This week was packed with Vineman recon: a solo ride of 90% of the bike course on Thursday, a group brick including 10 miles of the run course on Saturday, and an intense amount of forecast-stalking on most days in between.
I’d debated how to structure this last big week of training — there were plenty of options besides what I did — but when I got to the end of Saturday’s workout, I only felt relief. I learned so much from being on each of those courses one more time, about the race and myself and when I felt good and when I’ll want extra motivation (read: food) to get me through a tough spot. It was a lot of driving, and a lot of time in the heat, but I’m happy with how I chose to spend this week.
Now it’s taper, which means trying to keep busy and not freak out about anything I am or am not doing. To this end, Pete and I went to a local nursery and bought a bunch of plants yesterday. If you need me, I’ll be in the garden potting herbs. And maybe obsessively checking the weather … but mostly potting herbs.
Here’s week eight:
Tuesday: Lacking swimming motivation — as well as my gym card, which I now suspect I may have lost at the gym — I met a friend at her pool. The accountability and the chance to swim long-course meters for the first time ever were well-worth the $15 drop-in fee. Swam 2600 meters (~2800 yards) including 4 sets of 400s with the first 300 easy and the last 100 speedier plus some hard 50s.
Wednesday: Track workout of 6×600, 2×300. We were supposed to go as far as 6×300, but when I checked in with our coach after the 600s and she found out I’d been speeding up on each one, she — rightly — guessed that I was holding back for fear I’d slow down or not finish. So, she sent me out with instructions to do just two 300s but legitimately run them as fast as I could. I ran 1:23 and then 1:17 (7:15 pace!), which I admit IS far faster than I thought I could run. My legs and back were sore after, though — perhaps proof that a) I’m not made for sprinting and b) I’m ready for taper.
Thursday: Solo 56-mile ride, 50 of it on the Vineman course, plus a 1-mile mini-brick run. I started from Windsor High, which replaces the first 5 mostly flat miles of the race with 5 other mostly flat miles and meets up with the course on Westside. For the first 30 miles of the ride, I felt amazing; despite a few brief stops (stoplights, retrieving a Gu that flew out of my bag when I hit a pothole, fixing my speed sensor), I was trucking along at 16 mph average — HUGE for me over that distance. I was smiling at passing cyclists and memorizing wineries on the course to tell my family where to spectate and looking at the scenery and, honestly, getting a little emotional. Western Sonoma County is where I started hiking, and started thinking of exercise as something more than drudgery in a gym, and started to fall in love with being outside. Being on my bike for hours out there, alone, was cathartic in ways I wouldn’t have expected.
The last 26 miles were tougher — a combination of the heat (I had plenty of water, but it had heated up so quickly it was hardly refreshing), a warm headwind, getting lost, and knowing the worst of the ride was ahead of me. I stopped for several minutes at the store around mile 36 to reapply sunscreen and refill my bottles with cold water, and I never really got momentum back after that. I kept waiting for the shady part of 128 that I remembered from my first ride on the course, but I apparently made it up. Chalk Hill was fine, but I let myself believe that it was all downhill from there, while actually the next five miles continue to roll — and roll over some of the choppiest pavement on the course. It’s really not till mile 50+ and the turn back towards Windsor that you’re solidly downhill on good roads.
Still, with all stops included, I pulled up to the car in 3:55, making me feel pretty good about my race goal of 3:45. I also learned how to swap water bottles from my front cage to the back and to drink out of my back bottle and replace it without crashing. And as a bonus, I even learned how to take salt pills, which was a major victory considering I often feel like I’m going to choke when trying to swallow even an Advil. My phone said it was 90 degrees at the end of the ride, and my car said 100; I’m inclined to align myself more with the car, because while it had been sitting out in the sun for four hours, so had I.
Takeaways: I really need to eat earlier in the ride (my goal will be a whole Gu before I’m off River Road during the race in addition to my every-20-minutes food plan). I may do a quick full stop to swap/refill water bottles for the second half of the ride if it’s a hot day (I thought I’d do a bottle of Rocktane and a bottle of Skratch on the bike and supplement with aid station water, but the stuff in the bottles was grossly warm after 30 miles). I need to save myself a special treat — mint chocolate Gu or a fig newton or something; jellybeans? — for the stretch between the Chalk Hill descent and Shiloh. Dry Creek is a great place to truck it, and Canyon really isn’t bad.
Friday: Rest. Skipped a short, optional swim because of silly logistical failures, and while I could have gone back out later in the day, I took it as a sign to just chill.
Saturday: My last big workout with the group: an hour out-and-back bike ride, then 10 miles of running on the Vineman course. It was overcast, but as Pete always used to remind me when he lived up there, there are two kinds of Sonoma County summer days: the ones where it’s cloudy in the morning and hot and sunny by noon and the ones where it’s sunny and hot in the morning and you just want to die all day long. Indeed, by the time we were starting the run at 10:15, it was sunny — but temperatures still hovered around 70. And it was delightful. The first four miles felt rough, but apparently it was just an extra-long transition, because my legs eventually got some spring back. I know it was a tease; I know it’s more likely than not to be 85+ on race day. But the run felt so much better when I didn’t need an emergency garden hose infusion to cool off.
Sunday: One mile of slow and choppy swimming at Aquatic Park. I didn’t notice the wind until I made the first turn along the buoy line and suddenly got slapped in the face with incoming waves. I felt strangely relaxed, though, and just rolled with it, enjoyed the ride, and thought about now nice swimming in a nice, calm river will be.
Week Eight Stats
Swimming: 4600-ish yards
Biking: 71 miles
Running: 15 miles
Other: A good amount of stretching/foam rolling
Most proud of: A solo long ride; making it to taper feeling good.
Need to work on: Plans for getting myself out of low spots should they hit on race day; laundry?
Excited for: SUNDAY.