by Mike Mahoney
Day 9 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013
The Welcome Ride is always a fun start to a week of camp. After an instructional pool swim and something to eat, Michelle meets us at Trail’s End and we head out. Once through the Arboretum, we ride Brevard Road along the French Broad River. This section is scenic but busy with traffic, so we ride more or less together. Once we hit Avery Creek Road, however, traffic is scarce and we can enjoy the rural countryside. Last week, Geri and I did a few turnarounds, which make this ride ideal for a mixed bag of cyclists–everyone can get some good training, participate as a group, and not get lost.
At Pennsylvania Rd, it’s game on, and Michelle promptly puts the heat on James by attacking, passing and doing her level best to stick the pass. I don’t know what James’ effort level was, but the two of them shot away, leaving Coach Mike and I behind. He shot me a look that said, “I saw that coming” and headed off after them. I took my time and enjoyed a leisurely ride, stopping to get some pictures along the way.
I got a good 10-minute nap lying in the cool grass by the side of the road with the sun on my face, waiting for Michelle, James, and Coach to ride by after setting up this shot. Not bad, considering that Nicole had texted me a picture of the weather back in Ontario: cold windy snowy nastiness and an inch of ice on everything. I felt bad, enjoying the warm sun while Nicole was freezing back in Canada. I also got some odd looks from motorists and quite a few shots of random other cyclists as I lay there by the road. You can see where these were taken on my Strava segment for this ride–it’s where I turned around on Pennsylvania Rd.
It wasn’t long before James came over the hill at speed, followed not long after by Michelle and Coach. The shots were worth the wait, I think.
James and I had had some fun earler in the day, joking that Michelle didn’t leave much of a hole in the wind for us to draft. But James good- humoredly tried, anyway.
The Welcome Ride part of the Welcome Ride is really a fun scenic ride, get-to-know-you session, and a warm-up, more than anything. It finishes up with what we call DZ Tunnel Hill, which is the first 4.2 km of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the parking lot just above the North Carolina Arboretum to the Walnut Cove overlook. It’s a scenic, constant 6% grade, popular with local cyclists for intervals.
We all had our assignments from Coach Mike. James took the idea of doing Ironman Kona only a week after the the Furnace Creek 508 as a challenge, and got some serious training: three repeats with specific wattage targets. I got two repeats at my own steady effort level. Michelle, first time here, got one repeat with the choice to do a second.
Predictably, James headed off uphill, putting down some serious watts. Michelle started after I did but, also predictably, soon passed and spun away out of sight. She’s stealthy, too: I was enjoying the scenery and the solitude until out of nowhere she announced her intention to pass. Quiet. Useful in a race.
This time it was Coach Mike’s turn to chirp, and once again, we stopped halfway up Tunnel Hill for a set of pushups. At the overlook, I was looking forward to the descent, which is fast with long sweeping turns, almost too much fun. Sometimes it’s even closed to traffic and you can take the whole road to carve a turn for even more speed.
I love this picture, because of the story behind it. If you’ve been reading these reports you know that the “hero shot”–posing at the top of some climb holding one’s bike over one’s head–is a bit of a Discomfort Zone tradition. I was ready with my camera for Michelle’s hero shot when we hit the overlook, but she took off right away for the descent. I looked at Coach Mike. “What about her hero shot?” “She’ll get it on the second repeat,” he replied, with just the smallest touch of a knowing, very slightly smug grin.
So it was on our second repeat that I got out the camera for Michelle’s hero shot. “If you grab your bike by the balance point you can one-arm it,” I suggested, only half-hoping Michelle might do so.
“Okay.” And Michelle cheerfully one-armed her bike over her head and held it there, smiling, while I got every nuanced angle shot I could want.
James, we had seen a few times as he repeated the climb and the descent, going hard enough to get some serious training.
Having got in a swim and a bike today, when we got back to Trail’s End after descending Tunnel Hill and taking a run at Arboretum Hill, we needed a run. The nice thing about the trails here is that they’re challenging–I don’t think there are any flat runs near Asheville–but so scenic and natural that they’re fun to run even when you’re tired. Which we did, even though we were tired from another big day of training.
Naturally, we got a group shot at the overlook.
Tomorrow, it’s all about climbing, with a hill climbing technique session with Coach Mike. We’ll be focused on climbing and descending hills on trail. Yes, that means timed repeats.
The post Asheville Day 9: Welcome to Triathlon Camp. Start Climbing! appeared first on Discomfort Zone Triathlon Coaching.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 8 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013!
James: “Holy $#!+! I Got Into Kona!”
Camp starts with the Arboretum Ride, a skills loop in the North Carolina Arboretum that serves to practice skills and check out bikes for mechanical fitness after travel. It also gives the coaches a chance to get a sense for each athlete’s cycling skills in a controlled environment–a necessity when running triathlon camps in a challenging mountain environment.
James knows this loop, having been to Asheville twice before. He uses the opportunity to carve some fast turns and make some fine adjustments. I take a few corners and promptly notice that I’ll need some easy spin to recover from yesterday’s race. The Arboretum offers a nice curve right between two hills, and even these small hills hurt! Perfect opportunity to get some pictures.
Michelle is a climber. She takes the descents cautiously, listening to Coach Mike’s advice and taking each one a little faster until she’s carving her way around in the aero bars and clipping the apex for good measure. But she saves the real aggression for the climbs. It’s fun to watch her attack, still in aero, every time the grade pitches up. I’m already thinking that with James and Michelle for fellow athletes, I’m going to be spending the week catching up.
Next up after a good number of loops and turns is the second part of today’s ride: a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Liberty Bikes of Asheville. Inevitably, there are things needed and things forgotten, and what better way to take care of those missing items than a ride to the bike shop–who wants to drive to a bike shop?
It’s a great ride for day one because the route is almost entirely bike friendly: the Parkway itself is for scenic driving only and is closed to commercial traffic, i.e. no trucks. To get to the Parkway we’ll be heading through the Arboretum, also bike-friendly. Then once we make our exit, Liberty Bikes is only 300 metres from the Parkway. An ideal ride. I’m supposed to be leading the ride while Coach Mike takes the support vehicle for our purchases, but my legs are shot and I’m soon giving Michelle directions so she can attack the climbs and take a flyer off ahead. James has recovered better than I have and after a few repeats, bless his soul, he sees me grinding away and lets me hang on to his wheel through the headwind.
Liberty Bikes is a dangerous place: spring sale is on and a few odds and ends soon turn into a pile of sports nutrition, pumps, multitools, clothing, and even a new chain. James’ Cervelo, “Stewie,” being in the shop for the new chain, and Michelle heading directly to Willow Winds where she’s staying with hubby Harold, I’ll be riding the Parkway home alone. I figure I will be going at a very easy pace, but as I head home everything loosens up and I manage one good climb. I’m still cooked, but recovery is happening.
The Welcome Run is a beautiful loop along trail in the Bent Creek Research and Demonstration Forest. It starts literally right outside the door of Trail’s End and starts out easy double track, threads its way uphill on single track with some challenging footing, and finishes on a gentle downhill on gravel road back to Trail’s End. It’s a great way to get the heart rate up and introduce athletes to the forest trail system. We meet at Trail’s End and are soon enjoying ourselves running trail.
James has been all over these trails on previous camps, even recording places where the official map is dated and tracking new trails that don’t appear on the map.
Michelle is just as much of a climber running as she is climbing. We all had a fun run and enjoyed flying down the downhill into Trail’s End.
This downhill section, running along downhill to Rice Pinnacle Road and on to Trail’s End, is a great end to a run. It’s fun to fly along the downslope and imagine that I can run that fast on the flats!
I’d like to mention that later in the evening, while at McDonald’s for wifi, James found out he got an Ironman World Championships slot in the Kona lottery. It was a bit of a shock, as he’s got a busy race schedule already, including the Furnace Creek 508 with Coach Mike. Here’s James just a few moments after finding out.
A personal note I forgot to mention. After the Assault on The Carolinas bike race, we went for a beer or three at The Hub, a combination bike shop, outdoor gear store, and tavern, in Brevard. Yes, tavern. no kidding. While there, we met our new friend Charity, who had done the Blue Ridge Marathon the year before, and is doing it again this year. It’s billed as America’s toughest road marathon, and somehow I found myself signed up too. It’s on April 20th, and I’ll have a race report for you.
Tomorrow, the Welcome Ride and Tunnel Hill.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 7 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013!
“There’s a #*(%$@! Pee Break?“
“What Part Of Your Bike Is Missing?”
Race morning. The weatherman has been calling for rainy nasty cold all week. The locals tell us that weather from the north hits the mountains and won’t be a problem. The locals are right. Race morning is a bit chill as Coach, Geri, James, and I get ready, drive to Brevard, and set up for the race, but then it turns beautiful. Warm and sunny is more like it. A perfect day for a bike race in the spectacular Carolinas.
Coach has been giving us triathletes a crash course in bicycle racing. To start with, it’s not illegal to draft–riding close behind another competitor to reduce air resistance–and this changes the whole race dynamic. Cyclists move in big packs and the advantage from drafting is so pronounced that there are strategies and teamwork taking place all the time. There’s a whole code of etiquette of which we are largely ignorant. Our aero bars, DZ jerseys and tri gear clearly mark us as outsiders. Everyone’s welcoming and nice, but just a bit leery of riding near us.
The race goes off, for us, with what I’m going to call “eventful success.” Several cyclists go careening off into the ditch, one right in front of me, but we four manage to stay on our bikes, and on the road. James and Coach Mike worked as a team in the lead pack, and James discovered an astounding bit of cycling etiquette: the entire 50-rider lead pack will stop for a pee during the race. Not kidding. The plan was working well until Coach’s crank fell off, at the bottom of the monumental Caesar’s Head mountain climb, of course. Coach went up Caesar’s head on one pedal. Still not kidding. And the race is a bit more than a metric century at 105.55 km, as James found out after sprinting from 99 km. Geri and I had fun but uneventful races, by comparison. Oh, and did I mention that James led the race for a good chunk of it?
Assault on The Carolinas isn’t a terribly formal race. There’s no electronic timing, though there is a segment for the race on Strava. I haven’t seen any results, and the medal is a mardi-gras beaded necklace with a beer can attached. (Awesome!) What the race does offer is a friendly but competitive atmosphere and an incomparably beautiful course. Highly recommended.
We met many great people, among them a surprising number of Canadians. Nicole texted me a picture of the ice in Ontario–maybe none of us wanted to be home. In any case, Canucks were the fourth-largest jurisdiction represented.
Here’s a shot of us hanging out after the race.
Of course, we had to drink beer, eat tacos and lasagna, and do pushups!
Tomorrow, Geri has to depart for the frozen north, but Michelle arrives for her week of training.
by Mike Mahoney
Day 6 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013!
“There Are A Lot Of Canadians Around Here!”
First, I’d like to apologise for not posting every day the way I said I would. No excuse, but the reason is that training camp turns out to be tiring. I have been faithfully taking photos every day, but going through hundreds of pictures, processing them, and posting a blog post turned out to be too much. I’m behind on the writing and posting parts. Have no fear, I have been getting caught up, and there will be a post for every day. Let’s see how fast I can get back up to speed.
Day 6 started with a swim. I will now confess that I did not want to swim. At all. Late night up trying to get cell data to work, tired from Pisgah yesterday, all the usual reasons. But I dragged self out of bed and made it to swim.
Geri, on the other hand, has some serious ability in the recovery department. She was up and ready to go with time to spare.
In addition to drills and distance sets, as well as some stroke adjustments per Coach Mike, the swim included a drill I hadn’t done before: “Around the Blocks.” This involves swimming a length, hauling self out of pool, running around the starting block in one’s lane, and diving back in for another length. It’s a good workout. Geri beat me.
One thing I often notice about swim is that I learn when I’m tired, and often when whatever modifications Coach Mike’s been trying to get me to do really ome together, happen when I don’t feel like swimming at all. Today was such a day. Right off the bat, the early catch I’ve been working on started to work with the breathing, rotation and body position. The result was that Coach had me practicing the changes on my own while he worked with Geri. I hope she had as good a swim as I did. Funny how the worst days turn out to be the best.
James has arrived! When we returned to Trail’s end from the swim, James was already there, having made excellent time, as usual. He was in time to join us on the Assault on The Carolinas social ride, preparing for the big race tomorrow.
The ride was fun, allowing us to find the start, pick up our race packets, and practice our cycling race skills, which are a bit different from triathlon race skills.
We’re all ready for the race tomorrow!
by Mike Mahoney
Day 5 at Asheville Spring Training Camp 2013
“Look! It’s My Friends in Latex!”
Day five. The Pisgah ride.
The big day of camp is a ride and run to summit Mount Pisgah – 5,721 ft (1,744 m). It’s usually the longest day of training.
The Pisgah ride is 40 km or so each way, made up of of beautiful rolling countryside followed by a solid, unrelenting climb up US Route 151 and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Pisgah Inn. The plan was for Coach to drive the vehicle to the Inn with the Mighty Cross Bike, then descend and meet Geri and I on the way.
Once at the Pisgah Inn, it’s only a short run to the summit. Short, but also one hell of a climb on very technical terrain. And at 5000+ feet, it qualifies as an altitude workout. I found that it took some time to get used to running at this altitude: at first, I was more winded than I should have been, but I found that I adjusted as we climbed.
The trail is technical: trail-runner-speak for rocky, uneven, and steep; with obstacles, branches, and loose footing on trail that often runs along a drop off where it would be unpleasant to fall. We took the trail carefully and hiked the steep parts. Along the way, we met an interesting character: a very friendly former marine hiking his way up with a good 30-pound backpack. He was happy to take a few pictures for us. Today we matched in our new DZ triathlon and bike gear.
The view is just plain spectacular from the top of Mount Pisgah. It’s interesting to look out and see just about everywhere we’ve been training the last few days.
On our way back to the Inn, we ran across a fellow stranded in the parking lot a mile from the Inn. He’d left his lights on and needed a boost. As Coach had the support vehicle at the Inn, he said he’d return in a few minutes and help the fellow out. One mile to go!
The Pisgah Inn opens in early April. It’s a great place for lunch, with huge picture windows so we could enjoy the view with our lunch. Geri and I ordered lunch while Coach Mike went to boost the stranded motorist.
Coach Mike had food waiting for him when he returned to the Inn, and he came back with a story or two. First, It’s a small world: the stranded motorist is a friend of a friend from both spring and fall camps last year. Second, as Mike pulling out the booster cables, our friend from the Pisgah summit hiked by. “Look! It’s my friends in latex!”
I love to descend. And the best place I’ve found is US Route 151 from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather having held off through lunch, I got the chance to descend the 11% grades, wicked blind switchbacks and decreasing radius corners. On a map, this section of US 151 looks like a piece of wet spaghetti. It’s wonderful.
With recent events on my mind, I was nowhere near the fastest descent time for the US 151 descent segment on Strava. But I did find that a clean and controlled carve, neatly and professionally done, is in its own way just as satisfying as a wild, max-speed descent. To quote Coach on descending steep twisty roads in the mountains: “…it’s the funnest thing in the world!”
Geri joined me for the return to Trail’s End: fast, with some solid climbing. We cut through the Arboretum but missed the closing time for the back gate, so we got some bonus training as we went around the long way. There’s a rather fun section of Wesley Branch Road that was worth the detour.
Tomorrow: Swim, James arrives, and the Assault on The Carolinas pre-race ride.