Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bike Focus Week

Every other Sunday, I find an email from Coachie that gives me my next two weeks of workouts. This time, I got an extra email telling me I have plenty of "volume in me to play around with" which meant I'd be getting a bike focus week. Bike focus week means that in addition to all the usual daily workouts, you get to ride your bike every day for 1.5-2 hours as well.

I love riding my bike. I will hands-down tell you that the bike is my favorite part of triathlon. But a bike focus week is pretty daunting just because a "regular" week leaves me pretty whooped!

Notes from Coachie - "ride strong for an hour and a half. You can even do this outside on your road bike!" Hooray! My favorite kind of ride, and permission to do it on the road bike too is just a dream come true. Shelly and I packed our bikes and happily brought them to work after our swim, then took 2 hours of vacation time for that afternoon especially for riding. (It didn't hurt that Monday was her birthday. Happy Birthday Shelly!)

Well, then the wind picked up and a wind advisory was in effect. Power lines were down in wind that was blowing at up to 52 mph. An email from Coachie read, "ride on the trainer today. It's too dangerous to ride outside." Ugh. We took advantage of the time off and got manicures (lovely!!) and then I headed home to do my ride on the trainer instead. At least I had pretty nails to look at while suffering on the trainer.

This is what the wind looked like; while I was sitting at the light, it blew out the power on these traffic lights.

Today called for a trainer ride, but after we got robbed on Monday, Shelly and I were determined to ride outside. We rode to Castroville and back (don't worry Coachie, I got in my intervals) and then did a 20 minute transition run. These are favorite workouts of mine too because I get to chat so much with Shelly. AND we had the added treat of wearing our Jenny Jerseys - hand-me-downs from one of the baddest ass cycling chicks we know, Jenny Park, who also happens to be a swim team friend of Linda's from high school. Jenny was going to donate some old jerseys and then decided to ask Linda if any of us would like to have them - of COURSE we would, wearing a jersey of an awesome Cat 1 cyclist that we totally look up to can only be good luck!

Here are Shelly and I sporting our Jenny Jerseys. They make us faster.

Oh, this was not a fun day. After a 7.5 mile crushing track workout in the morning, I didn't even understand how I'd get in an hour and a half on the bike after work. I was thinking maybe I'd fall asleep in my aerobars. I didn't pass out and I got it done, but it was a pretty lame effort and did not leave me excited for Thursday.

Today we got to do the outdoor road bike ride. And oh my goodness, it was awesome. Shelly, Linda and I headed out from Helotes to ride around the 211 loop. This 25-mile route gives you 7 miles of hills followed by 7 miles of awesome, mostly downhill speeding. Shelly and I always play a game with the last part - we try to stay above 20 miles an hour the entire time. With a tailwind you can go way faster than that, and you just want to scream "woo hoo!" the whole way like a little kid.

It was one of those perfect rides. The weather was nice although chilly, and the three of us rolled along in a happy little pack, commenting on the beauty of the nature around us. This was Linda's first ride on the 211 loop and she crushed it! Shelly and I have never ridden this loop as fast as we did today. I can't believe how strong I felt at the end of this week full of bike rides.

And that's it! The bike focus week is in the bank; I get a day off riding tomorrow to "only" run and swim. Then we get to ride more hills on Saturday's 80 miler. I can't wait. Me and my Jenny Jersey are ready to go.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ode to My Iron Sherpa

You start picking up lingo pretty quickly when training for Ironman. One of the phrases I heard early on was "Iron Sherpa." As in, "You're going to have to teach Robert what to do as your Iron Sherpa!" Sherpas are the guys who help people climb Mt. Everest by carrying all their gear and other crap up for them. I was told that the Iron Sherpa helps on race day by helping you to organize your stuff, maybe picks up your bike for you, maybe carries you home when you're too tired to walk.

Well, I'm proud to say that my husband Robert is the World's Greatest Iron Sherpa! On race day, he learns the course and figures out where to be so that I can see him during the race. He's awesome at cheering and shouting encouragement - and he knows what to say (you look great!) and what not to say (you're almost there!). Some of the best race photos of me and my friends are taken by my hunny bunny. He's never in any of the pictures, but he records the day for all of us and he looks really cute behind the camera. 

That's on race day. But what you don't learn until after you get into the training is that the Sherpa works year-round, not just on the big day(s). I feel so grateful for my Iron Sherpa, who daily listens to the tiny details of my workouts - he congratulates me on the days I do well and encourages me on the days that I'm feeling bad. He's a night owl by nature and doesn't complain (much) about my ridiculous bedtime of 9 pm. He understands my drive to do this even though it takes me away from our family for hours at a time, even on Christmas day. He knows who the pros are and which ones are my favorites and why. And oh my goodness, he cleans my bike for me! 

After driving all the way to Lubbock, TX, for Buffalo Springs last year, instead of hanging out and drinking beers with his dear friend from high school who lives up there, he drove an additional 56 miles so that I could check out the bike course, while Coachie shouted race day instructions at me through speakerphone. And then he stood out there on race day in the Texas summer heat for 6+ hours while we all played triathlete and raced. And then he drove me 6+ hours back to San Antonio while I regaled him with tales of the day; what I did well, what I should have done better, what I will do next time. And he never told me that any of this was ridiculous, which I will fully admit, some of it was.

And of course at Ironman Arizona last November, he hugged me tight and said all the right things while I cried like my heart was broken over a DNF. 

I love my Iron Sherpa hunny bunny husband! The Iron Sherpa does so much more than carry stuff around on race day. If you're lucky enough to have one, give them an extra hug and kiss today and let them know how much it means!

The only triathlon-related picture I could find of Robert.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hard Hill or Easy Hill?

As Shelly and I headed out for our Wednesday morning hill repeats this week, we turned to each other during the warmup mile and simultaneously asked, "hard hill or easy hill?" We have two hills to choose from on these runs - a steep, short hill and a longer, less steep hill. This is the last week in the first build for Ironman Texas, and I'm exhausted. I'm walking around daily in an Iron Fog, forgetting to hit "send" on text messages and spending more time than usual staring into space trying to remember what I was just about to do. So the answer for me was easy - "EASY HILL!"

We arrived at the hill and started the 1/4 mile repeats - seven of them today. After the first one, Shelly complained that she was already "tingly." I told her I wanted to throw up. After the second one, we stopped talking. And then, somehow, we picked up the pace on each following repeat and crushed the workout. The "easy" hill wasn't that easy after all - we made it hard with speed and effort and determination. As we ran our 2-mile cooldown afterward, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done and confessed that we couldn't understand how it happened.

Throughout the rest of the day, we had another decision to make. "Swim or skip the swim?" I don't think either of us really considered skipping it. But the thought of going to the pool after work made me actually want to cry. We walked out of the office at 5 and agreed to meet at the pool. Then we both got stuck in horrible traffic on the way. Uggg! Delay means we'll be home after 7. Hate that. Should we just skip it? No! We both showed up and whined about it all the way up until sticking our toes in the water, and then guess what happened? We crushed the workout. It was the first time that Coachie had given us actual interval times to go off, and we made them all! So awesome! And at the end of a big build! Woo hoo! An "easy hill."

Today, I nonchalantly grabbed my bike and put it on the trainer, preparing to bang out a 2-hour trainer ride. No big deal, right? I mean, the efforts will be hard, but whatever. Well, the "hard hill" picked me today. I was totally useless on my trainer ride. I couldn't hit my zones, couldn't get anything out of my "efforts" today. Today, just completing the efforts was a victory, and I'll admit that I only did the first set.

Some days you get the hard hill and some days you get the easy hill. But as Coachie once said, there's no such thing as an easy Ironman. ("It's not called Easyman!") So come on hills, bring it. But maybe we can squeeze in a recovery week first.

*The photo at the top is of my running buddy Jenn, from the Reach the Beach Relay in 2008, when Shelly and I were fledgling runners and there really was no such thing as an easy hill.