My summer 2011 triathlon season ended prematurely in late February with breaking my little toe and consequently spraining many ligaments in the lateral foot around both little toes. This meant I could not get my foot in any shoes or kick with swimming. I was somewhat relieved, due to the length of my racing season and the many races I did around NZ during January (away every weekend).
I did however, miss competing in the Olympic distance national champs, which was also the final selection race for the world champs team. It was also the final chance to test myself on a pan flat Wellington waterfront course which would have suited my speed, plus compete for a NZ age group medal. But not to be this time around..
I then competed in the local fun triathlon, 'blokes day out', with nearly three weeks off training, my fitness was on a definite decline. I still managed to win the event and put it all down to being 110% rested/tapered and thoroughly enjoyed being so fresh. This did show me how important tapering was and how most, if not nearly all athletes, don't taper anywhere near enough prior to important races.
From here, I decided to cruise and enjoy whatever exercise I felt like doing until June. This took the pressure off foot recovery and I really enjoyed every training session (most days) that I did and I had great variety in there too. Mostly running, a little mountain-biking, some open water-swimming, kayaking, gym, tramping, adventure runs and a few running races.
Come June 4th, which was when I committed to re-introducing some form of structured training to my life. I was motivated, healthy, and mostly fit with little excess weight gained during cakes and pies season (only 2kg this autumn), and ready to get stuck into training again.
The plan from here was set out with twenty weeks to prepare for the triathlon world champs. To begin with, I hatched a four week progressive plan to get back into twice a day training and finding a routine that fitted into my life that was manageable, and two weeks tapering immediately before the event to ensure I was "fresh". This left me fourteen weeks of a solid training block in the middle. I felt my running and swimming needed a little more attention during winter so set out with this focus until end of July, a five to six week solid base building phase, (low intensity, longer duration). > see foot note below on some basic science behind this phase of training <
I had cycled a lot over summer time and had put a big focus on it due to competing in the NZ half ironman champs in January in Tauranga. This event included a 90km solo time-trial followed by a half marathon run, which included two laps around the mount, so bike strength-endurance was essential. Following this two weeks later, I doubled up and competed in a contact tri series sprint distance triathlon race in Wanaka, finished eighth overall and first in my age group. The following day I rode the 180km bike leg of an Ironman team, with top Nelson sea-swimmer, Joe Thornton and ex international runner, Kim Hogarth, finishing third overall. So I felt my cycling had a good base and I was strong on the bike from this.
My running program is being managed by top ex-American, but now Nelson based coach, Greg Lautenslager, (http://www.nzrunningacademy.co.nz/), who has a huge pedigree with producing top college track running athletes and currently has six on running scholarships in USA concurrently. During the initial eight weeks untill the end of July, I am running four, now six times a week, all LSD (long slow distance) base mileage, swimming three to four times a week, biking twice and gym training twice.
Just recently, Greg had me compete in the local but very historical, Dovedale hill race in Wakefield (11km mild hill climb) as a tempo and to measure my current fitness. Even with miserable wet and windy weather, and not really backing off training for the week (a day off, the day prior), I finished third. This was only 59secs behind top local marathon runner (Buller winner 2h 31mins) , Simon Mardon. It was also a PB for me up the hill by 37secs and I felt particularly strong near the end starting to catch both those infront of me. The final two weeks of July are purely low-intensity mileage and all about developing my endurance where I will get over fifteen hours per week, with 40-50% of this being running.
My next blog will be next month and I look forward to reporting in again with some excitement towards my next phase of training with some new goals. I will also have a few little races to add some spice to the mix, so watch this space...
Stay focused people and push on, NB
Foot note; (Basic physiology behind aerobic base building)
The great Arthur Lydiard called this base building phase, LSD for Long Slow Distance. The primary aim of this initial phase of training for endurance sports (and should be for most other sports that require some repeated movement or longer term energy requirement), is to develop the fat burning aerobic energy system because it supports and helps refuel all other energy supply channels in the body. It is the only system that utilizes fat for energy production, and long term stress on this system enhances its ability to use fat at lower intensities and therefore preserve precious carbohydrate, which has very limited supplies in muscle glycogen and the liver (around 90mins of moderate intensity). It also allows the central nervous system and specific muscular patterns for a particular sport to be learned and repeated so it becomes very natural for the body to move this way. Because of the low intensity workload it is also easier on connective structures (ligaments, tendons, cartilage, bones) in terms of load, and therefore allows the body to develop its strength and ability to with-handle increased loads in later phases during harder, higher intensity training. This is also where training aids such as heart rate monitors, GPS devices, power meters and slow training partners can be handy to measure and control efforts so not to overdo it.
Furthermore, because of this low intensity muscular load and high fat burning exercise, we are able to train for longer periods, burn off some winter fat, socialize with friends so we don't become complete ego-centric introvert's, and build our basic endurance on all levels, Ie.physical and mental (some would say the psych is 90%, others would say it's 9%, so really its over to you how mental you want to be about your training...)