1. I figure it's time for a SBR (that's swim-bike-run for all you non-abbreviating heathens) update since I haven't bored you with the idiosyncrasies of my training for a while, and what is this blog for if not self-absorbed yammering about my life? Swimming is going quite splashingly. I'm going to be racing the 1000 yards in a few weeks, which will be the first time that I have ever been in a swim meet possibly in my life to date. I have a very hazy memory of doing the one-arm backstroke as a tiny little Katie, but I'm fairly sure no coach would have actually put me in a real meet due to my refusal to use both arms to swim instead of just one while the other held my nose. I've been seeing slow but steady progress in the pool, most of which I attribute to having some fast feet to chase on the weekend recently. My victory this week was finally breaking 1:20 for 100 yards (as part of a larger set) after swimming a very frustrating 482 1:21s in a row last weekend. It has absolutely nothing to do with ironman and is completely meaningless in the long view of my training, but it made me happy so all you fast people can just put a lock on it. Also, for the first time in two years of swimming I care about the time on the clock because it finally means something to me. I have no idea what to expect from the 1000 yards and actually can't quite remember where I seeded myself, but as long as my goggles don't fall off and I don't get a giant wedgie on the way into the water I feel like I'll have a pretty good time.
Cycling is having it's bumps up and down. I got my old crank put back on, which meant I rode my road bike for a week and a half while the QR was in the shop and my adductor got a chance to calm down. I took the QR back out for a long ride this past weekend. I did notice a big difference in my adductor pain - as in, much less of it - when I got off the bike, but by the next morning that cranky sucker had tightened up quite a bit. I went immediately to the internet to see what else could be causing adductor pain on the bike (probably should have done this before switching my crank back). It looks like I should either move my seat further forward OR further backwards OR get a less-wide saddle. The science behind those theories being that it is highly likely that I am compressing the attachment of my adductor to my groin between the saddle and the bone which is royally pissing it off. Yesterday I checked out where my seat was - very far forward - and after carefully examining the pictures of all my bike fits (many) to date, slid it back just a smidge. My trainer ride felt okay after making the change so clearly the world didn't explode, but I'm worried that I just wasted a bunch of time swapping out my crank when my saddle might have been causing the problem (that sound you hear is my coach smacking her forehead, then me). I did have quite a bit of inner thigh chafing when I first started with this saddle, which I thought it was just the adjustment of the difference in my body angles, but now I realize that it could just be the nose of the saddle is too wide. So I'm frustrated with my crank, I'm frustrated with my saddle, and I'm frustrated with the fact that I feel like I'm wasting everyone's time and can't get a good clear answer on what exactly is going on from any of my internet resources (yes, I do expect the internet to answer me when I talk out loud to myself). Not to mention that cycling has always been the thing that I didn't really have to worry about and now it's yelling and throwing up in the corner.
The good news is that next week while I'm traveling for vacation-a-training-camp-a-palooza, I'm going to be able to drop in and get fit by the superhero that did my coach's fit, and I'm hoping that will calm down my cranky fast-talking crabbiness about this bike. In the meantime, I will continue to longingly look at my road bike every time I pack up the QR to head out on a ride. I know that I will get this figured out, I just am incredibly impatient when things do not work perfectly from day one. Which brings us to running. My calf is significantly better but still less than 100%. As soon as it stopped preventing me from being able to walk I got a lot worse about remembering to ice it constantly and, of course, after a few days of this it threw a rod. I'm now back on the all-natural anti-inflammatory train and am trying to remember that not every twinge in my body is a cycle-ending injury. To that end, I'll be running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler this weekend, a race I have been signed up for THREE times and not been able to run. I haven't wanted to mention it because a) it feels jinxed to me and b) I'm not racing it, I'm using it as a MAF test because the total elevation change for the entire race is 11 feet.
2. Speaking of MAF test (see what I did there?), I've finally been making progress in the big yellow book that I refer to as the "Mr. MAF encyclopedia." It's time to take some notes, get your pencils out. MAF means maximum aerobic function (I learned this two nights ago) and it is the HR number that my training has been based upon since I started with my coach in December. The number is not based on data from a LT or max HR test, which is what makes it different. And the "test" is merely an objective way of checking your training for progress. I don't want to give away the intellectual farm but I don't train by zones, instead I train by a HR number and I like it so much more than the zone training I was doing last summer. Zones can be big, and the top is totally different than the bottom, but with a number to nail, it's precise.
There are lots of good reasons to train this way - I'm only about halfway through the book - but one of the big takeaways for me so far is that it puts far less stress on your body. Running easy requires less recovery than running hard. There are also a lot of "fat-burning" and "carbohydrate-burning" reasons that I would probably butcher if I tried to explain (I'm actually probably butchering most of this, but I find it so interesting!!), but it's essentially all about balance. Trying to keep your body in a state where it's not inflamed. When your body isn't inflamed, you recover better and fast, you sleep better, your sex life gets better (it actually says this), you are less likely to over-train, and most importantly, your endurance and efficiency can improve. And that's how you start to get faster.
At some point in December I took pace information off of my Garmin and have been doing 100% of my runs with only my current heart rate showing on the screen. I have another screen that I will flip to that shows me total time on the run so I know when to go home and average HR, but for the most part, I'm seeing HR only. It's removed a lot of the emotional attachment to pace that I didn't even realize I had. Before this, a recovery run was 9:45-10:00 pace, no matter what. 10:01 pace or slower felt embarrassingly slow. I almost never ran in the low 9s except when I passed by there on the way through a progression run, and once I hit low 8s I was in tempo zone. All of that is gone. I remember, back in January, complaining about how slow the splits were from a long easy endurance run (I still obsess over the data after the run, obviously) and my coach telling me - good. Telling me, before this you would have dug a deeper hole into training debt instead of doing what your body wanted to do that day. That's what HR training is teaching me - to actually listen to my body, and not in the idiotic "I listened to my body and slept in instead of going for a run then had diet coke and swedish fish for breakfast" way that so many other bloggers are "listening," but tune in closely and learn what hard and easy feels like, especially on the run. I don't know what 9:45 pace feels like anymore but I can tell you the exact second my HR goes even one beat over 145 on a recovery run. It still stings to come home and look at my data and see splits that start with an 11, but I'm trying hard to just let it go. To understand that I'm training a system of my body by running at the right effort level and to ignore the mile splits - because in all honesty, pace only matters on race day. I'm not quite sure, but I think I might be growing.
3. I got a taste of all of this when I ran RnR USA last weekend. I ran a 2:01, which is exactly what I ran in Philadelphia last November. But such a different 2:01 that I ran. On the left is my HR data/splits from November, and on the right is my HR data/splits from last weekend (no, I have no idea why they aren't lined up together and I don't care nearly enough to try and figure it out). And I have extra splits on the right because I lapped my watch to catch up to the mile markers and lapped the 13th mile, which I didn't do in Philly because I was blacking out.
My average HR was 10 beats lower and I ran the same race. Fascinating. Not only that, but my average HR was essentially my MAF. In an actual MAF test I have a lot less variance in the averages and highs (a lot of this due to the fact that the race was hilly and I take the test on a track). These are the splits of a test that I did on a pretty windy day, which accounts a little bit for the max HR numbers being so far off the average.
In a perfect MAF test, as I understand it, the average/max numbers would be identical from the second mile until the second to last (to account for the ramping up into MAF and the teeny bit faster you might run at the end to make up for the ramping up of the first mile so the overall average is the right number). And when I took the first test, I had to stare down my Garmin to make sure that I wasn't popping over - or, more truthfully, to make sure I was slowing down into the right number over and over - but now I've gotten to the point where I think I could almost run it by feel. Not quite, and sometimes the conditions of the day screw with me, but on a normal day where nothing is throwing me out of whack, maybe.
But my point is, and I might actually have one, I feel like I'm doing things the right way, even if I keep getting derailed with cranks and calves and saddles. I feel like this is the way that I'm going to accomplish the things I want to even if my journey is a little disjointed because I can't seem to stay out of a physical therapist's office for more than a month at a time. Reading this book and trying to suck all the brains out of my coach (ew) and figuring out that training is not just the work, but the work plus the rest plus the food plus the stress, it all just makes so much sense. Every time I turn a page I say, "OHHHHH" and you know what, it's about freakin time I got my act together in this way. I'm still not doing a great job of focusing on my own training and not obsessing over what everyone else is doing, but all I can do is keep trying. A lot of people told me that ironman training would be a lonely road and I'd need lots of support, and of course they were right. And I'm owning it, I chose that sacrifice for myself. I don't want this to turn into a rant about feeling lonely, because I knew it would be, but I'm more surprised about the places in my life where I've unexpectedly found support - and just as unexpectedly not found any at all. I'm less than three months out from my first ironman and the road has been very different than the one I envisioned last July. I thought I knew what I was getting into, and thus far, training hasn't really been anything more than I expected. But I know now that I didn't really understand these other pieces of it then, not even close, not at all. I do know that I need to stop wasting energy being upset about it and instead just be grateful for the support I do feel. And maybe part of it is that I don't know how to ask for it when I need it. Because it is there, and I'm going to need it more and more in the weeks to come, and really, I'm lucky to have it at all.