To the Mountains & Back Again

Weekly Training Totals:

Swim: 2 hr 21 min (6,950 yds)
Bike: 9 hrs 22 min
Run: 3 hrs 45 min
Strength: 1 hr 46 min

Total: 17 hrs 14 min

This was a pretty hefty week of training with 13 distinct workouts, but I was surprised by how the rise in volume and intensity wasn’t at all unnatural.  The Huddle & Frey plan has been amazing so far – before I began training, week 11 looked impossible, and now after week 11, it just felt like a natural build.  The authors seem to know what they’re doing…who knew that a top-10 Kona finisher and a really well-known endurance sport coach could teach me a thing or two?!

Anyways, the week of training started out pretty normal – couple of swims where the shoulder pain was 100% gone (so nice), a few trainer rides on the bike (smooth sailing), a nice long Thursday run without lower leg pain (first time in a long time…thank you Brooks running shoes!), and a strength training week where I definitely felt like I had made some advances over the last few months – all smooth sailing.  And then came the weekend in the Catskill Mountains.  8 of us holed up in an off-season ski lodge rental, but before we could make it there, 2 of us got dropped off about 6 miles from the base of DEVIL’S KITCHEN.

Zack had filled me in on horror stories of this place – a place that forces PRO riders to plant their feet on the pavement and walk portions – and needless to say I was up late with night sweats the night before (type-A triathletes don’t like to walk their bikes…especially in front of other type-A triathletes).  So Zack and I went into attack mode, committed to making it up this beast at all cost.  Here’s what one blogger says about it:

Platte Clove Road, aka Devil’s Kitchen, is quite possibly the most hellacious climb in New York State, and one of the most difficult climbs in the Northeast, with over 1200 feet of climbing, most of it steeper than 12% grade. Several sections exceed 22% grade as the climb ascends the north side of Platte Clove. The climb was used in the 1990 Tour de Trump, where it gained notoriety when several pro riders, without the benefit of compact cranks, were forced to get off their bikes and walk. The climb was featured in Stage 2 of last year’s Tour of the Catskills.

Like I said, SCARY.  Oh, and here’s the elevation profile & map – note that the average grade is @ 12%, and it sits at about 16% FOR A WHILE and even hits 22% (not charted below).

This thing was long.  It just kept going.  I could swear we had gone 2 miles straight uphill, I could hardly breathe, my heart rate was at about 95% of max and climbing, and Zack gasps…”this is where it starts getting hard”.  Damn.

He had told me that the last time he climbed his foot went down on the 3rd part of the climb following the “eye” carved into the cliff, staring at you as you struggle to earn a sliver of this massive climb’s respect.  We hit part #2 after the eye, and I must’ve been low on electrolytes because I could swear it was #3, and as we crested it I was so thankful to have made it through that section, but lo and behold, we hadn’t even started post-eye section #3…and this one was longer and steeper.  We looked down at the pavement and saw a giant pitchfork scrawled in white paint, and we knew we were right in the belly of the beast.

From the start we had been pedaling out of the saddle, standing straight up and crunching.  By now we were fighting for every turn of the pedal just to take us another foot up this monster, and I was sure this thing was gonna beat us both.  But then we found our stride, half blacking out and half blocking out the white noise, ignoring the heart rate monitors that had us well over threshold, and just went.  Somewhere in the haze we saw the top, put our heads down, and made the last push towards the bright light of the leveling horizon.  The next few miles are a blur of recovery as I tuned out the voice of my quads yelling awful things at me for what I did to them, but we had made it.  Originally this was just going to be a 20 mile ride, but with the rain coming we couldn’t mess around this weekend.  A few hours down the road at mile 72 of crazy mountainous concrete trail we called it a day, and our awesome support team came and brought us to the house for a well-deserved recovery meal.  Awesome.

We put in around 107 miles on the bike and 15 running throughout the weekend, and all on crazy hills, so we left pretty content and pretty darn tired.  Needless to say, though, a great weekend of training, eating and relaxing in between that we hope to repeat soon…but not this week, since today marks a 6-day mini-taper into Sunday’s Bassman Half Ironman – the first race of the season.  I can’t believe it’s already race season again!!

Man Down

Weekly Training Totals:

Swim: 2 hr 27 min (7,050 yds)
Bike: 6 hrs 05 min
Run: 3 hrs 36 min (26.8 miles)
Strength: 1 hr 35 min

Total: 13 hrs 43 min

Well the week of training wasn’t so bad, but my Felt B14 didn’t make it through so well.  My front derailleur cable had been getting a bit loose, and I chalked it up to cable stretching since I hadn’t adjusted the cables since I bought the bike.  It turned out to be a bit more serious though, and while we were up in Connecticut riding on Saturday my cable went 100% non-responsive and I was left with only my small chain ring for 1/2 of our ride.  I took it into the shop today thinking it would be just a simple cable replacement, but it turns out that a rivet that held some external cable casing corroded off of the frame and that caused the whole thing.  So it’s going to be a more detailed repair and what’s worse, R & A Cycles in Brooklyn where I bought the bike was not helpful at all and wanted to charge me for labor even though the frame is still under warranty, so I left it at a much better bike shop and am crossing my fingers that it’s ready for training in the Catskills next weekend.

Training was decent all week, and my new Brooks Phantom 3 running shoes combined with some rather painful deep tissue massage seem to have solved my left leg bone bruising issue for the time being (again, fingers crossed on this one).  My shoulder pain has also seemed to come around and I was able to raise my swim volume a bit.  I fell about 2 hours short on the time on the bike I wanted this week, but my hope is to make that up next weekend in the Catskills.  Regardless, though, had a fun trip up to Connecticut to ride part of the Rev3 course – just beat the rain, and had some great Columbian food on the way back…nothing like fried meat empanadas and yucca fries to finish off the day.

Exactly 13 days til my first race of the season – the Bassman 1/2 Ironman is on the horizon and I can’t wait.  In today’s 1/2 marathon training run I pulled an 8:20 pace  (1:47:40) without too much difficulty, so I’m hoping to pull 8:30s on race day and get under the 6 hour mark for the first time at the 1/2 IM distance.  I’ve never seen the course though, and I hear it’s a bit strange, so I  guess we’ll see how it goes.  As for this week, I’m hoping to hit the 15.5 hour mark on overall volume leading into next week’s rest week…of course that’s all contingent on getting my bike back in one piece…

Rest Week…Getting Antsy to Race

Weekly Training Totals:

Swim: 2 hour 15 min (6,000 yds)
Bike: 4 hrs 30 min
Run: 2 hrs 16 min

Total: 9 hrs 01 min


A big dip in training volume this week due to the 1-in-3-weeks rest week.  After the last few training weeks, it felt like I was pretty much doing nothing – though I did have major time in my schedule, which was nice.  I took the opportunity this weekend to head up to the Ironman 70.3 Mooseman course in Newfound Lake, New Hampshire with Noah to give the much talked-about bike course a whirl.  I’ve heard so much about how difficult it is and how steep and long the hills are, so I wanted to see what kind of course knowledge I could pick up prior to race day.  I’ll save my review of the course for another more complete post, but yeah, there were some hills up there!  We also met a great couple – Brian and Heather – who have raced Mooseman several times and had some great wisdom to share, so an all-around very worthwhile trip despite the 13 hours in the car to get there and back in one day.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering about water temperatures 8 weeks from now that far north (we were!), the lake is still COMPLETELY FROZEN!  Definitely will need a long-sleeved wetsuit this year…

A few updates on minor challenges: I’m coming back slowly into the swim, but still have some nagging left shoulder pain.  As for the bruising in my left shin, I’m hoping some deep tissue massage will work that out this week, but no appointment yet due to scheduling difficulties.

On another note, riding the Mooseman course got me really jazzed about competing again this year, so I couldn’t help myself when I got back and signed up for an early season race that’s just 3 weeks away – so pumped!  Training since January 1st and building volume over the last 10 weeks or so, I’m ready to jump in and test my sea legs out a bit while getting rid of this case of cabin fever.  I’ll be taking on the Bassman Spring Half Distance Triathlon alongside Momoko, who readily agreed last night to conquering her first multisport event in the form of the Bassman Spring Sprint Duathlon – and after taking down the NYC Half Marathon just a few weeks back as her longest running race ever (in an awesome time of 1:46!), I know she’s gonna rock the sprint course and I’m excited to see it.

So there it is – all of a sudden just 20 short days to race #1 of the season!  Wow…can’t wait to hit the course!

Another Week In The Books

Weekly Training Totals:

Swim: 1 hour 55 min
Bike: 7 hrs 48 min
Run: 3 hrs 46 min
Strength: 1 hr 0 min

Total: 14 hrs 29 min

Pretty great week for training – my highest weekly volume since starting, and almost 8 hours on the bike felt awesome.  The 27 miles of running was big for me too, after a previous week of 23.  These have been my 2 most consistent weeks in that department, and very important as I’m working to get my legs under me and control some lower-leg bruising at the same time.  All signs are pointing to the positive as I head into my recovery week, except for a nagging left shoulder pain that I contracted on my last trip home to Ohio (jumped into the pool too fast, didn’t stretch, and jumped the gun without a warm-up).  I’m hoping that it works its way out this week, as this past week it really brought down my volume, and if it doesn’t by swim #2 I’m gonna take it to the doc just to be sure.

I’m racing the Mooseman 70.3 with my sister-in-law Natalie this year, and we’re just 8 weeks out – that’s insane.  Isn’t it supposed to get warm for a good few months before racing starts for the year?!  She’s a fitness instructor, so I need all the time I can get to prep for this one – can’t get chicked by a family member!  In prep for the insanely hilly Mooseman course, my weekend ride came up with 6,366 feet of climbing over 77 miles. This should help, but in this race report from last year that I was reading, this guy talks about the first hill (that we do 2x thanks to the 2-loop format) that has a continuous 16% grade that reduced a bunch of people to walking last year, and several climbs of over a 10% grade throughout the course…this is going to be interesting.  Just thinking about the Mooseman makes me tired – off to bed and up early for tomorrow’s morning swim.

Mooseman elev. profile: ummm...do we still call those "hills"?

A Space of My Own

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves…The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.”
-Sir Roger Bannister, first human to run a 4-minute mile

There’s something special about running intervals, especially in the dark.  It’s such a completely personal space, much like the one that Roger Bannister describes above.  It’s so personal, so real, so fraught with potential freedom, personal challenge, and opportunity to tap into your core.  Intervals are not the easiest thing to run; in fact, for me they’re sometimes difficult to motivate myself to do.  But intervals at night – that’s something special.  The air is quiet, the track is desolate, the lights may be shining but you’re the only one that can see you – and it’s just you and the track.  One lap at marathon pace – one lap jog.  For some reason I couldn’t wait to go faster  Two laps at 1/2 marathon pace, one lap jog, and wondering how awesome that 1/2 marathon would be if I ran it at that pace.  Three laps at 10k pace, one lap rest and wondering how I would ever get faster – and sustain it – for four laps (I was cheating and running faster than my real paces…because as Mr. Bannister says, the human spirit is indomitable).  Four laps at a blistering 5k pace –  1/3 of the actual race – and my legs are in overdrive and I want to run the whole 5k right now, alone, and see what I can do.  I follow the workout and take one more rest lap.  Then my heaven and hell combine in one line on the training plan – best 1-mile pace for 5 laps, or 1.25 miles.  Supposed to be hard – really hard – as I’m already 6 or 7 miles into my workout.  In my heart I wanted this one – feeling the wind and freezing rain come down on me makes me feel small, isolated, and like this is my own personal track in the middle of this giant city – a track where I can do pretty much anything.  I break off on my last interval – lap 1 in 1:40.  If I hold this, I’ll come in for 5 laps at 8:20, or a 6:40 mile pace – I haven’t done that in a while.  I want it.  Lap 2 and 3 slightly slower, averaging 1:43, lap 4 at 1:42 – I have time to make it up if I want that 6:40 pace, so I kick it into gear.  What a feeling – adrenalin rushing, nobody else out there, just me and my watch – how bad do I want it.  Final lap – 1:32.  Right on the nose.  5 laps in 8:20.  I collapse into a jog and a huge smile, knowing that I just got to know myself a bit better, and that I like that side of myself.  1 jogging lap done and I wish I had more intervals to do, but I start my drills anyways.  I want more, so I double my drills, and it hurts.  I finish drills, and I’m happy I doubled them, but I still want an interval.  So I take off with a sly grin, kind of tricking myself.  I hit the straightaway and a drop into a sudden, all-out dead sprint – 100 m. and jog…haha, tricked myself into another interval.  I jog the corner and now I HAVE to sprint the straightaway…it’s how this works.  I hit it again, I gas it straight through the line, and at 175 beats per minute I’m anaerobic and a bit more tired.  Ok, I’m ready now to wait for next time.  I gather my things and run the 20 minutes back home, thinking how much I loved being on the track at night – how it holds so much opportunity to listen to myself, to understand what I want and how I’m constructed, and how it helps me tap into a spirit that Mr. Bannister knows so well – this freedom-craving, indomitable spirit that only wants to run, and when you’re on a track running intervals by yourself at night, there’s really just one obvious, amazing, and completely personal outlet…to run.

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