"True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice." ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Last weekend was my last HUGE week of hell as dictated by Coach Orton; from Tuesday to Monday I trained for just about 20 hours including a monster 112 mile bike ride and a 20 mile run in heat and humidity that would have made a sauna feel comfortable. For the past several months I've been pushed like I never have before and through it all I've only cracked once. Unlike the preparation for my first Ironman this time around I've just enjoyed the ride. The first time I had a host of questions I needed to answer about myself, I needed to figure out what my diagnosis meant, what leaving NY for my MBA meant and really what direction my life was going. This time around it hasn't been about answering any questions of my capabilities or desires, this time around it has been about relishing in the opportunity to be a triathlete and realizing how much I love putting my body through hell for no other reason than I have alot of fun doing it. This time around it hasn't been about overcoming doubt, it's been about pursuing dreams.
The 112 mile ride I did on Saturday didn't have the amount of climbing that my rides through the 7 gates of hell on the Blue Ridge Parkway has. However, Coach Orton wanted me to do the second 56 on a hillier route than the first 56. So at mile 80 I climbed Afton Mountain (the back way not on 250) and gained a whole new respect for the riders on the Tour. The 2.53 mile stretch up Afton ascends just about 1,000 feet and has twists and turns the entire way up. How guys like Contador and Armstrong do climbs way steeper, and way longer 20 days into a Tour is flat out incredible; I'll blame it on the fact I'm on a time trial bike.....
I finished the climb and finished up my ride and felt fantastic. When I got home I had a flashback to my first few centuries training for IMLP in 2008. I remember that some of those rides took me more than 7 hours, I remember having to stop every 30 or 40 miles to stretch, I remember being frustrated and remember trying to learn how to climb, how to descend and how to push flats. I remember not having the confidence to ride within my ability and continuously wanted to exceed what my body was ready for. On my past few long rides none of that occurred. At a relaxed pace and heart rate I finished the 112 in around 6 hours and felt like I could have ridden for 100 more. This time around just going with the plan I've made progress without even realizing it.
Sunday was a bit of a recovery day, my legs were filled with lactic acid and I just had a 40 minute run. Monday was the big test - 20 miles, temperatures in the 90s and humidity above 70%. I had set my alarm for 6;15 am hoping to get at least part of the run in before the furnace that is Virginia really had a chance to heat up. My alarm either never went off or I turned it off as soon as it went off so I didn't wake up till 8:15 am and didn't get on the road till 10:30. So my run was done in the sultry heat (next week I'll have some cool Dexcom data to share as to how my blood sugar responded to this). During my run I went through over 3 liters of water and had to take a couple shade breaks to cool down. At mile 11 I had perspired so much that I had to take my socks off to ring them out - yeah kind of nasty. But in the end I got through the 20, dehydrated, sore and ready to pass out on my feet but I made it. In the lead up to Placid I was never able to train for more than 16 miles; in the past few weeks I've run 20+ miles in a 24 hour period on 3 separate occasion and now a 10 mile run feels like a jog in the park - 3 years of progress.
Tuesday I was supposed to swim a 10 X 200 after a pretty strenuous warm up. After the 3rd 200 I was spent; normally I'll swim a 200 at a medium pace in the 2:55 to 3:10 range; I'm pretty sure it took me close to 4 minutes to swim that 3rd 200. At that point I realized that I was toast; 20 hours of workouts in a 6 day period was all I could handle. I hopped out of the pool, more mentally and physically tired than I had ever been so I went home and ate a pizza. The pizza was followed by 2 hot dogs, which was chased by some pasta. I may have been in a bit of a carb hole, Wednesday was a very welcome day off and the first true day off I had, had in over a month. A slight crack in an otherwise amazing stretch of workouts, I'll take it.
Through it all I realized that this whole triathlon thing is about gentle perseverance. Sometimes you need to grit down and bear it but other times you need to shut it down. Success in triathlon all comes through having the trust to listen to your body and having the confidence that you'll be ready for whatever race you're about to do. Like everything else in this sport the longest distance you cross is between your ears. When you look back on a year's worth of training and realize how all this progress occurred just by putting in the work and not worrying about the destination you realize that the starting line can't get here fast enough. Just over three weeks and it's time to dance with the devil again, CDA here I come.