What’s Been Going on Since Aon LA?
After Aon LA I decided to go kind of nuts on the bike. I put in some crazy high mileage weeks (for me), intentionally rode dirt for the first time, and always took the high road to take advantage of those stair climbing muscles. I kept saying that I wanted to lose some weight but I know I have trouble dropping weight while primarily riding, and the fully stocked delicious kitchen at work didn’t help matters.
In mid May I signed up to race the Rapha Women’s Prestige with five other girls from my club. All we were told upfront was that the course would be at least 100 miles, there’d be some dirt sections, and we would climb Mt Diablo (an HC climb). It turned out to be a great day with five great girls! We each had our own strengths and weaknesses and were able to help each other along the way as we each faltered in our own way.
May was capped off with the San Diego Towerthon. This was a beast of a race: two hours, climb as many times as possible. I wasn’t crazy about the tie break format (for people who climbed the same number of times) since I knew it probably wouldn’t work to my advantage; your cumulative climbing time is the tie breaker but my strategy was to keep the climbs easier but take less rest. I’m not a sprinter and haven’t done any work related to increasing, or even maintaining, my explosive power in a year or so so I figured my best course of action would be to just keeping plodding along. I figured it would be similar to Diablo, just formatted differently. Diablo was roughly 80′ of climbing time, straight through, and I figured a 2:1 climb/elevator ratio would be about right for a twenty floor building.
The morning started off with a one climb sprint race which I used to warm up and scout the stairwell. I kept eating and drinking while trying to warm up a bit but keep my heart rate low and body temp low, not an easy balance to strike. The first hour of the climb wasn’t bad. I fell into a steady rhythm using a double rail technique which I had never had an opportunity to try before. I think my arms were too short to really use the rail for power but I knew my best asset in this race would be my ability to pick up my legs repeatedly, just as I do on the bike every day so I relied on the railing more for balance and turning than power. I lost count of how many climbs I did after the third climb so I started counting how many times Jeff passed me which I also lost track of after number three. My brain wasn’t functioning too well for high level tasks like counting and memory but it knew how to tell my legs to move so we stayed on friendly terms. The third quarter of this race started to get tough. I was overheating and couldn’t do much about it. I had already rolled my shirt up so most of my torso was exposed; I was taking the sweat towels provided for us, soaking them in cold water, and wrapping them around my neck. I just kept trodding along, seeing most of my guy friends in the stairwell which was a nice change from normal one climb races (most of the girls were too close in pace to me so we never really crossed paths). The last half hour took all my strength to get through. I climbed much slower splits than I had earlier in the day and I just didn’t have it in me to rush to the elevator after a climb. I know that I missed the lift for this reason a few times in a row, missing out on getting one last climb in before the two hour mark. At this point I was playing a head game with myself and losing. While I don’t know that I want to put the training in to be very competitive in this race, I thought that it was really fun and will be back next year
Year in Review
This past year and a half has been flown by.
A quick review of some of the major highlights:
- started 2013 in Kuala Lumpur and travelled a bit before returning to the US in February
- learned about freediving and participated in some of the most useful training I’ve ever encountered
- moved back to VA in March and returned to work
- did some deep soul searching after seeing the Marathon bombing
- quit my job in June and travelled to Peru with two of my best friends
- taught yoga and lived the life of a full time athlete for a few months, culminating with a marathon in October
- flew to San Francisco without a job and very low cash reserves in November and a week later had a job offer in hand while I set off to ride my bike down the California coast to San Diego
- officially moved to San Francisco in December, got in incredible cycling shape and climbed the US tower running rankings
- introduced several people to a more athletic lifestyle and got several cars off the road in the process
So, What’s Next?
I’m a big fan of setting very lofty goals. I find smaller more tangible goals aren’t terribly motivating to me; I would rather strive for something so far beyond my current abilities that if I hit it I’m ecstatic and if I fall short, I’m still way ahead of any smaller goal that I would’ve set. Last year when I decided to go from non-runner, out of shape recovering backpacker to Boston Marathon qualifier in seven months I knew I had my work cut out for me. I think I had only ever done a double digit mileage run once and it wasn’t fun; in fact, I probably had never really run a double digit mileage week in my life! Still, that crazy goal forced me to work and push through discomfort and, despite a disappointing race result, got me very close to my goal.
In the spirit of setting crazy goals, I’m setting my sights on a sub 18′ Sears Tower finish in November. I set my PR (20:21) there last year three weeks after my marathon. I was exhausted, burned out, and had gained back all the weight I lost while training but hadn’t regained any of the muscle I lost. I know right now, just from biking for the past few months, I’m so much stronger than I was last November. If I can drop some weight I’ll have a much better power to weight ratio and can improve my PR. Sub 20′ is well within my reach; sub 18′ will require me to get my act together and work hard. With this as my A race, I’m structuring the next few months to prep me for this beast. I know I need to step up my game, starting by focusing on a few key areas I’ve been neglecting lately.
Since Aon LA, I haven’t been to the pool, weight room, done core work, plyos, yoga, or run. What have I been doing to prevent weight gain while eating 3k+ calories a day? Riding my bike up mountains. Along with walking to taquerias to find tasty food to stuff my face with, that’s it on the fitness front. My legs are much stronger than they have been in a long time but I can feel the effects of a very weak upper body and core even while riding; additionally, I don’t have any explosiveness in my legs. I know this will hurt me on the stairs so I’m making the effort to get back into the weight room and make my upper body an asset on the stairs. I’m starting a bootcamp group with a few friends to work on agility drills, plyometrics, and some short track work. Most importantly for my sanity, I’m going back to the pool. Ever since I’ve stopped swimming regularly I’ve noticed breathing is more difficult on long climbs or hard efforts. I’ve spent a bit of the last year or so doing primarily hypoxic work in the pool and while I’m not sure that it makes breathing any easier, it makes the discomfort that comes with a lack of oxygen more familiar and therefore easier to cope with.
Most importantly, I’ve decided to start training on stairs. This may come as a shocker to some people (it certainly did to some co-workers who assumed I was on stairs all the time) but I really dislike training on indoor stairs. I find indoor stairs are typically dirty, dark, lonely, and overall kind of depressing. I prefer to cross train and do some outdoor stairs closer to races. So far this has worked pretty well, driving me to a top ten US ranking, but I know that specificity is the key to improvement. I recently found an easily accessible building near my office to train in so I will be dragging myself there once or twice a week. I know that this will pay off in November, if for no other reason than to toughen me up mentally.
Who knows what is in store for the fall but all I can do at this point is work hard, prepare myself, and put everything out there and hope for the best.
“But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea