Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

I rode outside today for 4 hours- I took half a day from work because I knew that I wouldn't be able to get a long ride in on Sunday- it's supposed to snow Saturday night.

Because the bike spends most of its time on a trainer, it's kind of a production getting it ready for the outdoors. I have to swap out wheels, do a quick lube, wash my hands- because my bike is so perpetually dirty I can't touch the wheels without getting my hands covered with grease. I checked the weather's hour by hour forecast and from 2-6 it was 10% chance of rain. I found that a little odd, as the sky was that angry shade of grey you usually only see when it rains or snows, but I thought, what do I know.

It took about ten minutes to get the Zipps out of their bags, get them on, check their inflation. I walked out into my garage, opened the door- and of course, it was raining. I walked back into the basement, switched the back wheel and put my Elite on the trainer, but I sort of hesitated.

It was 50 degrees- so a slight drizzle was not going to be a big deal. I was kind of worried about getting caught out in a soaking rain, though. But I'd been toying with the idea of doing 3 80 minute loops to get used to the idea of a three loop race. That gave me an easy bail-out if the rain came down. I shoved my cliff shot blocks back in my jersey aong with my cell phone, and headed out. The start of the ride is a nice, long, shallow climb that you can get warmed up and although you are climbing, you're moving. On a cold day you usually get a false optimism- you're warm because you're climbing, because you've just left the house...

The rain never was an issue. The snow pack melt puddled in a variety of places, and riding through those meant wet feet and wet shorts. That would be more of an issue.

I climbed up out of Branford- there are several more stair-step climbs through Stony Creek and was feeling good. Then I got near the Sound, or at least the marshes, and of course, the temperature dropped. My feet got cold and stayed cold- I can still feel it now- only now it's like a warm spot where my cleats sit on my shoes...

It was at the end of the first loop that I started debating whether I would do two loops or three. I had on these awesome lightweight Specialized gloves that keep my hands comfortable- neither warm nor cold, but with my shoes it's a catch-22. The shoes fit just right. The heavy socks that would have kept my feet warm make the shoes too tight and cut the circulation off in my feet. I had on a normal pair of socks and my feet were cold.

About halfway through loop #2 I decided I would hit the trainer after 2 loops and 2:40 minutes outside. I'm getting ready for a warm-weather race- my coach is holding a camp in Arizona right now and it's 90- I want to sweat, not suffer, and it will be a better workout. I was having a good ride, my usual pace, but...

When I hit the turn-around, I headed back out anyway. There's telling yourself you are going to take the easy way out, and then there is what you actually do. At first, it seemed warmer, the sun was more fully out- and then I hit Stony Creek, and of course, it was even colder. My first loop it had been 50. The second loop it was 45. When I finished, it was 40, too cold for just bike shorts, although when your feet are cold you don't notice much else.

Every endurance athlete in a cold-weather place has days like these, and as always, the rewards are often in doing the things you don't want to do but do anyway. Nothing novel or new here, but still worth noting.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Outside ? Outside !

On Sunday, after spinning for an hour to let the roads dry out, I strapped on the time trial helmet, switched out for the Zipp rear wheel, and hit the roads.

I don't know when I last rode outside. But yesterday I rode up to Durham and back and took an extra loop in Branford to get to 4 hours. My longest ride before Lake Placid was a 5 hour, 98 mile hill-stomping which also took me through Durham, but this was a not like that.

First, warm is relative, and while my hands, upper body and even my bare legs were warm, my feet were not. I also had a little error in judgment during a bathroom break, but let's not say too much and just leaf it at that...

I also was without my Cliff Blocks. Let me tell you, Power Gel is not a substitute for solid food. It just doesn't work as well.

Still, after a lot of spinning and not much riding, I was surprised how quickly 4 hours went by. Maybe it was the novelty or the fear of the cars, or maybe it was just the Snow Patrol, Coldplay and Evanescence....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Training under the radar

It's been a good six weeks since I last posted anything here.

Since then, I lost my fantasy football championship (how do you run a league for 12 years and never finish better than second ?), had the stomach flu, and most recently, was hit with what was for all purposes walking pneumonia.

There have been a lot of distractions. Quite a few people warned me about trying to prepare for such an early-season Ironman. I kind of laughed it off. I've always thought that the big thing which hampers early season training for people is their dislike of spinning indoors. I mean, even when the weather is miserable, you can still get in a two hour run outdoors, but I feel like I paid my outdoor riding dues a few winters ago, and it's just not productive riding at 15-16 miles an hour in the bitter cold for 4 hours when you are training for a warm weather race- at least not for me.

I have the advantage of having trained for a November Ironman, and it can be the same thing. October gets dicey and you aren't going to get 80 degree days on the weekend. And I like to spin- I'd rather sweat my ass off in the basement than freeze my fingers and toes off.

Still, I have to say that I feel like I've been fighting to hold onto whatever it is that keeps you driving forward towards your goal. The last illness was the worst. It hit me in the afternoon after a two-hour run. The next day, a Monday, I was barely conscious (although I had to work for five hours). I missed two days of workouts all together, but by Saturday, I was back, and I not only did a two-hour run, but I really buried the back half of it. the next day, I put together my best brick of my training arc.

I usually roll my eyes when people say to me 'Maybe you needed the time off.' I take my two weeks when I'm instructed to, don't particularly like it, but I take it and then get one with it. However, in this case, I think maybe that's exactly what the case was. The illness, although not helpful, did not, as I thought it might, wipe me out for a week or more. I feel refreshed, my workouts have been back to the intensity I think I need 5-6 weeks outs, and while not an ideal path, I'm still on track.