Sometimes you see it coming; sometimes you don’t. The conditions are all right (or all wrong, depending upon your point of view), and it’s just a matter of time before the trains collide. You know how it happens in the movies… the camera cuts quickly from one scene to another, and the accident unfolds tragically before your eyes. You start to see it develop, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You want to yell at the screen, but you know it won’t do any good. A good director can drag it out for a while, creating the very real sense of helplessness as you wait for the disaster. You agonize… “How can they not see this coming?”
Wow, talk about overblown analogies. But, I’m nothing if not shameless. This morning had the potential for a real train wreck for training. Fortunately, I could see the signs and change tracks. You can breathe easier; disaster averted.
Okay, it wasn’t really a looming disaster, but it could have been bad, with long term effects. I’m coming off of a great, but hard, training week. I finished out yesterday with a 12 mile run and a strength workout last night (I’m on the road, and thus have no other life right now). I’ve changed up my strength routine while I’m in the base phase, and I’m still trying to get used to some of the new exercises and the order in which I’ve sequenced them. As a result, I’m sore where I wasn’t before, and I seem to be more tired at the end of the workout than before. Last night seemed even more so. First clue.
Today was the first day of my “recovery” week. Every four weeks on this triathlon plan, I dial back the training to about 50% of my most intense week. I was looking forward to the lighter load, and I even got to sleep in this morning… it’s a sad statement when 7 a.m. seems like sleeping in, but you take what you can get. Unfortunately, though, I slept badly last night… up about every hour, couldn’t get comfortable; didn’t wake up very rested. Second clue.
And then I got out of bed. The hotel has hardwood floors. Probably great for keeping down allergens, etc, but they don’t do much for sore ankles first thing in the morning. The first few steps are a little tender, but things get better quickly… usually. Not so much today. It took a little longer than normal to get past the “old guy shuffle” first thing in the morning. Third clue.
I had a six mile run scheduled for the afternoon. The weather has changed here significantly over the past couple of days, with temps into the 30s and 40s. It rained pretty steadily last night, which meant damp and cold. With wet sidewalks. See the train coming?
So, I waited as long as I could and suited up for the run. The rain had finally stopped, but it was still pretty chilly and damp. I hit the start button on my Sport Band to sync the heart rate monitor, and… nothing. The pedometer flashed to life, but no heart beat (thus proving my kids’ assertion for years that I, in fact, have no heart). In the past, that would likely have led me to push harder than I should out of a desire (twisted desire?) to make sure I worked hard enough. Fortunately, though, I have become older and wiser. Well, older. I was already stiffer than I should be, coming off of a hard training week, and running conditions were not “prime”. I needed the run, but I didn’t need to push. So off I went, making a conscious effort to dial back the pace and take it easy. This is, after all, a recovery week, right?
I cranked out all six miles, feeling worked but not uncomfortable by the time I finished. I definitely could have attacked parts of the run more aggressively, but that wasn’t the point of the run. And you know the funny part? Because I was running so easy and relaxed, I saw all kinds of great houses, nice scenery, etc, that I’ve never noticed on that route before. In fact, I thought at one point that I had taken a wrong turn… I didn’t recognize anything around me, even though I’ve run that street a half dozen times. Amazing.
The moral of the story (you knew there had to be one, right?); working hard is great, but not all the time. You have to build recovery into your plan; otherwise, backing off feels like slacking off. It’s mental, if nothing else. Also, don’t get so wrapped up in sticking to your plan that you stop paying attention to what your body is telling you. If you feel bad in ways you haven’t before, it could be the first sign that you’re pushing too hard, especially if the “ugh” persists. Even for a recovery run, I could have pushed harder than I chose to today. But I know I’ve got a swim tomorrow, and a big week of training after my recovery week. I want to go into it rested, not exhausted. There’s a time to “leave it all on the course”. Week four of a 26week build up probably isn’t it.