I was going to write this yesterday, but then I fell asleep

Sleep is so wonderful. The last few weeks I’ve been up early for workouts, and I guess I’m still adjusting to this. In the past I’ve never really done morning workouts, with the exception of swimming. I was stupid for not. They’re awesome. And exhausting.

On Tuesday of this week I was so wiped I decided that I need to give myself a chance to recuperate a bit. So I’m off work today & tomorrow, making this a four day sleep filled weekend. I have two goals: do my workouts, and sleep as much as I can. That means naps, and sleeping in, and going to bed on time. My job for four days is to sleep.

Damn I lead a hard life.

In seriousness, I’m a big fan of sleep. I’m not one that can function on less than 7 hours, and usually if I know I need to have a high-productivity day, I plan for 8 or more. Part of this I think is because I have trouble staying asleep, but really it probably has more to do with genetics than anything. Some people need sleep. Others don’t. Luck of the draw.

But more sleep is actually ok with me. In this crazy sport, sleep is essential. The human body releases elevated levels of HGH while sleeping, and that coupled with a proper diet and not moving for 8 hours, a lot of muscle damage can be significantly recovered in just a single night’s sleep. That’s what I’m going for.

Late last year when trying to plan out my 2017 season, I came across mention of tart cherry juice as being something that can aid sleep. Science reasons, I guess, but I was not able to find anyone that would suggest it was in any way bad or dangerous. So I found that our local Sobey’s carries some and started drinking a single serving before bed. I’m now an official believer in the stuff, and groan and drag ass out of bed when I get up there and realize I haven’t taken it that night. For me it works so well that I can actually function on 7 hours of sleep quite well. In brief, it helps me stay asleep for a full night. Uninterrupted REM sleep is amazing when you’re not used to having it. Placebo effect? Honestly, who cares? If it’s placebo, I’m still sleeping like a baby. If it’s real, I’m still sleeping like a baby.

So it’s a bit after 9:30. I’ve been up since about 8:30 or so – an extra three hours sleep this morning! I’ve got some work to do today with a 90 minute ride and a dip in the pool. But I’ve got all day.. so maybe a nap first…..

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The Dreaded FTP Test, and What’s Coming this Week

Damn that was hard. Have I mentioned I hate FTP tests?

This morning I was up well before dawn to hop on the bike and crank out my FTP test. After last week’s rather successful morning workout – the first one in ages – I thought I’d start a morning routine. More on that later, but suffice it to say that it began today. Choosing TrainerRoad’s 20 Minute FTP test was the easy part. Doing it is hard.

No dogs were left outside this morning during my workout, and my legs warmed up surprisingly quickly (encouraging) so the issues noted last week were gone. All good.

As for the test itself, I received a no-change result. That’s disappointing. I was pretty sure I would need a bit of an FTP bump, but I guess I’m just not there yet. I did bump up by three watts last week, so perhaps I’m just not farther than that – my estimate was accurate. As good as it is to know that I’m training at the right intensity, it is a tough pill to swallow to actually do such a demanding test and receive that result. 2.33 W/kg with today’s weigh-in. If I can hit my target race-weight, I have about a 20% improvement as my FTP W/kg goal. I actually think that’s more than do-able this year, considering I’m starting from a hobbling, injured mess.

Interestingly, my LTHR increased. This I’m taking as a good thing. It was a pretty marginal increase, really, but I also saw some of the highest BPM on the bike that I’ve ever seen – about equal to my LTHR on the run. My max HR was ~164 through the ride, and at last test (in summer 2016) of my LTHR while running I tested at 165 BPM. I’m taking this as a good sign. Not sure exactly what it means yet, but a bump higher in LTHR on bike seems like a pretty ok thing to me. To be clear that’s sitting at 151 as of that test. 164 is just the max I achieved during the test.

So, TrainerRoad veterans probably recognize that it’s Tuesday. And Tuesday is test day for the start of a new training plan. That’s the big change for me this week. I’m starting a new plan – Sweet Spot Base High Volume 1. Should be fun. Painful, but fun.

I gave pretty careful consideration to which plan to choose. Last year I did about half of the Full Distance Triathlon Base plan before I got injured and stopped. Tempted to start here again, but without a Full Distance race on my schedule this year, I did look at the Half Distance plan as well (I’m racing two of these). It does seem like a plan that’s fairly well suited for the half-Ironman distance, but I think  I want more volume than that. At least I think I do. Being a “normal guy,” my best weapon is time. I don’t have children and my wife is a grad student, so I have lots of time to dedicate to training. The Triathlon plans seem like they’re very good, but I wish that TrainerRoad would actually worry less about the other two disciplines and focus exclusively on the needs of the bike portion of the race. It is not that I don’t trust them, it is that I have plans for the other two sections already. I just don’t need (and I don’t particularly want, if I’m being honest) their guidance on what workouts to do on the other disciplines. The other thing that worries me – I find their other discipline suggested workouts to be too easy. Has me concerned that the bike plan is also too easy – not enough volume.

So I’m going to give the Sweet Spot Base High Volume 1 a try for a few weeks. Lots of work to do. It calls for 6 rides a week and 532 TSS over 8.5 hours in week 1. I’ve already completed 82 TSS and 1.0 hours today. So only… 450 TSS points to go. Gonna have some early mornings this week.. Oh man this is going to hurt… wish me luck!

Ramping Things Up… and Down… and Back Up Again!

At the end of the 2016 season I was giving strong consideration to 2017 being the year that I take on the Ironman. I was confident that I could finish but I wanted to be able to do more than just finish. Kona is not going to happen for me, almost definitely. But a more realistic goal is possible. With that in mind, and searching for what that goal should be, I started up my training again in mid-October. Here’s what happened.

2016-pmc-oct-nov

This should look pretty familiar (I think) to most that use Training Peaks. As I ramped up my training, the ATL (pink) increases, Form (yellow) decreases with fatigue, and Fitness (blue) increases. For the most part, this is pretty normal. Except for one thing. I basically picked up where I left off pre-Barrelman. I became Captain Too-Much-Too-Soon. It caught up with me in a pretty big way.

The ATL line takes a sharp drop around the middle of November. That’s due to the onset (read: I finally admitted to myself after weeks of knowing) of an injury. I had Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome which is also commonly known as Runner’s Knee. In my case, I’m nearly 100% positive it was initially triggered by a poor bike fit, which was triggered by some equipment changes (tip: changing pedals can screw up bike fit), which created imbalances and problems that were just stacked as I didn’t stop or slow my training.

SMRT.

Rather than go into detail on the injury, I’ll just say this: if knees hurt, stop. This injury got so bad that I couldn’t flip turn without considerable pain and I was still cycling on it because I’m dumb. Or blinded by my goals. “If you don’t do it, you’ll never do it” ran through my mind constantly at the time. I had basically convinced myself that it would go away and it was nothing. How wrong I was. From 22 November 2016, I did basically nothing until early January. I sought some physiotherapy in early December and after a few weeks of slow forward progress sought out a second opinion from a Chiropractor (coincidentally happens to be a rather talented duathlete and runner as well). His diagnosis method identified an entire muscle group that was under-developed that could have been the direct result of my poor bike fit. Rehab time.

To make a long story short, I’m now back in full-on back-to-run mode. I’ve been running again for about 5 weeks under Chiro’s direction with generally pretty outstanding results. Still, I’m not going fast, and my longest run has only been 45 minutes at a very slow pace (even for me slow pace). However, yesterday he cleared me to continue ramping things up. I’m going to stick strongly to the 10% rule this time around, and hopefully I’ll be long-running again in no time. I had a proper bike fit done by a physiotherapist that specializes in this kind of thing (and also happens to be an accomplished triathlete and triathlon coach in his own right), so my cycling is coming back in great form as my muscles and connective tissues get used to working again.

Big takeaways through this though. Not all bad I suppose.
1. Relax. Training is fun. Pain is not fun.
2. Ignoring my body’s needs pushes goals farther away, no matter how much I want it.
3. A strong support system is a requirement.
4. 10% rule. 10% rule. 10% rule.

The return to structured training begins soon. Unstructured stuff has been great for the last several weeks – swimming fitness is strong, cycling is coming back very fast, and running is coming slower but coming. Time to get into some real base training though.

Pitter Patter! Off to the pool!