Monday, October 31, 2011


Yesterday, my wife and I did an 80/16 brick. That is, we rode 80 miles and ran 16. This monster workout has been on our schedule for about five weeks, so we've had plenty of time to focus on it. We decided to do it at the Silver Comet Trail here in metro Atlanta because it's long and flat. Ironman Cozumel is also flat, and we wanted to be as race-specific as we could be.

To be clear: I believe that one's running and cycling on flats can be greatly improved by training on hills. In fact, as a coach, I strongly advocate that athletes run and ride hilly courses even if they are training for the flatest races. However, riding our tri bikes on the flat Silver Comet Trail meant that we had to stay in our aerobars the entire time, just as we will in Cozumel. Not all of our long rides and bricks will be out there, but it was important for us to put in a long chunk of time in that position.

The cold weather arrived this week in Atlanta, so we intentionally got the day off to a slow start in hopes that it would warm up. We dropped off some nutrition at a couple of different spots, parked the car, and put on all the cold-weather gear that I haven't had to wear in months. (Sigh.) The plan was to ride twenty miles out, then come back to the car for refueling, then twenty miles out, then back to the car for refueling and changing, then run eight miles and back. In my head, I thought of it as three two-hour out-and-backs.

The cycling went well. I was comfortable in my aero postion, and I felt like I cruised along nicely. I pushed a bit to keep the intensity high, but I never went super hard. In fact, this is about what I figure the Ironman will feel like. My normalized power for the ride was 215w, which is a bit lower than I might have liked, but it was certainly in the acceptable range. My speed was just shy of 21 mph, but I was not wearing my aero helmet or tight tri clothes, and I was not using the aero front wheel. Those will give me several more minutes in Cozumel.

The bike made me feel like my bike goal in Cozumel--now less than four weeks away!--is within reach. I was looking forward to the run, though, because if I can't produce on the run, what's the point of the bike?

Just before starting the run, I made my only mistake of the day. When transitioning out of my bike clothes, I threw them onto the floor of the passenger seat. There were already some clothes piled there, so I figured it was a good place for them. I only found out later that those clothes were actually my wife's running clothes. By the time that she arrived back at the car to change into her running clothes, the sweat had completely seeped off of my cycling clothing and onto the shirt, shorts, and visor that she had to then put on. Fortunately, at that point, I was roughly eight miles away.

I started the run at around 7:00 pace. Along the way out, I clocked the odd mile here and there, and they were around 6:45-6:55. I stopped three times to eat and drink, but I did not stop my watch. Thus, I hit the eight-mile turnaround at 55:30. On the way back, I sped up to about 6:40 pace, then I sped up to about 6:20 pace, and then I sped up to about 6:10 pace. I stopped three times on the way back, too, but it took 51:30. My last four miles, including two stops, was 24:50. Whew! In total, the sixteen-mile run was 1:47:00, including about 2:00 to 3:00 of stopping, after riding eighty miles. My actual run speed was right around 6:30 pace, or about 2:51 marathon pace. NICE!

Most importantly, I feel like I had plenty left. I didn't have to speed up when I did; I could have kept running 6:45-6:55 (~2:59 marathon pace) very comfortably for a while. Also, even in the last mile when I started to dig a bit, I didn't dig from my deepest place. I still had more to give.

So, needless to say, this was a fantastic confidence booster. It boosted my coach's confidence so much that he decided to add another pretty monstrous brick to our schedule this weekend. (I'll write about the 2000/80/20 next Monday, I suppose.) The only downside to the workout was that my wife had a rough day. She strayed too far from her normal nutrition plan and paid for it in the last stages of the run. It sucked, but she won't do that on race day.

Now if I can just learn to swim . . .

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grocery Shopping

My wife and I don't eat out very often, and we watch what we eat pretty closely. We're also both training for Ironman Cozumel. As a result, our weekly trip to the grocery store is a BIG deal.

Actually, I should say, "tripS to the grocery store." We go to at least two every week. Today, we hit Publix in order to buy stuff like Coke and pretzels (which we'll use on our gigantic 80-mile-bike/16-mile-run tomorrow), and then we went to Trader Joe's to buy the "real food" like vegetables, meat, and raisins. Yes, raisins. I'm not sure why I chose that particular item to mention.

The folks at the Trader Joe's actually know us pretty well, despite the fact that it's a packed place on Saturdays and Sundays. The main reason is that we come in there and fill up a giant cart each week. Whenever we get someone new checking us out, they always look at us a little bit askance, as if to say, "Why are you buying fourteen bananas?" Doesn't everyone do that?

Going to the grocery store is actually a fun event for us. We like to do it together, and we have nearly every weekend since we got married four years ago. Last week, I had to miss the weekly grocery store rotation because I was busy writing the final draft of my dissertation. (Woot!) I realized how much I missed it when we were in the store together today.

We were joking today that we really "live it up" in a different way from other folks. A few weeks ago, when my wife went out of town, I mixed together two different types of Nuun. Yesterday, my wife strayed from our nutritionist's mandate of having only plain yogurt, and she had some CHERRY yogurt. (Devilish vixen.) I suppose that that is my point of this whole post: when you're in the midst of a major training block, you find different things fun. And for us, going to the grocery store is at the top of the list.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Catching up a bit

I haven't written since Cozumel was nearly ten weeks away. Now, it's a mere four weeks away. And I'm a bit tired.

It still seems very far off, primarily because I have several workouts between now and then. Specifically, I have a long brick this weekend, a 20-mile run next weekend, and a 22-mile run the weekend after that. In addition, the dissertation that I completed this semester and mailed out TODAY will be defended by then. By the time I race in Mexico, I may well be finished with the Ph.D. that I've been working to complete for the last EIGHT YEARS. So yeah, there are still several big things that need to happen between now and the whole "George Darden, you are an Ironman!" thing.

Nonetheless, I am starting to get excited. I've been thinking a lot about the race and my goals. Goal #1, of course, is the starting line. I've struggled with injury in the past, and while this has been a fairly injury-free training cycle--KNOCK ON WOOD!--there is still enough time for some little thing to turn into a big thing. Let's hope not. Goal #2, of course, is the finish line. I've never doubted that I would be able to finish an Ironman, and my training has bolstered my confidence. However, on race day, I feel like anything is possible. It's such a long day, and there are so many things that could go . . . not quite right. Particularly since this is my first Ironman, I think it would be unwise to have any other goals as my primary goals besides the two I have listed above. Goal #3, Goal #4, and Goal #5 are all family secrets.

I'm probably most confident about the run. My running has been going well, and I feel as if I will be able to cobble together a strong run. In addition, I feel like I'm pretty good at running off the bike. In fact, I kinda prefer it; I don't have to worry about warming up. :-)

The bike . . . maybe a little bit less so. I have no doubt that I can finish, but I do worry that I might ride too hard or too slow. Or both. I did a century a couple of weeks ago that was harder than it should have been. I also quit a workout in the middle of it last week, and I have only done that once or twice ever. I chalked it up to mental exhaustion, which I in turn chalked up to riding my tri bike too much. On my tri bike, whether I'm on the trainer or on the road, I'm pretty much staring at the stem. It's also more intense to ride the tri bike; I figure that it's tantamount to riding in the drops all the time. That wasn't fun. I like it when I'm racing; I enjoy the intensity then. For day-in and day-out training, though, it was overwhelming. I've gone back to my road bike a bit in the last couple of weeks, and that has been nice. I'm sure that I'll be fine.

The swim . . . well, I'm not confident about that at all. I'll feel better by the time it arrives, though, and I don't have to do anything beforehand. And, as a friend who is a good swimmer but a weaker cyclist and runner recently told me, it will help me to pass people all day. On the other hand, that friend gets passed from the moment the bike starts. That would indeed suck.

On a related note, in the four triathlons I've done so far, I haven't yet been passed from the time I exited the water. I've decided that I won't really consider myself a triathlete until the three sports are a little more balanced. And I probably won't consider them to be balanced until someone passes me on the bike or run.

The last push is coming. I hope to write a bit more since the dissertation is off my desk for a little while. Send me good, healthy thoughts!