Monday, 18 August 2008

last chances and final hurdles

Feeling pretty strung out at present. 3 weeks now until Big Race Day and I’m in my final large volume week(s) [last wed through to coming Friday]. In fact, this weekend was a key weekend for the final big sessions. It did not go well.

It was enjoyable, including a trip down to Kent to ride with a friend Jill (who has stormed the age group Olympic triathlon racing scene over the last few years, taking a silver medal in Vancouver recently), and to meet the swim coach who helped her to totally turned her swimming around. She’s pretty frightening on the bike too! It was great to catch up and get an insight into just how dedicated she, and her fiancé are. It also made me pretty glad that I stepped away from racing those distances, I’m not much n a fan of the excruciating agony that she must go through to produce +300watts AVERAGE over a 20 min turbo TT!! But I guess that if I didn’t live in a permanent state of ‘near exhaustion’ I might feel differently.

So, Saturday I completed my scheduled +115miles riding, broken by an hour session in the pool, and 1hr run with 30 min at race pace off the bike in 9 hours total training time.

Sunday was scheduled my key bike session- I’d eaten well and ensured 8 hour sleep, woke before my alarm, had light breakfast and was up for it. as we rode out, the enthusiasm drained and the usual dread of the hard session ahead set in. I’m kind of getting used to this feeling since I’ve started doing some more specific power based intervals on the bike, and know that I just need to push through it on the first interval and get into the zone, and I start to enjoy the feeling of strength, control, and the bike fitness that I’ve developed. It’s a mental thing. Unfortunately, though the first interval went well, I messed up the timing on the second – enough to throw me out of the zone. I’d been riding at slightly below target wattage, too, but attributed that to a bit of fatigue from the previous day. Now it started to bother me. I tried to get back on track, but for the next hour was unable to battle with myself to keep going. I was plain tired. I knew the legs could do it, but not the mind. I just wanted to sleep, or sit and stare vacantly at a wall. Mentally exhausted. I decided to bail - felt pretty terrible having to tell Steven, but he was pretty understanding. I knew that in such circumstances HE always pushed through.

It’s often tempting to compare myself to him, and have to remind myself that despite having similar goals and lifestyles, we inhabit very different environments. Each with their own benefits and strains, which we deal with differently. When training is so much an important part of your life, when your goals and ambitions are so great that they almost define you, the details of our emotional and physical environment are often neglected , but they play a massive part in our ability to contribute the energy required to live out those goals.

Back to the side of the road. As I say, Steven’s understanding and offers to ride with me back to Epping – I’ll return and grab a couple hours sleep, do my run and swim session whilst he rides on. We’ll meet later for tea and Olympics.
I was asleep within minutes of getting into bed, slept 90 min and headed out to run to the pool where I’d swim with the masters. The run felt ok, but slow. Like wise the swim, but I was pleased with myself for pulling the day back together.

But its all so slow at the moment. Since Wensleydale I have had no speed in me at all. The early part of the week, of course I was not trying for it, going easy for recovery, but I was dropping off the back of my lane in the club swim on times that I KNOW I can hit no problem on Wednesday. Thursday’s bike session was a real struggle to maintain power (through the hill reps went well before hand ) swimming on Friday was equally frustrating. This morning ( Monday )I was failing to make 100m times that I’d usually make easily, by 10 seconds.

There are a number of reasons I can think of for this – I don’t know which is the most significant.

1)Recovery from Wensleydale. It was a HARD race – perhaps I’ve done the usual trick of feeling good from a win/ pressure to keep training for WI and not recovered sufficiently

2)Diet. Last week I was trying out Maffetone’s (2 week carb free test – cutting carbs (sugars) entirely form my diet. I tend to eat very low carbs when getting down to race weight, but do eat a LOT of fruits and yogurts – in the 2-week strict no-carb test, these are out too. My body did feel different after 3 days, blood sugars much more stable, but the adaption phase is inevitably difficult. I don’t thing a period of high volume training was the best time to make these tweaks as my muscles probably need a bit of time to get used to the enforced change in fuel source!

3)Swim stroke – have I done something awful to my stroke with all the technical improvements that I’ve been trying to make?

4)General fatigue/overtraining. It’s been a hard year, thinking back, with periods of heavy training, racing followed by brief and shallow recovery periods. Approaching the end of the season, perhaps I’ve reaching the limit. I can see the end in sight, and perhaps this has triggered a response.

However, following the success of the enormous week at Epic camp at a similar period prior to IM Germany, I have scheduled the week as a deliberate overload week. I felt wasted at Epic – and not fast there either. I came out fine. I don’t think that I’ve tipped over into full blown burnt out.

I had a very useful chat with our swim coach, Paul, this morning. He could see I was not hitting my reps, and getting frustrated, so we discussed this fatigue. When I told him I was doing ‘high volume’ he asked a few clever questions. I was reassured by my own answers:

- how long have you been doing the high volume?
> hmmm about 2 weeks, and then 3 weeks the month before that , and 3in the month before that too, oh and before Germany…so actually, about 4 months.
- how have your performances been going during that time?
> fantastic. I’ve won every race that I have done
- when’s your next big event?
> 3 weeks
- and then what ?
>nothing !!

This made it clear to me, reinforced by Paul's response - he did not feel it was a worrying level of tiredness. "You've just got to complete the planned work.
The last hurdle...and then enjoy the taper, sharpen up a bit feeling fresh. and dont worry about the swim times - just push it as hard as you can....4 x 4 reps with 100 easy between ;o)"

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