Freshman, Triathlon Tech University

Waking up this morning sucked. And it wasn't even before 7!

Quick note: I've got the Upstairs Neighbors from Hell. You'll be hearing about the inconsiderate mother and her 3-year-old son from time-to-time, like now, for instance. I'll call the mom "Trudy" and the son "Bam-Bam." Imagine hearing an earthquake directly above your head any time between 5:30-7:30 a.m. and it continuing intermittently throughout the day until 9:30 p.m. 24/7/365. Yep, that's my life. Which is a blessing and a curse since A) it gets me out of bed early to train but B) I'm constantly suffering from a lack of quality rest, evidenced typically by puffy raccoon eyes.
This morning was no different, although I tried a new tactic where I slept on the couch in my living room to avoid the usual bedroom barrage. That bought me until 6:30...when Bam-Bam ran full-steam into the living room and sailed across the floor in his tricycle. "FML," as they say.
Needless to say, I wasn't my usual energetic self when I put my car in auto-pilot and headed to Old Agoura and the Cheseboro Park trails off, well, Cheseboro. I met up with my coach, Gerrardo (pictured), and my fellow teammates -- most of whom I was meeting for the first time. It felt like the first day of school, except for once I was starring as the strange new kid.
We were to run 10-12 miles, which I hadn't done since the Agoura Half-Marathon in March 2008. The most I had run since then was nine miles, and that was just last week in Central Park (Reservoir loop 4tw!). But here was the catch, we were going to run at a 10:00 pace and keep our heart rates below 150bpm. And, we were trail running, which I hadn't really done before to this degree. Nevertheless, it seemed easy enough, I figured, as I have been used to training the old-fashioned way: Progressively killing myself a bit more with each workout until my body demanded a rest day. Apparently, that's not the best way to train. Wish I had gotten that memo sooner.
I started off fine for the first few miles. Heart rate was low and I was keeping up with this seasoned group of triathletes that included prior Ironman finishers and a pair of speedy sprinting sisters. I even had the audacity to remark that this was the easiest run I had ever been on.
Gradually, Gerrardo and gang pulled away. It seems that their speed at 150bpm is slightly greater than mine. By a wide margin. But I kept at it, meandering alone (about a minute behind) through the cold, dusty hills that still manage to showcase their beauty despite being the highest brush fire hazard imaginable.
My tardiness turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I entered a creekbed to find a deer and her little Bambi grazing quietly about 20 yards away. Mama deer and I locked eyes and had a brief staring contest before Mama realized I wasn't worth paying further attention to. She went on with her meal and I continued my steady-as-she-goes jaunt.
While this was the high point of my morning, a moment of Zen amidst about two-and-a-half hours of peaceful contemplation, the low point occurred 80% through the run when I failed my first test administered by Professor Gerrardo. After 9.5 miles, we came to a literal fork in the road, at which point I was given the option of heading back to the car with a respectable 10 miles under my belt, or sucking it up for 2.5 more miles to make it an even 12.
I may have been sore, but my heart rate was holding between 149-152 and I had more in the tank. I wanted to show these folks they weren't dealing with a softie. I wasn't a total noob.
Wrong answer.
The final stretch was almost entirely uphill, to the point where I had to walk most of it to keep my HR in Zone 2. When we reached the top of the first crest, I called out to Gerrardo and playfully chided him for not telling me about the ascents. To which he responded, "that's because you failed your first test of triathlon training: peer pressure."
And so, on my first official run with the crew, I was taken to school.
I'm now a true freshman at Triathlon Tech University, and a victim of some light-hearted hazing.
But I ran two more miles than expected, and although the back of my left knee is sore and I've got a blister or two on my toes, I'm in good spirits.
Hazing never felt better.
359 days and counting.