During my 70 mile training ride last weekend, I experienced something for the first time. My training schedule for the week had called for some intense workouts with a lot of hill climbing on Wednesday, high-intensity intervals on Thursday, and then 2 back-to-back long rides on the weekend of 70 miles and 80 miles each. By Thursday I knew I was in trouble. My high-intensity intervals became more of a tempo/race-pace interval. My cravings for protein skyrocketed. I feel into bed each night. My 60 minutes of easy spinning on Friday turned into a “hell no I’m not going anywhere near my bike.”

I was out early on Saturday to try to get in about 20 miles easy before the temperature shot up. I was on my way by 5:30am, 15 minutes before the sun was to rise. There was no wind (always an “uh-oh” here in Hawaii) and not a cloud in the sky.  It was going to be a hot one. (And this had been the first really hot week of the year for us already.) Goal for the ride was 70 miles in the saddle with some climbing in the valleys. 20 miles in before the heat started. Then a 50 mile ride to follow. Endurance pacing, not too hard at all.

Welcome to the HOT

Welcome to the HOT

Then this happened:

The first 20 miles were fine. I was cool and was hitting more of a recovery pace than anything else. I joined my training group at the beach at 7am and it was already pretty hot. We set out at a good pace and within about 5 miles I told them I needed to slow down a bit. They were only going out for a 30 mile ride. I had 50 to put in. I needed to pace myself.

Five more miles later I knew it was going to be a rough day. At my groups turn around point (15 miles) even they changed their plans and took an easier option back home. I continued on with my revised plan – I’d try one of the valleys up ahead and then turn around and hit the major climb if I felt ok. Then head home at a decent pace. So I head up the valley…about a two mile easy grade that ends at a steep 7% for about a quarter mile.

Nope. I had to stop. I’ve never stopped in the middle of a climb. I hit that 7% and nearly passed out. I had been hydrating and eating and taking salts, but all signs pointed to a big fat NO. So I draped my gasping body over my handlebars, took a break, caught my breath, drank a ton of water, and turned around with my tail between my legs.  I’d never been THIS exhausted. Not ever during Ironman training. Was it the heat? The miles? The training load? Was it something else?

As the miles ticked by, my plan changed.  I was 20 miles from home and really needed to get in 30 more miles to hit my 70 mile training goal. I mean, that was what was on the schedule. That’s what I had to do. That was the number in the calendar. It all added up, I couldn’t skimp, I couldn’t wimp out. I HAD to do those 70 miles even if it took me all day and all night.

If it is on the schedule it must be done

If it is on the schedule it must be done

IT WAS ON THE TRAINING PLAN.  IT WAS SET IN STONE.

And so there I was, revising my plan as I rode in the hot Hawaiian sun:

  • No, I’m not going to climb to to the Lighthouse.
  • I’ll take the road near the Hobbit House nice and easy, have a salt, eat a Gu, recover.
  • I’ll stick to a tempo pace to make up for the lack of miles.
  • 50 miles is better than 40 miles is better than no miles, right?

I’m going to pass out.  There is no tempo-pace-anything in me right now.

How about Endurance pace?

How about Recovery pace?

As I fought the urge to PUSH DON’T GIVE UP YOU WUSS YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! I had this epiphany:  I switched the display on my Garmin Edge 800 from Speed/Power/HeartRate/distance to the Map. (!!!!) And I cruised along until I came to a road I’d never been up or down and I EXPLORED.

I went up roads that I’d always wondered —

“Where does this go?”                     “What’s down that road?”

“I wonder how close that road gets to the mountains?”

“Is that a house up there? Wow.”

“Can I take this old plantation road to the next valley?

I saw places I’d never seen before, I ran into a wild pack of dogs and had a stand-off in the middle of an old road as I yelled ‘NO!!!!’ and my heart rate sky-rocketed.  I saw a wedding on the beach. I saw a life size silver-plated horse head in front of some funky house. I got some landscaping ideas and some home remodeling ideas. I stopped at more than one garage sale.

Words to live by, found at the end of an old abandoned road

Words to live by, found at the end of an old abandoned road

The sign is right…LUCKY indeed

The sign is right…LUCKY indeed

A view from a dead end, beautiful

A view from a dead end, beautiful

I didn’t look at my speed. I didn’t look at my mileage. I didn’t look at my heart rate. I just looked at the map and if I had never been down the road, and the grade wasn’t insane, I took the turn.  Explored.  

Training for Ride The Rockies is no joke. You have to put in serious miles to be properly prepared for a week of 470 miles of riding  But you need to be smart about it and you HAVE to listen to your body. Mine was clearly screaming DON’T BE AN IDIOT!  So if you find yourself obsessing over numbers on a training plan, know that there ARE ways to get the miles in that don’t need to suck. We ride because we love to ride. Remember to see more than just the miles you ride. Look around, slow down, enjoy.