160 days: Test weekend

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. We’re well over halfway there on the calendar… and about to kick this thing into high gear on the fundraising front! Raised so far: $4,257! Want to increase this total? Chip in a few bucks to one of our causes here, or find out how you can get involved by pinging me on Facebook or by dropping me a note.

Reminder: There are now less than three weeks remaining to double your donation to a couple of great causes. Until May 4 I’ve pledged up to $500 to match donations through our cause made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington & Alaska and to the American Heart Association. Follow the link, donate, I’ll match it.

Test Weekend

As I’ve mentioned in several different posts over the past weeks and months, work has been extremely all-consuming for quite a while. I haven’t really been able to talk about it here, however, and won’t be able to discuss my role in the project for a while. But I can share this tidbit as it is making a lot of noise in the science world right now: the project I’ve supported for the past 8.5 years had a HUGE event take place last Friday. I didn’t directly contribute to making this big event happen, but we are all very excited about it…

Because of these work commitments, that I can’t yet mention in this blog, my training has suffered. I was woefully unprepared for the 13.1 and 26.2 in February and March – with mixed success. Daunting races, but races I could bluff my way through.

In 2 1/2 weeks I have a race I cannot bluff my way through: Ironman 70.3 St George. You don’t bluff your way through 1.2 miles of swimming. You certainly can’t bluff your way through a 56-mile bike course with a monster climb starting at mile 40. And there is no way of bluffing your way through a 13.1 mile run with two long, grinder hills. All at about 3,000ft in altitude… for a guy that lives at sea level.

So, after the pressure relief valve from work was released a week ago, I amped up the training. Every day I must swim, bike, or run. Often two of each per day. Each day increasing in distance and intensity.

It is foolish to enter a triathlon of any distance without putting in the requisite training. It is downright dangerous to take on a challenging race like St George if you aren’t physically and mentally prepared to take it on. (Here is a glimpse into how tricky this course can be – last year’s writeup of the 140.6 St George course from pro Mackenzie Madison – I listen to what she says very closely, as I finished Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens with a time just off hers last year). Knowing the potential difficulty of the course, and my lack of solid preparation to this point, I haven’t fully mentally committed to making the drive to Utah in a little over two weeks. I need to test myself to see if I’m ready.

So, this weekend is make-or-break time. Over this weekend, two weeks away from race day, I’ve established my own little pass/fail exam. My test weekend, if you will. I need to perform a mock version of each leg of the event to its full distance, at an intensity and difficulty level reasonably resembling the St George course. What does this mean?

  • I must swim 1.2 miles with no breaks/stops/rests. As I will be swimming the race in a full wetsuit, I will have the benefit of added buoyancy and efficiency on race day, so I will feel OK if I can knock this out without a wetsuit in the pool and feel fine. What I won’t be able to prepare for: if the waves kick in like they did for the race last year. It started off glassy smooth, and then the winds whipped up waves reaching over 5 feet high. Of the 1700 that started the race, I’ve read that 400 didn’t make it to the end of the swim. I have no control over that… Mother Nature is fickle.
  • I must ride my racing bike 56 miles, and climb at least 2,552ft to match the elevation gain on the St George course, with at least one monster hill after mile 40. If you aren’t familiar with triathlon racing bikes, here is all you need to know: they are crazy fast on straight/flat/downhill stretches, but aren’t highly maneuverable. Most importantly, they aren’t really all that much fun on steep climbs.
  • Capped off by a moderately hilly 13.1 mile run. I have the course in mind; it is hilly, on the wind-blown bluffs along the beach… and is really just a slightly longer version of my training run on Sunday.
For those unfamiliar, this is what my "Rocket Bike" - triathlon racing bike - looks like in its speed mode. Lots of carbon fiber... very fast... and that disc wheel and deep front wheel make a wicked WHOOOOSH sound at full speed.

For those unfamiliar, this is what my “Rocket Bike” – triathlon racing bike – looks like in its speed mode. Lots of carbon fiber… very fast… and that disc wheel and deep front wheel make a wicked WHOOOOSH sound at full speed.

I won’t force myself to run them consecutively. The remaining two weeks of training and race day adrenaline will make that leap possible. If I’m not happy with my test weekend, though, I need to have the difficult, honest conversation with myself and stay home the first weekend in May.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

Breaking news: I just heard about the Boston Marathon finishing line explosions just as I was about to press the publish button on this post. Wow. Please keep those impacted by the explosions in your thoughts (and prayers, if that’s how you roll).

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