Wow, has it really been that long since I last updated? I guess this is all part of me adjusting to my new schedule. Work is going great, but it is occupying a lot of my time and mental energy, and, when you add in longer, tougher IronTeam practices, it adds up to me not being as diligent a blogger as I have been. However, I will do my best to remedy the situation in the coming weeks so that nobody misses out on the outrageously thrilling details of my journey to becoming a real live Ironwoman!
If I pored over every detail of the last two weeks, this post might take you the rest of the week to finish, so I’ll be as brief as possible (for me). Two weeks ago, we encountered for the first time, the myth, the legend, the Wildflower Long Course, known as one of the toughest courses this side of the Mississippi, in Lake San Antonio, for a training weekend before the real Wildflower race on May 4th. The swim, while cold, felt relatively uneventful: a lake out-and-back in relatively murky water. With hills called, “Nasty Grade” and “Soul Crusher”, the bike course was no joke. Almost the entire ride contained rollers to sustained climbs. The flats came too few and too far-between. It was on the bike that I learned the importance of good quality sleep. After a stressful first week of work lacking in 8-hour restful nights, and arriving on the campsite at 2 a.m. before a 5:30 wake-up time (I caught a ride with someone and things got waylaid, pushing the 5-hour drive to a late-night time frame), I definitely felt the pain. My legs gave way just before the top of Ol’ Nasty, which caused my sanity to give way into semi-hysterics at the prospect of re-mounting my bike to continue the climb. I attempted once, and fell, in front of a cute Silicon Valley IronTeam guy (of course), and, skinned my knee (again, no training weekend is complete without my bloodshed). Of course, that’s when Coach Jason popped up and, as always, carefully smoothed over my ridiculousness with his common sense, and coaxed me on, up the rest of the hill, and the next hill, and on through the rough bits coming back, including a steep, sweeping downhill, where we hit 40+ mph (frightening).
After the bike at Wildflower, I’d begun to think that maybe I wasn’t quite cut out for all of this nonsense. I was SO slow, finishing the 56 miles in a little over 5 hours (granted, I did stop to deal with saddle pain and snot quite a bit during this ride, which is not usual, but still). I began to again question my abilities and whether doing a full Ironman was really within my capabilities. Everyone has limitations, right?
The run, however, saved me. The next day, we awoke early to conquer the run portion, which, while not as legendary as the bike course, was equally as difficult. The first five miles climbed endlessly and steeply through trails and uneven terrain, leeching what little energy remained in my body. By the time I hit Mile 5, I thought, “How in the heck am I going to finish 13.1 miles of this?” The climbs gave way to flatter terrain, and my body suddenly found its salvation. Suddenly, all of the fatigue gave way, and my body began to go to work, through long and short climbs, gentle rollers, and flat terrain. Before I knew it, I was flying down the hill toward the finish, energized and feeling like I could have done another five miles!
It’s funny how one good day can negate the bad. After a triumph on the run, I felt like, maybe, I could handle this race in May (after a good night’s sleep, of course).
1) Get a full night’s sleep before tough workouts
2) Don’t stop on a hill
3) Don’t try to get back on your bike, on a hill, in front of a cute guy.
Last week, we hit the pinnacle of our hill training (no more crazy hills after this), powering through 70 excruciatingly hilly Palos Verdes miles, with a 60-minute transition run, and finishing the weekend with an hour swim and grueling 15-mile semi-trail run. Given the saddle pain that had occurred the weekend, prior, I’d purchased a new saddle, a Terry Butterfly, supposedly one of the number one choices among women, given its wider design and strategic cut-out area. Coach Dave put it on for me before the ride, asking, “Are you SURE you want to try a new saddle before a 70-mile bike ride?”
“Yes!” I emphatically declared. “Nothing could be worse than my current saddle.”
About 15-20 minutes into the ride, I knew that I’d been wrong with that statement. The new saddle was putting even more pressure on sensitive places than the old one did. And here I was, “saddled” with it for the rest of the ride. Oh, boy.
I have to say that I was a trooper through all of the pain, even though it felt as though a wild animal was attacking my most sensitive areas the entire time. While stopping to adjust at times, especially on slight inclines, where it seemed to hurt the most, I did my best to stay mobile and think happy thoughts. My cycling buddy, Marissa, and I resorted to singing karaoke songs at one point, although our voices were (probably fortuitously) drowned out by vehicular traffic. It helped for a time, but, for most of it, I was miserable.
This route was similar to the 40-miler I’d done that day when I kept falling with my new pedals, and Coach Riz cheered me on up the steep Hawthorne hill. The hill was still tough and still required quite a lot of pushing, but I made it up, all the way, without stopping, just like I did the last time, and, hey, I didn’t fall at the light at the top!
The next day, the swim left me a bit more unsettled than it had the previous times. I got through the water, but I got knocked for a loop a couple of times by the break, and that was a bit terrifying. I had trouble catching my breath as we swam, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been at Desert Tri.
The 15-miler, as I mentioned, beat the living daylights out of me. While I felt fairly okay toward the beginning of the run, after climbing up some fairly steep switchbacks, and trying to scramble up a shortcut and ending up with my right side in the smooshy dirt (I looked like Pigpen after that), I lost my mojo. By Mile 10, I was fading. I was fairly certain that I probably hadn’t consumed enough nutrition for this run, and I wished that I’d brought another Gu along to slurp down for some easy energy.
When I finally made it to the finish, I declared, “Dear Run: I quit you. I quite you SO hard.”
It was a rough day, but we all have rough days. Nobody made it through that run easily, that’s for sure.
1) Extra exertion may require additional fuel. Come prepared.
2) The ocean doesn’t always play nice.
3) Don’t try to take really steep, risky shortcuts, especially while you are already covered in sweat.
After the 70-mile bike ride last weekend, I kept feeling like, if I could just have one pain-free, no bike problems ride, I could actually gain traction with the bike. Maybe I could actually keep a consistent pace and quit stopping so much.
I headed over to Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, CA yesterday, after a “light” 3-hour ride in Santa Monica (and a nasty, rough ocean swim). I met Josh, who helped me to choose the right saddle. He, along with several women I know, recommended the Adamo brand, which has no “nose” and a gigantic cut-out in the front to eliminate pressure on certain areas. It’s especially meant for people who ride in the more aerodynamic, triathlon position, and who spend a lot of their time leaning forward in the saddle. It wasn’t cheap, so I sincerely hope that this saddle makes my life a lot easier.
So, there you have it, an abbreviated version of the past few weeks. Stay tuned for more updates, coming soon!