Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back on the wagon

Well, bacon, cheese, and ego.  Close enough.
This weekend is the big pre-Ironman crunch for Team Z, the triathlon team on which I train: this morning was a 20-mile run, and tomorrow's menu offers 120 on the bike.  It's coming at a good time: it's only in the past week -- fully five weeks after Ironman Wales -- that my body has tolerated training with any sort of intensity.  Having done this sport for several years, and having competed in five Iron-distance races before Wales, I thought I'd figured out the whole recovery thing.  That is, take the first week post-race almost entirely off, begin running and cycling again in week 2, and by week 3, I'm ready to start hitting it again.

Sounds good, except... apparently it's wrong, and I got called out in truly spectacular fashion by thinking that I was more recovered than I was.   In August, in my buildup to Wales, I'd included a 415-mile bike week that involved an extremely hilly (15k feet of climbing) 190-mile ride on Monday, and a rolling-hill 125-mile ride on Thursday.  I'd expected to feel very fatigued for Thursday's ride, as the Monday epic had lasted a good 14 hours.  Surprisingly, though, I ripped through the 125'er at a breakneck pace, finishing it 2.5 hours faster than I'd ridden the same route last year.  

From this, I think I concluded that my fitness had progressed to a point that a moderately hilly 125-mile ride was just another bike workout, and that I'd have no problem riding the same route two weeks after Ironman Wales, with a friend of mine.  I felt great and raring to go, and things went well for the first 70 miles.  At that point, however, the proverbial wheels came off in catastrophic fashion, and the final 55 miles were a "ride to the next tree" kind of death march.  It was one of the very toughest days I'd ever had on a bike, and we rode the last hour in complete darkness, pausing at the occasional gas station so I could lie down and get the world to stop spinning.  It wasn't a nutritional failing.  The truth is that I simply hadn't respected the distance, nor had I really taken to heart what it means to recover from an extremely tough Ironman where I'd given everything I had.

That 125-mile ride was a mistake, and I think it essentially set my recovery back to square one.  I was useless for the next week (the third after Wales), and, although I felt a little better in week 4, I couldn't go all-out because I was racing a half-Ironman at Rev3 at the weekend.  Then, following Rev3, I needed to recover a little more.

In short, I think that, by trying to come back too quickly from Wales, I wound up knocking myself completely off track.  My intentions had been good: bounce back as fast as I could in order to start getting ready for Ironman Cozumel in November, and just "tough out" any workout where things weren't fully clicking.  Sure, I'd heard countless times the standard lines about not coming back too quickly after a big race, and I'd even delivered those lines myself on numerous occasions.  I suppose that, on some level, I thought that maybe they didn't apply to me, or that I was able to assess accurately the true state of my recovery merely from how good I felt.  I was completely wrong, and I paid for it spectacularly.  Live and learn; no one is exempt.

Happily, in the fifth week after Wales, my body seems to have awoken from its shock and allowed me to go full-gas on some efforts.  This past week, I did (1) extremely challenging bike trainer interval workouts on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday; (2) very aggressive (but short) track workouts and weight sessions on Monday and Wednesday; and (3) yoga sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I also commuted on the Elliptigo, which took about 1.25 hours each day.  Despite it all, this morning I cruised a lightly-rolling 20-mile run at a 7:30 pace, including a solid negative split, and I felt great.  I'm hoping the 120-mile ride tomorrow goes similarly well.  After that, it's three more weeks of gut-busting work, then two weeks of tapering before Ironman Cozumel.  I'm very optimistic that I can do some damage there if I'm able to train straight through as I hope to.

One thing that's helping my recovery this afternoon is my brand new Recovery Pump, a pneumatic compression device that aids circulation to the legs.  I'm wearing it as I write this, and if it were a woman, I'd  be ring shopping already.



I'll write a full review once I've had a chance to use it for a week or so.

Onward and upward!