Coach John and I talked at the end of last year about doing more shorter races with more speed and power workouts thrown in. So far it's seemed to have been working like a charm and I'm looking forward to putting things to the test soon. The plan, as you can see, still has some distance workouts but when faced with time constraints I've been doing what I can but adding more intensity and not focusing so much on the long-slow-distance Ironman workouts that I've done the last two years.
During the last couple of years I've come to do some regular routes that I use as benchmarks of fitness. You know the kind where you know where you should be when you reach a particular intersection or landmark whether it be on a bike or run course. Sometimes these can be good as you can continually see improvements, other times if you are having a bad day you can be discouraged by getting to these landmarks in a time slower than you think you are capable of, or your total time for a familiar route may be off what it should be.
Lately, though, I've been busting through barriers just a few years ago I never thought possible.
On the bike, I have really noticed the hills, if you can call them that, seem much, much smaller after riding in Spain. Hills I used to climb in my largest rear cog I now regularly do with 2 or more gears left to go. One ride I used several times last year was a nice 60 mile ride with some rolling hills from my house to the Edinboro Olympic Triathlon course then back. I always rode it at a 1/2 Ironman pace or so and last year was happy to average 20mph or just under. I think in 3 rides last year I finally broke 20 the last time.
This year I went out a few weeks ago on a cool spring day and kept the effort light, probably slightly below 1/2 Ironman pace. End result was an easy 20.5 mph pace on a day I wasn't even trying to push things. The road to and from the course is fairly flat but there are a couple of good hills in the middle and of course the always present climb home:
The first test on the bike comes up in a couple of weeks with the annual Spring Time Trial at Presque Isle. A flat 12.5 mile course that I rode at 25.8 mph last year. Goal this year is to crack 26+. After that I'm thinking of racing several local races when they fit into the schedule.
I am also surprised at how much I continue to see improvements in running. I figured this would be the case while doing 40-75 miles per week over the run focus this winter, but with the added bike and swim training the mileage has dropped to about half that. Yet I continue to see marked improvements in the run. My weekly long run on a rolling course has remained in the mid 7 minute pace without feeling too hard. I also entered at the last minute a 5k two weeks ago on a cold and windy day. The course was advertised as flat but it was actually pretty rolling and from 1.5 to about 2.5 miles it was uphill into what seemed like a 20mph headwind. Last fall I ran my best 5k in 19:52 on a perfect day on a flat as pancake course. Two weeks ago I ran a 19:07 on a crappy day in crappy conditions. Like an idiot I forgot my watch so I did not know I was that close to breaking the 19 minute barrier but I'm confident had I known I was so close I could have dug a little deeper for those last 8 seconds.
I also have a training run I do every couple of weeks from the local YMCA. We call it the Monday 7 as it used to be run every Monday by the group of guys that runs regularly from the YMCA at lunch. It's uphill for 3 solid miles including some stretches of 5-6 percent that come at you pretty early. I remember running it in 2007 and breaking 1 hour for the first time and thinking it was hard. By the middle of 2008 I could run it in 52-53 minutes consistently, although it still seemed hard. In the middle of my run focus for the Disney marathon I think I was around 51 minutes and could not think of how hard it would be to break 50 minutes. However a few weeks ago I surprised myself and ran a 48:30. Today I lowered that by another minute which worked out to 7+ miles at 6:40 pace. My new goal is to run it in 45 minutes by mid summer. Here's the run profile that proves it is not fast.
Up first for the season is the JerseyMan half on May 9th. I'm headed to the Garden State for a smackdown with buddy Joe in his home state. I was not able to put together any good 70.3 races last year and that still burns me. So if things stay on track I will be racing angry at JerseyMan and finally cracking that 5hr barrier which I know I can do.
Other that it will be a slew of local races that will probably include the Highmark Quad Games, Edinboro Triathlon, Presque Isle Triathlon, maybe Cleavland Triathlon, a few local 5k's, some more bike races and then the ultimate test, the Savageman Half in September. Oh, and still in there is putting on a race, The Dam Tri, at the end of June.
Should be a fun year...