Today was another epic day. I know it is suspect to have two epic days in the span of four days but trust me we had the best triple today.
The plan originally was to start today with a ride. However, apparently it does rain in southern California and the roads were slick. Much to Thomas' dismay, I decided we should start with masters swim instead.
We swam at some swanky YMCA. It has one of the cleanest and biggest competition pools I have ever seen at a YMCA. And the masters group was very friendly. One thing I really enjoy about masters in California is that they do everything off of base pace. Not what you could swim in high school, not what you think you can swim, not where your best friend swims - a base pace.
Thomas and I stood on deck trying to sort ourselves into a lane. The coach explained the first lane sent off their 100's on 1:15. While trying to sort myself out, I looked into the pool and recognized the red hair and Zoot cap of a certain world champion and Ironman Hawaii runner up. Thomas had no idea who I was talking about whereas I almost soiled myself saying that is Samantha M. in that lane.
Very exciting that she was in the pool. However, she was in the fourth lane. It it not good when Sam McGlone is in the fourth of six masters lanes. At that point I was wondering if I should put myself in the therapy pool with the aquacisers as to avoid getting swum over in every other lane.
Finally I put myself into a lane. After warming up, I realized I was in the wrong lane. I noticed Thomas in the faster lane and got a bit envious at how they were moving. So I said that's it. I don't care if I get swum over, lapped or foot tapped I am going in that lane - ducked under the lane and hung on to their 1000 yard train.
That is when I realized I was swimming in S. McGlone's lane. Nevermind that she did a race yesterday or that she could lap me in a 200 on any other day. She and I were sharing bubbles in the same lane. I might have just peed myself in the lane. And when it was my turn to lead 100 yards of the 1000 yard train with her two swimmers behind me I said to myself you are pulling S. McGlone's lane. I told myself to remember this feeling forever of being smooth, strong and on top of the water - effortlessly pulling the lane.
The rest of the workout was a whir of 4500 yards including some 200's on the 2:40. I have no idea how I pulled that off but remember at one point hanging on to the wall for dear life for 50 yards just to get some air before I jumped in again. Then I got mad at myself for giving up for 50 yards - but some lessons are hard learned, a scolding of yourself to make sure you never let it happen again.
Afterwards, we geared up for our 3 hour ride with Brad. Brad planned a beatifully challenging route inland. We rode from his place down some hills before arriving near Del Dios. My legs were exhausted from the past four days. As we began to climb Del Dios, I sat behind Thomas and Brad protecting me from the wind. Up the hill I sat there spinning comfortably when I finally just said to myself make your move. I had no idea if my legs would respond or how long I would last but I took off. Up the hill, pushing hard and killing my legs. Sometimes I feel when you think you are going hard you are not really going hard. It is good to take a chance and make a move to show yourself how hard is hard. And I found it. I found my hard today.
We arrived at the Elfin Forest to do our intervals. 2 x 20 minutes. Before starting, Thomas stopped for quick break while Brad and I went ahead. As soon as we entered the forest I said "giddy up" to Brad and took off. Again, it was time to make a move and while going uphill and into the wind would be hard to hold them off I told myself I had to try.
It took 10 minutes of making it hurt before the boys caught up to me. In those 10 minutes I pushed as hard as I could in my legs. There was pain. There may have been stars. I could see them over my shoulder and when finally they passed I couldn't catch on, watched them slowly ride away.
After 10 minutes, we turned around. The second interval begins, this time mostly downhill with tailwind. Brad and Thomas take off leaving me quickly behind. I am no match for downhill tailwinds and as I pushed to give it my best try I realized I might as well pronounce my legs dead. It took everything I had in my head and the nothing that was left in my legs to ride out the next 20 minutes. Several times I felt ready to cry but then I said THERE WILL BE NO TEARS today. At a certain point you have too many experiences that remind you that crying never once got you through. Breaking down and feeling sorry for yourself will not help turn the pedals any faster. I might be near cracking but I will not crack by crying today. So I just bucked up to the end and met up with Brad.
We find Thomas by the church and there is talk of taking it easy on the way back. This sounds like a good plan since my legs left me about 4 days and 250 miles ago. We begin the climb on to Del Dios and the wind is still pushing in my face. Easy has become hard.
On a quick descent a man passes me. For some reason this fires me up, makes me dig deep in my legs and pull up to Thomas to say "he will be mine." Throw it in the big ring and push up the climb. The man hovers just ahead of me. He outdescends me by sheer size and also climbs fairly well. Del Dios has dips and peaks but as the man stays within sight I push through them both. Finally I pass him and think I have seen the last of him. Then he descends by me again.
Now it's on.
This time I am descending with him. I will sit in his draft and make my move when the moment is right. The final ascent to Cielo is the right moment and I climb - leaving him behind until Thomas pulls up next to me to report that he chased me for awhile before getting within a bike's length and then making a turn away.
It was a fun game but used up everything in my legs. Sometimes it is good to go out on a limb and connect to the raw competitiveness that pushes us in the game. It made me realize that even when I thought I had dead legs I could still find something left. And using that little something in my legs with strategy in my head I could make the most of it and push through.
We ride back towards Brad's and there is one final hill. Thomas and I agree to lay up and spin all the way. I make an attack telling Thomas I was just kidding about laying up, stand, stomp a few times before telling Thomas I was just joking about the attack and sat back down right as the burn set into our legs.
It was an evil trick that left him screaming but was oh so fun.
After the ride, time for a 40 minute run. The run was in a word - painful. I have never felt such pain in my legs. My heart rate would no longer respond to the effort level. And mentally I was at the edge. 10 minutes into it I nearly cried but told myself that won't make a difference. Just do the work, give it some effort and see what you can do. Zone 4 effort actually came up as Zone 2 but I just kept trying harder and harder until the last few minutes Brad shouted that's what I'm talking about and I said to myself good because that's what I meant. This hard work, this gritting of the teeth on tired legs is what I meant to do today.
And then there was food. Lots of food, maybe a beer and of course a piece of cake. Good times, good friends, and too many laughs. Cat said I laughed so hard that I got into that zone where you just start making silent laughs.
Tomorrow is the final day. I asked my coach for my workout and she said "how are you mentally because physically I know you are trashed." Yes, physically there is heaviness and pain. But mentally - well, I can't crack. I have been close, very close but I keep telling myself this isn't hard - you've done Ironman. You've done Ragbrai. You've done this before. You won't blow up, you won't explode. You'll get through it just like in the past.
So for that she gave me hill repeats. And then an easy ride. Thomas almost cried and I have reason to believe he will crack on Monday. But as for me I'm just hoping to power up those hills powered by cake, memories, laughs and knowing that it is my last '"camp" day.