Nothing like a mixed theme title for this post combining athletic and religious terminology. Other than my countdown post a few days back, I have completely neglected one of my passions on this blog, that being my strange love for triathlon. I would like to explain what I have gone through in the last 2 years, not to brag at all but to get it logged for myself and to hopefully help anyone who may be searching for answers to this. By my use of the word “hell” I do not mean to demean any of the people who really are going through hell working in sweatshops, dying of starvation, suffering in ethnic cleansing, etc. I am fully aware that my situation here in the US dealing with overtraining for triathlons is actually probably heaven on earth to much of the world. So I used “tiny bit.” Read on if you are interested.
I finally decided to push for an Ironman length triathlon in Jan 2007. I had been doing tri’s for about 2 years and had done a couple of 70.3’s (Half Ironman). I had a plan to workup to the Ironman with a series of gradually more difficult races. I started training in earnest in Jan 2007. In April of 2007 I did a sprint distance event in Emporia, KS. Then in June I competed in the Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 in Lubbock, TX. August brought the Pikes Peak Marathon. After this grueling 7.5 hour race I took a week completely off but then was back to reduced training schedule through September. In October of 2007 I began my 30 week training plan which led to my Ironman race in April 2008 in Phoenix, AZ. It took me 15.5 hours to complete this race, but my goal was to just finish, and I did, so I was and remain very happy about it. I took about 2 weeks off after this race and then was back to a reduced training schedule that gradually led into the Buffalo Springs event again in June of 2008. I took about a week off and then was back preparing for the Pikes Peak Marathon in August. About 3 weeks before the Pikes Peak race I had a sudden change in my performance, mental state, emotional state, and physical state. I cut back a bit but pushed through to the race. I felt terrible the week leading up to the race and underperformed during this race for the first time since I have been doing endurance racing. The weather was horrible, the worst blizzard I have ever been in on top of a 14er, and I logged my first DNF of any race that I have entered. It was time to figure out what was going on.
My symptoms….could not get enough sleep, felt tired continually, dreaded my training workouts whereas I had previously looked forward to them, either voraciously hungry or not hungry at all, no interest in sex, feeling down most of the time, easily crying, easily angered, frustrated all the time, inability to run or ride at levels that were previously easy, muscle soreness which I almost never had even after my hardest workouts, lack of interest in friends. I think that about covers much of it, but I am sure that I left a little bit out.
I did quite a bit of research on “overtraining syndrome” and concluded that I likely was suffering from it. Looking back, I had been training for about 20 months without much of a break. That 20 months also included 5 rather extreme endurance races. And I probably didn’t take enough time to rest after any of those 5 races. So, while I was concerned that many of my symptoms may just be plain old depression (do not mean to make light of depression in any way with those words as I understand how dark depression can be to those who suffer from it), I thought I had good grounds for overtraining syndrome. One of my sports med doctor friends whom I cornered thought much the same. Unfortunately, the only real way to diagnose it is to rest and see what happens. That is a scary thing to someone who has been used to working out a minimum of 12 hours per week. But things were not getting better at all on their own so I really had no choice.
So I decided to commit to 2 months of cutting back. For two weeks I did no workouts at all other than just walking. After that, I stayed out of the pool altogether. No swim workouts. Logistically it was just easier to cut these out than run or bike workouts. I then reduced to bike and run workouts of no more than an hour and at paces and efforts that were far below what I was used to. I limited those workouts to about only 4 per week. I also occasionally traded running for an elipticalt machine. And after about a month I definitely noticed that I was feeling much better.
I think in early October I began to feel rested after waking up. While I was previously sleeping about 10 hours a night and waking up tired and then wanting to take a nap at lunch instead of eat, I began naturally waking up after about 8 hours of sleep feeling rather rested. My appetite patterns were leveling out. My mood dramatically improved as did my interest in sex. Rather than jump back to early into hard workouts, I committed to staying with the reduced schedule through October.
By November I would say that I felt pretty much back to normal. I started back into my strength and core routines and even have ramped up the intensity there. I also got back in the pool and found that I could swim a mile with relative ease. I have gotten back to 5 and 6 mile runs and 20 mile rides without any difficulty. And I have incorporated TaeKwonDo 3 days per week and am doing it with one of my sons. I have begun pushing the intensity a bit with some interval training one or two workouts per week too. And I feel really good.
The Sunday prior to Thanksgiving marks the one year count down to my next Ironman. My racing schedule for 2009 will look like this: Sprint tri in April, Kansas 70.3 in June, Redman 70.3 in OKC in September, Arizona Ironman in November. I haven’t decide if I am going to do the Pikes Peak Ascent in August (not the marathon) or an Olympic tri in the summer sometime. I maybe will see how I feel and decide later on that one.
So this time I will not make certain mistakes that I made before. For one, this training season will only last one year. After the November Ironman I will likely take most of the remainder of 2009 off with just minimal workouts in late December. I will also religiously follow a schedule of 3 weeks of hard workouts followed by one week of cutting back and cycle that through the entire year. I will take enough time off after my lead-in races to get the rest I need to then begin preparation for the next race. And I will not add in much endurance work until Feb/March. Until then my focus will be on strength, especially core strength, losing a bit more weight, interval work, and rest.
So not any big revelations here. Just a post describing who I am and where I have been and to get something down about myself in the “online Journal” function of my blog. Maybe someone will read this who needs to learn from my experience. The right kind of pain results in tremendous gain.