Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's in the Bag, Baby

Done. And DONE. The last bit of Maui camp training is in the bag! 3 weeks of some of the most intense training I've ever experienced is over and it feels good to reflect on the hard work, fitness gained, and friendships formed during our time here. Today was an easy day of recovery workouts before heading to Kona tomorrow for one final week of Hawaii training.

Torture Tuesdays, Super Saturdays, and Suffer Sundays (typically our hardest training days of the week, although trust me, it's all relative!) certainly lived up to their names. There were times when I wasn't sure I could make it through the next swim stroke or run interval, much less the entire session. Nearly all of the time, things turned out much better than expected. From those workouts, I learned valuable lessons about pushing new limits and not setting boundaries. Then, there were the other times. Times when the "ask and ye shall receive" dictum was clearly not applicable to that day's training--'cause, trust me, I was asking in every way I knew how.

Besides the fact that our end of camp celebration night was a complete flop--we could not even rally to make the 3 block trek for our celebratory beers, err, beer--there have been several other telltale signs that we've been working hard. Case in point: the day I lost my phone twice in less than twelve hours. First in Costco (by the apples NOT at the frozen yogurt stand (ok, they sell other things there too, but Costco sized hot dog? no thanks), I'm told, thank you very much. Several people lost money on that one). Then, less than 5 hours after retrieving it, I left it by the cash register (along with my credit card) while on a bike ride. Thankfully, I just happened to glance over my shoulder as the kind lady came chasing out after me.
Also, strange food cravings. The other day, I watched my camp roomate, Lisa, assemble a PB and banana / hummus and egg sandwich. My only thoughts: yum.
There have been other indicators, as well, but since I've also been too tired to stay up blogging at night, it's now time to dart off to our first big Kona workout--the climb up Kaloko. More later!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Road Trip!

After all our hard work last week, we decided it was time for a little road trip. The Road to Hana is a noted tourist destination on Maui. . .that and Haleakala, but we already tried our luck there. This Saturday, however, the weather forecast showed some strange golden orb that has been notably absent from virtually all of our rides over the last two weeks. So, we loaded up on some yummy snacks (gels and Clif bars), a few bottles of the good stuff (h2O, with an electrolyte mixer of choice), and set out on the famously scenic and twisty Road to Hana.

After 4.5 hours of riding (. . .or 4 hours and a few minutes, as Linsey, Magali, and I may or may not have stopped for more than our Coach Lance alotted "one to two photo ops max"), we arrived in Hana. Fortunately for us, a car with run gear and our very own local guide, Aaron Altura, met us at the end of the ride so that we could treat our legs to a little 40' transition run. Not being familiar with the trails, we let our fearless guide lead the way on what he promised would be a spectacular run. It was memorable, alright. . .we somehow found ourselves bushwacking through overhead bamboo grass. Fifteen minutes and many grass cuts later, we toppled out onto the road, just in time to see the boys trot by, regimentedly clipping off their 6:20 miles. Good job, guys.

Once the gals had pulled ourselves together and gotten the run in, it was time for a little fun. What do triathletes do for fun? Why, something involving more physical activity, of course! We set off on a hike known as the 7 pools, this time, making sure to stick to the designated trail.

We climbed trees, chased waterfalls, and shimmied up bamboo shoots until it was time to head home.

Finally, the only missing element from our road trip was the food stop. On college road trips, this always meant a In-N-Out drive thru, but on the backroads of Maui, there were no double-doubles with grilled onions to be found. Instead, we "settled" for a smoothie at the road side organic farm stand.
Not only do they not use pesticides at this organic co-op, they also don't use any electricity. The bike-powered blender was the perfect opportunity to log a little more time in the saddle!

Friday, March 13, 2009

'Cause Everyone Else is Doing It!

As a kid, that line never seemed to go over too well with my parents. Predictably, it was countered with a "who's everyone" or even worse, the standard "if everyone were to jump off a bridge. . .". That line annoys me, even now.

But, the last two weeks, I've been fortunate to find myself in the company of athletes that set nothing but the best examples, giving the line--"because everyone else is doing it" new life. I find myself repeating it in one form or another as part of my inner monologue lately (thankfully not in that whiny kid voice). Not as an excuse. Not as a justification for something that I secretly know I shouldn't be doing, but as motivation. With a training squad full of such accomplished athletes--including multiple Olympians, Ironman and 70.3 champions--and all of them crazy fast swimmers, bikers, and runners, I am constantly surrounded by inspiration to up my game.

There have been several sessions these last two weeks that have seemed pure craziness, even to me, a self admitted mileage junkie. Moments where my legs have felt so heavy that i if I was solo, it would be easy to tell myself that it's ok to back off. Or that I really do deserve that those extra few seconds on the wall in the middle of a swim set. That it's ok to lag a bit in transitioning for my run. Or wait a few more days (err, weeks?) to clean my bike. At times, I have wanted to question whether or not I'll actually make it through the day's workouts. Instead, I look to my training partners--i.e. "everyone"--who have been there for all the sessions and are nailing all the details and think: well, if everyone else is doing it, then it must be possible.

Yesterday's workout was a prime example of this phenomenon. 5 by 8' all out hill repeats on the bike (in the pouring rain) followed by a 40' TT into the fierce island headwinds that we are all coming to know and love. Combined with the race pace run intervals off the bike, it was a killer workout that I simply could not have done at the same intensity solo. Not even close. But with "everyone else" with the same hard workout in their legs and still flying around our grass track, busting out mile after mile at race pace, I had no choice but to ignore my concrete legs and just give 'er (that's Canadian for "go hard").
off to bed. . .i'm sure everyone else was asleep hours ago; )

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Today's ride took us up Mt. Haleakala, Maui's 10,000 ft. volcanic peak. It was a fitting task for what the gang has deemed "Suffer Sundays".

Things started off innocently enough, with an hour of flat riding before we started upwards for another 3.5 hours of steady climbing. Coach Lance's final words of, umm, encouragement(?) as we started off were that "this workout will be one that you'll remember for the rest of the year". No doubt, Lance. No doubt. Personally, I'd never climbed for that long, so I was sure there would be some "opportunity for growth"--as I've euphemistically been referring to the challenges of late--though I sort of presumed that it would primarily be on the way up Haleakala.

Linsey, Magali, and I--no, we weren't mountain biking!

Oh, don't get me wrong, I did some good suffering in those hours of climbing, but the real challenge was yet to come. My attempts to hang onto Linsey and Magali's wheel were shorter lived than I would have liked. . .not that any of us were talking much, anyway. I spent the remainder of the ride up shifting my focus between my HR monitor, ungluing my sticky salt tabs, and deciding which yummy flavor of Clif bar I was going to tackle next. Oh, that and steering clear of the tourists who had paid money to be driven up the mountain, dumped off with a mountain bike, BMX helmet, zero bike handling skills, and a ski parka to bomb down to the bottom. Pretty sure the lack of understanding was mutual. Anyway, Ironman training makes you pretty adept at passing the time with this sort of mental gymnastics, and it wasn't until the last 15' or so when I started to get really over it. REALLY over it. Besides the sore legs, cramping back, and desire for something that did not contain oats as the primary ingredient, it was absolutely FREEZING.

This was where the real "character building" and team bonding began. The rain was pouring down, and all of my warm clothes were in the support vehicle. Long story short, all of us were pretty much in the same boat--blue lips, chattering teeth, frozen hands, lack of mental clarity by the time the car reached us. Apparently, stage I hypothermia symptoms did not engender confidence in our descending capabilities. One by one, nearly all of us were scooped up by the support truck, which by now had become a SAG wagon. With 9 soaking wet, shivering triathletes--and their bikes--piled into one double cab pick up, we were quite a sight (and smell, for that matter). As someone put it: "even sardines would find this uncomfortable". Poor Justin, who ironically is known as "Big Boy" was actually the worst off, as this was one occasion I was actually not envious of his rocket metabolism, which had completely burned through all of his fuel, leaving him bonked and unable to raise his core temperature.

Justin, Magali, and Mark

Thanks to a lot of hard work and smart decision making by Lance and Mark, a total crisis was averted, and an hour later the "hypothermia in Hawaii" war stories and jokes had already begun. Incredible how some of the toughest experiences create the best memories. Yes, Lance, this workout is definitely one that we will all remember for the rest of the year. And beyond.

Haleakala by the numbers:

10,023: vertical feet from sea level

9,500: vertical feet I climbed before being turned around. (Next year. Next year!)

37: degrees in farenheit at the top. and raining.

3.5: number of Clif bars consumed--1 almond fudge, 1 apricot, and 1.5 chocolate chip. (new personal record)

53.6: miles traveled in 4 hours and 42 minutes of riding ( 3:42 of it up the mountain)

10.7: ave speed in mph. solid.

Monday, March 2, 2009

All in a Day's Work

When people wistfully ask what it’s like to do triathlon for a living, I often feel that it’s my civic duty to explain that while I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive to be able to do so, it’s not quite as chill as they might imagine. Obviously, there is the training, though it is hard to consider that an obligation. But, beyond the training, there are the extra things--massage, PT, early bed times, proper nutrition, sponsor obligations, etc. Most of them I enjoy, but time-wise they can add up. It's not like we're just sitting around at the coffee shop all day.

And, sometimes you just want to skip that darn swim session, stay out late on Friday night, use the massage fund for a new pair of jeans, or eat fro yo for dinner (it’s a girl thing). But it's the recovery details that are necessary to stay mentally and physically in the game if you expect to train and race at the highest level. It’s not all fun in the sun, is what I’m sayin’.

Then again, sometimes it is; ) Today was a recovery/preparation day for the big week we have ahead of us. Mellow Monday, I'm calling it. We took full advantage because the hard work is coming, and I can't wait!
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So far, so good. . .

Well, I’ve officially survived the first two days of camp. That statement doesn’t come with the full sense of pride it might have, had not been sandbagging (coach’s orders) the first few workouts. Coach Paul and I decided that since I would be coming off not only the full day of travel, but also recovering from some annoying bug I managed to catch last week, that easing me into the full camp training load was the “smart decision”. I hate smart decisions. Even when I know they are right. . .which is one of the primary reasons I need a coach. However, I must admit that even this “soft opening” has been pretty tough!

Saturday we rode in near gale force winds, cramming in as many long climbs as possible. I had the choice of riding on my own, but let’s be honest—sending me out solo and mapless in a new place is a recipe for disaster. So, while my training partners were working the hills, I kept it nice and steady, HR in check, though with the speed their jerseys were vanishing off into the distance, I’m pretty sure I’m screwed as soon as my “travel legs” excuse wears off. I skipped the last climb and headed in for a mellow 40’ T run—the sense of relief far outweighing the jealousy that I was missing out on the race pace effort the rest of the crew was gutting out on the nearby track.

Sunday was an aerobic 90’ run, and I got dropped like a bad habit once we hit the hills. It was less the uphills and more the downhills that were the problem. Time for a lesson in leg turnover! Fortunately, “Mean Coach Lance” (as he’s requested we call him) was there on the mountain bike to give me just that advice. After a bit of R&R, which on this particular morning stood for rest and rice crispies, it was off to the pool for a 5k swim with a 10 x 400 main set. Love it! Whew. If this is easing in, I'm excited to see what the month has in store.