Monday, April 1, 2013

Lisbon Half Ironman Weeks 3 and 4/9

It's always harder to fit in training when travelling or on holiday. In fact, it's also harder to update this blog, which explains my absence around these parts lately. I've been in London for another conference and then we went down by car all the way from Madrid to the Middle Atlas in Morroco for our Semana Santa (Easter) holidays.

I had to switch back into "running mode" as triathlon training really isn't very practical if you have neither access to a bike nor a swimming pool; running is also more time-efficient. One aspect of triathlon training that I have mentioned before on this blog is that you can cram in more training sessions per week by using one sport to recover from training for another. In other words swimming and cycling help you recover from running, running and swimming help you recover from cycling and cycling and running help you recover from swimming. In fact, last Saturday was the first day I had off from training in a month! It is worth remembering that "recovering" from training isn't just for "wimps", it also means adapting to training stimuli - in other words, this is the whole point about doing the training in the first place.There is, however, a common denominator to running, cycling and swimming and I find that my back gets fatigued after a while. I remember that this was the only physical limiter I encountered during my training for the Brazil Ironman: I wouldn't describe it as back pain exactly, but as a sensation of extreme tiredness that no position provides any relief from. I suppose that all the hours in the car didn't do my back any favours either. Then, with the return to pure running training, it was prudent to have at least one rest day per week; I ended up taking two partly because it is always harder to find time and motivation to train when on holiday.

A rare opportunity to dry out my kit
On the more positive side, a change of scenery injects a fresh sense of enjoyment into training. Also, most of the places I ran were very hilly which will have helped build up much neglected leg strength, as well as being at altitude which supposedly stimulates the growth of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (although for this I believe you have to be at altitude for longer than a few days). We ended up going to Ifrane - a slice of the Swiss Alps in the heart of Morroco - which is where many elite Morrocan athletes train as it is at an altitude of about 1,700m. We stopped to have a look at the athletics track where, a year and a half ago, I went as part of a training camp with my trainer Jonathan and an elite Morrocan athlete, Youness Ait (Half Marathon in 1:03!). Thanks to my Garmin watch, we were able to go on a trek with the family, re-tracing the cross-country route we ran that time. I would have liked to have gone to see Youness - who has since had to return to Morroco where, unfortunately, he is currently unable to make a living from athletics - but Midelt was just too far from where we were staying.

Another thing that is very difficult to control on holiday, of course, is what you eat. I've yet to see how I have faired in that department as my bathroom scales have run out of batteries, so often have I been weighing myself lately. I remember being quite shocked at how much the other guys on that training camp controlled what they ate: I'd assumed they were so skinny and light due to their genetic make-up and the amount of training they did.

I did manage to do a good quality interval training (series) session in Fez. I found a nice kilometre long stretch of boulevard with a wide pavement; the only downside was that it was pouring with rain at the time. I hit all my pace targets and more except for the very last set of two minutes at 3:20 min/km (18 kph) which I completed at a pace of 3:28, partly due to tiredness but also due to loss of traction from the wet pavement and having to avoid turning cars etc. I got the impression that people looked much more at what I was wearing on my feet than is usually the case in Europe - maybe people are more accustomed to sizing up status by the quality of one's footwear or perhaps my bare legs simply attracted attention. Of course, my Vibram Five Fingers caused a ripple of giggles wherever I went. I'm very happy with the Spyridon model which I have been using to train in - they seem very robust and are equally good on rough terrain as for running fast on asphalt.

I've also continued to use my PowerBreathe device fairly religiously - 30 breaths twice a day - and have progressed steadily from 30RM (30 Repetition Maximum or "failure to get a satisfying breath after 30 reps") at a load of 1.5 to a 30RM load of 3.5. I've found it helps to try to use my diaphragm to initiate the breath (in fact, this is exactly what the inventor of the device, Alison McConnell, encourages you to do) but it is absolutely not true that you don't break into a sweat when using it! It may be very convenient to be able to carry the device around in a pocket and the training itself only lasts a few minutes but the only problem is that it is not something you can really do in public, not even in the gym and especially not in a public toilet unless you are extremely un-self-conscious. I find that the car is usually the only place private enough (not while driving, obviously!) but it is better to use the device while standing up rather than sitting down.

Of course, the main casualty of my weeks away was the "brick" (Bike-Run) that is to triathlon training as the long run is to Marathon training. Still, I have another 5 weeks to build up to my longest planned brick of 2 and a half hours bike + one hour run.

Week 3/9
Monday: 2x60' aero position on turbo trainer
Tuesday: aerobic test 7km @ 172bpm (26:24) + 45' swim
Wednesday: 20 km @ 4:09 (London)
Thursday: 20 x (30" max + 30" rest) on indoor bike (London)
Friday: 45' @ 4:21 (London)
Saturday: -
Sunday: 90' run with hills (Ronda)

Week 4/9
Monday: 60' run with hills (Chefchaouen)
Tuesday: 60' @ 4:09 (Fez)
Wednesday: 8' @ 3:38, 5' @ 3:32, 2' @ 3:17, 8' @ 3:43, 5' @ 3:38, 2' @ 3:28 (Fez)
Thursday: -
Friday 75' progressive run at 1,300-1,700m altitude (last 20' @ MP) (Azrou)
Saturday: 120' @ 4:40 at 1,300-1,700m altitude (Azrou-Ifrane)
Sunday: -

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