Monday, August 11, 2008
Diary of a (chronically) Overtrained Triathlete
My friends suggested I change the title of my blog to this post title. I'm keeping my blog's title but I thought it was a pretty accurate description. Why do I do this to myself, again and again? Hence, I'm definitely still an AMATEUR. I guess after Ironman Arizona, I wanted to push myself and test my limits. Except, I couldn't find them. Then I got kind of macho. I thought I had no boundaries. That I could do anything. Afterall, I am an Ironman! I can run 10 miles twice in one day! I can lift a 70 lb tv stand upstairs by myself (why does my back hurt?)! I can run 18 miles and bike 60 after almost dying on a 4-mile ocean swim! No problem!
This weekend, I somehow ended up on the start line for the Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon (http://www.camppendletonraces.com/sprint.html). I hadn't slept well for several nights in a row (sign of overtraining #1), had lost my appetite (sign #2), was exhausted (sign #3), and didn't feel like racing (sign #4--how many of these do I need?). I went to bed, thinking I would bail. Woke up at 5 and decided at the last minute, "Let's race!" I scrambled about to gather my stuff since I was completely unprepared. My race wheels weren't even on Torch. I've never done this in my life! Somehow I remembered everything and got the race site on time.
By the time I lined up on the beach, my coffee was wearing off. The surf was absolutely HUGE (4-6 feet waves coming in non-stop sets), and I surveyed the scene wearily, knowing what I was about to get into. "Isn't this great?!" Brent said excitedly; he couldn't wait to battle the surf. No, I thought to myself. It seemed like a lot of work to me. 30 seconds before my wave went off, I realized I didn't want to be there. I sighed. It just felt like too much effort. I was craving my bed again. All I could think about were the caffeinated Black Cherry Cliff Bloks in my bike helmet. The horn blew and all the girls took off running into the waves. I hung back and walked slowly in. Why am I here? I kept asking myself. At that point, it was simply because I felt like it was too late to turn back. My pride got in the way. Thank God it was just a sprint. I started diving under the waves. I was gasping for air. Great. The hypoxic part. I sucked down a gulp of air and dove under. Pushed my way through a few girls to find a vacant spot and dove under. Dove under. Again and again. I was so tired. I decided I didn't feel like diving under anymore. I just wasn't going to do it. That was it. I was going to take a stand. Then, a 6-foot wave swelled up over me. Well, OK. Just once more. And I dove under. But that's it! Another wave came charging at me. No. I don't feel like it. I'm not going to....Oh, well, I guess I better. And I dove under. I kept psyching the waves out until I finally reached the buoy. Once past the breakers, the current was favorable and the swim to the 2nd turn buoy was cake. Unfortunately, in a 500 m swim when 200+ of it is spent fighting waves, the cake part was a very small slice.
I turned past the final buoy and begain swimming in, breathing over my shoulder to keep my eyes on the giant waves coming behind me. I saw a giant 6-footer coming straight at me. I turned to face it, prepared to dive under, rather than being smashed by surprise. Just before I dove under, the paddler lifeguarding shouted out, "Ride it in!" Apparently, I will do anything someone shouts at me when I'm in race mode, regardless of what it is. Even though I was completely in the wrong position, I instantly jumped up into the wave, only facing the wave, instead of with my back to it. Luckily, it caught me and shot me to shore. Unfortunately, it spun me like a pig on a BBQ pit skewer the entire way, perfusing me thoroughly with salt water. I stood up, coughing and spitting out salt water. But at least I was done with the swim!
I walked through the deep sand as the rest of my wave diligently ran in slow motion fashion. Too much work. I'm walking. I reached Torch, noticing many of the bikes in my wave were gone. Oh well. What did I expect? To blow the field away with a nonchalant, I-don't-give-a-shit attitude? I clipped in and rode off. I scarfed down 3 of the Black Cherry Cliff Bloks, knowing 3=1 cup of coffee. Chased it with some diluted InfinIT and yelled at my stomach to shut the F up. Deal with it. I need the caffeine. I had no gas on the bike. Thank God for my race wheels and aero helmet. I could kind of fake it. Helplessly, I spun for the next 30 minutes. People were passing me that had no business passing me. Young people, old people, fat people, I think someone's 90-year old grandma with a cane walking her cocker spaniel passed me. And there was nothing I could do about it. Whatever. Go on. I don't care. Just go. Go and leave me to wallow in my sorrow all alone where no one can see me. I think I see a nice ditch over there that I can crawl into and hide. The 9 miles to the turn-around took forever. Thank God it's only a 30K bike! This is harder than my Ironman, I thought. Finally, at mile 15, I found some juice in my legs and began attacking the hills, flying past granny, her dog, and her 5-year old great-grandaughter in the process. Some redemption, at least.
I reached T2 and was eager to get the run over with. I can fake a 5K. Only I forgot to pack my running legs in my transition bag. I hobbled out of T2 and up the long-ass hill leading away from the beach. To put it frankly, the run course sucked. It went in between buildings, around parking lots and down no-name side streets on the base. It was the most unscenic, afterthought, sorry excuse for a run course I had ever seen. I even prefer running through the rental car parking lot by the airport at San Diego International Triathlon to this run course. Oh, and it was hot. But whatever. After IMAZ, I can deal with a little heat. I downed a cup of water at the aid station and threw another cup of water on me and continued onwards. Luckily, at mile 1, I found my run legs, hiding at the 2nd aid station. I began to take off, chasing down more grannies and toddlers. Unbelievably, I could feel my legs picking up speed. About time, I grumbled. "Only 1/4 mile! Push it!" one of the Marine volunteers urged. Okay, I can do 1/4 mile. 1 lap around the track. I turned around the bend and was surprised to see the chute. Already? Thank, God! I flew down the chute, blasting over the finish line. Then, tried my best not to puke on the guy taking off my chip on the other side. Somehow, I kept it together. I may not have had a great race but it was very useful. It was a good litmus test. Obviously, I need to back off a bit and rest some. Overtrain much?
The truth is, I can't hit hard week after week and not get worn down. Eventually, I have to pay the price. Arrogance is a HUGE limiter in this sport. I've been knocked down a few notches, back to my fully humbled state....I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy. Lately I've simply been completely exhausted and a few days of rest has not been cutting it. I realized a few things about myself:
a) if I don't have a big "A" race on the calendar, I'm not motivated to restrain myself and recover adequately from big workouts.
Once I realized I have a big marathon coming up, I started re-evaluating and cutting back. I also realized I was training for my marathon and an Ironman I'm not signed up for (Arizona in November). All my friends are doing it, and I was vicariously training for them. (Yes, if they told me they were going to jump off a cliff for a workout, I'd probably follow). Probably not such a good idea. Apparently, I can't train for a virtual Ironman while simultaneously training for a marathon.
b) less volume, more recovery works better for my body type.
I've always raced and performed better on less volume. I was trying to run too much, too far. Just because Dean Karnazes can do it, doesn't mean I should. I have to respect that, in actuality, this is my first marathon, and I shouldn't do more than 2x20 mile runs in preparation (and that is probably still overkill).
I've readjusted my training plan (again) and am resting, resting, resting. I ran 18 a few weeks ago; I have to trust that my base is there and won't fade with a little rest. I'm taking it easy. When this exhausted feeling subsides (I'm not a cranky, super-sensitive, emotional wreck, who needs a nap every few hours and has no appetite), I will EASE back into workouts (not jump back into huge, long bike rides and runs right off the bat).
One of these days, I'll learn.