Meeting the A Team

This past weekend was a pretty insane training weekend for me.  Insane in all the awesomest of ways too.  Right before I left for Europe in May, I went to Fit2Run in Tampa to get a tri singlet for my upcoming race, which is next weekend.  While I was there I started talking to one of the trainers and she let me know she was part of a triathlon training group that meets most weekends to do do triathlon-y things.  Since I was pretty busy with traveling the weekends at that point, I wasn’t able to hook up with them until this past weekend when they were doing a 56 mile bike ride on Saturday and then met for a day of running and swimming on Sunday.  The weekend turned into quite an adventure and it looks like I have a solid new group to train with.

Starting with the ride, we met up at the Suncoast Parkway trail which is a very long trail here in Tampa.  You can easily go 50 miles in one direction, maybe more.  We were going 56 round trip and when the ride started, the adventure started!  The first thing that happened was less than 3 miles in, one of the guys got a flat.  The change-over was about as fast as I’ve seen anyone change a tire so we were back on our way in under 10 minutes.  The ride got pretty messy from there.  The weather has been pretty crazy here in Florida the past few days and it had been storming already when I woke up and it didn’t stop as storm after storm blew over us.  For 3 1/2 hours, we alternated between monsoon and sauna but the breaks between the storms were pretty short.  Drafting for me was horrible because my glasses were unable to prevent the spray from the bike in front of me from going straight into my eyes.

I had sand in my eyes until the next day and it was very unpleasant!  We had at least one more flat tire on the ride that was actually not part of our group but we stopped to help.  We were probably 10 miles from anything at that point too so its a good thing the trail is heavily traveled, even on such a lousy day.  It was really hard to keep a rythm because of the rain and the stop and go nature of the ride but I did a good job keeping pace until about mile 38.  We were already headed back and into a strong headwind.  I was not ready for that and foolishly latched onto the faster group.  I was doing about 25 mph for 8 miles and finally that broke me.  My longest ride this year is about 30 miles so I was already well beyond that and 20 miles to go!

After I dropped the lead group, everyone else passed me soon afterwards and I went 15 or 20 minutes on my own before I ran into the 2nd group waiting for me.  I felt bad…but I was quite happy they were there!  Riding with them I was able to get another 10 miles before I dropped for the last time but at that point I was close to the start so getting home wasn’t a big deal.  That was when I knew these guys were serious.

Sunday was the run and that was a bit more fun for me.  I used to be a better rider than runner but I run much more than I ride now and somehow enjoy it more.  Getting to the meetup was almost as hard as the run turned out to be.  The plan was to leave from Pier 60 at 6am.  That’s almost an hour away from me which meant I was up at 4:30 in the morning.  Yes, this is how I spend my weekends!  I somehow made it to Starbucks on the way and met up with the group there.  Most of the people there hadn’t been at the ride the day before so I got to meet a whole new bunch.

Now, I fully intended to go out 4 miles and then turn around because I knew their plan was to go 11 or 12 miles.  Then they decided at the start to do a slightly different route that would take the run to over 13 miles.  The temperature was already 81F at 6am (no, really…) but for some reason when we started going, I just felt so good that there was no way I was turning around.  I’m sure part of it was the fact I was running with a group which is something normally reserved for me for race days.  I’ve trained 5 1/2 years almost entirely solo.

The route was challenging.  The first 5 miles out were into the same strong headwind I’d suffered the day before on the bike.  Then we made a run over a large causeway back onto the mainland where I discovered there are hills in Tampa.  They picked the route because of the hills.  I told them that would have been a reason for me to NOT pick the route. 8)  We meandered our way back to 60 where there was an even longer causeway back to the beach where we started.  Overall the run took about 2 1/2 hours which is certainly well off my race time this year but given the heat, I’m not surprised.  I was struggling at the end since I haven’t done more than 8 miles in months but I’m glad I went all the way since I needed a kick in the butt to get my miles back into double digits.

beach run

It was pretty awesome going back over the bridge because I could see, off in the distance, the other bridge we had crossed.  I’ve done a bunch of half marathons at this point and while you have a sense of how much ground you’re covering just because you’re out on the road so long, since you never really see it, you don’t realize just how far you went.  Seeing that bridge off in the distance and knowing how long ago it had been since I’d crossed it was pretty amazing.  Not to mention it was a beautiful view over the water and the beaches.

The plan after that was to do an open water swim at the beach but there were red flags out and it was just way too dangerous to try.  Next time!  After the run, a few of us went to get breakfast and I swapped Facebook info with them so I could get more involved.  I definitely am excited about doing more training with these guys.  Some of them are way beyond my level but I’m close enough to the rest that I will be able to keep up.  I was starting to feel a bit of a rut again, to be honest, and I think having a group will keep me more motivated.  I love some of my solo runs during the week but my long training days on the weekend aren’t fun when I’m alone for 3 or more hours.

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