I'm now down to two weeks to go before the Mississauga Marathon and well into the taper at this juncture. The nerves are starting to build a bit at this juncture, but fortunately my runs lately have gone quite well so that does a lot to help calm them. The marathon is an intimidating distance, and as it's about 10km longer than I've run before that stress is likely to build over the next little while. Regardless, the only thing that I can do about it is to do my best to get the training right over these coming weeks so that I'm as prepared as I possibly can for the eventual race.
As for this week, I got most of what was planned in although I had to move things around a bit because of scheduling issues. I had a family event on Sunday, so I didn't have enough time to fit in the scheduled 16 miler so I originally planned to move it to Saturday. The cycling group started this week, however, and I figured that doing the long run and the group ride on the same day wasn't the wisest idea. As such, I moved Saturday's 8K run back to Thursday, Sunday's 16mi run to Friday and Friday's 4 miler to Sunday. As such, it was a little out of sequence but I managed to get everything in that was scheduled without any major problems.
Friday's long run was a little wet as a storm system came in with about 7K left, so I ran through some pretty heavy rain for a short while. It was a relatively warm day, however, so the rain wasn't entirely a bad thing at that point in the run. I was a little more tired during this run than I was on the 20 miler last week, however that was likely related to the reduced amount of recovery time due to switching the days around.
As noted above, Saturday was also my first time out with the cycling group which worked out quite well. Up until this point, I've done all of my outdoor rides on my own so riding with a group was a new experience. Unlike running, the aerodynamic speeds we are traveling at mean that drafting is an option which can make a significant difference when riding. Being in a group also makes us more visible to motorists, so it is a lot safer out on the high-speed rural roads that we're traveling on. Naturally, like running the social aspect of the group is also a significant advantage in and of itself and is a great way to get pointers from more experienced riders.
This group is made up primarily of runners that I know from the Running Room, so it was a natural progression from what I was doing. There is a cycling shop around here that has a pure cycling group, however they are a much more aggressive group and I figured that it wasn't the best way to learn the ropes. Given my limited experience in this environment, I elected to give myself a good amount of space between the other riders - that would significantly reduce the drafting benefits, but given my limited experience in handling of close quarters I didn't want to risk anything.
Either way, I showed up in front of the Running Room shop at about quarter to 8, unloaded the bike and got it ready. The others trickled in slowly and we chatted for a while until the last of the individuals showed up. Once everyone was ready, we started out and headed north. The pace was a little slower than I was used to (~27km/h), but we were looking at a relatively hilly course so saving energy was a good idea at this point. The first 10km was basically uphill, but it was a relatively small grade so it wasn't that much of an issue. I stayed near the back of the pack for most of this segment as I was still a bit skittish about getting to close to anyone.
After that point, we started into some rolling hills with significantly higher grades. The fellow who was in front of me at this point was slowing down significantly when we hit the uphill segments, so I passed him and accelerated to catch up to the front pack. This allowed me to gain a lot more speed on the downhill segments, which meant more momentum to push me up the hill and, despite the higher speeds, actually made the hills easier to handle. After a while we were getting a good distance apart, so we slowed down a bit to let everyone catch up and then got back up to speed once we were all together again.
At around the 20K mark, we started getting into much larger hills. The more experienced riders were getting down into a tucked position and coasting down the hills to build up speed so I figured that I'd do the same. Even without pedaling, however, I was accelerating a lot faster than the rest of the group on the downhill portions (possibly due to my Cervelo's aerodynamic tubing, although it's hard to believe that it makes that big of a difference) so I pulled in front, powered my way down and used as much momentum as I could to push back up. This worked quite well, as I'd generally get about 2/3rds of the way up before having to pedal again.
The only downside, however was that I would put a lot of distance between myself and the rest of the group after each set of hills. Fortunately, between the 30-43km marks we went back to a relatively flat (apparently downhill, although at a very low grade) segment that I coasted to allow them to catch up. I'll have to figure out how to handle this type of thing in the future, as I'd prefer to stay with the group for the duration of the ride. The only catch, however, is that unlike running slowing down doesn't always make things easier as it means one has to expend more effort pushing up the hills.
We finished off with some more big hills in the last ~5km or so, but that short stretch meant that there wasn't too much time to build up much of a lead. When we got to the top of the last big hill, we stopped at a coffee shop and sat down for a bit of relaxation after our workout. When we were finished, they headed back to the Running Room shop and I just headed home from there (we were within 1km of my house, so there wasn't much sense in going out there and then fiddling with getting the bike back in the car).
Either way, it was a good experience and I'll stick with these guys as best I can this summer. I gained a lot of confidence in handling, and feel a lot better about following closer next time we go out. While I was faster than most of them for this ride, they have a lot more experience with the longer rides so chances are that things will even out a lot more as the distances increase. The furthest I've gone up to this point is about 87km, and this group has gone a lot further than that so their experience will be quite helpful one way or the other.
Running: 62.8km (39.0mi)
Walking: 2.4km (1.5mi)
Cycling: 72.9km (45.3mi)
Total: 138.1km (85.8mi)
Year to Date:
Running: 867.4km (540.0mi)
Walking: 146.1km (90.8mi)
Cycling: 957.9km (595.2mi)
Total: 1971.4km (1,225.0mi)
The weather today is pretty good, and I'll be heading out for another ~50K solo ride in a little while. The rest of the week is going to be unsettled, however, so I'll have to play things by ear as far as cycling goes. Fortunately, I don't really have any plans that will interfere with my runs so I should be able to get all of them in as scheduled.
Mon 50K Cycle
Tue 7mi (11.3K) GA w/8x100m
Wed 8mi (12.9K) w/3x1600m @ 5K Pace
Thurs 50K Cycle
Fri 5mi (8K) Recovery w/6x100m
Sat 50K Group Ride
Sun 12mi (19.3K) LSD