So, as described in Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 5, I had managed to eke out 3.5 weeks of decent preparation for the Houston inline marathon, had had two poor nights of sleep and was now in Houston. I ate lightly watched some tv and slept like an absolute rock. Two days of too little sleep will do that.
One thing I had realized that past Thursday was that the clocks were changing. Knowing that most forget to make the change, I had emailed the race promoters suggesting that they send out a reminder to folks about it. They did and, thankfully, the direction of the change actually gave me an extra hour of sleep to catch up a bit more.
Awake and to the Course
For an 8:45am start, I set my alarm for 6am. It takes about 3 hours for the body to generally warm-up and I like to shave, take a hot shower, do one last equipment check (my OCD tendencies kick in hard about now) as well as ramp up my CNS dealing with Internet flamewars and email. It’s what works for me.
I woke straight up and went to work with my schedule. I actually hadn’t bothered to find the race course the day before, I was just too tired. But I still left plenty early, at 7:15am so that, in case something happened, I’d find the race by 8am to warm-up. Good thing to as the race was horribly signed, I missed the parking area and got lost in downtown Houston trying to find my way back. 30 minutes of screaming at the top of my lungs in my car and driving around fairly randomly finally had me back to the race.
I took my pre-workout stims at 7:45 and checked things out (ran into a guy I knew back in SLC who was racing the pro-marathon) and then went for a short jog and stretch at 8am. Got my skates on and went to check out the course. It was one of those odd out and back and out and back loop things. All straightaways with TIGHT turnarounds at a cone (requiring you to come to a near complete stop) at each end. The pavement wasn’t as fantastic as I thought it would be; neither was it as flat as I had thought. A couple of down/uphills under highway overpasses and a lot of fake flats.
My legs didn’t feel great but it takes me about 10 minutes of skating to get the old aerobic engine cooking. Skates didn’t feel particularly fast either but I think the problem was with the motor (e.g. me) this time. I had serviced my bearings and none of the wheels were rubbing on a bolt or anything.
So I skated for about 10 minutes, rested, and did a couple of accels and then waited for the start.
We got to the start line and I set up behind the pro marathon guys. Everyone was racing at once again; one thing that was interesting was that this event was using chip timers (which is normal), little dealies that go around the ankle and the timing mat picks you up automatically. Well, half-marathoners only wore 1 (3 laps) and marathoners wore 2 (6 laps) so it made it easy to know who was racing what. I wish we’d had that at the Road Rash and maybe that kid wouldn’t have beaten me (at least I’m not holding onto it, right?). Wouldn’t really matter.
We got off the line well and I dropped in with the lead group. Unfortunately, a bit up of the start, my SLC buddy hit a bottle on the road and went down hard. I’m not sure he finished the race. That sucked to see. I stayed with the lead pack for a bit but then dropped sideways out of the line down the hill. And got dropped. They turned out to be a bit faster than me which meant that functionally I was on my own again. We were already a half-mile ahead of everyone else and I’d be skating alone for quite a while. Which was fine.
We hit the first turnaround, came to a screeching halt and while I had ideas of chasing down the lead pack, I knew that I just didn’t have the motor this time around (their ultimate finish time, a blazing 1:11 tells me I’d have died even trying to stay with them). Had I been prepared, I might have been able to stay with them; today there was just no way. The mind was willing but that wasn’t enough.
I was also right on the edge of blowing up already; I shouldn’t have gone out with the lead pack, that was a mistake. So I backed off and let them go; had to skate my own race. We came back past the start/finish and up another long false flat to the next turnaround. On the way back, a group of 4 skaters who appeared to be in the half were coming towards me, I had maybe a minute on them with a lot of racing left to go and not feeling my best.
We came by the start/finish again and they caught me. I sat in a bit and that was just fine for me. I could tell that my fitness just wasn’t there this time around and the lack of preparation was showing. They actually passed and dropped me but I didn’t care, I went through the underpasses to the turnaround and then put on the gas. I caught their wheel again and was skating strong, taking the lead and getting away from them up the hill. And then….
And my calves cramped again. We were going up the hill and you tend to toe off just a bit more and that’s where the problems can start. I’m not sure why this happened at Napa and Houston but not in Round Rock. But I need to figure it out before next season. In any event, I was a bit locked up and had to back off because I couldn’t skate all out without making it worse. They passed me and I wouldn’t catch them again.
I managed to finally relax and start skating but every time I’d push the tiniest bit off my toes, I’d cramp again. Made for a frustrating race and I was feeling the lack of fitness for sure. I made the turnaround and in trying to crossover, caught another massive cramp in my right calf. This was getting old as hell. I went back past the start/finish to the turnaround and then back down the false flat for the final lap.
At this point I was more or less on my goal schedule, I wanted to crack 40 minutes for the distance and had skated like 36 minutes and change over the first two laps. It’d be close but I thought I could just make it.
The Final Countdown
Back down the rough bit underneath the overpasses and I had to remind myself not to crossover around the cone (meaning I had to take it slower) and chop my strokes on the climb so I wouldn’t cramp up again. It makes you go slow but it was better than cramping. Back past the start/finish to the final false flat.
Same deal on the final turnaround, no crossovers and a gradual acceleration out. I had no cramp issues back to the finish and finished strong. But I was cooked, shaking from fatigue; I’d be hacking for the rest of the day from the effort. Today (Tuesday) I can barely walk for calf sorness, the damage from the cramping.
But I had finished and done about as well as I could have hoped given the circumstances. And that’s always my goal. With a mere 3.5 weeks of training, not enough time on my skates a horribly truncated training load (no tempo running for example), I couldn’t expect more. I was cooked at the end of it, my weight was up and my fitness was down and it had shown. Humorously, the one thing that didn’t bother me during the race….my low back. I didn’t notice it at all. Go figure.
I had clearly slowed way down on the last lap and finished at 40:35 (the half-marathon winner went 39:12 so he finished about 1.5 miles ahead of me). Ah well. Without the cramps, I’d have broken 40 minutes and at least been with him. I actually didn’t stay for final results, a friend had come down and I was more interested in food and I was unable to find out when awards were being held because the race promoter was too busy racing to do his job. I don’t even think there were awards at this event; I know they didn’t have t-shirts.
Looking at the final results, I had the second fastest finishing time (they didn’t even have an overall division) and took my age group. Which isn’t saying anything given the small field and few competitors. For this race, my real goal was to actually get/do/finish the race and know that I’d done the best I could have done after the completely monstrosity of this summer; anything beyond that was gravy. I also learned some things about my training and what I need to change next season. That alone makes the experience worthwhile.
And What Did I Learn?
Well, number one I was reminded of why overtraining and crushing depression sucks so hard. While I can’t really have predicted what happened this summer (it came on overnight), the fact is that I am prone to issues with both overtraining and depression and will have to watch for signs going forwards. Even knowing what I know I tend toward the more is better mentality and it can get me into trouble; trouble I’d rather avoid going forwards.
From the race specifically, I learned two main things. The first is that clearly a purely easy aerobic approach was not ideal. I could feel the lack of fitness and while some of that was due to the lack of preparation time, my engine just wasn’t there. I suspect the removal of tempo running was the difference in addition to the short training time.
My skating, despite a decently high HR, is still aerobic (you just get a skewed HR relationship); my cycling was purely aerobic. I think I did one tempo EFX workout during the 3 weeks. I clearly need some tempo work (bike or running) to top off the engine. And I’ll need some actual interval work next year to hang with the big boys. Which I will be doing….
And I felt it compared to the other races, I just didn’t have the lungs at the higher intensity (my Garmin also shows an average HR of 187 which is about 10 beats higher than normal; I’m not sure that’s right). But going forwards, clearly I need some higher intensity work (whether on skates or not) to completely prepare. I just need to limit it.
I think three tempo runs during the summer was too much on top of the rest of my training load. Or it was just the rest of my clusterfucked summer that caused the problem and the training was fine. I’ll probably move to two per week or one every 5th day going forwards with easier running on alternate days. Or just do it on the bike.
I also have to solve this calf cramping issue. It may simply only be something that turns up at high intensities when I push off my toes (which I never do in my training workouts). I have to wonder if simply travel isn’t part of it. Because I only drove 20 minutes to Round Rock and did 6 hours in the car in Napa and 3 to Houston.
And I was plenty hydrated for Houston, my pee was perfectly clear so dehydration, like in Napa, probably wasn’t it. But I need to solve it since, realistically travel is part of this at one point or another. Though many races are more likely to be flights to the locale going forwards. Still….
Oh yea, a third thing I learned, I won’t be doing Houston next year. The event was staggeringly small (99 competitors) and I was unhappy with how it was run. First case in point, most races provide safety pins for your race bib. Every racer needs 4 and that means they needed 400. And they’re what, about $3 per box? And they ran out. I had been told that they didn’t do t-shirts for financial reasons and apparently they couldn’t put $12 into safety pins.
They also didn’t even provide a t-shirt to competitors, first event I’ve EVER been to that didn’t in over 20 years. You could pay for one after the race that they’d order and send to you. Sorry, screw that. I bought two cool t-shirts from a store that had brought them and could give them to me right then instead. The design was cooler anyhow.
More seriously: after the race, I needed a question answered after the race and the race organizer, who’s JOB is to be dealing with the event. He couldn’t be found because he was out racing. Sorry, when you organize an event, you don’t get to compete in it; that’s not your damn job that day. Apparently he didn’t realize that rather simple fact. And he made the mistake of emailing me to ask what my problems was. Let’s say I told him in no uncertain terms my issues with the event he put on.
I had heard someone talk about skaters boycotting this event for not liking the race organizer and now I’m joining them. It cuts a race out of my schedule (there are others earlier like Chicago and Duluth) but saves me travel along with shortening my season (April to November is just too long) so I’m ok with it. I raced, I finished, the event sucked and I’m not going back.
All Ends are Just Another Beginning…or Something
And that, finally, is the end of this screwy season. What started out absolutely stunningly turned into some of the darkest months of my life; actually worse than the 7 years I had spent in Austin previously depressed. Thankfully, due to a combination of some good friends (and some better medication) and of course doggie therapy (which you’ll hear about next week), I dragged myself out of the hole and finished on what is as high a point as I could have hoped for. I just wanted to get through the final race on my schedule and that’s what I did. And I didn’t do badly given only 3.5 weeks of training.
Sure, I’d have loved to have skated a better/stronger race but, since I’m process oriented, the best I could hope for under the circumstances was to skate my best race. And I did; I didn’t leave anything on the course. I couldn’t have gone harder or faster if I’d wanted to. Win, lose or draw…that’s a successful race in my mind; you can only do what you can do and I did. And I learned at least two things to help me optimize my training for next season so that’s even better. I’d say I have no regrets but I already did that series.
And now it’s time for two very easy weeks. I’ll take most of this week off, since I have a minor elective surgery on Wednesday anyhow which will keep me on the couch, an easy transition week at end November and then start the next aerobic build in December, just like last season.
I haven’t decided on my overall approach since I don’t have the ice for skating. Maybe indoor, maybe just the slideboard, maybe a combination. Indoor skating doesn’t really help outdoor since indoors is all corners and outdoors is not. But at least it gets you on your skates and bent over. But so does the slideboard and it’s more specific. It’s also a lot more boring.
But that’s what I can figure out the next two weeks. I do know that it’ll be mainly a lot of aerobic work with a combination of tempo and sweet spot training to build my aerobic engine; when the weather improves in April I’ll get outdoors on my skates and bike and get ready for the Road Rash. I’m also considering some bike racing next season for some variety and to give me more race opportunities. I’m sure I’ll be prattling self-indulgently about it at some point in the future. See you then.
And just as a teaser, next week I’m going to do something a bit similar to the No Regrets series that wrapped up my time in Salt Lake City earlier this year. It’s only four parts but it sort of puts the close on this oh so strange summer. It won’t be like anything you’ve seen on the site before and I’m sure people want me to talk about fat loss or something again. But what I’m going to write about next week (in 4 parts across the week) is important not only in the general sense but to me. See you then.
- Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 3
- Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 5
- Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 13
- Methods of Endurance Training: Results Part 4
- Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 11