The Years They Felt Short, But the Days Were Long

Race week is here. After 20 weeks of Ironman Training Round 2, 16 months since I started Ironman Training Round 1, with 4 half marathons, 3 half Ironmans (Ironmen?), 2 century rides, a marathon, and thousands of miles since...it's finally race week. This day has been a long time coming. 

I'm finally coming out of hiding this week to finish this journey, and that includes documenting it. Part of the reason I stopped updating was that once I felt behind, it was so daunting to think about catching up. Week after week piled up until I had more weeks absent than not. I won’t bore you with every detail of every workout of the last 9 weeks but I do think I’d like to take a quick (or not) little trip down memory lane.

Week 9: I had my first big breakdown of this training cycle and took 2 unplanned rest days. I went to Target and bought new sheets instead of training one night and it actually might have been the best thing I did all training cycle because I woke up the next day feeling like a new person. I also completed the Farm to Fork Fondo (53 miles) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was my first time ever visiting Amish country and the hills were challenging, but it was breathtakingly gorgeous and one of my favorite rides I’ve ever done.



Week 10: I was back on track and completed every single one of my 16.5 hours worth of workouts! Nothing too notable about this week except that my swim distance got up to 4000yds (2.3 miles) for the first time since last year, and that I completed another fondo, the Culpeper Gran Fondo (101 miles) in Culpeper County, Virginia. Another challenging but absolutely beautiful ride! The idea was to get in a good practice ride for Louisville, and although it was hard, it was definitely doable. I actually caught myself talking to myself out loud about how doable it was, that’s how relieved I was!


Week 11: This week featured my longest run of training yet, an 18-miler - one that ended up being one of my favorites. I ran the first 5 on the boardwalk with my dad and Tracy, then we met my brother-in-law Paul for the remaining 13 through First Landing State Park. It was overcast and rainy off and on and surprisingly perfect for a summer long run. I’m also pretty proud of my long bike/run - I rode 90 miles for the second time this training cycle, but also managed the 60 minute run afterward! I skipped that part during this workout last year (the one with the infamous raccoon-induced crash, texting/calling/Tweeting while crying on the side of the road, and buying a candy bar and coffee halfway through), so it felt good knowing I was in such a better mental place for it this time around.


Week 12: This was another pretty good week! My swims were 4500 and 4250 yards, the longest since last year, and I managed to complete 51 miles on the trainer before heading out for 90 minutes in the sun. That brick run was another one I missed last year due to a bad time on the bike, so again, it felt good to be mentally strong enough to handle it! I did miss my long run this week but I think I needed the mental break more than the running. 

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Week 13: I had some extra time in my schedule this week since my pool was closed for 2 weeks starting this week, so I made up most of my long run (10 miles instead of 13) first thing Monday morning on the treadmill. I had my longest ride of training and, actually, ever - all 112 miles! - scheduled for the weekend, so between that and the pool being closed, the week was fairly light. I was able to do my 14-mile long run with my dad on Saturday and on Sunday our whole crew tackled the long ride/run. We decided to do something different and ride on the Virginia Capital Trail, which I rode some of during my first century last year. We rode all the way from Williamsburg to Richmond and back and it was awesome. It was so cool riding right into the city, and I was really happy to have finally cracked the full Iron distance on the bike (last year we did 110 in training - this year we just had to go those extra 2 miles!).


Week 14: With my pool still being closed, this was another light week. I was still super tired, so apparently I needed the downtime! The only big thing on my schedule this week was the Rock n Roll half marathon in Virginia beach (which I skipped a long workout on Saturday to rest up for, but we don't need to talk about that). This was my first time running RnR VB and my brother-in-laws first half marathon! Actually it was his first road race, period - crazy, right? Oh AND his goal was sub-2 - extra crazy, right?! I was hoping to try to pace him (or, more realistically, try to keep up with him), but my running has suffered from the combination of summer + all the bike miles, so I had my doubts. It was a warm and muggy run, but I pushed hard the whole time and we made it to the finish line just under 1:58! It wasn't my fastest half by any means but I really fought to add another sub-2 to my collection!


Week 15: My pool finally opened and after nearly 3 weeks out of the water, my first swim back was TOIGH. Like, had to get out halfway through my planned workout because I was so exhausted tough. That weekend I rode the 50 States Ride in DC, which goes down every state avenue in the District for a total of almost 63 miles! It was an awesome ride and I got to see SO many parts of the city I had never been to, some of which I probably never would have been to, honestly. Nation’s Tri was happening on Sunday and, although I didn’t compete since last year was kind of a waste, I did join in on the fun during my long run! My normal route took me by some of the bike course, as well as over 3 miles of the run course. As I was crossing an intersection and waiting for a break in the bike traffic, one of the course marshals warned me that it could be a while. I wanted to tell him, “Yep, I know how this works, I’ve done this once or twice!”


Week 16: This week I finally made it back up to an IM distance swim, but other than that my week was fairly light since it was IM 70.3 Atlantic City week! I had a near emergency when I was on the trainer Wednesday night and about 30 minutes into my ride, my rear shifter snapped. I thought it was just the cable and rushed it into a bike shop not too far from me, and they assured me they would have it back the next day, in plenty of time for the race. The next day I found out that, to make a long story short, they actually needed to do a ton of work, including a little bit of custom modifications to what I had in order to fit the parts they had in stock. I was super impressed that they still got the bike back to me less than 24 hours after I took it in, especially since I just went through a whole rigamarole for over 6 weeks with another bike shop. 

(I don’t think I ever mentioned that, but in late July a part that broke on my bike right before IMNC last year broke again since it got fixed the fast way and not the correct way since it was so close to the race. To make that long story short, when it broke again this July I took it to a specialty shop to get it fixed properly this time, and they ended up letting it sit in the shop for two weeks before realizing they couldn’t actually fix what broke and needed to replace it, then they put on the wrong replacement part - well, not wrong, they just put an entry-level part on when what I ordered was a higher-end part, and they overcharged me for it. I realized it as soon as I picked up the bike but i had been without it for a month and was so desperate to have my bike back I didn’t say anything. I didn’t feel right about it, though, so I called them the next day to tell them about their mistake and they told me they would order the correct part and that I could keep my bike as-is and ride it in the meantime since it was their mistake. It’s now been almost 2 months since that conversation and I don’t think I will ever hear from them again).

Anyway. This week was AC 70.3 and, after the stress of not knowing if I was going to be able to ride my bike or if it was going to work properly subsided, I had a fun race! It wasn’t as fun as last year, probably just because last year it was my first IM branded race ever and that was very exciting. I do have a recap started but the short version is that we had nicer weather this year, the swim went on as planned this time, I did fairly well on the bike (although not as well as last year), and the same on the run, and finished in just over 6 hours. 


Week 17: Peak week! This week was a blur, to be honest, probably because I was too busy training to think about what was going on. This week brought the 20-miler which, even after two successful 18-milers this training cycle, and even at an 11:30 pace (ran with my dad, although I don’t know that I would have been a whole lot faster otherwise), felt pretty crappy. It wasn’t awful, it just felt….crappy. That’s really the only way I can describe it. It was unseasonably warm and muggy and disgusting out and just…yeah, one of my crappiest runs this training cycle. For day 2 of peak weekend I did my last long ride of 80 miles followed by a 90-minute run. Thank goodness I had company for most of those minutes and shade for all of them because I don’t know that I had the mental strength to get through that run on my own. That workout is probably the hardest one of Ironman training in my, you know, professional opinion. I was so relieved when it was over!


Week 18: First week of taper! I was super irritable and cranky all week. I had a really, really good IM distance swim - my last long swim, and one of my best this whole training cycle. I’ve been disappointed that I’m getting slower at swimming but, given that I haven’t made it a priority at all, that makes sense, I guess. I had a nice long run at home - 13 miles with my dad and brother-in-law on an urban trail I’d run parts of during a race but never on my own - and only a 50 mile bike ride on Sunday! I didn’t even have to run afterward! The bike was a little…interesting, as the temperature really dropped over the weekend and it was only in the 50s when we started. I hadn’t packed anything except a very light jacket for that kind of weather and I was so cold I put on my yoga pants and hoodie I’d slept in the night before over my cycling clothes. Not super professional for fancy, but they did the trick and I was toasty! We had a little…difference of opinion on the route, which led to some temper tantrums, but ultimately just made me laugh because that is very much how this point of training feels. I just hate everything and everyone and I don’t know what exactly the problem was but to be honest this was probably my least favorite ride of training this year. At least we started and ended at a winery so we had a nice end-of-training celebration afterward!



Week 19: The final week of taper before race week was sadly anything but restful. Work has been crazy busy, especially this week. I'm glad that shit didn't hit the fan a couple weeks ago during peak week or next week when I'm going to be gone, but I was still really stressful and busy and honestly I barely had time to think about training or the race (which might have been a blessing in disguise). I cut a swim short because I just didn't want to keep going, and skipped another one, so I only swam 2000 out of the 6000 yards I had planned this week. My last long bike ride and run were both meh at best, and not at all confidence-boosting. Both felt harder than they should have, despite being considerably shorter than what I've been doing over the last several months. This week's long run was the Army Ten-Miler which, quite frankly, was kind of miserable. It was warm with near 100% humidity and a 75 degree dew point. SEVENTY FIVE. As our weather report put it, "Humidity absolutely disgusting and ridiculous for DC in October. This would be oppressive in July." I thought about making up a swim this afternoon but I was completely worn out, even after a nap, and instead spent the evening alternating between pacing back and forth looking at stuff I need to pack but not actually packing any of it, and crying watching Ironman videos on YouTube. Taper in full effect.



And now...ready or not, it's race week. I want to say that I'm excited and looking forward to getting this show on the road, but the truth is that I am terrified. I keep imagining every little thing going wrong, from freaking out in the swim to my bike breaking to getting hurt and/or violently ill on the run. And when I'm not freaking out about that, I'm freaking out about the fact that this time last year I was in ignorant bliss of assuming I would have a full race course waiting for me, and then I remember that I can't even count on that going right. I'm worried that I didn't train enough, that I skipped too many swims, that my bike rides weren't hilly enough, that I didn't do enough brick runs. I'm worried about the weather and that I don't want it to be as hot as it's forecasted to be but that I also don't want to be cold and I don't really know what to wear for either scenario. 

I basically feel like I could throw up at any given moment. 

I put my trainer away yesterday. I don't know when (or if) I'm going to ride it again. I ran my last run in my race shoes, so they are ready to go. I'm putting my YMCA membership on hold after my swim tonight, and I don't know if I'm going to keep it after the hold period is up. I don't remember feeling this anxious last time. I don't remember being so uncertain about the things I just don't and can't know right now.

But some things I do know: I have three days of work this week. I'm driving to Louisville early Thursday morning. My teammates will be there waiting. I'll get to hang out with Alyssa and Kristen on Friday. I have to drop my bike and gear off on Saturday. And I have to race on Sunday.

There are lots of little (and some big) things to do in between those things, but those are the things I know for sure. And I'll be back tomorrow with my race plan and goals, and later this week with some final pre-race thoughts (including a little project I've been working on over the last 4 months)!

3 comments :

  1. Well, I very much hope your Ironman goes like my marathon went, because if that's the case, you'll be in for a wonderful day on Sunday! I definitely understand where you're coming from, though. Especially during taper, I find it really difficult to fixate on everything that DID go wrong during training and everything that COULD go wrong during the race, rather than everything that went right during training and could go right during the race. I hope that no matter what happens on Sunday, you're able to walk away satisfied with the work you put in and the result you achieved.

    Also, dew points of 75 should be illegal at all times as far as I'm concerned, but should be especially illegal in October. Blech.

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  2. Ahh race week. I feel the nerves for you. For what its worth, I am rooting for you big time. While it doesn't ease worry at all, a lot of the times, the things we worry about are so far from the realm of possibility. Im hoping that's the case for you and that you have a smooth swim and bike, and an amazing run.

    Go you!! Cheering you all the way.

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  3. Congrats on making it to race week!! You did a great job this training cycle. I know it wasn't perfect, but they never are, and you worked so hard. I know the days feel agonizingly long with all the waiting and anxiety, but before you know it the whole thing will be over and you will be an Ironman. And don't worry about worrying. It's part of the process, we all do it.

    I look forward to hearing about how your race went!

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