Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.

Heavy Legs, Strong Heart: A Training Story


So much of endurance training is in the heart. No, I’m not talking cardio fitness (although that’s a big part of it, for sure). It’s that lionous beating drive that makes you want to achieve, it’s that belief in yourself, even when your limbs don’t want to follow the motions, or your mind slips its grasp on a technique over and over again. It’s what keeps you going when everything else quits. Passion is the pulse of the Ironman.

The team is enduring another build phase of our training. This past Saturday’s practice was a Griffith Park “Grand Prix” training session: a 30-40-minute cycling loop with a mega lengthy hill climb, transition, one mile run, then transition back to bike and repeat two more times. The goal was to practice fast transitions and to get our bodies acclimated to brick workouts (bike followed by run).

I hadn’t been on the scary clipless pedals since last Saturday, as I did an indoor workout as my midweek ride, so I felt nervous, as usual. Still, I clipped and rolled out with the rest of them, around the flat part of the loop, over some little rollers, and then, up the dreaded climb. I’m not sure how long the climb on this loop is, but it gets steeper and steeper toward the top, and winds around so you can’t see just how far you have to go (both a blessing and a curse, depending on where you are on your climb). I huffed and puffed like a steam engine up that thing, partially from exertion, and partially out of anxiety. As one of my teammates so eloquently puts it, “You have to keep pedaling, or you die.”

When I finally reached the top, I faced the long, steep, winding downhill, with its few hairpin curves. Again, my nerves about being fastened to my bike at breakneck speeds and cars whizzing by with no bike lane got the best of me, and I clutched my brake something fierce down those hills. My hands were starting to hurt near the bottom. Sure, there probably wasn’t as much danger as I imagined, but, as a newbie cyclist, I find it’s always safer to stick with what feels right. One bit of panic, and that’s where you really get yourself in trouble.

Heading into the transition area after my first loop, I realized that I was right in the middle of our team, meaning I was keeping a pretty average speed, at least on the flat and climbs. After I put my bike up, one of the coaches came over to my bike and promptly expelled the air from my front tire.

“Oops, you have a flat,” he said. “Enjoy your run!”

Crud. They got us good. We were told that we were going to have a tire changing clinic where we would have to remove our tires and tubes completely. We weren’t expecting this.

My legs felt particularly brickish on that first leg of the run. My GPS told me I was running a 10:15 pace. I felt like I was barely moving. Holly ran back with me into the parking lot, where I grabbed my bike and attempted to jimmy off the tire. My tire was thick, so it took quite a bit of prying to get the thing off. Once it came undone, I removed the tube and tire completely, but, then had trouble getting everything back on.

Little did I know, a Gatorskin tire isn’t so easily popped on and off, especially a newish one. two coaches tried to help me, and finally, Coach Dave, the expert, had to come wrestle my Gator back onto its proper rim. The CO2 cartridge I had then promptly exploded and burned Coach Holly’s finger when she tried to help me with it. What a red letter experience! Thankfully, someone had a full sized pump available, and I filled back up and got myself going again, but not before some of the people who I’d seen when I first got to the transition station, come back from their second loop. Oops.

My second loop definitely felt the strongest, and the run felt a little bit easier, coming down to a 9:40 pace, according to GPS. So far so good, and no falls, but I was beginning to get tired after those long climbs. Would I still be able to accomplish another hill, strong stops, and a great finish? Plus, the park was getting busier, with lots of events happening all over the place and people and cars everywhere. Would my cougar and wildebeast nightmare come true as I rolled down that wind-y hill?

I’m proud to say that I braved the masses, the confused drivers trying to find parking spots and stopping abruptly in the middle of the road, the other cyclists, and the families meandering into the bike paths without looking. I even made it up another huge climb, pedaling to avoid “dying” or at least road rash.

Almost the whole team was back by the time I made it. Apparently, Coach Jason cut some people off  at their second loop, but the majority of people changed their tires in–well–less than 30 minutes :P. I grabbed my sneaks and made quick feet toward the run trail for my last mile of fun.

My legs felt like they weren’t moving much, but when I glanced down at my watch, I was going at a 9 minute clip. Go fig. I kept my feet churning and light as I headed back into the lot.

The large group of teammates waiting there cheered and clapped as I finished my run, feeling accomplished and (dare I say it?) victorious! First triple brick AND tire change, done, done, and DONE!

Of course, an IronWoman’s weekend is never done with just one long workout. Today, we set out on an eight-mile trail/road combo run, with lots of inclines. I’ll just say that my glutes were not “inclined” to do any more inclines after Saturday’s bike, but, there I was, suffering through the mileage.

Last year, during marathon training, a teammate once told me that the moments in running where a person suffers the most are the times when they benefit the most, both physically and mentally. Quitting is a habit, just like any other, and so is not quitting. If you get into the habit of not quitting, even when you want to, then the less likely it is that you’ll give up.

Mile seven was a big struggle. My legs felt like oak trees–with lead centers. I kept grinding those leg gears. Luckily, I had a great running buddy to talk to, swapping stories to keep our minds off of how tough it was. Stopping was not an option.

Nothing feels as good as when you’ve set out to accomplish a goal, and you achieve it, no matter how small. Finishing all of that training this weekend was as much a victory as any of my races. I pushed through the tough spots, fear, embarrassment, and I got to the end. If every training weekend leads me to this feeling, I have a lot to look forward to this season!

Lessons Learned:

1) Practice changing your tires, even if you already know how and you haven’t done it in a while. It’s good to refresh your skills, just in case.

2) Just keep going. Quitting is as much of a habit as any other–form good training habits and you’ll reap the rewards.

3) Brick leg is just something I think I’m going to have to get used to this season. Methinks it won’t be going away any time soon. 😛

Author: Solange Deschatres

Innovative multi-marketing strategist and writer with a futuristic eyeball (and one normal one for writing, reading, design and such). Strong background in mobile, interactive and social marketing. Runner, writer, and art, music, tech and equine enthusiast. Owner of the most amazing Beagle you'll ever meet.

4 thoughts on “Heavy Legs, Strong Heart: A Training Story

  1. How long was your workout in total… Time wise? Nice post. Cheers.

    • I’m not exactly sure how long the whole thing actually took. I wasn’t worried about time on this one and didn’t turn my GPS on for the bike, since we were going to be switching back and forth so much. It just seemed like a hassle, so I only turned it on for the run. I will guess that each bike loop was 30-40 mins (let’s just say 40–those climbs can really slow a person down), and then I had the transition (which, in my case, took longer than necessary 2 out of the 3 times–first time, someone moved my stuff around and I couldn’t find it, second time, a teammate needed to talk to me about something because he wasn’t going to be around later), so I’m going to say at least 15 minutes of transition time, total. Then, the run, which was 9-10 minutes, depending on the leg, and, of course, the tire changing fiasco.

      So, just over three hours sounds about right. Mileage was about 20 on the bike (with a sustained climb), and three miles for the run.

  2. I want to let you know I mentioned your brick workout in my latest blog. I think that type of brick workout would be good for me.

    • Great! Thanks for mentioning my blog. 🙂 It was tough, but a great way to get used to the feeling of run after bike.

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