Week 36 of Ironman Training: Miles of Opportunities

One of the best things about Ironman training is that it gives you miles of opportunities to try new things while pushing your limits and stretching all notions of what’s possible in life. Every new adventure brings the chance to breathe in strength and gratitude and exhale weakness and the dullness of “ordinary.”

On Saturday I had the opportunity to enjoy another new adventure–the Ventura Century, a 102 mile ride through Santa Barbara County with over 5200 ft. of elevation. This was an important training ride for me in which I simulated everything I would do on race day–from what I’d wear to how I’d pace myself to what I’d eat and drink.

After doing a 1-hour shake-out ride on Friday and organizing all my gear, I awoke at 4:30 am, had a bowl of oatmeal and headed to my French Press for coffee. This little note kicked off my day in all the best ways. Love my supporters! xo


Then I loaded up my gear and arrived at the Ventura Pier a little before 6:00 to pick up my race packet. I also consumed a banana with peanutbutter to top off my nutrition before I started the ride.


It’s mind-boggling how much thought you have to put into planning for triathlons, and how much “stuff” you need. This day didn’t even involve a swim–only a ride and a run afterward.

I’d planned to start promptly at 6:30, but at the last minute decided to swing by the “bike check” tent to make sure everything was working properly on my bike. Phil from Hypercat Racing gave it a once over and said it was safe, but that my gears were shifting funky, which I already knew. He tinkered with my bike for about ten or fifteen minutes, adjusting the derailleur and a few other things. I started a little later than planned, but because Phil wanted to make sure everything worked well for me, I was able to enjoy this ride on a much higher level (especially since I didn’t have to listen to the horrible noises my bike was making). Thank you Phil!


I also started later than planned because just as I was about to head to the starting line, my sunglasses fell and shattered. Oh shit. Not a good way to begin. Thankfully, I’d thrown in an extra pair with all my gear the night before (I must have known!). After swinging by my car to pick up my replacement glasses, I finally hit the road just before 7:00 am.

This was a VERY low-key event. No big hoopla or starting arch, no music or announcers or energizing buzz–just a handful of others rolling out at the same time, snapping quick pictures, then all hitting the start buttons on our watches.

Even though I was thinking “this could be a long day with so little buzz,” I was mentally ready to take it on, no matter what it brought. One nice thing it brought right way was discovering the awesome bike path that stretches from Ventura to Ojai. I’d heard about it, but had never ridden on it. Because I participated in this event, I am now able to add another route to my training options, which will help keep it fresh.

I started out the morning conservatively, as Matt suggested, saving up for the hills ahead. As we neared Ojai, we turned left on Hwy 150 and headed in the direction of Casitas Pass, our first big challenge. I’d ridden this pass solo earlier in the year, doing an out and back from the Santa Barbara side, so I knew it was a good one. I felt strong though, as I pedaled up to the top, telling myself, “You totally got this.” It was a gorgeous morning so I stopped to snap a picture and enjoy the moment before flying down the other side.

Then it was back up another peak before connecting to Hwy 192, a road I’ve spent innumerable hours on over the past nine months, and a road I’m not terribly fond of with all its rough patches and territorial drivers. I’ve learned where most of the major potholes are and I’ve learned to ride both more aggressively and defensively, so thankfully, it wasn’t too bad.

The best part was that I felt strong going up Toro Canyon, passing several people along the way, offering encouragement to them as I kept grinding. The same was true as we climbed up Stanwood Drive, another toughie. One guy I caught near the top puffed, “Nice climbing,” which made me send a big thank you to Matt for making me ride so many hills.

After the second aid station just past Toro Canyon, I ended up riding almost entirely solo the rest of the day, which was good for my mental game. Just me, myself, and I and hours of continually monitoring my nutrition and hydration and assessing how I was feeling. I felt good most of the way, except I was hungry often, even though I was chowing on energy gels, almonds, peanutbutter pretzels, SkratchLab fruit chews, bites of turkey jerkey, and even some Red Vines and Tootsie Rolls (my sweet treat when things got rough). At the aid stations I had a ClifBar, banana, and Cheez-its (of all weird things) and topped off my hydration with water and electrolytes. The volunteers were awesome and I thanked them profusely each time before I headed back out.

What I realized is that the physical logistics of riding a bike and trying to open up my new bento box to get food (which opens in the opposite direction of my old, smaller one) was preventing me from eating enough. It was cumbersome to manage. I need something that’s more easily accessible so I can keep my eyes on the road and quickly reach in for some food. It’s fortunate I discovered this problem on this ride instead of race day because it gives me the chance to figure out a better system for IMAZ. If I’m going to run a marathon after riding 112 miles, I can’t afford to start off depleted. The other crucial mistake I made was somehow forgetting my second packet of Tailwind in my car, my go-to source of calories and electrolytes. Won’t do that again.

Fortunately, although I was hungry, I never bonked, and was able to finish strong–especially with a downhill grade to the end. It took me 6:56 to complete 102 miles. Then I changed into my running shoes and took off on a half hour jaunt. I was wondering how my stomach would feel after eating so much junk food on this ride, but surprisingly, it didn’t feel bad at all. And happily, my legs didn’t feel any worse than doing a run after a 30-40 mile ride. All in all, I’d call this day a success as it made me truly internalize the fact that I will cross the finish line in Arizona.

In case you’re wondering what the rest of the week looked like, here’s what my schedule looked like:

Monday: Rest (drive back from Palm Springs)
Tuesday: Swim 4000y, Run 1 hour with rolling hills
Wednesday: Yoga, Bike 2 hours with hills
Thursday: Swim 2000y, Run 45 minutes
Friday: Bike 1 hour
Saturday: Ventura Century Ride (102 miles), Run 3 miles off the bike
Sunday: Stretch class, Swim 1-mile (easy recovery pace)

And here are a few snaps from the week:

On Tuesday I decided to do my long swim down at the Carpinteria public pool. It’s a nice outdoor facility and it’s rarely crowded. Once again, it did not disappoint.
Afterward I had an hour run slated with rolling hills. I knew a trail run would be softer on my body than the road so I went to the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and ran on the trails. The goal was to power up the hills and cruise back down them, and once again, I choose to run in the heat of the day to continue getting my body ready for AZ heat.
Mission accomplished: 6.45 miles logged with multiple zip-a-dee-doos up and down hills, and time to enjoy the view from the special place.
On Wednesday, after going to yoga, I did a 2-hour hill ride, ending it with a short jaunt of Gibraltar Road.

Thursday was a mellow 45 minute “maintenance run,” which I started at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.

It was a fun surprise to discover this new exercise stretch station City Parks & Rec. recently installed. I was told it was donated by a 90-year old man who wished to remain anonymous. Thank you kind gentleman for your generosity. My hips thank you!

After running along the bird refuge and Chase Palm Park, I decided to be a tourist and run on Stearn’s Wharf, something I rarely do.

It was fun to venture out to the end of the wharf and hear the sounds of many different languages being spoken–yet another benefit of no longer running with music. I find that I’m much more tuned into my surroundings and also my breathing. Tuning in instead of tuning out is kind of cool, even if it has taken me a little while to adjust to it.

wharfseacenter9816  wharfdetail



New gear I’m loving:

Rapha cycling shorts (thank you Jenni Miller for the recommendation)! These are a game changer for me. For the first time in months I’ve finally been comfortable on my bike seat. Believe me this is no small matter when you’re riding for hours. I’ve tried a variety of different brands of shorts, and have even tried doubling up two pairs of tri shorts, and for the most part I’ve suffered through many uncomfortable miles. All I can say is Halle-freaking-lujah! Extra happy points is that I got them during Rapha’s big sale (think it’s still going on?).


Cobb Randee Saddle: The other thing that has helped is trying yet another new seat. The fourth time is a charm! I think we finally have the magic combination with this Cobb Randee saddle. Thanks to Matt and Bruce at Hazard’s for your perseverance!


Feetures Elite Socks: Love these squishy, compressiony socks!


Legends: It was fun to hear 2x Ironman World Champion, Scott Tinley, speak to our tri club last week. His talk focused mainly on the history and unique people of this sport, and the many reasons why we choose to tri, but every once in awhile he’d throw in a funny personal anecdote about his racing career (like how he regrets wearing a Speedo during competion–“It was just wrong,” he joked). 🙂
After his talk, I felt compelled to tell him that my very first “real” road bike was a Scott Tinley Ironman Centurion, which made him chuckle. I rode that heavy beast of a bike for more than 20 years. No joke. Many wonderful memories were created on it–including a 400+ mile ride through the Colorado Rockies. I knew that thing inside out and backwards, even if it was a tank. I totally cracked up when Scott said, “Oh man, those things were crap!”Ha ha. Compared to today’s bikes, yes, but back in 1989, well…maybe.


As I head into Week 37 of training, I’m excited about what lies ahead! I’ll be driving to Tempe, AZ on Thursday morning to join my Smile Train Team Empower teammates for Ironman training camp. It’s a 4-day camp, which will have us swim-bike-run’ing on the actual IMAZ course, including a swim race in Tempe Town Lake on Thursday, and an Olympic distance triathlon on Sunday. Think good thoughts. It’s going to be 100 degrees!

Finally….a big shout out to Natasha and Yvonne for their generous contributions to my Smile Train fundraising this week! We’re now up to funding nearly 21 kids for free cleft surgery. My goal is to fund 25 kids by race day on November 20th, which means we have just 69 days to go to make it happen. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider making a contribution. You can click on the following link to make a donation and help change the life of a child and his/her family: Becky’s Smile Train Fundraising Page.

Thanks for considering, and thanks for all your support!


PS: As always, if you missed any of my previous posts about Ironman training, you can click on the links below:

Kicking off My Journey to Ironman Arizona
Week One of Ironman Training: Believe
Week Two of Ironman Training: The Power of Friends
Week Three of Ironman Training: I Think I Can
Week Four of Ironman Training: Progress
Week Five of Ironman Training: Wind at my Back (and Front) and Peeps by My Side
Week Six of Ironman Training: Baking a Cake
Week Seven of Ironman Training: Courage
Week Eight of Ironman Training: It’s All About the Base
OMG, You did WHAT?! (AKA Sleep Deprivation + Training = Embarrassing Moments)
Week Nine of Ironman Training: Growing Pains
Week Ten of Ironman Training: Trust
Week 11 of Ironman Training: Speedbumps and Breakthroughs
Week 12 of Ironman Training: A Bundle of Sticks Can’t Be Broken
Week 13 of Ironman Training: Spring!

Week 14 of Ironman Training: Rollercoaster
Week 15 and 16 of Ironman Training: Staying Happy and Healthy

Week 17 and 18 Ironman Training: Inspiration and Purple Rain
Weeks 19 through 21 of Ironman Training: Transitions

Week 22 and 23 of Ironman Training: Holy Epicness…Julie Moss
Week 24 of Ironman Training: Consistency is the Key
Week 25 of Ironman Training: Embracing New Challenges
Week 26 of Ironman Training: Hills, They’re What’s for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Week 27 of Ironman Training: Taking This Show on the Road (Tri-cation!)
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Tri-cation
Week 27 of Ironman Training: High Altitude Fun Continues
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Rocky Mountain High
Week 28 of Ironman Training: Finishing Aspen Strong
Week 29 and 30 of Ironman Training: Rollercoasters, Crazies, and Comebacks
Week 31 of Ironman Training: New Heights
Week 32 of Ironman Training: 100 Days to Go
Week 33 of Ironman Training: The Art of Recovery and Balance
Week 34 of Ironman Training: The Magic of Firsts
Week 35 of Ironman Training:Chasing the M-Dot with Toughness Training

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