Warning: this post is a lot like looking into my training journal and may be a bit boring. And mentioning my journal makes me think of the part in the movie Bridesmaids when Annie says, “You read my diary?” And the roommate says, “At first I did not know it was your diary... I thought it was a very sad handwritten book.” Anyway, below is the recap from my St. George Training Camp.
When I first decided to race Ironman St. George it was somewhat upon my coach’s recommendation. I was debating over Ironman Texas and IMSG and Coach K urged me to do St. George because it would be a better course for me – referring to the hilly bike course. Since I’m trying to do whatever I can to make this year’s races better than ever, I knew I wanted to make the trip to Southern Utah to check out the Ironman course prior to race day. After a couple lame attempts to convince friends and training partners to join me, I found myself making the trip solo. IMSG Training Camp – party of 1. My friend Aaron from my Hood to Coast team (superfast 2:22 marathoner and winner of the St. George marathon) lives in St. George, so he promised me a running partner and a free place to stay. Done and done.
Day 1 – (travel day - fly from Seattle to Vegas and drive to St. George); 13 mile run and easy swim. I had no problems making the trip and the drive from Vegas to St. G is actually quite scenic. I went for a quick swim at the Sand Hallow Aquatic Center before meeting at Aaron’s house. He showed me the Ironman run course. It’s a 8.5-ish mile route with 4 out and backs that athletes will do three times. The run course has changed this year from the previous two years due to construction. I know the new course isn’t as tough as the old one, but it is by no means “easy,” not that an Ironman run ever will be. The 4 out and backs will be nice to see the other athletes, but it is also 4 gradual down hills and 4 gradual up hills x3. Fun. I actually think it will be comparable to Coeur d’Alene’s run course, so not my biggest worry on race day.
Day 2 – Ride the full Ironman course I started my ride around 9:30 and it was gray, drizzling, and kind of cold (not typical for southern Utah this time of year). Part of the bike course is under construction (it will be finished by race day), so I couldn’t do the full course. I planned to do the Gunlock loop twice, leaving from town and then add on to round out 112 miles. By the time I was 10 miles in I had be rained on and pelleted with hail. But then the sun came out and it was just kind of windy.
My goal for the ride was to check out the course and not worry about speed, so I set my Garmin to hide average speed. I think I was too distracted by the constant climbing and gorgeous views to realize just how slow I was riding. All I know was that it was tough. As the elevation went up and up, my bike confidence went down and down. I definitely had feelings of “Why did I sign up for this race? Maybe going pro isn’t in the cards? I’m going to suck…blah, blah, negative self-talk, blah…” After my second loop, I had covered 93 miles and called it a day. This is very unlike me; I never, NEVER cut a workout short (I’ll circle city blocks and parking lots to get to my planned mileage or workout time). But I was deflated. So I finally looked at my average speed, realized it was my slowest ride in probably 3 years, and called it a day. There was no sense in beating myself up anymore.
Day 3 – 75 mile bike, 1 hour run The bike was so much better on my second try. My quads, glutes, calves, and brain weren’t surprised by all the climbing. I ended up having a much speedier ride on tired muscles, meanwhile keeping my HR around the same pace as the day before. And even better, I was starting to enjoy the course and visualize myself riding it in a more positive light. I hopped off the bike and ran 8 miles at a 7:20 clip, feeling pretty good. That night I was back at the aquatic center for a recovery swim.
Day 4 – 100 mile ride Riding on day 4 felt a lot like riding on day 3. I knew where to attack a hill, when I could recover, and when I had to grind it out for miles and miles over a long, steady climb. By day 4 my body was really feeling it though, so I was happy that I didn’t have a run off the bike. Again, I stopped at the pool for an easy swim that evening.
Day 5 – 50 mile bike, 6 mile run (and travel back to Seattle) I rode the Gunlock loop and then around a couple city blocks in town to round out 50 miles. My speed on day 5 was about like day 3 and day 4, but my HR was really low. I think my body just needed a break and my sore muscles acted as a governor to prevent me from riding above 130bpm. At least I know on race day, I’ll have some added speed from fresh, tapered legs that will push me into anaerobic thresholds. As I started my run, I kept negotiating with myself, “okay only 30 minutes, you still have to pack up your bike. Okay, only 4 miles, okay fine, finish it.” My run started pretty crappy, but I was able to average 7:30s to round out 5 hard workout days. I disassembled my bike, said goodbye to Aaron, and was on the road for the airport.
I’m really glad that I was able to make this trip and check out the bike course. I now know what to expect, how hard I need to work over the next couple months, and a fire in my belly to make that bike course my b**ch (or at least put together a respectable bike split) on race day. I had 5 days filled with sunshine and fresh air. Yes it would have been nice to have training partners on my rides, but sometimes getting out there by yourself and kicking your own butt is just what you need. A lot of people have advised me that if I ever race as a pro, you can expect it to be a very lonely day. So, if I ever do pull the trigger and apply for my pro card, I like to think the past few days were good practice. Also, I think my first day of riding the course taught me a few things about not getting down when things are harder than expected or after getting decked on the first tough ride of the year.
After telling a friend about how crappy I rode and what I was thinking after the first day of biking, she sent me the recent article posted by Chrissie Wellington on CNN.com. In it, Chrissie quotes Mohammed Ali: "Success is not achieved by winning all the time. Real success comes when we rise after we fall. Some mountains are higher than others. Some roads steeper than the next. There are hardships and setbacks but you cannot let them stop you. Even on the steepest road you must not turn back." I thought it was very fitting and timely and a good reminder to press on (in life and in sport) when things start to get tough.