Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bring On The Pain

Sorry about the week's writing hiatus. The last week was hectic at work. We are updating the annual forecast with the first three months (jan-mar) of actual data to create what we call the Q1 Reforecast, in which we reforecast annual earnings.

Each day last week (except Friday) I worked until 8:30 PM. I’d come home and jump on my trainer for an hour-and-a-half, go to bed, and get up at 5:00 AM to swim. There wasn’t any time to update the blog.

A new wrinkle in my training this week is I’m starting to add intensity. The first few months are focused toward building endurance and preparing the body to be able to deal with intensity. As of the last training block, I completed that phase of training. I’m now in the building/intensity phase of training. The training volume decreases a bit and key interval workouts are added. I’ll also start to doing low-priority races (C ranked races) to build speed, get used to the race situation, and simulate race intensity.

This week called for an intense bike interval workout, which I did on the trainer (I had no choice because it was dark when I got home from work), and a 10K running race. This phase of training is psychologically challenging in that you’re supposed to not be concerned with race results. You’re supposed to keep up your regular training load and race. There’s no tapering to prepare for a race. If you’re tired, you still race. The point is to bring yourself to a peak for your “A” ranked races later in the year--my “A” ranked race is in mid-June. What’s so psychologically challenging about this is it’s hard to not care about race results regardless of the intent. I’ve seen people hit this phase of training, do poorly in a race, and alter their entire training schedule as a result. Additionally, racers risk getting into a funk—they lose their mental toughness—as a result of the build race.

For me intensity is very painful…I’m sure that’s a commonly expressed sentiment. I sometimes get lazy when it comes to intensity because it’s much less mentally demanding to punch out a longer less intense workout than to focus and push yourself harder during intervals. This is perhaps one of my biggest weaknesses. I sometimes fail to embrace the pain intensity brings and just do a long ride/run/swim instead. This is partially why I shifted my focus from road bike racing (very intense) to Iron Distance triathlons because Iron Distance triathlons require more endurance and much less intensity. None the less, intensity is crucial to get fast: no pain…no gain.

One other difficulty with the shift to intensity is the decrease of volume. This may seem counter intuitive. In the base period of training, it’s cool to put up the big numbers. It’s a quantifiable measure of your effort. You get a real sense of accomplishment. You have something to brag about. When you shift to intensity, your time decreases and there’s more time necessary for recovery both in training and resting. There’s a twofold decrease in your quantity. Your weekly totals in time and distance diminish significantly. Your overall workload may have increased, but there’s really no way to quantify that change and you’re left with less miles/hours at week’s end.
The weekdays were a blur of training and working. There’s not much to recount. Saturday and Sunday were eventful days packed with activities both training and family related.

My Saturday started with at 6AM with an hour Masters swim. I took it easy because after swimming, I had to rush across town to enter a 10K running race. I swam 2000 meters and didn’t use my legs. I jumped out the pool and changed into my running gear. I hurried across town trying to cram a little food down to have some energy for the race. I don’t eat before I swim—swimming with a full stomach is terrible. I ate a muffin and an Odwalla smoothie.

When I got to the race, I signed up and had 15 minutes to warm up. It had rained the night before and was a bit sloppy at the start line. 85 people signed up for the 10K. They started us in a narrow alley that was blocked by a large muddy puddle with about 5 feet on one side that wasn’t muddy. I had my new shoes and didn’t want to go running through the puddle, so I resolved to sprint for the hole shot. The organizer blew the whistle and I took off as fast as I could to keep the new shoes clean. I held the pace for a few minutes and realized I was leading the race. I turned around and the nearest person was 100 yards behind. I decided to roll with my pace. Every so often I’d check my HR and saw numbers anywhere from 181-176 BPM. Mile after mile ticked off and I was running paranoid that someone would pass me at any moment. Finally at mile marker 4, I was passed by the first person. I hung on to his pace as long as I could. I started to fade by mile marker 5 and was hanging on for life. I was passed 3 more times. The race finally ended and I posted a time of 40:06. My average HR was 176 BPM for the entire event. I was trashed.

I hurried to the car and went to my son’s basketball game. It was a great game and my son’s team lost by a single point that was almost overcome by Ethan’s half court shot. After the game, I came home and jumped on my bike for a recovery ride. There was nothing left after the running race; I just wanted to ensure the quickest recovery by spinning the legs. I rode for 1.5 hours. I then came home and took an ice bath, which really seems to help. It was my first ice bath ever. I’m certain there will be more.

The rest of the day was spent lounging around the house senselessly.

Sunday I got up and rode my TT bike for 4.5 hours. It was a waste of time though because I couldn’t even get my HR above 140 BPM. I probably would have been better served sleeping the entire day. After my ride, I met my wife at church. We then walked through our dream house—they were asking $700K—Doh! The rest of the evening was spent hanging out with friends and family.

I finished the week with 17 hours of training, a new 10K PR, some quality intensity, and a near comatose state of mind. Hopefully next week will be a bit better.

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