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Long Training Weekends

September 29, 2012

We’re at the point where every weekend is a long-training weekend. A long run, a long swim, a long bike. Part of me loves it. I really love the feeling of getting out on the lakefront path and running long distance. Running at my Ironman race pace is almost relaxing (that race pace will not be so relaxing, of course, when I’ve already done 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike, and try to hold the pace for 26.2 miles…). And now that we’re out of summer, the path is not as busy, and I can mentally relax. Because of my long history as a cyclist, I especially love getting out for long distance cycling. By now I’m pretty comfortable on my triathlon bike. And I even sometimes love the swimming. I sometimes feel like I suffer through that, more than the other two, but when I get into the right rhythm, I enjoy that too. Sure, getting myself out for those long workouts is tough. When my legs are sore and I want to sleep, going out for a long run is not always appealing. But once I’m out, I feel great, and I’m glad I’m out.

But part of me sort of hates it (okay, hate is probably too strong a word) and is more than ready for the long training weekends to be done. For one thing, the workouts take a lot of time. And there’s lots of other things I could be doing — including sleeping in! But the workouts also take a toll on the body. Last weekend, I did 13 miles run (at race pace) on Friday, missed the one mile open water swim on Saturday, and then did 100 miles bike on Sunday. This weekend, I did 9 miles run (at  faster than race pace) on Friday, one mile open water swim today (brr, that water was like 64 degrees!), and 50-60 miles bike followed by 5k run tomorrow. Before training for the Ironman, I might have done runs or bike rides that long, but they would be my single long workout of the weekend. It’s really tough to balance the demands of training and the demands of resting. Even getting eight hours of sleep, I sometimes feel tired.

Long weekends like this also mean higher chance of injury. I would guess most people training for an Ironman get at least some minor injuries, even if only overused muscles. On my century ride last weekend, I got really lucky to walk away from a spill off my bike around mile 77. I was looking at the pavement for the orange direction arrows they had spray painted on the road, and got caught off guard by a yellow light at the intersection ahead (it was also an odd-angled intersection, so I couldn’t judge quite how far I had to go to the intersection). As I tried to stop quickly, I got off balance. I got my foot off the pedal and that struck the ground first, taking some of my remaining speed, followed by my right hip and right shoulder. Fortunately, I just got minor cuts and bruises on my hip and almost nothing on my shoulder. I did shred the handlebar tape on my bike and dented the helmet so it should be replaced, but it could have been a lot worse for me and the bike.

The ride was otherwise very good. I was doing the North Shore Century, a ride hosted by the Evanston Bike Club that starts in Evanston, goes north to Kenosha, WI, and returns to Evanston. I rode with my teammates for the first 33 miles, but then they broke off to do the 70 mile route and I continued on for the century (I got sick on our last century, so I was going longer than the rest of my team). I did stop at all the rest stops, but kept them to very short stops. No long, leisurely stops. And my pace felt great. Even after the spill, I held my pace. My strongest bit of riding was actually over the last seven miles. Another guy started drafting off of me (when someone rides very close behind you, to use you as a windbreak and make it easier for themselves). I was irritated at first, even though this wasn’t a race, so there was no official rule against drafting (drafting is allowed in professional cycling races, but not allowed in most triathlons). Who was this guy to draft off of me? I pushed my pace harder. But he stuck to my wheel. But after a mile, I used it to push myself. I even looked over my shoulder and was glad to see him still behind me when I pushed through a yellow light at one point. Most of my day, my average pace was around 18 mph. But over that stretch, I was riding around 21 mph. Exhilarating.

By now I often find myself thinking not “how long until Ironman Arizona?” But “how long until we start to taper?” Once we start to taper, those long weekends go way down. I’ll have more time to do other stuff, to feel like I can reclaim some of my life. And to let my body get fully rested. So that I’m ready for that very long weekend in Arizona.

50 days till Ironman Arizona!

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