Saturday, May 10, 2008

Money, it's gotta be the bike.

56 miles today, on my longest ride yet of the year, and the mileage that I'll focus all of my long-ride energy on from now until Racine in July. I was rolling by 6am, and aside from it being pretty chilly, it was just about perfect conditions - some sun, some overcast, not a breath of wind.

Let's discuss my training plan for this year for a second: I don't have one. I know, you're all spraying have drunk beverages all over your computers right now, that Mr. Anal Retentive, Scientist of Triathlon is rolling without so much as a to-do list. But actually, it's working out really well. My training plan this year is really a combination of two philosophies: One, it ain't rocket science. Two, if you want to be faster, go faster.

So this season I'm putting the last 4 years of triathlon experience in the bank for my training regimen. I'm aiming for 3 runs a week, and 3 rides. Sometimes I only get 2. I hit the pool when I can, which can mean twice a week or not at all (and the water will be, as discussed, my weakness this season). My long run - consisting of 13.1 miles, no more, no less, are anywhere from Friday to Monday, and my long ride - not to exceed 56 miles - is somewhere in the weekend. Everything is negotiable except for the long workouts - those are absolutes. Otherwise, the Grand Experiment of being a triathlete and new Dad is working out pretty well - the lack of "you're supposed to do this today" is assisting me to maintain a healthy perspective, and I'm having a lot of fun.

My workouts are all quality - no junk. If I'm not doing intervals, or a tempo run, or hills, or a long run/ride, then I'm not spending the time. And I can tell you that here in mid-May, I'm in better fitness, lower weight, healthier, and have seen overall marked improvements across the board than I did this same time in '06, when I was training specifically for Ironman. And as I mentioned, I'm also having a lot of fun - which is the whole point.

I'm focusing on the strict Half Iron distances to condition my body for optimum performance at specific distances. So that when I kick into a gear at 8 miles, my body knows what that means in context of the 5.1 I have left. Same with the bike - my speed workouts are intentionally 18.5 miles long, hard and fast (more on that in a minute). After Racine, my goal will shift to the Twin Cities marathon in October. I'll apply the same principles, eventually getting my long run up to 26.2 miles. In years past, the mystics and statistics in all my coaching plans have avoided me actually going the full distance for any of my training. I'm sure there are lots of great reasons for that. But that's not how I'm rolling this year.

So the point this season is to go faster. Period. Fast at the half marathon distance, faster through 56 miles on the bike. The only way to get faster is to train faster. Period. The rest are just details - if I want to go sub 3 hours in 56 miles on the bike, then train like it. Like I said - it ain't rocket science. How will any of this apply next year to Ironman-specific training? I'm not sure. I'll let that reveal itself along the way.

Back to today's ride, then - I divide the 56 miles up into 18.5 mile chunks (roughly, the last 3rd is not precisely 18.5 miles). I had hoped to train with power, but my iBike is worth. less., so I'm going old school, with my RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort - which is what it sounds like - my internal guide for how hard I'm working) being the main guide. My long ride - and racing - philosophy will be simple: The first 18.5 miles are easy breezy. 89-94 rpm, no perceived effort on the legs (at all), and gearing stupid easy when climbing. The second 18.5 miles are fast - I drop down to 80-85 rpm (being careful here, though, that I'm not just pushing a harder gear with nothing to show for it - the point is to increase speed), work hard going uphill, and sensibly go faster; meaning, I'm not going to blow up in an effort to blaze that second 18.5 miles, but I'll show restrained effort at going faster. The last 19 miles go back to 90rpm, but with effort this time.

Today was the first ride at this strategy, and the results were very interesting. In '06, I rolled the distance a few times at sub-3 hours, but never comfortably and always working really hard. I had not time goals in mind today, just wanted to stick to my plan. Ideally in my head, the first chunk and the last chunk should be at a similar pace, and the middle chunk should be at least .5mph faster overall.

(I realize that my posts about numbers and stats can be totally boring as hell. Feel free to catch a nap if you'd like).

My first chunk, then, was at 18.4mph. This is really encouraging - for starters, there was no effort there. Just easy cruising. I want to say all my work is starting to pay off, but I seriously think the new machine is an important factor - with all kinds of training on Ol' Blue, my top "comfortable" average speed was usually no more than 17.5mph.

I worked harder on the second 18.5 miles - actually "racing" now - and this chunk is also where the most significant climbs (and descents) are. I finished it with a 19mph average. So far, precisely on target.

My last 19 miles, I wondered if I'd blow up - maybe my work on the previous sections wasn't as carefully executed as I'd thought or hoped. And I did work harder, and was feeling some mental fatigue by the last 5 miles, no question. By I finished those 19 miles with an 18.3mph average - very consistent with my first chunk of mileage. Friggin' fantastic.

Most interestingly, I came in at 3:01 for the ride. To make that kind of time on 'Blue, I would have been working really hard. But my legs felt fresh (still do) when I got off the bike for a 4 mile runoff (which I cut short because, though I executed a consistent nutrition plan on the bike, I apparently need to revisit it, as I was starving to death on the run and was this close to a magnificent bonk.)

So - very encouraging. It tells me that on a day with no heat and no wind I'm capable of a comfortable 3 hour ride. Ha! We'll see what the real world has in store this season, but I didn't expect these results, and was happy about them.

A few bits & pieces -

Vapor is fast so as to be a little bit scary for me. Like, I'm having to learn a little more courage on this machine. On 'Blue, with a great tailwind and perfect road conditions and all things beautiful, I'd reach top cruising speeds of maybe 26mph - and that was rare. On Vapor, I'll look down and I'm suddenly at 27, 28, even 29mph. I'm getting comfortable with that on flats, but descents on this bike are insane.

Speaking of which - I reached 40mph (actually 41.5) on this bike for the first time, and reached it for the first time this season (the only other time I've hit 40mph was during a training ride on the Ironman course, on the rollercoaster on Witte). Good to have that fear factor out of the way.

This just in: 56 miles is a long damn way to go on your bike, I don't care who you are. There's a reason this thing is called Ironman, and it's no accident that it requires Becoming. You don't just flip a switch and make it easy or something. I have a lot of mental toughness to develop again - just the last 5 miles today was a little bit of crazy time in my brains.

Saw this fantastic quote in an ad in my Runner's World, which applied it to marathons, but I think Ironman is far more appropriate, and it was rattling around my head today when I was starting to feel the fatigue: There will be days I don't know if I can do an Ironman. There will be a lifetime knowing that I have.

Happy Mother's Day everybody.


Triteacher said...

I love insanely-fast descents; I have a post in the offing about it... just whoop at the top of your lungs and it all goes well.

The (lack of) training plan sounds superb, not to mention verrrry familiar.

Steph Bachman said...

Your bike plan sounds awesome to me. I'm working on getting more comfortable with the higher cadence so maybe I can get to your 85/90 easy one day. : )