Mar 26, 2010

Finally Hitting a Rhythm

Ever since the training kicked back up, my free time has been compromised. I definitively have not updated this blog as much as I intended to. Now that I am about to start the racing season, I am going to try to update this blog once a week.

A few days after my hard ride up Madera Canyon, I found myself physically and mentally drained. That ride was a culmination of three very difficult weeks of training. Last week was an overdue recovery week. I always find it very difficult to find motivation during a recovery week. My experience in this sport has taught me that rest is more important than any amount of training. Therefore, it was easy for me to talk myself out of several workouts last week. By the end of the week, I swam around 14k, rode under 100 miles, and ran 15 miles. I felt like I had taken the entire week off. This mileage may seem low, but after riding over 650 miles in my last three week training block, I needed a little time off my bike. By Monday of this week, I was ready to start hammering away at the miles.

On Monday, I headed out for my usual long ride. Big Mondays have quickly become one of my favorite workouts of the week. Not only are these rides long, I have been doing them all by myself on my TT bike. This was my third and longest Big Monday. I set out as soon as the sun started getting hot… blue sky, sunny, and 80 degrees. It was the perfect day for a long ride. Katie Arnold was still in town from Columbus, so I rode the first hour with her. I wish I would have been able to ride with her more while she was here. She is one of the toughest (and coolest) people I’ve ever met. I can’t wait to see how fast she is this year. After sending Katie back towards Tucson, I headed towards Sonoita, a small town 55 miles south of Tucson at 5,000ft above sea level. After 30 miles, the road quickly turns upward. The road was quiet and the sun was beating down, but I felt very comfortable as I traveled farther and farther from home. My heart rate climbed as I hit a steep section… all I could think about was how I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the entire world. After reaching 5,200ft, the max elevation of the ride, I descended into Sonoita. As I passed through Border Control, I realized how close I was to the border. The climb out of Sonoita ended up being the toughest part of the ride. I had a strong headwind and was already 60 miles into the ride. After reaching 5,200ft again, I started the long descent home. I quickly realized that this ride was going to take a little longer than anticipated. The headwind was getting stronger and I knew that I would have it for the next 30 miles. After 5+ hours of riding, I made it back home. I ended up riding around 105 miles with over 4,000ft of climbing. My body was noticeably fatigued, but my legs still felt strong. That was a good sign. This was my first solo century, and it was a fairly easy afternoon in the saddle.

 I wanted to shrug off my alarm clock the next morning, but I had already told TJ Tollakson that I’d meet him for intervals on the Santa Cruz trail. I dragged myself out of bed and put my runners on. I wished I had slept more. I met TJ around 8am for 4 x 2miles at tempo pace. I always hated 2 mile repeats because they last forever. However, if you want to gain some mental toughness, this length is perfect. The workout was tough, but I was able to hold my own. We were running well under 6 minute pace for the entire workout. TJ dropped the pace for the last interval. I tried to gut it out, but he ended up getting away from me. It was the first hard run of the year, and it was great to do it all on tired legs. I went home, ate and then went right to bed. I slept for 4 more hours, it wasn’t enough.

After Mondays ride, I was having trouble recovering. I woke up Wednesday even more tired. I reminded myself that after today’s hard effort, I could take two days easier. I met Tollakson again, but this time we were doing long intervals on our TT bikes. We headed over Gates Pass towards McCain Loop, a rolling 7 mile looped course. The workout was 3 loops at tempo pace. We rocked the first one under 17 minutes. I noticed my legs were already spent. It was hard to generate enough power to stick with TJ. The next two loops were tough, but I stuck them out and finished the workout. After my “cool down,” which involved climbing back over Gates Pass, I ran 20 minutes building to half Ironman race pace.

So far this week is going really well. After today, I am starting to feel somewhat recovered. Hopefully this weekend goes as planned and I keep the mileage high. I should be over 250 miles on the bike this week, which is finally the mileage that I want to be at.

In other news, I got my 2010 race kit today!!! Thanks to Saucony for all the new gear. I can’t wait to debut it at Rage Triathlon in Las Vegas on April 17th.

Cheers from Tucson.

Mar 14, 2010

Madera Canyon

Yesterday was the culmination of three hard weeks of training. Last night proved to be a tough night for me. I could feel the mileage in my legs and back. My body was restless and I was just praying for a decent nights sleep. I had made the trek up through Madera Canyon. This proved to be one of the most challenging climbs in all of Tucson. It starts out with 8 miles at 3-4% grade. Miles 8-11 sees grades between 6% and 10%, and miles 11-13 is well above a 15% grade. The very top is 22% to the turn around. For Saturday’s ride, I decided on an 80 mile out and back with the top of Madera Canyon being my turn around point. Since I decided that sleep was more important than this weeks Shootout, I decided to ride the majority of the 80 miles at a mid - high aerobic heart rate.

The route to Madera takes you straight south on Nogales Hwy. The road is fairly smooth, flat and it goes for a long time… perfect conditions for tempo riding on the TT bike. Since I haven’t been riding the TT bike enough, I decided to bust it out for this longer ride. Heading south on Nogales, I had a light headwind. I welcomed the wind because I knew I would fly on the way home. As my heart rate averaged out around 150bpm, I found myself flying towards Madera into the wind. I tried to remind myself about the climb ahead of me. Ever since I turned onto Nogales Hwy, I could see Madera Canyon in the distance. It was amazing looking up at a snow covered mountain 40 miles away while telling myself, “I’ll be at the top of that in a couple hours.”

Slowly, the mountain in the distance became closer and closer. I made the turn onto Whitehouse Canyon Road. The road slightly tilted upward. My heart rate crept up in coordination with the roads. The climb starts at about 2,800ft and tops out at 4,600ft. The first 8 miles were fairly easy, but I knew the worst was to come. Once I reached mile 11, I was ready for the climb to be over. I was already standing and my heart rate was through the roof. Even though I was sucking wind, it was hard not to notice the beautiful landscape on the top of Madera Canyon… thick forest, streams, and snow. I particularly like the signs that remind hikers that this is bear country. Bears were the last thing I wanted to see when I was this tired.

The descent was well worth the climb. Once through the steep section, the road opens up and top speeds can easily be reached. Half way down the mountain, I reached my top speed, 46 mph. It was amazing seeing the entire city of Tucson from the top of this mountain. The only thing that kept me from admiring the view was the thought of falling of my bike at 40mph. I concentrated on the descent.

Once back heading north on Nogales Hwy, I was really able to get into a strong tempo. The wind was slightly at my back, the road was flat, and my legs were already very warmed up. My heart rate was slightly higher, around 155bpm, while I cruised back into town at 25-27mph. Once back into town, the wind stopped helping me, and I settled into a slightly slower pace. My legs were heavy from the climb, but I was happy to have been able to ride hard for the last 3 hours. Overall, I ended up doing around 82 miles in well under 4 hours. The ride had about 2,600ft of total climbing. After the ride, I ran a nice tempo around the U of A campus. I didn’t reach the pace I intended to, but I was satisfied to be working hard. I finished the day’s workout by collapsing into a grassy (dead grassy) area outside of Hillenbrand Pool. I spent a few minutes sucking wind and starring into the sky. It was all about recovery now… I chocked down a protein bar and a recovery drink while I soaked in an ice bath. I followed it by a quick dip in the Jacuzzi. Then, I headed over to Jimmy Johns for a Beach Club with bacon and hot peppers. It wasn’t enough. An hour later, I went to La Salsa for a Three-Pepper Fajita Burrito and a few small bags of chips. I spent the rest of the evening stretching, drinking water, and hoping for a good nights sleep.