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Back to base building on the bike

You know the potential for a long workout exists when the instructions explicitly state "hydrate well."

A glance at the workouts my coach constructed for the week already put me on notice that recovery week is over. Time to get back to work.

And while I'm building for the Buffalo Marathon on May 24, I still am training for a summer of triathlons along with that pesky 70.3 Half Ironman in Canada in the fall.

So this week, along with several base-building easy-runs, comes a bike challenge week.

This is where the good hydration comes into play.

My trainer is set up in my basement, which turns my regular road bike into a stationary one. The first workout of the week was a steady hour ride. I picked a medium gear, had my heart rate monitor on, and peddled away while watching DVDs of the Gilmore Girls on my small TV/DVD player stashed in front of my bike.

But the second workout consisted of intervals -- seated climbs where I went into a difficult gear, then sprints where I went into an easier gear but had severely pick up my cadence. The rotation of intervals, with a few rest breaks thrown in for good measure, came in three minute and two minute increments. I'm pretty sure I lost track of exactly what I did but suffice it to say I drained a mega-sized water bottle and got my money's worth and more out of that workout.

There are other joys in store for me this week, including a pedaling drill sequence which has me pedal with my right leg only then my left leg only. Let me tell you, my non-dominant left leg doesn't like this drill so much.

My body (and my mind) whine a bit this week at the increase in volume and intensity after two weeks of taper and recovery workouts. But it's not overwhelming. It's the same routine that fits into my normal schedule and while my workouts are different and more challenging, it's because I've spent a year developing a fitness base that can handle it and recover from it.

The other day, my brother noted to me that he ran for 20 minutes. It almost killed him. How did I do this every day, he asked.

I smiled.

Because last year, running 20 minutes nearly killed me many a time. It's not about going from zero to 60 as fast as possible but slowly building momentum and skill. If you want to improve at anything, you have to practice. You learn by doing -- whether it's painting or playing the piano or cooking or writing or running, biking, swimming.

I chose to focus on my athletic endeavors and kept to my practice schedule. By being consistent, even on days when I'd rather watch The West Wing reruns, I've been able to improve my fitness, my health (both mental and physical by the way) and my ability to compete in races.

So bring on this bike challenge week.

It will only make me stronger and better in the end.

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