Swim, Bike, Run…Off Season Style

Well, race season is here. My facebook feed is alive with training, races, PR’s and trials. TNT GA IronTeam 3 is well underway, but I have chosen to not participate this year. I do have many friends on this team, and it is exciting, if not strange, to watch and hear about it.

The off season is an adventure, to say the least, and a time to relax. Rides would start at 11 am – waiting for it to warm up a little (it usually did get in to the high 40’s/low 50’s between 10 and 11 am) and were relatively short. It was rainy, and I did more trainer rides due to poor weather than I care to admit.

But there have been many changes and highlights. One highlight I have been bursting to tell. At the end of March I participated in a base training camp. No speed, no intervals – it was all about distance on the bike. On the first day we rode 120 miles: 60 miles out, 60 back. We actually stopped about every 20 miles to refuel, and at mile 62 or so, stopped for lunch – as in it was about a 30 minute stop where we sat, ate, drank, and chatted. This was a huge change for me mentally (all of my long rides have been “race prep – don’t stop except to refuel and get going again quick), but I loved it. And on this day I learned I LOVE peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  And on day 2 we ”washed, rinsed and repeated.” Yup – 120 miles again. With more peanut butter and banana sandwiches. The goal was to ride the last 20 (and 40) miles of both days strong, and the second day to be the strongest.

Just before heading out on day 1, my coach repeated to me (after chatting the night before as well) “no heroics”. My thought: No problem. Having never ridden that far before, and having never done back to back rides like that, I had no problem taking an easy to moderate effort.  Knowing the goals for both days, I enjoyed the ride – low Z2 most of the way. I fell off the main pack both days after the warm up period, but didn’t mind as they were going harder than I wanted or was ready to go. All of them were stronger riders, had done this before, and I was just…somewhere else. I rode with a Katrina for a while after we parted from the group, but also a lot on my own. I would wave and give a thumbs up to our sag car (and my coach) when I passed him – I was having a marvelous time and felt great. We all always stopped at the designated SAG stops to refuel, eat, and talk. After the first day I was honestly ready for 20 more, but had a short t-run and then to prepare dinner for my house mates.

The great news is I executed according to plan: the last 20 miles on both day were my strongest, and the last 20 of day two strongest overall. My ride overall on the second day was stronger than the first day. I was in a bit aglow after all of that – I was so excited that my training peaks entries including a bit of babbling nonsense.

I talk about how much I LOVE my tri bike: 2 days, 120 each day and I wasn’t sore from my saddle. I was ready to keep going! I loved being out there, and do not doubt my training will involve plenty of opportunities to go long on the bike again.

I am stunned at how quickly time and distance just go on the bike, and how much I just love being out there. Four hour rides that go by in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I am with friends, but a lot of times I am alone (Carlos is often out there with me too but we often ride different rides) and just appreciate where I am and have fun – I smile and wave at other cyclists and people I see. Not great for group riding skills but wonderful just to be in a happy place on my bike.

As for swim, once Dynamo went to Long Course, it became “5k Friday” on a regular basis for me. I am used to it, and feel comfortable with it. I just get up a little earlier to get there a little earlier to get extra distance in before Masters Swim starts.

I swim in the slowest swimmer’s lane (there are two lane groups: swimmers and triathletes. The swimmer’s group generally includes stroke, fewer drills, doesn’t get as many sets which include fins, and tends to get more daily yardage).

Being the slowest swimmer’s lane, our lane is the “no ego” lane (for the most part) which makes things pretty easy. Our lane varies on a daily basis on who is there, but we have regulars. And we know each other. We know who leads depending on the set: changing it up based on sets with stroke or various equipment. We communicate and if we made a mistake in the order swapping at a rest interval is good, and there is always taking a short lap to cut ahead. Occasionally I do lead the lane for a bit and I told them when they tell me to lead me lead it makes me nervous because I don’t want to hold anyone back.

As for my run, it has been a loaded gun. I ran all last year on a hamstring injury. Shortly before IMWI I finally went to a doctor (after dealing with it for about 10 months) as running was fast becoming “not fun”. I had hidden/not admitted to myself, much less anyone else, how much it hurt and affected my life last year. I also realized for the amount of work I was doing, although not losing much speed, I wasn’t gaining any either. I was fast falling in to a depression, wondering if the pain would ever go away and running would be fun again.

This spring has been slow work, steady work, getting stronger and trying not to compare last year (and my speed) to this year. I’ve had set backs, tears, annoyance, joy, and big steps forward.

I have been doing a lot of basic strength training and stretching – focusing on the muscles that had been left dormant or weak after the initial injury. I have also been making adjustments to my running form to end the compensation and strengthen weaknesses in general. Things are not perfect, but getting better.

My eyes are on getting 100% healthy for IMLV. There are days I feel I will be there, and some where I question it. But, I know I am on a solid path to being there thanks to working with my coach and a host of other people, and learning to trust my running body again. Really, it is more like a work in progress that we are learning to trust each other again.

So – that’s the off season: building a solid base for a strong 2015; making necessary (and good, for me) choices with an eye to being healthy and strong and in it for the long run (no pun intended).

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