[055] Roller coaster

Swim: 2,000 m/44,000 m

Bike: 18/149.1 miles

Run: 3.4/75.8 miles

Yesterday’s workout took me through a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions, and I’m not sure it was the endorphins that were to blame. It was more likely the unvarnished realization of what’s in store for me this year.

I went out with the plan to ride 18 miles and then run about 3. I met my friend John at the 6-mile course at West Creek, and we discussed trying to ride a little faster than we did last weekend, with the second of the three laps being the fastest.

But we started out kind of fast, and finished the first loop in a shade over 20 minutes, which was already about two minutes faster than I had ever covered a single loop of this course. Then we picked up the pace for the second, as planned, and covered the distance in 19 and change. We “slowed down” for the third lap, which we completed in 21 minutes – still a minute faster than my previous best. (Note: the times I am using for comparison were produced on my old road bike).

As we cruised toward our cars near the end of the third lap, my legs tingling and my breathing heavy, we discussed the day’s performance and John said, “Not bad . . . for a training ride.” We had covered our faster second lap at an 18.4 mph pace – my fastest average pace ever outside of a few brief sprints (we clocked 30 mph in one downhill burst). I was giving it what I would consider close to a race effort, but John was making it look easy.

After the ride I set out immediately on my solo run. I felt pretty slow, as I usually do after riding, but my heavy breathing was a sure sign that I was working too hard. Maybe I was comparing the plodding pace of my run with the feeling of cutting quickly through the air on the bike, but I felt like I was hardly moving forward. I was growing more and more winded, and my legs were starting to tire. Also, the heat was picking up and I was actually sweating – an unfamiliar feeling this early in the year. I tried to make myself slow down to keep my breathing in check but it already felt like I was barely running. I got back to my car and stopped my watch – 24 minutes. I thought the distance was 3 miles, which would give me an 8-minute pace.

On the 30-minute car ride home I had plenty to ponder. It all boiled down to one startling realization – this triathlon business is very hard. It’s one thing to have a fast run, a smooth swim or a good ride, but another altogether to put together race-pace performances in all three disciplines at one time. I felt like I put it out there for this ride – I tried hard and gave what I thought was a solid effort. I produced my fastest ride to date (the first two loops were completed at an overall 18 mph pace – the third loop was more of a cool down) but felt like it was all I could do to keep up with John. And then I felt like I got blasted on the run. I was spent. And neither of these distances were even close to the 26-mile bike and 6-mile run of the Olympic race! I started to feel overwhelmed and wondered how it’s all going to come together.

But then I got home and went straight to my computer for some calculations. I discovered the pace of my fast loop was 1.5 mph faster than any previous ride, and my pace for the entire 18 miles was also faster than any previous ride by 0.6 mph. Then I found that I had, in fact, run 3.4 miles instead of an even 3, which gave me a 7:13 pace. My spirits began to perk.

To wrap up: I rode an aggressive 18 miles at a personal-best pace. I followed it with 3.4 miles at a 7:13 pace. And I still have six months of training before my big race. There’s no doubt that this is an undertaking that will test my strength and will, but perhaps I’ll wait a little longer until abandoning hope!

(The stats at the top of this post include Thursday night’s swim – a ladder workout of increasing and then decreasing sprint intervals and then a 300-meter swim timed at 5:17 – a new best.)

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One Response to [055] Roller coaster

  1. Dad says:

    If it were easy, everyone would be doing it…except people like you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwPg8IMCuag

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