Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lincoln Gap-1, Leanna-0 Appalachian Gap-0, Leanna-1

An update of my training/happenings in life appears to be long overdue, since I see that my last post was after the St. Anthony's Tri. Upon flying home from Florida on Monday after the race, there was to be NO rest for me according to my training schedule. In fact, as soon as I dropped my luggage off at the front door when I got home, I headed straight to the Athletic Centre at U of T for a swim. I ended up completing a high volume week of training after the race, which is likely a first for me! I usually take a couple of days to recover, but this time I was trying to bang out race pace intervals in the pool by Tuesday, post Sunday race.

Since January, the trend with me after building up to a high volume week was that I would either get sick or have some sort of flare up of an injury. Then I would have to back off for a little longer than desired. Surprisingly, after that first week of high volume training, post-race, I was able to execute a second week of high volume training. That was a big step forward for me, because it means that my body can now handle a larger workload before breaking down. After the 2nd week at high volume, I was a little bit worried about going to Lake Placid and Vermont for 5 days of some serious climbing. The problem was that I had no excuse to back out of the trip because I had just bought a new SRAM RED compact crank for my road bike, which is supposed to make my life a lot easier on those climbs. In theory, the compact crank is supposed to allow me to climb at a much higher cadence, instead of grinding out big climbs at an rpm of 30, which is not efficient at all, to put it mildly.

When we arrived in Lake Placid on the Friday night (May 13), we were greeted with soggy conditions and rain. The forecast for the next 5 days called for rain. The trip was already reminiscent of our previous bike training camp in North Carolina at the end of March. Despite the light rain on Saturday morning, we stuck to our schedule, which was a Time Trial up Whiteface Mountain. The three other guys that I was with (Ming, Fred, and Larbi) had all done this climb in TT format before, and I think the TT was a fun way for them to egg each other on. My strategy was to make it all the way up with no panic attacks, to keep a solid cadence, and to at least hold of the boys until 5km into the climb! I was sent up the mountain first, since I was the slowest rider, and then Ming and Fred were sent off a minute or two after me, and Larbi started another couple of minutes behind them. This Whiteface climb is 13km and we climb over 4500ft in elevation. By the time I got to the gates at 5km, Ming was already hot on my heels, and Larbi wasn't too far behind! I swear that those two have hidden rockets somewhere in their bike shoes that propel them up steep  climbs at ridiculous speeds. Fred caught me with about 2km til the summit, but I managed to finish in about 1hr and 6 minutes, with rain and all. Of course when we hit the summit, it was pouring rain and foggy, which meant that our descent was going to be dicey. I was on my breaks the whole way down, and freezing and soaked to the bone 10 seconds into the descent! In my head, I just kept telling myself that I just had to make it to the gates (5km from the base of the mtn), because I knew that cars could drive up until that point. Since the guys were pretty far ahead on the descent, I figured there would be a good chance that they would ride to the car and come get me. That is exactly what happened! I was probably a few km past the gates, when I heard the honk! Ming jumped out of the car to grab my bike from me thinking that I was probably hypothermic, but I was in much better shape than he thought! Don't get me wrong, I was frozen, and I couldn't unbuckle my helmet strap for a while, but my body was slightly pre-conditioned after our horrific day on Mt. Mitchell in NC!

After the Whiteface TT, we didn't end up swimming in the 40 something degree waters of Mirror Lake. We just put our feet up and watched a movie while it poured rain outside of our cabin. The next day we ended up going for a long run (22-23km), instead of riding a loop of the IM bike course. We jumped in the car in the afternoon and headed to Vermont, where the famous 6 Gaps Mountain passes waited for us. The weather in Vermont was equally horrible, but we were scheduled to attempt the two hardest climbs of the 6 gaps on Monday morning. I have to say that I really had no idea how difficult the Lincoln Gap was going to be, but the fact that Fred and Ming were both saying how they didn't think that they were going to make it up really just SCARED me:) The inn that we stayed at in Vermont was literally just a few minutes away from the base of Lincoln Gap. So without much warm-up and driven predominantly by fear, I started the ascent up. The average grade of Lincoln Gap is something like 20-24% and I think it's 2.5-3km long. Even with my compact crank, I was sucking air HARD 5 minutes into the climb. I could see Fred doing some very fancy switch backs in front of me, but when I tried doing one, I almost swerved off the mountain. Note to self: MUST improve bike skills. I was just riding this gap straight up, so by 9 minutes into the ride, I felt like I was at the very end of a VO2 max test. I couldn't get my breathing under control, and there is no way that you can ease off on pedaling because you are already basically doing track stands, so I had to clip out! I had been conquered by the Lincoln Gap, and had to walk my bike up the rest of the way, which was also no easy feat! The descent was awful since it's on dirt roads and gravel, and it was after this descent that I really had had enough of riding and asked for the keys to the Inn. I was really ready to call it a day. Fred convinced me that that was the worst part of the ride and that it would get better from there, so I continued on with them in the rain. By the time we rode over to the Appalachian Gap (big climb number 2), we were all cold and soaked, but there was nothing left to say. There was no way home except over this mtn. I pulled myself together, just kept telling myself to stay calm, and off I went to start the ascent. The App Gap is about 7km long, but not at the same steep grade of Lincoln Gap. It still has some very steep parts, especially the last couple of km near the top, but I was determined to make it up, and I did! So, I can happily report that I made it up the 2nd steepest climb of the 6 gaps, and it's probably among the steepest in North America.

Of course in celebration of me making it up the App Gap, the weather gods decided to weep in joy and the skies literally started flooding on us. Fred stayed with me on the descent, because he said that he wasn't a huge fan of descents, but really, for those of you who know him, he was just being the kind soul that couldn't bear leaving me behind to fend for myself. He is just WAY to nice! Anyway, despite wearing Gortex gloves, I lost all control of my fingers and hands on this descent, and my armpits, forearms, neck, back, you name it, were all cramping from trying to break all the way down the mountain. I tried unclipping and putting my foot down on the ground to stop, while I was descending since I knew it was getting dangerous, but the forward momentum was too great. I opted to just fall in to the ditch on the side of the road, since it was safer than riding over the side of the mountain going around the blind turns! I had to bail into the ditch TWICE on this descent when I just couldn't break anymore, and both times, Fred was there to pull me back up! He didn't even laugh! Thank you Fred for being there every step of the way that day! I couldn't have survived it without you!

Ok, I don't want to go on forever, but after we survived the hypothermic trek back to our Inn, we were absolutely done with riding in Vermont. We had planned to ride another 100km that afternoon, but that was completely out of the question. We decided that we were going to pack up a day early, and just drive home the next day. We ran a super hilly 15km the next morning, and packed our bags without looking back! I managed to finish that week off as another high volume week, so I did 3 in a ROW!

This week I've been absolutely exhausted and not so motivated to train, but now we know that 3 weeks of high volume is all I can handle before I start breaking down mentally and physically! I've got one week to pull myself together and recharge before the Milton Triathlon next Sunday!

Sorry for the LOOONG post with no pictures!

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