Walking A Tightrope

WalkingATighrope1The photo is completely irrelevant to this post. These are some bike overshoes I’ve just received from Oomph! who are recycling old speedsuits (which are no longer legal to race in) by using the material to make overshoes which they’ll sell for charity. They are really funky and I can’t wait to experience a winter again (NOT) so I can try them out.

So to the point of the post. Since Wanaka I’ve felt I’ve been walking a tightrope between recovering and getting ready for Taupo. At times I’ve been describing Ironman New Zealand as a race too far. I had realised that my race season was starting at Kona and had taken a break after the European Champs. Jo, however, had planned a break after UK but qualifying for Kona meant she didn’t so her season effectively started in May and has been non stop. It means it’s pretty marginal whether she’ll race Taupo.

This means I raced Kona, then had 8 weeks, raced Busselton, then had 6 weeks, raced Wanaka and then had 7 weeks to Taupo. It’s been a bit of a balancing act. My poor Kona performance I think helped me a lot for Busselton. I recovered quickly and with my change of approach I not only got rested but I also hit some hard sessions. Every long ride included 6 x (5 mins > 300 watts, 5 min cruise) and the second half included ever increasing spells at IM Wattage. I did another shorter session with a variety of intervals. I ran at pace and did track sessions. I limited squad swimming substituting some shorter punchy sessions on my own. It worked very well and as I progressed towards Busselton I felt that with another few months of this I’d be in awesome shape for Taupo. At the moment I’m not feeling quite as optimistic. Here’s my Training Stress Balance graph for the period:

WalkingATighrope

You can see I had a pretty solid build through to Kona. My old style approach. Shows my CTL was way higher than it’s been since but looking at my TSB you can see compared to subsequent races I was not really that fresh at all. I didn’t feel fresh thats for sure.

For Ironman Western Australia I was ready to race and I raced hard. This showed in the level of recovery required. Post Kona I was training pretty full on when we arrived in Christchurch about 10 days after the race. Post Busselton I felt much more tired. I think this combined with Christmas, where probably went a couple of weeks where Jo and I had a couple of beers each night, made recovery even slower. I don’t think I ever got drunk but I do feel this plus more “off plan” foods (eg christmas pud, chocolate) further slowing recovery. I went through a real on / off period with training. I’d get a good days training and then be wasted the next day. I wasn’t able to string two days together. I certainly didn’t manage any sort of intervals. Running kept me sane, I was focussing on technique changing to fore foot strike. In this period I ran only 90 miles in 6 weeks. Swimming was going awesomely, recording some of the fastest training times I’ve seen since taking up Triathlon. 6 days out from the race I felt absolutely cooked, funnily enough this was on a ride to Mount Cook. Then three days later I felt great. I raced really well, and ran the strongest for a long long time.

This time I was really focussed on keeping my diet good post race and I achieved it. I hoped that having a weeks proper holiday I’d be ready to go. Again though I’ve found myself having good and then bad days. I’ve not done any intervals in my cycling. It seems every time I do The Gorges ride at the moment I’ll implode on the way back down the Old West Coast Road. Prior to Busso I was full throttle down there at the end of an extended Gorges route. Now I’d do the regular route and would find myself stopped by the side of the road, sitting under a tree, in the shade enjoying a gel. Unheard of for me. I started to think to myself, here we go the lack of big bike miles… I now just can’t ride long. Swim form deserted me. Swimming is hard work when your swimming poorly with the memory of swimming really well fresh in your memory. One swim session, Axel told me, in typical german style “It takes four weeks to recover from Ironman. If it takes less you didn’t race it right”. The saving grace has been running. This has continue to feel great, forefoot strike is starting to feel natural but there’s still the buzz of feeling much more connected.

It’s a tough one which I’m sure many of you will experience if you have big races close together. I kept reminding myself that the biggest gains in fitness will come, right now, from getting recovered. So I’d sleep in, I’d take an easy day. There’s always that doubt though and being self coached I didn’t have a coach saying I was doing the right thing. My coach (me) would start a whispering campaign of “you’re a wimp”, “just get on with it”. I’d do that then be wiped out next day. It’s become a joke in our Triathlete household here that I’ll say I’m going swimming and then just roll over the next morning when my alarm goes off. My saving grace was qualifying at Busselton so ultimately Taupo is not that important. I decided that I would rest if needed and keep testing myself. I felt a key sign of being recovered would be being strong in the second half of a long ride.

This all changed this weekend. Saturday was 4 weeks post race and Axel appears to have been bang on. Sunday I head out for a ride. I was a little optimistic as the previous day climbing Mount Pleasant from Lyttleton side I recorded a CP30 only 20 watts off my best. Thing is I wasn’t even trying to go hard. I head out with Scott and Jo just easy for the first 40km as they were going to do a TT. I then continued along the TT course. Initially riding hard to clear the course before they came through. I continued to push to Oxford where I had coffee and bacon sarnie. Then I decided to really hammer the  next 50 or so KM to see how I went. Stopped for more food then realised I was pretty tight for time to get back in time for the Challange Wanaka coverage on TV. It was great, pushing along this late in a ride and feeling great. I got home, sat down and the coverage started ( I think this got a smile from Jo as true to form I was on time!). Not only were we both on TV ! but I saw my data – 216km, 7hrs, average watts 225. I could ride again.

Then this morning I got up for swimming no problem, didn’t swim great though i did swim better. This afternoon I ran a tempo 10km and towards the end was going at about 4:10 / KM and felt like a runner for the first time since my surgery.

I’m now looking forward to Taupo.

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