It's been quite a journey, but we've finally arrived: the last week of build. This means I have a mere long run between me and taper time and then... D DAY! It's taken literally hundreds of miles to get here, and I couldn't have done it without my team. Team Awesome, that is.
The origin story.
Derek (left) and Jason (right) and myself (middle) have been putting in hours on the saddle together since January 11th. We've not missed a single long ride, and I honestly don't think without these two powerful and positive dudes that I'd be able to have put in the mileage. I guess PERHAPS I could have but a.) it wouldn't have been HALF as fun and b.) it wouldn't have been HALF as fast. Plus, for the first four rides, which were quite windy, I flatted EVERY time due to all the thorns on the road. (Derek started calling me "Queen of Thorns". Jesus, eat your heart out!) So it really helped to have someone around to help me switch tubes without losing too much time.
How'd we merry three find each other? Well, Jason and Derek have been a riding duo for quite some time, having raced all around the world (literally: Germany, South Africa, you name it!) and trained locally for years. When I was putting in extra hours on the bike for the Festive 500, I found out Jason was going to do Cabo, too, so I asked if he wanted a training buddy for the long rides. And so our training group was born! It's nice, because Derek and Jason work weekends, so we tend to ride on Fridays or Thursdays, so I can still keep up with my Valley ride guys for Sunday recovery rides (yes, my former "long" ride days of 45 miles are now aerobic easy recovery... what a beast I have become!)
"This woman... she is like a man."
I'm happy to report that, even though these guys are FAST, I was able to (and have remained able) to hold my own, and I only get better with time: my secret superpower on the bike is my reserve, so I always wind up having my moment out in front after mile 60 or so, when the playing field levels. (The above quote was from Jason talking about riding with me while we were catch up with folks at Bandit... then Derek joked about loving the surprised look Jason gets when I sneak up and pass him. Hahaha! Trust me, that is a very rare moment.) I definitely never slack when riding with these guys. Jason is a force of nature when he goes aero. Half the ride is me making sure I make it through all the traffic lights with him! All three of us have our strengths, and I really do believe as a group we make each other stronger. It's pretty ideal!
Our first ride out from Calabasas Commons to Point Mugu was on a frigid cold day that didn't go over 50 degrees. We put in a bit over 90 miles, and poor Derek, still recovering from a cold AND celebrating his birthday, was in the paincave the whole day. But gosh, if that turn around isn't magically pretty...
We made it back just by sunset, since I flatted at the bottom of Santa Susana (and Derek, independently, also flatted a little ways before us.) Cold but happy, we ate gluten-free pizzas and toasted Derek's birthday with some wine. That's the best part of the Team: we all like to work hard, we all will venture into the paincave, but we all do so with smiles, and celebrate each other's company. Such cool dudes. Such good attitudes. Such great athletes!
Our shortest ride in the past two months was last week's cutback week of 77 miles, while we were all recovering from the punishment that was Bandit. (Ouch!) Other than that, we've never put in under 88 (and that day we did at least 5,000 feet of climbing!) We did the loop a few times-- out from Balboa down PCH and back up Sepulveda, which is a solid century. While I despise PCH (terrifying and terrible drivers) my favorite part of this ride is the Zuma lunch break: at around 80 miles, there's the perfect gas station with Mexicokes and sandwiches. Those are the best tasting sandwiches you will EVER eat. Plus, there's almost always a sweet tailwind guiding you along, so you can hoof it pretty well.
Of course, then there's the sneaking through the VA to cut back up to Sepulveda at mile 90, which is always a comical negotiation of limbo and bike lifting to get past the chain:
And of course, the best part of the rides are the recovery meals. After our longest ride of 118 miles and a very fast 2.4 mile run, we went out to Thai food and ate like kings. Derek gave Jason and me VIP cards to A Runner's Circle, and put down "Team Awesome" as our team name, thereby making it official.
(Look at those smiles. Who smiles that much when that tired? We do!)
Sadly, our last long ride was one awesome team member short: Derek had to work. So Jason and I did the loop, making record time: up to the Sepulveda climb, we averaged 20 mph nearly the whole time! We finished off with a 30 minute transition run of 4 miles (FAST) and then, just for awesomeness, did handstands by the bathroom. Because we are just that awesome.
We celebrated our 104 mile ride by eating a LOT of garlic bread at a Cuban restaurant, and Derek joined us for the tiniest and most adorable glass of Malbec you've ever seen.
We talked about race day strategy, tapering, and staying healthy: while we're done with long rides, it's important to taper correctly to avoid getting sick. Apparently, your body gets used to the high volume of exercise and if you drop off too fast, your immune system will go kaput. So you need to do high intensity, lower volume to keep it healthy. (I never knew this, but that's what you get when your training partners are a nurse and someone who's getting certified as a coach!)
Which brings us to a most exciting conclusion: Derek says he'll coach me while he gets certified, gratis. A real coach, with real feedback?? AWESOME!
Team Awesome, that is. :-)