Ironman Boulder: Training highs and woes

I’ve been planning for the past few weeks or even on a weekly basis to update how training has been since we moved to Colorado.  Alas, I’m finally getting around to it now, and there are less than 3 weeks until the big day.  Better late than never, eh?

It’s been interesting to train throughout so much of the summer.  In a way, being a teacher has been ideal because I haven’t had any commitments this summer – especially since I left the school where I was working and finished up all of the end-of-year responsibilities by mid-June.  However, I have discovered that a life schedule and a training schedule compliment each other.  While it’s fun to rack up the miles swimming, biking and running, it’s somewhat myopic.  Last summer, IM CdA was early enough that it didn’t ever seem to consume my days, which was probably healthier for me.  Also, I can tend to procrastinate if I don’t feel like getting up and doing X workout.  This hasn’t been terrible, although the 5:00 am mornings have been a thing of the past, and now one of my major concerns about race day is waking up on time (no doubt I’ll start to have stress dreams about oversleeping now)!

In many ways, training Boulder has been ideal.  Again, it is pretty much the one focus of my summer, in addition to running around the state of Colorado visiting people, and there are many reasons why Boulder is a hub for athletes – professionals and elite amateurs and the average age-grouper like myself.  The roads, for cycling, are amazing, and that helped motivate me beyond my expectations, and I’ve racked up some serious miles on the bike.  While I still consider my ‘mad’ biking skills to be sup-par, I’ve hung on to some decent riders (who were not in their top biking shape, but hey, I’ll take it).  Also, cycling here is so much easier for me mentally than it was in Pasadena.  While I enjoyed a lot of great rides and wonderful scenery and took on some nice challenges (Mt. Baldy Village and Angeles Crest Highway), I often found myself stressed and worried about making it home okay.  Biking in Boulder, I usually feel quite safe, and the community, in general, seems to embrace cycling.  Also, there is some nice variety – if you want a long climb, go to Ward (which I did the first weekend here – 16 miles up to 9,450 feet and I wanted to throw up).  For short climbs, there are a plenty of other options.  And then there are lots of rolling hills that are just plain fun to ride.  The one concern I have about riding is that a deer might jump in front of me.  So far, I’ve passed by two on the side of the road, and it does unnerve me a bit.  Not that I don’t like seeing them, but I would hate for one to jump in front of me!

I’ve also been reunited with Sunshine, my Trek roadbike, and as much as I’ve spent a good amount of time with the Bat (my Cervelo, not the animal that was in our house for 2 days), it’s great to switch between the two bikes.  On my first outing on the Trek, however, I almost fell over – it felt like such a different ride!  Speaking of the Bat, I had put off a major bike fit until I got out to Boulder.  I know, I know…  It was fit for me when I bought it in November, but I finally got a Retul bike fit in Boulder.  I really should have had the fit as soon as possible, but a part of me wanted to have the fit in Boulder for long-term implications, and another part of me wanted me to have the fit in Boulder because it’s Retul’s headquarters!  How cool was it?  Actually, I don’t even remember.

Anyway, Garrett, the Retul fit guy, was great and made plenty of changes to my bike, most of them involving raising the seat and lowering the handlebars.

6.17.15_KristinaBell_Tri
It doesn’t look like that much but it made a huge difference!

The main change with this fit is that aero became my default position.  Prior to the fit, I was almost more comfortable riding sitting up rather than in aero which sort of defeats the purpose of an aerobike.  Ahem!  I’m still not riding 5+ hours in aero position, but I can hold it for longer periods of time feeling stronger.  Win/win.

Swimming was a struggle for me in the initial weeks, despite joining a fancy-pants gym (oh, excuse me, fitness center) with two good pools that aren’t a crazy scene like the Rose Bowl.  As much as I love that facility, it was also such a scene at times!  Anyway, back to swimming at altitude – while I felt that I acclimated with ease in terms of biking and running, swimming at elevation has frustrated me beyond belief.  I don’t think that it effects everyone this way, but I am so much slower than I used to be.  😦    I do think that my times are coming around, but I still notice the difference.  Despite my lackluster swim experience here, Boulder is a great place for swimmers.  While I joined the gym (mainly for the convenient showers), there are great facilities at the rec centers.  Also, the Boulder Res, where the ironman swim will take place, is open for swimming and there are plenty of organized swims (of which I’ve participated in ZERO; total fail because I can’t get up – back to my point about sleeping this summer).

Finally, running…  Ah, where to begin?  Things started out really well in Boulder, although a few runs were soul-suckingly hard, like the 5 mile progression run after a really hilly ride on a hot afternoon.  Also, figuring out good long-run circuits that weren’t too hilly or too much on sidewalks took me a while, but I soon learned that going all the way up the Boulder Creek Path and then doing some deviations off the path really worked.  Unfortunately, all of this running nonsense came to an end on June 20th.  Yes, 6 weeks from race day I realized that I was injured.  Of course, like the idiot that I am, I continued on my second run of the day, lying to myself about the pain in my foot by calling it “some discomfort”.  And, it didn’t hurt THAT much, but later that evening, it did.

I’ve tried to stay somewhat calm and rational during this injury, which isn’t as major as it could be.  I’ve been to a few doctors – the podiatrist confirmed my suspicion, that it wasn’t a stress fracture but was peroneal tendonitis.  That relieved me, although I regret that I now know what the peroneal tendon is, and I stayed off it for a week.  And then I went for a short run and a short hike the following weekend, and by Wednesday of the following week, I couldn’t walk without limping.  I cursed myself and I also talked to a good friend who has dealt with multiple running issues and trained through them and she calmed me down.  Also, Beth helped out a lot too – keeping me from getting too panicked and replacing my ‘real’ runs with aqua/pool running.  With all of the time that I’ve spent in the pool, I do not regret my decision to fork out extra money for a nicer facility one bit.  Plus, this is another moment when it really has helped me to lean on the support and advice of a coach.  She isn’t right here and can’t advise me too much, but it relieved me to at least talk to someone (in addition to Sheri, who told me that she trained for all of IM Canada by water running).

While I’ve rested the foot, I also found an Active Release guy who re-diagnosed me with tendinosis rather than tendonitis, and he has worked on me and taped me up.  Shockingly, that has helped far more than just resting and rehabbing my foot on my own.  I don’t know why but it still surprises me that some hard core body work will aid in recovery far more than just rest.  That, at least, has been my experience.  And, this weekend, I returned to the elliptical and the treadmill, which gave me glimmer of hope that I might not have to walk the entire marathon!  I’m not out of the woods yet, but I feel more hopeful than I did last week at this time.  It’s been a frustrating time with running, no doubt, but there is always a chance, when signing up for an event like an ironman, that one won’t make it to the start line for a number of reasons.  In my case, it looks as though I’ll make it to the starting line just fine, but whether I’ll make to the finish still remains an unknown.  And, really, that question is always out there, injury or not, as there is no guarantee that I’ll cross the finish line.

So, for now, I’m hoping that I can really focus the next three weeks (less than!) on staying healthy and continuing to rehab the foot.  This is my LAST WEEK of big hours of training, and I hope to enjoy it.  I am, however, pretty darn excited for the taper too!

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