Monday, August 16, 2010

FIRM Course Preview / Off to the Windy City

Hello from Chicago.  I'm happy to say I have finally arrived to my hotel here in the windy city.  Miraculously I am not dead.  That was one of the most turbulent flights I have been on a in long time and I fly A LOT.  So when I say it was bad, it was BAD.  White knuckle the armrest BAD.  This was followed by an 85mph (yes 85) cab ride through busy city traffic to my hotel.  I wasn't sure if the cabbie's driving was going to kill me or his overpowering unpleasant scent.  But finally I have arrived safely at my rather quirky hotel.  I'm staying at the Tremont in the heart of downtown Chicago just a block or two from the fabulous lake shore drive which is fantastic to run on in the summertime.  But sadly there will be no running on lake shore drive for me.  I don't even have a pair of shorts or sneakers with me.  I'm just here for some meetings and I'm breezing in and out of town.  And after a busy week of training last week tomorrow is a day off.  But before I get into that lets backtrack a bit first.  But before I do that...  here's a shot of my awesome bay window in my hotel room overlooking the streets of downtown and a large church where I'm typing this from.

So Saturday was the sprint tri.  As I've mentioned before the sprints were really training races to help me get ready for the FIRM 1/2 which is my "A" race of the season or the race that all my efforts in training have been focused on.  Its the one I care about the most and the one I'm looking forward to the most.  After all as much as I get excited about coming close to placing in a sprint tri really what I'm after as far as triathlons go is the journey towards completing a full ironman.  And the FIRM is a big step in that direction.  I'm looking at the FIRM as a learning experience.  I want to do it at the end of this season so I can guage what that effort is like.  What its like to race for long a period of time, what its like to have to concentrate on nutrition and fuel so much more and how I'll feel at different parts of the race.  Its an experiment to help guage what I should work on most in the offseason.  Next season my hope (if my schedule cooperates) is to do the Patriot Half, the Amica 1/2, and the FIRM 1/2 again.  And if next season goes well then my third season of tri's will climax with a full ironman length race.

I'm digressing again......

Point of this post is to talk about Sunday's ride of the FIRM course.  So after racing on Saturday my plan for sunday was to do a somewhat easy ride of the FIRM bike course.  Despite some initial interest from others I ended up doing the ride by myself.  So I started it nice and early so that there wouldn't be too much traffic on route 1 where a majority of the course is.  So I headed out from Narragansett not long after sunrise.  I couldn't resist riding past the beach to get a quick picture first though.

With that done it was time to head off on my ride.  I wasn't really sure what to expect from my legs today.  I've only done two sprints so recovering from one is a new experience.  Oddly I recover faster from them than I do from a stand alone 5K.  So I actually felt pretty good, but my legs were a tiny bit tired.  So I was pretty carefull with my pace initially.  The main goal of the day was course recon and time in the saddle to get my long ride in.  The first 15 or so miles of the course are pretty dull.  Nothing challening except for one minor hill in the beginning.  Otherwise its pretty flat or made up of a very slight ascents and descents.  And I do mean slight.  Somewhere after the 15 mile mark I made my first navigation mistake as I missed the Kings Factory Road exit and had to double back for it.  Oops!  The KFR section of the course is a lollypop shaped course that is a detour into some more technical riding.  Some climbs, some descents, some windy bits of road.  Stuff to keep your mind occupied.  That one is going to take some practice to figure out the best approach in gearing.  It changes often from quick steep climbs to descents.  So I was in and out of the big ring and all over the place in the rear gear wise.  With practice I think I can reduce some of the shifting to keep it a bit smoother.  Part of my navigational problems were that I had a written sort of turn by turn set of directions from the FIRM website as well as a downloaded version of the map my ride map in my garmin 310 that also came from the FIRM site.  The written directions said go clockwise around the lollypop, and the garmin said to go counterclockwise.  I went with the written section.  I need to post to the TRI NE boards and clear up the route and make sure I got it right.  So as I was deciding which was the right way to go I rode around that section a little bit more the wrong way and then changed my mind and doubled back which added some more miles to my ride.  That section of the course was fun and interesting...  and then it was back to route 1 again.  Joy.

Route 1 goes all the way into Westerly.  Theres a huge wide shoulder which is nice, the problems are the frequent exits off the highway you have to cross.  The cars are going 50+ so you have to hope that they will all use turn signals, make sure noone is exiting and then cross the exit ramp path to keep riding.  Its a bit nerve wracking at times.  Some of the exits have this nasty concrete chatter strip that you don't want to ride over so you have to ride right on the edge of the travel lane of the highway very close to the cars.  Not something I enjoyed.  I feel pretty safe riding in traffic in the city so its not bike handling or fear of cars... but cars going 50 that close to me makes me edgy!

In westerly I struggled to figure out where the turn around point is.  The written instructions mention a big intersection that I never found, the map shows the route turning onto route 1a which didn't make sense to me so I think I went too far on route 1.  So I turned around and headed back.  From here almost all the way back its pretty much route 1 the whole way except for an AWFUL stretch of road you detour onto at the Camp Fuller exit that is just a nasty piece of road.  I gave up on staying in the aerobars as it was too bumpy and there was too much traffic to stay wide of all the nastiness on the side of the road.  I hit one bump so hard my left aerobar pad rotated too low and then wouldn't come back up.  I could have stopped and fixed it but instead I just dealt with it and kept riding as if I was in the race.  Once back on route 1 the rest of the route was uneventfull.  It did feel like the way back is nice and fast with some nice long slow subtle descents you can really hammer through.  Then you wind through Narragansett a bit including a fun brief descent where you get to play dodge the sewer grates at high speed and then your back to the transition area. 

In the end I rode 61 miles due to my mistakes or me trying to figure out the route.  I'll get that cleared up before riding it again on Saturday though.  My average speed was 17.5 mph.  Which is slow, but I was tired and took my time warming up.  I rode the way back pretty hard, but the way out I took pretty easy.  So I know I can do better than this.  My plan is to ride Saturday all out as hard as I can and see what happens and do my best to figure out my race pace.

Here's a shot of me smiling at the beach after finishing the ride....

So that was Sunday.  This morning (monday) I was back up at 445am and in the water at GVP at 6am for a swim.  I made a last minute decision to swim with Cass and a friend of hers.  This particular friend was a little bit timid in the water (perhaps a beginner in open water?) so since I was crashing their swim party I suggested that we just do repeats out to the .2 mile buoy and back so we all stayed close together.  So thats what we did.  The three of us did two repeats out to the buoy for a total of .8 miles.  Which was fine as my arms were tired so that was plenty for me.  Then after a brief water bottle shower and quick change I was on my way to Nancy's house to meet up for a run.  Being that its the day after my long ride its time for a long run on tired legs.  So Nancy and I went for a nice 13 mile run in the humid rainy drizzle.  We were both feeling like our legs were pretty toasty as we had both done long rides the day before.  So we suffered through the run.  Fortunately the conversation was a pleasant distraction so the miles passed quickly.  The last mile however was brutal.  It felt like it was never going to end.  We averaged 9:15's for the run which was fine.  Thats all I had in me.  I was beat from all the training last week, then the race, then the long ride, and now the long run.  I also had a stomach full of General Tso's Tofu from the night before that causing me a lot of grief on the run.  So I was glad when it was finally over.  I wish my stomach was a little stronger.  I always have to pay for anything remotely bad I eat.  Or maybe thats a good thing!

Finished the run, rushed home to shower and then it was off to the aiport to fly here to Chicago.  Of course I'm staying within a block of Lake Shore Drive where I love to run and can't and shouldn't run.  So its a good thing I didn't bring anything with me as I REALLY need to take tomorrow off to recharge and start another strong week of training that will end with a great strong big weekend of training including riding the course on Saturday with a brick run afterwards, and then volunteering at the ETR tri on Sunday morning followed by running the 13 mile FIRM course afterwards.  So it should be a fun weekend of training.

Next up for me is a long long day of meetings here in Chicago tomorrow that ends with an 8pm flight home and gets me home around midnight.  Joy.

Fortunately the only training I'm doing on Wednesday is the ocean swim in Narragansett in the evening so I'll have time to rest before that.

Right...  time for me to get my things organized and go to bed.  I'm exhausted!

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