Thursday, August 21, 2008

In line for approach

Well, Ironman Wisconsin is a mere 17 days away, and if all goes as planned in 18 days I'll be officially registered for IMWI '09. Registering for Ironman has in itself become an endurance sport these days, so I suppose one can't take anything for granted. That said, I'll be there at the Terrace on the 8th, in line early in the morning, ready to get my slot.

So it's a little departed from my modus operandi to be open about my strategies before I'm even officially in for '09 - cart before horse, that whole thing - but I think it'll be a useful exercise to get these thoughts down and organized, and doing so now gives me some time to fine tune or make further considerations. So, for your perusal...

The two biggest challenges facing me for IM '09 are staying healthy, and working Ironman training into a lifestyle that involves, first and foremost, an ever-evolving little person called Dakota. Whereas with Ironman One I could kind of lose myself in an endless training weekend or obsess 24/7 about every angle regarding how the hell am I going to finish this race, this time around I prefer to keep a better balance - I don't want to lose entire weekends to Ironman training, awesome as that is for me at the time. For this to be the experience I want it to be, and that my family deserves for it to be, it all needs to work together.

Regarding injury, it's becoming apparent to me that this vehicle o' mine appears to have limited mileage. Last summer's knee injury and now this Achilles thing (I honestly thought I'd make it through this whole season injury free...) remind me that I'm more susceptible to injury, that it's harder for me to recover, that it takes longer to heal. And those are just the big ones - I've been nagged by one thing or another for the last 3 years. I need to be smarter about what I'm putting my body through, and how, so that I arrive at the Terrace next September healthy and ready to go.

Speaking of being smarter, I also want to apply more of what's worked so successfully for me this season - train smarter, not harder. Last time I did Ironman, like most first-timers, it was all about the mileage. Countless hours on the bike and run, endless hours in the pool, just to develop confidence (and physical ability) that, yes, I really could do this. But the training lacked any real intensity - I was prepared just to finish the distance, but not necessarily to race the distance. The goal will remain the same - just reach the finish line. But I think I can be smarter about developing some intensity that will also accomplish the goal of developing the right fitness to go the distance.

So, I have several ideas that, if all executed well, should work together to satisfy all of my potential obstacles. It goes a lil' sumpin' like this:

• First, I won't start training until around April 1st. By "training" I mean organized, goal-related running, biking, and swimming. I usually start training in January or February. This will be a little hard for me I think, because I'll probably be raring to go. But I think my body will last longer if I have a longer break this winter, and 6 serious months of training, instead of 8 or 9.

• That said, I'll be developing a base, albeit kind of loosely, all winter - I don't intend to just show up April 1st totally out of shape or something. But to that point, I'm going to trust more in my existing base - you don't do long distance triathlon for this long and not develop some fitness that can sustain even extended time off. I don't need to reinvent the wheel every season.

That said, I need to be disciplined about two things this winter: Not gaining weight, which is one of my joys of the offseason, and being serious about strength and conditioning. I really want to focus on developing some strength and flexibility this winter, which can only help me stay loose and healthy and fit all year 'round. I plan to bike on the trainer weekly, run weekly, and hopefully even practice pilates a bit. I've also really always wanted to take a karate class, so maybe I can do that, too. Plus, just fun stuff - staying active all winter long, in a non-obsessed, free-of-OCD kind of way. So that when it's time to get serious, I've actually spent the winter getting stronger and more ready, instead of less-so.

• Getting into serious training, I'm going to decrease the time, and up the intensity. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm not going to look to ride 6 hours every time I'm on my bike each weekend. Instead, I'll cut it to 4, 4.5 hours, and up the intensity so that I'm really working out there, instead of just getting the miles in. When I do ride really long - 100 miles or more - it will be with purpose. Right now I don't foresee going 100+ miles more than 3 times before race day next year - we'll see how the strategy is working when I get into it. Anyway, this should achieve lots of things - developing speed, decreasing time/opportunity for injury, and keeping my schedule more sensible so that an entire Saturday isn't shot everytime I get on the bike.

• Same with the run - I'm going to be thoughtful about what, and why, I am running. I likely don't need more than 18, 20 miles as a max-distance workout before Ironman. I'll spend my time developing some speed and intensity over a 13-16 mile run more frequently than just getting out to "manage" a 22 mile run. The run is where I seem especially susceptible to injury, so I'm going to be really intentional about spending only quality, purposeful time on the road.

• Swimming - I'm going to spend less time in the pool, and more time in open water. I'll admit something right now - I'm not a huge believer in spending tons of time in the water. It's my least favorite discipline for starters, so that's something, but once you develop a technique that works, once you develop muscle memory that works...for me, I just don't see huge benefits in spending hours in the pool. I'm never going to be a great swimmer, and even if I bust my ass I'll at most knock off - what, a few minutes. So killing myself with lap after lap after lap - it just doesn't have a sensible payoff. But, I REALLY would like to get better at sighting, and open water swimming, and managing open water intensity. So, I'm going to spend some time in the pool, but I'll really try and spend more time in open water. Which leads me to my next point:

• Race more. I love racing, of all distances. But next season, I'm going to use it more strategically. I'm going to race the Aquathon series around here as often as I can, for the open water, race-intensity workouts. I'm going to race triathlon often as my main source of brick workouts - I think practicing with the unique intensity that only race-day can provide will be more useful to me than my constantly tacking 3-8 miles on after every long ride just to get a feel for it. Learning to pace my nutrition on the bike for success on the run - and especially managing that run with hydration when it's hot outside - is intelligence that I can probably best develop in a race-intense environment, rather than with constant experimentation over here with Gatorade bottles.

So if I put all this together, I should be training harder, but less long, and maybe intentionally less often, getting as much or more out of 2 intense runs, 2 bikes, and one serious swim a week than I would out of two-a-days that take a long time but develop only as much, or even less, fitness. Keeping frequent races on the horizon should give me ample opportunity to rehearse instead of just practice, which I think is what will be more beneficial to me this time around. Finally, being really disciplined, especially this offseason, of staying in shape but especially focusing on flexibility (HUGE limiter for me) and strength is an ingredient I've never diligently put into my mix, and it's overdue.

Darra Torres, the 41-year-old Olympic swimmer this year, makes a great case study for all of these theories. She swims much less often than her younger counterparts, and spends a great deal of time stretching and strength training, knowing that she "knows what she needs to know", but has to keep her body healthy to execute it. I'm no Darra Torres, but I think her philosophies have some definite traction for the middle-o-the-pack thirty (or forty, or fifty)-something Ironman triathlete. Less can be more. It ain't rocket science. That kind of thing.

So, that's where I'm coming from as of now. Anybody have two cents to toss in? I'm listening -


Steve Stenzel said...

I think starting the "official" training later would be good for you.

And I TOTALLY agree about the idea of registering is a sport in itself! Good luck!!

Agua said...

Good luck to you. It sounds like you are taking a really balanced and healthy approach to training this year.

I'm planning to register for IM Wisconsin 09 as well (my first IM). I wanted to thank you for your "Becoming Ironman" videos - they have been a source of great inspiration and insight for me!

richvans said...

I'd just caution you that high intensity can be at least as likely to cause injury as high mileage. If I tried to hang with your running pace I'd end up curled up in the fetal position within a week.

It sounds like your being intentional about the whole thing though. As long as you stay on top of how you're reacting you should be able to keep healthy.

RunBubbaRun said...

yeah, I wish signing up wasn't so hard these days.. If I didn't do IMWI twice already I sign up with you.. Going for IMKY '09 instead..

I think the best thing is to be consistent, not always at a high mileage or intensity level, but keep the wheels moving..

I trained less for my 140.6 coming up and done split workout sessions to not intrude in the family time to much.. I let you know how this plan works out..

Yes, getting older and wiser in your training, is always a good thing..

Team Brazo said...

Well, in a weeks time I'll let you know how some of your IM training thoughts worked for me. This year IM has not been #1 for me. Instead I rarely have thought about race day (starting to get pumped now though). I've had so much other things going on that I haven't had that 24/7 focus like last year.

I stayed mainly in the Base mode for almost all my training and stayed away from the long (112 mile) bike rides -- not because I thought that would help me race day, but instead -- I just don't enjoy riding 112 miles by myself -- and I have very few friends that are have less brain cells than me.

I focused on family and life, but still have been working out 5-6 days a week since November 1st and 4-5 days a week since IMWI 2007.

I'll let you know how that "having a life outside IM" works next Sunday. My goal is to finish -- 16hrs 59min 59sec -- and I'll consider it a successful season!!