Monday, July 25, 2011

Hell of a weekend

That's what it was, or perhaps a weekend of hell? It was darn hot, but I had lots to do. Another race double and a long run Sunday.

It wasn't an easy week leading up into the weekend. Wednesday's track workout was my worst of the year, I felt lethargic and was unable to get in the whole workout, which may have been the smart thing to do anyway since it was so humid and I was just coming off that previous weekend's double. Instead of a 5-4-3-2-1 of around 5:00/mile pace, I ended up doing 5-3-2-2-1, which is better than nothing, but I wasn't pleased with how I felt. Swimming went well despite swimming in water of at least 86 degrees. No major bike workouts, just some recovery rides.

Saturday started with the Lost River Classic bike race, in the mountains of West Virginia. Weather was actually decent, mid-80s and some cloud cover. Bart and Matias had given me ample advice on how to approach this race... be near the front for the first climb as it was sure to blow up the field. They were right. Into the first climb people quickly dropped back when we hit the first of two steep pitches near the top. I nearly got caught behind as a larger fellow who was directly in front of me came to a virtual stop, but I was able to swerve around him and quickly bridge the gap that he allowed to form between him and the front 5 or so guys. 2 others followed up the hill and just like that we had a 8-man break from the rest of the field. This group worked perfectly together and 10mi into our break we were 1:30 up on the rest of the field. We each had a role, I set the tempo/pace on uphills, a few guys took longer pulls on the 2 long flat sections, and another couple charged on the descents, which helped us increase our advantage.

I attacked a bit too late on the final sprint climb, about 50m too late... I should've started my sprint 200m out but I waited until 150m, and that was a huge blunder. It cost me podium for sure, but I ended up 5th as our little pack finished together. We all must have ended up at least 3min ahead of the rest of the field, which is a pretty big gap! It was a lot of fun and I felt like my legs got in a very solid workout.

That evening was the Crystal City 5km. I was sort of looking forward to it until I warmed up and realized just how yucky the weather was. So humid and hot!!! Absolutely miserable. I discarded my time goals and decided to just go by feel and try to beat the people around me. It was pretty awful, hard to breathe and I was just drenched in my own sweat, but I ended up racing well. The time wasn't good, 16:58, but I was able to start a little more conservative than normal and ended up picking off no less than 7 high schoolers who started out ahead of me, and exact revenge on Tezeta Dengersa, the mighty Ethiopian lady who beat me at Rockville Rotary 8km last week (part of another bike/run race double). She's really good... I can beat her fresh no problem, but she's good competition when I have a bike race in my legs. Nearly beat Edmund Burke as well, who I am sure ran long that morning... that guy is competition when I'm fresh. In all this was another good race/workout. I wouldn't have run that hard on my own in brutal heat, so this was great training!

The next morning I met my big brother Jordan at the Capital Crescent head to jump on a GRC train headed by Karl, Matias and Max, with Dirk riding along providing much-needed life-support (hydration). We trotted 10 miles to Matias' apartment in Alexandria at around 7min pace, and surprisingly it felt ok. It was definitely still too warm out and I was feeling Saturday's double in my heavy legs, but after a couple miles my legs loosened up and I enjoyed the run.

That made 3 hard or long workouts within 24 hours. Probably the hottest and hardest 24 hours of my life! But waking up Monday morning I felt fine, which is odd considering last Monday I felt terrible. I guess Todd was right, this kind of training is indeed making me stronger.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2x Race Saturday

This past Saturday I jumped back into racing (and starting a 5-week race binge) in a daunting way: 2 races in one day. I've never done that before, but it was more manageable/sane because it was a bike race and running race. Giro di Coppi road race (cycling) in the afternoon, Rockville Twilight Runfest 8km (running) in the evening. Todd agreed this was an excellent workout opportunity and I wanted to get the most out of both races while at the same time not embarrass myself at the 8k late in the day.

The cat 5 wave of GdC set off around 1:05pm, which was quite a bit later than I would've liked with an evening running race looming. I sat in for the first of three laps with the mindset that I wanted to improve on my 3rd place finish in 2010 with a win this year. However, sitting in meant that I would do very little work until the last 200m to go. I got a bit frustrated once we finished lap 1 because I felt I was doing no work. I made up my mind at that point that I would make the race harder for me and potentially sacrifice an easier chance victory by moving to the front and leading or pulling for multiple stretches... and that's what I did. I pulled for about 3 miles of lap 2 and led a short break on lap 3 before taking the lead 2 more times, choosing the hilliest portions for my leads. I felt like I was working a lot more. However, it left me a bit drained for the final sprint climb, and once we hit the 200m to go mark, I was quickly passed by most of the 15-or-so man pack that broke away, ending up 12th overall when I crossed the line. The placement was a bit of a disappointment, but I just had no pop for that short sprint. I was very satisfied with the effort and work I put in, and Todd agreed that was the takeaway from this race. I did try to win, but did so the hard way and I think that was more beneficial to me and my triathlon training than simply sitting in and working for only 200m.

I relaxed a bit and ate some Honey Stinger waffles (my new go-to energy snack) in the few hours before the 8k, discussing race strategy with Paul Zwama. We correctly locked the door to Dirk's apartment and made our way to the race. We met up with Texas Paul at the invited athlete room (where I felt rather insignificant, surrounded by Ethiopians, a Dutchman, a Texman/Alabaman and other area legends) and warmed up for a sweaty 2 miles. I was drenched before the start. It was so humid. But I was quite surprised how good my legs felt. I figured, as long as there are no hills, I'll be just fine. So I was quite disappointed to look to my right about .25mi from the start and see a hill as part of the course. My quads quivered at the thought. O well, it's time to race.

The 8k begins and people blast off from the start. I tried my darndest to go slow and conservative, but there were too many people practically sprinting toward the first turn, so I found myself caught in the crowd. PMurph and I joined forces and made our way through a short mile 1 in under 5:10... too fast for me. I eased up a bit and took it slow up the hills. Yes, there were plenty of those... taking it slow up them was the only solution if I wanted to live through the entirety of the race! We hit mile 2 in around 10:30, so my pace did indeed slow, which was fine, but I was starting to feel really hot. Only 3 miles to go... geez, I was already looking forward to finishing. My pace slowed between 3 and 4 and the gap I had opened on PMurph had closed a bit, but I ignored the clock at this point... just finish strong. The last mile was a desperate effort to get to the finish. I was passed by a couple people, and heard footsteps catching up, but finally crossed the line in 27:39. Not a great time, but a 40-second PR nonetheless, and not terrible considering I raced beforehand... around a 34min 10k equivalent, which I'll take after a ride! And I ranked quite bit closer to my usual race rivals and I expected.

Apparently I was moving slow enough to make the camera blur out of boredom.

So that was one heck of a day and a great workout overall. I'm doing it again this coming Saturday, with Lost River Classic in the late morning and Crystal City 5k in the evening. I'll aim to run a bit smarter in the 5k and sit in a little bit more at the bike race. I would like to show up a little fresher for the 5k than I did for the 8k as it should be a flatter and faster course.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Prague, week 2, o the hills

I didn't really have any chances to post while I was in Prague (I am back in USA now), but plenty happened last week.

First off of course the riding. I rode a lot. It was absolutely perfect weather for the first 4 days of the week and I took advantage of each day. An 80k on Monday, a tempo 38.2k on Tuesday, a solid brick on Wednesday and a recovery ride Thursday. The 80k was pretty hilly, with a 5mile climb thrown in... the scenery was majestic, as I rode along a glistening river with houses and churches placed atop hills on the other side. It was sunny and the sky was blue and it was quite pretty. I am not a scenery person when I train, but I really enjoyed it on this ride. The tempo ride was solid, totally unplanned but 15 seconds into the ride I felt really good, so I just rode hard, hitting around 22mph average, which I feel is pretty decent for a rolling course on road bike and no aerobars. There was a neat cobblestone section in the middle I had to go over twice which slowed things down but most importantly it jarred my water bottle loose before the halfway point and I had to ride in thirst. I think that actually made me ride faster as I really wanted something to drink.

The brick is a segue into running for the week. As I touched on last post I had been running a little more than planned and that carried over into this week. I ran an hour after the Tuesday tempo ride and Wednesday had a brick run, a fast run right off the bike. The ride wasn't hard, a 200w effort over 75min, but the run was tough. 2mi at a hard effort, final 20min settle and build pace. I ran the first two miles in 5:30, 5:19, and settled into the 20min build, going 7:09, 6:26, 5:50. It felt great! Especially the first two hard miles. My goal for Nation's is to run a 34:30 10k off the bike, and being able to comfortably hit 5:30 right off the bike and then get faster will go a long way toward helping me realize that goal.

I had a bit of a failed tempo run on Thursday, but I chalk that up to 5 hard workouts in 3 days... I suppose I was due to have a bad one. I put in several tempo miles but 2 less than I wanted. Still put in 7.5mi for the workout. A 70min run Friday to shake out the legs ended my training in Prague. Total for the week including today will end up being around 40mi, which is the most for me in a while. Best part is I feel like I am getting into really good running shape, which I didn't expect so early into the summer. The 2 weeks of training at 1100 feet and all those hills and hitting nearly 40mi both weeks really boosted my run fitness.

Swimming of course was not great as I only got in two swims this week. It is just tough to get motivated to swim so many laps in a tiny pool. Only notable swim was the end of Tuesday's workout, when I swam 800m in 11:16, which is just slightly slower than I was at Columbia. I made sure to make my wall turns slow and gentle, so it couldn't have added much of anything to my time. It is an encouraging time as it shows that I can swim a little less and still maintain my fitness. My goal for the summer is to maintain my swim speed, I will try to advance after the Fall season.

Well, that was a great 2 weeks of training. I ride 6 times next week, so I look forward to that. I also decided to add a couple running races to my schedule, the twilight races (8k and 5k) in July, but not as goals, but workouts after cycling races the same day. It worked for the 10k last week so these should also be good workouts.