Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend on the Jersey Shore

I spent this weekend on the Jersey shore in the Red Bank area visiting my folks.  They happen to live pretty close to Sandy Hook which is a nice long stretch of beach on a peninsula of sorts.  Its a really pretty area with some great beaches complete with a nice long bike/running path and some nice roads with wide shoulders for some great cycling.  I drove down to New Jersey on Friday afternoon to visit with my family.  But since training stops for noone I packed my car up with everything I'd need to get some quality workouts in.  But since this is a family visit I did at least start all my workouts at 6am so I could be back at my parents house before it got too late in the day.  After all I was only visiting from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon.

Now if you've been following my rambling you know I'm very seriously considering doing the 1/2 ironman length race in early September.  I've also been logging some longer miles in my training that you would typically do for sprints.  Really I've had my eye on getting ready for a 1/2 since I started this journey.  Its always been the real goal.  But up until now I haven't REALLY ramped my training up to include some monster bricks and a few of the othey key ingredients in a true 1/2 iron training plan.  I've spent some time in the last week looking at training plans for 1/2 Irons.  Turns out what I've been doing is pretty damn close to what I should have been doing in the early weeks.  Excellent!  I've already been doing weekly 13 mile long runs, plenty of swimming, and plenty of long rides, and decent length bricks (a mix of olympic and sprint length).  But right around now (week 8 of a 16 week plan) is when the big bricks start.  So this weekend I set out to hit it hard and see what it would feel like to do a much larger brick, and then follow it with my long run the day afterwards.  Previously I've been running long on Saturday, riding long on Sunday, and keeping my bricks to tuesday's mostly.  Now its time to switch that up...     so from now till the 1/2 (although I have to work around two sprint tri's) I'll be doing large bricks on Saturday's and running long on Sundays.

So with a new plan and a new mission I was up and out of bed at 445am on Saturday morning.  By 530am I was out the door and on my way to Sandy Hook in the car.  I got there not long after sunrise.  It was really beautifull out.  However it was also really hot out and it was only going to get worse.  The current temp at 6am was around 80 degrees and it was supposed to go over 90 in short order.  So its a good thing I started early.
My plan was pretty simple.  Keep the ocean on your left and head south for 28 miles.  At which point I would turn around and ride back 28 miles for a total of 56 miles on the bike.  Then I'd do a quick transition at the car and then go for a six mile run.  So with the sun still rising on my left I set out down the Jersey shore.  I have to say I was really suprised by how nice it was there.  The beaches are really quite nice and theres all sorts of things to look at as you head down the shore.  There were also quite a lot of other cyclists and runners out.  I also saw quite a few triathletes out for their ride.  Since the road runs right down the coast its pretty damn flat.  So its a popular place to ride.  Personally I would have preferred if there were at least a few hills to contend with, but since my sense of direction is so poor I figured keeping it simple and easy to follow was a good plan.  During my ride I rode through several towns including Asbury Park which has quite a character to it.  The first twenty miles went by quite quickly.  I was nice and comfy on the bike and I was keeping my pace pretty moderate.  Mostly as I was trying really hard to make sure my legs would be able to do the six mile run afterwards.  So I wanted to bike conservatively.  In the end on the 56 mile ride I averaged just under 18mph.  There were a few times I got lost (I had to venture inland a few times when the road along the beach would stop and sometimes it took me a while to find my way back, with stops to pull out my phone and look at maps etc.)  but for the most part that average is pretty accurate.  At around the 25 mile mark I had to venture inland to pickup the last three miles as the ocean side road dissapeared.  Finally though my bike computer said I'd gone 28 miles so it was time to turn around and retrace my route back to the car.  Now at this point its really HOT out.  Its already over 90 degrees.  I was sweating a ton!  However I did very well with hydration and fuel on this ride.  During the 56 miles I ate 3 GUs, and drank two bottles of gatorade, and 4 bottles of water.  Fortunately for me the boardwalk along the beachside road is covered in little stands that sell water so restocking was quick and easy.  Somewhere around 35 miles in I had a really great groove going.  I was trying to focus on my pedal stroke and I was doing a much better job than my usual of keeping a nice even stroke.  I had a great rhythm going.  I was also have a great time.  There were loads of other cyclists out now.  Although I'd say 60% of them were on comfort/hybrid/beach cruiser type bikes.  But all the same I said hello to everyone I passed.  Everyone there was nice and friendly which was nice too.  Around mile 40 I was thinking how the miles are flying by and I was in a great groove....    Until this happened.
Just as I was approaching this bridge the gate drops and I had to wait ten minutes for the bridge to go up and a ton of boats to pass under it.  I was definitely not riding as quickly after being forced to wait for ten minutes.  Maybe I should have turned around just to keep riding.  It took me till around mile 50 to feel like I was back in my happy groove again.  The last thing my legs needed was a ten minute cool down.  Not to mention standing there with no shade in the heat was brutal.  Its now gotta be 95 degrees.  I felt like I couldn't drink enough water fast enough.  It was nuts.  I was soaked!  Around mile 55 I pulled my feet out of the bike shoes leaving them on the pedals and finished the ride into transition....  which I actually timed.  I managed to do the transition (which includes opening the car, stuffing the bike in it, going through transtion, locking the car, and heading out on the run) in 1:32.  Had the car not been involved I'm pretty sure I could get that to 30-45 seconds. 

So I headed out on the run.  My legs felt as you would think they would after riding 56 miles.  I looked down at my garmin and it said I was running 7:30s.  WHAT?  no way thats right...     I checked again a few minutes later and says I'm still running that fast.  Weird.  I felt like I was dying.  The heat and humidity were just oppresive.  I felt like every step was a battle and yet I was running pretty damn fast.  Too fast.  I kept trying to slow down and I just couldn't seem to do it.  Thats the pace my legs wanted to go at.  This started to become a problem.  If it was 60 degrees out I would have been fine.  But it was 95+ with a lot of humidity and I was dying, and on top of that I was starting to overheat.  If I can't slow down I'm going to crash and burn.  I suspect that the reason I was struggling to slow down is that I'd been pedalling with a pretty high cadence for three hours and my legs just wanted to keep that cadence up.  I need to really work on forcing my body to slow down or this will be an issue on a hot day.  About 2 miles in I was about ready to explode.  I was on the edge of overheating.  There was zero shade on the running path and zero breeze.  So I decided to stop running and walk for a little while.  My heart rate was also alarmingly high at this point.  It was pegged in zone 4.4 at around 90% of max.  Not a great place to be in that heat.  So I took a walk break.  I NEVER take walk breaks.  Usually I hate them as I find starting to run again near impossible.  But in this case it was my only option...  well either that or explode.  So I walked for maybe two minutes.  During this time I got my heart rate down to somewhere a lot more respectable.  I decided I would try and run a little while.  So I picked an object in the distance and said I'll run to that, and then take another break.  Fortunately the walk break seemed to snap my cadence issue so I was able to run a little slower this time which was great as I felt like I could now maintain this pace.  So I ran past the point I'd picked out to the turn around point at mile 3.  At this point I'd already finished the 20oz of gatorade I had with me.  So I stopped briefly to buy two bottles of water to drink on the run back.  So there was another brief break there.  The way back I felt much better.  Especially as I now had cold water to drink which made a huge difference.  It also convinced me that my issue was not that I'd ridden 56 miles, but that it was just too damn hot and humid out and I was overheating.  Which is a problem for me.  Its the same thing that screwed up my 3:30 finish in the DC marathon.  Once I started dumping cold water over my head in that race my pace picked right back up.  So I poured some of the water I had with me over my head.  And then as I was running past the beach I saw the best thing!  AN OUTDOOR SHOWER!  YES!!!  So I ran under it and pushed the button and soacked myself completely in it and then ran the last two miles back to the car feeling much much better.  In the end including the walk breaks (but not the stop to shower or to buy water) I averaged 8:26/mile.  Which tells you how fast I went out on the run.  In fact here are the mile splits in order form start to finish...    737, 7:46, 7:58, 9:46, 8:52, 8:37.  You can see where I walked and how the pace came back to something more appropriate for the conditions afterwards.  So clearly I have to work on managing my run pace off the bike.  I've never really noticed this before as during oly sized bricks in cooler temps it wasn't an issue.

When I reached the car I grabbed my wallet and headed straight for the snack bar at the beach.  I was completely soaked and sweaty and just wrong looking I'm sure.  I bet I looked exhausted.  I went up to the window and bought a gatorade, a GIANT diet coke with piles of ice in it and two bottles of water.  I stopped briefly on the way back to the car to stand under another beach shower for two minutes and then I proceeded to sit on the back of my car and drink EVERYTHING.  I was HOT!  I haven't had a soda in forever.  That diet coke may have been the best soda I've ever had.  Even after all this I still felt like I was overheating so I got in the car and turned the ac on.  Heres how hot my car says it was.
You can also kind of see how sweaty and gross I was.  So I drove back to my folks house with the AC blasting on me the whole way, took a really long really cold shower, and then jumped in the pool to cool off even further.  Here's a shot of Mom, Dad and the pool.
So all in all I was pretty pleased with the brick, but I'm anxious to repeat it in cooler weather and guage how I do on the run with the heat not being a factor.  I definitely felt like running another 7 miles on top of the six would have been damn hard.  Doable with a run/walk strategy, but hard!  So I'm curious what its like on a cooler day and if I would still feel like it was so hard.

So speaking of hard...    the training plans calls for long runs on Sundays so that your running on tired legs.  So once again I was up at 445am and at the beach and running by 6AM.  I went to the same place I started from the day before but instead I ran north instead of south.  Within the first two minutes of the run I knew what they meant by running on "tired legs".  I felt AWFUL!  I usually really enjoy my long runs, but today was a sufferfest.  I am however proud to say I ran the entire distance.  No walking other than the stop at the water fountain to refill my fuel belt.  The run was damn hard today.  The temperatures climbed back into the 90s during my run again and a large part of my route had no shade.  So it was a slugfest.  At first I looked at my pace and suspected once my legs loosened up it would improve.  Nope.  If you look at the splits it looks like a rainbow.  It starts at 9:15, peaks at 10's in the middle, and reaches 8:30 on the last mile.  So apparently it took me 12 miles to loosen up.  I don't know that I've ever run a ten minute mile before on my own.  I pretty solidly can groove an 8:30 pace on my long runs.  But not today...   I was just happy to keep moving and stay motivated.  My brain was SCREAMING at me to stop.  So I screamed right back.  It got ugly in there!  Today was a battle but I was determined not to give up.  I'm really proud of my mental effort today.  Today was definitely in the top three most hardest runs I've ever done.  And the route was pretty damn flat.  Actually it was funny I went over a slight rise and I was dying.  I wonder what a real hill would have felt like.  The important thing about today though was that I suffered through it and managed to keep going despite my brain yelling stop the entire time.  I ended the run with another long trip to the outdoor shower and another jump in the pool once I got home. 

So things to take away from this weekend....

Giant bricks are hard.  Really hard.
Giant bricks in 95+ degree weather are BRUTAL!
I need to do more giant bricks
I need to run on tired legs more.
I need to remember to dump water on my head as it really works wonders for me
The 1/2 iron distance is not something to disrespect or underestimate
I have even more respect for the full ironman distance.
I suffered a lot... but I persevered.
I LOVED every minute of it no matter how hard it got.

All in all a great week.  I'm excited to continue on following my new training plan.  Even if for whatever reason I don't do the 1/2 I think that training for it is going to be damn good for me.  Dialing up the intensity this weekend felt really great, really challenging, and a lot of fun.  I'm excited for whats to come.

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