Monday, October 1, 2012

September 24-30: Dithering and Whining

Last week, I spent a lot of time debating about whether or not I’d race this upcoming weekend. I’d been excited to try an Olympic-distance race after a bit of a rest following Ironman Louisville, and Giant Acorn, slated for this Saturday, October 6, would be just perfect. I’ve been shooting for a sub 3 hour Olympic distance triathlon this season, but managed to sign up for one hilly and challenging race in May and another equally hilly one in August, and turned in a pair of 3:05s. Since I don’t count my 2:58 from the 2011 Myrtle Beach Triathlon as a real sub-3 because it wasn’t a true Olympic distance race (1k-45k-10.3k vs 1.5k-40k-10k for a real Olympic distance race), the goal remains unmet.

A normal person, finally recovered from the Ironman yet maintaining a decent base of training, would jump at the opportunity to race.

However, we have established over and over again that I am not normal.

The reasons for the reconsideration are complex, but they reduce to one big reason – I’m not sure if, in my current state, racing this weekend would be fun. And at this point in the season, with all my major races behind me, there’s no reason to do a race if it won’t be fun.   

But why wouldn’t it be fun? The weather is supposed to be great, the course is fast, and plenty of my friends and teammates will be there.

For starters, I’m hauling around extra weight for a variety of reasons, including water retention from some medication that I temporarily had to take for about a week, which is even more painful on top of a five-pound weight gain from Ironman training (yes, really). Now, let’s be clear that I’m not looking for compliments or reassurance that I’m “not fat.” The reality is that the extra weight makes it really uncomfortable to get down into the aerobars on my bike, and I worry that I’m tearing up my joints when I run. Whether or not I “look big” or the like is not the issue, feeling awful while racing is, and I’m the only person qualified to judge whether or not I feel bloated/heavy/awful/etc while I’m swimming, biking, or running.

Now add to that the dietary restrictions that got handed to me by a nurse practitioner following some bloodwork results that came in about three and a half weeks ago. I’ve been vague about what they are, but the key points are 1. Low glycemic index foods 2. Less than 100 grams of carbohydrate a day and 3. A calorie intake limit that makes some people ask if I forgot a zero (I'm only slightly exaggerating on #3). This obviously impacts my training and racing, especially for longer sessions that normally call for intake of sugary gels and carbohydrate-rich sports drinks to avoid complete glycogen depletion. My body’s response to this has been variable and extremely unpredictable. I felt absolutely dead 2/3 of the way through a 1:15 swim, yet was fine with absolutely no intake other than water during a 1:40 run. Since an Olympic distance race will take me close to 3 hours, I don’t believe that going without some carbohydrate intake is an option, unless I want to run a high risk of bonking. And bonking is not fun.

My final source of hesitation is that I want to have a good race at the Richmond Half Marathon in mid-November, and don’t want to waste time resting for and recovering from another race just five weeks out, only to post a less-than-great time in both races. Being able to run fast in a goal race is fun, and again, this is all supposed to be about FUN.

After writing this out in a whiny email to my coach this morning, some of the solutions to these concerns became clear. Namely, I can do some mid-race refueling and simply manage my carbohydrate intake after the race. To further alleviate the bonking concern, I can go above the dictated calorie intake limit on Friday to assure that I’m not glycogen depleted for the race, and just resume business as usual after the race on Saturday. And if I’m really that worried about missing out on the chance to do a long run in preparation for the half marathon, I can just beg my coach to let me do a 10-12 mile run on Monday morning, since it’s a holiday at my office.

I’ll probably change my mind several more times between now and the closure of registration on Wednesday. I already changed my mind a few dozen times last week:

Monday: Rest day, amid perfectly crisp fall weather in the morning, which I enjoyed with a 3 mile walk commute.

Tuesday: 4000 yards of swimming with Rachel in the morning, including a 400 yard time trial (5:22, in other words, less than stellar). In the evening, a core conditioning class and upper body strength training.

Wednesday: In the morning, a 6.1 mile run with several half marathon pace efforts.

Thursday: A 1:20 bike trainer session in the morning, with some fun interval work.

Friday: 4400 meters of swimming in the morning, partially with Rachel, who, for some reason, did not feel like swimming almost 3 miles before 7:30 am (strange, I know). Massive bonking and muscle fatigue after 3000 meters convinced me that Giant Acorn would be a no-go. 45 minutes of strength training in the evening before contemplating scrapping the weekend brick since there was no way I’d be racing Giant Acorn anyway.

Saturday: The beautiful, sunny fall day makes me decide to do my three part brick, regardless of racing plans, because it just sounds like fun. 2 miles of running, followed by 25 miles of biking, which included unexpectedly joining Adam for a good 15 miles, and another 1.8 miles of running to wrap it up. A mere 0.25 miles into the bike portion, I was convinced that I HAD to race Giant Acorn because biking is just SO MUCH FUN.

Sunday: A 10 mile long run with Rachel, right around 10 minute/mile pace, through Rock Creek Park, followed by a 2200 yard recovery swim in the afternoon.


  1. You know I vote yes. You get squirrel socks along with a shirt!!!!

  2. I say man up and race, at the very least it should be a fun day, unless you pass out from lack of carbs. Then, less fun but potentially youtube GOLD.

    1. This might be the most compelling reason of all.

  3. Can you forgo the crazy diet for one day so you're properly fueled for the event?

    1. I can, there's still part of me that's concerned about residual depletion.

  4. I'm not sure I would do a race if you feel like you can't properly fuel. I've done that, and it sucks.

  5. My question to you is if going above the recommended calorie and carbohydrate level will set you back tremendously. If it is something that you will be able to manage the day before and the day after with no after effects then go for it.

    If going above the day before and not maintaining self control after will affect you then skip it and focus on the run in mid-November.

    1. It wouldn't set me back a lot...I sure hope I could regain discipline for it come Saturday at 2 pm. We'll see.

  6. 'Whether or not I “look big” or the like is not the issue, feeling awful while racing is, and I’m the only person qualified to judge whether or not I feel bloated/heavy/awful/etc while I’m swimming, biking, or running.'

    Did I mention that I love you? Thank GOD there is someone out there who finally 'gets it.'

    Although I do think the nurse is an idiot. Sorry for the rudenss, but really? I think she's more likely to royally screw your body and metabolism with that diet, but what do I know. If you're determined to be on this regime forever though, surely at some point you'll have to race even longer than an Olympic distance on those calories/macros so it's better to get used to it than try to race longer without your body having an adjustment period? I don't even want to think about trying to do an Ironman on 100g carbs...

    1. I love you, too, all the way across the Atlantic.

      I also think she's nuts, but it seems like the recommendations are common for the results they found with my bloodwork. I will definitely need to address this before doing anything longer than 3 hours, but I have the whole winter to experiment/adjust to fat burning vs. glycogen burning. The issue with this is not having time to make these adjustments before the race this weekend.

      Supposedly, carbohydrates taken in during exercise won't cause insulin spikes, which is the main issue, so I will eventually be able to figure out the formula that works for me. Just haven't had the time yet.

  7. Apparently I'm the only wimp who wouldn't do it, but I say skip it. Races are too expensive to feel awful the whole time. It's always tempting because they are fun especially when you have a bunch of friends doing it, but right now it just doesn't sound worth it. Focus on the half!

  8. Only race if you are going to have fun like you said! You just did a huge event and I'm not surprised you're not enthused to race, medical issues aside.

  9. Okay, Im a nut like you, but I would say skip it, if you dont think youre going to have fun. You know your body best, and it sounds like you would rather train for Richmond and do well then do a race for the hell of it.

    However, if you dont care about time and think it would be fun, do it. I did a no time goal (okay, loosely) race this weekend and it was pretty liberating!

    Lastly good on you for knowing your body. Im carrying around an extra 5-7 pounds from Ironman (STILL) and it does make a difference in how you feel. Not my damn jean size, thankyouverymuch.

    Continuing to love the Alpacas!

  10. This is such a great post and you are my favorite blogger ever. There is no one to be more qualified to judge how you feel. If you feel you want/need to lose weight then darn it do it. Though I'm not sure how I feel about your doctors advice, it isn't my place to say.

    As far as racing goes-don't put pressure on yourself. Do what you feel.

  11. Congrats on a solid week of training. I feel that 2 months after a 70.3 I'm still flagging!

    Sounds like making a decision as the week goes along might be the best choice. Like others have said, if you can do it for fun, then I'd definitely say go for it and see how you feel come race day.

  12. I love your picture of the little goats, or whatever they are.
    Racing on low carb doesn't sound like fun, unless you'll be ok with a bonk and less than stellar performance ... I'm guessing no. But, I'd sign up anyway. I have FOMO.