A little bit of guilt

Posted by on April 22, 2008 in Training

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry and I feel guilty about it. It’s not due to a lack of training; quite the contrary, but the guilt factor is part of the problem.

I feel really good these days; my distance workouts are solid. I feel strong, my nutritional plans are coming together well, I feel like I’m in touch with my body (I’m kinesthetically aware), and I feel mentally sound. Despite this, if I’ve set out a weekly program of workouts and I am not able to achieve them, I feel this sudden wave of doom and gloom, like I’m putting the whole race in jeopardy.

This past weekend, my goal was to run 18 miles on Saturday, and bike 100 miles on Sunday. I tend to prefer to reverse the order and cycle before I run, but I had a family commitment on Saturday that it made it impossible. Well, the run was awesome. I managed to negative split by a whopping 7 seconds and averaged 8:32. When I arrived back home (the run was in Central Park), I felt no pain. I was able to bound up the stairs with no soreness or perceivable discomfort. I stretched a bit, but since time was a factor for me in terms of getting to the commitment, I couldn’t really spend the time I should have. Naturally, I asked myself, “Self, could you have run another 8.2 miles and if so, could you maintain that pace?” You know, they say that the last 10k of any marathon is the hardest part. I was only 2 miles from beginning that last 10k and I know that I could have easily run those 2 miles, so my preliminary answer is yes, I could have run another 8.2 miles though it’s possible that the pace might slip a bit. Frankly, I never put in a hard effort that morning and my heart rate averaged something like 144 which is over 20 beats below my lactic threshold (the point at which the body produces more lactic acid than it can flush, as measured by heart rate).

Okay, so I felt great and had a good plan of action for the day to prepare myself for cycling on Sunday. I was going to Fernando’s daughter’s baby-naming ceremony and reception, then playing football (which really isn’t much work), then going to the movies with Deborah. Mateo got hold of me after Fernando’s party to say that he needed me to help him at his Wine Bar, Pata Negra. Deborah was flexible, so I said yes and headed to the east village. By the time I got out of there, which was still early, got to Deborah’s, and finally shut my eyes, it was only 11 or 12… and that’s not that late. The next day however, I was exhausted. Worse yet, I was unmotivated.

I had thought about cycling on Long Island since it’s flatter and again and models the Brazil course well (or so I believe), but then considered doing the ride from the city across into NJ and up into Rockland County. Ultimately, I figured that I’d do some loops in the park, then do the Rockland County ride, then head back and if I needed any extra mileage, I could do more loops in the park afterwards.

When I got to mile 20 while in the park, I looked down at my cycle computer and wondered how in the world I’d make it another 80 miles. My spirits were low (I always call it the “chi” to measure motivation and attitude), my legs were tired, and the weather was crappy. I wound up cycling over to the west side of Manhattan and took my time taking the promenade all the way down to Battery Park, before turning around and heading back uptown. As I started the return trip, I noticed a guy on a road bike drafting off of me. I don’t normally have a problem with that, and while I didn’t this time either, something inside me triggered the thought that this is now a competition. So, I began to ride a little harder and faster… which wasn’t a stretch since I had been a sloth beforehand. He did the same. Then, he passed me. So, I got close to his wheel, but with a few bike lengths separating us. He saw my move and accelerated. I did the same. At one point, I got into my aero position (I was on my super aerodynamic triathlon bike), and put the hammer down. I tried to hold a very aggressive pace into the headwind and when I finally took a look behind me, he was nowhere in sight. While I felt good about the “victory”, I realized that he was good motivation for me to actually put in some work! And, by being so damn competitive, I shot myself in the foot by not having that external motivator anymore.

I was past the GW Bridge at this point and decided to head back. I wound up going back into Central Park for another couple of loops and closed the session with about 60 miles or so under me. No, it wasn’t 100 miles; no, it wasn’t a high quality ride; no, I didn’t feel less tired… but, I felt some margin of satisfaction that I turned 20 miles into 60. Ultimately, I still felt this large amount of guilt that I didn’t do the 100.

This coming weekend, I’m competing in the Bronx Biathlon. It consists of a 3 mile run, an 18 mile bike (each year, my computer says it’s 20), and the same 3 mile run again. My personal record (“PR”) is 1:39:37 and while I don’t think I’ll break it, I wonder if having all of these long rides and runs in me will allow me to really push hard and have the reserves I need from a muscle perspective to sustain the high intensity efforts. Logic would dictate otherwise since I’m currently conditioned for long distance performance, but I’m optimistic that I’ll well in this short course event. What’s noteworthy about this is that Deborah’s father is in town and he’ll be attending. So will my dad. If anyone reading this knows even a little bit about me, it’ll be obvious that my massive ego is haunting me given how badly I want to impress them!

The following weekend will be my last hard one. I’ll be cycling the full Ironman distance of 112 miles followed by a brief 30-40 minute run. The next day, I had planned on running 20 miles but Fernando’s father-in-law, once a phenomenal marathoner, advised me to only run 16 but to do so at a faster pace than the last 18 miler. I’ll be honest here; that’s a huge relief. Who wants to run 20 frickin miles? 16 is still long, but I have to trust my instincts and they are saying that I’ll pull out an 8:10 to 8:15 pace for that distance.

Lastly, for those who are counting, the race is 33 days away. I am feeling so good about it, but I don’t want to announce it to the world (like I’m doing here) because of superstition. My swims have been easy. I can do half the 2.4 mile distance in the pool without stopping, without technical breakdowns, and without residual fatigue, and I know the second half won’t be any kind of problem. The 90 mile bike ride two and a half weeks ago followed by the 55 mile ride the next weekend were easy efforts and I maintained close to 18 mph for the long one and nearly 19 for the shorter one. On race day, if I’m close to 18, I’ll be thrilled. Then, the big x factor: the run.

I met this dude in the park a few weekends ago who is Brazilian, a veteran triathlete, and an alum from IM Brazil. He said that the run course is made up into three loops: a 10 mile initial loop with a long mile-plus climb, and two shorter loops (I’m assuming that because of math, they’re each 8 miles). My goal is to run the first loop straight out without stopping and with steel determination. After that, I expect that I’ll be much more active at the aid stations which will likely be at every mile marker. If I can go to every other aid station and bang out 2 mile clips (or longer), I’ll be in pretty happy. Fernando’s father-in-law looked at me like I had four heads when I told him about this strategy. “Stopping? Slowing down? It’s a damn race! Once you stop, you won’t start up again.” I wish that I could have better articulated what I felt like in Lake Placid, but the fact of the matter is that I was in very bad condition nutritionally and HAD to stop at every aid station, along with my training partner Maria (not the ex) who was alongside me throughout the run leg. With how good I feel going into Brazil, and with a much improved attitude, I’m hoping to run the entire thing and not resort to a run/walk strategy… but you never know what to expect on race day. I hate that that statement, clichéd as it is, is so true.


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