It seems like I have hit my physical limit in the training. I hadn't expected it to be like this - I thought I would suffer the dreaded overtraining syndrome of demotivation, sickness and injury. Of course it is important to have rest days in your training program so that your body can recover and make the necessary adjustments to be able to tackle an increasing load; the thing about triathlon training is that the bike is a rest from running as swimming is from the bike. To give you some idea, yesterday I found myself considering that it was a "day off" in that I only had to run an hour and a half.
Since Saturday I have noticed that my lower back has been getting painful. It's not a sharp pain like you get from contractions (for example, in my shoulder) but rather a dull pain which you associate more with general fatigue. It can be an almost pleasant sensation of feeling that you have done a good workout with the proviso that, as soon as you lie down and rest, the ache goes away. Well, that's the problem - it doesn't go away, it keeps nagging all day long and is starting to interfere with my sleep. Yesterday, after the run (and running usually calms any back pain I might have) it got particularly bad. I went to see Paloma, the physio at work and even she was only able to slightly alleviate the pain and discomfort. Some Ibuprofen also helped. Paloma said that it was not a problem with the muscles but with the joints as a result of fatigue from training.
So it seems like the common denominator in the three sports is the back and that it simply does not get a chance to rest. Today I am having to skip my training for the first time since I broke my elbow in June last year. I think what I do now is what makes the difference between the kind of "boom bust" athletes (of which I was one) and the steady improvers. It's always very difficult to break the training schedule because of the fear of losing fitness, the fear of breaking the habit or even the fear of being a "wuss" - and having a incessant pain in your back doesn't put you in the best mood for taking these kind of decisions. This was the main reason I got in touch with my trainer, Jonathan, in the first place: to be able to charge him with the responsibility of me having to "slack off" every now and again. It's funny, my trainers in my rowing years in the late 80's and early 90's were there for the opposite reason, to make sure we didn't slack off. I'll send an email to Jonathan shortly and see what he says. Hopefully a couple of days rest will be enough, followed by a few days to build back up to the volume and intensity I have been training at. It's a shame that it should happen in this important peak week that I have been building up to for a month now, but it's also not surprising that it should happen now.
Taking this break will probably have no effect on my performance in the Ironman - just as well that it happened now and not in two month's time - but, suppose that it results in my time being 10 minutes slower than it would have been. It's still my best possible time. Had I sustained an injury from falling off my bike or overdoing it generally, not only would the effect be greater (most probably), but it would be something avoidable. That I am physically unable (at this point) to complete 100% of the training program Jonathan has set out for me is as much a real limitation as the fact that I couldn't run a Marathon in 2 hours and 4 minutes even if my life depended on it. This is my way of rationalising this little setback, and I hope it will be little.