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.

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