A lot happened this weekend, this epic weekend of Ironman Coeur d'Alene training. I was trying to make some sense of it Saturday afternoon, driving home from Frazier Park (an hour north of Los Angeles) after the Heartbreak 100 century ride. See, I was feeling pretty damn good about my performance there. Not because I was particularly fast on the bike, but because I had enough energy left AFTER the bike to run for 50 minutes at what would have been close to a 4:30 marathon time. That doesn't seem like much, but A) it would be my marathon PR and B) that came after climbing nearly 10,000 feet on a chilly day. Speaking of chilly, it was so freakin' cold that I bought an extra pair of arm warmers and used them as calf warmers! I rode the course with an undershirt, a jersey, a fleece jacket, a wind breaker, leg warmers, arm warmers and arm warmers on my legs.
Back to the ride itself. What changed for me? What worked? Why? The trick for me was actually listening to my coach and walking (GASP) for a full minute after every nine minutes of running. Going slower to ultimately go faster. It never makes sense to me but yet it works. In fact it made a huge difference, especially on a run that featured nearly 500 feet of climbing in the first two miles.
I had broken with my tradition, finally, of hammering on a bike ride only to fade on the run. Instead, I stayed within myself, tough as it was to be passed, and conserved energy. Still, I managed just over seven hours on a tough course -- which really wouldn't have been too much slower than what I would have managed going a more aggressively.
Which brings me back to my car ride home. I was flipping through radio stations, done reflecting on the day and needing a mental break. Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" came on. Huge smile. Radio dial cranked up. I had my new mantra:
"I've kicked the habit Shed my skin This is the new stuff I go dancing in, we go dancing in Oh won't you show for me And I will show for you Show for me, I will show for you"
If you saw a dude screaming and dancing in his car on the 118 Freeway around 6 p.m., that was me. I know it's a little corny, and I know the reasons behind the actual lyrics (I think it's about drug addiction) are very serious. But for me, on that drive home, I felt like I had finally kicked my own stupid racing habits and was ready to take the next step forward in my tri-career. It felt really good. Like if I take care of myself -- if I show for you -- then my body will show for me, and my results will be better come race day.
The rest of Saturday and into Sunday morning was spent recovering from the ride and run. While Heartbreak 100 isn't nearly as difficult as the Mulholland Challenge, it still took its toll -- most notably on my outer right knee area. I woke up stiff and sore, and definitely not feeling like running for 2.5 hours. I texted Gerardo to ask if I could skip the run, as much because I liked the confident feeling I had from the day prior and didn't want to be dragged back to that dark place of self-doubt following another sloggy bonk-fest.
Coach wasn't having any of that.
"Push through" was essentially the only text I got back. A man of few words, Gerardo is. But he knows which are the most important words.
So push through is what I did. For 2.5 hours exactly in the Calabasas area. Granted, I only climbed roughly the same elevation as yesterday's 50-minute run. But, once again the walk a minute every mile routine paid huge dividends. My heart-rate never felt out of hand and I'm confident that if I can stay within myself on the bike ride that I can enjoy a marathon PR by a long shot.
As we all know though, Ironman can throw anything at you on race day. So, I'll be prepared for that. But today, following the run AND a 3,000-yard swim immediately thereafter, I felt refreshed. Not exhausted. But happy. Almost joyous. I got through the weekend. I learned about myself. I learned that if I hydrate constantly (five full bottles on the Saturday bike, two full bottles for today's run), stay cool (literally), pop lots of Endurolytes, and stay focused and measured on the bike, I can have a GREAT day at Coeur d'Alene.
I didn't feel this way at the peak of my training last year heading into IMAZ. Granted, we still have one more giant training week left, but if I can maintain this outlook and simply smarter training then I'll be quite confident and prepared.
A wiser athlete. More humble. But I'm carrying a sledgehammer filled with confidence and experience.
29 days and counting.