“Please tell me this is automatic.”
“Sorry, no, it’s powered by morons.”
Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.
I am just about ready to put this week to bed. I can tell that I am feeling the effects of An Appropriate Training Stimulus – I am crabby, tired, hungry all the time, and have missed only one workout. Yesterday it was supposed to rain. In Colordo when it rains it gets quite cold, so I wore long underwear, a hat, and a windbreaker. Then, because in actual fact it was eighty-nine degrees and humid, I had a thirteen mile run in my own private
Hell greenhouse. So far this week I have fallen asleep:
- In the backseat of my car in the grocery store parking lot.
- Leaning against the fireplace in a rental cottage on Cape Cod
- Lying in the dirt next to a campfire, head on an old charred log.
The final indication, to me, that things must be going as planned is the following actual excerpt from an email I sent to Paulo:
“That swim workout was hard – I threw up in my mouth a little – but I got through it”
A full race report is forthcoming on these pages, but in the meantime I have an observation to share:
When you lead a race wire to wire, the photographers have a ton of chances to take pictures of you. And they use them all. So, wow, lot of pictures of Will. Maybe I can send one to Amy’s friend from InKind.org, who gave me that awesome, hideous racing shirt.
The quick race report is, I ran a big PR of 1:16:05, which somehow made it into the official results as 1:16:46. There was a very exciting motorcycle escort. My mom and I were back at the church retreat well before lunch, and today I am still a bit sore. More later!
I cruised down to Falmouth on Saturday morning, having spent Friday unpacking and trying to re-route the rubber bands on my powermeter.Â Good times.Â Â Â Three days in a row with less than five hours of sleep left me feeling pretty ordinary, but I stopped on the road somewhere in southern massachusetts for two cans of red bull and some advil and pretty soon I felt halfway human again.
I got to the race early and had a mellow warmup.Â I was feeling the pressure of having won this race in each of my last three attempts and really wanted to make it four.Â So I had a bit of a reconnoiter, with a lap of the bike course and a lap of the run course.Â The latter had changed since ’05, when I ran something like 8:42 for the opening “2 miles”.Â Then some water, since it was hot as hell, and a nice chat with Paul Miller who was racked next to me.Â A very nice guy, he noted that he’d spent Friday moving and I figured we were more or less even on that score since I’d spent Thursday doing the same.Â Then they delayed the start for half an hour, and we were off!
As I’ve mentioned before, the pacing strategies on display among age-group men are interesting and almost certainly suboptimal.Â But we all race for fun, and it is for sure important to do what feels right pacingwise.Â For optimum performance, it might be a good idea to try to make an even pace feel right, but I know that optimum performance doesn’t correlate perfectly withÂ optimum fun, so “correct” pacing will be a little different for everyone.Â Paul and I mopped up the early leaders a bit before the mile mark and then I took a small gap into T1.
I got a bit flummoxed leaving transition but otherwise had a decent time of it and even got my shoes velcroed pretty quickly.Â Then – and this was a real weird experience for me – I built a huge lead on the bike.Â Awesome!Â I got into T2 with about a minute and a half lead and more or less held that to the finish.Â The official results have me about 35 seconds slower than my actual time, for some reason, which I mention onlyÂ because it would become something of a theme during my weekend.
After the awards ceremony my mom drove me up to Truro to meet the church youth group.Â I got one of them to wear my pointy superhero helmet, but no pictures yet, sniff.Â Colleen had me dog the lead group of boys on my fixed gear, which was a nice challenge, especially going downhill.Â A great day, great race, and a great ride.Â I stayed up with the yoots and their campfire until about 2am, and then crashed.Â You know, because I had to get my beauty sleep for a race the next day.
Well it’s my second to last night in Colorado Springs for a few months and a bittersweet time.Â I brought Steph to the airport this morning – she’s off to Greece for three weeks – and came home to the large pile of packing still to do.Â Ugh.
So here’s what’s going on in the meantime: I’m going to Boston to visit my family on Thursday.Â This weekend is my old church’s 25th annual retreat, and my 25th time attending.Â Not that I’m the posterchild for maintaining your roots, but for whatever reason there are some things in life that I don’t feel like giving up even for a little while.Â Also I get all nostalgic and weepy when Steph is not around.Â She has been gone for eleven hours now, hmm, yes, check back with me in a week or two.
The other thing that I’m doing this weekend is testing my fitness at two races.Â Then I’ll have two weeks to chill out in Boston, visiting my family and training a lot, before I deliver myself for a
summary ass-kicking very competitive race in Maryland.
Then back to Colorado.Â Steph and I will be in Boulder all summer, and I will be staying through the fall to do my buildup for Ironman Florida.Â I planned to race there in ’05 and ’06 as well, but circumstances prevented me from actually doing it.Â So this year I’m Making The Commitment, so to speak, and I’m going to hole up in boulder all through the fall and train like a madman.Â Which is probably exactly what I will be.
This whole plan just begs for a little elaboration … which I will maybe get to, after I pack 500 more boxes.
I rode my bike five hours yesterday with an average power of 220 watts.Â I was pretty proud of this until last night, when I realized that that’s 1.1 kilowatt-hours, aka just about eleven cents worth of electricity.Â Bah!
Well, maybe my evening run can count for something too.
With a week’s worth of allergy medicine, and a new asthma inhaler, I have been feeling a bit like a superhero for the past few days.Â I won’t lie, this is pretty awesome, but I am wary of it.Â Over the past few months my health has been teasing me, giving me a couple of weeks of solid training to get my hopes up,Â then dashing those hopes with a sinus infection, a head cold,Â or a touch of hantavirus.
So I am approaching health warily – forty-seven times bitten, forty-eight times shy, as they say.Â There is a malady among cyclists and hikers called “climbers syndrome”.Â People who have been riding or hiking uphill for long enough begin to distrust any downhill section of trail, knowing that any elevation they lose will only have to be reclaimed soon afterward.Â Any crest can only be a false summit; any corner will inevitably reveal a new hill to scale.Â I feel that same way about being healthy, which is too bad, because I’m not enjoying feeling healthy as much as I want to.
On the other hand, as I said, I do feel like a superhero.Â Every morning when I wake up, I think “Oh, OK, NOW I am healthy, wow, this feels good, much better than yesterday!”Â And – cautiously – I push a little harder in my workouts, feel a little better.Â I must be the most circumspect superhero on earth.
Also, I got a new bike helmet!Â Pointy, eh?
Haven’t written in a while because I am a big self-pitying lump. It turns out that staying positive ( sorry, Staying Positive, it’s not just a proper noun it’s a book title ) is just about as hard as any other thing you might try to get better at. Ugh! All these things to practice! It would be nice to have something that wasn’t so goal-driven to do. I do know that
stayin Staying Positive is not really something you’re supposed to try to be good at, and that in fact like many head-things it’s counterproductive to try really hard to be good at it. But at the same time, how do you improve except by trying? It’s a true conundrum.
I think that I might, finally, after many months, have begun to get the unnaturally-fragile-health thing under control. I have ne drugs to keep my asthma and allergies (allergies! who knew?) under better control. Also strict, explicit instructions to use one of those god-awful sinus washers as often as possible. So I may not stay healthy but darn it if they ever have a contest to see whose nostrils are the cleanest I am going to WIN, baby!
So I am back in to bread and butter training this week, feeling more or less good and cautiously optimistic about my chances of staying healthy for the foreseeable future.
A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
It is taper time again, far too soon after just a few days of solid training.Â Maybe this post will help remind me that I’m not invincible after races even though I feel like I am, and that I am invincible before races even though I feel like I’m not.
This morning, five days out from my longest race in over a year and less than fifty hours removed from life best swim, bike, and run performances, I’m nursing a psychosomatic head cold.Â Which is to say I feel like death, but only when I think about racing on Sunday.Â I will get past it.Â That said, it does suck and I hate it.Â You spend all this time dealing with and preparing for the physical challenges that race day will bring, and even some time preparing for the mental challenges that race day will bring.Â But who prepares for the mental challenges that taper brings?Â Should training even include that, or is that giving too much credence to something that’s “just in your head”?Â Fortunately I’ll probably never know.
I am still learning to embrace, or at least accept, the physical pain of training.Â Not the “oh god, my legs hurt, wish I could slow down” pain but the more or less constant ache, slightly lightheaded foggy feeling of never really being at your best.Â The full-body throbbing when you’re lying down, the fact that it takes upwards of an hour into a workout to start feeling good.Â These are all warning signs – “You are near the edge” – and I understand that they are to be cautiously embraced.
One day I will have taught myself not to worry about things I cannot control.Â I practice, maybe not more than everybody else, but as much and as carefully as I can.Â I know there is no such thing as 100% prepared, and that “as ready as I’ll ever be” is an unidentifiable state.Â But the mental difficulty, the uncertainty, is still a huge issue for me though.Â I worry about not performing up to my capability, not being aware of my limits, making a stupid pacing mistake, making a stupid eating mistake, and making a really stupid equipment mistake.
And I’ve gotten a lot better at dealing with these uncertainties in training.Â I’ve gotten through any number of tough workouts in the past few months simply by knowing I could do them.Â If I stopped to think about why, I’d have no reason.Â No data to back up my belief, nothing that you could say would indicate a breakthrough – and I know better than to stop and think about why.Â There is no why, there’s only this belief and confidence.Â I don’t know where it comes from or how to summon it, so on days when it isn’t there I’m shit out of luck.
Ah well.Â Taper is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?