This only barely qualifies as a brick, but I did technically ride a bike and then go for a run, so I’m counting it.
The family and I loaded up the car with all of our bikes, all four of ‘em, and headed to a nearby bike path. Our kids are still learning how to ride, so the flat, protected area was perfect for them.
We saw some amusing sights along the way, including a goat corral where goats were being used to help eliminate some poison ivy. Apparently they love the stuff.
As it turns out, their names are Ruth, Bader and Ginsburg. Not even kidding.
After we got home, I went out for a longer run, even longer than my run earlier in the week. I had already begun to think past my third triathlon to next season. I knew I would have to start extending the time I spent on the roads, both in my shoes and on the wheels. No time like the present to start that process, I figured. I had a couple of weeks until triathlon #3 so I wasn’t too worried that I would affect that performance.
A frustrating thing was that my Fitbit Ionic crashed on me during this run, so I wasn’t able to record the GPS data or heart rate, and had to manually calculate my pace after the fact based on the times that I left and returned, and by knowing the distance of the route using Strava.
5.20 mi Distance
That was really a bummer because the stats help motivate me, and this was the longest run I’d done so far in this training program. I wanted the numbers and the route, as a milestone entry in my log. But I had to settle for a manual entry.
I don’t quite have enough evidence yet to fully substantiate this with data, but anecdotally I feel like I always have a really good training week after I do a race. This week, for certain, was pretty huge.
I took the day after the race off, then swam for 18 minutes the next day, which was a longer swim time for me at that point. Then the next day I ran 4 miles, much farther than I had been doing on most of my other runs. I hadn’t run that far in about 9 weeks. When I finished, I felt like it wasn’t enough.
The next day I still felt fired up, so I went out to tackle a ride I’d been eyeing for a long time, wondering if I’d actually be able to do it with any measure of performance. It was about 32 miles, and according to Strava included 3 category 4 climbs and one category 3 climb. I was feeling really good about my climbing legs, particularly after the second triathlon, so I decided to give it a go.
The biggest climb came early, starting at about mile 4. I cranked my way up, feeling the heat and sun but not getting beaten down by it. I wasn’t going fast but I wasn’t slowing down, either.
I was grinding it out about a mile from the summit when I realized that I was in my middle ring on the front, despite thinking for a long time at that point that I was in my small ring. That was frustrating. I could have been spinning a lot easier and using a lot less energy for nearly the same speed, had I only been paying attention to my riding. On the other hand, it was also a relief. I had gears I didn’t know I still had, and the rest of the climb was made significantly easier.
The extra effort I put in by grinding the bigger gears ended up taking a lot out of me. When I got to the final set of climbs near the end of the ride, I was pretty pooped. I wasn’t down for the count, though, and finished out the ride feeling pretty good about it overall.
There’s nothing quite like a good climb to teach you some lessons.
It was a day to learn a lesson about mental focus, and also a day to learn about my own capabilities on a climb. I really hadn’t had a lot of confidence I could do the climb at all; as it turned out, I could do it with more effort than was even necessary.
While I was visiting the friends I would be staying with when I did my third triathlon, in addition to scouting that route I also did a ride in Gatineau Park, which is a protected park area just outside of Ottawa, on the Quebec side of the border from Ontario. I guess it would be something akin to a state or national park here in the USA. The place is pretty amazing; it’s a huge area that contains 63 lakes and countless miles of trails, including bike lanes, asphalt bike paths and mountain bike trails.
I put Strava’s route builder to the test and found myself what appeared to be a nice figure-8 loop through the lower part of the park, passing by a few lakes and other points of interest. I didn’t have cell service in the wild, so I’d be relying on Strava on my phone entirely to tell me where to go.
The entrance to the park was about a half hour’s drive away. I drove for about 25 minutes before I realized I’d forgotten my helmet. I had to turn back, pick it up, and do it all again. That was pretty frustrating, but I tried to put it out of my mind and salvage the day.
It wasn’t difficult to do. Gatineau Park is beautiful, and ideally designed for cyclists. There are wide, groomed shoulders almost everywhere, barricaded bike lanes and they even shut down car traffic on Sundays so that bikers can be completely unhindered.
Things went great for the first half of the ride. The weather was slightly rainy, but it wasn’t too cold – just enough to keep me cool as I pedaled the climbs. It was a great feeling of being out in unexplored territory (for me), on great cycling terrain where I could just go as I pleased. With my second triathlon coming up on the weekend, I didn’t ride too hard, just got my legs moving and tried to keep things steady.
Eventually, the road I was on started to deteriorate. Most of the roads had been in great shape so I wasn’t worried; I was coming up on an intersection with a more major thoroughfare soon, so I figured it would improve.
It did not.
In fact, the road just straight up disappeared. It stopped entirely, at a wall of trees. There was no intersection, just a dead end. I peered ahead carefully and saw that there was a trail, and a thinning in the vegetation that implied that maybe it had once before been a road, at least an unimproved one. I knew I was close to the main road I was headed for, so I decided to walk my bike and check it out.
The path developed only slightly into a muddy track. It didn’t look like it was going to get better anytime soon. Sure enough, before long I found myself just standing in the middle of a swampy forest, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and wondering what the heck to do.
I had no cell service so I didn’t know where to go if I were to turn back, except to go exactly the way back that I had come. I didn’t really want to do that; I wanted to see more of the park. My 23c tires weren’t going to make it through the underbrush though, that much was clear. My phone told me I was really close to the main road, so ultimately I decided to heft my Bianchi onto my shoulder and hoof it the rest of the way.
I saw some frogs, splashed through some puddles and climbed over some fallen trees before finally emerging on the clear roadside. My feet were muddy and soaked, but I was satisfied to be back on my route.
I rode on, stopping at a place called Pink Lake, which was not pink. It was, in fact, green, and was named Pink after its discoverer, I believe. There was a cool little elevated platform that you could climb up onto to see the view.
When I got back to the parking area, I took a closer look at the signboard map and discovered that it did actually show the lack of a road. I guess Strava just skipped over it because it was so close, it assumed it counted as an intersection.
It made for a fun diversion, anyway, and a great time discovering a new place to ride.
Where I live, it’s not easy finding places to ride that are not mountainous. Especially in the early stages of getting myself back in cycling shape, this makes things even more difficult than they already are. I have always liked climbing, but it’s very difficult to do when you’re out of shape, so being surrounded by endless hills becomes another obstacle to getting out on the bike or run in order to do a workout. Because it’s just so hard.
On this day, I found a flat ride. It was one of the first times I really put Strava’s route creator to use, and looked at the elevation on a road that I knew would be comfortable to ride on. I had to drive a few minutes to get there but it was worth it to go out on a ride that didn’t feature an ominous, looming mountain climb for once.
Ultimately, I think climbing is a great training tool because it packs a lot more effort into the same amount of distance, which makes it more efficient. And I’m learning that efficiency is what it’s all about when it comes to triathlon training.
I’m probably going to stop trying to keep track of the specific training days I’m on according to my schedule here, because it’s kind of a pain and things are getting switched around a lot. Besides, it’s all on Strava anyway, so this blog serves a different purpose.
Last night I registered for three triathlons. They are each at least two weeks apart from each other, and happen toward the end of the summer. After all, that’s what triathlon refers to, right? Doing three of them?
I have no idea whether I can even do one, at this point. I’m able to complete distances equivalent to each of the individual legs of a sprint triathlon, so I know I could do them in isolation. Hopefully I’ve got enough time for training to put them all together.
I also don’t know what kind of recovery time I’ll need in between events, so that’s kind of a gamble. However, I’ve run a couple of marathons in the past and I know that after two weeks I could have gone for another good long run again, and I think marathons are much harder than sprint triathlons, at least at the speed I’ll be going (slow).
One of the triathlons I registered for has a “Clydesdale” category for men 220 lbs+. I decided to go for that category rather than the age group I’d be in. Might as well embrace it.
Training is starting to improve slightly. I’m less exhausted every day, and the workouts don’t hurt quite so much. Stil a long way to go before I’m at a weight I feel comfortable with and before I can do a workout that feels sufficient to me, but I feel like I’m starting to get over the initial hump of awful.