#88: Sun baked, sand blasted and salted: OBX Train-cation

That’s about right.

This week was my “train-cation”.  As I’ve mentioned, the idea was to use the family vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina to my advantage getting as much training in the hot (and notoriously windy) terrain that this little strip of beach can offer.  With Ironman in August, I’m pretty much resolved to the fact that it’s going to be hot and humid, so why not get a week of real heat tolerance work right?  Well, apparently the environment was more than happy to help out with plenty of heat, crazy humidity, winds from every direction and plenty of choppy ocean water to swim in.

SWIM – choppy, windy and (apparently) not grounded
Prior to the vacation, I made sure there was a local YMCA that offered day and week passes so I could be sure to get some swimming in.  Ocean swimming was my preference of course (how better to open-water practice right?), but just in case of bad weather or unsafe conditions, I needed to make sure there was a pool……that’s me, the “planner” type.  Well, here’s a critical question I now know to ask:

Q: “Is your indoor pool grounded”?  
A (Nags Head Y): No.

Wait, what? That’s right, when it’s thundering outdoors, the local Y kicks swimmers out of its indoor pool.  Kind of a monkey wrench in the works for me and one that makes you a little more focused on getting out in the open water.

The following day (Tuesday AM) the weather was better and the water looked reasonable, so I made my way (with Ocean-kayak escort) into the open water for a challenging, but good swim.  There was of course more current and chop than I’m used to, but it was good practice.

Don’t I look brave here?

Two days later (Thursday AM), I was back at it, but this time the wind was strong enough to make it white-cap choppy.  This was a very good test for me and although not particularly fast, I felt comfortable and relatively relaxed while swimming.  The wind was changing a lot though, so at one moment I was swimming parallel with the waves (sort of an undulating feel) and the next perpendicular with them getting multiple salty slaps in the face.  Thankfully, despite several deep-blue smackdowns, my kayak escorts stayed the course and I was able to get a solid workout in.  Amazingly, I was actually a little seasick afterward…..I guess an hour in the chop has that effect.  

End result: Despite no black lines to follow and the ingestion of plenty of the atlantic, 2 solid ocean-swims which I think was a real benefit.

BIKE – what it lacks in hills, it makes up for in headwind
The cycling this week was a different animal for me…….flat, flat and more flat.  

Monday – The hope was that I could get enough mileage in combined with heat to not lose any ground on the bike.  I started with a 50 miler – out and back.  The first 25 went fast…..the heat wasn’t too bad (93-ish) and the wind was with me.  I got to a good turn-around point around mile 29 (ok, so we’ll make it a 60 miler) and was feeling my knees some…..a little post long-run discomfort from the day before…..so I stretched and turned back which is when  WHAM! I realized I had been going with the wind.  Funny how you don’t really feel it until you’re going against it.  The next 10 miles were work.  Mentally, I was now used to the pace and cadence I was working, but with a fairly substantial headwind, I was fatiguing far more quickly than I realized.  By mile 45 I was really feeling it and had to slow down considerably…..by mile 55, I was beat and had to crawl the final 4-ish home.

Wednesday – There was CRAZY wind…….so I decided to use it to my advantage, doing 6×5 mi intervals.  I had found a loop that was about 10 miles where the “out” 5 miles was with the wind (recovery) and the “back” 5 miles was against it…..power set.  Although not particularly long, it was a really good workout…..and I was happy with my output.

Yeah, that’s about right.

Friday – BRINGING THE HEAT……on Thursday Linds, the kids and I made our way North to visit some of my college friends and families who were also vacationing that week…..as we searched for a radio station we heard the local weather for the following day “It’s going to be REALLY REALLY hot tomorrow (Friday)……the heat index will be as high as 113 to 120 in some spots……we encourage you to do any “active” hobbies early in the morning”.  Well…..what better way to finish off a tough week of training than to have drinks and good times with friends and get up the next day and train in dangerous levels of heat right?  So I did.  I decided that I would do a short(er) brick session of 30 miles on the bike followed by a couple running miles in the heat to cap off the training week.  Similar to Monday the wind was with me on the way out and then the heat AND wind against me on the way back.  Well, for the record, 113 heat index is stupidly hot.  I kept a close eye on my heart rate and although I knew I was hotter than I was used to, I was able to keep it all in check.  By the time I got back and changed into running shoes, it was oppressive.  I went out the door and ran (relatively slowly) out and back a mile or so……just enough to get the benefits of “brick”…..but not so much to leave me shot.

End result: Intensity UP (heat & headwind helps)…..volume down.  Glad we’re starting to taper.

RUN: So this is what it feels like to run in a sauna?
After Sunday’s long run (20 miles in a steam bath), I knew I didn’t want much in the way of dedicated run miles to avoid doing more harm than good and with Monday’s long ride, Tuesday presented the best opportunity for a run.  AM swim, PM intervals.  I set out to do 8 x 800m sprints in the heat…..warm-up jog a mile, 8x800m sprints and cool-down jog another mile.  

Warm-up mile?  Check.
800 m sprint x 1? Check.
800 m sprint x 2? Check.
Man, the bottom of my feet are really sore….I wonder why?
800 m sprint x 3? Check.
It sort of feels like my feet are burning…..wait, holy hell the pavement is HOT.
800 m sprint x 4? Check (in the grass)
Ahh…..much better, except…..I really don’t think I should do another 4 of these…..I’m already drenched with sweat, my heart rate is off the charts and my pace is considerably slowed.
Hang your head a little, head home and cool-down mile?  Check.

After looking at the heat-index (well over 100 AGAIN!) I realized that this may have had a role to play…….30 minutes of intense work in the heat was enough.

Two days later I did the (previously mentioned) short brick and today I found myself back on the hills of Hunterdon for a “welcome back” 10K after a critical power session on the computrainer.  I was really relieved to feel fresh and (relatively) fast on the run course, which I specifically chose for the hills.  The weather clearly was the X-factor, 80 and overcast being WAY WAY different than 97 and humid; but it still felt good to be running at a more “normal” pace…..here’s to hoping it’ll be similar in 13 days.

Where from here?
Oooh…..it’s getting close.  The long hours are generally over and now it’s time to crank up the intensity and drop the duration.  This means hard, but generally short sessions turning the dial slightly toward recovery emphasis over training emphasis with the goal to hit the starting line fresh, strong, rested and ready to GO.

Almost there,

Mike E.