Today is a random day. Nothing particularly remarkable relating to my, epic-sounding, Road to Ironman Florida. Of some significance is that I am recovering from another back lockup/seizure episode. Last Sunday was my first triathlon of the season, Spring Fling Sprint at West Point Lake.
After the race that afternoon, I helped my buddy fix his hot water heater, and helped my son with his AP Statistics homework (well, as I could, its been a long time since college statistics). I then promptly passed out on the couch.
The next morning, I was feeling great. Went to work, and hit the gym late morning. Finished my day. Ran practice with my girls’ team. Hit the pool that evening. Went to bed tired, but feeling good.
Perhaps that was a bit too much, because Tuesday morning, when I tried to roll out of bed, I could not stand up straight. My back was in full-scale revolt.
This happened to me in the final weeks of training going into Augusta 70.3 last year. Last year I tried to push through, and ended up on the sidelines for two weeks. A costly two weeks. What I did discover, was that my back would loosen up in the pool.
So this time I did two things. 1) I ceased all attempts to push through, or do any work thatmight cause my back to lockup. 2) I went to the pool that evening.
I actually swam more and better this week than I have ever. I have had several breakthrough moments this week in the pool. As of today, my back is still tight, but I can walk, get in and out of my truck, sit at my desk–things I could not do at this point in last year’s episode.
Perhaps, this was a forced recovery period. I have not been cycling my sessions as I know I should (an unload week every third week). In fact, I’ve been pushing for bigger strength gains in the gym, in advance of my reduced gym time in the weeks going into Ironman Florida.
In reality, this is the ghost of years past–too many hard training days without good recovery when I was younger, too many holes and ditches dug in concrete-hard, drought-dried, August-baked Georgia clay. A consequence of living a certain number of days, and doing a certain number of real things in those days. I’ll much rather take it now, rather than in the weeks going into Florida.
I remember when I first discovered that I could recover from being winded on a run, while still running that run. In South Carolina, our instructors would hearten us to breath on the down hills. I thought that was nuts–after a lung-bursting run up some long-ass hill, I thought, “What I need to damn do is STOP!” Amazingly, I discovered that I could recover on the down hill–at least enough to finish the run.
That lesson was well learned. It marinated in my subconscious. I used it in an instinctive, unverbalized way countlessly over the years since. Recover in those moments when things suck less. Recently, however, I have been training specifically for recovery, more so than any other specific criteria.
This was first verbalized for me when I read how Paula Newby-Fraser, the multiple Ironman Champion, explained how she can recover on the run at a higher heart rate than her competitors. She obliterated her competitors, when things really sucked, by being able to recover faster when they didn’t suck as much. I now train straight at this ability.
When doing pull ups, I focus on reducing the rest periods between sets, as much as I do the reps in each set.
When swimming laps, I’m intent on my ability to slow my pace or switch up my stroke, so I can recover enough to pick up my pace again.
My brick and transition runs are about what pace can I maintain, no matter how bad I’m hurting–No matter how bad it sucks. Not so much how fast can I run today off the bike.
Running this new distance for me, the olympic triathlon, and the prospect of my looming half Ironman, have brought this into perspective. I have had to let go of ego, and ensure first that I can finish a race. To that end, recovery while racing has become critical.
I have had cramps where I’ve never cramped in a race before, ever. I’ve had side stitches, once on both sides, but those aren’t the deblitating, you-might-not-be-able-to-use-your-leg-if-this-gets-worse cramps. When those start to come on, ego has to go. Recovery and continuous forward motion must take its place. Ego can come back once you get over the finish line. Recovery must come so that you can get to the finish line.
Train for recovery.