Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Go Long" Weekend

As you could have probably guessed, I spent the weekend doing the same things any other aspiring triathlete would be doing seven weeks from race day: riding and running. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have much to report, but these rides and runs had a slightly different to them. For the first time in my three years here in San Francisco, my weekend training sessions did not start from Russian Hill!

Where riding is concerned, the change is not totally significant - instead of riding north on Polk and then west through the Marina along Chrissy Field, I ride west along the Panhandle and north through the Presidio. The route is longer by about a mile, slightly tougher, and includes a few more lights and stop-signs, but definitely serves as a nice change-of-pace after three years of the same old thing.

Saturday's training centerpiece was another 100-mile ride - my eighth weekend century in ten weeks. Company in town (@aadaro) and a friend's house-warming party kept me up and out a little later than usual on Friday night, so I let myself sleep in an extra hour or two the next morning. I ran into "Officer" Mike Peltier at the Mission Cycling meeting point and we set out together, with some of the club in tow. Or so we thought. The bridge turned out to be a dividing force - with both pedestrians (tourists) and cyclists forced to occupy the same space, navigating across as a group turned out to be impossible.

When we looked over our shoulder in Sausalito, there was not a single club-mate in sight. Un-phased, we pressed on. I didn't have a set route in mind, but Mike seemed intent on Pt. Reyes, so we pointed our bikes that direction and tapped out a good pace the whole way, stopping briefly in Nicasio for water.

After a snack in Pt. Reyes, we hit the climb out of Olema and followed the regular roads back toward Fairfax. The sun had some out (at last!), but Mike started flagging. We kept the pace under control and parted ways at the Roastery. Having only sixty miles under my belt, an open afternoon, and fresh legs (after that mostly mellow cruise  to the bakery) decided to tack on some extra climbing; namely, Alpine Dam.

The first stretch of climb up to and past the golf course felt great. So did the little bumps on the way to the Dam itself. Even the brutal, 2.5-mile leg-crusher from the dam to the base of Seven Sisters felt good! But as soon as I turned onto Ridgecrest, I felt my legs starting to liquefy. Seven Sisters hurt.

Fortunately for me, the next twelve miles were almost all down-hill. I turned into Sausalito, fully aware that my gas light was on and I needed to refuel soon. A friend from Mad Marchness, Nick, came up from behind me just before the climb out of Sausalito. When I found it difficult to form the sentences required for conversation, I knew I had to stop. I waved him by, pulled over, and ate everything I had left on me: a Z Bar and a pack of Clif Shot Bloks. After about five minutes, I clipped back in and set about polishing off the final ten miles of my century.

When I pulled in at home around 4:30, I was running low on fuel again. I showered and ate, and ate... and ate some more. After a few hours, a few thousand calories and a few pitchers of margaritas with friends, I finally started to feel normal again. The morals of the story? Pack more food. Eat more food.

I run long (15+ miles) once per week, and until now, I'd been squeezing it into holes in my calendar on Monday mornings. But with only a few long runs left and a lot of pressing responsibilities at work, I decided to shift my long runs from Monday to Sunday. I don't know what this means for the rest of my weekly routine - hopefully nothing! - but I'll figure that out as I go along.

Anyway, I set out this morning for another long one. It was overcast and cool - perfect running weather! Better yet, the new apartment in Alamo Square means I'm super close to Golden Gate Park, and that means a whole lot of brand new roads to explore!

I hit the Panhandle and made a beeline for the coast, cutting through Golden Gate Park and swinging a left onto the Great Highway. Four and a half miles down before I knew it! I hugged the coastline for another few miles before cutting inland and onto Skyline Boulevard and then following Lake Merced until my Garmin beeped to signal my ninth mile. Time to turn around.

Running on new roads was definitely exciting; the crowd, the scenery and the terrain are all just slightly different from what I'm used to - different enough to keep me interested for a few hours on a Sunday morning!

The next four and a half felt just as good as the first nine. My overall pace to this point was almost :45 faster than it'd been on my last long run and about :20 faster than my marathon goal pace. I even hit the 13.1 mark in record (for me) time - beating my best ever half-marathon split by over two minutes. Uh, wow!

The final few miles through the park were an uphill slog, but I wasn't going to let a slight grade ruin one of my best runs ever. When I pulled back into the neighborhood, I was well under the 2 hour, 40 minute goal time I'd set for myself before hitting the road.

Looking back, I definitely felt strong(er than usual) the whole run, or at least until the final mile. This bodes well for race-day; obviously, a light week off is just what I need to run my best. Two or three light weeks should be even better! Even after the run, I felt good... until about an hour later, when the effort finally decided to catch up to me. Perhaps "catch-up to me" is too light a phrase. It didn't just catch up - it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was a post-run zombie for the rest of the afternoon, alternating between trying to nap and trying to eat, and not really succeeding at either.

So... I paid for both of this weekend's long, hard efforts with unpleasant bonks. The fitness is there - and that's super encouraging, this close to race-day - but the nutrition is lacking. Perhaps it's time for... The Diet? Or perhaps I should just make sure I'm putting the right foods (and liquids) in my body the night(s) before these big events.