The Weekend of the Brick

The triathlon kids call it a “brick.”

It’s a workout that assembles the pieces of a race, to get your body used to the muscle shifts involved in the transition from one sport to the next. I’m training for a duathlon in four weeks (my first), so this weekend I did my first brick, a Saturday morning run-bike-run.

Thing is, I can bike like a madman – not fast enough to keep up with real bike racers (as I learned later in the weekend – see below), but plenty fast enough to hold my own. But my running in the last five years has been limited as I switched to the bike, so I’ve been trying to get my running legs back.

On a snowy, windy Saturday morning I went to the gym and fired up the treadmill. Two miles on the treadmill, an hour on the stationary bike, then another two miles on the treadmill. And here’s what was weird about it – the running went great – solid and reasonably fast for a slow old guy. But the bike in the middle was hell. After 20 minutes of running, it took half an hour to get comfortable on the bike, like I felt like I had some power in my legs. As soon as I hopped off the bike and got on the treadmill again, my running was blazing.

That’s the point of the workout, at least in part, I suppose – to get used to what it feels like to make the transitions.

This morning my legs felt like lead – like lead bricks, come to think of it. I’d planned a 3 or 4 hour ride, but I kept finding excuses not to get out. Finally hit the road after 10 a.m., with a blustery cold wind and little whisps of snow showers all ’round. On the way out the bike trail, I hooked up with a go-fast racer boy, who explained he was on his way out to a race. Another excuse! I could go watch other people ride their bikes, rather than riding myself! We looped around to the business park up near my office where they’d closed off the roads and a bunch of college racers were hammering a criterium.

This was not the most pleasant weather to be sitting still watching a bike race, but it was fun, so I hung around for an hour or so watching the collegiate division, then the first part of the juniors. Once it got so cold that I really needed to get moving again, turning around and heading straight home seemed like a real tempting option. But I had bumped into a couple of guys who had been, like me, just sorta in the neighborhood in the course of their Sunday ride. They wanted to head up Tramway hill, a modest local climb. And the thing was, the wind was right for a great tailwind up Tramway, which is a treat of sorts. So why not?

This is where I get to the part of the story where I humbly explain that I can’t keep up with real bike racers. It was one of those rides were I sat on their back wheels as long as I could, until that point (I know it well, been there a bunch of times before) where I see my heart rate creeping inexorably up to the red line. I was pretty pleased that I was able to hang wth them two thirds of the way up the climb, but that’s where it hits a steeper pitch. And that’s where I got dropped, never to see the two of them again.

The wind was at the right angle so that from the top of the hill I had a tailwind for a good part of the ride home. Snow was spitting from a sky that was more cloud than not, and the wind was gusting to 30 mph (50 kph). I made good time, but it was one of those rides where by the end it was just about getting my ass home.

I’ve been eating ever since. And my legs still feel like lead bricks. Tomorrow I rest.