Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Road to Kona part 2

“So Eric, how’s training for Kona going?” ahh training? Well not much “training” to be had really. But I feel ready...

Sounds weird but it's true. I have got this question a lot lately. And others like it. At the awards ceremony for IM lake placid a guy from my AG asked us others in the top 5 as we waited to head up to the stage “you guys raced kona before? And then , “what do you do to train between now and then?”
It’s a very valid question. So, what am I doing? What should you do if you find yourself in this or another similar situation?

~Find your Perceived exertion chi.
~Leave the ego at home.
~Take a reality check. Every day!
~find your form, don’t work for the sake of working hard.

You will not find anything in here on “heat training” nothing on changing your body clock to Hawaiian time or riding a course that mimics the kona one. You won’t find one anyhow so Don’t bother looking.

Steep one.

This is the most important thing. From the finish line at lake Placid to the start line of the IM World Championships one has 11 weeks to prepare. And your preparation can not begin until you are FULLY recovered, plain and simple. Depending on the person this recovery can vary more than my wife’s work travel sch. !
This year my friend Steve Johnson finished 2nd overall amateur at IM CDL. 2 weeks after this race is the Boulder peak. Oly dis triathlon. Last year it took Steve until the last mile to catch and pass me on the run at the peak. My running had improved… a lot. And while he had made improvements as well I thought I had it in the bag! “2 weeks after IM CDl. I’ll put over 5 minutes on him by T2, he doesn’t have a chance” I said to a friend. yet at mile 3.5 he did catch and pass me without even looking tired. He said he felt great. WOW! he is a freak of nature. We train together freaquently so while on one hand I was suprised by this performance, on the other I wasn't really.

After IM Canada last year it was over 6 weeks until I felt somewhat normal. 2 months after the race I was 15 lbs heavier than on race day and while I was feeling “better” and could train, my ability was gone. My threshold power on the bike was some 60+ watts lower at threshold than pre Canada. Recovering from an IM is complex. The race breaks you down badly. On top of that recovering may take so long that you also de-train slightly as well. What this comes down to for your recovery is you have to listen to your body and leave the ego at home!
On the flip side, if you wait until you can do a field test of some sort and match your previous bests you’ll be waiting a long time. You will also be constantly testing yourself and getting worn out as well as frustrated and discouraged.
You will need to find a balance of complete rest and recovery and then after and appropriate time have to put you nose to the grind stone and do some hard work, slow and pathetic as it may seem. Then slowly start working with what you have not with what you want to have.

Recovery that worked for me, so far:
With Kona all ready in my mind I hit some good nutrition and recovery as soon as I got back to the hotel a few hours after IM lake placid.. Some vitamins, ibuprofen and dinner that included 2 beers and some johny walker red label!

Week 1: totally off!
A massage this week, LOTS of sleep, 10 hr’s a night, one 15’ spin around the block to move some blood around and a trip to the local recovery lab for 30’ in those pants that squeeze your legs.
Compression socks worn for at least 1 hr. every day and a good diet. Go ahead induldge but lets not go Supper Size Me, on yourself.

Week 2: 2 EASY swims
1 easy ride 1 hr. long
another massage. Lots of stretching, GREAT nutrition and some ab work.
This is a great time to analyze your race. What worked, what went well, what was bad, what was bad luck and what did you get lucky with? For me this big thing that stuck out was my tight hip flexors for the entire bike. My PT helped me address this with some activation movements and core strength work. 2 times a week. Easy, straight forward, 5’ done.
After this 2 weeks of very focused recovery I was feeling good but still far from normal.

Week 3: involved 2 easy swims again and 2 rides which I incoperated some strength work. High intensity,30” (second) efforts in a big gear/low rpm.
This was to get my neurological system working again and build back as much strength as possible. 6 weeks after IM LP I was going to a stage race (bike race) in steamboat springs. My goal was to recovery 100% and then get myself to a point where I could “handle the race”, 4 days of hard racing. If I could get myself to a point where I could get some good training out of this race without digging myself a huge fatigue hole I would be in a great position.

The strength efforts got better. I felt better, pushed more watts and added more reps.
Swimming felt good pretty quickly and running I slowly added to this. Week 3 I did 2, 30-40’ runs. One felt great the other horrible. Many folks experience this when coming back from an IM or any BIG endurance event. One day they feel like they’re old self. The next like it was the day after the big race.

When this happens you stop, head home and take the next day off. Remember we are still “training to train”. Just getting to point where we can train again. And sometimes it takes awhile. It always takes longer than you think it will. As we start to add in more training here we must think about training and its core. Training is a give and take, a scale if you will. How much adaptation can I get (the training/ the workout) and how much fatigue will it cost me (having to rest later). The later also has a risk element to it. What if you get injured from overuse, or sick? So this HARD training that we all want to do has sand traps everywhere! Injury, extreme fatigue, decreased performance, sickness and for what? What are you getting from your training? This is where I recommend a few protocols.
1. more off days than normal. (I did 2-3 instead of 1)
2. NO excessively “long” workouts. I do a seminar that talks a lot about what is “long”. The deal is, Mr. or Mrs. IRONMAN are you really worried about your endurance? Really? You just did an IM?
Long endurance workouts (4+ hour bike rides, 2 hr runs) have lots of fatigued associated with them. And, alone, they don’t offer a big adaptation. So you either have to do a lot of them or you might as well find a new approach. And you don’t have the time to do a lot of them. 3 weeks recovery, 1 week restarting the engine, 3 week peaking phase(tapper) , that’s 4 weeks, 3 if one is a recovery week.
3. when intensity returns to your training use shorter intervals and/or longer rest than normal.
4. listen to your body. No time to be a tough guy. If you’re not feeling it today, even though you think you should be, go home, tomorrow will come.

My strength workouts on the bike turned into a 2.5 hr hilly ride and one threshold workout. this was my "nose to teh grind stone day" the first one (hilly ride) was horrible. i could barley pedal that day. i went home rest 2 days and tock another shot.

For the threshold workout I did 4x10’ and went more on feel. The zone 4 workout gave me some clues that my threshold was around 285-290. Down from the 320-330 it was before IMLP. Reality check time! Time to lower the training zones and train with what I had, not what I wanted to have.

The bike race came, I did 320 watts for 20’ in the TT on day one and almost dropped a lung. OK maybe the threshold is up towards 300 watts all ready. Progress! The next 3 days I worked hard for the team, we had the leader’s jersey for a few days, and while there was no impressive power files to talk about I “felt good” I was able to push my body each day. there it s again, “Felt” back to PE. Perceived exertion. The most important aspect of intensity and the one that ruins most athletes because they don’t use it correctly.
More rest and back at it the next weekend. Another short threshold set. 10’ intervals again only 3 this time. Power was up. all 3 intervals in the 310-320 range. confirming my 20’ TT effort at the race. Always get more than one data point. Even in ice skating they take out the highest and lowest score! You should too.

was going well. This is a relative strength for me so I did not push myself here. I was consistent, 2 times a week. I was never worried about how many yards I did and I error’d on the easier side. Again bang for your buck. Hard long swim workout can crush me. I’ll do some in time, but first I had to find my riding and running legs.

Running is coming back the slowest. This is common for many people. Running is also my weakest area so it further exacerbates the issue. I focused on short runs, making them more frequent as the weeks went on and I felt stronger. The 2 weeks before the Labor Day weekend race I ran 1:50 total each week. Then 0 the week of the race and about 1hr total the week after.
In the recent weeks I have felt stronger and stronger. My focus on the bike has stayed with shorter threshold intervals and more rest than normal. Working my muscles to push the higher watts without added fatigue and muscle damage of longer intervals and shorter (more normal) rest time. I was am taking 3-8 minutes rest instead of 2-4 minutes. Sometimes longer if the terrain called for it. (long down hills etc)

With running the focus has stayed with frequency over the long run and I have added short intervals. 30” (seconds) intervals at Z4-Z5 pace. “well what are your pace zones now EK you haven’t tested have you? No. I haven’t. Based on a relative PE on my steady runs I put my threshold at 6:45. Back from 6:15 I had going into IMLP. This is a bit of an educated guess and far from ideal. In the next week or so I will likely do a tough run workout or maybe a 5k test. Something maximal to give me another data point to figure out what is reasonable on race day in Hawaii. I have an idea, again from my PE in training on my “easy” runs but you need more than that. Again People’s sense of what is what when they ONLY there PE is wrong 99% of the time. this gets folks into trouble all the time! that said ideal threshold test data or not I am going to get more info for my race day pacing goals!

Next post will be looking at a few of the big training sessions I did. What they’re worth on race day and performing instead of just getting it done…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sacrific, and the road to IM world championchips.

This word gets used a llot in sports. “It takes sacrifice to get to the top, to obtain your goals”, etc.
Often in endurance sports it has a definition I disagree with. You need to sacrifice a lot for that goal. Sacrifice sleeping in, eating the foods you like, having a social life, fun in general, the list goes on. If you have read more than one or two of the training entries on this blog you know that I do things a bit differently.
However, there is truth between those lines. The higher your goal, the more you MAY have to sacrifice to achieve it.
There is a saying in the mountaineering world when traveling on a glacier, “You don’t worry about the crevasses you can see, you worry about the ones you can’t.”
In sport the toughest times you will often face are the ones you never saw coming. I often wonder if that is because there’re so difficult you never imagined having to deal with it? Or is it simply because you were not prepared as you should have been?

As I prepare for the Ironman world championships in Kailua- Kona, Hawaii things have gone well. Recovery far better than last year after IMC, I slowly started training, getting myself to a point where I could “handle” the Steamboat Springs stage race and get some good training out of it, without digging myself back into a hole. I did that pretty well. A few days of recovery and I was feeling great, ready to go for my 1 week of focused training in all 3 sports. The only full week of real training I would have between IM lake Placid and IM Hawaii. Then, bamb a cold struck. Time is NOT on my side here. One HAS to be healthy and rested for an IM, or any big endurance event. yet I am still a shadow of my former self from June and July when I did IM lake placid. The classic catch 22 “I want to be more fit/prepared but I must be rested, healthy, motivated and fresh for race day.”

I say this in every training seminar I do:
“The biggest limiter every athlete faces is TIME”

Now as I finish up this post with completely backwards writing we need to take another steep back. Before I was even at the starting line in Lake Placid in which was able to use my body that cast the shadow I which I speak of, I avioded a potentially catastrophic disaster. Getting sick 3 weeks out from my biggest race of the year. I did this with a very large amount of sacrifice. The twist here is that the sacrifice was not on my part but my wife’s.
Lindsay had been very busy with work, traveling a lot. In the middle of a 2 week work trip on the phone one night I could hear it in her voice. “are you sick?” I asked. A long pause. “… I’m sorry baby, I tried, I've done everything…” she felt horrible. She knew the place I was at. Just finishing up a huge 2 week training block, ready to rest, perform well at one last Oly distance race and then drain a tank I had been filling for the last 2 years in less than 10 hours.
It’s likely she could have come home and all would have been fine. But when you prepare all year for one day the risk was kinda high. Lindsay decided, and yes this was her idea, she would return from her long work trip and spend two additional days at a friend’s house in town not comeing home to get more clothes and not seeing me. This was to ensure she was not contagious anymore. I thought this was a bit ridiculous but she tock words that I have used before “if we are gona do this, let’s do it 100% or not as all”. Motivation to come up with the goods on race day at Ironman Lake Placid? You could say that.
The biggest sacrifice that was made to achieve a lifelong goal of making it to the ironman world championships was not made by me… crazy. Life still amazes me, every day. my wife amazes me, everyday.

Next post I’ll talk a bit about IM recovery, starting training up again and what it was like for me. I will also be posting, daily in the last few days leading up to the IM Hawaii. Stay tuned!