The title and subject of today’s post suggested themselves to me when I was biking home yesterday wearing one of my favorite bike jerseys: the Uphill Grind was the place where the Team Z cheering station was located during Ironman Wisconsin and Mary grabbed me a jersey from there, which just happens to fit really well and look really cool. It serves as a reminder of how much fun Wisconsin was, the massive amount of Team support that helped get me through the day, and that the nirvana combination of bike and coffee shops does exist.
So the jersey got me thinking about the prep for this year’s Ironman (sorry, Irondistance. . .aw, screw you WTC and your “branding,” I’m going to call it an Ironman) coming up in Cedar Point at the end of September. I realized that I hadn’t updated this blog for quite some time. The reason is pretty simple. Nothing particularly significant has happened during the training so far. That fact itself, however is pretty significant because it reflects a marked different in both my training and mental approach this year.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t at all to say that there haven’t been some fun and interesting things going on as part of the training. There have been bike time trials, the challenge of the Red Nose Run series (where you had to predict your time, ditch your watch, and then try and hit that time as closely as possible), and of course the thrill (always tinged with the agony and jealousy I get when I’m watching others compete) of seeing my Team Mates compete their first half-marathon or full marathon, or gain a PR. But it is the relative ordinariness of the training life so far that is probably most worthy of comment. So this is all in the way of a quick recap.
Predictably, a mixed bag here. Mary bought me some swim clinic lessons with Optimal Swimming for my birthday, the sort of thing where they videotape you, analyze your stroke, etc. This was incredibly valuable. Before, I felt that I had no sense of how to gauge my swim performance. I would have what seemed like a good day, and I would have a crappy day and I seem to be doing the same thing in each. After taking the clinics I felt that I at least had concepts and language to describe them, and that when I had a bad day in the pool (which happens more often than not) I could begin to figure out what I was doing wrong and start to work on some of those things individually.
That kept me motivated for a bit, I made my workouts regularly through most of the winter and thought I was seeing some improvement. Then motivation disappeared, partly because of other things going on in my life but partly because it was simply swimming. I just don’t love swimming. Some days I can barely tolerate it. Having a mild chlorine allergy doesn’t help. I will bound out of bed at 5 in the morning (well, OK, maybe “bound” is a little strong) for a track workout or a long run or to get to a bike ride. But most swim mornings it takes every ounce of willpower I have just to get to the pool.
So I lost my motivation for about three weeks. I didn’t go to the pool. And the thing that is most discouraging about swimming is that whereas I can miss three weeks of running and still come back reasonably strong, when I come back to the pool it is as if I’ve never been in the water. It has a beginner-level suckiness to it all over again. It doesn’t seem even remotely possible to build up a swimming “base” in the way that you do for the other sports, so the first thing to go is my endurance.
So increasingly my new swim goal of maybe taking a couple of minutes off my swim time in some of my races this year is being replaced by my old goal: please god, just don’t let me be last out of the water.
I haven’t been as consistent with this as I would like, but so far the results have been promising. I made a shoe switch last year to the Brooks Adrenaline and that paid unexpected dividends. The shoe was lighter than my old one but also pushed me a tiny bit further forward onto my forefoot. Not dramatically, but enough so that I could feel it, and could feel my cadence (which was already pretty good) picking up a bit. I haven’t done anything super-long yet, but so far my legs feel pretty strong and my pace seems to have lifted over shorter distances (5 miles, etc.).
I do need to get my VO2 redone at some point to see if the perceived zone shifts are for real or if I’m simply being over-confident. I’ve also been battling a few annoying but not really threatening injuries. Plantar fasciitis set in last year, I did something to my lower calf in a track workout a few weeks back, some minor IT band irritation (caused, I think, mainly by adaptation to the new bike). But the early season has always been a series of small, irritating aches and pains for me as my body adjusts to the training volume, and most of the time they go away of their own accord.
Bit of a mixed bag here. As always, spending any time biking is preferable to doing just about anything else. And it has been a blast figuring out what’s up with all this newfangled road bike stuff. I’ve been riding Ginger consistently to work and on most weekend rides we’ve had so far, and I think I’ve developed a pretty good sense of what is and isn’t working from the basic fit, and some of the annoyances (as expected, the Rival front derailleur is fussy as all get out; it shifts reliably but it is almost impossible to eliminate chain rub). Riding a road bike has also showed my why people invented tri bikes. The first couple of weeks of riding and my quads were sore, even on relatively short rides. Despite all those years and thousands of miles on the tri bike, I obviously didn’t have such strong quads as I thought. Now, in no time at all, I’m sure I’ll look like Thor Hushovd.
Winter never arrived this year so there has been a lot of riding outside and virtually no riding inside on the trainer except for spin classes. I’m not completely happy with the volume level on my long rides and on the other hand don’t feel particularly fast; the last time trial, in ideal conditions, was definitely a bit of a disappointment. But we’ll see. There are a lot of bike miles still ahead.
Nutrition has been a bit of a struggle. I didn’t put on a ton of weight over the holiday season but then I’m not sure you would have noticed if I had. I’m gradually trying to get back into the mode of making smarter food choices, planning ahead for things like lunches etc., but so far Mary is much further ahead than I in that department.
I’ve been trying to hit at least one of the strength boot camps every week and then to do some weights in the campus gym if I couldn’t make the other one. That definitely started to show some results. . . until we suspended them because of the marathon taper. The boot camps kicked my arse but also helped, as I suspected they would, with the plantar fasciitis. Given that the usual cure is lots of strengthening exercises, particularly of the support muscles, I wasn’t surprised by this. My core strength is still wretched, so that is the one thing I need to focus on.
The Same Old Same Old
This, then, is training. It is all about establishing a routine and trying to stick to it; minimizing the missed workouts, trying not to let your exhaustion and your own head get the better of you. Last time I trained for an Ironman everything was new so there was plenty that seemed worthy of comment. Of course, much of it was routine even then. But the routine was new.
There was, of course, also the fear. The fear that I wouldn’t make it. What I had expected this year was that I would be battling complacency and maybe there has been a little bit of that. But I’m starting to feel that little tickle of fear only this time it is slightly different. It isn’t exactly the fear that I won’t make it. After all, I did make it. This time the fear is that the first time was simply a fluke.