Thursday, May 23, 2013

Training Camp

The sign is no joke: it is located just past a turnoff that is part of the running course for Ironman Lake Placid. It is also about 1/4 mile from where Hilary and I spent last weekend, at a training camp. Hilary and I are not, not, racing IMLP this year, and have no particular desire to do it any other year. But we know people who are, and Hilary's coach was organizing a training weekend for them and invited us along. This is what counts as a fun weekend away for us these days: leave B with the grandparents, then go kick our butts for a few days of hard exercise.

But there are fun things about training camp, too, other than putting in some serious time. Eating, for one: when you are burning 500-1000 cal/hr for a couple hours straight, you have license to eat and snack basically whatever you want. Behold the kitchen table of the rental house:

The other nice thing about training camp: hanging out with a bunch of like-minded athletes who actually do enjoy getting out there and working hard. Especially on the group rides, when you are cycling together, it's nice to chat (when you can) while watching the awesome scenery glide by. Then, when you all regroup at the end of the day for a big meal, you can commiserate and trade war stories of this and that race.

Not technically part of the training camp, it was a part of the whole experience. We ran in the annual Rock-n-Race 5K, which starts and ends at the statehouse, and circles close to our neighborhood. We've run this race before, and keep aiming to outdo ourselves. I was aiming to break 20:00 this year. I didn't quite hit that mark, but I did shave about 30 seconds off last year's time. It was about a second off my PR. Hilary, likewise, made a good improvement over last year's time, but didn't quite hit her goal. Ah well, although we've been doing lots of training, we haven't exactly been training for a race like this - not enough speed work, too much other stuff (ya know, like swimming and biking).

After what seemed like an awfully long time to get cleaned up, finish packing, and say goodbye to B, Hilary and I hit the road around 8:30. It's about 4-1/2 hours to Lake Placid, so it made for quite a late drive. We had some run-ins with the locals in Vermont. Along the way, we almost ran into: one deer crossing the road, two cows sleeping in a ditch alongside a dirt road we got lost on, and one moose ambling up the same pass in the Green Mountains we happened to be on. There was also much confusion trying to get through Middlebury and onto the correct road to take us to the crazy sigmoid bridge that crosses Lake Champlain. I've got enough familiarity with the Lake Placid area that we were able to find the rental house easily enough once we arrived, and promptly crashed into the bunks around 1:30 am

Hilary and I had every intention of sleeping in, then going for a long bike ride on our own. But the rest of the group roused us from bed around 7:30 with their own preparations, so we got our act together and headed out with them. The Ironman course does two, 56-mile loops from the middle of town, past the ski jumps, bomb down a long descent into Keene, head north towards Jay and Upper Jay, west towards Whiteface Mountain, and then south through a gorge and back into town.

Got it? Let's ride!

Aside from one technical mishap (our fastest rider had a chain break in the first mile. he drove into town, got it replaced, and caught up to us by mile 40), the ride was a great. Hilary and I hadn't ever done more than 40 miles before this. It was a nice confidence boost to know that we could bike the full half-iron distance in a reasonable time with a strong group. We didn't bike the whole thing flat out: although our moving time was a touch over three hours, we were gone for nearly four, stopping at major intersections to refuel and regroup. There were plenty of stretches where I felt really good keeping a 20+ mph pace. Drafting behind some of the other riders certainly helped (something not allowed in races), but I took the lead in places, too.

And all that before lunch! Hilary and I took the afternoon off, while many of the others - those training for an actual Ironman - went off for a second loop. I made guacamole late in the afternoon, followed by black bean enchiladas with salsa verde as our contribution to dinner. There were no leftovers.

Here's the aftermath of the day's adventures:

Clothes drying

More clothes drying, plus the view off the back porch: north towards Whiteface.

Oh look, $10,000 worth of bicycles

And what is this? Another $10,000 worth of bicycles.

We were up again around 7:30, but at least this time we'd gotten something like nine hours' sleep. Many folks today were going out for long trail runs/hikes. For some reason this hadn't occurred to me: although Hilary and I love hiking, and I'm familiar with the Adirondacks, somehow I didn't think to bring appropriate equipment for that kind of outing. It was just as well - the two groups were looking at 15 or 20 miles, with many thousands of feet of elevation involved. Instead, Hilary and I took a long run along River Road, which forms part of the Ironman run course (which is also a two-loop affair). Hilary had one pace in mind, which I gamely followed for a few miles, then thought it would be great to step it up a bit. I figured I would run a little ways past the turnaround, then double back and catch up to Hilary. Great idea, except I made a simple math error. If I wanted to give Hilary a 2-minute head start (which, at a 1:00/mi faster pace, I could make up in two miles), I should run on for about one minute before turning around, not two. Actually, feeling bold and brash, I did 2:30. I did eventually catch her, but only in the final mile of the run. I had some help, too: Hilary got waylaid by a golden retriever that had run off and needed escorting back to its house.

A 9-mile run seems like a solid way to start the day. What could be better after such an excursion than a nice refreshing swim? Although there is an actual Lake Placid just north of town, the body of water within the town itself is Mirror Lake. That is where they do the swim portion of the Ironman. They even have the course buoys set up for those crazies that want to train. Hilary and I are such crazies - sort of. Given that it's only mid-May, and we're in northern NY, we knew this would be a cold swim. The water temperature was 55-60, about as cold as I can tolerate with my wetsuit. It's not so bad after the first five minutes - once your feet stop aching. Yes, there's also that difficult time when the water is tricking into the suit down your back. Eventually you have to put your face in, and that's kinda tough, too.

Alright, I'll admit: it was freakin' cold!

At the outset, Hilary and I figured we'd swim down to the end of the course and back - 1.2 miles, 35-40 minutes. But plan and execution are different things. We'd strike out, swim maybe 50-100 yards, then pull up for 30 seconds to make sure the other was still doing OK, then go on a bit further. There was an element of chicken involved: however far out you go, you have to swim just as far to get back. In the end, I don't think we even made it halfway before packing it in. Our first race of the season is in two weeks, though hopefully not so cold. We'll need some more open water practice before then.

After cleaning up and having lunch, we came back into town to... go to the movies. This is supposed to be a vacation, right? We saw the new Star Trek and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. By the way: the small Palace Theater on main street (and other north country community movie theaters) is trying desperately to raise enough money to buy a digital projector. In the next few months, the major studios are going to stop making actual 35-mm prints of new films, and instead go all-digital. If you feel like helping them out, go here.

We chipped in to the dinner effort again that night: roasted sweet potato salad with black beans and avocado. There were no leftovers.

Up again bright and early. Hilary and I had carefully planned backwards from our 1:00 pm check-out time, and set out for a bike-run workout close to the Olympic distance we've been training for. From a parking area near Upper Jay we headed towards Wilmington along a hilly Springfield Road. We then continued heading north from Wilmington on Haselton road, which used to be a major out-and-back portion of the Ironman bike course. They chopped all but a mile of it a couple of years ago. Too bad: it is a lovely stretch. I could feel the last few days in my legs: I had decent speed on the flats, but no power to climb the hills.

We then turned around and headed back to the car - about 27 miles all told. At the car we made a quick transition to a 4-mile run along rt 9N. We would have done 6 miles (a 10k run is part of the Olympic distance), but just didn't have time. Back at the house we did a quick shower, change, and pack. Others trickled in from their own workouts and did the same. We left a bit after 1:00, heading south towards Brattleboro, where we'd meet Hilary's parents for dinner and a Brynna exchange.


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