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 . . .