The storms last week left 14 inches of snow at my house. Training outdoors can be tough during the winter, but Boulder is pretty lucky with about 300 days of sunshine a year.
Throw in a low humidity level here in Colorado, and once the storm ends, the main arteries usually clear up by the next day. This means people can run or ride their bikes--though you have to be a pretty hardy athlete to do it.
Each Wednesday my running group meets for 60 to 75 minutes. I coach--they run! This week, it was nine degrees out when I left my house. (Another runner mentioned it had "warmed up" to 13 degrees at the track, however.) When I reached the track, it had a foot of snow on it. A bit challenging, so we opted for Plan B.
The group decided to run up to the long, winding roads that lead up to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). I usually like breaking the snow on trails, but an ankle "issue" kept me from wanting to test it.
The road to the NCAR includes three separate hills and finishes with a mile and a half climb up to the Center. Our total was about nine miles (with approximately 5 miles of climbing).
After that, I headed over to the athletic club in town where my sister and I both coach at an outdoor pool. The pool deck was covered in ice, so I got in the hot tub first to get my core temperature up. Then, in just my swimsuit and bare feet, I ran over to the pool and jumped in with the rest of the crew.
There were 24 people there. I swam in a lane with Simon Lessing and his wife. He pummels me when he's in the water with me. Because of the cold temps, most of the swimmers don't like me going off on long jokes or stories. And we don't do any long or extensive stroke work either. Just keep swimming. But we did get in over 4,000 meters.
Following that, I headed upstairs at the club to hop on a bike. I told myself that this coming year I'm going to try to ride more, and so I need to be consistent on the bike in the winter. However, all the spinning bikes were busy so I jumped on the Lifecycle instead. My level of exertion was pretty low after the hard run and swim. I think I felt a light bead of sweat on my forehead, but that's about it!
With the holidays coming up, it can be hard to stick to your training. The number one thing I can advise is: Be consistent. That's kind of become my mantra.
I used to do more "all or nothing" kind of stuff, but have learned that doing even the minimum consistently is significantly better for your overall training. If all else fails, do at least 20 minutes; 40 to 50 minutes would be ideal for people in a crunch. Just try and get out there everyday.
Even if an athlete feels like they ate too much or whatever, once they get out there and elevate their heart rate, they'll get an endorphin boost and everything in "life" seems a bit calmer. If you need to, go hard, then back off, then go hard again.
People often get hung up when they skip a workout and don't have an alternative. If a holiday party causes you to miss your usual 6:30 a.m. run, try to plan a make-up for later that day. You don't need to make a huge commitment or time block, but the benefits of getting that alternative workout in are enormous.
Adhere to your schedule as much as possible. It will give you a way to work off stress and you'll feel a lot less guilty about over indulging.
Last month I did the Silverman Half in Henderson, Nevada. About a month before, Frank Lowry, the race director, called me up and said "Why don't you do the half? Chris McCormack is doing it." I kept thinking, "OK. I haven't been riding my bike very much this past summer, but maybe I can pull it together." I'd also been having a heel issue, so I haven't been able to run properly. I guess I had a lot of excuses going into it.
The last week before the race, I hadn't been on my bike at all. I decided to train that whole week leading up to the race. Before the gun went off, I was standing right next to Chris and Greg Remaly. It was quite choppy that day. We could see that the wind was kicking up some white water and just beyond the break wall it got really choppy.
I felt pretty good on the swim. The three of us were swimming side by side, then I pulled away. But as soon as we got out to the rough water, they disappeared. I looked back and they were on my feet! I thought, "This isn't fair. You guys should be pulling me." They both are more than twenty years younger than me. I was thinking "By the way, Chris, you just won the Ironman a few weeks ago so you're obviously in pretty good shape."
I ended up pulling them through the whole swim course, and as we got to the shallow waters and were heading to the transition, I was fumbling with my wetsuit (I've always been somewhat of a klutz in the transition area. I marvel at how fast those ITU guys can be.) Chris ran across the swimming plate ahead of me. I figured he should have let me have it for my effort pulling him through the swim leg!
Out of the transition is a long ramp that leads into the feeder road. It's about a 1.2-mile ride up a four percent grade--not so bad. I had a new pair of shoes that I had attached already to my pedals. I figured I'd just slide my feet into my shoes while I was riding. It was an absolute disaster. I couldn't get my feet in and I see Greg taking off on the horizon. My feet would only go halfway and then get stuck. On an uphill course you need momentum. Finally, I had to get off the bike and put my shoes on and by that time I couldn't even see Chris and Greg.
Once on the bike, my legs felt absolutely empty. I just labored on the bike the whole way. By the end people were going by me on this horrific pass where the wind was in your face, it was a tough grade--just a difficult section. At one point, as I was moving past some of the people who were in the full-distance race, I began to catch up to this one guy. As I caught up to him he turned to me and said, "Hey Dave, how ya doin'?" Truthfully, I felt terrible and didn't want to talk.
I thought I had lost him on a climb, but all of a sudden he comes zipping by me at the top and turns and says, "Hey Dave, you're looking good." I replied, "I'm NOT looking good." And then he pulls a little camera out of his pocket and takes a picture of me while we're riding! I can laugh about it now, but it was pretty humiliating. I ended up bringing this guy up to the stage during the awards ceremony the next day.
Back to the race...
It wasn't until I was about four miles into the run that I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I found my rhythm and the last eight miles I ran pretty well.
If I do that race again, I've got to be prepared. It's a wonderful race. They do a magnificent job for the athletesfrom the goodie bag to the check-in to the banquetit's really a first-class race. I learned one thing, however: It's a race where you have to do your homework if you want to be competitive. You can't just go do it.
Later on this month, I'm looking to get an MRI on my heel. This foot issue has been bothering me for some time. We'll see what they say--if it's a ligament, the achilles or what. I'm hoping for the best and then maybe I can start planning 2008.