Sunday, April 6, 2008

My Legs Hurt

Training Synopsis over the past 6 days at Solvang Triathlon Camp: 24 hours of cycling, 4 hours of running, 3 hours of swimming. That's a 31 hour training week, severely skewed towards long periods of time on a hard bike saddle. I'm pooped. I told Peter Reid it was interesting to experience how my body absorbed a true "pro" training load. Couldn't imagine that volume week after week. Well, I *could* but only if it were a full time job.

Here's my story for this week:

Sophisticated wine snobs were fooled when they sipped Charles Shaw in a blind tasting and ranked it as an award-winning merlot from what must be an expensive and high ranked vineyard.

In reality, Charles Shaw merlot is a cheap (albeit tasty) two dollar grocery store wine, aptly given the title "Two Buck Chuck".

As I sit here in my motel room sipping a glass of that infamous Charles Shaw, I reflect back on the week's activities here in Solvang, California, where I was hired (ironically by a guy named Chuckie) for a week-long stint as an assistant coach and physiologist for a cycling intensive triathlon camp...

Day 1: Arrived in Solvang, a quaint and quirky Dutch town in Northern California, where I immediately noticed that every citizen has white hair, oversized sun-blocking glasses and drives an expensive car with a box of kleenex on the dashboard, much like Fort Lauderdale. They don't look Dutch to me...just old and rich.

Upon arriving at the Meadowlark Inn, a small roadside motel, an easy 6 mile vineyard run was scheduled to shake out the travel legs and meet the rest of the gang - a crowd of 10 triathletes here to be coached by the best of the best: ex-Ironman winner and triathlon bad boy Chuckie V, Ironman World Champion and the fastest Ironman ever (7:51!) Peter Reid...and me (claim to fame is that I have more kids than either of these guys).

Dinner on this evening, and every night the rest of the week, was prepared by a big tall fellow named "Norbert", who is a local 5 star chef to celebrities like Catherine Zeta Jones and the hell if I know any other celebrities in the Santa Barbara area. I'm sure there's dozens. During the week, he prepared meals like crabcakes on a bed of mango cabbage, breaded salmon with rice cakes and crème brulee with fresh raspberries. It's possible I actually gained weight this week, despite nearly double the volume of my heaviest training week ever.

Every night, a coach or visiting lecturer gives a presentation on physiology, nutrition, training, etc., so I was able to pick up quite a few valuable tidbits on this trip. I may seem like I know a bit when I coach or talk about physiology, but trust me, what I know fills a thimble compared to what I yearn to understand (that's yearn, not urine. Thank you spell check).

Day 2: 2500m swim practice with drills and swim coaching from Chuckie V and Peter Reid. I swam and did not coach, as the guys wanted to see me in the pool. Chuckie told me I can be "first out of the water" at Ironman with just a few form tweaks! Let's just say I'm very motivated now to make those form tweaks (specifically longer extension, more complete finish, higher elbow, slightly more "catch-up" style swimming, and growing my feet 8 inches longer).

Big breakfast (primarily baked oatmeal and quiche) then a 100 mile hilly bike ride. I'm riding a borrowed bike from Specialized Bikes and way cool Specialized rep Ian Dewar, who I'm rooming with. I salivated over the $8500 Transition S-Works he has sitting in our motel room (a bike I've been trying to get my hands on for 8 months), but ended up riding an equally cool S-Works road bike. I'll be helping out in his tent down at Wildflower, and will probably ride the S-Works Transition down there. Fast bike with enormous increase in power transfer compared to my current ride (I did test it out a couple times during this week).

Most of the ride is in a 26-28mph paceline. Good stuff, but long day for the first day out! These Northern California roads are hilly with tons of potholes, and my ass hurts. By the end of the week, my butt cheeks had more potholes than the road. The right cheek and left cheek seem equally pocked. At least I'm balanced.

Today, and every day this week, we are followed by a Sag Wagon, full of Clif Bars, Clif Bloks, Mrs. May's trail mix, and a wide variety of "ride foods", which I'm sick of within 2 hours. You can only eat glorified candy for so long. Give me a freakin' banana for crying out loud. Or cheese. I craved cheese a lot this week. Interesting, because on these long slow rides, the body really craves protein and fat - so should we be eating it during Ironman? I do.

Finished the ride and returned to the motel, where a relaxing yoga session was followed by dinner.

Day 3: Morning run coaching with Peter Reid and an aerobic threshold track test, which I plan on implementing with the athletes I coach, since it was a turning point in Peter's athletic success when he was coached by Mark Allen. Peter recommends run drills after a long tiring run for maintaining form. I tried this later on in the week and all I can say is I felt like a high stepping funky chicken with lead legs.

Peter, by the way, is the nicest and coolest pro I've ever come across, with none of the egotistical mannerisms of most of the other pro triathletes. He's actually real and refreshing. A genuinely good guy who doesn't "talk down" to you. He's fast like greased lightning, but in an unassuming and subdued way (like Winnie the Pooh having Rambo like powers). That must have been a wine-influenced analogy. This bottle is disappearing fast.

After our track run, we embarked on an 85 mile bike ride to Jalama Beach, a completely isolated shoreline with not a sunbathing Californian in sight. By far, it was the quietest beach I've seen in California. Eerily quiet. Maybe there's face-eating fungi in the water, who knows.

Day 4: Swim session, easy 60 mile ride that didn't feel easy, nutrition and physiology presentation by me, dinner, bed, I'm getting tired. The days are turning into a segmented blur of training. Swim, eat, pedal, eat, run, eat.

Day 5: Legs hurt. 50 mile ride with 9 mile sustained climb at the end followed by a 9 mile trail run above the Santa Ynez valley. Beautiful scenery. My hands, the main part of my body exposed on these rides, are very sunburnt. Later that night, we had a campfire session where Peter Reid gave out dozens of Ironman training secrets. I'm eating this stuff up.

Speaking of eating this stuff up, you don't *believe* how hungry you get on these camps. I've sustained a 24-7 appetite despite 6000+ calories/day. It's unbelievable. I'm a human garbage disposal. OK, maybe a Cuisinart.

Day 6: Swim session. Chuckie introduces me to a special set of time 150's, 75's and 50's that I plan to use quite a bit. I'm also going to be using more 300's on short recovery in my training and coaching. After breakfast, an undulating 55 mile ride with a steep 4 mile climb in the middle, followed by a 10 mile vineyard run. When I finished the run, I realized my body is slowly shutting down, with deep aches and pains everywhere. Not bad pains. Just "please stop exercising" pains.

I performed a series of blood lactate and VO2 tests on camp athletes all afternoon. Ran a lab straight out of my roadside motel room. Let's just say that after a week of hard and heavy training, some of these guys weren't all too eager to take it up to VO2 max range. Everyone survived, then we moved on to a final dinner and celebration at the Vineyard House, a local restaurant. Everybody seems exhausted, but everybody is still smiling. We Ironman athletes sure are a masochistic gang.

So that's a wrap. You can probably tell I'm a bit tired as I write this.

If you are one of the athletes that I coach, I'll definitely be tweaking a few aspects of my program based on some of the tips and tricks I picked up at camp this week. Look for a more specific letter from me on that later on. Especially exciting is a perspective from Peter Reid for 10 Weeks to an Ironman, and *exactly* what the World Champion did for last 10 Weeks for nutrition and training.

The next camp I'll be coaching is Cal Zaryski's Critical Speed camp for Ironman Coeur D' Alene, right here in Coeur D' Alene, Idaho.. He still has quite a bit of room for more athletes, so visit his website at criticalspeed.com if you want to get a piece of the action. It won't be quite as a high a volume as the Solvang camp, but will include more balanced volumes of swimming, cycling, and running.

I'm going to go sit in an ice bath for a week. My butt cheeks are coming along for the ride as well. Over and out.

Ben
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