Monday, February 22, 2010

Mountain Repeats

An EPIC day...

One of my weekend rides called for 3 x 1 hour climbs on the bike, or about 3 hours of climbing all pedaled. Knowing it was going to be a hard day, I emailed the local St. George training group to see if anyone wanted to join me for some fun. The response was somewhat similar to the sound heard in this video.

One of the few places to do such a thing is San Diego's Palomar Mountain, and so I drove out there early on Sunday. For those not familiar with Palomar, there are basically 2 ways to go up: The East Grade, and South Grade. I have climbed the East Grade a number of times, so I opted for the South Grade, locally known as "the shorter, steeper side". The south grade is about 6.5 miles, with 13 switchbacks. When the Tour of California came through last year, they categorized the climb as uncategorized. I chose the south side this time around so I could collect some data on it, and because I didn't feel like driving to the east grade. Doing a workout like this requires a pretty significant commitment, both in driving at least an hour, and the mental gearing up (no pun) for such an event.

Here is the usual view of Palomar, while driving to it during the winter months. Note that you can't see the top:

As I parked my car, I looked at the temperature, which was 48F. As I got onto my bike to start my 30 minute warm up, it quickly turned into a .3 mile warm up because it was too cold & windy to ride on the flats, so I started tackling the mountain immediately.

The first climb went well, and was a little different than normal. Normally, a cyclist is greeted with nice views of the valley as they ascend, with a glimpse of where the top is during most points. Not this time. The clouds you saw in the above picture made the views during the climb look exactly like this - eerie:

I got to the top, chatted with a few other cyclists next to the snow...

... and started my descent. About 30 seconds into it, I got an ice cream headache. About 10 minutes into the decent, I had to stop because I was so freaking cold. The wind was coming UP the mountain, and coupled with my descent, I was frigid. I'm not gonna lie, there were some audible F bombs and screams.

I got to my car, and was shivering. Desperate, I opened my car to pound the half empty luke warm coffee that was still sitting in there. I was conflicted - I wanted to stay and blow warm air on my hands so I could feel them again, but I also knew that I needed to get my core temp up, so I started my second climb.

My quads immediately felt like they had cement injected into them. They felt so bad that I thought that either my brakes were rubbing, or my chain was stuck in the big ring. To my dismay, neither could have been used an excuse. 10 minutes into the first climb, my HR wasn't able to touch 140 - compared to finishing my last climb in the high 150's.

I eventually came around, my HR got to where I needed it to be, and I completed my second ascent, feeling better than the first. I looked at my garmin, and I only had 2 hours under my belt - including my one descent.

I descended again, only this time a little slower, without an ice cream headache, but with a few f bombs and shivering. I got to the bottom, and did my third ascent, feeling pretty damn good. I looked at my garmin again, and realized that I was only about 3:30 into my workout. Knowing that each descent was about 20-25 minutes, I had less than my prescribed 3 hours of climbing.

And so the justifications started:

"It's cold, windy and misting. I'm wet. I haven't felt my right foot in over 2 hours. I've done 2:30 hours of climbing in these conditions, and have already climbed thousands of feet. I can totally call it a day and be happy with what I have done. No one out here is doing repeats up this damn mountain."

But unfortunately, there was another voice in me that was winning the battle:

"You feel good right now. Hell, you don't feel like you have climbed a mountain 3 times. You're cold? Big deal, climb again, you'll warm up." and then finally it said "if you want to kick ass in St George, do another (and maybe you'll get a Carlos V bar)".

I was jazzed up. I did the descent. I got back to my car, and took in some more calories. I grabbed my headphones, and put on Sam's Town. I was ready to rock. I CRUSHED the mountain for the 4th time. I got to the top, and I was smiling - in 45F, the rain, by myself, next to a pile of snow. I reflected for a second, put on Phoenix, and descended - smiling, and possibly singing (thankfully, no one heard me).

I took this picture on the way down, showing the cloud line that I just got under:

After I got back to my car, I turned it on, blasted the heat, packed my bike, and did the most natural thing I could think of: I emailed Chuckie asking "Did you hear/feel that boom?" He said that he had no idea I what I was talking about, and asked if I was OK. I responded with "That was me shitting thunder all over Palomar!" I think he was pretty excited, and asked me to call him, but I couldn't. I was shivering uncontrollably! I sat in my car for no less than 15 minutes with the heat blasting so I could warm up. And people say San Diego doesn't get cold...

After thawing, I finally gave him a call, and we had a great convo about being cavemen, expanding that ole comfort zone, and some other things.

It was an Epic Day. A day so easily justified to not even happen. A day that raised my mental confidence, and expanded the comfort zone. A day that makes me want to get back out there again. A day worth blogging about (of course I thought about the blog while being on the mountain).


Totals from Garmin:
5 Hours
54 miles (26 of climbing)
10,300 ft of elevation gain (making for an average 7.1% grade)

"There is great advantage in training under unfavorable conditions. It is better to train under bad conditions, for the difference is then a tremendous relief in a race." Emil Zatopek - one BAMF who won his last olympic gold running his FIRST marathon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 San Dieguito Half Marathon

Going "notes" style for the first time I ran the San Dieguito Half Marathon...

  • A new PR! 1:32 and change.
  • Passed a lot of people on the downhills, and towards the end of the race, including the last hill
  • Had enough for an all out sprint at the end
  • Mental confidence boost since I didn't think I had as much run fitness as compared to Wildflower last year
  • Beautiful weather, gorgeous course
  • Ran it on nearly zero calorie intake (by coincidence; it wasn't a goal)
  • Negative splits through the race
Things to work on:
  • Keep building the engine/get faster
  • Train on more hills - one can never get enough of them, especially for IMSG
  • Lose ~5 lbs(+?) by IMSG
  • Be ready for 26.2 miles of concrete in 10 weeks (after a long ass bike ride)
  • For the first time EVER, I craved a beer after the race (although, it took 75 minutes for that craving to come about). A bunch of us made our way to the beer garden, and I sampled both of the "hoppy" beers. I think one was Green Flash, and the other was "Hoppy" something. I don't know - they could have been called Diaper and Ass for all I care. I really hate throwing anything away, but seriously, both went in the garbage after about 3 sips. Oh the horror James - let the flaming begin!

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Hard Ride

Saturday's long ride was postponed to Sunday this past weekend, due to Mother Nature bringing in more rain. The forecast stayed pretty consistent throughout the week for Sunday which was a chance of a few showers in the morning, and turning partly cloudy in the afternoon. I was banking (hoping!) on Sunday being decent to ride in.

When I first received my workout, I thought it could be achievable by most means. I knew it was gonna be a hard day, so I asked my buddy James to join me for a little jaunt around the whale's vagina. The long ride called for "A hilly 5.5 hour ride, keeping the HR around 150-155".

But what really happened was a 6 hour ride, with an average HR of 135.

"Sandbagger!" you say. "Jaunt around the whale's vagina? Looks like a measly PCH spin. I thought you're training for a hilly Ironman. Yawn".

"Negative Ghost Rider" is my response.

The numbers lie!

The weather was far from normal San Diego day on Sunday. It was about 55 degrees, with some damp roads, all cloud cover, and a bit of wind. About 90 minutes in, James mentioned "It looks like there is some weather up ahead." Sure enough, we hit some rain around Lake Wohlford. While this would scare some, James is no stranger to getting dirty with CX and Xterra racing, and me - well, any time I train in the rain, it brings back memories from IMLP. Not made of sugar, I tend not to melt in such weather.

I had a minor mechanical malfunction on my rig which proved mildly frustrating, and James and I ended up getting separated (I can't wait for his recap, getting chased by dogs on multiple occasions), and I eventually started making my way back west. I ended up back in elfin forest, where I was greeted with some of the gnarliest head winds I have experienced. I noticed that my HR was hovering in the low 140's - hardly what it "should" be. I would then surge to 260 - 300+W, with a 1, maybe 2bpm increase on the HR. "Ow, No Thanks", is what I thought when trying to hold these surges for minutes on end.

By the time I got into San Elijo, a quick mental calculation had me arriving back home in under 5.5 hours. So, I did what any abnormal cyclist would do 4.5 hours into the ride - I climbed the south side of San Elijo hill with the full intent of going down the other side, and climbing back over - just to get in some more hills.

Back to the HR thing - even climbing the north side San Elijo hill, which is about a mile long @ 9% grade - 150HR was untouchable. I could grit my teeth all I wanted, but the suck still sucked. At this point, I was hungry, cranky, cold, fatigued and irritable.

I eventually made my way back to the PCH so I could get home. As I neared home, I noticed that it was gonna be a 6 hour, 100 mile day. "Sweet!" I thought. Yes, I ended up feeling pretty good about the numbers, but really, the numbers meant far less to me than the mental side of things.

Today's ride was way more about mental training, than physical. The weather sucked. The fatigue sucked. The hunger sucked. Training for an early season Ironman sucks.

But, 100 miles in those conditions? Hell Yeah!

Knowing that others were bagging their bike rides completely for the weekend? Chumps!

Knowing that some are grinding away on the trainer. No thanks!

All that stuff is great for bragging, but really it was the numerous mental hurdles that I passed along the way, which made the ride worth every second. It was the teeth gritting, the suck, the cold, the wind - everything - and I rode right past it all.

Train the body, and train the mind.

ps- ok, this is pretty funny. If you know me, you know I am kinda cavemanish. and I don't lie when I say I wanted to beat my chest after I got home.