Yesterday was one of those amazing, breakthrough workouts. Today’s was an admission of a weakness and big missing piece in my arsenal. I was registered to ride the Camp Pendelton Bulldog bike race, but as the date approached it made less and less sense to drive to Oceanside for a 24 mile road race. The LA Tri Club’s practice ride on the Oceanside course was also cancelled, so I needed to do something big for the day. Fellow LA Tri Club member and Speed Circuit buddy Lynne emailed me and invited me to ride with her for a 4 hour bike and 30 minute run. Lynne is an insanely fast runner and she regularly podiums at races. I agreed with no small amount of terror in my heart.
The terror is because I feel like I’ve made some good progress in my training, but it’s done in a vacuum. I occasionally ride and infrequently run with others so I don’t have a constant metric of my progress. I look at the numbers on my GPS and it tells me I’m doing better, but it’s hard to believe. Yesterday’s plan was to meet at Temescal Canyon and ride north to Las Posas and back. Lynne brought a friend, a very cool guy whose name I’ve forgotten. They are doing heart rate zone training, and they were going to stay in their zone 3 the whole way. That sounded good to me because it meant they were throttling back and I had more of a chance to stay with them. My shoulder had finally calmed down enough so that I felt it was safe to ride, but I emailed Lynne that I might have to bail and turn around early if my shoulder went into spasms.
The way out was nice and steady and I was pleased that we held a pace of 19/20mph. I took lead a few times, it’s polite riding to swap out lead and let the other riders draft. Lynne’s friend was a steady rider, holding a consistent cadence of 80 rpm (yes, I am starting to count other rider’s cadence). We turned around at Las Posas and though my neck was tight, the new position was significantly more comfortable. The stiffness was residual pain from the prior weekend’s abuse.
The headwinds and tailwinds around Pt. Mugu shift constantly and you might not get the tailwind you were hoping for after battling the headwind on the way out. We had significant head and tailwinds all around Pt. Mugu, but once we passed Neptune’s Net things returned to the normal, deceptively hilly PCH rollers. Around this point, mile 45 or so, Lynne and her friend put about a 1/4 mile on me. I was a little fatigued and wondering if I had made the right choices in my nutrition for the day. I am trying better living through chemistry again because I think liquid nutrition is easier to deal with on the bike than the yam bags. I still think the yam bags are the best training food, but for racing I want a liquid calorie solution. It’s easier to bring (powders), it’s easier to digest, it’s also easier to plan in weird locations. There is always water on the race course, so carrying a bottle of concentrated mix means just squirting the bottle into my aero bottle and adding water from my water bottle or the race course supply. For this ride I chose Prolong. I’ve also ordered a supply of Infinit, which my coach swears by. I also have a small sample of Spizz, recommended by Iron Tim. All are probably fine choices, but I need to know how my body deals with each. I know that I need at least 300mg of sodium every hour to prevent diaphragm cramping, so I installed a salt stick into my aero bar. A salt stick is a pill dispenser that is supposed to make it easier to consume sodium pills on the bike. Mine fell out after 50 miles, so there goes $20 and a salt dispenser.
At the Trancas market I dropped my chain from a dumb downshift as we got caught at the red light, so I had to push harder to catch Lynne and her friend at Zuma. From there we upped the pace and things got even more interesting. We started encountering more cyclists and then passed them. After the climb away from Zuma, around Latigo, we picked up an asshole wheel sucker in green and his spastic buddy in blue. We passed them cleanly and smoothly on a climb. Then Spastic Blue rockets forward at the top of the hill and passess all of us. Wheel Sucker starts hugging Lynne’s wheel and when he finally does pass he drops the pace by 3mph. Asshole. A few miles of this and Spastic Blue is sitting by the side of the road waiting for his asshole friend. Our wee peloton passes him, he rockets forward again passing all of us. Cue Wheel Sucker to pull his game of riding Lynne’s wheel, passing, then slowing down. I get so angry I break from the pack and take lead. I think Lynne takes my wheel. For the next several miles I am crazy. I am hammering. I am flying 24, 26 mph, hunkering down on my aero bars and spinning like a madman. Somewhere around the Getty Villa I hear Lynne say, “we need to stop and wait!” Not only had we dropped Spastic and Wheel Sucker, but we also dropped her friend. He caught up, we took off again, and we flew the rest of the way back. We hit Temescal after 3 hrs and 45 min, 70 miles. Just for fun Lynne and I climbed Temescal, a 1 mile uphill, then shot back down at lightspeed. We went to our cars and got changed for the run.
Lynne is amazingly fast; she and her friend started the run at 7:15’s. I hung there for about 3 minutes before my chest exploded and my heart rate spiked to 182 bpm. I had to throttle back and did the remainder of the run at 8’s and 9’s. Altogether it was an amazing training day – fast, fun, and beyond my expectations. But the run weighed on my mind, and today’s run drove home that I’m still a crappy runner.
When I started training some three years ago I ran every other day slowly building mileage and stamina. I ran a 5K, then a few 1/2 marathons, and then marathons. It wasn’t until last summer that coach Ian Murray pointed out that I was a classic heel-striker, thus braking my inertia with every step. My bodyworker determined that my lack of flexion in my ankles was likely preventing my foot from a proper mid-sole strike and toe roll-off. Knowing this does not make it easier to fix.
I’ve only gotten marginally faster in my pace. My comfy zone is about an 8:45 mile. I can ramp things up to 8’s but I can’t hold it for several miles. I’m also erratic in my pacing – if I am to believe my Garmin my pace fluctuates between 8’s and 9’s, infrequently settling into one specific pace.
But the reason I titled this post weightlessness is because of how I feel in each of the disciplines. I used diet to bring off pounds and started running, but I never became a real runner. I felt every extra pound on my body with every step. When I swim with good form I am weightless and I glide through the water. On the bike my weight is an asset both in muscle power and on the downhill where the mass gives me an advantage. Less so on the climbs, but that’s where the muscle power is a benefit (especially when passing idiot wheel suckers with bad manners). Yet on foot I still feel like the fat man. (I know I’m not fat. I’m not fishing for compliments.) Running is not effortless, and when I ratchet up the torque and power I also increase the impact on my joints.
So it’s time to get help. I’m going to plead with my coach for help with my run. I’m racing the desert triathlon next weekend as a warmup race before Oceanside, and in the next few weeks and months I’m going to have to work very hard on my run technique, form, and pace. Because you train your weaknesses, no matter how much it sucks. I swore off marathons because I knew what it would take to crack the 4 hour mark and I didn’t think my body could do it. Well, I am serious about getting into IMAZ in November, which means in 9 months I’m going to have to run a marathon after the swim and bike. I may not get to the same weightless feeling, but if I can get lighter and faster I’ll be in better shape than I am now.