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Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 7

So it’s really not winter anymore making the nomenclature of Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 a little bit wrong.  So I’m changing it, simply realize that this is a continuation from Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 6.  In that piece, I had outlined the progression I intended to make leading up to my first major race the Texas Road Rash in the second week of April.

In short, I was moving out of my base/sweet spot training (concepts explained in Methods of Endurance Training) and had planned on a concentrated block of Vo2 Max and Threshold work.  That was meant to run 6 straight weeks leading into an actual taper and then into the Texas Road Rash.

I had also pencilled in some potential bike races as tune-ups for the Texas Road Rash. I won’t pad out this article by repeating the chart, go read Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 6 if you want to see what I had planned.

.Maybe Prattling Self-Indulgently is the Problem

And in the same way that problems started with my training after posting Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 4, no sooner had I put up Methods of Endurance Training: Winter 2010/2011 Part 6 did problems start again.  Which is really making me start to think that writing about my training is part of the problem.

Specifically, after my weekend’s training I woke up that Monday and as if overnight, I felt sapped and unmotivated.  I mean it was literally an overnight phenemenon, I had felt fine all weekend and woke up and just did not want to train. Now, after dealing with the crap from last summer that I talked about in Overtraining and Overreaching: Results Part 1 and Overtraining and Overreaching: Results Part 2 I was determined not to fall back in that hole by trying to push through it.

So rather than follow my plan as written, and even with the recognition that it would set my training behind a bit for the Texas Road Rash, I scheduled an immediate 5-7 day recovery period with the intention of taking a second full week if I needed it.  I really had no choice in the matter, had I pushed through I’d have cratered for sure and probably not have even made it to the race.  Whatever I ‘lost’ by taking 5-14 days easy would be far regained by not falling into a deep pit of despair and depression again.

Doubly frustrating was that the weather here in Austin had finally broken and I was starting my transition to outdoor skating when the problems started.  I had gotten in exactly one outdoor inline workout before I had to take a break. While this put me even further behind for the Texas Road Rash at least according to my schedule, I was still ahead of things compared to the last season (when I had raced on only three weeks of outdoor training).

Of course, this was partially offset by my desire to race the full marathon.  I needed more skate time to be able to cover the distance but it still didn’t matter: recovery was the primary goal and everything else came after that.  I’d get in the skating I could once I was recovered and no sooner.  If that meant downgrading to the half-marathon so be it.

.On the Benefits of Keeping a Training Log

Of course, this gave me lots of time for self-reflection, to try and figure out what keeps happening.  I think what surprises me the most is that rapidity at which I run into problems.  It’s not as if there some gradual accumulation of fatigue or loss of motivation which would make it far easier to prevent the problem before it occurred. Rather, for whatever reason I’m fine one day and destroyed overnight.  Mechanistically, mind you, this doesn’t really matter; what matters is that it’s how I respond to training and something I simply need to be aware of.

But more importantly I wanted to figure out what was going wrong with my training such that I’d get almost nonstop improvements before falling off the edge.  And this is where keeping a detailed (read: obsessive compulsive training log) comes in handy.  While I don’t have my logs from Salt Lake City anymore (I remember what we did and on what schedule), I’ve got the entirety of last year’s season along with this one.  So I started looking at what was going on to see if there was a pattern.

In Salt Lake City, mind you, I hadn’t had a single problem until the last season when we added the extra half session of short-track (as detailed in No Regrets: Part 7).  But I had often taken a 5 day ‘freshening’ period (a concept I stole from Charlie Francis and discussed in The Importance of Rest) every 10 weeks or so.  As well, we had been held to a strict 4 day per week training program (much of which was very low volume) in Salt Lake by my coach.   Between that and racing (which often cut our training back for race prep and the actual race day), the training just never caught up with me.

But my training now was very different than it had been in Salt Lake City.  My volume was much higher, as were my frequencies even if I’d cut back to only 5 days per week this past winter.  For whatever reason, training kept catching up with me and looking at my training logs over the past year and a half of true endurance training was important to see if I could discern a pattern.

And there was, clear as day.  Apparently at 14 weeks I tank.  Looking back at Salt Lake City, after the screwup that ended my ‘career’ on the ice (as discussed in No Regrets: Part 7) and a two week break, I had had exactly 14 weeks of fairly hard training (a lot of volume and a good bit of intensity) before being forced into lighter and less frequent training by a bunch of travelling.

As well, I hadn’t been doing nearly the same amount of training in Salt Lake City as I did in Austin since the ice was mostly technical at that point.  But I imagine I avoided a crash by being forced into two weeks of relatively light training right before the problems would have started.

Here in Austin, doing a massive amount of training last summer, I’d had 14 weeks of uninterrupted good training until the wheels truly fell off after the Napa race and I cratered into the summer of depression hell.  After I got it back together for the Houston race, I’d had 14 weeks of solid training until the Monday several weeks ago when the wheels fell off again.

Yup, 14 weeks.  Going forwards, this meant that setting up my training cycles was pretty clear: 12 weeks of full bore training before scheduling a 1-2 week unloading period.  It’s the only thing that made sense going forwards.  But that would only help with future cycles, first I had to deal with the current situation.

.Rest, Rest, Food and More Rest

And, as I discussed in the endless Overtraining, Overreaching and All the Rest Series, there’s not a lot you can do when you start to fall off the edge except rest and recover. Sure, ensuring sufficient sleep, foam rolling, hot baths, massage if you can get it, etc. is all useful.  But mainly you need rest to let the fatigue, inflammation, etc. dissipate so that you can recover.

So that’s what I did.  First and foremost I dropped weights completely.   As I’ve mentioned previously, I had included them during winter training as much for mental/not going crazy reasons as anything else but clearly the combination of everything was just taking too much out of me.  Their general irrelevance to my goals meant that energy spent in the weight room was energy not being well spent.

I cut back the intensity on all bike rides to endurance intensity or lower and cut back my skate training pretty significantly.  That along with some extra food (arguably too much) was what did the trick.  Sure it’s not great for body composition but better to regain a little bit of fat if it means recovering and being able to get back to training.

And it did the trick.  Apparently I had caught things early enough that I only needed about a week of recovery to feel human again. So I eased back into training with only a true week ‘lost’ to training.  I had missed two of the early bike races I had been considering but since they were never that important in the first place (and I honestly wasn’t ready for them) it was no big deal.

.Moving Forwards

Mind you, all of this nonsense had put me behind schedule and clearly my original goal of a focused VO2 max/Threshold block seemed like a bad idea.  During my forced break, I had had to reconsider my overall training structure.  Skating outdoors is invariably a fairly high heart rate endeavor, it’s simply nearly impossible to skate properly at a low heart rate.  At best I end up in the 150’s and if there’s wind I’m in the 160’s.  And that combined with cycling (recall that I had done mostly running and the EFX last summer) was just taking too much out of my legs.

I was basically faced with a problem: how to best integrate and combine training on both skates and the bike to get to my goals.  In SLC the bike had been nothing but a means to an end, a way to get conditioning that couldn’t be done easily on the ice.  But the ice training was massive different, it’s purely interval training and my training now was totally different.

And apparently I was making a hash of it, not balancing out the requirements of both sports or the overlapping training intensities.  An added complication moving into the summer was that I intended to do a 2 hour group ride on Sunday mornings with a local bike shop (Mellow Johnny’s owned by Lance Armstrong) which complicated things.

Group rides are notorious for being variable intensity (and usually err on the side of too high since everybody starts getting macho).  I don’t like them because of my control freak nature but for both cycling and skating, it was my best opportunity to get into a pack and get some sort of skills there.  Training with other people would also help mentally since I’m still relegated to skating by myself all the time.  At least I could get some social interaction during training.

So in addition to dropping weights completely, my first change was to move to 4 days per week of training, down from 5.  Clearly I needed the extra rest and I wasn’t even sure that would be enough.  This would be at least similar to what I had been doing in Salt Lake City although with drastically different training demands.

My goal was to train Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday with skating in the morning and a bike ride (either indoors on the trainer or outdoors) and then the group ride on Sunday.  I only had 5 weeks of real training (due to my taper) prior Texas Road Rash and I needed to get up to at least one or two 90 minute skating workouts (that’s about 28 miles for me).  But I had yet another added complication that I’ll talk about next time: the Ronde Von Manda.

Read Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 8.

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