Sunday, December 06, 2015

ITI training, week eight

Monday: Snow bike, 4:37, 25.3 miles, 3,522 feet climbing: This was a tough ride given I was mostly goofing off with Beat's new bike in Corner Canyon. Mashing pedals uphill through several inches of snow is hard work even if I am moving at walking pace. The worst part of the ride happened after I decided to veer downhill toward the town of Alpine, and found myself on this ridiculously steep jeep road covered in ball-bearing rocks that were masked by an inch of snow, and deep tire ruts. Walking downhill just made it worse — my shoes had poor traction on those icy rocks, and I fell on my butt while wrestling a bike that wanted to launch downhill without me. I really thought I was going to crash badly. Happily, the bike's brakes, stability, and tire traction were just amazing, and I was able to creep downhill, also at walking speeds, but upright. Then it was time to push the bike uphill on another similarly steep road, back to Draper. I was worked at the end, sweaty with minimal layers even though it was 25 degrees outside.

 Tuesday: Hike, 2:21, 6.4 miles, 2,611 feet climbing: Dad and I got out in the morning to hike Grandeur Peak before my work day, which on Mountain Time begins at noon. It was 9 degrees when we started. I know this isn't Alaska-level cold, but I don't think I've ever seen an extended cold snap this early in the winter in Salt Lake City. Temperatures were in the 20s during the day and the single digits overnight the entire week I was in town, which is relatively rare for November. I'm certainly not complaining. It was a great intro to winter for me. Grandeur Peak had minimal snow and we took it at an easy pace, jogging some on the way down.

Wednesday: Snow bike, 2:06, 12.8 miles, 1,996 feet climbing. A short but strenuous loop in the hills north of West Wendover, Nevada. Mostly what I was on this ride/hike-a-bike was cold. I was wearing the clothing I put on for driving, and set out with not enough extra layers. I needed extra gloves and socks, something warmer or at least windproof on my legs, and something to cover my face, as it was 15 degrees with a stiff breeze. I always manage to have a "freeze ride" in early December, and then the lesson is re-learned and I start making better choices. Usually it happens in California while wearing a jersey and shorts when it's 40-something degrees, so at least it was properly cold for this year's lesson.

Thursday: Morning, trail run, 1:52, 10.1 miles, 1,847 feet climbing. Evening, weight lifting at gym. I stayed with Ann in Auburn, and set out in the morning for a quick run on the Western States Trail toward No Hands Bridge. This was one of those runs where every step felt effortless. I intended to go at an easy pace for three miles and then back, but when I finally looked down at my watch, nearly five miles had passed. I attributed my abundant energy to being back in balmy California (it was 51 degrees in Auburn), but I actually think my immune system is the one to thank for this one amazing run. Have you ever heard the theory about the big blitz of fighting a virus — right before symptoms hit, your immune system kicks everything into high gear, giving your whole body a burst of power? Just a myth? Probably. Traffic was horrendous for the final 150 miles home, with torrential downpours and many accidents. By the time I hit the gym after 9 p.m., I was feeling pretty bad, which I attributed to stress from the drive. As it turned out, I was coming down with a stomach flu that my niece and nephew in Utah passed on to me. I sputtered through my weight session, but did do three sets at the same weights as Sunday. (No, I didn't yet realize I was sick. Yes, I do wipe down with disinfecting wipes before and after using machines at the gym.)

Friday: Rest. Ugh. I was sick. Stomach flu is a short-lived virus, but relentless. For most of the day I was so nauseated that I couldn't stand up without feeling dizzy, so I slept through the afternoon. Still, I waited until after 7 p.m. before I finally admitted to Liehann that I was too sick to join him for a ride in the morning. At least I'd come out of my haze enough to eat my first meal of the day — bland vegetable soup and Sprite at a Vietnamese restaurant with friends (yes, I did use hand sanitizer.)

Saturday: Evening weight lifting at the gym. Okay, I still did not feel good on Saturday, but better. I made it through two sets of lifting. I tried a run on the treadmill, but only lasted eight minutes before I felt like I was going to puke. (Yes, I did double down on the disinfecting wet wipes.)

Sunday: Trail run, 1:35, 8.6 miles, 1,101 feet climbing. I slept for 10 hours and woke up feeling amazing. 110 percent. Actually, what happened is I didn't feel quite like death anymore, but by comparison it seemed so great that I figured I could tack on a bunch of miles to the 13-mile run Beat had planned and salvage my week. Ha. As soon as we'd run 0.1 miles, it was clear I did not feel amazing, and by mile four I was about to keel over. I took a short break to get the nausea under control and then jogged home. Overeagerness noted. No harm done, really. Stomach flu is not one of those illnesses that morphs into pneumonia if you're too overeager. But pukey runs are not particularly fun.

Total: 12:32, 38.1 miles ride, 25.3 miles run, 11,077 feet climbing. Beat thinks it's a good thing I got sick and ended up having a light week. He lectured me the other day about "junk miles" — the derogatory term for what I call "volume training." Seriously, I hope to propel myself across Alaska all day every day for upwards of a month, and if I can't handle 20 hours a week of moderate-intensity efforts, then I have no business attempting this. This is my opinion. I do need to build strength, but volume is what builds endurance. Some people build endurance with lower amounts of higher-intensity training, but this has never been my practice and I'm not even sure how it would work for me. When I was training for the 2014 Iditarod, I mostly logged weeks in the 15-20-hour range, and rarely had rest days. I was pretty happy with my endurance for that event, but as always I was disappointed with my insufficient strength and lack of specificity (I had pulled a sled so little in training that I had difficulties with my hips and hamstrings, and shin splints because 350 miles is just a long damn way to walk in 7 days.)

As always in this sort of endeavor, it's never about how fast you go, but how slow you don't go. If I can establish a solid forever pace and maintain it for hours and days with minimal bodily breakdown, I'll have achieved my version of ideal fitness. The body can adapt to long-duration, limited-rest efforts. You see this in practice with thru-hikers: those who start fit and don't overdo it early tend to get stronger as they go. Setbacks such as the stomach flu notwithstanding. I hope to have a better week, next week.


  1. I'm reading Becoming Frozen and really, really liking it. This has nothing to do with this post. But anyway.

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate it! I purchased Geography of Water for my Kindle last month and it's up next on my "to read." I'm looking forward to it.

  2. I'm with you on the high volume for endurance training theory but did have a nice surprise this year. Whilst training for shorter triathlons (1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 10km run) I did plenty of short high intensity stuff. In the mid-to-late part of the season I went away with a mate for a weekend to help with her Ironman training and managed a 2 mile open water swim and a 100 mile bike ride in the weekend. Came home to a 12 mile run too. OK I was worse for wear after 100 miles on the bike and I couldn't have managed any more swimming that day but I felt like I should've gone out to find a 2/3 ironman, just to see how I got on. I'm not sure I could plan it that way though.


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