Training kicking in gear and a nice swim
Every Thursday morning sucks. Every Thursday I hit this brick wall. I wake up tired. The accumulated stress of workouts and work has almost drained me. And I realize every Thursday that there is four more hours to go …
For those who care by Thursday I’ve:
- Sunday: Bike 1:20->1:45
- Monday: Run 1h, Swim 40min
- Tuesday: Run 1h45
- Wednesday: Swim 40min
And then I still have to
- Thursday: Run 1h, Swim 40min
- Friday: Run 2h
It’s a permanent brick wall that I have to go through. My body is screaming: give up. The exercise has exhausted my brain, my legs and my arms. And I just want to give up.
If you’ve ever worked at a tech start-up you’ve seen this before;
My Thursdays are my weekly Trough of Disillusionment about this whole Ironman plan.
And I think to myself another year of these Thursdays and I just want to give up.
And it would be so easy to just quit…
And it doesn’t get easier after I finish my run and swim on Thursday. And it certainly doesn’t get easier on Friday. By Saturday, I’m just wondering what in God’s name was I thinking… This is insane.
And then by Saturday night my body is feeling better. And my energy level starts to kick in…
But on Thursdays, I remember what Hannibal said to his generals:
aut viam venviam aut facias – I’ll either find a way or I’ll make one.
And so I find some way to get through that brick wall
and make it to Sunday where I start this cycle all over again…
Christians believe that Lucifer, Satan, is a fallen angel. That his hubris lead him to be cast out of Heaven. He falls from nice cool heaven, to end up in blistering hellish heat. Given my run today, I felt like I had been sent to some blisteringly hot hell hole..
In many ways, I felt like a fallen angel today. Normally I go for a run in the evenings when it is nice and cool. Today I had to go in the middle of the day.
This is what I thought I would look like:
Such form, such poise, such speed, such beauty…
I’ve lost weight and I crushed my last long run in awesome time… Today I was going to run with no kid stroller, and I was going to come home in blistering form. Pride!
But the Good Lord likes to punish pride… and so instead I looked like this:
The problem was that I completely miscalculated how much water I needed to drink. After the first three miles I drank 1/2 of a cup of water. After 6 miles I drank another 1/2 cup of water. Between miles 6 and 9 I was cramping, unable to move my feet – my cadence was collapsing etc. At mile 9, I drank a cup of water … and then as my body started to recover, I ran into my house and drank …
Not quite … but if I could have I would have. And the last mile and half was actually quite pleasant…
Moral of the story if you want to look great while running in the sun remember this image:
Drink early, drink often.
One of the biggest challenges when training for a long distance endurance event is eating.
On the one hand there is this myth that you can eat whatever you want. That the world is your oyster. That the entire gamut of edible things are your buffet.
Except – it’s a lie. A damn lie. Why?
Well let’s see,.. Your body is craving calories. And I don’t mean a few calories, but awe-inspiring amounts of calories. For example, my body requires about 4000 calories a day. That’s equivalent to 6 big macs
1 loaf of bread and 1 gallon of whole milk and one big mac…
So on the one hand your body is like GIVE ME FOOD NOW! With such a huge calorie deficit the temptation is to go for the cheap calories… To get the big mac or the cookie dough or the ice-cream. And when you do your body is like:
Except when you go train when you’re body is like WTF? Or you get on the scale and realize that you are putting on weight or ..
And so you swear to not over eat the next day, But now you’re on a frigging yo-yo of a sugar high followed by a sugar crash. And your body KNOWS how good it felt when you gave it the simple sugars and there is no way it’s going to suffer through the salad and the nuts and the chicken, no way.
And this can go on for weeks. And it takes this superhuman effort of will to get back on the balanced plan.
And so you have a super bowl party with your friends and you gorge on the cheese and the bread and the sweets, and you’re like: This feels good. And you can’t stop eating these simple processed carbohydrates. Until finally your wife hands you a healthy meal and you realize that this feels so much better.
It’s like going on a drinking binge and then going sober.
Every hour of every day you’re in this constant war with your body that just wants to eat high calorie foods to make the hunger go away while you have to teach your body patience and the virtue of eating a lot of the good stuff because the high calorie stuff is just a quick fix that goes bad fast.
So no, eating while training for an endurance event is not fun. It’s this never-ending war with a body that just wants the hunger to go away.
When you read about swimming free style, there is a lot of discussion about smoothness and balance. When I swim free style the water looks anything but smooth.
My body is flopping around, my arms creating drag and interference at every possible moment.
And I keep reading this whole smooth and balance thing and all I can think is – damn. It’s like runners high. There is no such thing as smooth swimming. Until I see this dude and…
And I feel worse. It’s like watching someone who can dance, dance just after you think it’s impossible. It feels like Luke Skywalker being schooled by Yoda in Dagobah after he fails to use the force to free his star ship from the swamp.
And I am thinking, this, this kind of beautiful swimming is so far out of my reach it might as well be from another species.
But once you see something is possible, there is this bit that flips, and you think – okay there is something there that I can strive for. So back to the pool, back to doing the work. And I start doing research on the perfect stroke, on the concept of weightless arms, of rotation and of using your chest as a buoy…
And then for about 20 meters, I am able to get all of this to work. My head is in the right position, my arms move in the right way, my hips rotate and it feels different. I mean, it actually feels like a different body is swimming through water, and then the turbulence takes over.
So it’s like riding a bike. It takes a while to get all of the pieces in place, and then you just have to build on it.
Obviously, I don’t have the physical strength and technique to swim 3980 meters perfectly, but I do have the strength to do 20m – not perfectly but at least with less turbulence. So we have a start. And that start, at this moment is all that matters…
A few days late, well into week 3, but I did want to capture one aspect of my second week.
I mean, by Friday morning, I was exhausted. My legs were dragging, my body was dragging, I was feeling like a wreck. And I still had a “long run” to do (1h30min). I was in meetings where I was more like a zombie than a strategic thinker. In fact, for most of the day it was like being enveloped in some kind of intellectual fog.
My Facebook status was: Feeling like 40.
After I finished my run, all 1h30min, I felt a lot better. Surprisingly. My wife and I projected a miserable painful horrible soul crushing 1h30min. If Polly had come with me, we assumed, she would have had this look of: When are we running? Are we running yet? Is this running?
But it actually went well. When I woke up on Saturday, though, all I could think of was “Thank God, Thank God Almighty, It’s my rest day”. If it had been Sunday, I would have gone to Church to pray for thanks for my rest day…
Sunday was my “long” bike ride. You know I used to bike a lot. I did the death ride, I would go up Page Mill road two or three times a week. I mean I was a strong cyclists. I figured 1h45 minutes, can not possibly be a hard bad thing.
OMG. I mean OMG. OMG.
It was possibly the longest 1h45minutes of my life. First trying to keep a cadence of 90 is hard. It feels like sprinting, especially if your cadence is 70. Then just being on a bike for 1h45min is hard. My entire body felt like: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU SICK IN THE HEAD? STOP! STOP! DAMN, IT! STOP! STOP!
And then it was over, and I crawled out of the garage, and felt like a wreck.
Just in time for Monday’s swim…
I have a complicated life. I have a small child, a complex job, a great wife, and I love to watch hockey.
And as I was staring at the various do-it-yourself Ironman training programs I felt, well, overwhelmed. Half of them assumed I had already finished a half-Ironman, the other half that I was in super-duper shape and just need tweaking. The idea that a forty year old dude who just finished his first marathon would want to do something this insane did not fit into the assumed paradigm.
My wife recommended I get a coach. Now look the last time a coach and I interacted, I was 15 … And the results were not pretty. Being the fat slow geeky out-of-shape poorly coordinated kid trying to play team sports is not fun. My coach was charming in his willingness to tolerate my presence but it would have been better if I just played chess like the other dweebs… What became clear to me was that coaches were these dudes who knew a little bit more than you did, and that most of what they knew was useless. Furthermore they asked you to do things that you were clearly incapable of doing. More to the point they were interested in spending time on the good kids not the kids whose talents lied elsewhere…
So 25 years later, I am staring at this daunting exercise plan, and am thinking, what the heck do I do?
My first reaction is: I AM INVINCIBLE (cue-Golden Arrow) …
I’ll figure this out on my own. After all I just finished the Athens Marathon on my lonesome…
Step 1 learn about swimming…
Do you ever have this reaction that you’re a dinosaur in an era of mammals? That’s what I felt like doing research on swimming. It seemed that everything I had been taught 25 years ago was wrong. I thought I knew how to swim… Apparently you’re supposed to rotate your body. Rotate? Rotating was the tool of the devil not the source of all goodness. And then there were these metrics: SWOLF and Laps and blah and bleh and meh… And I’m thinking what do I do here?
I felt like the 70’s were calling and they wanted their swimming technique back…
My first reaction is: not really relevant. But then I continue my research and realize that a significant chunk of finishing an Ironman is about efficiency. And efficiency is about technique and boy-oh-boy is my technique, well, dated…
So now what?
Despair, despondency, misery. Or I could find a coach who knows this material and can help me.
To the coach! But where do you find a coach? And how does a dude like me who has had this long history of working with coaches go find one or even evaluate one? Well I am big fan of matching services, and realizing that my first choice is about as likely to be wrong as it is going to be correct, I figure I’ll hire someone and in a few months know a lot about a coach is about and decide whether it works or doesn’t…
So I’m honest, use the trainingpeaks.com service and get a coaching recommendation. I look him up, and it seems like overkill.. I mean do I really need someone with that many achievements? And I am thinking: remember the plan you have no idea, so let’s go with it and see what works. And it is pricey.
So after a month of thinking through it, I pull the trigger.
First week, and already am seeing the value of having a coach, and especially one I can email every day with stupid questions…
First of all my wife doesn’t have to discuss my training with me. That’s what my coach is for. She’s much happier …
Secondly, I don’t have this gut wrenching fear that I am doing something wrong … I might be but I don’t have the fear.
Thirdly, it turns out that training has become a lot more sophisticated in 25 years – no shit Sherlock…
So what about the first week?
It’s funny; I thought training was about well… you know swimming, running and biking. How hard can it be?
It’s about doing specific kinds of swims and specific kinds of runs and specific kinds of bicycle rides. I felt like I was this turbo-prop pilot being asked to fly a Boeing 787.
Sure both are planes, but really they are not…
My first week was a mess. First of all I had to do research to understand what the hell was being asked. Then during the exercise workout I forgot half the things I had to do. And then there is the open question of whether I was doing anything remotely accurate.
Despair. Despondency. But then I remembered I have a coach and he can help.
So week two is simpler. And I have this new plan. It’s called writing down the exercise program before I go out. And even better, I have this phone number and I’ll use it when I am at a loss as to what to do…
Last year I finished my first marathon. And it was a disappointment. Disappointing because I wanted to experience the exhilaration of reaching the very hairy edge of what I was capable of. And I didn’t.
So now what?
Well, I could try and go faster, but going faster is about losing weight more than anything else. And going faster isn’t that interesting. I wanted to cross the finish line with nothing in the tank. I wanted to say: This is the limit.
So a Facebook friend of mine has been doing all of these posts about doing triathlons and ironmen, and I was thinking: This looks insane. This feels like pushing the edge.
So I have a new plan, I am going to do an Ironman next year.
So here are some things I need to do:
- Bike 112 miles averaging more than 15 miles an hour… I have only been able to sustain a greater than 15 mile pace once in my life and that was for 1 hour… Today I can’t bike 10 miles an hour the day after my long runs…
- Swim faster than I normally swim for longer than I have ever swam
- Re-learn how to swim … My swimming technique is about 20+ years out of date.
- Do a marathon after 1 and 2
- Fix my cadence.
- Lose a lot of weight because there is this calorie consumption problem…
This feels insane enough…
But there is more. To keep the year interesting, I intend to do an Olympic Triathlon this year in Santa Cruz, a marathon in Napa and go faster than 5 hours in Athens this year.
If I have any discipline I’ll keep posting updates on this blog…