday, February 1
Confession – I totally ignored the cadence queues on this ride. Before you write me off as a cheater, let me explain…
You don’t show up to play a round of golf and monkey around with your swing on the course. You do that on the driving range. In practice.
This being a Tour (race), it isn’t the time for me to go off and try to do something I’m not good at, especially when my main objective for the day is just to keep up and not get dropped. This video calls for long periods of high-cadence work.
But it doesn’t make sense to do that on race day when you can pull the same power at a lower cadence and keep the heart rate under control…right?
The upside is that my first attempt at Blender and several days doing the Tour of Sufferlandria have shown me I’m weak at long periods with high cadence. It’s something I’m going to work on (that means doing this ride A LOT) in the future. I’m well aware that riding at a high cadence evens my power distribution out through the pedal stroke, and that’s something I want.
But I’ve also heard some really knowledgeable triathletes talk about the fact that everyone has a natural cadence, and it’s better to work off strengths than weaknesses. I think that’s somewhere in the mid-80s for me–data analysis coming to verify that.
Strangely, I get the same results running. As long as I stay in the mid 80s, I’m good. But my HR blows up when I try to run 90 rpm–that magic number everyone is supposed to hit.
I’m beginning to think recommended cadences are a lot like BMI.
One more day!
Previous Stage Reports
Stage 7 – Angels
- Duration: 1:04:43
- Power: 382 watts
- Average Cadence: 82
- TSS: 99
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 11:15 am on Friday, January 31
And… The Hunted
- Duration: 1:01:30
- Power: 366 watts
- Average Cadence: 84
- TSS: 99
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 9:33 pm on Friday, January 31
This is the stage I’ve been dreading since sometime around mid-November. Angels is just a really freaking hard ride for me. I have a hard time recovering once my HR gets up into the 160s, and this ride puts me there a lot.
Nothing different this time around–begging for mercy about halfway through the second climb. Still, I made it to the end with my breakfast intact.
Again, no records set, but I’m ok with that.
I’m learning a lot about my strengths and weaknesses riding ToS. Maybe “learning” isn’t the right word…”confirming” is probably better. Long steady efforts at a moderate cadence are like candy to me, but sprints or repetitive high-cadence efforts shred me, even if they are at low power are really tough. I’ve noticed that the recoveries at the end of the rides tend to see me riding at about 84 rpm to get my heart rate down.
I’ve also figured out that I need to hold off on taking in water during the recovery periods until my heart rate is back under control. Taking a drink makes my heart rate go up, and I can manage to take in liquid during a work period. Rest is the only time I have to recover my HR though, so I’m holding off on drinking until I’m under 140 bpm.
Anyway, that all went out the door once I started up riding The Hunted. I was completely in survival mode for most of this ride, just doing what I could to stay on the line. Successful, but even the warm down didn’t help me recover. My HR was 152 at the end of the ride, and it left me feeling pretty worried about how I’d get through Stage 8.
Blender is the only ride I’ve ever done on Trainerroad that I couldn’t complete. Fingers crossed for this ride…and the 64 sprint finish that is Violator.
Previous Stage Reports
Stage 6 – A Very Dark Place
- Duration: 0:50:49
- Power: 341 watts
- Average Cadence: 86
- TSS: 84.0
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 5:15 pm on Wednesday, January 29 (Because it’s Thursday somewhere)
If there are any ho-hum days on the Tour, this is definitely the last of them. A Very Dark Place is a relatively short stage with a pretty good mix of riding on the flats and climbing. Lots of cadence changes, which is a challenge for me mostly because my bike really needs a tuneup to make shifting smoother.
If it didn’t require so much energy, I’d be tempted to give myself a little pat on the back at this point of the Tour. I’ve set one personal best for power output (20 minutes) during the Tour, and that was just by a few watts on the very first day. I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve held back, ridden the line, and not emptied the tank at the end of rides where I feel good.
The last time I rode A Very Dark Place, I set 7 personal bests–from 5 seconds all the way up to 5 minutes–and I was pouring the coals to her on the last interval, riding way above the line.
But I didn’t have Angels and The Hunted pointed at me the very next day the last time either. Stage 7 is the one I’ve been dreading since I first saw the schedule. These two rides aren’t horrible when ridden separately (although Angels puts my HR well into the 170s), but riding them back to back is going to be a real challenge.
Decision time: ride it today and take tomorrow off before Blender (the only ride that’s ever dropped me), or take today off and do two hour stages on consecutive days?
Going to have to think on it.
Previous Stage Reports
Stage 5 – Extra Shot
- Duration: 0:22:24
- Power: 380 watts
- Average Cadence: 87
- TSS: 36.5
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 9:06 pm on Tuesday, January 29 (Because it’s Wednesday somewhere)
And… The Wretched
- Duration: 0:49:28
- Power: 358 watts
- Average Cadence: 82
- TSS: 76.6
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 9:33 pm on Tuesday, January 29 (Because it’s Wednesday somewhere)
You have to wake up earlier in the morning than this to fool me. The tour route specifies that you must do Extra Shot before The Wretched. The thing is, there’s no warm up in Extra Shot.
It doesn’t say in the Tour guide that you can’t warm up..it’s just not part of the Tour.
Only a moron would jump into a 20 minute time trial without warming up first, so the smart money is on people who realized this beforehand and did a warm up before getting out on the course.
Surprisingly, I realized what was going on and did a warm up.
Not giving myself too much credit though. If I was really smart I probably would not have decided to do ToS. And honestly, I probably should have done a longer warm up. I just did 6 minutes at an easy pace, getting my HR up to ~120 and holding it there. But I started pretty late (9 pm), so I was anxious to get going.
I’d never ridden Extra Shot before, and I didn’t think it was too bad. Again, wish I’d been warmed up more, but this is another one of those rides that is sort of built for me. Actually, The Wretched (part II of this stage) is too.
Being completely honest, The Wretched is a pretty easy ride for me. I actually went back and reviewed the last time I rode it after I finished to make sure I wasn’t under-working because of some equipment setup was off. But it was just as easy the other time I did it.
Climbing on the trainer just feels good to me. My legs are still relatively big and strong, so pushing a big gear doesn’t feel like too much work. Of course, this would be completely different if I was on an actual mountain carrying my actual weight.
But no one is pitying me on the sprint stages when spinning fast just means moving big heavy legs around and around, so I’ll take my easy stages where I can get them.
The Tour itself is only finished with Stage 4 at this point, and there’s a 35% drop-out rate so far. I still think most of the people still in the peloton will have no problem hanging on.
Until Stage 7.
Previous stage reports:
Stage 4 – Hell Hath No Fury
- Duration: 1:11:59
- Power: 347 watts
- Average Cadence: 88
- TSS: 109.0
- Ride %: 100
- Start line: 12:15 pm on Monday, January 27 (Because it’s Tuesday somewhere)
The prospect of racing against a a group of really fast women, which is the story of this video, doesn’t usually sound very enticing. What do I have to gain? I either get beat by them (likely) or I win (less likely) but walk away feeling like I should have won in either case. I have to say, this ride wasn’t as tough as I was expecting it to be, especially after the past three days of the tour. I actually think it was the easiest stage so far.
Granted, it’s totally set up for a guy like me to succeed–long (20 minute) work periods with long (up to 6 minutes!) recovery time in between the big ones.
I ended up riding at the exact same power as in stage 3, but for a longer period. Cadence almost exactly the same as well. Yet this was soooo much easier for me.
I like to gauge the toughness of a workout by the number and type of sounds that come out of the mouth-end of my body during them. The really tough ones involve sounds that resemble the noise you’d make if you had a piano on your back, just a few seconds before you completely give in and the piano crushes you.
The toughest workouts involve the sound that a rugby hooker makes when the tight-head prop has located the back of his head on the hooker’s sternum, and the opposing hooker is using his shoulder to bury the guy’s chin down and bend him in half. It’s sort of a squeaking sound.
It means you’re cracked when you hear it on a bike.
Well…it means your cracked in both cases–cycling and rugby.
I only made one sound during the toughest part of this ride, but it was a “Whoooo!” sound, Ric Flair style. The ladies featured in this video went for a ride on Space Mountain, and I was stylin’ and profilin’ the whole way up.
It’s ok ladies…this ride was made for me, so I’m bound to give you another shot at it. You may just have to wait a while. You see, Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it’s still go the longest line.
So I’m four days into the tour, and I’m a day ahead of schedule. Stage 5 is looking to be pretty tough, with a little bit of a pull back on Stage 6. I’m still thinking Stages 7 and 8 are the true tests, and they are back to back.
Looking at the official stats on Trainerroad this morning, it looks like 30% of the field was dropped after the first two stages. I think most of the people in the peloton right now have already proven themselves and will be able to hang on until Stage 7.
I’m guessing we’ll get to Stage 7 with more than 50% of the registered riders still in the game. But I think those two days are really going to break some people down. Just hope I’m not one of the ones that gets broken.
Previous stage reports: