So it was that I spent the summer riding and running, running and riding, running and running and riding, riding and riding and running, and even sometimes getting in the pool. (Anyone want to guess why my swim times persistently sucked?)
Being a vegetarian, I ate a lot of pasta, but I also ate a lot of Shortstop Deli’s seitan sandwiches. We affectionately called these “The Baby”, because a 12” sub had the approximate dimensions of an average 2-month old. I also drank lots of beer, spending many an evening at the bar with friends. And many an afternoon. And many a wee hour of the morning. Somehow, getting up by 7:30 a.m. was never hard, even after stumbling home rather inebriated at 1:30.
My weekly progression was consistent and never felt like a strain. The weekly group rides culminated in the Cayuga Lake century -- it’s about 90 miles via the “short route” around the lake, and the extra 10 aren’t hard to add on. Meanwhile the runs, which started daily at about 6 km, dropped with some effort to 6 days a week. Those 6 km per day edged up to weeks that included a 6 km sprint, 10-12 km twice, and 20 km the other day. I never felt tired running. Never. Trust me.
Egads, I was an unbreakable god! Yes, a glorious, shining example of a modestly good runner!
After many of my big athletic endeavors, I would swing over to the local creek and take a quick dip. Sitting under the waterfall -- or behind the waterfall, as befit my mood -- and reading a book under the sun on the stone slab shore, I felt re-energized. I loved the feeling of tearing down muscles, then rebuilding them stronger and faster and more capable than ever before. Don't tell my advisor, but I probably also loved the feeling of sitting in the sun while my silly fellow students did “work” or “research” or something. Who does that?
And as for days off, Tuesdays filled that role. Or a couple Tuesdays did. It escapes the memory exactly how many Tuesdays I took off, but it was likely more than one. Or maybe equal to one.
Jenna played pickup lacrosse on Tuesdays, and they needed a goalie; women’s and men’s lacrosse goalies work the same way, so I hopped into that fray willingly. Lawren would often email or call on Tuesdays with the desire to take a jaunt in the woods -- and who was I to disappoint him? Or the woods? Or my phone? Or the pet rock perched on my neighbor’s windowsill?
What mattered was that Tuesday wasn’t a hardcore day. So though the local cycling club featured a weekly race that was much-discussed on the listserv, I would not attend those festivities over the summer. I also took Monday as a “close-out” day for the week of running and biking, and Wednesday was the day to rip off a morning sprint.
In spite of the progression, and in spite of a desk job that included a ton of coding and occasional work with lab bench electronics, computer technology never mixed with riding or running. It seemed unnecessary. The lone exception was a Cateye on the bike: good enough to monitor speed, instantaneous and average, and offer a target pace for long rides. That handy map offered a look at ride and run distances beforehand, so it wasn’t necessary to keep track of distance, just time.
This was also before we could data ourselves to ultimate precision using our phones, so if you wanted time, you needed a chronograph; if you wanted distance, you needed an odometer; if you wanted to know on-course jitter, you needed to find an old-timey gyroscope; and if you wanted to get back to town after a flat, you needed a couple functional thumbs because phones simply didn’t get reception in the rural Finger Lakes region. (Or the urban Finger Lakes region, for that matter.)
I awesomed anyway. Which, to this old fuddy duddy, indicates that all that data might not be the most important part of training. That's why the only tech I ever carry is the phone, just for mapping unfamiliar courses and keeping track of time.
As the summer wound down, I ran one more trail race: the Forge the Gorgeous 7-miler, an event I maintained a wonderful ongoing relationship with in the coming years. It was 9 days before the Half Ironman Canada, and I slammed through the race in just over 46 minutes -- a little over 6:30 per mile for an up-and-down course that was a great workout and my first race win.
This is what it felt like to be primed for a target race. The scheduled taper was about 2 weeks long, and I hoped it would work the way it was generally advertised.
I had never finished something like the half ironman, but with all that training in the past, it seemed wholly doable. The swim, obviously, would be awful, but once that was done, I would bully through the field using amazing time trial skills (a 90 km TT was just 6 of the Thursday TTs strung together; even with the usual slowdowns caused by fatigue, I was confident it would be sub-2:45). Then came the run: These legs were always ready for motion. I was obviously going to stroll through on sub-7:00 mile pace, which gave me a 1:30 target for the half marathon. Add them together, and the goal was 5:00 total plus transition.
I rolled into Ottawa in a borrowed car -- thanks Steve! -- and checked into my hotel, then hopped on my bike to ride to the race packet pickup 8-ish miles away. There was plenty of traffic at the pickup site, but it was all in cars, and here I was on my aerodynamic race bike. I checked in, hung around a few minutes, then headed off to get a seriously large plate of Mediterranean food on the way back to the hotel. At the hotel, I laid out my things, jittery for the day to come, and maybe managed a few winks.
Here’s my race report from that event:
Most of my travelling lately has been long-distance, so this weekend's nine driving hours were relatively easy. I arrived somewhat confused in the heart of downtown Ottawa Friday afternoon, but managed to scrounge up the necessary maps to make my way to a hotel some 12k from the start of the race.
Race morning (Saturday) was perfect. The temperature was around 70 by 6:30, and a light northeasterly wind drifted across the mostly north-south course. The start was set for 8 am, and some 400-500 competitors -- about 110 of them doing the half individually -- stacked into the TZ and tried to work out the elaborate and excessive marking system the competition inherited from its days as the National Capital triathlon. The long-course participants hit the water about 10 minutes before the start, and we were churning through Mooney's Bay exactly on schedule.
Any of you who have discussed triathloning with me know that swimming is my weakest event, and this tri was no exception. I came out of the water in 77th place after a 50-minute 2k slugfest. In my defense -- and the defense of everyone there, since nobody turned in a great time for the swim -- the sun and its glare made spotting buoys outside of about 50m almost impossible, so a lot of major course adjustments went on through the whole ordeal.
Out of the swim, onto the bike. The transition practice Wednesday was incredibly helpful for T1...it could hardly have gone smoother. The 90k ride was 6 laps of 15k each, and the wind had definitely become more unpredictable (gusty and variable direction) while we were in the water. As usual, the theory of chasing down rabbits kicked in from the start, and I passed a whole crowd of people right out of the gate. Through the first lap, my legs felt tight, but I was still cruising by people pretty easily; by lap 2, though, the swarms of relay and sprint competitors offered up a lot of target fodder, I found my rhythm, and the speed set itself almost perfectly at 37.5 km/h. By lap 5, my legs were feeling great, but the saddle started to wear on me, and I felt the wind bite into my speed. For the first time, someone passed me (what an odd feeling). I went all-out trying to catch the guy and managed to ignore the fact that my arse was in so much pain for the next lap. He started to pull away on the final mini-hill to the last turnaround, but I felt the need to finish strong. I dropped into TT mode (knew all those Thursdays would come in handy!) and hammered out the last 7.5k quicker than any other segment, reeling in the offender in the process. He still beat me to the dismount area, but only by sliding in front of another rider just at the end. Bike time: 2:29.
I had already undone the velcro on my shoes before entering the TZ the second time, and it looked to be a record change for me...until my right shoe release gave me trouble and I discovered my carefully-placed water bottles weren't where I left them (I later found them against the curb about 15 feet away; apparently, they were knocked over and tried to make an escape).
Enter the run, my best event by far. I decided before the race that, when it came to the run, I would go completely on instinct and set a single pace for the first half (one lap). Good idea...my initial pace was 6:35 miles: not too fast, but I was still passing a good number of people while keeping my legs fresh for the real competition. Second half, time to change gears and get rid of any energy I've got left. I stepped up the pace a bit for the third leg, blew by about a dozen runners, and told the first aid station to get ready to throw water on me down the final stretch. The leaders were definitely wearing, and I was only about 4k behind them when they passed going the other way. I felt good, but I was starting to notice the sun. At the final turn, I grabbed two cups of water, and went even harder. I had no idea what my pace was anymore, but stopped looking at runners going my direction up ahead to keep from overdoing it. Reached the final aid station, where the dutiful workers threw water and some sort of energy drink. With just 1.5k left, the rabbit chase resumed. As I neared the final hill, I saw the next guy up craning his neck to check out who was behind; he later told me he thought I was a relay runner, since I was catching him so fast, but he was confused by my individual number. Since it was a hill, I put all those hours of Ithaca running to work and was within 20m by the top, then made a quick move to finish tied for 6th in 4:43:42. Unexpectedly, I won the run again (1:23:45 -- 6:24 per mile) -- which makes me undefeated so far in tri runs.
Incidentally, the winner finished in 4:31, thanks to a swim over 16 minutes faster than mine. Ugh...anyone wanna teach me how to swim?
I wrote a lot of race reports in those days. Indeed, my history of races that include bike rides can largely be dredged up from such reports sent to either the cycling club or the running club list. I sometimes got responses, but mostly these race reports let me decompress after an event, think about what I did right or what I could have done better, and write something of beauty.
Behold the beauty!
BEHOLD AND COWER!
Next up: I got 10,000 problems, and one of them is what the hell to do after a target race
Mash out. Spin on.
Some runner person. Also perhaps a cyclist & brewing type. But for your purposes, a runner person.