As much as I’d like to forget the last few weeks of training, there’s something to be said for learning from past mistakes, and the first step in that is data collection. In the nuclear industry, we call this “analyzing operating experience,” but luckily, in this case, it seems that I’ve only managed to trash my own body, not a major piece of plant equipment that will cost a utility millions of dollars to fix.
Look, I’m trying to be positive here for a change. Work with me, please.
The two weeks of training documented here don’t tell the entire story of this breakdown. It’s just NOT possible, outside of a traumatic injury or accident, to break your body down in two weeks. So where does the story start?
Truthfully, I don’t know where it starts.
Maybe when I took my temperature in mid-March, in the middle of a minor bout with a respiratory ailment, and found that it was 95 F. And found that it's pretty much stayed there since.
Maybe it starts with the overbooked work/travel/training/coaching schedule I plowed through with multiple 4 am treadmill and trainer workouts earlier this winter.
Maybe it starts with the medically ordered diet of 800-1000 calories/day (total, not net, regardless of training load) that got handed to me in the fall, despite the fact that I wasn’t even technically overweight to start with. Or, perhaps the real problem is that I lacked the willpower and discipline to follow it, therefore ensuring that I didn't clear up the problems I'd sought treatment for in the first place.
Maybe it started when I couldn’t stop gaining weight while training for Ironman Louisville last summer, even though I cut my calorie intake by skipping nutrition for the last 90-120 minutes of all long brick workouts (yes, I know, no lecture necessary) and watched my daily intake like a hawk, to the point that I went to bed hungry most nights.
Maybe this whole thing begins in the summer of 2011, when I gained 11 pounds in 3 weeks for no identifiable reason and demonstrated obvious hormonal balance problems (which I will not detail here because many of my professional colleagues, almost all of whom are male, read this blog), yet no doctor would give this a second thought because I wasn’t medically overweight.
Maybe it starts in the fall of 2009, the last time I took two days in a row off – and only did so because I had to while recovering from kidney surgery.
Regardless of when it starts, the last two weeks slowly unfolded to reveal a clear accumulation of fatigue and breakdown that I couldn’t push through. I understand that training overload is necessary to make improvements, but once you are almost passing out during workouts, once you are contemplating sitting down for a nap on a cold sidewalk during a run because getting home seems too difficult, you’ve crossed into bad territory.
Last week, I took two full days in a row off and had a halfway decent long brick workout on Saturday. I thought that perhaps just a little rest had fixed me. But this week has brought more exhaustion and an inability to sit upright for long periods of time, and it’s obvious that this isn’t going to get fixed anytime quickly.
Monday, 3/18: Rest day, with lots of napping and catching up on work that I was too slow to accomplish during the day.
Tuesday, 3/19: A 5.72 mile run at 9:01 pace, just barely escaping the rain in the morning. 4100 yards of swimming with DCRP masters in the evening, back in the lane with the fast people who haul along at faster than 1:15/100 yards.
Wednesday, 3/20: A 5 mile “track” workout on the treadmill, covering 6x800 (2 at half marathon pace – 3:46-3:43, 4 at 10k pace – 3:34-3:36-3:35-3:36). This was done in the morning so that I could coach in the evening, but I could tell by midday that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the evening without multiple naps, so I pushed that off on an assistant coach and was useless for the evening.
Thursday, 3/21: An hour of Z3 intervals on the trainer, averaging 169 W, in the morning, then semi-floated through 4400 yards of swimming with DCRP, including a bunch of 1:16-1:17/100y pace work.
Friday, 3/22: 25 minutes of team strength training work, then tons of teleconferences for work followed by 45 minutes of laying on my living room floor procrastinating a 3 hour brick workout. I wound up procrastinating it to the next day, and instead did Saturday’s swim once I managed to get upright again. 4x1000m at a pace too pathetic to put into writing.
Saturday, 3/23: 35 miles of biking with Rachel and Karen, averaging 151 W/17.0 mph, followed immediately by 5 miles of running at an 8:56/mile pace. CLEARLY the half ironman on 4/20 will be CRUSHED.
Sunday, 3/24: Ran SIX WHOLE MILES (average pace 8:57) building to the uber-speedy half marathon goal pace of 7:52, only accomplished because the last mile is downhill. Stopped for a traffic light at mile 2, contemplated taking a nap on Mass Ave. Barely stayed upright to coach in the afternoon, napped, and then finally finished out a 25 minute home strength training session at 8 pm because I felt lame not doing it when I had all the equipment RIGHT THERE in my living room.
Monday, 3/25: Rest day. Spent most of the workday trying to focus, went home and laid down.
Tuesday, 3/26: 5.84 mile fartlek run with hills in the morning, that felt far, far too difficult for the 9:07 average I held. In the evening, an ill-fated 3800 yard swim practice with DCRP Masters, which included several sets of 4x25 that required us to get out and do push ups at the end of each length. This is ONLY an appropriate set for a bunch of upperclassmen who got caught giving freshmen beer; to make things even more fun, my blood pressure kept plummeting and I spent most of the end of practice dizzy. Finally, I jumped back in after one set of pushups and thought I wasn’t going to make it back to the surface. Luckily, it turns out my lungs had enough air in them that I sort of floated back up and grabbed onto the wall in time.
Wednesday, 3/27: 40 minutes of strength training in the morning, followed by an epic failure of a track workout: 3.43 miles including 3x1000 (should have been 4) in 5:00-5:03-5:13 before our coach sent me home with Rachel, who thought I was going to die.
Thursday, 3/28: Work meetings, then hours in bed contemplating trashing my entire race season.
Friday, 3/29: 9-some miles of walking aimlessly around the city, capped off by purchase of Easter candy, which was then consumed for dinner.
Saturday, 3/30: 50 miles of biking at a 160 W average, including a 40 minute race pace section at 174W, which left me feeling much better about being able to pull off some good power in Charleston at the end of the month. Followed immediately by 4.5 miles of running, building to half ironman goal pace (8:42…har, most of the last mile was downhill, suckers). More Easter candy consumption and aimless wandering of the city.
Sunday, 3/31: 10 miles of aimlessly wandering the city on foot. 3000 meters of straight swimming, split as 1:36/100m for the first half and 1:34/100m for the second half. Solid, and solidly fueled by M&Ms.