For the past 5 weeks, I have been focused on periodized training as I train for Ironman Lake Placid. Like every athlete, I have had some obstacles thrown in my way but I just focus on the cans and making progress - for some progress is better than no progress. In other words, making small gains forward and not going backward. With not running for 8 weeks due to my iliopsoas strain/tendonitis issues, I had a lot of ground to make up but I believe in making investments and not withdrawals. I got myself very strong in my glutes/hips/adductors/abductors and although the progression back to running has been slow, I have designed my return to running with a purpose for each run - I must feel stronger and more confident with my running with every workout. I stop before I need to stop, I walk to ensure less residual fatigue and I am focused on form, not speed.
As for swimming - I love to swim and not sure how much I will improve over the next 2 months but for me to get faster, I have to swim a lot and I just don't have all the time in the world so I have specific sets for each workout and that has given me some great key workouts...and some OK workouts where I just enjoy being in the water (after almost 20 years of competitive swimming).
In terms of biking, building endurance for an Ironman is much easier than building speed and I have come very far since first learning to ride a tri bike in 2006. Considering I have done 5 Ironmans and have been with Karel for all of them, you'd think that I'd be knocking out "long" rides every weekends and I'd be super fast on the bike. But it's not that simple to just ride long or hard every weekend/day and ensure the body will be ready for race day. As athletes, we all seem to have a few epic/stellar workouts in our system and at any point in the training plan, we can knock out some long workouts. Perhaps some are spot-on and amazing and others are ehhh, OK and glad to have got that one over with. I don't believe in the later for I want to gain something from every workout and it's very rare that my body will give me an ehhh, sub-par workout with periodized training.
Over the past 5 weeks, I have done 4 "long" rides of ~ 4 hours. Each ride had a purpose, teaching myself to be more efficient, working on nutrition and learning how to properly pace myself at the Ironman zone 3 (power zone) effort along with the rest of my swim-bike-run training.
Before even deciding to do a century this year, I wanted to make sure my mind and body were prepared for 100 miles and I knew if I couldn't pace and fuel myself properly for 4 hours, there's really no point in knocking out a 100 mile ride. Because I always go by time and not distance on the bike for a workout, I wanted to have a strong 100 mile ride and not waste time out there riding "slow" but instead, put my training to good use and to see what I was capable of. I feel this was the best strategy for mental toughness in that if I could be focused and strong for 4 hours, I knew with the right pacing, nutrition and focus, I could have a strong 100 mile ride. I just don't believe in long rides that are slow. I also don't feel that they need to be fast. There needs to be a purpose with every workout if you are sticking to periodized training and it's not about speed or miles but rather what you put into those miles.
So Friday evening I was excited for the century ride that I invited Karel to pace me on but totally exhausted from a long week of working/training. Fri night came around and I was in no mood to cook. BUT, food is fuel and my medicine and it only takes a little creativity and a pre-meal snack to get me excited to fuel my body with yummy nutritious fuel.
Grapefruit and strawberry salad w/ dark leafy greens, almonds, farmers cheese and golden raisins.
Pasta and veggie casserole
For the casserole, I boiled some pasta noodles until al dente. While those were cooking I sauteed firm cubed tofu in a little olive oil and seasoned with turmeric (hence the yellow/orange coloring of the tofu). While everything was cooking, I preheated oven to 425 degrees and in a casserole dish I filled it with sliced mushrooms, yellow squash, purple onions and kale. I spooned some marinara sauce on top, placed the cooked noodles on top (drained) to fill the dish (about 2 cups worth) and then topped again with a little marinara and seasonings of oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. I baked for ~25 minutes and then turned off oven, sprinkled with cheddar cheese and then kept in oven for 5 additional minutes. Voila! I super easy dinner with very little cooking.
So, onto the ride.
5:30 wake up (I do best with at least 60 minutes before I start any workout to get myself moving, to foam roll, walk Campy, eat a pre training snack and get myself ready for the workout)
Pre training snack - 1 Matzah (I prefer flat bread or french/pita bread over whole grain bread, oatmeal or bagel) + small spoonful PB, cinnamon, raisins, honey, sliced bananas, 3 large strawberries and 1 cup milk + coffee/water. around ~65 g or s of carbs and low fiber and fat, energy dense carbs are key (ex. raisins, honey, banana, milk). I also had $5 with me for a gas station stop if needed.
7am - start time!
Nutrition for the ride - 3 bottles with ~250 calories in each bottle (~60g of carbs) + 3 gels + FIZZ (to refill bottle w/ water at stop around 3-3:30 hours). I also had 6 Hammer endurance aminos to take throughout the ride. A total of around 1100 calories. (based on my power meter, I am able to see how many calories I burn in the ride, and I try to replace around 50% which is about how much I can properly digest and absorb. Of course, the higher the intensity, more glycogen use but harder to digest so that is why pacing and nutrition consistency are super important on long training sessions. Be efficient and save your best performance for race day. I don't train to burn calories. I train to perform).
Warm-up (not so much) - once we were a few miles down the road, Karel picked up the pace. I didn't ask any questions about the ride and was thinking the ride would be around 5 hours but within the first hour, my mind was coming up with a million excuses as to why I shouldn't be riding "this fast" and there's no way I can keep this up. I had a mini breakdown around 1:20 into the ride and told Karel the pace was too fast and I probably shouldn't be doing this ride with him. He assured me (like always) that I can do this and to just stay focused. He said based on previous rides, there was nothing holding me back and I should just believe in myself. Seeing that my very first 100 mile ride was with Karel in 2006 and we averaged a blazing 16.5-17 mph (Karel was totally bored on that ride - he joked that he fell asleep a few times) I had to remind myself that I have come a long way on the bike and I had no limiters in my way.
After around 1:30, we joined the group ride in Nocatee which wasn't the normal fast pace because riders were either racing triathlons or in Athens for the Twilight Crit. Although the pace wasn't ridiculously fast, it was a little unorganized and my lack of fast twitch fibers do not do well with random accelerations. This is why I love riding with Karel - he is so steady with his power meter and he is smart with pacing.
After the group ride, I started to feel better. We headed on A1A toward St. Augustine and the wind was blowing. It was a weird wind (like usual here in Jax - the legs never get to stop moving because it's always windy, hence why we don't "need" hills to learn how to ride strong - although I'd take some hills any day) and it was not easy to draft on Karel's wheel.
Because Karel was riding steady today, I knew my effort was going to be a bit higher because that is how it works with drafting off Karel. A steady ride for him, a challenging ride for me.
So far, the century ride was going better than planned. I had no idea how far we had gone or total time as I left that all up to Karel so I could stay focused. As I mentioned before, I rarely care about speed or miles but instead time and what I do with my time. I kept my power meter on a screen where I saw cadence, HR and lap speed, 3 sec power and normalized lap power. For every interval we did today (which included some recovery between our fast warm-up, group ride and other intervals) I hit the lap button to better analyze my ride. In races, I hit the lap button every hour which helps with pacing for long races as well as reviewing my file.
The A1A section was tough but all I was told to do was to stay focused. 2 x 22-25 minute intervals (to Gate Station and back) w/ a few minutes recovery in between. Karel was strong and I had no choice but to stay focused...or get dropped. Karel was not taking it easy on me and kept reminding me that this would be my best ride ever if I would only stay focused.
After A1A, we headed back to Nocatee, then on to Philips Hwy for another steady state interval. This time right into the wind but luckily, a little tailwind on the way back. But with only 20 miles left to go (told by Karel before that last out and back section), my brain was still focused and body felt good (thus I was doing a great job with fueling) but the legs were really talking to me and wanted to stop a million times in the last 40 miles. But, I had no real reason to stop as the body was still hanging in there and I knew I just had to stay focused.
I think as humans, we often struggle with being uncomfortable, being out of our comfort zone. But I have learned from many successes in the past that it is only when we take a chance to be out of our comfort zone that we realize that we are capable of much more than we thought we were.
Still not knowing our total time, average speed or miles, it was on our road back to our home that Karel finally said - "100 miles!! You did it!"
I switched over my Garmin 500 screen and couldn't believe my eyes.
Although Karel said that he finished the ride and felt like he could have gone 1 hour more (thanks for rubbing it in hubby), I was not as tired as I thought but ready to start the recovery process (epson salt bath, recovery whey protein drink, foam rolling, TP ball, stretching, icing and compression - and a recovery meal and consistent eating of primarily carbohydrates and protein throughout the day, every few hours). Because I was on-call at the hospital, I had to do tube feeding recommendations for two patients after being consulted by the doctors that afternoon so I really gave a big thank you to my body for allowing me to have a great workout and recover quickly. Also, with the right fuel at the right time, I felt like I nailed my nutrition without any worries on "calories" but instead, keeping my brain and muscles fueled.
My recovery partner and favorite 110% Play Harder recovery compression socks.
Here's the details of the ride:
Total time: 4:37
Average speed: 21.7
Variable index 1.02
Distance: 100.44 miles
Warm-up: 1:31 - 30 miles, average speed 20.6
Group ride- 54 minutes, 22 miles, average speed 22.82
Interval 1 on A1A (out)- 23 minutes, 9.3 miles, average speed 24.31
Recovery 2 minute
Interval 2 on AIA (back) - 25 minutes, 9.5 miles, average speed 22.05
Potty stop/refill bottles (~6 minutes)
Interval 3 (nocatee) - 28 minutes, 10 miles, average speed 22.03
Last interval (out and back) - 50 minutes, 18.3 miles, average speed 22.07
Cool down - 3 minutes (13 mph)
Peak 3 hours: 67 miles, average speed 22.34 mph
As you can see, it's OK to take recovery breaks and it's not always about the miles and getting in those "long" rides. It's good to pace yourself and break up the long-ish rides in a periodized training plan with race type intervals to teach the body how to stay steady. Also, it's so important that you practice fueling when it's windy or on bumpy roads for if you don't feel taking in a gel or grabbing a bottle when you are training, you are not only hurting your performance during that training session but you likely won't feel comfortable doing it on race day. I stay fueled every 10 minutes on the bike and then whenever needed from my bottles or gel.
Also, I would like to note that Karel can bike much faster than what he did with me. But even if I was slowing him down a little by making sure I stayed on his wheel, the focus of IM (or endurance) riding is not to prove how fast you can be. When it comes to triathlons, you want to bike steady and run strong. Although we'd all love to show off how strong we are on the bike (or how much time we can "gain" on the bike), it's very important that if you are training for an upcoming race, get us to a Z3 effort (or around 75-83-85% max HR to get yourself more efficient with this uncomfortable, comfortable pace). We do several 20-50 min intervals with 1-2 minute recoveries - not at a leg-burning pace but instead, a steady pace with a smooth cadence and just enough recover to shake out the legs and not fatigue throughout the ride while taking in proper nutrition to maintain a steady pace.
Thanks Karel for the great workout and a BIG thank you to my body for allowing me to have consistent quality workouts. WOW, talk about a lot of progress since 2006! Life's a journey.....