Just for the Fun of Making It Hurt
I filled last week with a missed workout or two, some junky sleepless nights, and just a touch of social media excitement. It all led up to a fun, low-key weekend of local events.
…we participated in the Great Race of Agoura, which actually consists of FIVE point-to-point races held simultaneously, all with one finish line. The races include: two half-marathons –the Pacific which winds on paved roads through the Santa Monica Mountains (hilly), and the Chesebro which follows the trail we train on several times a week (hilly); the 10k meanders through Old Agoura (hilly); the Deena Kastor 5k on some of the same roads (kinda hilly); and a one mile (hopefully not too hilly).
It’s a great event, and one that I would have signed up for and jogged through just to supplement a training day. I thought about participating in one of the half marathons thusly, but Coach Steve is on a mission to teach me how to race. That doesn’t mean go nuts every weekend so much as it means target something, train mindfully toward it (but not to the detriment of the big picture training plan), and focus up at the start line. Basically, I need to learn how to make it hurt.
So, fine, the 10k it is.
10k is a great distance because, like a sprint triathlon, the pain doesn’t last long. An hour of threshold work exhibits fitness and demonstrates progress, but the purple face/pounding heart/angry quads hurt goes away within five minutes and it doesn’t require a ton of recovery time. That means, in turn, I don’t get a by for a three hour ride later the same afternoon.
Dusty and I drove the course once, and he scouted it race week during a training run. He devised a pretty brilliant pacing plan for its rather tricky terrain that was basically “don’t try anything for the first half, then don’t push on this hill or you’ll be walking the next.”
Well, I wouldn’t brag about my finish given the course, but it demonstrated good progress. (IT HURT BUT I DIDN’T DIE! YAAY!)
…marked the Inaugural Matt Biondi Masters swim meet put on by my master’s group, the Conejo Valley Multisport Masters (CVMM). Eleven-time Olympic medalist Matt Biondi swims with “us” (well, not ME so much as people on the team who get up for morning practices), having made a return to swimming a few years ago, dropping a(nother) few world records in his division along the way. Thirty years after his first Olympic games, CVMM organized the meet to commemorate Biondi’s achievements in the sport, as well as to raise a little money for our non-profit club.
The amount of volunteer hours poured into making this event a success completely blows me away. Nancy Reno, our head coach, was told to expect around 125 swimmers for a first-time event, but 200 showed up. Among those people were Matt Biondi (of course), professional triathlete and Ironman CHAMPION Jordan Rapp, author/poet/lawyer/PhD/former Czech Olympic breaststroker Sarah Condor-Fisher, and the rest of us! Matt, for one, threw down a 21:8something in the 50 freestyle. Very impressive.
For my part, I registered for the meet in late January, just after our One Hour Swim (which is exactly what it sounds like –swimming for an hour straight for distance). At that point I felt pretty great about my ability to pace and turn my brain off for extended periods of time. So I signed up for the mile.
Once upon a time, between 7th and 8th grade, I was the go-to 500 freestyler on our little summer-league team. I haven’t considered myself a fan or a specialist in it since, though, and neither did any of my coaches through high school and college. Even with all the rote distance freestyle triathlon training I do now, I still don’t think of myself as a “distance person” (a separate classification of crazies).
I almost immediately regretted the decision, but started concentrating on my turns and walls a little more in practice: the mile in a short-course yards pool consists of 66 lengths and 65 flip-turns. Pushing off the wall is up to 20% of the race if you do it WELL –if you don’t, you’re expending extra energy to make up a few yards you could have gotten for “free” with a strong push, three butterfly kicks, and good streamline.*
*most triathletes talk themselves out of a) swim meets, and b) learning how to do flip-turns because of dizzy/water up the nose/weeh excuses, but here’s the fact: a better flip turn means you’re swimming faster. Swimming faster means YOU’RE SWIMMING FASTER. It also means you’re swimming with faster people, who up your game, thus improving your swim split, leaving you fresher out of the water, and biking on a clear course with the front pack. HELLOOOOOOOOOO?
WELLLLL… I was the 8th seed time in the event, but was spared from swimming in an outside lane during Jordan Rapp’s heat, which was pretty exciting to watch. Instead, I got a center lane in the 3rd of 4 heats. I ended up with a 20:39, which is a 1:15 average per 100, and won my heat, had the fastest lady-time of the day, and was 5th overall in mixed company. And I think I can do better next time. If you have 20 minutes and change to spare, you can watch my heat here (note: I’m in lane 4, but the camera person is obsessed with my teammate in lane 6… at 18 minutes they say I’m kicking butt, and at the finish they’re like “oh…I hope she wasn’t counting on having a bell lap”) or Jordan’s diesel engine vs. Mark Tripp’s “go out hard and try to hang on” philosophy at work, here.
I also signed up for my old favorite, the Individual Medley (both 100 and 200 distance, but not the 400 thankyouverymuch). The 200 didn’t feel great because I didn’t cool-down or warm-up properly after the mile (and got a major guilt trip for it from teammate and former Wildflower Triathlon champion, Andrew MacNaughton). I went 2:34 (lane 1, farthest from the camera). The 100 as better because even I can talk myself into making it hurt for a 25 of each stroke in 1:10 (heat winner here), which is about as fast as I can usually muster myself to do a 100 free). I also did my best impression of a sprinter in a 4×50 free relay, but I’ll put the result of THAT to you this way: Matt Biondi would have been finished by the time I took my first breath after my flip turn.
So, yeah, a fun weekend of single-sport racing. It’s not great for getting in volume, but it’s excellent for mental training. My weekend reinforced a few things I already know, some of which have yet to put into practice: I prefer a sustained, dragged-out 70-80% kind of hurt over a quick all-out effort; having a goal really helps me execute things the way I should be able to; and “excuses are easy to come by, so you might as well do everything you can to do as well as you can,” e.g. scout the course, work on the flip turns, warm-up and cool-down properly, and SIGN UP FOR THE CHALLENGING THINGS.
Make it hurt and move on. =)