Wednesday, September 26, 2012

a generalized ramble about the state of things

I've been training based on the MAF system for almost a year now, and I really believe in the principles of training this way.  Except for a shoe-based calf tear, I haven't been injured at all.  That's quite a huge accomplishment for someone who used to never go more than eight weeks without being in an orthopedist's office.

That said, now that I'm not bouncing from injury layoff to injury layoff, I've been able to finally experience how training should flow on a macro level.  The MAF book talks about having two aerobic periods per year alternating with two race periods per year.  Essentially, an athlete spends 2-4 months building an aerobic base, 2-3 months racing, 2-4 months back in the aerobic base, and 2-3 months racing, repeat yearly.  There are a lot of good reasons for this, but the biggest reason is because racing actually chips away at your aerobic base.  From what I've read, different coaches have different ideas about how much anaerobic work you need while training by MAF, but it seems like the consensus is that you just sprinkle a little bit in before your race happens to wake up the slow-twitch fibers.  If you race often enough during your race period, you may not need any anaerobic work outside of those races.  So you race for a few months and lose a bit of your base, and then you train aerobically until you have to run 3 minute/mile pace to get your HR out of the basement and hey presto!  It's time to race again.

So, this is my blog and obviously I'm going to talk to how it applies to me, because that's what we bloggers do.

Looking back at my year of MAF, I can see that I spent December, January, February, and most of March creating a big fat aerobic base.  I had very little work that went above my MAF heart rate (152).  As we got closer to my half marathon and then my 70.3, little sprinkles - like 20 minutes hard at the end of a long run - showed up, but for the most part my work was still aerobic.  After my 70.3, my training was all IM-focused, again for the most part aerobic but instead of having a general endurance ride where my HR could be whatever it wanted as long as it was under MAF, I had much more IM-pace specific work.  So we'll call April, May, June my race period, even though I was still mainly training aerobically.

Following CdA I should have been spun back into an aerobic phase, but instead I took the month off and just went all easy all the time.  The easy was good, and I'm quite sure everything I did was aerobic for the month, but my volume wasn't high enough to hang onto the huge base I had created in the spring.  I stayed active which was good for my muscles but the low volume chipped away at the base.

When I started training again in August, a lot of things happened.  I went back to work, and suddenly had significant life stress to balance against training stress.  I also went from a few hours a week of easy activity straight into 70.3 build volume, and it made me pretty cranky right off the bat.  Instead of a gradual build towards tired, I kept feeling like I woke up one day and was suddenly in a hole.  My taper for Cedar Point started a bit early, and it only took about two days of easy recovery work before I felt ready to go hard again.  I raced, recovered, and when I look at my schedule and the work I've done, I know that logically I shouldn't be in a hole right now.  But the other piece of the puzzle, the piece that didn't affect my training as much through the first half of the year, is life stress.  And I've had quite a bit of it recently.  The biggest way it's affecting me is that one day my legs will feel strong and bouncy and I have a great training day, and then only two days later I feel like I'm in such a deep hole that I'm afraid to push any more and risk injury.  And looking at the pretty colored boxes, I have no reason to be in this hole, I'm not weeks into a build.  On Saturday, I made a pretty severe error in nutrition which cut my ride short, but when I got on the bike to start the ride, I already felt like I was four hours into six.  That's not right, that's not how a long ride coming off a moderate week should feel, even after a poorly-executed soul-destroying 5K.  

Trying to figure this out has been moderately exhausting, and I'm glad to have Sonja on board to point out the obvious signs of what's going on and remind me that there needs to be balance.  It was only a month ago that I was excited and happy to be headed into a fall racing season, and now all I want is for big fat easy aerobic workouts to show up on the schedule.  I know that when race day shows up, I'll be happy and excited to tackle the day, but every time I see the words "frickin hard" show up in the pink box, I sigh, just a teeny tiny bit.  On the flip side, the instructions for my long run last week said, "nothing that will make you cranky," and I had the most enjoyable long run I've had for about as long as I can remember.  

So I know that it's not the motivation that's lost, I'm still enjoying the work, it's more like listening to what my body is telling me (I HATE it when people say that) so I don't end up back in that ortho's office, sobbing my eyes out because I have a half marathon in six days and can't walk without pain.  I don't feel overtrained, or burned out, I'm just struggling a little bit for balance, I'm trying to learn how to fit in training against a different schedule against a marriage I actually care about preserving.  When it comes down to the line, I know how to rank those things, I know what is most important, but knowing what is important and actually fitting everything into your life are two different things.  I'm also learning where my breaking point is as far as stress is concerned, and it's nice to have that so clearly defined for me.  There was a time in my life where I was afraid of drawing a line in the sand, where I tolerated far more than I should have as the expense of many far more important things in my life, and that is mistake I will not make.  Not here, not now, not ever again.  

11 comments:

  1. If you're not having trouble fitting it all in in an Ironman training cycle, you have no life outside of working out or you're one of those people who only sleep 3 hours a night.

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  2. Great post today.

    First off...what is the book you read for MAF? I train by HR, but I am always interested in other ways.

    Totally know what you are going thru w the stress of working and training and marriage. Quite the trifecta. Last year I was hard core, training was the priority and y relationship with my husband took a dive. Now, I train daily, but I am not freaking out if I miss a workout every now and then to enjoy something as simple as cooking my husband breakfast. Think it makes it easier for him since he's not into all this tri stuff.


    Sounds like your heads in the right place!

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    1. Mr MAF wrote a book...the big book of endurance training and racing!

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  3. Beautifully written, it's hard finding the perfect balance and some days training needs to take the back seat. You are going to do great in the half marathon, you put in so much work this year, enjoy the race :)

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  4. I don't even try for balance. I just try to make sure that everything in my life gets a turn being my priority. Myself included. Most of the time that works...

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  5. I find that I go through phases during which my training seems to be the most important thing going on, then phases where I look at my training-obsessed self and think I was completely nuts. The year I skipped a nearly-free ski trip so not to jeopardize a half-marathon (in which I PR'ed, but STILL) comes to mind. It's hard to reach for that balance when you're in the heat of the training cycle, but that's what the most successful athletes manage to do. I'm trying to get to the point that I pull back and shift priorities BEFORE I bonk, or become miserable ... it's a process. :)

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  6. This is a really interesting post - I read Going Long which talks a lot about training cycles but at the time all I could think about was building endurance for the Ironman and that's it. There is so much to training that it's hard to keep it all straight and not go insane. Having a coach would be a huge advantage to dealing with all of this!

    Training for an Ironman while working full-time is no joke and if you have something else going on on top of it, it's even harder. It sounds like you are doing everything right and "listening to your body" (I actually quite enjoy this saying, as I'm sure you have noticed ;) and you'll figure out what is making you cranky. I guess that's why they say it takes about 5 years of Ironman racing to get to Kona ...so much to learn!!!

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    1. Only 5 years? For me, closer to 50....

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  7. I miss your long posts like this (since the end of IM that is)

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  8. I think the toughest part about being a triathlete is the work-life-training-family-everything balance. I'm two months from IMAZ, 3 weeks into our new business, working full time at my regular job and hanging on for dear life. I'm fantasizing about sleeping in and a rainy winter and giving my bike double middle fingers. But I'm also stoked for my 18 miler tomorrow in the dark before work. It's a daily (or weekly) process of re-evaluation since we only have so many hours per day. You're not alone in the battle!

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  9. This is a good post. I don't train based on heart rate, but I have been thinking a lot about going back to a "base" training after my race in October. The only concern I have is about losing the "speed" that I have gained while I have been doing speed work, etc. this summer. But I also know that I can't just keep pushing my body like I am now all year-round. This was a good reinforcement that, really regardless of the kind of training you are doing, it should be approached in cycles.

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