Monday, February 29, 2016

Ironman Training Week 4 - Lakeland Classics

I was looking forward to this week - not for training but for work.  It was to involve 2 nights in the same hotel.  Pure. Unadulterated. Bliss.  All the perks of being away (hotel spa, free good food prepared by someone else, no washing up, clean and tidy room) without the panic of daily check in / check out.  A place to get used to.  I sorted out a bunch of swim / bike and run options including the location of the local pool and some bike and run routes both flat and hilly.

We did our site survey on Monday then I headed out for a run up and down Morecambe promenade.  I was given the (I think unreasonable) time of 7:00 to aim for dinner.  They wouldn't hear arguments through till 7:30 so I had an hour in which to run 5 miles and get ready for dinner.  I was already feeling sluggish and after 5 minutes running it wasn't looking like I was going to get to the shower so I sped up.

At the turnaround point, I found myself running into a roaring head wind until I saw a young man in an enduro teeshirt running back the other way ahead of me.  A quick sprint saw me catch him up and I followed him as silently as possible so as not to make him run faster.  It worked until I had to start breathing again at which point I made him jump and his adrenaline surge eventually left me for dead.

I arrived back at the hotel 10 minutes early and even had time to dry my hair before dinner.  I went down with the intention of not drinking and I would have held my own if it had just been us but there was a chap there from the customer's organisation so we all had a beer or two to fit in and then I had to keep drinking to drone out the monotony of football conversation which inevitably filtered into the evening.  Really, I can not try when it comes to football chat.

As I sank my last cocktail (thankfully filled to the brim with ice), I feared the night ahead.  Sure enough - a full moon, by the ocean, drunk... I hardly slept a wink.  I didn't feel particularly bad as I carefully rehydrated and ate more food to protect my blood sugar levels but I was restless as hell as the body rejected the alcohol throughout the night.  I tried reducing the room temperature by opening a window and sleeping on my yoga mat for a few hours which seemed to work until I woke up stiff and moved back to the bed.  Comforting but not comfortable for more than a few hours.  I woke up snuggled in bed in a cold room at 5am, turned off the swim alarm and went back to sleep.  Listening to the body.

I came out of my Tuesday meeting to discover that the Wednesday meeting had been cancelled in favour of a Thursday - Classic rude behaviour.  The hotel was booked and I was all up for saying but dilligence said we had to try to get out money back and that we did so my grad and I dutifully checked out and he drove the 4 hours back to Sheffield.  To be fair, if I'd been on my own I would have stayed but two more nights, two more meals seems to be taking the piss.  I also might have stayed away somewhere else and gone for a lovely bike ride for I had my lovely bike with me but since I had a boy to get home to his mates, I lolled in the passenger seat, did some work and then looked on it as being thankful to be home... at 7pm with a full day of work ahead of me the next day.

At last though, the opportunity to ride to work.  It's 40 minutes each way so I count a ride to work and back as two of my weekly rides at this point.  It's not really valid but on a week filled with compulsory driving I am glad of the excuse.

On Thursday it was back to the lakes for the rescheduled meeting.  I packed my swim stuff and rather than swim at home then head North I decided to make sure I made the meeting and drove first, scheduling a swim in my head at Whitehaven pool before the meeting.  I lazed in bed for an extra 10 minutes, faffed at breakfast and eventually only hit the road at 7.  Having fought my way over to the M1, it all went to shit so I fought my way back on to the Woodhead and went around the M62 which was blissfully flowing but then got stuck behind all manner of tractor / digger / trailer / land rover combinations on the twisty lakeland roads including the most sluggish and inexperienced HGV delivery driver known to man.

I rocked up at Whitehaven just in time to get a sandwich from Tesco and inhale it before the meeting which is a relief because the organisers of a 12:00 meeting did not provide any food or even coffee.  The height of rudeness in my book.

Three hours later and I was released to pursue life.  A swim in a strange pool in the middle of the day wasn't appealing (what if it's all kids swimming lessons) so I got a jump on the traffic and made my way across the Northern side of the Lakes.  By 5pm I was at Braithwaite, looking longingly at Lane Foot Campsite.  I turned off with the plan of parking in Braithwaite and running up the road for simplicity's sake.

However, I missed the parking and turned instead down the Newlands valley which I pursued until I found a layby with convenient footpath looking up on to the fells.

The time flew by.  30 minutes of up followed by 20 minutes of down.  I forgot my windproof so did lots of running to stay warm and a little photography.  I fancied running further but decided to stick to my training plan at the top and head down the valley before over stretching myself, getting lost, it getting dark (no head torch and no safety gear) and the world ending.

I forgot how hard it is running down hill and was blissfully thankful that I had cut things short (spot on).  I changed my top and shoes, threw on a warm layer and set off for home sated.  The Lakes made me extremely happy.  I spent the rest of the journey toying with the idea of moving there.

So Friday, I really had to do my swim come hell or high water.  No risks, I took the car to work and stopped at the pool on the way.  Given a full 4 days of rest from the water, I was on fire.  I kept up with the fast girls (well, for a length anyway) and I churned through 1200m with 10 x 33m sprints, no problem.  Well, I say no problem, I couldn't have done anymore and the shower was a full-blown blessing.

At lunchtime at work, instead of going to the pub I rolled out my yoga mat in my secret place and indulged in a good 45 minutes of practice without a single person realising I was there.  I finished my work and went home.  The week was a success.  I felt ready to take on the world and planned to go out with Norton Wheelers on Saturday morning.

Riding with Norton is a bold move and something I only usually undertake when on top form so as not to leave them waiting for me at every turn.  I spent the evening (yes the whole evening) fitting road tyres and inner tubes to my cyclo-cross bike to give it its first on-road outing.  In the process I punctured 4 inner-tubes and gave myself a blood blister.  The wheels are an absolute nightmare but there you go.  It's the price of elite racing nowadays that you have tyres you can't get off in a month of Sundays.

After the road tyres I spent the rest of the evening cleaning hydraulic oil off the rotor on the front wheel of the mountain bike.  The shop tried to pursuade me that having fixed the leak, my rotor was contaminated and needed to be replaced.  Bless them, I like to think (they are friends of TSK's) that they have my best interests at heart and aren't just trying to sell me shit but when a female engineer is set a problem to solve that involves cleaning and solvents I can't resist.  I spent Friday evening with Muck'off degreaser and nail polish remover, cleaning the rotor.

On Saturday morning I was less confident of my road riding abilities so I had a relative lie in and mess-about before committing to going out with TSK on our mountain bikes.  Since we're doing a long distance ride together this summer it seems only right.  Better try out those brakes before my race at Grizedale too.

So we started hard on the local trails then miandered up the Rivelin valley on a combination of A57 and Wyming Brook before popping over the top and descending onto Cuthroat Bridge and climbing back alongside Derwent Reservoir.  A drop down to the cafe at the end then back onto the North path to the head of the valley.  We left the reservoir behind along with a bunch of lads who had come the wrong way and were busy reluctantly climbing out of the valley again and we climbed on to the moors, skirting Margery Hill and setting out towards Langsett reservoir.  The climb was brutal, involving pushing the bike up steep ruts for around 100m

It was some of the most challenging riding I've done on EmVee.  I wasn't racing so I was trying to keep my feet dry as I knew it was going to be a long day and it was oh so cold.  Mercifully most of the bogs were still frozen but we did go to a lot of effort to skirt around those that weren't frozen.

The path streaked out across an off-camber hillside which was slithery and muddy with semi-defrosted clay before degrading into a loose rocky descent with boulders released by the freeze/thaw cycles of the winter.  EmVee took it all in my stride and I bounced across things well aware that I'd have walked the lot on a 26er.

Reaching Langsett was a relief.  We skirted the reservoir to the North then crossed the main Woodhead road to access the Trans-Pennine trail through Penistone where we stopped for a cup of tea and the most massive piece of lemon cake I have ever been served.  The whole lot cost £5 and came with two hobnobs on the side - each.  When a colleague from work walked in the door I wasn't surprised as he lives nearby and regularly uses the trail to get some exercise on the weekend.  We had a great chat and went our separate ways to finish our weekends in different states I am sure.

We had another 13 miles to do before dark so put a bit of a rush on although the up and down nature of the trail through Warncliffe Woods made it almost impossible to rush tired legs.  We were in the heart of downhill mountainbiker country with wild trails spewing out onto the main path left and right.  I have serious respect for some of those riders.  There are some mental cases riding in Sheffield.

We worked our way around lads playing on the path with remote controlled cars before wobbling our way down the last descent to Oughtibridge and jawbone hill then the pedal home down the road where I got clipped by a lady in a car.  I'd had such a good day out that I couldn't even summons any anger to direct at her terrified little face.  I gently scolded her by giving her calm advice about passing cyclists and learned one thing about myself.  I need to stop saying, "it's OK" when things aren't really OK.  What I mean is, "I forgive you."

It feels like an odd thing to say nowadays, as though it's somehow a religious blessing.  Is that me?  I find myself saying it a lot, "It's OK".  No.  Nearly knocking me off my bike isn't OK.  Being hurtful, stealing my personal time.  It's not OK.  But I do forgive and I'm proud of that.  It sounds condescending I think but it's a gift.  One I intend to give more frequently.

I planned to ride short and credit myslef the long, planned 30 mile ride that I had scheduled on the road.

In the end I rode longer than 30 miles (in fact, 45 miles) and it was mostly off road, hard and demanding work, a lot of it pushing or carrying a mountain bike.  On Sunday I felt like I'd been hit by a truck so I gave myself an easy day, chosing to credit the 5 mile planned run to the time spent on my feet on Saturday.  That only left me 1200m of swimming to do.

If you haven't got the hang of it yet, I love my new pool (it's been new for 14 months now).  I still haven't memorised the timetable but I looked up the opening hours and was overjoyed to find that lane swimming is from 8am till 3pm at the weekend.  A big change from my previous pool which (as an international arena for swimming competitions) is closed most weekends for events.

It was blissfully quiet with only 2 men slower than me and 2 kids who were swimming fast 1 lap reps.  My 100m (3 length sets) didn't interfere with either of them.  After my warmup laps my arms were screaming for mercy.  It seems mountain biking is not conducive to swim training.  Still, there was work to be done.  The pool is old and the gutter at the end is shallow so there's really nowhere to rest tired arms at the deep end so on my deep-end rests I had to flop myself over the stairs and hope that no-one wanted to get out of the pool that end.  Thankfully no-one disturbed me.  I eventually got into the pace of 100m sprints - about 55 strokes per minute saw me through.  I toyed with the idea of dropping the last laps from my schedule but there were only 15 lengths left to do.  7 touches of the end.  I set my bipper to 55 strokes per minute and churned them out.  I could have carried on but it would've been torture so I receded to the shower instead and sensibly walked home instead of going into town to spend money.

 Instead I bought healthy local food and set about sleeping at home, renewing my tri club membership, entering a race and booking our SHAFF tickets before loading the slow cooker with the perfect chilli.

Despite my afternoon nap I was knackered at bed time and finally have slouched into the full force of the Ironman training plan - that is, Monday morning feels like the resolute rest day that it should be, exhausted by what has gone before.  Next week the swim moves uncompromisingly into 1500m sessions which are going to challenge me to new levels... and I have to do all of the swimming and biking around a trip to Scotland.  This week there will be no faltering - no alcohol, no late nights.  It's time to get committed and what a better time than week 5?

Bring it.

No comments: