... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Thursday, October 31, 2013

43 Mile Peak

Well, we set out yesterday after work to take a ride, and ended up hitting our training peak right on schedule. After what ended up being a much more drawn-out healing process than I had expected for the wisdom tooth extraction, I have to admit I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to meet the training goals I had set for myself, which included a peak distance ride of 40 miles this week.

My comeback ride on Sunday was 31 miles, a distance I was very happy with given that I had been mostly inactive for over a week. My legs felt great and I had energy to burn. We even did a mini-brick workout, hopping off the bikes and running two miles on tired legs. It was fairly brutal because there was no wind whatsoever and the temperatures were in the 90's with no cloud cover, but we made it happen. It felt great to get moving again.

The Queen K
For yesterday's ride I made sure to give my body plenty of fuel (in fact, a little too much fuel a little too late ... I ate a turkey sandwich about an hour before starting the ride and it was definitely not quite digested for the first ten miles or so) and once the food settled I could feel a huge difference in my legs.

I can't overemphasize how lucky I am to have a place like the Queen Kaahumanu (Queen K) Highway to ride. Huge shoulders, perfect roads, very few bumps and no potholes, with a good assortment of straight stretches for speed and hills to work your legs. With mountains on one side, the ocean on the other, and lava fields all around it is both barren and beautiful at the same time.

Anyway, we set out without a clear distance goal. I was telling myself another 30 miles but I knew in the back of my mind that what I really wanted to do was go from our start point at the Mauna Lani shopping center to the airport. When we hit the 15-mile point (where we would turn around if we wanted to do 30 miles total) we checked in, confirmed that we both felt good, discussed what to do, and ultimately decided to go for it. We estimated the remaining distance to the airport at about 5 miles. It was more like 6.5, and it's a difficult 6.5 because the airport drive comes into view about 2.5 miles out and looks deceptively close. You then spend 8-9 minutes chasing something which seems to not get any closer no matter how hard you pedal.

We dismounted and sat in the grass in the shade for about 12 minutes, sipping our drinks and stretching before hitting the return. Restarting is always difficult for me, and yesterday was no exception. My legs seem to take about 5 miles to warm up; before hitting that point, they feel rubbery, heavy, and slow. If I allow myself to get discouraged during this period I can ruin an entire ride for myself, so I have learned to expect this phenomenon and just wait patiently for the blood to get flowing. Once it does, it feels like my legs are habituated to hills. The burning dulls a little and I don't feel like I'm fighting at 100% effort to make it up each hill. Climbing a hill begins to feel okay, like something I could do for a while without too much issue.

The problem is that this same thing happens after taking a break, so when we restarted to cover the 21.5 miles back, I felt like my legs were loaded up with bricks. The feeling persisted for the first 6 miles back, then finally dissipated. Once my legs were back, I really enjoyed the feeling of flying down the hills, air on my face, and the beauty around me. When you spend a lot of time swimming and running, there is something magical about the speed of the bike. It feels very freeing.

I'm saying 43 miles because Sean's GPS said 44 miles...
We finished strong and were extremely surprised to see that we had maintained a 3:35 mile pace, with an average speed of 16.66 mph. I was not expecting this because I had been focusing purely on distance, not worrying about my speed. At some points I felt downright slow, so the decent pacing was a pleasant surprise.

There are several things I've done differently on the past two rides that I think have made a positive difference in performance. First, I am focusing on doing a proper warm up and cool down, which I had always slacked on. For the first two miles or so, I take a very easy pace with low gears to warm up my legs, and when I hit that spot on the way back I do the same to finish the ride--slowly decreasing pace and using easier gears to allow my legs to cool down gradually. It feels good and I think it helps with tightness in my legs and overall fatigue.

Second, I have really put the microscope on my pre-and during-ride nutrition. Almost passing out scared me, so it has been a focus. I make sure to eat a good, healthy meal with carbs and protein a couple of hours before the ride, and I pack a Bonk Breaker Bite bar and an energy gel to take with me. For the 30-mile ride I ate the bar at around 16 miles and took the gel at 25 miles (although I think it was unnecessary), and for the ride yesterday I did the first half on my turkey sandwich, taking a gel at the turnaround point. I ate the Bonk bar after the ride to encourage glycogen storage in my muscles.

We also invested in bigger water bottles, because obsessively rationing your hydration is stressful and our previous bottles just were not giving us enough. We've been using one bottle of water and one bottle of HEED carb/electrolyte drink and it seems to work like a charm. I drink half the bottle of water, then switch to the HEED for the middle of the ride, then return to water toward the end.

These changes have definitely improved my performance and nearly erased the pervasive fatigue I had been feeling. You live and you learn. And you ride 40 MILES!

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