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Monday, November 1, 2010

Back in the saddle again

Starting out ... feeling like a rockstar

I've put together a mixed up post with some pics from our recent trip to the mountains (which was an endurance event itself) intermingled with an update about my plans for Ironman St. George.

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Monday kicked off my return to formal training and quest a great race at St. George. I was just a little tiny bit anxious to get moving again so started training a bit more frequently last week. On Wednesday I was on my 4th run of the week on the trails of Harbison Forest when I sprained my ankle on a rock or root disguised under fall foliage. It's healed enough to run again now although the foot is still a colorful with purple/green/yellow hues. Ah, the colors of Autumn.

The crew at the base of a waterfall near Chimney Rock

During my 8 week hiatus from structured training I managed to put on 6 pounds!! And that was with still training about 5 hours per week (my sanity training I call it). So that shows you just how lax I'd become with my diet! When people (generally non-athletic folk) ask me about losing weight I tell them that (in my non-expert opinion) to lose weight and then maintain an optimal weight they need to commit to a moderate and balanced diet AND a minimum of 1 hr per day of aerobic work of some kind. I think I've just proven that theory correct.

Kids at a Lake Lure overlook

So now the work begins. The next 8 weeks will be "training to train" for St. George. The actual training for St. G will begin in earnest on Jan 1, exactly 18 weeks from race day. The next two weeks will be devoted to re-establishing frequency and consistency at a mostly steady effort level. I will sprinkle in some intensity here and there each week and will gradually increase the frequency of high intensity work as the 8 week block progresses. As the weight and pace come down (as they often do in parallel) I'll begin to do some of the local winter run races that I use each year as a measure of fitness with the hopes of setting all-time 5k and 10k PRs before the longer work begins. If I could break 17 minutes in the 5k I would be thrilled! The hope is that I'll carry a good deal of that speed all the way to the Ironman.

A triple waterfall

As for the ironman specific training, I'm going to experiment with completely different approach than any I've done before. In the past I've used a fairly standard periodization approach where I would build volume for 3 weeks and then recover for 1 week. Each cycle would build on the previous one until I had no more time available and I was good form. While I can't argue with the race results that have come from this approach, my complaint comes from the plateau I reached earlier this year. The level where I plateaued was good enough to win some races and generally be competitive every time I toed the line, but we're not really looking for "good enough" are we? No, we are hoping to become the best possible. My goal is to race ironman on the world stage against the world's best. And I'm not "looking for clues", I truly believe I can get more out of this mind and body (and also spend even more time with my family) by taking a different approach. That's the goal.

Here are the primary principles that I'm basing my St. George training on:
  • Consistency: Nothing new here, I'm a big believer that consistency leads to great performances, and as such, I like to operate on a "basic week", which is a repeatable weekly schedule. This year I'm calling it my "basic cycle" because it's a two week cycle that I'll repeat with the two weeks being quite different from each other.
  • Running Frequency: Nothing new here either, it builds durability in the body. I like to run just about every day even if only 20-40 minutes.
  • Specificity: This is where I failed in the past. If you know me you've probably heard me say that I usually race faster than I train. That's great, but what if I trained as fast as I raced? Then how fast would I race? For St. George, specificity means hills, hills, and more hills at race intensity. While it will be a challenge to duplicate the terrain of Utah on the bike a, I've already scoped out some very hilly run routes that will give me nearly the elevation change as the St. George marathon.
  • Recovery: This is another area where I've failed badly in the past. Not surprising since specificity and recovery tend to go hand in hand. Lack of recovery left me in a state of grey for many consecutive months ... unable to push as hard as I should in training (e.g. specificity)
  • Getting Lean: I'm 5'11" (180.3 cm) and spent most of last season at 158 lbs (71.8 kg) at around 9% body fat. Losing 5lbs from last years race weight (that's 11 lbs from my weight today) would put me around 153 lbs /69.5 kg and 6% body fat. I believe this would pay huge dividends on a course like St. George that has such a massive amount of climbing on the bike and run.
I'll get more into the specifics in a later post. For now it's back to "training to train"!

Resting on the trail. The hard work is done. I love that feeling!


Wes said...

I don't know what's worse, an early season Ironman, or a late season Ironman :-) Have you looked at the Endurance Nation Long Course Training Manual? That's the methodology I've been using this year. Long run on Thursday. Long swim on Friday. Back to back long rides on Saturday and Sunday. I was pleased with my fitness on my race simul last weekend. No bonk AND a nice run off the bike. Nothing left to do but test it at IM AZ.

Have fun training!

Nick said...

Thanks for the input Wes. I'm familiar with EN but disagree with their approach on several points, but I can see that it works well for a big majority of people. I guess the main problem with the schedule you mentioned is that I'm unwilling to train long on the weekends which is the time I have with my kiddos. I'll be using Fridays for my long work and the weekends for recovery. We'll see how it goes. Best of luck at AZ, I'll be keeping an eye on you.

Carolina John said...

I'm doing the same thing right now dude. Working on the weight loss right now and still training to train. the runs keep getting easier as the pounds come off.