TS Eliot wrote in his poem ‘The Wasteland’ the famous stanza: “April is the cruellest month”. As my race preparation phase month, this meant an awful lot of training. It was exacerbated by having my March training somewhat compromised by five weeks of travel, which made it necessary to increase the intensity as well as the volume (I subscribe to the Endurance Nation training philosophy that “work WORKS”).
My shortest training week in April was 16 h; my longest 20 h. But the hard work is over. After 18 weeks of training I have reached the magic point where I begin the taper to my race which is two weeks from today. I feel like crap but that is to be expected. My Endurance Nation training plan notes “… your body won’t feel so hot as it begins to cycle down and absorb all the hard work you have done”. That is an understatement.
As I reflect on the past 18 weeks I realize one of the things that I really like about training for an Ironman race is the structured training approach. I learned from experience that one needs to have a good training plan and I’m grateful that I found Endurance Nation. Their training philosophy of training ‘smarter’ and frequently testing where you are fitness/performance wise, appeals to the engineer in me. Being a totally obsessive/compulsive individual, I tried to stick the plan even though my travels made it exceedingly difficult at times. Fortunately, I was able to spend five critical weeks over April at home which helped get me to the stage where I feel that I’m ready to race. At least once I finish my taper.
I use this training software WKO+ to record my training and the chart below shows the last five weeks of hard works (the purple ATL) and the resulting increase in fitness (the blue CTL). The gold line is my ‘freshness’ which has been bouncing around –20 to –40. In other words: I’ve been tired. For a long time.
Digression #1: It’s funny how distorted one’s perspective becomes when training for an Ironman race (and hanging around others who think this is normal). I was with a friend who thought that 30 minutes a day over a week was too much training to do. I’m excited that this week I only have to do 10 h and next week 7.5 h!.
This past week I have been just outside Washington D.C. in Maryland for a training course and I have had two race simulations to do. These consisted of cycling the Ironman distance (180 km) followed by a 1 h run. It was great to be able to revisit my old training haunts like the C&O Canal, Great Falls, and the W&OD Trail. There are not a lot of places where one can do a 100+ km bike ride on trails. The place the course was held also had a pool which was nice, although it was such a chlorine bomb my wife Lis would not have let me into the house for fear of poisoning her. Managed to bleach my shorts really well.
Digression #2: Even though the D.C. area is home for some 4 million people, it never ceases to amaze me the nature and wildlife in the area. During my rides I saw deer, an adolescent fox, possum (roadkill), many squirrels and chipmunks, cardinals, and more birds than I could ever hope to identify. And at dusk … lots and lots of bugs!
On Friday I had my final race simulation which confirmed that not only am I obsessive/compulsive but also anally retentive. Let me explain …
The plan was to leave at 13:00 since sunset is at 20:15. Unfortunately the course ran a bit late which meant I did not leave until 14:00. I did a circular route which took me past where we used to live in Arlington, west along the W&OD trail, then back to Leesburg and White’s Ferry to cross the Potomac to Maryland.
Unfortunately I was a bit late for the ferry and so had an enforced wait for it to return which was a bother as it meant that I was going to run out of daylight. Rather than the 180 km I decided to only do 160 km as it was getting so late. When I approached the hotel I had only done 155 km. Not a bad effort, but not 160 km, so even though it was by now dark I did another 6 km just to make sure that I met my goal.
I started my run and it was very dark, but fortunately the hotel has a network of roads and it was 1.25 km to the end from my room. Cool. Do 4 x return laps and I’ve done 10 km. I was getting quite hungry by now and so after lap 3 I popped into the room to order some room service so it would be waiting after lap 4. The blighters didn’t answer the phone … so much for that plan. Back out for lap 4 and when I finished I found I had only run 55 minutes rather than 60. Blast. So did another half lap to take the run to just over one hour.
Will it make one iota of difference to my race in two weeks that I did those extra 6 km of cycling or 5+ minutes running? Absolutely not. But to me, I had set a goal and I had to meet that goal. Yes, very pathetic, but I would say that many (most?) people training for an Ironman race could relate.
So what now? It’s OK for me to start backing off because it’s my taper. I love what my plan says: “If anything, feel free to back down on the work if necessary. Showing up too rested on race day is not a problem”. Sounds great. Then again, today is a beautiful spring day with the sun shining so I think I’ll use up 3 of my 10 h with an easy bike ride along the C&O Canal. After 18 weeks of training, time for some relaxation – even if it does entail some exercising. Perhaps my friend Jerry was right. I am seriously addicted to endorphins 🙂