The past six weeks since my last blog have certainly gone by fast. A lot has happened in this time too; I've competed in two local duathlons, a fun 6hr adventure race, NZ had its equal most successful Olympic games in London (in terms of medals at least), the Tour de France has finished (and so has the Vuelta a Espana now, -Ed), the cycling world has been turned upside down by Lance Armstrong and associates, and I've been somewhat sick unable to totally shake it for a few weeks...
The racing has been good fun but has not been easy or gone exactly to plan. My first race was the Nelson Triathlon Club, road duathlon at rabbit island comprising an offroad 2.6km run, 21km time trial, then 2.6km run. I went into this race in early August very underdone on the bike, due to being at the end of my running mileage base phase, and I had yet to introduce any intensity. But I was keen to race, and felt good, so went hard from the gun. It went well, with a win after posting the fastest runs and near fastest bike, but It didn't go without flaws.. I had problems with my helmet buckle in both transitions and my cycling legs just weren't anywhere to be seen (but were certainly felt...), but I expected that.
By the next duathlon race, 3 weeks later, I had a few more bike miles in me, (but still not enough to ride at my normal triathlon ability), and was starting to get sick and rundown. I raced as hard as I could and never gave up, but I felt very lacking in ability to go anaerobic (>see footnote below on a definition and some basic science<), and was very lethargic due to starting to get sick, and simply had no real horsepower. I was slower in the first run than three weeks ago and beaten fair and square by two other boys. The bike was made draft legal which also made it quite tactical and I ended in the lead group of four, but we were actually no faster than my own effort three weeks prior. So it became a foot race in which I started fourth, but I did manage to run into a close 2nd place and improve my run time from the previous duathlon, showing that my strength endurance was improving. However, lots to be noted and taken away from this race, with eight weeks remaining to the world champs.
I battled with sickness and various other obstacles that life seems to hand out occasionally, for the next 3weeks and never really found a consistent training pattern. I tried hard psychologically to back off a little (training dropped three to five hours a week) and allow a little more rest, but it did take some concentrated effort and self control to get back on top of my game.
I did not compete in a planned endurance multisport race in Golden Bay during this time as planned, partly due to appalling weather on the day and generally just feeling unable or wanting to do any activity, so opted for a day off and a day at home baking, cooking, reading and relaxing..
I did compete and complete the Rollos 6hr adventure duathlon race with a local cycling friend. A thoroughly enjoyable day out (it always is, I've done 4 now), we managed 2nd place in this section all based on no navigational skills and simple hard biking. However, again I was off the mark all day and felt like I was getting dragged along without much urgency from my body.
It's all back on track now with consistent training and recovering from most sessions okay. Following this sickness I began my speed and higher intensity training to start preparing the body and associated energy systems (nearing the VO2max upper limit. >see footnote<) for the speed and intensity of the sprint triathlon. Note - More on this during the next blog.
Last week I competed as a part of the senior men's athletics Nelson team that won the local Queen Charlotte road running relay. I ran leg four of 6.4km which finished most of the way up Cullen's point hill, and was most happy with marginally beating some fast juniors and running the fastest lap time. So I felt good about the few speed sessions I have done so far.
This is in preparation for the NZ road relay champs here in Nelson in two weeks time in which I am also in this team along with a few more top local triathletes and some fast pure runners, attempting to not be shamed to badly by national class runners.
I will report again soon on the outcome of these races and the final few weeks of preparation for the 2012 World Triathlon Champs.
Enjoy the increasing temperatures and return of the sun and get out there amongst it people.
Foot note; (Basic energy system physiology)
Our body has three prime energy systems, aerobic and two anaerobic, fueled by two prime energy sources, fat and carbohydrate.
The aerobic system is the big fat burner that needs oxygen to operate and supports us for long periods of time at sub-maximal (roughly up to about 80-85% max effort) intensities.
The two anaerobic energy systems are quick acting and quick burning carbohydrate fueled systems that allow us to go hard for short bursts. The problem here is, a by-product of this quick acting system is lactic acid, which in high volumes slows us down if not properly cleared up by the aerobic system. Ie. the deeper we go into it, the shorter we last as the aerobic system can't keep up.
For a sprint distance triathlon, a properly tuned athlete will be operating just above the threshold of where the anaerobic system is required for the high intensity, but supported by the aerobic system, busy trying to clear all this lactate.
So interval training for an aerobic endurance athlete needs to activate both systems and train them both to work synergistically. This can take place in various forms of continous steady exercise just below or at this threshold, or interval training alternating above and below this point. It also must be done across the multiple disciplines of triathlon. Herein lies the challenge for a short distance triathlete.
VO2max is a scientific measure for the maximal amount of oxygen the body can consume, transport and use, measured in liters per minute, and usually maintainable for up to 8mins at maximum aerobic effort. It is the aerobic system that is being measured here, but at this intensity the anaerobic system is highly active. This metric is trainable and is very important for any short distance endurance athlete to train at it determines our maximal ability.