Some weeks are better than others. This is true in all aspects of life, especially endurance race training.
The flipside of that statement is that some weeks are worse than others. Some weeks make you wonder what the hell you’re doing attempting something like this (where “this” can be defined by any sort of breakthrough activity). I had a bad week, training wise.
It’s only 34 days until the race as of me typing this. Two weeks of that will be a training taper which means I’m 20 days away from the peakiest of peak volume training in my Ironman schedule. I honestly don’t know if I’m going to be “ready” for this race, not after this last week.
I had three long-distance training activities on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday interspersed with other workouts. Tuesday I ran 13.5 miles and felt great! On Thursday I ran 3.3 miles and felt like crap. It was a painful run, and slow. Friday I swam a race-distance workout ~4,200 yards and it was all I could do not to throw up when I was done. If I’d had to get out of the water immediately and walk up to transition, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have. Then on Saturday I went out for my long breakthrough ride of the week. 85 miles was the goal and 85 miles I did, but it was obviously too far given how I felt afterward and that I can feel a tweaked muscle/tendon/ligament in my knee right now.1 Again—hearkening back to the swim—if I’d had to get off my bike and then go out onto the run course, it would have been unpleasant to say the least. Unpleasant is to say that I might have been walking or at least shuffling the marathon.
There is some upside to crappy weeks like this. A lot of the preparation for long-distance events like this is mental. You do the distance and the training so that you know that you can. You know what it feels like to be cold, and in pain, and having bowel distress yet still able to push through the rest of the course. Your body might be yelling at you, but you know through previous experience that you’re not going to die (probably). Some racers I talk with argue that it’s the horrible, gut-wrenching workouts that are the best for mental preparation. After all, it’s easy to feel good about a race if you’re flying along without a care in the world and cherubs are scattering rose buds in your path. It’s the painful ones that get you ready.
Still, as some of my friends received texts last night, I’m questioning the wisdom of this Ironman thing. A lot of body function is weather dependent. I’m hoping for good weather during the race and that it’s not 55 degrees when I start out on the bike course around 8:30 AM. I’ll definitely be including some warm clothes in my transition bag from swim to bike, just in case. If it’s cold, or wet, or cold and wet, I’m going to struggle through my seven hour bike ride.2
I’m sure I’ll do fine in this race. I’ll finish and I’ve got no time goal so I can’t disappoint myself by missing it, but right now I’m just wondering if on November 8 I’m going to think it was all worth the effort.
1: My knee problem is probably because of the hills between mile 45 and 50 on the Silver Comet trail. This is between Fish and Cedartown in Polk County. At this point, the Silver Comet ceases to be a gently rolling trail and becomes steep and killer. The trail seems almost deliberately designed to piss off cyclists, too: You struggle up a hill and then want to use the downhill to make up some time but unfortunately the serious of sharp S-turns and numerous road crossings means you’re riding your brakes and wasting all that effort (I’m still mad about that). I was riding my triathlon bike and it has a 53/39 crankset with a 12-25 cassette. This was not enough to avoid having to stand up and mash to get up these hills. That’s probably where I tweaked my knee.
2: Don’t forget that bikers generate their own wind chill, which can be damn-stinkin’ chilly.