Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Double Brick

I've learned a lot during this cycle of triathlon training. I'd thought I was adequately familiar with the tri-geek lingo and "different than how I typically train as a runner" training methods and workouts, but this whole Double Brick thing is actually something I'd not heard of until just a few months ago. I am very familiar with a Brick workout (single brick), which is simply a bike workout with a run to follow. I'm pretty sure they call that a "Brick" because B=Bike, R=Run and ick= ... well need I say more? They are icky (and tough) combo workouts.  They can be done using various distance combos, the longer the ickier.  But a Double Brick? Ew, why?

So this idea of doing a double brick, which of course is a combo workout of Bike, Run, Bike again (are you kidding me?), Run again (double icky), was a little tough to wrap my mind around.  Fred introduced me to the knowledge that I'd be doing this workout toward the end of the training cycle for the upcoming St. George Half Ironman, and of course it will be repeated in the future during the final weeks prior to the World Championships, so I knew this thing was coming.  The fact that it is a double brick wasn't actually the worst (I mean best?) part. It was the fact that the total mileage on the bike would equal race distance, and the total mileage on the run would also be pretty close to race distance, both done at race effort, essentially making this workout a true test of current conditioning, current mental stamina, a chance to try out my current nutrition plan, and it was sure to flat out kick my butt. I'm not a fan of doing a half Ironman a month before I'm actually doing a half Ironman.  The workout doesn't include the swim (thank goodness there's at least one mercy).

The Double Brick needs to be placed very precisely into the overall training program.  The race date is May 7th, so this workout needed to hit about 5 weeks prior. Unfortunately for me, 5 weeks before the race I was entered to do the Carlsbad 5000 (running race) - our beloved CBad. At first I had my heart set on doing CBad, but with some persuasion I saw how important it was for me to let go a little bit more of my competitive runner self, and embrace my inner triathlete. I agreed to forego CBad, but we already had our hotel and travel plans secured, and John, Desa, Nash, Lynelle, Jill and a few other Santa Barbara folks were competing so I still wanted to travel down to watch it. I decided to do my Double Brick down there, which of course worked out great because I used to live in North San Diego County so I was familiar with great cycling and running routes. I felt a tinge of disappointment to have to make this change, but it lasted like 2 seconds and then I quickly knew it was the correct decision.  

On April 1, John and I traveled down the coast by train, with all of our triathlon stuff crammed into a backpack. This included specific clothing, food for the pre-workout breakfast and "during the workout" food and bottles filled with UCAN and electrolyte charged water, all of the special equipment, shoes, gadgets, and really the list goes on. My backpack was a bit on the pudgy side, kind of heavy. And then of course we had our bikes. Why take the train? Because we were going for ultimate epicness. It was great to just stretch out and relax (coming home was another story because oops, it was the end of Spring Break and Amtrak overbooked - we sat on the floor for the first part of the trip). The train takes a bit longer but the benefits are worth it.
Train Ride down to Carlsbad
We arrived late Friday night (just after midnight) and the workout was planned for Saturday morning. I received instructions to make this workout as close to how I planned to do the race as possible which meant starting out Saturday morning with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also brought my De Soto two piece trisuit. I had pre-mixed my workout nutrition and had my bike tires pumped up before leaving home.  I had pre-determined my bike course using Map My Ride and every leg of the brick needed to start and stop at our hotel room which was coastal, in the south end of Carlsbad Village.  My runs would take me down the coast and back.

I was almost as nervous for this workout as I am for a race. So much of the nervousness related to competition has to do with how much pain you know you'll have to endure. This one, I knew, was a new level of challenge. It was unprecedented as far as the amount of distance I would cover (in a workout) and the amount of time it would take. The other odd variable is that I didn't know how it would feel to do the first bike and run and then have to get back on the bike and do it again. I'd only ever done a single brick. I had expectations of what I wanted to achieve regarding paces and I didn't know if I could hold out for the full distance and hold it all together. That was a big unknown but of course that's why you do these types of workouts. You have to find your limits and in order to do that you have to place a challenge before yourself that is bigger than you.  

I had three main goals:

  1. Race Effort all the way. As I'll explain in a moment, I selected the courses to resemble conditions I will encounter in St. George. In a word: hilly.  So I wasn't sure what pace I'd hold on the bike but was fairly dialed in with what I'd hoped to hold on the run. On the bike I wanted my effort level to be high, measured primarily by my heart rate.  On the run I wanted to be as close to 7:00 minute pace as I could get without blowing myself up. So my run needed to be manageable seeing as how I'd have to do it twice.
  2. Have success with my nutrition plan= Do not bonk.
  3. I wanted my second run to be the same pace as my first run. In other words, I wanted to hold it together all the way to the end and if I could have that kind of pacing and consistency, that would speak a lot to race readiness.

Workout course and distances: 

The Bike loops: I mapped out a bike loop that was supposed to be around 28 miles with a considerable amount of climbing (totaling 3500 feet of climbing over the course of two loops). My calculation for the bike loop was a little too long (I discovered this on my first loop) so I adjusted the distance slightly on the second loop.  First bike loop was 31.5 miles, the second loop was adjusted down to 25 miles.  Total bike mileage = 56.7 miles

The Run loops: The run calculations were easy. I ran a total of 6 miles per loop (South on the Coast Highway) - out and back on rolling hills. This was a stretch along the coastline that I used to run regularly when I lived down there. It never disappointments. If I hadn't been so focused and somewhat in pain, I'd have enjoyed the scenery even more. Total run mileage =12 miles

Double Brick: 31.5 mile bike, transition to run, 6 mile run, transition back to bike, 25 mile bike, transition to run, 6 mile run.  Total time of actual movement: 4:45

Paces: The first loop of the bike was a little stronger at 17.5 mph amidst untimely stoplights and some extra climbing. First run - 6 miles at 7:04 pace. The second bike loop was 17.3 mph but with a stiffer headwind. Second run - same exact 6 miles at 7:04 pace. I'm wasn't exactly happy with the mph on the bike but with so many interruptions and a headwind, it was respectable enough for a training effort which was mimicking race effort. I was thrilled with the run paces.

Nutrition: Breakfast= Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread. On bike: 1 bottle of UCAN (three scoops) and 1 bottle of water with Nuun electrolyte. Refilled this bottle when transitioning into the second bike loop. 1 powercrunch bar at the end of the second bike and finally a gel flask for the final run which contained a thick mixture of UCAN (1 scoop).

Considering all of the planning, panicking, preparation, goal setting, and outcome. This workout was 100% successful. The two highlights were that I didn't bonk, and the two runs were identical in pace. Even if I squeezed out every drip of hope I'd ever hoped for anything, I could hardly hope for those two runs to align as they did. And to complete that amount of work and effort without bonking (and that includes the time in transitions which dragged the overall time to be over 5 hours) was a huge accomplishment. I have been searching for a nutrition plan that would work well for me and I think I've got it dialed in. There is very little sugar in anything that I consumed. In fact the only sugar was the 5 grams in the powercrunch bar. Everything else was complex carbohydrates or non-caloric electrolyte. UCAN is designed to stabilize blood sugar which allows your body to tap into other energy sources (stored fat) and because of this, it is important to avoid consuming sugar. I felt energetic the whole time though I'm not going to "sugar coat" the reality. It was the hardest workout I'd ever done. And it came at the end of a hard week which included other unprecedented efforts. I was fatigued to begin with so there was a great mental challenge in this one. I felt like I was out there literally all day long.

Very fast diners. Look at their dinner choices!
Saturday night I ate a lot at a really cool Italian restaurant next to a table full of World elite runner!

And then Sunday came and I got to watch CBad and it was awesome!! I had a Slurpee with John and Desa and met Bernard Lagat who'd just lowered his Master's World Record! Oh, and we had a pizza from Pizza Port and found an amazing Acai bowl. 

Bernard Lagat. Wow!

It's done and behind me now, a notation in my training log, but the benefit of it will carry me forward with a new level of confidence. I am nearing the end of this training cycle now. The final weeks play out like this:

  • April 2 - Epic Double Brick (completed)
  • April 10 - Final Epic run (long warm up, 4 x 2 mile repeats on hilly Mountain Drive) (actually did this this morning with two amazing running partners Jen and Desa, so this one too is complete)
  • April 16 - Final Epic long bike (brick - which means I get to run after the long bike) which will be up HW 33
  • Then comes the taper
I'd mentioned the Epic workouts of triathlon in a previous post (click HERE to read). I must reiterate how valuable these workouts are and how they've built over the past 4 months so to the point that I am good and ready for that taper to begin. 

And as mentioned before, I have an important list of people to continue to thank because this is not a solo effort and if I were trying to do this alone, I be no where close to where I am right now. I again want to thank John for coaching my swim, training with me and for being the most amazing and encouraging husband I could ever hope for. And thank you to Nash for coaching and guiding my running training, and thank you to Fred for the overall training plan and building me carefully toward the World Championships, along with all of the cycling training and advice and for being a training partner. And then there's Desa, Jen and Lynelle who have trained along side me, joined me for some of the hardest workouts and did them with me, pushing, pulling, encouraging, believing and so much more. And I have the pleasure of training with several other of the most amazing athletes as well (swim lane buddies, and cycling buddies).