#81: Big miles, Biometrics and Beer-envy, it must be build phase

To everything there is a season and a time and purpose under heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Endurance World’s version of this passage is known as “periodization”, which means that there are cycles for just about all aspects of training.  This isn’t just endurance sports of course, most sports follow a similar concept.  For me, this generally means:  Base training followed by build (x1-3 cycles) and then peak training right before the “big” race……and with roughly 2 months out from my big race (Ironman US Championships in NYC on 8/11), I’m in the thick of build season.

Build season is marked by (as the name implies) slowly building up endurance, strength, power with the general concept being to ramp up the workload as much as possible without accumulating too much fatigue (i.e. enter race-day fresh) and not incur setbacks from injury; and when it comes to the volume required for ultra-endurance events, it’s a surprisingly delicate balance.  Push too hard or too fast and you’ll give back your gains (and then some)…..not push enough and you’ll be left wondering what “could’ve” been.

For me, this week was the first of a 5 week “hard-build” phase which is where the bulk of my building will be done prior to my next racing checkpoint (Ironman 70.3 in Rhode Island on 7/8).  The main goal is to continue to build my miles (especially on the bike) to improve strength, muscle endurance and resiliency to the rigors of the event.  All the while I need to continue to work in the pool, not so much for speed (which I don’t suspect there’s much more major gains to be had b/t now and race-day), but for endurance enough to maintain the speed I do have for then entire 2.4 miles.  And….then of course there is the run miles which have the greatest potential to beat you up during training, but make-or-break the race…….my longest to date for this training has been 16 (last week), and so I’ll need to get that to 18 in the coming week(s)…..oh, and I can’t forget that I need to do this in the heat (Aug in NJ/NY is not generally real cool) and still need to nail down my nutrition (the make or break OF the make or break)……plenty to do.

So, with the weather not super awesome….and not super hot, the focus of this week was to get the time in on the bike.  The first 2 sessions I was relegated to the computrainer…..so include “not super exciting” in there as well.  The boring part is outweighed by the effective part though, in the back of my mind, I know it’s a higher quality workout (no coasting and more precision)…..so something I’ll keep working into the mix……I was able to get outside from mid-week on, which was more exciting for sure.  I had my “big” session yesterday and was able to get 90 miles in, which was the lower end of my 90-100 mile goal.  I could’ve pushed out those last 10, but I was starting to decline and still wanted to get some run-off-the-bike miles so I went for quality over quantity.  

In general, it was a good week in the saddle, the CT sessions were emphasizing lactate threshold work and the long session was, well, long.  I guess you have to really love cycling to not think 90 is long…..but I’m getting there, the first 50 felt solid and the next 25 went surprisingly fast.  It was really just the final 15 where I felt like I was grinding it out, which I consider a success at this point in the training.  

THE BEST PART was that I was able to get 1400 calories in during this time…….this is HUGE HUGE HUGE for me.  I have had to really focus on this and just haven’t been able to get it done……which always leaves me depleted early (running the car w/o gas isn’t so smart)…….and although it’s still no where near the 2600 I expended during the effort, it’s a major step in the right direction because I was able to get off the 90 miles and run at about the right pace……now I was tired, so I only ran 2, but I ran on a hilly course and felt no worse for the wear (and didn’t feel like I was going to puke)……I’m not ready to reveal the magic just yet (mostly b/c it still feels like magic)…….but I’m going to keep tinkering.

I wrapped up the week with a very easy hour-long spin today around town just to move the legs and prep for another tough week.  It was tough to get going, but I’m glad I did…..felt so much better walking in than I did walking out…..so a success. All said, I got in more than 10 hours on the bike, which was my goal for the week, so this was a win.

Pretty much uneventful…..according to plan.  I ran a hard 8 miler following a 1 hour hard bike workout early in the week.  The course is pretty hilly, but after doing some recon early in the week (I happened to be up by the George Washington Bridge so I stopped in to drive the “Ross Dock Park” area where transition and the first 1/2 of the run will be) I decided this is EXACTLY what I’m going to need.  The course is a bunch of up and down for the first 14 miles…….something that is going to “soften up the legs” for sure……..and since that’s when I’ll be about ready to break mentally, I need to feel confident and strong.  The bad news is, that’s going to suck.  The good news is, there are plenty of hills to train on in good ol’ Hunterdon County……and now that I’ve seen it, I’ll only have myself to blame if I don’t prepare.  The other runs of the week were a few miles off the bike here or there and then a 10 miler I was able to do late in the week which turned into a heat-acclimation run.  It was tougher than I had expected, but I was glad I got it in.

Also under the run category – I got 12 miles in on the Elliptigo – which continues to be a great alternative when my legs are feeling beat up, but I need to log the time in a running motion.  Good solid workout, heart-rate in high aerobic range and fires the running muscles w/o banging the running joints……so if you include all “running-related” I got in around 3.25 hours, with about 20 miles true-running.  Not bad for a lower mileage week (i.e. no “long run”)…..so this was a win as well.

Well……we’re not done yet.  Even though it’s 7:15P on a Sunday, the work(out) week is not over quite yet.  I got 2 of my 3 swims in and still need to do my “long swim” for the week……this generally translates to about an hour of continuous lap swimming at the local Y……not exactly super exciting, but needs to be done.  The other 2 were good sessions…….on Monday I did a very easy recovery swim in order to not over-do after the OLY at BlackBear…….and Wed I got in a fairly hard swim doing tempo repeats…..not super-fun, but productive.  

Pinch an inch?
This is also the time of the training season where I needed to do some checking related to my physique.  I only know it’s the time b/c I’ve had multiple people tell me how skinny I look……some with the “are you alright” look on their face.  This is the sure sign that we’re nearing race weight…..I read an article by a prominent triathlon coach who said that ideal BMI (in his opinion) for a male Triathlete is around 21…..(+/- 19 to +/- 25 is considered “healthy” normal), with a body fat %-age of around 8% . So on Saturday I stopped in the office and took my readings (it’s nice to have all the equipment at your fingertips).  I was 8.5% body fat and my BMI was 22……so not that far off.  The interesting thing is that I’m about 6 lbs OVER the race-weight goal I had set for myself, which is still about 3 lbs OVER the “ideal” (per this coach).  I can’t imagine losing another 9 lbs……I think I’m going to stick with 6 lbs.  I know, it doesn’t sound like that much of a difference……but consider this…….my goal weight on race-day is the same weight that I wrestled at as a senior in HS……and for those that know anything about wrestling……let’s just say I was pretty lean during those days.  At least there are no weigh-ins for triathlon.

Along those same lines, this is the part of the season that I need to be especially careful not to breakdown and have soft-tissue issues or issues related to accumulated fatigue (colds, lack of energy, etc)…..with the harder workouts and increased mileage, I’m toeing a fairly fine line.   This week I could feel the cranky L shoulder starting to “chat” with me as I got near the end of the harder swimming set, the R knee and hip barking a little early in the week (the battle I waged late fall/early winter) presumably following the run at Blackbear and the continued give-and-take with my L achilles……I’ve been treating them to regular cold-baths and we’re on speaking terms…..but I need to be careful.  To that end, I probably need to plan in a week off soon……maybe after Rhode Island.

Now THAT’S and ice-bath
Seems kind of silly, but build phase is a lot about sacrifice.  The training hours are really starting to accumulate (not likely to hit 20 hours this week, but pretty close) which basically cuts out many of the simple pleasures.  I was reminded of this earlier today as I rode through picturesque Clinton, NJ……the ultimate quaint town.  There, on a front porch out of the victorian era sat a couple, the guy w/his feet propped up on the rail, each in a comfortable chair w/cold beer in hand.  “Why do I do this and not that?”

This followed yesterday when, after 90 miles of cycling and an immediate 2 mile run I got back to the driveway and there were the neighbors looking satisfied at their latest lawn-care effort, both with cold beer in hand……”that seems so much more normal” I thought to myself as I waved and trudged into the house for an ice-bath.

But call it like it is – this is the phase where great racing efforts are made……and knowing this…..we push on.

Now, to say good night to my kids…….and go find a swimming lane.
We push on,

Mike E. 

Addendum: Y closes at 8P on Sunday. CRAP! Oh, well, maybe I’ll have a beer.