Sunday, February 15, 2009

Character Building 101

In my other life, I coach beginning marathoners through AustinFit, a subdivision of USA Fit. Since I've run 12 marathons and two ultras (50K), I feel I have a good depth of experience to draw on. Translation....I've made all the stupid mistakes and can warn the others to do as I say and not as I do. The Austin Marathon was earlier today. I saw a lot of people I know, and a lot more that I didn't know. They all were an inspiration in their enthusiasm and energy. Whether is was your first marathon or your 30th, well done.

Now that AustinFit has wrapped up for another running season, I was able to join my T3 brethren for a bit of ridin' and runnin' this weekend. Saturday's menu included an out and back 60 mile ride on Fitzhugh Road, a lightly traveled Ranch Road that meanders out to Johnson City, a small town west of Austin. Picture a ride that feels like it is uphill in both directions. Good times.

I had never been past the intersection of Ranch Road 12 and Fitzhugh, at least not for any significant distance. This was going to be uncharted territory. The weather this week in Austin was great. We had a little rain but the temperatures had come up nicely. I woke up Saturday and the temp was 53 degrees. By the time I left the house, it was 51. This did not bode well...surely it would warm up into the 60's. I searched around the various clothes baskets strewn around the house, looking for my leggings. No luck. Oh well, it'll warm up. Or so I thought.

My plan was to ride with the 18-19 mile per hour pace group for this ride. We weren't supposed to hammer it. Coaches orders. I was looking forward to a day in the saddle with my training buddies. I reached our jump off point and quickly threw on another layer and some gloves to keep out the chill. The temp in my car dipped into the high 40's on my way there. It'll warm up, no worries.

To my dismay, when I arrived, the 18-19 mile group had already left. All that remained was the crushers. We set off, into a steady north wind that would be in our face or cutting across us most of the day. I took my place at the back of the pack and tried to hang on. That lasted about 10 miles. They gradually rode off into the sunset, leaving me and Brian to fend for ourselves. At least Brian and I could catch up. Then at 20 miles, Brian turned back. Bummer. I was all by myself, to deal with the remaining hills and wind on Fitzhugh.

I was aiming for the 30 mile mark so I could turn around. I'd already been softened up by a few testy hills on the ride so far. Mile 25 came and the hills became truly disagreeable. I watched my odometer kick over to 29 miles covered and I saw the crushers returning from the turn around. Only a little further. We were supposed to turn around once we reached a cattle guard in the road. That's great, only it's at the bottom of a screaming downhill. That means...that's right genius, you've gotta go back up the way you came.

I've gone slower on a bike than I did climbing outta that hole yesterday, but not by much. I saw 9 mph, 8 mph, 6 mph...this was gonna be a long one. My Garmin told me later that there were some sections that reached 15-16% in grade. A thigh burner. I tried to find a gear I could spin and tried to stay in the moment and deal with the next obstacle...good training for the many expected and unexpected things that can happen during an Ironman.

I climbed out and kept working. I actually past a few of the early group riders. The going got easier after RR 12. I had hoped to cover the 60 miles in a little over 3 hours. I reached my car in 3:35. Discouraging to say the least, but that's Fitzhugh. Coach Mo called it a character builder and it was. The temperature never got much over 50 degrees. Mark Murray's got's some splainin' to do.

To wrap up the weekend, I treated myself to 14 miles on the Town Lake Trail today. Two 7 miles loops. With the marathon going on, I had the trail to myself for the most part. I managed an overall 7:35 pace for the run. Pretty respectable after the previous day's ride. Hopefully this weekend's training "deposit" with pay off come June.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Poor-man's feet warmers and 620 @ 15 mph

I'm a notorious wimp when it comes to biking in cold temperatures. For me, anything below about 50 degrees seems cold. Mainly it is my feet and hands that get particularly cold and make the entire bike ride miserable. I have toe-warmers that cover the front of my cycling shoes, but they don't block the wind effectively. Enter the poor-man's foot warmers.

I was on the verge of buying shoe covers or booties so I can avoid another marathon session on the bike trainer, climbing the walls. Jack Murray (Jack And Adams Bike Shop Rules - Shameless Plug) suggested a simple solution that would get me through to spring without having to spring for the booties.

This morning I geared up for my cold weather ride (it was 48). I had a long-sleeve heat shirt, a jersey, arm-warmers, leggings and gloves (I told you, I'm a wimp). To keep my feet warm I put on thick socks and then stuck my feet into an plastic HEB bag. I then put the shoe on over them. Wah-lah. Instant warmth for the feet. I rode 53 miles and I could feel my toes the entire time. Thanks Jack. That brings me to the second part of my post.

I intended to do an out and back from my house down 620 to Anderson Mill and then out Parmer for a little cruise, nothing hard. My plan was to go out about 1 1/2 hours (Approx 25-30 miles) and turn around. The ride started off pretty tough. There's good hill coming out of my neighborhood and my legs were a little dead from yesterday's run. But the hill was a little harder than it should've been. At the top of the hill, I checked my bike, the front brake was rubbing. DOH!!!

The wind seemed very calm and I was cruising along nicely, a little too nicely, I was to learn later. Going out Parmer was a snap, I was cruising up the hills at 22 mph, boy those indoor T3 cycling classes are really paying off, I thought. The only wind seemed to be blowing in from the west. I made my turn around at 26.5 miles in a little over an hour and twenty minutes. This is great. Then I turned around.

I was greeted with a fairly strong Southwest wind. It became clear in short order that I would beat up against the wind for the entire 26 miles back to the house. When you're in a constant headwind you just have to find a gear you can spin comfortably and deal with it. I made it down Parmer and Anderson Mill over to 620. The wind was coming down 620 like a wind tunnel. I was dead into it at this point. Rather than spinning out in the small ring, I decided to try grinding it out in the big ring, my thought being that the wheels will go just that much further with each revolution of the pedals. I looked down at my speed....14 mph...a little downhill..17 mph...flat....15 mph. It was a disagreeable experience. I ground it out and got back to the house right at 3 hours. It took an hour and 40 minutes to get back. I averaged 18 mph for the day. Good times.

I keep telling myself, I've ridden in worse conditions. Like Ironman Arizona 2007 when the strength of the wind dislodged a "tumbleweed" the size of a Volkswagen and took out a rider. More of a tumble-bush. So keep your head's down and keep riding.