Saturday, June 27, 2009

What it takes

My last two workouts had me fairly proud of myself at the end, not for doing a fantastic workout, but just for doing the workout. I was pretty worn out by the end of my day at work yesterday, and I was sorely tempted to just drive straight home, make dinner, and sit on the couch until Dave and the puppy got home for the weekend. But during my lunch break, I'd read a brief article on the NY Times about a study that found that people who did short interval workouts (~five 30 second hard intervals of exercise plus warmup/cooldown) compared to slower, easier workouts (~90-120 min) showed almost identical increases in their endurance after 2 weeks, tested by a time trial on a stationary bike and confirmed by molecular changes that signaled increased fitness. (The study acknowledged it works best for low-impact sports like swimming and biking, not running, for injury prevention reasons.)

Everything I've read certainly indicates interval work is especially important in swimming, but I'm not really a fan. Too much work! Gasping for breath... not exciting in general. But I figured I should give it a try, especially when I'm short on time. So I made a compromise with myself - I'd swim after work, but no more than 30 minutes, and I'd do intervals to make up for the short workout. Basically I convinced myself that if I want to be an Ironman, I can't go dropping workouts left and right just because I had a long day at work, even if it is just swimming. Mostly I don't worry about missing swim workouts because it's by far the easiest for me, and even if I didn't swim at all between now and November 7, I know I'd finish the swim with plenty of time to spare before the swim cutoff. In fact, I'm not sure how much improvement I can really expect to make on the swim even if I do 3x per week workouts.

I just kind of winged it for my swim workout, like I usually do. I swam a 250yd warmup in about 10 minutes, As best I can remember, I then swam 4x25 all-out sprints, resting about 20 seconds between each 25. Then I swam 2x50 (or 3x?), similar rest. Then 4x25 again. Followed by a 300yd cooldown. Actually by the time I was doing the cooldown swim, I was mentally into the workout and in my happy swim place where I keep telling myself "you've got time for one more lap. just one more!" Not in that voice that tells me to just keep running one more mile, but in that "come on, pleeease, i know you only planned to do a 200 cooldown, but please just a 250?" Then I cave and swim the 50. Then I want another 50. Etc. My practical side was saying "if you want any time to relax or shower or eat dinner, you have to get out of the pool now!" Swimming is SOOO nice. Especially when it's HOT outside. I enjoy the open water swims more than the pool, but convenience is pretty much everything when I'm crunched for time. And who isn't crunched for time? I felt happy with myself for finishing the swim, and left the gym thinking about how the type of athlete I am on November 7 is made up of all these little decisions until then. Each time I choose to do the workout, I'm making November 7 that much easier of a day. (however "easy" an ironman can be.)

Today's bike ride was similar in that Dave and I set out together to ride about 50 miles. We parked at the fish hatchery and rode along the canal bike path. It goes 14 miles south and then we turned around and came back. It's as flat as flat can be and a lot of cyclists use it for time trials. There are a few optional hills that the path lets you take, or you can keep going straight on the flat. I took every hill option (except one on the way back since I'd learned going up it that the path there was really poorly maintained) to make the most of my workout. The path is incredibly exposed with no shade (except for a fairly long dark tunnel near the beginning). We had a late start because I didn't turn on the alarm and we slept in until 6:30 so we weren't riding until almost 9. (I will try not to make that mistake again!) Today was hot hot hot. On the ride back to the hatchery, I was contemplating stopping there and calling it a day like Dave now planned to do. I told myself I could just ride again tomorrow morning to make up for it. I also told myself those optional hills had to count for something. But the ironman in me won and when we got back to the hatchery, I refilled my bottles and headed for Beal's Point (10 miles), hoping it wasn't as hilly as I remembered.

I happened upon a group of the tri club at the hatchery, a lot of them had done a swim at the lake and were now doing a bike ride. As ridiculous as it sounds to me now, I'd decided to skip the swim-bike tri club brick workout because I thought I'd be too cold on the bike soaking wet. (I can suffer for a race, but for training? eh, not quite that tough yet.) I am sure I would've dried almost instantly! The group told me that another group of them had just started the ride to Beal's. I hurried to catch up. I rode so fast to catch up that I flew past them a mile later, only noticing after I passed that it was them. I said hi and then decided I might as well keep riding hard for awhile. They caught up to me before too long though and I enjoyed chatting with them for a few more miles. We saw a big snake on the bike path - always exciting when that happens! They stopped to regroup halfway to Beal's but since Dave was waiting for me I kept going. That's when the "hills" start. I put hills in quotes because they're only hills if you live in Sacramento where it's super flat. When we first moved here from St Thomas, we rode up to Beal's and when we got back to our car we were convinced we must have gone the wrong way. That couldn't have been the part of the bike path everyone says is hilly. It only took a year before I started viewing the route to Beal's as my hilly ride. Pathetic! Luckily the "hills" are starting to seem flatter again.

Knowing the tri club would see me if I cut my workout short provided extra motivation to finish the journey to Beal's where I refilled the water and headed back downhill. Ah, the fun reward. The river out there is so pretty, too! With about 5 miles to go I was getting super overheated. The sun was pretty brutal and my drinks weren't helping me feel refreshed. I had a bottle of water and a bottle of Hammer's Perpetuem. I keep trying to like that stuff but after today I think I've officially given up. It's probably worth drinking because it has protein in addition to carbs, but almost every endurance drink with protein tastes disgusting. It's like drinking orange flavored chalk. I kept adding more water to it but still could barely make myself drink it. I need to test a few more drinks because I think I'll be a lot better off in Florida if I can consume some protein on the bike. I can always just have peanut butter I suppose, but a drink would be a lot easier. I should probably just start eating nut butters on the bike to get used to it.

I'm a little nervous about Vineman 70.3 now. There was no way I could have safely run very far after the bike today. I was just way too overheated! When I trained for St Croix 70.3, I did one long run starting at noon to get used to running in the hot sun. I'm not sure I'm up for that right now. So I'm hoping that on July 19 in Napa the mercury doesn't go above 90!

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