Thursday, August 12, 2014.
Final Peak Training Week…aka “Hell Week”
The last 4 weeks have been hard. Since Muncie 70.3, I have piled on 4 weeks of training each being 22-23 hours long. This week, I was going up one last notch. I would likely peak in the 25-26 hour range, most of that extra time added to my 2 biggest workouts of the week…the long run, and the dreaded brick.
This was brick day.
Over the past few weeks, I have started riding the full ironman distance (112 miles) on my long ride. These are always followed by a short run (usually a 5k, last week was a 10k). These rides are always long and slow. The goal is to cover the distance. The speed is secondary.
I ride in Elm Creek Park Reserve. The long paved bike trail is about 15 miles. A regional trail connects it to the Coon Rapids Dam. Doing the big loop with an out and back to the dam make for a ride just over 28 miles. Four loops gets me just over 112 miles. The main loop is fairly hilly (but not Wisconsin hilly), and the out and back is a little bit flatter. Both have a lot of twists and turns with a lot of foliage making every turn a blind turn. Consequently, this is not a course where it is safe to even try to go fast. There are also a lot of intersections on the out and back to slow me down. So, again, the goal is simply to build stamina and to handle the miles.
The plan this day was simple. 4 loops. 112 miles. Then run a loop (without the out and back)…15 hilly miles. I had done this once before. The run after the long ride was horrible. I did 2 stops of 30-45 minutes on that run and barely got back to my car. I had to do better this time.
This was the test. This would tell me if I was ready. This would tell me if the months of training had paid off…
I pulled into the gas station across the road from the trail access point. It wasn’t even 6 am. The days are getting shorter…it was still dark. I went in the gas station and bought 8 bottles of Gatorade. My bike can carry two bottles. The other 6 went into the cooler I had in the back of the car. I crossed the street, parked the car and made preparation. The sky was starting to brighten, and it would be a beautiful day. It was a little cool, but not bad enough to wear any special gear for warmth, and it would warm up within an hour or so. The skies were clear. There was no wind.
I can only hope that the weather will be this perfect in Madison.
I get my gear ready, make my final safety tests, get the sunscreen on, inflate the tires, load up my nutrition bag with broken up Cliff bars. As soon as I am ready to go, the sun peaks over the horizon. Perfect. I clip in and start to ride.
The first mile is always rough. Granny gear up a short hill. The coolness of the air catches up with me on the first decent, and my mind focuses on how much farther I have to go. By mile 5, I always feel better. I am caught up by the natural beauty and peace of this place. I have the trails almost to myself. Surprisingly, this never changed. It was a beautiful summer day, school was out, and this beautiful park was empty.
I reached the Coon Rapids Dam. This is a natural rest point (picnic area, porta potties) about halfway through the loop. I waste a little too much time checking emails on my phone and eating a little (again, covering the distance was the key, not speed). I then carry on and finish the loop.
The day goes on like this. The sun climbs high in the sky, and the temperature starts to climb as well. The wind kicks up a little, but it is never problematic. I continue to see more deer and rabbits then kids or families. I develop a knot in between my shoulder blades, and my saddle area protests the hours on this this hard seat. Other then that, I feel fine.
Halfway thru the fourth loop, I start to wonder how far I can stretch my run. The thought nags at me and won’t let go.
Finally, I pull into the parking lot at the end of the ride.
Worst case scenario for the bike leg on race day is a cutoff time of 8:10:00. That is if I need every second to complete the swim leg. I beat that cutoff here on a course with lots of stops, that I must ride slowly, and with me checking e-mails and Facebook from time during rest stops. This reassures me that I should not have difficulty making the bike cutoff on race day.
I rack and secure my bike and change into running gear. I brought a Camelbak (a backpack with a large water bladder) for hydration and I grab a bottle of Gatorade. I feel surprisingly good. But I frequently find that it doesn’t take long for the bike to catch up with me on the run. This would be interesting. The sun is high, there are few clouds, but neither the tempurature or humidity is oppressive. There is a light breeze. The big loop would give me a 15 mile trip. There are rest stops at mile 6.5 and 10 miles. The first has a concession stand (Gatorade, candy bars). Both have air conditioned rest rooms and water fountains. Around the first rest stop, there are multiple other trails, so I could add some distance and it would bring me back to the rest stop. This gave me some options.
I was definitely a little dehydrated by this point (I sweat…a lot). Water, Gatorade and electrolyte tablets are key…along with some extra calories. I am drinking pretty regularly and am thru the first bottle of Gatorade by the time I hit the aid station. I refill it with ice water to pour over my head and keep going. I reach the fork in the trail and take a short loop back to the rest area. This will add close to 5 miles to my total distance. I am feeling surprisingly good. I get back to the rest stop and buy some Poweraid. I also get a candy bar and refill my water bottle…pour it over my head and refill it again.
I get back to the fork and head along my original route. The hills in this stretch are tough, and I walk up the steepest ones. I am pleasantly surprised that I am still running most of the course. I reach the second rest area. My water supply is good, and it would not have anything else to offer me, so I skip it. The sun is getting a little lower, and the shadows of the trees are getting longer. This is the most remote section of the course, and nobody is around. Fatigue is catching up with me. I start to feel a little bit of nausea and I need to be careful to just sip on the water. Electrolyte capsules are keeping my legs in good shape, but I am feeling weak and just a little lightheaded. I am starting to close in on my final destination. 1.25 miles before I reach my car, I reach the dirt bike parking area. There are picnic tables, porta potties, a surprising number of people (including 2 girls running a lemonade stand). More importantly, there is a well. Push a button and well water gets pumped out…ice cold. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of iron (the liquid is orange) and basically undrinkable. But it feels great splashing it on my face and head. I go to leave and take one last swig from my Camelbak. It is empty. There is half a bottle left in my hand. More then enough to get to my car.
I reach my vehicle at 19.5 miles, and run right past it. I know I have one Gatorade bottle left in the cooler. I run to the gas station across the street and get a 52 oz cup of ice water…which I place into the Camelbak. I go back to the car and grab the Gatorade. I am at 20 miles. I am tired, weak, and dehydrated…but nothing is critical. Can I finish a marathon after the long bike? I was too close not to try…
My typical 5k route takes me out and back past the dirt bike parking lot. I pass by the well twice. This would be ideal. I start off.
This was a tough 5k. My strength was gone, and the nausea was aaa little worse. Getting one foot in front of the other was progressively harder, and it was getting dark. The well water woke me up both times, but I knew I was pushing myself a little far. I got back to the car and decided to stop.
Run Distance: 23.35
Run Time: 4:03:51
I dried off and changed, sipped on some fluids, and drove to a nearby sandwich shop for a little food. I was exhausted and sore. I was also exhilarated. I could complete the bike distance comfortably. I could run long off the bike. I know that, on race day, I could have walked those last three miles…especially with aid stations at every mile.
I got home and went to bed. I slept in the next morning (4:15 am is sleeping in now). I skipped the morning 10k that was originally scheduled, but I went to the pool for my final long swim. I completed the 2.5 mile swim in 1:41 without a single break. After work, I did the 10k run that I skipped in the morning. The legs felt fine.
My final long ride, long brick, and long swim were behind me. Hell week was almost over. I am ready to taper.
More importantly, I feel ready for Ironman Wisconsin…