In the week before I was supposed to depart, everything that I had planned in terms of travel & lodging went completely to hell. I lined up a bunch of plan Bs and then half of that fell through, I was frustrated, to the point where I ended up standing in the backyard picking at my half marathon blisters while explaining to Michelle that I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to listen when the universe wings a wheelbarrow of bricks at me.
She told me, in no uncertain terms, to tell the universe to go fuck itself, to drink a glass of wine and get on the (delayed by 3.5 hours if it was leaving at all) plane. And I did. The universe made a couple more half-hearted attempts to keep me in Colorado but sometime after 1am, I gratefully collapsed onto a futon in Scottsdale and said good night to one of my best friends, Jen, who wins an award for saving my but I swear I was so organized I had everything lined up ass on this trip.
Krista ran an awesome camp, let's start with that as a sweeping, grandiose but incredibly true fact. Friday morning she arranged for me to get a ride out to the lake, which meant I missed about 20 miles of riding but meant that I got four (instead of two) hours of sleep and didn't have to put my bike together in the dark at 2am which, in my opinion, completely saved my training day. Tracy kindly dropped me off at the top of the descent into Bartlett Lake, so I got a bit of a warm-up before joining everyone else for the open water swim.
We swam pretty easily, the lake was quiet and we did a few laps of the buoy line and then hopped out, changed back into our bike kits, loaded up on fuel and rolled out. My legs felt pretty crappy coming down and I had been given broad "as you feel" guidance on the day so I decided I'd climb at roughly IM power for a while and see how that felt. It gave me something to focus on as I poured OSMO down the hatch by the gallon and worked through the stash of Twizzlers I had pocketed before we left the lake.
My legs came around in there somewhere and I started smiling, happy to be in the boiling hot sunshine, I pushed the power as I climbed, got in a groove and all of a sudden the top was there. We took selfies for a bit while waiting for everyone to circle up and then swooped on back to Krista's in a rolling pace line of chatty happy (mostly) girls. I got off the bike feeling like that was a good solid ride but I hadn't burned any matches for the weekend. Jen and I decamped immediately for a burger place that came highly recommended and I'm certain that we were tucked into bed well before 8pm.
The Saturday morning ride was with a bigger group, and I sat back a bit while we looped through neighborhoods to warm up. The first set of climbs I was chatting with a couple of girls and almost didn't notice as we rolled up and down, spikey little efforts that felt good. There was a long descent and then we pulled over to circle up and stuff our faces. I love how everyone in this picture is eating.
We had just rolled out when Krista blew by me like a locomotive and yelled get on my wheel NOW over her shoulder. My mouth was full and I was holding a water bottle but somehow I had just enough of an clue about what the hell was about to go down to make the split-second decision to hit the lap button, shove everything away and latch on. My eyes were watering too badly to be able to see my Garmin so I had no idea what kind of power I was putting out and that's probably a good thing, I know for quite a few minutes we were hauling well over 30mph and then there was a little climb and I sat up and that millisecond was just enough for a tiny gap to open up. As soon as I saw it I went into red alert one thousand watts mode red alert your ass is about to get dropped but I couldn't close it and then we hit a downhill and the Emily-towing-Krista train was gone. I took a few seconds to recover, I looked over my shoulder and saw no one so I settled back down into the bars and got grooving again. I actually flew past the water stop and it wasn't until I heard Krista yelling that I looped over and in and unclipped with a very serious what in the actual fuck was that. (This is me teaching Heidi, okay this is how you take a selfie, look at my finger and smile!)
We did a short out-and-back where I got to chat with Emily and shovel about 7000 calories down before heading up the nine mile climb that was the last everyone stomps it surprise! piece of the ride. I had no idea what my legs/brain/crotch/power meter would be doing after a couple days of riding but we started up and I was holding back to see numbers that I'm not really used to seeing when I feel like I am holding back, if that makes any sense at all. I had been let off the leash for the day and I spent about a few minutes giving the Garmin the side-eye and arguing with myself, do I? don't I? do I? don't I? I know that the 20 minute effort/test on the bike is not the be-all and end-all of ride data, I know that Michelle can look at my files and know exactly what I need to be doing without making me smash myself and call it a test. But goddammit, the last three months of work and riding have made me really curious about what that number would be if I ground down and went for it, I knew the climb wasn't much longer than that and I was itching to find out. So after another few minutes of dicking around, I hit the lap button and went, because why the hell not, life is short let's chase the big watts and drink beer when we're done.
I rode at what felt like a reasonably hard effort for a couple of minutes without watching the numbers, and then I spent the last 16 minutes desperately trying to hang onto lap power, and I mostly did and that was all I wanted. I pulled into the gas station to refill and texted both Michelle and my best friend I either just did something really awesome or really stupid. I was pretty firmly convinced that after that effort I was going to end up getting repeatedly dropped from the sweet draft all the way home. But instead I was a little surprised that once I got some coke down me I felt fine, good enough to hop on a wheel off the front and hang, chatting, stoplight to stoplight until the ride was done.
My run off the bike was a bit of a shitshow, I left my bottle sitting on the front steps and made it about 2.5 miles before I got run over by the Bonk Express. Jen saved my ass for the millionth time by feeding me TUMS and OSMO and somehow I checked the box on the "descend every mile of this run" instructions and dragged myself back into Krista's backyard where we all dangled our legs in her pool and tried to figure out which weather app was showing the highest temperature. Eventually we made it home for lunch and then over to the pool, where I followed my very strict instructions to chill out and not smash anyone (after the first interval, Krista says, okay if you are going to go THAT easy then you can swim at the back). We filled our bellies with carbs and climbed back in bed.
Sunday morning our alarms went off at WTF-o-clock so we could drive to Tucson. I didn't get much sleep Saturday night, a normal side effect of wrecking the shit out of myself, and was happy to curl up in the back seat and grab another nap on the way down. We parked and changed and rolled out and I knew it was going to be one of those days, where all you have to do is empty your mind and get to the end of it. I've had plenty of those on the bike in my life, the days where you are completely exhausted and you can choose to whine and bitch and complain or you can make the choice to draw inwards and devote all of your energy to survival, and that's what the climb up Mt Lemmon was for me. It wasn't a bad climb, it was just long and I was tired (we're all tired!), but I wasn't completely miserable except for a couple of miles about an hour in where I daydreamed about the mountain erupting like a volcano so I could turn around and descend. By this point in the weekend, I was completely sick of sugar, I stood at the SAG truck at mile 15 telling Shane (best sherpa/SAG ever!) I hate sugar actually I just hate eating I hate food I hate chewing but I hate sugar the most, all the while I was shoveling Bobo's bars and potato chips into my mouth and washing it down with miniature cans of Coke because I knew I needed it. It didn't matter how much I didn't want to eat, when you're in a hole like that you HAVE to eat and it was the only thing that was going to get me to the top. I spent at least a mile thinking about the workout comments I was going to upload at the end of the day and it was going to be something like, I'm in hell, my vagina is in hell, my adductors are on fire my knees are on fire my neck is on fire everything is on fire because I AM IN HELL. It was a long day of convincing myself, over and over, to take one more pedal stroke, and I've been there in training plenty which actually does make it easier to work through, over time. But then a bit of relief showed up, a long down and then a short one and then I was at the top. Tired, hot, salty, sweaty and with my chamois wedged somewhere in my intestines but there. A cookie sounded terrible so instead I ate the best worst piece of pizza of my life, we took a few pictures and then headed out (Jen looks so much happier because, as I explained to some of my athletes, she did a far better job of riding like a responsible adult the day before).
I absolutely love to descend, but I haven't done it in a while because there are no hills in my basement and the wind was ripping on some of the corners so I took my time. It warmed up pretty quickly, I tried to nod sympathetically to the riders that were still climbing, I yelled heyyyyyyy Jen Harrison when I saw her pulled over somewhere around mile five, I passed some people and let some people pass me and finally we hit the flat and I could pop down into aero and cruise the rest of the way back. Shane very kindly racked out bikes while we got naked in the parking lot and then we ate junk food and listened to someone's accidentally-left-running Garmin (mine) set new Strava records the whole way home.
I try to be pretty careful about what I eat, especially since I've learned certain food groups
Monday morning was the long run, and there were three of us that needed (need is such an interesting word here) to run twenty miles, which is something I have never done outside of the six times I've done it in races (although maybe only one or two of those counts as an actual run). We started out an hour before the rest of the group, and I had to drop off the loop into a well-placed gas station less than two miles in to empty my very upset stomach. I hoped that would be it and I'd be okay from there, but I wasn't. I think I made at least four more stops over the next three hours (lesson learned: the entire pint of Talenti is never your friend). My legs felt okay for about the first fourteen miles and then, like a thunderclap, the wheels didn't just fall off, they plain old exploded. My glute med completely shut down - nope sorry fuck you I'm out thanks I'm going on strike someone else is just going to need to stabilize your pelvis because I'm fucking done here peace - which made my IT band freak out and all sorts of wonderful things start pinging down in my calves. I stopped and stretched my hips and dug around in my glutes a few times to try and get things going again, I put the brakes on then finally gave up on pace and sorta just jogged it on it. I had some pretty low moments, I got passed by a few girls who were only running fourteen miles and snarled some grumpy things at them inside my head, I prayed for Shane to roll by in the SAG wagon and scrape me off the ground, I gagged down chews and TUMS and pulled down inside myself. I spent the last four miles swearing that no matter what the mileage said on my watch when I got back to the car, I was done, I wasn't going to run around the parking lot like a fool to make it get to 20, but then I got back and had .08 left so down the sidewalk I went and then my watch beeped and it was over. The run, the weekend, everything, and it was good.
I'm so glad I went. Or, more precisely, I'm so lucky that my life is such that I have the ability to pack up and go. Anytime I can hop on a plane and spend a weekend riding with a group of riders that are so much stronger than I am, I come away inspired and motivated (and completely fucking trashed but that fades after a few days while the rest does not). It's not at all that I have a false sense of strength, training mostly alone here in Boulder, it's more like I think I have this slightly false sense of weakness, especially on the bike. When I went to Hawaii back in February, I was startled to find out that I could hang. That the little hey come on you guys wait up! dork in me wasn't getting left behind by the cool kids. And I spent the first two days at camp mostly sitting in, but still found it surprising that I wasn't getting constantly dropped...and when I finally did get dropped midway through the Saturday ride, my brain didn't explode, I didn't rain down F-bombs of failure, I simply collected my shit and got back to hauling ass. Sunday I didn't ride particularly well but I did ride steady with whatever I had left in my bicycle tank. And I still think it was worth it for the effort I put out on Saturday, how good and confident that made me feel, so I didn't mind being the caboose hardly at all. This is what I get for riding like an asshole, I joked to one of my training buddies when we chatted about it later that day...and all of this, the whole weekend, it reminds me that there's still a lot more out there, if I want to work for it. More depth to come for me in this sport, it's one thing to ride strong for a day but as the miles pile into my legs, year over year, I have to believe that I'll eventually be able to stack up day after day after day of strength (and maybe learn to show a bit of restraint when I'm feeling fresh, someday). That's fun to think about, that makes me feel excited that we're coming into spring and I get to emerge from my basement in a couple of weeks and see what kind of creature has been built there. All the training in the dark, in the snow, in the blasting freezing wind, this morning I ran off the bike in gloves & tights & a winter hat but those days are almost over. It's just about time to dig out the race belt and the tri kit (spandex ugh) and see what happens when someone writes on me at 5am with a sharpie and then we wait in porta potty lines and bike check-in and why is putting the wetsuit on more exhausting than the entire race and then we wait some more, it's all just one big waiting game from now until the gun goes off.