Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Training: Awakening from a Long Winter's Nap

Training camp.  *shudder*  Going into camp this year I felt less than prepared.  Running season meant I had been on my bike for recovery purposes only and even then, very few miles.  I expressed my concerns to Coach on multiple occasions and she always reassured me not to worry, this year's plan was different.  The idea was to use camp to get back into shape and kick off triathlon training with my goal race being in October and the World Championships.

I had a hard time envisioning how this was going to work and knew that I was going to struggle keeping up with the "sub-12 hour" ironman group.  I even suggested that maybe I should go to week 1 camp, the "over 12 hour" group.  Nevertheless, plans were made and we piled into my car last Thursday to head to Tucson for the long weekend.


One of our teammates flew into Phoenix and drove with us, and we met up with some fellow campers upon arrival.  One thing I have learned from past years is that at camp, when you're not training or sleeping, you should be eating.  So we ate...

Pre camp fueling.

Thursday afternoon was low key.  The group met for a social hour run.  I got to catch up with Kelly during the run, my camp roommate from 2 years ago who is also qualified for Hawaii in October.  Afterwards we went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

One of the best part about camp is that I get 10+ hours of sleep every night.  At home my routine is 8 pm- 4 am for dedicated sleep time.  I was so excited to be able to sleep in till 6 am or later every morning.  Friday morning I felt rested, and still was up in plenty of time to eat a good breakfast and get mentally prepared for the day's long ride.


Friday is our 95 mile ride to Madera Canyon.  It's a fun ride- lots of climbing in the first half, and a fast ride home after the 14 mile climb through the Canyon.  Coach Alyssa told me stay within myself and not to try to push it, let my fitness come to me.  It was very disheartening watching everyone ride away from me but I knew I would never survive the weekend if I tried to hammer this ride.

My gem.  I think she's happy to have me back.

Alyssa was the ride sweep and we rode together through the first half of the ride.  Just as we reached the false flat of Madera we started talking about my #bff and pretty soon I was laughing and telling stories as the miles flew by.  Amazing how my #bff can cheer me up from 200 miles away!  The climb gets steep the final 4 miles and I eventually passed a couple of people.  Alyssa hung back to continue her job as sweep and I was thrilled to sail up to the top of the climb with no problems.  The last two times I did this ride the climb did not end well... once with me falling over and once with me getting off to walk.

Made it to the top of Madera!

We regrouped at the top and Coach gave us our orders for the ride home.  After the descent we were going to practice pacelines.  We had about 12 people so each group of 2 riders took turns at the front for 3 minutes.  I felt good, and the pace tolerable, until we turned onto a 10k gradual climb.  Then the effort level got to be a bit much for me and every time I was second or third wheel I was falling farther and farther behind, unable to hang on.  Eventually we finished the pace work, rode through town and then split up again as we climbed the final 3-4 miles back to home base.

Back in the condo I immediately set to work making rice, tamari sauce and avocado.  I kept eating and drinking until it was time to leave for the pool and our evening sprint session, the beloved forever set.  Somehow I ended up leading a lane - even though the 2 girls I was racing were beating me by a full body length on the 25s.  It was still good practice and nice to have someone pushing me on this set.

First swim group finishing up the forever set with Coach Alyssa looking on.

Saturday morning started with 100 x 100 yds in the pool.  Alyssa had told me on Friday that there were too many fast swimmers this year so I wouldn't be in the coaches lane (ie: the fast lane).  So when Hillary announced my name in the fast lane I did a double take.  On one hand, now I was terrified, having flashbacks of last year and my 3k time trial to start the swim.  On the other hand, I appreciated the vote of confidence and wanted to show that I belonged there.

Fast lane!  Photo credit:  Hillary Biscay

The other lanes are given a workout to follow, and someone to generally lead the lane.  Our lane's workout is made up as we go along.  The 10k (yards) looked like this:

10 x 100 swim on 1:30
10 x 100 as 75 free/ 25 back on 1:30
18 x 100 band only, descending from 1:35- 1:30- 1:25
2 x 100 social kick
10 x 100 as 25 fly/ 75 free on 1:30
40 x 100 PBB descending 4 @ 1:25, 3 @ 1:20, 2 @ 1:15, 1 @ 1:10 (4 times through)
6 x 100 as 25 fast/ 25 easy on 1:30, changing lead each 100.
4 x 100 as 50 kick/ 50 free on 10 seconds rest.

I had to skip the backstroke and fly because I am not skilled enough at these strokes to make the time interval, but otherwise I had no trouble making any of the intervals.  A huge improvement over last year and a big confidence boost!

We survived 10k!!  DB is stronger and faster than last year.

After a quick lunch and a shopping session at the Smash warehouse, we met up for a social ride over Gates Pass and the McCain Loop.  It is one of the most beautiful rides in Tucson.  Hard, hard work but at the pace we were riding it was definitely a recovery ride.

Selfie with Dimond Van!  #DimondsAreAGirlsBestFriend

As on Friday, I was quickly and repeatedly dropped from the group.  It was a little frustrating trying to keep up with people who were not even riding hard, but I just kept within myself.  The final climb is a lung buster and I was seriously afraid I wouldn't make it up if I killed myself trying to stay with the group.

Working up the final climb.

One of my Team HPB teammates, who happens to be a Tucson local, did a good job of keeping an eye on everyone.  When he saw me fall behind before the final climb he stopped and waited for me, shepherding me to the top safely.  I was thankful for this gesture as I was not entirely having fun riding solo.

We love our bikes!  #BrilliantUnderPressure
 Sunday:  a.k.a:  Home free!

Sunday dawned with an unexpected sprint swim.  For most campers, Sunday's swim is a technique session.  The 3 of us who swam fast lane with the coaches earned a 3k sprint session instead.  By the time I finished I was exhausted and ready to cry, knowing I still had to make it up Mt. Lemmon.  My husband (who finished his technique session in about 15 minutes) had everything ready to go when I got back to the casita.  He had bikes loaded, breakfast made.  All I had to do was change into my cycling kit, take a deep breath and switch mindsets.  Did I mention how much I adore him?  He totally knew that having less than 15 minutes to go from pool to car was going to stress me out and he was so on top of it.  We are a match made in paradise.

He drove while I ate and collected my thoughts.  For Mt. Lemmon, we were divided into 4 groups starting at 20 minute intervals.  I was supposed to be in group 2, but things were a little behind and when we rolled into the parking lot at 9:10 am, group 1 was just getting ready to head out.  Coach Emily told me that it was fine if I rolled with them, that I was just supposed to ride steady for the climb.  I was nervous about holding people up at the top and knew it was going to take me a long time to make it up, so I rolled out with group 1.

Immediately after making the right hand turn onto the Highway.... I got dropped.  I was like, seriously??!!  On a flattish road, riding warm up, I couldn't keep up.  This was going to be a long day.  By the time we hit the start of the climb 4 miles later, the group was no where in sight.  *sigh*

Mt. Lemmon is a 20.5 mile gradual climb.  Literally no break for 20.5 miles.  You just grind. it. out.  It's not particularly difficult as far as climbs go, but it can be a total mind fuck some days.  And other days it flies by.  Today was somewhere in between.

I didn't feel great, and my power numbers were low, but I just wanted to ride steady.  I had worn my Smash Aloha bra under my Irock kit to remind myself that once, not so long ago, I was in phenomenal shape.   Good enough shape to go 10:09 at Ironman and qualify for Kona.  Even though I felt out of shape and slow, I knew that there was potential to get that back.

Around mile 10 one of the girls from group 2 passed me and I thought, ok, here we go.  I kept waiting for more people and none ever came.  Windy Point, at mile 14 of the climb, is my mental "you're almost there" point.  A mile or so above Windy Point the terrain changes from desert to alpine.  The air is lighter, cooler, and the sun is not beating down on you so much.

Prize at the top

Something happened around mile 15 of the climb.  It was like a light switch was flipped.  I went from struggling at an easy pace to suddenly being able to push my normal Mt. Lemmon watts with no added difficulty.  In the final 5 miles I passed everyone in group one and the girl who passed me earlier from group 2.  I lapped out at the top of the climb and with a huge grin on my face sailed downhill toward Summerhaven.  When Coach Hillary got to the Cookie Cabin she confirmed my suspicion... my bike legs were back!  It only took 150 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing to get them.  I was a happy camper!!

I (heart) Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin!!

After a brief rendezvous at the Cookie Cabin we headed back down the mountain and out for a quick 4 mile progression run.  I paced my transition run with a perfect progression from 8 minutes to 7 minutes and high fived my teammates along the way.

Smiling!  Home free, baby!

At this point we were home free.  We had a group dinner that night and a trail run the following day, but all the things I had worried about before camp had been tackled.  I was no longer feeling embarrassed about showing up for Oceanside in 3 short weeks.  I felt ready.


Camp ends with a group trail run on some gnarly terrain.  Tucson trails (at least what I've seen!) are rocky and technical.  I'm used to smoother, more run-able terrain but the pace was relaxed and social.  We ran for 3 hours, stopped for pictures a few times, and in general tried not to get lost in the desert.
Gates Pass Trail

Photo op at the stone house.

Group 2 runners!  Only one fall and one cactus in 3 hours.  

After camp ended we did a little recovery swim, went for lunch and beers and then met the group at the JW Marriott for drinks and dinner.  Every night they do a toast and everyone involved gets a free shot of tequila to share in the festivities.  Tonight's tequila was infused with vanilla and orange.  Smooth as butter.
Toasting to god-knows-what... but we got free tequila.

Since I do most of my training solo, I begged coach to give us a group workout before we drove home on Tuesday.  Much to my teammates' dismay, they had to crawl out of bed for an 8 am swim after partaking in a few too many margaritas.  And since it's rare that we get to swim as a team, it wasn't just any swim... but another sprint swim.  Feeling a bit dehydrated, it was slow and not at all pretty, but it was fun and a great way to end the weekend.

Team HPB swim sesh
So here's the deal.  Camp is always a learning experience.  Every year has presented different challenges and opportunities for growth.  As disappointed as I was to show up slow and unprepared and be dropped by the group at every turn, it reinforced my faith in Hillary as everything she's been telling me for the last 3 months proved true.  My fitness was not gone forever.  My run is faster than ever.  And now heading into this year's triathlon season we can rebuild my bike fitness and capitalize on my run.  My swim is as good as it ever was, and we are even seeing glimpses of improvement here too.

I think the hardest part about camp this year was realizing that I'm not in competition with my fellow campers at camp.  (Yes, if I meet you on a race course, you better believe I will try to beat you.)  But I'm here to work on myself, and I will encourage you as you work on yourself.  I watched some of my teammates be pitted against each other for workouts.  It's fun and it's an added challenge, and I hope that maybe next year at camp I will be fit enough to partake in the games.  But this year for me was about getting my fitness back after a long winter's nap.

I've spent a lot of the last three months doubting myself, doubting that I belong in Kona, and generally feeling out of shape.  My race season kicks off in 2 weeks and I know how quickly the weeks are going to tick by once we break that seal.  I really, really want to soak up every single opportunity to get stronger and faster.  And to prepare mentally for my ultimate race in October.  The most important thing for me is to show up in Kona healthy and confident.  To face the day, unafraid, knowing that I am strong.  Prepared.  Ready.  For me, training and finding success in the every day is where I get that confidence.  I am so ready to start this season.

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