Some days, I find that the training routine needs a switch just to keep fresh and motivated. So it was that the daughter and I decided that instead of the workout on the schedule (a 6 mile run at easy pace) could be swapped out for something a little different. Instead of a run, it was a jog/hike across the Appalachian Trail for about 6 miles. I can honestly say, the terrain was tough, but the scenery was fabulous.
One year ago, this is the race that started this crazy thing we call triathlon. It really is all the fault of the big guy above. David knew I cycled, and knew I had started running. He convinced me that a triathlon would be fun. So it was that in early June of 2014, I signed up for this race. He was going to race it with me until a crash and an injury sidelined him for the race.
So it was that I got to race it without his support. As a matter of fact, I had a couple of people I knew racing, but none that I knew well. There was more than a little bit of terror going on. Want proof? This pre-race photo tells it all. There may be a smile on the face, but it is forced. Look at the body language. The shoulder set, the nervous tilt of the head and hips.
It all boils down to “Shit what have I gotten into”.
However, the post race photo tells the other side of the story. See the relaxed set of the whole body? This my friends is where addiction sets in. This is why we do this. That feeling that comes with finishing the race.
And here we go again. Same race a year later, and I am beyond excited. So much has changed in a year. Last year, I was worried about swimming 500 meters, then hopping on the bike for 16 miles and still having the gas to run a 5k. This year, I am going into the race having already done an Olympic and half Ironman distance race, and a few weeks into the build for a full distance Ironman. Looking at the Training Plan, and realizing that this is not even a full ‘training day’ in terms of distances is a novelty. Don’t be confused though, I have no chance at a podium finish, but I am not going out there to finish. Sunday is all about how fast can I do this. It is a personal challenge and dammit, I am excited to hit it as hard and fast as I can.
How fast is that? I have an internal time goal, and it is lofty for me. Swim? 9 minutes, bike? 41 minutes, run? 25 minutes, 2 minutes in transitions, for a goal time of 77 minutes. This is a massive stretch, and may not be doable at my fitness level. It is going to hurt, and I am going to love every minute of it.
And it is still, all David’s damned fault!
Just one look at the above, and you can understand why nutrition matters. This is what happens when you do not fuel your body on the bike and hit the run without enough fuel to keep the body from cramping up. Once you get to this point, you can’t recover while still racing. This is why we work on nutrition plans during training days too.
The story behind this, and the tale of woe that I hope you can learn from my mistake. You see, I had trained my nutrition plan. Thought I had it wired. Infinit Go Far in one bottle. Nuun in the other. Gu Gel at 45 minutes on the bike, Bonk Breaker bar at 90 minutes on the bike, Gu Gel at 135 minutes on the bike, another Bonk Breaker before run transition, then Gu Roctane Gels on the run, with water and gatorade provided on course. All of this augmented with electrolyte capsules at a rate of 1 per hour.
In training, this went great. Race day however did not play well. You see, it rained on the bike course. Lesson to take away, Bonk Breakers are messy and difficult to consume in the rain, so I didn’t consume them as planned. I think you see where this is going already don’t you? Yeah, me too. I didn’t eat the solid nutrition, and the gels just aren’t enough to keep this engine going, so when I hit mile 6 of the run, and the quad started cramping to the point of locking up the knee, I knew that my 2 hour run was now an impossible goal. I could finish, but the last half of the run was going to be a long cycle of run slow, cramp, walk it out, repeat to the finish line. It took almost twice as long to cover the last 7 miles as it took to cover the first 6. Crossing the finish line, I had already had a while to stew on what I did wrong.
The hammer that drove it home? After a good meal, and a couple hours of walking around the city as a tourist post race, the cramping was gone, and there was no soreness or weakness in the area. Lesson learned. Eat, and more importantly, prepare for the conditions. What I would do differently is to portion my Bonk Breakers into bite sized portions that are easier to consume in inclement conditions. I won’t repeat that mistake again. Instead, I am sure I will find entirely new mistakes to make.
Living and training OTP, or Outside The Perimeter to the non-Atlanta readers, is very much a mixed bag. Personally, I love the experience, but I know many people that think we are crazy. Why? well, the typical suburban Atlanta road lacks amenities like bike lanes or sidewalks. More often than not, even curbs are a luxury. At the same time, any time spent on these roads is an adventure in dealing with soccer mom’s in large SUV’s, angry landscape truck drivers ( yes I am looking at YOU Bardin Landscaping ), unleashed dogs, deer and squirrels and even the occasional turtle crossing the road.
Of course there is the other part to this, the realization that ‘flat’ is a relative term, so every route you take is going to involve rollers at best, and some big hills at worst. The scenery however, often makes it all worth it. This field is a the valley floor along a creek that eventually feeds into the Big Creek watershed area, but sits just high enough that it rarely floods. What you cannot see is that on the other side of that tree line on the left is a golf course.
It is on training days like this however, that I truly have come to appreciate what training OTP brings for me. I may be suffering up and down some of these hills, but over each hill is a new vista to look at, and around here, there are some gorgeous ones.