Last Thursday, I fought through a 90 minute ride, with the final 10 minutes feeling like 100 minutes. I could feel the energy slipping away from my legs. I was so drained, I skipped my 15 minute transition run.
Friday’s a new day, right?
I slogged through 3200 yards of swimming. On good days, I can swim 3200 yards to warm up for the rest of my workout. On this day, those same 3200 yards sent me to the couch for a 2-hour nap.
And, then it was Saturday morning. Time for another long ride. Three hours.
I’m not gonna lie: it was the last thing in the world I felt like doing. But, how can you skip a long ride?
If you are an insane Type A triathlete, you can’t – even if you know you should.
So, I dutifully gathered up all of the items I would need: bike shoes, music, fueling, water bottles, sweat towel, computer (for CompuTrainer), heart rate monitor. I prepared my run gear for the 30 minute transition run that was to follow the ride.
Just the act of gathering and preparing the items was stealing what little motivation I may have had.
I procrastinated. The clock ticked on. With a 3.5 hour workout looming, I had to get started.
I somehow willed myself to begin my core routine that I use as a warm-up before my workouts. (If you are interested in the routine, click here, and scroll to the table at the bottom of the post.)
After half-assing it, I headed out to the cold, dark garage, where my trusty steed awaited. She seemed perky enough, with her shiny gray, black and white trim. Her gleaming silvery wheels. My BFF.
Okay, maybe this won’t be so bad. I willed my mind to be positive.
Vince, my coach, had scheduled a hilly ride, so I selected the Silverman course. The entire 112-mile course has roughly 8,000 feet of climbing, which is comparable to Mont Tremblant. I figured that would be hilly enough.
And, so I started.
The first 60-75 minutes went relatively well. I was building in power, maintaining my heart rate, and while I didn’t feel spectacular, it wasn’t the crapfest I was expecting.
Well, that was the best I was going to get. Similar to Thursday’s ride, I felt the energy slowly sucking out of me as I approached the 90 minute mark. By this point, John had joined me in the garage. He was on a reduced load week, and had a shorter ride than I did.
As I approached the 2 hour mark, I wondered where I would find the energy for another 60 minutes. I was eating my gels, drinking my sports drink.
No change in energy. No change in attitude.
Usually, if I am low on calories, a gel will set me straight again. Not this time. This fatigue was apparently deeper than the 110 calories of the Power Gel (with double caffeine, mind you).
I watched as my watts and heart rate slowly dropped, despite the fact that my rate of perceived exertion felt comparatively high. The numbers on the screen did NOT match the feeling in my brain, in my body.
I had been riding 2 hours and 37 minutes when John said, “Okay, I’m done.”
I looked at him. I had been mumbling random complaints, and each time, he would say, “Just stop, then.” I stubbornly kept riding. But, when he said he was done, it was too much. I lost the battle.
“Me too,” I replied. And, with that I was off the bike, trying not to be anxious about the 23 minutes of riding I didn’t complete. I felt defeated, deflated, demoralized.
I came inside and put on my gear for the next phase, and headed out for the 30 minute transition run. The first 15 minutes or so weren’t too terrible. But, by the time I finished my run, I felt like I had run a half-marathon. I was winded, tired–cooked.
Yeah, this was NOT a normal Saturday. The past few weeks, I’ve been killing my rides and runs. Hitting my power marks, staying in my heart rate zones, and feeling strong. So, why was this particular Saturday (and the previous two days) so terrible?
The simple answer: Sometimes, training sucks.
I like to keep it positive on this blog. I’ve written about the glory of flow, the amazing beauty of the human body in motion, extraordinary moments and on and on with my love of the endurance sport lifestyle. And, most of the time, that is how I feel about it. It would be hard to train 15-20 hours a week and not love it.
But, sometimes, it sucks.
These sucky moments present themselves as a teacher, if we are open to the lesson.
When it sucks, we may need learn to increase our mental toughness. There are moments in an endurance race that undoubtedly suck. But, if we learn to hang tough, we find that we feel better if we figure out what we need: more fuel, the right pace, some sodium, some water – whatever.
However, the lesson of the suck is not always to soldier on, to push on through, to HTFU.
In this particular case, my lesson was to chill out.
Three days of fatigue, reduced performance and increased irritability are signs of overreaching, of pushing past the edge. They are not signs that I needed to be tougher mentally. In fact, my mental stubbornness was probably the only reason I pushed through workouts when I would have been better served by resting or lighter active recovery efforts.
It’s a benefit to our overall performance when we train hard enough to find our edges. But, if we continue to push beyond those edges without giving our body the time for recovery, our performance will continue to decline, and we become susceptible to illness and injury. Without recovery, we are not able to adapt and push our edges to new limits, and that definitely sucks.
After last Saturday’s suckfest, Vince cleared my Sunday, and I had an instant rest day. By Sunday afternoon, I could already feel the energy returning. It was as if I hit a reset button, and my body restarted, leaving me refreshed and ready for a new training week.
This week, I hit my marks, I made my numbers, I felt strong in my zones. Yesterday, I had a 2 hour and 15 minute bike, during which I maintained average watts that are higher than any I’ve seen so far on a ride. Then, I went out and ran for 45 minutes at IM race pace–and it felt comfortable.
You know what? That doesn’t suck.
What do you take from sucky training sessions? How do you move past them?