Thursday, March 02, 2006

I LOVE Coughing Up a Lung

First, I must say that there is nothing like a really hard workout to shake off the mental gremlins and assorted stresses brought about by a rough day at the office (and some personal mental gyrations, bonus!). I was reminded by Collective member (please note we have a newcomer, too--Scott) Brett that Buddha admonishes us to first take care of our OWN enlightenment so that we can help others along. So today I focused on ME (except for having to do my job, but still I was looking out for #1).

Since MY coach decided I'm so freaking awesome for my ability to increase my FT watts so much in so little (relatively) time, of course he is giving me some harder bike workouts. And why not? One of the things I love about this sport is the number of times I get to do something I've never done before. Especially when that thing seems harder than anything I've done in the past. Whenever I do that, I get a little extra burst of adrenaline, a sense of curiousity (how will THAT feel?), a teensy bit of dread (what if I SUCK?), and then ultimately, I dive right in and get it done. And I become a better athlete in the process.

Believe it or not, in the course of my training over the past 3 years especially, I've done things that are harder to me than an actual Ironman race. Based on what, you might ask? Based on how trashed I am afterwards. For example, 2 years ago when I first rode the Horribly Hilly Hundreds 200K ride (link on my sidebar), I felt like I had been run over by the proverbial truck the next day. I haven't felt like that after an Ironman in years. In fact, in 2004 about 1 hour after I'd finished IMC, I'm back in my hotel room packing my bike back in its box, on the phone with a friend, and she reminds me I should drink my Endurox! And the next morning I'm carting my bike and luggage around airports in Penticton and Vancouver like it was just another day.

I did Horribly Hilly last year, and once again, the next day I was pretty wasted. But not as badly as the year before. Why? Because I had learned some important things about how to get through an event like that both with a good time on the clock AND my body not being so beaten up by it. And I went into it fitter than the previous year. This is the cool thing about fitness. It's also why as you move up the echelon of fitness (I think I'm about a 9.5 out of 10, 10 being my maximum potential fitness), that you need to keep upping the ante in order to get benefit AND SPEED. And the more fit you are, the more you have to push the envelope to see gains. It's an interesting game, but one that I'm willing to keep playing for a few years at least. When you just start out and you suck, you can do almost ANYTHING and improve. But if you actually SEEK OUT the improvement, you have to be satisfied with whatever gains you make. This is why whenever I read or hear about someone who consistently does not improve that I question their methods--is that person REALLY doing what it takes? Does that person REALLY realize how much effort you need to put in to make gains?

Now, today's bike workout was certainly not in the category of an Ironman or Horribly Hilly, or Goofy Challenge, and in the big scheme of things, I have never done anything that I remotely consider extreme. I never considered Ironman "extreme." I remember when I first had the thought of doing one that it was something where I knew that if I prepared well in an appropriate timeframe for my then fitness, that I could definitely conquer it. Well, my first few times out, I wouldn't call it exactly "conquering" so much as just finishing. Now I am getting ready to RACE the damn thing! How exciting is that??? My very first coach told me right off the bat that it takes at least 5 years for most people, even very fit, fast people, to RACE an Ironman, meaning you are trying to be in the competitive ranks. I sure hope I'm there now!

Back to today's bike workout. Sorry, I keep getting off track. My main set was: 2x15' (6') at 95-100% of FT watts, 2' easy, then 8' at 105% of FT watts. Holy crap! So on paper, I knew that if I could hit that 105%, it would be something I'd never done before. I've played with the watts at the end of my FT test workouts, but this would be an exercise in sheer will, or so I thought.

I settled in for the first 15' interval, and I actually cut myself some slack today. I decided that since my main concern was to hit the 105% on that last interval, that it would probably be good if I didn't go for the full 100% on the first 2 intervals. So I hit 168 watts, which is 98% of my FT watts now, for both of the 15' intervals. I was totally fine with that, and don't tell my coach but it almost felt EASY.

Thanks to Shelley, I was watching a very nice DVD of the 2005 Hawaii Ironman (Natascha Badmann is my idol), so I was plenty fired up to do some work. But really, when I'm on the trainer, I can't pay attention to whatever I'm running on the DVD player because I need to be so focused, and thankfully, the sessions aren't long enough for me to get bored (Side Note: I have no idea how people can actually watch a movie on the trainer--me--it's heads down in the aerobars staring at my top tube mostly--even for the rare 3-hour trainer ride).

Anyway, I click back into the BCR and start the pain. 105% of my FT watts is 179.6, round to 180. To get an average wattage of 180 for 8' I need to keep my watts (which fluctuate--nobody is THAT good to keep up a single number) OVER 180, more like shoot for 185+. Fuckin' A. Those are HUGE numbers for a yard gnome like me.

But I put the Bitch into the 12 cog and here I go. And I manage to keep my cadence around 90 (it's useless for me to do these intervals at low cadence--there will come a time in my training to do low cadence work, but it's not now!). And my first thought is, "It's only 8 minutes." I mean, what the hell, I can do ANYTHING for 8 minutes, right? So then I think when do I want to check my average watts? Usually I like to look after I'm 1/3 done with an interval, but this is a short interval, so I decide on 5'. Since I keep seeing numbers in the 180's and up, I'm just fine. After the 5' I'm averaging 182, so you know what that means? Come on, I have MORE TO GIVE. So I decide for the last 2 minutes I'm going to hit 200+ watts. What the fuck, I have no idea what that feels like, so I just do it and voila! I ended up averaging 183, which is 107% of my FT watts. But it was only 8 minutes--sheesh, again, DO NOT TELL MY COACH, but I think I could have gone 2' more (I swear if he reads this blog I am a dead woman).

And then I switched back into the SCR to cool down and coughed up a lung. WILLINGLY. It makes me wonder if I'm getting to the point where I can push myself SO HARD in a race that I will finish it (FAST!) and need an IV. I think that would be totally cool. I just hope they tint the saline and/or glucose *PINK*.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kicked My Own Ass and Took Names and Monthly Training Totals

I finished another FT watts test on the bike about 1 hour ago. My objective was to meet or exceed 170 watts average for each of the 2 20' intervals. I averaged 171 watts for each one, and my normalized power is about that. That puts my power to weight ratio (weight in kg to normalized power) at about 3.36, solidly in the "good"/Cat 3 range for women (based on FT alone; obviously I'm not training the other power measures used by pure cyclists).

This is an increase from 165 just 3 weeks ago, and yesterday I did 3 workouts (3,300 yard swim, 1:08 of strength and a :50 run). I'm feeling strong, fit and like I have more in me, which is good, since I haven't done an Ironman race yet this year!

This is week 7 of 8 weeks of pretty high intensity work that I've survived by eating well, stretching plenty, getting a weekly massage and getting lots of sleep. So even though I sometimes joke about training hardcore, it's those "extras" that are enabling me to train at this level, and so far, I'm very pleased with the results. Running is strong and faster, and swimming is finally coming around since I've added a 4th workout (and some yardage), which is necessary for me, since I've only been swimming for 6 years.

I am pretty stoked right now, yet I realize this is just one moment in time; I have to prove this stuff in a race, but at the same time I am just very, very blessed to be more fit than I've been in my life at the ripe age of 49 going on 50! I feel great.

Unfortunately, the new FT watts means I get to work harder on the bike. But my coach already thought I must be improving my fitness or else I've been working too hard, so maybe not so much.

I had a solid February of training:
Swim: 14.02 hours; 39,700 yards
Bike: 20.39 hours (all on the trainer)
Run: 18.09 hours
Strength: 6.83 hours
Total Hours: 59.33
Total Hours Stretching: 9.8 (avg. :21/day)
Average Hours Sleep/Night: 8.9

3 more weeks (2 more intense training) and I get to see how this all works under race conditions, although I'm going to Ralph's just to get in a good, solid workout and have some fun. Then it's nose to the grindstone, just add volume, to get me to Ironman Brazil.

What fun!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekly Workout Totals: 2/20/2006-2/26/2006

Since people are always asking me whether I actually have a job, I thought I'd include this photo of me wearing my corporate starched shirt. Please notice that my company doesn't let me carry a gun while on the premises (this was taken in the Minneapolis office last Thursday). A friend of mine thought it would be funny to have the sign in the background. Priceless! You can't tell, but I'm wearing my Ironman bling--I have gold M-dot earrings and a gold Big Island with an M-dot cutout pendant. When I qualify for Ironman Hawaii, I will have the "dot" replaced with a diamond.

In other news this week, I am not sure what age group I am in. I know that USAT changed the rules so that you are in the group including your age as of 12/31 of the year, which puts me in 50-54 (my 50th birthday is in October). But I'm not clear on what the Ironman races are doing, and then I'm doing a 70.3 race in 3 weeks as well. Bueller??? I did write Ironman Brasil (it is pronounced bra-SEAL) to ask formally what they are doing, since they are not a part of IMNA. Thank God for that! At least my medal won't have FORD all over it!!!

Training-wise I had a good week. A little bit of a volume decrease, which was nice. But not so much decrease in intensity! I always find it amusing that when I get some "rest" that I feel incredibly tired. I think this is because usually we are so used to how we feel and we are anticipating our next workout which keeps the adrenaline flowing.

I did my last huge strength workout--this week I go into maintenance mode. I had a great swim TT on Tuesday, good running all week, a killer brick workout on Saturday and capped it all off with a fine, fine long run and recovery swim today. I got plenty of sleep, which is key when trying to keep up the level of workouts I've been doing.

Yesterday's brick workout wasn't epic in length, but the intensity on the bike, which is close to my actual HIM intensity (and longer than the 56-mile ride should take me in the race in 3 weeks, fingers crossed!), was high, and coming off of solid training for the past 5 weeks I felt a little cooked afterwards. Not to mention I didn't start the workout until 12:30, so by the time I finished and showered, it was close to 5PM, and I hadn't yet eaten lunch. So I did what I had to do--I ate for 3 straight hours! And I mean I ATE. Big bowl of stir-fry over brown rice, then about 10 oz. of Porterhouse steak, a few beers, Gummi Bears (many bears were decapitated), string cheese and pecans. I went to bed with a full stomach, so of course I tossed and turned for a few hours as my body valiantly elevated my core temperature while processing all that food and kicked off residual heat from the workout. I was a little concerned how I'd feel running today, but I made sure to get a ton of sleep (10.5 hours) so at least I'd feel semi-recovered.

I felt just fine running today, starting at my usual 10AM (so I finish when lap time starts at noon). My heart rate was pretty low again, which tells me I'm VERY fit. And, you know the drill--I need to run faster next week.

I had a chat with my coach on Wednesday to discuss how the training for the next 2 weeks would roll in preparation for Ralph's. When I heard him say, "Let's just keep it rolling through the 12th," I about crapped my pants. Why? Because whenever he says "keep it rolling," it means NO BREAKS FOR ME HERE IT COMES UP MY BUTT. So 2 more weeks of putting the hurt to myself. That will make EIGHT STRAIGHT WEEKS of solid volume and increasing intensity. Holy hardcore training, Batman! Once again, it absolutely ASTOUNDS me that I am able to keep up this level of work. My coach and other people keep telling me I'm incredibly fit, and I guess I must be. But this is H-A-R-D, HARDCORE H-A-R-D, the kind of thing that most 49 year olds aren't stupid enough to do. The kind of thing that most age-groupers don't do. I guess it's the kind of thing that you do if you are training at a level knocking on the door of Kona, or at least getting very close to that door.

Today, when I got out of my car to go into the Y to run and swim, I even cried for a couple of minutes. Just to acknowledge to myself that what I am doing is hard. Not that it makes me a better person than anyone else (it doesn't), not that I'm truly suffering (I'm not), not that I couldn't just ease off on what I'm supposed to do (I won't), not that this is as hard as it will get (it's not)--just that for those few minutes, I let myself acknowledge the effort I have been putting out. It's something I let myself do every now and then as a stress-reliever.

Friday night I had some fun, too. I got together with my women's cycling team to shoot the shit and talk about some rides and races. Unfortunately, I won't be able to race with them too much, but I do plan on doing a 4-man 60K TT in September, and I'll be riding with these ladies once or twice a week. It was so much fun to get together with a bunch of really fit, competitive women. I was tickled late last summer when they asked me to join their team (Team Apache). I only got to ride with them a few times, but this year I am going to make it a point to drill myself at least once a week with them. This should be the prescription that cures what my coach calls my "only cycling weakness." That is, the ability to ride ultra hard in a group setting beyond my comfort level for long periods of time. After all, you get fast as a cyclist by going fast. That's why I've been doing all the intensity work on the trainer, but very soon it will be time to take it to the road. I am very excited to see how well my indoor fitness gains will match up against this great group of women roadies!

Here are the details of the week:
Swim: 9,000 yards in 3.12 hours; 24% of weekly workout time
Bike: 4.92 hours; approx. 86 miles; 38% of weekly workout time
Run: 3.77 hours; approx. 25 miles; 29% of weekly workout time
Strength: 1.3 hours; 10% of weekly workout time
Total Hours: 13.11
Approx. Calories Burned by Exercise: 5,885

Average Sleep: 8.96 hours/night
Stretching: 2.37 hours

Goals from Last Week:
  • Average 8+ hours of sleep per night. DONE
  • Stretch 15' per day. DONE
  • BEAT 165 watts during all FT intervals. DONE
  • BEAT previous 1,000 yard TT time. DONE
  • Keep the mental focus. DONE
Accomplishments This Week:

  • Met all goals.

Goals for Next Week:

  • Average 8+ hours of sleep per night.
  • Stretch 15' per day.
  • HIT 170 watts as new FT in Tuesday’s workout (GULP!)
  • Keep the momentum and mental focus going. While I got a little bit of a break this week in terms of volume, there was more intensity (oh joy!), and there is more in the next 2 weeks.
Workouts Completed this Week
Monday: Strength 1:18
Tuesday: Swim 2,000 yards including 1,000 TT @1:41/100 yds.; Bike 1:05 including 2x15’ FT, watts=173, 173
Wednesday: Swim 2,700 yards in :58; Run :52 including :25 tempo
Thursday: Bike :50 including :20 HIM watts (had to catch a plane today so cut the workout short and eased off on the intensity so I didn’t projectile vomit my breakfast)
Friday: Swim 3,100 yards in 1:05; Run :40 pretty quick pace because it felt good (was supposed to do strides)
Saturday: Bike 3:00; brick run 35’. Felt sick when I began to run (this isn’t unusual after a hard ride), but legs were working just fine. A girl on the next treadmill forced me to play “You SUCK,” and she gave up after 5’.

Sunday: Run 1:40, ending with 20’ Upper-Steady and 25’ Tempo; Swim 1,200 yards in :24