TIME TO START CRAMMING.
Training, that is. Since I was going to miss my run yesterday, and I was off work Friday, and that's about when I found out about the Steelhead race, I ran 7.5 Friday and then biked 8 miles. I was tired. It was hot. I had had a long week. Wah.
Yesterday was just a short run because of the race I volunteered at, and then was out of town for a family graduation. Today, then, was a planned bike. Initially, I had thought about doing 4o miles on the Musketawa Trail, a 49.50 mile trail, there and back. I did the whole trail a couple of times last year, and maybe 3 the year before. Its fairly flat, goes through 3 different counties, and has long stretches that are hot and windy. But the scenerey is very pleasant to the eye, as you can see from a picture from their website. Doesn't really do it justice, but I wasn't about to carry a camera for 40 miles. Except that I didn't do 40 miles. I did the whole thing.
I didn't exactly hurry out of the house, even though I woke up early. I still wanted to linger over coffee, read blogs, update my blog, and just generally take my time. I hadn't had one morning to just do nothing in weeks. I happened to read Pirate's blog, and it seemed very appropriate for my present situation. She sounds just as nervous about her upcoming race as I am about Steelhead, but she is far more trained than I.
I dragged my feet until almost 8 am and then had to hustle around, mistakenly thinking it was 9, mainly to get the thing done and to try to not get done in by the heat. It was already 80 degrees at 8 am, and while it still felt cool and not muggy, I knew by the time I got done I would be riding in a sauna. And I really wanted to run after. Correction: I really needed to run after.
Forty miles and then I'll just run to the 1 mile mark and back. Voice in my head says, no you won't. But I have to. But you won't. We'll see.
The last time I was at the trail, the place was packed--there were cars overflowing the parking lot, across the street, on a farmer's property, etc. Today, just a few. It was early, but not that early by the time I got there, after 8:30. So I had my choice of spots to park. I did think it might be crowded by the time I was done though. I got ready to go, taking two water bottles, both half frozen, and a fanny pack filled with stuff to eat, my cell phone, keys, and gum, an essential ingredient for me. Forty miles.
Off I went, at a very leisurely 12.9 mph. Not hurrying here! Started doing some math in my head: 13 mph x 40 miles = about 3 hours. I'm sure I will go faster--at some point--I hope! I have to confess, when I am out there by myself, I do not want to ride hard or hurry usually. Heck, I don't want to ride hard or hurry even when I do go with others! I just don't want to end up in their dust.
So a lot of time was spent thinking of the race, what my splits would need to be to finish the whole thing in the time allotted, what I was likely to do, constantly coming to the conclusion there was no way it would happen. Its not really that I don't want to do the race. I just really don't feel competent to finish in 8 hours. And if truth be known, I really don't want to have to train hard enough to make sure I finish in 8 hours, even if it were possible to cram all that in in the next 6 weeks.
Then my thoughts drifted to wanting to do the Block 58 triathlon on July 1. 58 is the number of miles covered in the race. I'm not sure what the cutoff is, but with the bike being 35 miles and the run being 7.8, that alone will take me probably 4 hours to complete, not counting the swim which is 1500 meters. And then transitions, and, etc....
Being out there alone--and I was virtually alone today--for that long gives you a lot of time to reflect and be honest with yourself. Generally, I wasn't breaking any speed records today, but I felt okay. And the heat wasn't a factor for a long time. For once, the trail wasn't crowded with rollerbladers, families with wandering kids on bikes, people walking dogs with long leashes, hoochies with shorts so skimpy I could see way too much, dorks on lawsmowers, etc.. It was mostly me. Oh, I did see a few weirdos and the Werewolf from London in biker gear when I entered Muskegon County, as is usual, but it was very quiet out there. Hot and quiet. Maybe the fact it was an ozone action day scared them off? But didn't they say we should ride our bikes on these days? No matter, I was glad to not have company.
Once I passed the next trailhead at 13 miles, I started debating how much farther to go to get 40 miles. Well, duh! I have to go 20. Thankfully, my computer zeroed out today, so for once I knew exactly how far I had gone.
And then, once I reached 20 miles, I had to admit it was only another 4.75 to the end, so it made no sense to turn back, only to go to the end. So I did. And when I checked my time for the 24.75 miles, it was still under 2 hours (I can't remember exactly).
At the turnaround point, I took a break and drank the rest of one bottle of water, which was no longer frozen and getting warmer by the minute (yech! I hate warm water) and ate a bar, made a call to my daughter to arrange to pick up the kids later, and then decided to head back. Except I had to go to the bathroom bad and there was nowhere to go. No place. No bushes. No hiding spots. Nothing but traffic on the main road where the trail ended and the wide open trail with no shade. Yikes. I can't make it all the way back. What to do, what to do. I just can't go on the bike. I just can't ruin my shoes and my seat, and get my chain all yukked up. No way. No how.
What I had to do then was ride a little further, finally coming upon some shady areas with lots of trees and bushes lining the trail. And then I just had to take my chances, back off the trail, and quickly squat and go. I no sooner finished and got back on my bike when a couple rode by. Whew! Close call, and note to self about how to pee on the trail and not be seen.
After that, I decided to stop--completely--every 5 or so miles and drink water. It was getting hotter, and while I can drink on the bike easily enough, I know that stepping down, even for just a moment, usually refreshes the legs. I thought I might need it today.
I was also happily grateful that my Polar bottle was still ice cold, and after I reached the 30 or so mile mark, the cold water tasted wonderful. On and on I pedaled, hardly seeing anyone today, which was surprising. And every 5 or so miles I stopped for my water break. It only lasted a few seconds, but was so much more enjoyable being able to stop.
By the time I reached Ravenna, it meant only 13 miles more to go. But here, the miles in my mind dragged. My time was good though. I figured I might be able to get done with the whole thing under 3:45. I was getting sore though: my neck and shoulder had bothered me once I reached 20 miles, and the throbbing was incessant. I went from aero to upright to aero to one handed. I really have noticed that with a lighter bike though my fatigue level is less, and I go longer before my neck and shoulder are in constant discomfort. I can also ride one handed, something I couldn't do with a heavier bike. And the pedalling is easier, even if I'm not that much faster. But still, it is something that gets to be tiring and distracting. And worse yet, my water was now getting lukewarm. To me, lukewarm water is not refreshing, leaving me craving for something cold: a cool pool, a lake, the ocean, a big bucket of icewater, a puddle, anything cool to drink or cool off with! My pace was starting to slip too, and I had to struggle to keep my pace in the 14 mph range, what I figured I needed to do to be in the 4 hour range for 56 miles. A flat course may seem easier, but it is constant pedalling, constant pulling, constant spinning and digging in to reach a desired pace. There is no coasting or letup. For 50 miles. For nearly 4 hours. I get tired of it.
So as not to drag this out mile by mile, the last 7 miles were interminable in my mind, yet my time was still within goal. I wanted to be done! If I was going crazy in less than 4 hours, how would I ever be able to tolerate and complete something that would take me, most likely, 8 hours?? The math didn't add up. I'm still not convinced I can pull this off, but I will say this: I am not going into this race thinking I might not make it. I am only going into this race thinking I will do the best I can and try my best to get done in the 8 hour time limit. I don't know how I will do this yet, but it will be part of the game plan. I cannot go into this with a defeatist attitude. I must think only that I will do the best I can.
My time today? 3:43, my fastest ever for this course!
It was way too hot to run after. I pretty much knew that wouldn't happen. But I did take my grandsons to the pool and swam 1/4 mile and then did some pool running, which I was happy enough to equate to a mile of running. And now I must get something to eat and RELAX!