I have a confession to make. I have gone back to one of my old habits. No, I haven't started smoking but I have started biting my nails or, to be more precise, biting my nail. I've at least managed to contain the damage to one nail but the habit has actually been creeping up on me insidiously over the last few months until I finally admitted to myself that evasive action was needed. That stuff that you paint on your nails that tastes disgusting is not enough - the point is that nail biting is a form of self harm which can be quite painful, so an unpleasant taste is hardly going to make any difference. I am having to wear a plaster on that finger until the nail becomes "regular" enough not to annoy me. Only then will I be able to break the vicious circle of being upset with myself for biting my nails and biting my nails because I am upset with myself.
This week was a return to triathlon training after a nearly two week long interruption due to travelling to London and holidays in Morocco. Unsurprisingly, going back to the swimming pool felt very much as it did when I first started up after the best part of a year of not swimming: boring as hell. I thought a bit about why I found swimming so boring and came to the conclusion that it was primarily a lack of motivation due to not being able to see any progress. Being an "early adopter" I of course already had a swimming watch which would count the laps for me and even the number of strokes I was doing per lap but it is extremely fiddly to use and offers no real means to analyse the data. With my birthday coming up, I decided that my wife's present to me would be the Garmin Swim watch and I would convince her to give it to me early...
So on Friday I was excited to get into the pool with my new watch. It is certainly much more intuitive to use but it does have a few drawbacks* as far as I am concerned. Firstly, it would be useful to be able to set up an alarm that beeps every certain number of laps or minutes: my goggles always fog up so I can't read the display very easily and I'd rather try to get "into the zone" and just swim without wondering how much further... It may be a question of configuring it properly but another feature which is important to me is to be able to see how well I am doing when I am resting at the wall; for some reason, the totals for the previous interval are not shown when you are in pause mode, only a bunch of zeroes for the interval you are about to commence. However, the most significant problem I had with it was that it didn't recognise my strokes as freestyle! This is because I have resisted learning how to do one of those fancy flips at the end of each length. I hate doing turns at the wall because I either get water up my nose, end up veering off in some random direction or feel as though I am running out of breath. Still, it's about time I learned to do it properly and the watch has given me the perfect reason to do it. Once the data is uploaded to the Garmin Connect webpage, it is very easy to analyse and it doesn't matter too much if a length here or there was mis-measured; it is still possible to measure quite accurately your speed and efficiency.
Although that brings me to my other gadget related news. While driving through some winding roads in the south of Spain en route to Morocco, one of the kids "vommed" on my computer and, since then, the trackpad has been behaving as though there was a colony of ants underneath. Apple were quite happy to replace the trackpad under the guarantee until they spotted the "water" damage. Now it will turn out to have almost been cheaper to have gone by plane (although, of course, the kids easily could have got sick on the plane). Until I get it back (any day now) I won't be able to analyse my workouts in much detail.
Probably the only workouts worth mentioning were the ones I did at the weekend. I went for what was supposedly an easy run of 90' on Saturday and ended up running slightly more than a Half Marathon in that time. Perhaps it was because the Madrid Half Marathon was being run on Sunday and I wasn't able to compete because it didn't fit in with my training plan. I was quite surprised that the run turned out to be so fast as it felt easy and had a reasonable amount of hills (not to mention some steps you have to walk up and down, adding at least 20 seconds each way). To think that it wasn't all that long ago that running a Half Marathon in less than an hour and a half was a goal in itself.
On Sunday my family decided to go skiing in the Sierra mountains of Madrid and I decided I would give it a miss. This meant that I had the luxury of being able to dedicate my whole day to executing my training plan of a "brick" of 2 hours cycling followed by 50 minutes running, including some Half Ironman intensity (40' cycling and 30' running). I got up leisurely, had breakfast and arranged everything for a smooth transition: I would do the run on the treadmill so I set up a film to watch (Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead"). Everything went pretty much to plan in spite of getting a bit lost on the bike and going on to a roundabout a bit too close to an oncoming car (I was too focussed on pedalling hard). Then I went for an extravagant lunch in a very pijo restaurant as a treat and finally flopped into bed for a siesta, waking up only minutes before my family returned from the slopes.
When I drew up my initial training plan for the Lisbon Half Ironman, I worked backwards from the hardest brick that I planned to do in training and made every week revolve around the brick, including a couple of quality workouts for running and bike speed. With the two week break from triathlon training, I had to skip a couple of bricks meaning that the jump in difficulty from the last one to the one I did yesterday was relatively large. The tiredness I felt (and, to be honest, still feel today) was quite different to the fatigue from training for a Marathon, which is much more muscular; this feels more like a depletion of energy and reminds me of how I felt when I was training for the Ironman. When training, I try to avoid taking in any gels and even try to keep my drinking to a minimum (although I will admit that I had a couple of biscuits between the bike and the run yesterday) but I may have to consider taking in some kind of energetic supplement as the bricks get longer and harder.
Monday: 60' easy swim, 60' aero position on turbo trainer
Tuesday: 70' run (2' @ 3:45, 3' @ 4:30)
Wednesday: 3 x (10' easy + 5' HIM pace) swim, 45' turbo trainer (15' easy, 15' HIM pace, 15' easy)
Thursday: 12 x 2' @ 170 bpm spinning bike
Friday: 30' swim, 30' aero position on turbo trainer
Saturday: 90' run @ 4:14
Sunday: 120' bike (40' @130 bpm, 40' @ 150 bpm, 40' @ 130 bpm) + 50' run (20' @ 4:30, 30' @ 3:50)
* UPDATE: After installing the new firmware on my Garmin Swim, at least two of my grievances with the device have been resolved. It is now possible to see the totals from the previous interval while in "rest mode" and it seems to recognize my idiosyncratic swimming style as freestyle much more of the time. In fact, after struggling to do the bloody somersault turns, I resorted back to my usual push-off and it seemed to work even more reliably. It would be nice if, as many other users have also commented, Garmin added time / distance alerts.