Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seven Days and Counting...

I have really been pushing hard these past couple of weeks, which is my poor excuse for not blogging about my training.

My schedule for the past couple of weeks has been slight variations on this:
Monday -- bike or swim
Tuesday -- run
Wednesday -- swim or bike
Thursday -- run
Friday -- off
Saturday -- long run
Sunday -- long bike + swim

And best of all, I have REACHED MY FUNDRAISING GOAL FOR THE TRIATHLON, with a grand total of

Of course, I am still looking for donations for the marathon, so if you want to help me honor the memory of Prince Liam the Brave by making a donation to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research, just click here!

Swimwise, things are going really well.  Everyone who's done the event tells me not to worry, it's the easiest swim ever.  That's good to hear, but one person's easy is another person's flaily-drowny.  However, last week in the pool, I came to a realization, and maybe this will be helpful to any of you that are swimmers.  I was doing a drill where I had one of those kidney floaties between my legs, so I was only using my arms to propel myself across the pool, and I was cranking out the laps like nobody's beeswax.  No breathing problems, no exhaustion, nothing. 

So I lose the floatie and start a regular crawl stroke.  Sure enough, two laps, and my breathing is messed up and I'm exhausted.

Lightbulb -- must be something I'm doing with my legs!  And that something was kicking like a crazy person, as fast and hard as I could.  Instead of propelling me forward, it was only exhausting me. 

I don't know much about swimming, but I feel that I do most of the work with my arms, with the legs providing just a small amount of propulsion.  I'm not saying that that's how it's supposed to be -- I honestly don't know -- but that's how I feel I swim.  So why am I knocking myself silly trying to get my legs to work harder, when they're not my main source of propulsion?

So instead of kicking hard, I relaxed my legs and kicked gently, and what do you know, I did ten laps easy.

Good thing I figured this out now!  Can you imagine what my swim would be like had I got it earlier?  Oh, well.  The swim will be fine.

Bike will be okay.  I am mainly worried about things like the hairpin turns at the turnarounds, and literally just getting onto the West Side Highway (up a steep hill almost immediately after getting on the bike.)  Two of my Teammates told me the hardest part of the bike course is avoiding bottles and crap that fall off people's bikes.  So I feel that with my training in Central Park, navigating around annoying tourists, I should be okay there, too.

And the run is, well, the run.  It's only a 10K, but it should be interesting after the bike ride, and, of course, it's uphill for the first two miles. 

Two Saturdays ago was the first NYRR Long Training Run.  The LTR is an untimed run, with pace groups heading out for distances of 6-20 miles (a loop of 6, two loops of 5, and a loop of 4.)  Do as many or as few loops as your training requires.  It's a great way to pace yourself and see where you're at.  

It was also the last day of a heatwave that sent temps soaring into the triple digits through most of the week.  The night before, it only dipped down to 85.  Despite NYRR's taking extra precautions -- extra water stations, adding Gatorade to the stations, slowing the pace groups, adding three misting stations and having cold sponges on the transverse -- Coach Ann and Jeff instructed the Team to do six miles instead of our scheduled 14, and go home.  Better to scrap one long run then to knock yourself out to the point where your training for the rest of the week is affected.

Teammate Jonathan and I went out with a 9:30 group.  He's a faster runner but is coming back from injury, and I'm, well, not a faster runner.  The 9:30 group should have been running at a 10-minute pace.  I'm not really a chatty runner, and neither is he, but we would thumbs-up each other every once in a while, and it was nice to have that companionship.  Another good thing that they did for this run was to have the pace group leaders walk the water stations, which they sometimes don't do on these runs, and that means I lose the pace group. 

My only quibble with the run was that all the extra water stations were on the east side of the Park.  It seemed like there was one water station on the west side, and then one every 45 feet on the east side.  Yes, I exaggerate, but the group did wonder where these mythical extra water stations were as we trundled down the west side.

Jonathan broke away on mile 4 and finished ahead of me.  He told me afterwards that the pace group was actually going at a 9:20 pace, and he was feeling good, so if he was only doing 6, he was going to do it as his pace.   So I'm happy, because I felt pretty comfortable with that pace.  I don't think I could have sustained it for 14 miles, but it was fine for 6.  And I feel that I could have done maybe another 5 in that heat, but I was starting to cramp up, and it has taken me a long time to learn to listen to what the coaches tell me.

We also had our first speed and hill workouts over the past two weeks (I have to do the step workouts on my own, alas.) Our first speed workout at Riverbank was one mile warm-up, 5 x two laps hard, one lap easy, then 3 laps cooldown.  This was during the heatwave, so it was really exhausting.  I had to hit the snackbar for some salt so I could keep going, because all the Gatorade in the world wasn't helping.   I really tried not to slack on the hard ones, so my easy laps involved some walking.  That's okay.  If you don't push, you don't improve the way you want.  I thought of sweet Liam every time I started to flag, and I swear to God, every time I thought of him, a breeze would come up and cool me off. 

And lookit what we did -- the next day, Riverbank's sewage plant cought fire, sending millions of gallons of sewage into the Hudson a/k/a my swim course next Sunday.  All because of the heat we generated on the track!

Same thing holds for the Cat Hill workout.  We did a warm-up of the lower loop, then 2 sets of four hill repeats -- easy effort, easy, medium, hard.  Break between set 1 and 2. 

It's so tempting to hold back on the medium and the hard of the first set, because you're thinking you have another set of four to go.  It's almost frightening to commit to doing what the coaches ask, because you wonder -- do you have it in you?  And if you don't, what does that say about you?  Ultimately, what you have to do is push until you can't push it anymore, whether you have completed the task or not.  If you bonk, you bonk, but at least you do it in training, not on the day.  The year I had a 30-minute improvement in my marathon was the year I did everything the coaches told me.  And I would not be honoring Liam properly by slacking.  Set 1, I felt I pushed the last repeat to maybe 90 percent.  Sort of disappointed in myself.  Set 2, I felt myself falling back in the last repeat, regrouped, and pushed to 100 percent up the second part of the hill all the way to the end, running full out the last 100 feet or so.  Had to walk most of the way back down the hill, and could barely complete the cooldown.

This past Saturday was the infamous Great Hill run -- 10 loops of the wretched thing, for 15 miles.  The first time we did this workout, we did it as a Tuesday night workout.  Jeff didn't take the length of the transverse into account, and by the time we finished, it was pitch black outside.  Sounds stupid, but I've been in love with this workout ever since.  Last time I did this workout two years ago, I could not do the full ten, and I was crushed.  So I was both anticipating it and dreading it.

Jeff and David told me to take it easy and cut it short, because apparently I get to have a little bit of a taper this week for the marathon!  Hooray!  Who doesn't love a taper?   So instead of ten loops, I did eight -- and I definitely could have done the full ten, and done them strong.  So now I'm back to loving this workout again.

Today was a nice 12-miler on the bike -- and completed in under 50 minutes -- followed by a really positive swim session.

Holy crap, I think I'm ready to do this triathlon!!

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