Friday, August 26, 2011

GA, 6 Gap, and more!

Climbing, climbing and more climbing! By car, foot, or bike I spent much of my time in GA going up and down and around the hills. Just driving in and out of Big Canoe will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. Training here is NEVER easy. The hills are steep, and never ending. They are different than the long climbs in Tuscon up Mt. Lemmon or up the long grades in the foot hills of Mt. Hood. This camp was set up for those with late season big races, and was not for anyone who wasn't willing to hurt a little. Everyone worked hard and had awesome training days!

My legs are still talking to me after several big bike days, 1 big brick with some swims and steep hilly runs and I crawled home to try to recover and while running around getting ready for back to school, back to work and back to normal life.

Here is a short summary of the TBC Big Canoe camp as I experienced it:

Day 1: Swim in the morning, then; Preview of the 6 Gap ride.
This section of North Georgia is part of the Blue Ridge Mtns. and in fact you cross the Appalachian Trail in 2 spots. The bike course calls the climbs “gaps” not really sure if its because of the gap it makes in the side of the earth, gap it makes through your muscles as it shreds it while you climb, or the gap in the teeth of some of the locals. Our group road 3 gaps, roughly 60 miles. It was hot, the the hills were tough and I had forgotten how these steep climbs just keep going around every curve. At the top of Nells Gap I caught my breath, saw a phone booth, and tried calling 911

When was the last time you saw a phone booth! The last climb of the day was Woody Gap, with an amazing view across the Blue Ridge mtns at the top. I am partial to the Rockies, the Cascades,and mtns of the west but, these hills are amazing. At the top of this climb you think you are home but there is still about 20 miles of big rollers back to the car.

Day 2: Swim in the morning: my arms felt worse in the water than my legs, then:

Long brick on tired legs. This ride was closer to home and included Sunrise climb. Don’t let the name fool you, she is a b@#% and comes after a 7 mile steady climb, followed by a long decent where you can’t really pedal allowing all the blood and lactate to pool in your legs before starting back up. It was 90 some degrees on this day and running on a gravel logging road off the bike up and down more hills made me feel like an ox.

Day 3: supposed to be an “easy” day with a swim in the morning, and a trail run. After 20 min of running, my running legs finally came to me and I actually could push the pace up and down the steep hills. Later in the day I tried to relax with the kids and camp BBQ while preparing for the big day....all 6 gaps.

Day 4: 6 gap; that would be Jack’s, Unicoi, Hog Pen, Wolf Pen, Woody and Nells in the order we did them. That is 6 big climbs ranging for about 3 miles to 8 miles long. We did 81 miles with something like 9000 feet of climbing. For some strange reason, I felt the best on this day and was able to keep climbing and ride strong keeping up with the boys. My favorite was Unicoi, and I yelled bad words climbing Hog Pen which is the steepest goes for about 7 miles. I can't remember the % grade here, but I think it was in the high teens. I probably should have been on my road bike with a 25 in the back, but was on my flatlander TT bike with the 23 in the back, because well, Vegas is close, and that’s the bike I’ll be racing on there, but not an ideal choice for this terrain. Maybe that explains some of the strange looks from the other bikers out there, but at least it hopefully made me stronger.

We came home to an empty house, the Aussies have moved on to Arizona. We must have worn them out, or they are afraid of Chicago winter. I now have a 3rd grader who can technically ride his bike the 2 blocks solo to school. I haven't let go on this 100%
and walk 1/2 way with him!

Only a few more weeks of training, and its Vegas baby!
Then let the cyclocross begin!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peaks and Valleys

hoping all jack's FB practices will be this nice

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I LOVE the mountains. The peaks and valleys, the views, the lifestyle. I love the desert mountains of Arizona and have made my way up Mt. Lemmon and Kits Peak. I love the lush green mountains of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up and seeing the peaks of Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens when cruising around Portland. I love the way they look and I love climbing them on my bike. (Yea, why do I live in Chicago?)

I help injured athletes every day climb up and down the peaks and valleys of rehab from an injury. The pain starts to feel better, ROM and strength improve, and I guide them through stressing the area a little more, then there are a few days of increased pain and swelling as the injured area adapts to the new stresses. It never fails the patient will always complain that they feel like they aren’t getting better, and always ask why is it still painful or swelling up.

still learning the long board

As a coach I create these peaks and valleys in blocks of training. You stress the body, you work hard pushing the volume and or intensity, stressing the body a little more then build in some rest. The body adapts to the load you’ve dumped on it and you become fit and fast. This process does not come without some discomfort or maybe few subpar workouts. These valleys aren’t pleasant to pass through. It’s not fun to feel like dirt, or like moving through quick sand sometimes it even feels like you have never worked out a day in your life before. The key is to press on, not collapse in the valley in order to make your way to the next peak.

Athletes also have a hard time accepting those valleys especially when things have been clicking along great. It is nearly impossible to stress the tissues, build the training, increase the volume and intensity without eventually…slowing down, getting sore, tired, sick, or completely bonking in a workout. When a subpar workout slaps you in the face, take a look back…..have you been killing it like a rock star for a few days, have you taken a dip into the poor nutrition valley leaving you operating on fumes. Or maybe you've been really loading up the training hours. Sometimes forced rest finds it way into your schedule due to horrific weather, unexpected travel due to work, or an illness that forces you to dip down into the valley.

If you find yourself in the valley, stay consistent, stay positive, and do all those things that are sometimes harder than training….rest, eat the right things, hydrate stretch, relax and most importantly be patient and before long you will be crawling out of the valley to the top of the next peak.

We are in North Georgia getting ready to start a TBC camp with a group of athletes training for Vegas, Hawaii, and other late season races. Tomorrow we are riding 6 Gap, which was part of the tour of Georgia. I am confident I will be experiencing plenty of peaks and valleys throughout the week all in an effort to be ready for Vegas in Sept.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tales from the Draft.....

....a summary of my Madison ride behind Adam’s wheel.

I do 95% of my training solo, not because I am totally opposed to training in a group, and I am definitely not anti social, but primarily it’s because I have a crazy schedule. It is often more work to coordinate workouts and meet up with people. I have my windows to fit in the workouts, without a lot of room for error. Training with others has its benefits and purpose especially if the group as fast as or faster than you and your goal for that workout is to push yourself. Other times training in a group can slow you down, or make you work harder than you should on an easy day. On those rare times I get to train with Adam, I am always pushed to my limits.

We spontaneously decided to take a trip to Madison for a change of scenery and to get some hillier miles along with our Aussie athletes. This meant I’d be riding with 2 very fast guys on a tough course, but I was up to the challenge and definitely bored with my flat cornfield routes. We packed up the car Fri afternoon, headed north, and checked into our hotel by the capital. Thanks to we scored huge last minute deal. We roamed around State St. and grabbed a late dinner. Madison is such a fun town, and as we were showing Courtney and Raija the swim course, finish line etc for the IM, I had little twinges of…..if I ever did an IM again I would love to do this one…. but then I quickly came to my senses!

We decided to start the ride in Verona because doing the loops with places to re fuel works so great and none of us are actually doing IM MOO, so to heck with the “stick”.

My goal for the day was to stay with the boys for as long as I could, and not to worry about power, pace, HR etc. and “work the uphills”. My plan was to do 2 loops/ roughly 80 miles.


I stuck to his wheel like glue. On the downhills I would lose him some and would have to hammer in my hardest gear to maintain contact. I road the uphills hard, just to stay as close as possible. Some of what went through my head on loop 1:

>Thank goodness my legs feel ready for this!
>It’s hot already
>Why is my left hand sweating more than my right? Weird.
>There are lot of riders out here, there must be an IM coming soon.
>It’s hard to let go and take a drink trying to stick to his wheel, let alone take a gel
>We are flying past these people really fast, but I can’t look away to see who they are
>Already done with loop 1, that wasn’t so bad

Back in town we re-filled our water bottles and laughed about the macho guy who decided he was a better rider than the OA age group winner of several 70.3 races as well as the Champion of IM Australia and was racing us at the end decked out in his race wheels, aero helmet and aero bottles. My guess is he eventually drifted off into a cornfield somewhere completely shelled.

Loop 2:

Because I was still felt human, I decided to keep hanging on. I did notice the pace seemed a little quicker and on the flatter sections I was having to work harder to stay in the draft. I made it a goal to work as hard as I could to stay on that wheel until 3 hrs of riding and then I could cruise, but until then keep pushing. Those steep uphills through the farms after Mt.Horeb hurt a bit more the 2nd time around and that is where I noticed my HR getting pretty high and starting to feel the effort.

Thoughts from loops 2;
>Wow it’s hot
>Hmmm we are going a little faster this time
>This is definitely how you aren’t supposed to ride this course if you are racing the IM
>Where is the next uphill, hammering in these flats is getting tough
>Wow we are already back to here
>When I trained for the IM here years ago these loops seemed to take much longer

I made it to nearly the end of the loop but lost contact with them on one of the hard uphills almost back to town, that was at about 3:40 hrs of riding. I was very happy to see Verona. I did my transition run practically smiling the whole way even though it was sizzling out.

I never looked at my power, really, the whole ride, because I was really staring at a wheel and a nice pair of legs for almost 4 hrs, but what is interesting is that even though you save about 30% of the energy by drafting, my normalized power for the 81 miles was right smack in the middle of the wattage range I try to hold for my ½ Ironmans.

No pics from this outing, I was too busy holding on for life!