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September 3, 2008

Returning to the Mistress*

*If you haven’t been a subscriber long enough to understand the reference, this should bring you up to speed.

**And I’m REALLY curious to see what kind of promotions the above title triggers on my Google Ads sidebar.

So … remember when I used to call myself a triathlete? It seems like a long time ago – but trust me, that guy hasn’t gone away. He just got a little preoccupied with wanting to run 100 miles.

Despite my recent ultrarunning pursuits, I always intended to come back to triathlon for one final race of the year – which is now just a few days away. Unfortunately, due to the Western States cancellation, my summer training schedule didn’t go quite the way I had scripted it.

My original plan was to do States in June, take a week or two off, then start hitting the tri-training hard, with high bike mileage and a lot of track workouts to recapture some of the running speed I’d lost during countless multi-hour trail runs. Then I threw the Headlands 100 onto the calendar, leaving me one week to rest, and only three weeks to shift into tri-mode. I was cutting things close, to say the least.

One more factor about my recent training regimen is worth noting: namely, since the 100-miler, I’ve been an absolute lazy slob. I’ve routinely blown off scheduled workouts in favor of sleeping in, and turned my car towards home instead of the pool even on the most beautiful sunny days. Each workout I’ve managed to show up for has been a “going through the motions” exercise, instead of pushing my body towards any increased level of fitness.

Needless to say, I don’t have soaring expectations for this weekend’s half-Ironman race. I’ve already told myself that I’ll just do the race for fun, and go as fast as I feel like. You know ... have a good time, enjoy the day, yada yada yada. Over the past two weeks, I’ve repeated these thoughts to myself so often that I almost started to believe them.

There’s only one problem: I’ve done this race before. There’s a finish time out there to measure myself against. And if I don’t beat it - or come darn close - I’ll probably brood over it for most of the fall.

(On a related note … sometimes it sucks to be as inherently competitive as I am. Yes, it helps with motivation for difficult training or racing situations, but the flip side is that you can’t let anything go. I swear, a sports psychologist would make a killing on me – it’s a good thing I don’t know any.)

Predictably, I’ve analyzed each of the three disciplines to figure out how I can squeeze a few extra minutes out of my performance, which I’ve distilled into the following race preview:

Swim (1.2 miles - 2006 split 29:40): This is the only segment where I actually feel somewhat confident. I’ve mentioned several times here that I maintained regular swim workouts throughout all of my ultrarunning exploits this year – so I’m hoping that what my swim training lacks in volume will be made up in consistency. Plus, I’ve got that sexy new wetZoot now – so even if I swim slowly, at least I’ll feel good doing it.

Bike (56 miles - 2006 split 2:35): This is where I’ll probably fall hopelessly behind my previous pace. I don’t think there’s any way on Earth that I can average 21mph again – especially since I can count on one hand the number of training rides I’ve done this summer.

My only saving grace might be this: the 2006 split was accomplished on my old-school green machine bike, and this year I’m riding my vroomin' Cervelo. It’s an age-old question among cyclists: just how much can a sweet bike make up for a lack of fitness? In that regard, Sunday’s race might be an interesting experiment.

Run (13.1 miles - 2006 split 1:35): Ironically, given my running background, the run portion of the race may be where I fare the worst. Ultrarunning has a lot of positive aspects, but one major downside (for me, anyway) is the way it slowly bleeds away your leg speed after a prolonged period of time.

Think of it this way: in my most recent race, in 95 minutes I would have covered somewhere between 7 and 8 miles. And while that doesn’t represent my top speed, it’s a reflection of what gear my legs typically settle into when they’re fatigued – in conditions, for instance, such as the end of a half-Ironman. In light of this, I have to think there’s simply no possibility that I’ll throw down anything close to a 1:35 half-marathon this time around.

Of course, I’ve already touched upon one x-factor that might carry me through, which is this: I’m an idiot. I get crazy when it comes to these race situations – and if I see a steady parade of people flying past me on the bike or overtaking me on the run, I’ll be borderline psychotic. And since it’s my last race of the year, I’ll be more willing to keep the needle in the red zone if I’ve got a realistic shot at the time I’m hoping to run.

The race could be intense; it could be painful; it could be fun. More likely, it will be all three of those things – in which case it will be awesome. It also seems like a perfect way to end the season.


21stCenturyMom 9/4/08, 8:32 AM  

How ever you do it please have fun!

I am not competitive at all and yet I go into every race wanting to PR because I haven't done very many and because I've trained more and more. You have sort of the opposite problem - you've done enough races and you've trained less and less.

In any case we both need to HAVE FUN this weekend. FUN! yes ... that's it... FUN!

(never mind that I looked up who my competition is and then looked each and every one on Athlinks to figure out how I should place... no no .... ignore that neurotic budding athlete behind the curtain)

Deene 9/4/08, 8:53 AM  

oh, the pressure! you'll have lots of fun running on empty.

Muppetdog 9/4/08, 9:56 AM  

I'm sure you'll do great regardless and at least you've got an excuse for your legs being tired!

I'll be out there cheering for a friend doing her first half, so I'll look for ya!

Rainmaker 9/4/08, 3:17 PM  

They have sports psychologists? Wow, ya learn something every day.

I had a blast at that race last year - I'm looking forward to see how the running carries you through this year. You have some very nice splits there though to beat. Have fun!

Rainmaker 9/4/08, 3:17 PM  

Oh...and enjoy that last 1/3rd of a mile on the sand. :)

Backofpack 9/4/08, 4:16 PM  

Hey, where that post comparing 100s to Ironman distances?? Huh? Huh?

Good luck this weekend - and try to have fun no matter how you fare!

mindy 9/4/08, 5:22 PM  

You forgot about shaving time off in transition! I think you need to employ the Quicksilver dismount this year...

robtherunner 9/4/08, 6:34 PM  

I suspect you'll be close to last years time due to the psychotic competitive thing you got going on. I look forward to the report.

Dori 9/5/08, 3:14 PM  

At least you'll have less weight to carry around, since you're missing your big toenails. Good luck!

rick 9/6/08, 10:53 PM  

Like rainmaker said, enjoy that last part in the sand. Oh man, I can't wait to see how it all comes down. Will your competitive psychotic nature and sweet new wetsuit and bike help with the lack of tri-specific training? I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Goodspeed tomorrow. It should be a beautiful day regardless.

Downhillnut 9/16/08, 6:48 AM  

Looking back on the bike part now - do you think it was the new bike or the competition that pulled you through at the pace you achieved?

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