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The 5/3 Monster Brick

This morning’s workout was the infamous “5/3 Monster Brick” that our coaches have been telling us about (meaning 5 hours bike, 3 hours run). I chose the picture above because you know what? The monster was probably more afraid of the IronTEAM than we were afraid of it. We were a bunch of fearless teammates who will take on whatever the coaches give us!

The coaches intentionally chose Westlake Village because of the expected heat this weekend, which will simulate what it will be like on raceday for us Vineman racers. For the Louisville team, they had to even wear cotton shirts under their normal gear because it will be even more humid & hot over there. Yikes! I was really looking forward to this workout because it was the last major build of the season, plus I installed my new 11/28 cassette last night so I wanted to see what difference it would make (it made a HUGE difference in climbing). The majority of the bike course was all that we’ve seen before, so the biggest variant was the heat, so our hydration strategy had to be dialed in. I actually felt really great on the bike – I even got up to 42mph at one point, a new season high! In the 5 hours, I managed to ride in about 78 miles, which wasn’t too bad considering all the hills 7 heat.

It was the run where everything started to break down. I don’t know exactly what I did wrong. Maybe it was the lack of sleep the previous few days? Maybe it was not enough water? Maybe I didn’t set up the nutrition on the bike well enough to power my run? It just wasn’t my running day. I felt tired early on, and was I really bonking at mile 5?! I did quite a bit of walking, as this was probably my most difficult feeling run of the season. I was so hungry that my stomach was growling. I even yawned at one point. Really?!? I talked to my coaches and they said I probably didn’t have enough carbs. That’s something I’ll have to double check, and it really goes to show how important calculating nutrition is, especially on really hot days, where things can go really bad if not planned correctly. Through the aches and pains, I eventually got through the 16.5 miles with life-saving SAG stops by teammates Traci and Elizabeth, then a moving SAG by Kristi who helped with my hunger with some yams that she had in her bento box. If this was a true taste of what’s to come at Vineman, this definitely humbled me a bit, as I can’t take things for granted and really have to pay attention to the details. Oh, the weekend isn’t over yet! Open water swim + run tomorrow. Bring it!

11/28 Cassette

Ahh yeah! Finally installed my Shimano Ultegra 11/28 rear cassette! I used to have an 11/25. If you don’t know what it is, it’s the rear gears for my bike, and the numbers indicate how many teeth in the low and top gears. I’ve had it for a few weeks now but never had a chance to put it on my bike because I didn’t have the correct tools. I wish I had this going up Piuma the other week, but I can’t wait to give this a try on those hills in Westlake! I wonder what the extra 3 teeth will help me, but I do know for sure, on some hills we’ve faced, I sure was wishing there were just a little bit more when I was climbing!

Vineman Training Weekend Pt. 2

Just when we thought the weekend was over at 2.4 + 112 miles, bright and early we met back at the high school to do our long run! We ran on the exact path as Vineman, so there will be no surprises. Teammates doing Vineman Full ran two full loops, then a portion of the third loop, which totalled 19.65 miles. People doing other events had modified routes depending on their training schedule. The course itself was relatively flat. Some rollers, but one large hill towards the middle of the loop, which I think I’ll be walking up anyway. Most of it was nicely lined with trees too. It was hot, but luckily, there was a breeze to cool us down. My pace wasn’t as fast as I would be on fresh legs, but hey, we did 112 miles of biking the day before. I was actually surprised I still had some run in me!

Vineman Training Weekend Pt. 1

Most people will venture out to Santa Rosa for a little wine tasting, but no, not the IronTEAM, we drive up there to get a preview of what’s to come in a few weeks. We got a taste of the Vineman 70.3 and the Full Distance triathlons! Starting on Friday, I met up with some teammates in the valley and we trekked the long, scenic route up north because some of us have never been there. Pictured above was our pit stop at Big Sur. Such beautiful ocean views! I can imagine why the Big Sur International Marathon is one of the top races to do in North America. Although it was nice and scenic, the drive took about 10 hours! We were unfortunately stuck behind some slow trucks on the cliffs, then took the necessary gas/food exits, so that was pretty much day 1 until we got to the Hilton for a little debriefing of what’s to come from our coaches.

Saturday Swim
Day 2 was the main reason why we went up to Santa Rosa – to test out the course! In the morning, we did a bunch of car/bike shuffling at the high school and on to Johnson Beach, where we will be doing our swim. The coaches set up bike transition racks for our convenience, then it was off for a lovely swim in the Russian River! The “slower” swimmers got a head start (which I’m a part of). The water was amazing! I was so used to the cold, salty, & rough ocean, that this was a sweet departure. Temperature was perfect, and the best thing? It was shallow! Shallow enough to stand. It was tough at some parts because I couldn’t even extend my arm all the way (I shouldn’t anyway). It was nice to be shallow enough to see the river floor so I could get a sense of how fase (or slow) I’m going. My open water skills have improved, and my nerves are much more relaxed. We were supposed to swim the full 2.4 miles by looping from the start to the “Big Green Wall”, which I missed! I was with another teammate and we kept on swimming past it – wayyyy past it! I was wondering why no one passed me up yet? I turned around sooner on the second loop to offset my mistake, but eventually finished! Of course, I was one of the last ones out because almost all the bikes on the rack were gone!

Saturday Bike
After the swim, we had an opportunity to test out the full 112 miles on the bike! The course was two loops through the beautiful vineyards of Santa Rosa. We passed by so many wineries that it was so difficult to resist temptation to stop and get a drink! The course was exactly what people described – hot, relatively flat but rolling hills, bumpy, scenic. It was true test of endurance, but more importantly a test with my nutrition and hydration. I tried something new though – Honey Stinger Waffles. It’s very tasty, but doesn’t have much calories, which I’ll be needing. It’s best to try and fail on this new product now than on raceday! There’s a big hill towards the end, but it’s nothing compared to some of the hills we’ve conquered during training. The bumpy roads masked within the shadows of the trees was a challenge. I lost 2 water bottles because of it! Overall, I was feeling great after I eventually finished the 112 in 7:20 hours. It wasn’t painful, it wasn’t overly difficult. It’s manageable if I set up my nutrition and bike strategy well. I now know how 112 feels, so that completed my puzzle of the IronTEAM unknowns.

THEN, just when you thought it was over, we had to do a 6 mile transition RUN. Yes, a run. My legs were so heavy! I was still able to run here and there, but slower pace nonetheless. It was a preview of what’s to come, but I felt overall good about it. It’s still a little crazy to think I’ll be running 26.2 after the 112, but it’s great to know that really is within arm’s reach!

Lunchtime Driving Range

There’s a 9-hole driving range near my work, so some of us decided to check out the driving range for lunch. See? There’s more to me than swim/bike/run!

Pier to Pier Swim

We did it! The team did a 2.4(ish) ocean swim this morning! Everyone met at the Manhattan Beach Pier, talked about the day’s schedule, then proceeded to the shore. We ran south 2 miles (in our wetsuits), and 1.5 miles (for the 70.3 team) to a little past the Hermosa Beach Pier. Luckily, the waves were tolerable enough to tackle on one try, and we had to swim far enough to the point where the water was a little calmer. If you add that, plus the zigzagging, that’s where the extra 0.4 came from. This was definitely the most challenging swim of the season. So many factors come into play – the distance 2.4 miles, or 4224 yards (that’s 169 laps in the pool!), challenge of sighting (no close buoys to help you swim in a straight line), ocean current and choppiness (it was so bad at one point, I had to stop and throw up because I was so seasick from the ocean movements). There were so many times though that my imagination would wander and think there’s sharks or other sea creatures below me ready to snatch me up! I was so far in the ocean, with NO ONE around me that it freaked the hell out of me! One more motivation to finish the swim faster – survive!

It does have its advantages over a pool workout though – no walls to stop your rhythm, the wetsuit makes you faster, and it’s closer to the real 2.4 of an event. I was considerably more confident in open water, it was a great way to practice my pull and breathing techniques. There were little bursts where I was sensing the water, and getting a better glide through it. Sure, I took some rest periods, but not as much as I used to. When the Manhattan Beach Pier came closer and closer, it just felt like it would never end! Do you ever drive to Las Vegas, and when you initially see the lights from The Strip from the freeway, you think you’re almost there, but in reality you’re still 45 minutes away? Well, that’s EXACTLY what it felt like. So close, yet so far away! I eventually made it to the shore, with no problems with the waves, and yessss, I did my little celebration dance in the water! Coach Brad even found some kelp, and as you can see from the photos above I rocked that kelp boa pretty well, don’t you think?

The Infamous Piuma

One of the things I remembered from conversations with last year’s IronTEAM participants was an odd word called “Piuma”. I didn’t know exactly what it was or what it referred to, but I just know it related to one of the practices. Now this morning, I finally knew what it meant. It’s a road out in Westlake (or in the vicinity of), called Piuma Rd. I checked the the bike route the night before and there it presented itself to me, in the elevation chart. What the! 2,000ish feet climb over the course of 8 miles?! Well, last year, people did this climb before Wildflower, so I can see why people complained about it last year. Yes, it was one crazy climb though! It just would never end! This one made Nasty Grade look like a baby. It didn’t get super steep like Nasty, but it was just super long. The descent was fun, but oh so scary! Imagine going down 30+ mph AND having some turns. I’m not that comfortable on the downhills yet, so you know I was pumping my brakes like crazy! Just when I thought the climbing was over, towards the end of the course, we did more climbing! The heat was coming in pretty strong too!

After all that, I felt surprisingly OK, but of course, my legs were heavy. What was next? A 12 mile run! Oh my! The ride took approximately 4:15, then the run, which were 3 loops around Westlake streets circling the lake, took 2:30. I took a bunch of walk breaks on this one, which will probably simulate what I’ll be doing on raceday. Heavy legs and heat are no bueno! This practice was definitely one of the toughest to date!

The Route

Beware of Sharktopus!

Most people’s fear of the ocean is what’s actually in those waters. Growing up to watching Jaws, then watching Shark Week, no wonder why we fear the ocean so much! It all started on one of my teammate’s Facebook walls about a Whale Shark and all it’s massiveness. Then talks of Sharktopus emerged! Since then, we’re always referring to OWS experiences of avoiding that Sharktopus! This morning, we met at Tower 26 in Santa Monica, scheduled to do 5 buoy loops. Because the main focus of these swims is actual swimming, not braving the waves, the coaches gave a modified course for those having trouble with the waves. Instead of going back to shore, instead I had to swim south for 5 minutes, head toward shore, but right before the waves start to break, head back towards the buoy. So it was more of an opposite triangle from everyone else. Removing the wave factor, I actually did it! 5 buoy loops! The farthest I’ve ever swam in the ocean! Woohoo!

Feed The Machine

I’ve been going to this shop in Hermosa Beach called Feed The Machine for nutrition needs, originally introduced to me from my teammate Chris S a few months ago. I met the owner Cyril, and we had a pleasant conversation on electrolyte intake for long training sessions, and the different races that we do. I went in because I needed to replenish my Carbo-Pro (this will be my third case!), and ended up getting way more than I needed! I also bought some Honey Stinger Waffles that everyone’s been raving about, so I’ll experiment with those on the bike, some EFS gels for my run, and I also bought some Sport Multi, a multivitamin that Cyril developed that’s supposedly better than more natural than others. So, I’m just experimenting with nutrition – although I feel like a lab rat now, but it’s better I find out now that I can’t stomach certain things than on raceday!

I’m Officially a USAT Member

I guess this makes it even more official – I got my USAT Membership card in the mail today! Not really sure what that gives me besides a $10 savings for each triathlon I sign up for, or a few vendor discounts, but it just shows how much deeper I’m getting into this addictive sport!