Monday, October 12, 2009


The frost was on the pumpkin, literally, when we headed out on our bikes Sunday morning. It was supposed to be my last LOOONG bike ride before the big race, four weeks out.
I had been whining all last week about the predicted weekend weather, but then suddenly things started looking better with the rain forecast clearing before Sunday. The temperature, however, got considerably colder.
Friday morning I started out on my last longest run, 18 miles, around 5 am, with the intention to run 3.5-4 hours, which I did. When I started, it was about 52 degrees with a light mist. After about 45 minutes, it started really raining, and continued on for the next 3 hours of my run, as well as through the rest of the day. Because I was determined to get this done, it didn't bother me too much, until about the last hour. I had mapped out three 1.5 mile routes around my house so I could run out and back and get water at my house, which I placed in a cooler in the driveway, along with some gu. I really hate carrying water and can't carry enough anyway. The idea of running long runs and having to carry water or circle back to the car has pretty much kept me running only around 2.5-2.75 hours max, and I really felt I needed to go farther. My planned 20 mile training run 2 weeks before didn't totally happen because I had been sick the weekend before and still wasn't up to par enough to pull off the entire distance. Same with the week before last. It seemed if it wasn't the weather, it was that ear problem and head and nasal congestion I've been suffering with. It was difficult to breathe for about 2 weeks. Friday was my last ditch effort to put that plan into action. Also, as is my usual training MO, when I reach the desperation point in the training--meaning no more time to fool around--I get the job done.
For the most part, the run in the rain wasn't bad until I got to the last hour when I had to use the bathroom. Once I stepped into the house, I was totally aware how wet I was, and the only thing that would do was change all my clothes into dry stuff. It felt so much better, I couldn't believe the difference in my disposition, along with getting 10 extra pounds of wet clothes off. Everything was soaked through and dripping.
After that, I had to go to work. I was hoping for a fairly relaxed day--meaning no running up and down the steps all day, but that didn't happen. From the minute I got there, it was high speed until after 5 pm. I can't remember how many times I climbed the flight of steps from where I work to where the attorneys I work with are located, but I'm guessing at least 10 times. And then I was on my feet for probably a total of 2 more hours. By the time I left work, my legs pretty much felt like wood. But Saturday was only going to be a swim day so I could spend time doing family things, only, of course, to free up my day Sunday to spend biking.
Saturday night the thermometer dropped into the 20s, and by the time I got up Sunday morning, a hard frost had settled over the world, leaving tender plants frozen and done for the season. And we were going to bike in this stuff.
The challenge then was to dress warmly enough to not freeze to death, yet be able to maneuver gears and brakes on the bikes. I had driven around one area where we have biked on the bike path numerous times and found several "flat" roads I thought would make Don happier than the trail did, especially when he was giving his time and comfort to go out and freeze on a long bike ride with me.
I finally ended up wearing long underwear, tights, and bike shorts over that, as well as ankle guards (wrist guards I put on my ankles) to keep any exposed area warm, shoe booties, a turtleneck wickaway shirt, a long underwear shirt over that, and a bike shirt, along with my new bike jacket and 2 pair of fleece gloves. On my head I wore a bandana scarf and an ear band under my helmet. The one thing I hadn't counted on was how cold my face would be! I almost wished I had on a face mask. My fingers were so cold the first 5 miles they hurt, but after a while either they warmed up or numbness set in and I didn't notice as much. My legs were pretty warm, and my upper body felt okay. My new jacket has longer sleeves so no part of my wrist is exposed like in my other jackets and has a higher neck so no air got down the neck.
Don on the other hand only wore one pair of tights, one pair of gloves, and only a double layer on the upper body. If I'd known this, I would have advised him to dress warmer. By 15 miles he was suffering. I talked him into going farther, because there was no way I could cut it that short. Not that I wasn't uncomfortable, but as long as the sun was out, it was tolerable. Except when we rode into the wind. And of course there was wind. No ride I've done has gone without wind this year. Or hills. We got all of it: wind, hills, and extreme cold. By 25 miles, he was really suffering, but he continued on for me, up and down the hills, turning into and out of the wind. And while I had done some scouting around the day before looking for fairly flat roads, its funny just how "flat" those flat roads aren't when you're on a bike. The worst part, unfortunately, was every good, fairly flat road always ended up at a dead end on a dirt road. Every single one. Somehow I missed that the day before too. It was getting frustrating! I really wanted to avoid getting on the bike trail, but after 3 hours of dead ends, hills, and wind, we finally headed back on the trail because Don just couldn't stand it any longer. We still had another 7 miles to go before we got to the car, so it was about 3:20 when we stopped.
The plan was for Don to sit and thaw out while I did some more mileage. The problem was, once I stopped, I realized just how miserably cold I was. My fingers would hardly function, the little bit of sweating I did from all the layers was causing me to shake uncontrollably from the cold seeping in, and I was almost unable to eat anything because my jaws were so locked up from the cold. I thought if I warmed up for a little while I could go on, but the longer I sat in the car, the harder I shook, and my fingertips were all numb to the point of tingling. After 15 minutes of this, I decided I was not going to be able to go on further.
I tried, I really tried. I was disappointed and angry at myself for getting this far into the training and still feeling I needed one more ride, only to put us at risk of hypothermia in doing so.
So the question now is: When is enough really enough? If after dozens of rides of 50-100 miles (only one 100 however, and four 75+ mile rides), dozens of rides with wind and hills, dozens of runs of 12-18 miles in duration, dozens of runs in the heat, cold, rain, and dark, along with swimming nearly 100 miles this year, with longest swim of 2.25 miles and two other 2 mile swims, if that isn't enough, or doing a half IM and 3 Olympic distance tris, along with 2 stand alone half marathons, with another this weekend, then I guess I haven't done my training. If someone can tell me without hesitation that race day will be in the 30s with high wind, that the course will be steep climbs for 80 or more miles, or that it will rain the entire way (and I realize none of this is guaranteed NOT to happen), if that's the case, then I guess I haven't done enough training. If on the other hand what I have done, along with my determination, will at least get me to the finish line in November, then I'm hoping its enough.



You know.... my 100F heat index weather doesn't look so bad now. Thanks for cheering me up with your weather report....

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I think its enough, we cant control what mother nature throws at us, most would have skipped the workout or bring it to a dreadmill, way to stick it out. It was more or less a mental toughness training session then a endurance one. We all need thoughs to help us in a race when the race gets rough.

Missy said...

That is the suck and I'm certainly hoping for warmer temps in Nov. I don't mean hot but I want sleeveless and shorts.

Your hill training will pay dividends on that flat course.

Lily on the Road said...

Oh Vickie, I can only hope you will have half decent weather for the Iron. Race day is different from training days, your sheer determination will help you dig deep and become an IRONMAN!

Sunshine said...

The weather has been pretty non-normal for quite a while. A couple of weeks ago we lost a big oak in the wind.
Yesterday we had 3-4 inches of heavy wet snow.
Sure would be nice to have a running-biking season sometime.
Best warm wishes to you.

ShirleyPerly said...

Well, I know for a fact that folks have finished ironman races on much less. A lot of it, I think depends on the day as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete, and his/her confidence level, not only in handling the distance but also handling things when they don't go the way they'd hoped. Personally, I think you'll handle the weather and distance at B2B fine, even if it's pouring rain and very windy, based on what you've done already. Not sure how good you are with fixing flats or other common bike mechanical issues (dropped chain, loosened bolts, etc). If you think you are going to be even close to the cut-off, probably good to practice dealing with those things in the next few weeks.

See you at B2B soon!!

Just_because_today said...

I dont know what what training is appropriate for an IM. You have trained in the worst conditions, hills, wind, rain and so if on race day it is any better, you should be okay.
I wasn't clear if you finished your 20 miles in the rain. If I ever walked in the house, that would be it