Blogs tagged with "brick"

Me and Steve (does this man look like
a miscreant? read on...)

Last week, after my disappointing performance at the USAT Age Group National Championship, I felt a need to get in some hard long mileage. It was partly driven by the desire to punish myself (old destructive habits die hard). But seriously, I figure if I'm going to specialize in long distance racing, it's about time I accepted it -- and got on with it.

Last week, I also experienced a whole new level of frustration in driving into and out of Cleveland during rush hour when I started my new job at The Cleveland Museum of Art. On a good day (i.e. ONCE last week), I can make it to work in 25 minutes. But the rest of the time, I found myself behind the wheel for more than an hour each way. I suspect I will be searching for places to swim and run near the museum so that I have more time to train and my travel times don't coincide with everyone else who works downtown. But despite losing two hours per day in traffic, I was able to get in some good running, biking and swimming last week with two long sessions on the weekend: a long brick (bike 100+ mi, run 4 mi) on Saturday and a long run (20 mi) on Sunday.

Saturday's brick included my longest ride since Ironman Lake Placid on July 24. I even managed to get my butt out of bed early (6:30 a.m.) to finish in time to clean the house for a dinner party Saturday night. But even with the early wake-up, poor planning delayed my start when I found myself in the driveway at 8 a.m. switching out my race/travel configuration -- i.e., swapping out Zipp wheels, desperately searching for my saddle bag, and re-installing the down-tube bottle cage. By 8:30, I was on my way, determined to cover a familiar 100-mile course faster than ever.

The beginning of the course took me northwest through the hills of Cleveland Metroparks to Rocky River. After that, I continued west on mostly flat terrain along the lakeshore to Lorain County. By the time I reached Rocky River (36 miles), I was surprised to find my average speed was just over 19 mph - the fastest I had ever gone from my house to that point. I contemplated whether I should stay out for six hours or for 100 miles then decided to turn around at 2:45 -- I was sure to slow down on the way back because of the hills near the end. At 2:45, my odometer read 54 miles, and I had been riding well over 20 mph for an hour. When I turned around, the realization hit me of why I was going so fast.

Despite my certainty that the wind was from the north (based on waving flags), I turned around only to find that it definitely wasn't. The wind was from the northEAST -- not a normal occurence -- no doubt because of Hurricane Irene on the eastern seaboard. The return trip along the lake would therefore be a constant struggle to maintain an average speed above 19 mph.

My luck changed when I got back on the parkway and one of my very own BAFF teammates - Steve Thompson - went flying by me. Upon realizing he didn't recognize me, I chased him down. This was no easy feat because he was in the middle of a two-hour ride at half-ironman race-pace -- for him, this meant pushing 280 watts and 23-24 mph. I didn't think I could hang with him, but he pulled me through the next 20 miles at a ridiculously fast pace. Did I mention that he would be finished with his ride before we got to the hilly part of my route?

We were only a few miles from Steve's finish when he would become the latest victim of the Disaster Magnet. As you may recall, the last time I rode with team members in the park, I ended up in a ditch with a broken rib. This time, it was a whole 'nuther type of disaster. And it would be a first for any cyclists I know. Steve and I came upon a four-way stop along the parkway in Strongsville. After the last car had gone through, Steve did a quick check to make sure it was clear and rolled right through the stop sign. I may or may not have yelled "clear!" But that didn't matter.

We were, indeed, breaking the law.

And neither one of us looked back to see the park ranger vehicle behind us.

When I heard the siren, it never once occurred to me that Steve and I were the ones being "pulled over." And dear blog readers, before you get all self-righteous on me, stop and think of how many times you've done the same thing on a bike. Most of us do it. And most of us do it SAFELY. (Which is exactly why we yell things like "[all] clear!")

So yes, Steve and I were pulled over by a ranger -- and he needed his PA because we didn't realize "he was talking to us." And, as Steve noted later, we would rather have been pulled over for speeding.

But we ran a stop sign.

The ranger began by asking me if I knew what "that octogon sign was for" (no, I am NOT making this up). He proceeded to tell us what we already knew, that cyclists need to follow the rules of the road. He enumerated them for us:

  • Stop at stop signs
  • Obey traffic signals
  • Do not ride along the side to get to the front in a line of traffic (!)
  • etc...
Then came the unbelievable part. He proceeded to blame us for the large number of angry drivers in the park. (Seriously, I'm really NOT making this up.) "People like [Steve and me] were responsible for drivers pulling up alongside cyclists and harassing them." Then came my favorite quote of the day - he noted that Steve "was a big guy so he probably didn't get harassed very often." By that time, my mouth was surely hanging open in disbelief. This ranger had a LOT to say to us. I got the distinct impression he didn't appreciate the situation between cyclists and drivers in the park. And in his mind, it was very likely the fault of the cyclists (NOT the angry drivers) for not obeying the rules of the road (which, according to him, was precisely what MADE the drivers angry).

I may be going out on a limb here, but when I've been riding my bike and someone throws a beer can (or empty whipped cream container) at me or tries to grab me or yell obscenities at me or flip me off (yes, all of those things really happened)... it never occurred to me that it was because I rolled through a stop sign or disobeyed a traffic light. Could I have been wrong all this time? Could it really be MY fault there are so many pissed-off drivers in the world? Maybe that's why that guy hit me with his truck in 2003 - he was angry because I was running the... um.. GREEN light? All I have to say is: BULLSH*T!

I also must mention the expression on Steve's face (was it horror or hilarity?) when the ranger accused us of "going through a stop sign when there was a cop car behind you" -- and my response was: "well.. we didn't KNOW there was a cop car behind us, or ..." You can guess what Steve was expecting me to say. But I decided not to finish the sentence.
We were notified that we COULD have been given tickets. But instead, we were given written warnings -- the ranger took our names and contact info. Sadly, we were given nothing to sign and no white, yellow or pink slips to take home to pin to our bulletin boards (or post on a blog). It begs the question: did it actually even happen? He did tell us this: the information would not be on our "permanent records," but it WILL be entered into a database.

Just in case we decide to break the law again.

And just like that, the disaster magnet has returned in full outlaw force. Steve finished his ride and I continued on to finish mine, on the hills. I didn't enjoy climbing hills after having stopped for so long, but the laughter and disbelief kept me going strong to the end. I finished all 108 miles in 5:25 (the first 100 in P.R. time).
When I got home, I transitioned to run and dragged my husband Jim along on his bike so I could tell him the story of how Steve and I broke the law that day. Because I was talking and laughing, my four-mile run went by lightning-fast, and with plenty of daylight left, I was done with one of my hardest bricks this year.

On Sunday, I woke up late after too much wine with dinner and friends the night before. By mid-afternoon, after spending all morning checking the Ironman Canada tracker to keep tabs on my friend Ron (Punk Rock Tri Guy - who, I might add, did a major ironman PR!) I forced myself out the door for a 20-mile run. Surprisingly, I was able to hold better than a 7:30 mile pace right up until mile 18 -- then my legs started screaming at me and it was all I could do to finish in 2:32.

And I can now say I feel like an endurance athlete once again. A DEVIANT endurance athlete, but an endurance athlete nonetheless.

This past Sunday, with six weeks to go before Ironman St. George, I scheduled one of the most important workouts of my Ironman buildup: the metric ironman. I had planned it for four or five weeks out, but the sub-30-degree temperatures this weekend forced me off the roads and out of my long ride and back onto the CompuTrainer.

It was time for Plan B, the metric ironman brick, a.k.a., my longest bike-run workout to date.
I never heard the term "metric ironman" until I read an article by Matt Fitzgerald called How to Nail the Ironman Marathon. In this article, the metric ironman is defined as a 2.4 K swim (optional), a 112 K (69.6 mi) bike and a 26.2 K (16.1 mi) run - all done at close to race intensity.

I thought about it. Doing this metric ironman might very well be the best way to tackle my biggest weakness, the marathon nutrition issue. It would simulate race conditions and I could ultimately gain focus on what happens (read: goes wrong) during my run. The workout would likely involve four hours of biking followed by two hours of running - I only hoped that two hours would be long enough to learn how to fuel properly during the marathon.

This metric ironman would also provide one more opportunity to test myself on the CompuTrainer IMSG Real Course Video. The course video covers just over 67 miles, and I would then have yet another data set to compare against my previous rides on the same course. I would finish the workout with a hilly run to simulate the terrain on the St. George course (or so I'm told).

Now that I've defined the brick, I suppose you're wondering what "Running Flicks" is doing in the title of this article. I'm glad you asked.

I'm always looking for new and engaging movies to watch while I'm stuck on the trainer for two or more hours, and recently, one of my work cohorts walked in and handed me what appeared to be an inspirational running movie. It's a documentary called Running The Sahara. It tells the story of three runners who set out with the goal of running across the entire Sahara Desert - over 4,000 miles through six countries - in 90 days.

It was the perfect movie to watch during my workout - but not for the reasons you might expect. Unlike most documentaries about endurance events, this movie was not so much a story about triumph over adversity as it was a harrowing emotional tale. As expected, the physical trials were there, but they were eclipsed by the emotional drive and mental fatigue of people who were on the edge of keeping their sanity.

To a lesser degree, this movie reminded me of the places I go mentally during some of the more trying times of my training and racing. There are days I just want to curl up in a ball and cry at the pressures of my job, my (almost non-existent) social life, and my training and racing. There are times I just want to walk away (from all of those things) and say "never again!" And although I will probably never face the physical and emotional trials that these Sahara runners faced in their expedition, I can appreciate the moments that were so true - the "I quit" moments. Once you push through such moments, it's much easier to do a second time.

My ironman brick went as well as could be expected. I finished the IMSG bike course in the fastest time yet and was able to force myself out the door in bitter cold to do two very hilly one-hour loops. I fueled as I plan to on race day: with one Gu Roctane every 30 minutes and at least one Thermolyte electrolyte capsule an hour. It worked very well until I was 1:30 into the run. Then the problems began - bloating and sloshing in my stomach and a side stitch. I wanted to stop and walk but I kept telling myself it would be the beginning of the end if it were race day. So I slowed down a bit, controlled my breathing, and before you know it, the problems settled and I started to feel better. And that's one of the things I needed to know - how to combat the stomach issues if and when I get them.

I still want to learn how to avoid getting the stomach problems in the first place. But I'm much closer to understanding the proper fueling strategy after yesterday. And I know a lot more about how to motivate myself now that I was able to push through four hours on the trainer and two hours of race-pace running. Like in the movie, I think that's one of the things that training gives us - we learn to hang tough and overcome the bad moment(s) so that on race day, it's not an issue.

...don't be a triathlete.

The temperature finally hit 90 degrees in Cleveland -- just as I was beginning to think hot weather training would never happen this year. When I saw the forecast for Sunday -- over 90 and humid -- I did what all crazy triathletes do: planned a brick, a bike-run workout. There are several explanations for why they call it a brick (Google it), but my personal favorite is "Bike-Run-ICK!" For some reason, bricks don't feel quite the same unless my running shoes are making squishy sounds after 10 minutes off the bike.

My training this year has been severely lacking in long brick workouts, which might explain why my legs feel massively fatigued when I start the run leg of my races. But today, I realized why I've not been doing bricks regularly. I JUST don't enjoy running off the bike unless it's ridiculously hot. Call me insane, but it just doesn't FEEL right.

Today's ride was not only hot and humid, but fast. I rode my usual 2-hour loop, starting out fast but not trying to break any records. My goal was to get my cadence up by remaining in my small chain ring for the entire ride. It was very windy, but I felt like I was riding into the wind no matter what direction I was going. With about 45 minutes left in my ride, I got passed by a group of three guys, and I decided to try to hang behind them as long as I could (without drafting). Once I got my legs spinning fast, I was able to hold between 23-25 mph for most of the rest of the ride. The guys -- Joe, Jared (Jerrod?), and Lee -- were great fun to ride with. Joe was heading into a taper for Ironman Louisville in three weeks. At the first red light stop, they encouraged me to hang with them. I had the most fun riding I've had in years (maybe because of the companionship, maybe because of the speed, I don't know).

I finished the 40 mile (very hilly) ride with an average well over 19 mph and feeling very confident in my ability to ride faster without giving up my run speed. That has always been the question: how do I get faster on the bike without building massive leg muscles that will hinder my run?

Unlike the ride, my run today was more like a death march. I asked my husband to crack the whip on me because my motivation has been so low lately. He rode his mountain bike with me to carry water and gatorade during my run. I always feel guilty asking him to do that -- like I'm breaking the runners' code of ethics. I once read that you should never ask your spouse to be your waterboy, or girl (although Jim was born on the exact same day as Adam Sandler, so maybe that's why I do it?). Anyway, I wonder if the triathlete code of ethics allows it? I sure hope so -- I don't think I could get through these hot, humid workouts without him, and it helps me simulate race conditions. Jim is so much more than my water carrier -- he is an integral part of my racing: my bike mechanic, my travel coordinator, my psychologist, my cheering section, and my best friend. And I hate that he sometimes has to pick up the pieces of a wasted me after poor performances.

But today, he was also a slave driver, as he did not let me quit running after 20 minutes ("you said 40 minutes, you'll do 40 minutes"). Thus begins my training for that race in Clearwater in November.

(the photo is the sweat stain I left on my driveway after my workout)

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