Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Much is Too Much?

As I begin training for my 2nd Ironman, I am pondering this question: how much is too much? When have I crossed that line? Living in San Diego and belonging to Tri Club San Diego (, I will always find peers that train harder and faster than I do. Every year, I get fitter, break down my boundaries, and can go harder. I never know where my limits are. Sometimes I feel like I'm Kramer, in that episode of Seinfeld, where he test-drives the car and sees how far it can go until it runs out of gas. I'm curious. How far can I go before I drop? Where are my limits? I'm beginning to realize, just because I CAN, doesn't mean I always SHOULD. There are always consequences afterwards.

I was so excited to get a borrowed bike up in NorCal; I rode that bike as much as I could. Why is it when I'm on vacation, I work out more? This was my week from Thursday on:
Thursday: hard, 6-mi track workout
45 minutes weights
fun 35-mile bike ride with rolling hills
1 hr stretching Yoga
Friday: very hard, 52-mile ride with 7,000 feet of climbing
Saturday: 17 mile run at goal marathon pace (negative split 2nd half of run)
Sunday: 4-mile road race @ 8 min/mi

I knew on Sunday, I shouldn't be running so hard. I knew I should be recovering. But I wanted to test myself. How fast could I run the day after a long run? It was like an experiment. Apparently, I can run pretty fast. But I paid the consequences later. As I boarded the plane to return home, I fell asleep in my seat instantly. I couldn't keep my head up. Exhaustion weighed on me like a clingy, baby elephant. That evening, despite massive amounts of sleep and food, I came down with a low-grade fever. Monday brought a minor cold with that nasty little fever still hanging on. I took a requisite rest day. Looking over my training plan, I realized I hadn't had a day off from training in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, I felt amazing. After a quick workout on the bike trainer, I ran down the 56-bike path for a run. I felt fantastic. Fatigue? Gone. Achiness? Nada. Effort? Easy. A complete 180. Rest days really do work! As I ran, I pondered, "Am I an addict?" I'm reading Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, a memoir about how the author battled alcoholism. Sometimes, her description of her love and passion for alcohol sends shivers down my spine; it reminds me of how I feel about triathlon! Am I a "triathaholic"?

Lessons Learned:
1. I can't bike 4x/week on the same weeks I'm running 4x/week. (Well, I can but I'll pay for it later). Since I'm training for a marathon right now, biking 3x a week (~100 miles/week) is plenty.
2. I DO need 1 complete rest day each week. Yes, swimming and weights count!
3. I have a recovery week next week (my 4th week) but I need to watch my fatigue levels. If I get too tired as training progresses, I may move my recovery weeks back to every 3rd week, instead.


Shawn said...

I agree with those complete rest days. Well...having 3 kids...there are no rest days for

Wes said...

just because I CAN, doesn't mean I always SHOULDTrue, dat! It's one of the hardest things a "holic" has to learn...

You may want to consider focus weeks/months. Cut back to 2 days running so you can ride 4 days. Then reverse it, and run 4 days and ride 2.

Happy training!

p.s. I wondered why I can only train at 95% of max HR when I'm wearing that SDTC hat :-)

Backpacker said...

I'm an every-other-week recovery week person. I started this week thinking I was going to put in another 11 hour workout week (still knowing it was a recovery week) and I wound up taking to very crash and burn days off this week. I should get my three long runs and weights in, but beyond that, I promise nothing. I think our bodies tell us pretty much everything we need to know about recovery, one way or another

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

It's very hard to convince yourself that you are not losing ground when you rest, but the reality is that you won't get stronger or fitter if you don't rest. With my running, ever since I went to two full rest days per week and a cutdown week every four weeks, I've been able to increase my mileage beyond anything I have previously done AND stay injury free and eager to train.

teacherwoman said...

I am still learning of the importance of REST days. You know, those days that you do absolutely nothing?! LOL. I think I would die if I biked 4x/week AND ran 4x/week... wow.

Diana said...

Rest days suck! I know that they are really needed, but since dropping a lot of weight and just feeling great about being able to have completed a sprint tri, a few 5k's, now I do 10k's and I have my first HM in 2's hard to stop that feeling. I have come out along time ago saying "I am addiction to exercise". When it feels it! I can't even imagine how good (yet so hard) it must feel before, during and after a IM!

LG said...

Ahh, i can relate to this. It took me a while to get over the "guilt" and "desire" to "workout" when I am scheduled for a rest day, but then I took it as an opportunity to nurture my other dimensions and now I look forward to a day off as much as the days with the long runs or rides. I'm reading Laird Hamilton's book and it has some great lessons for creating balance and how you need to train all areas - mind, body & soul and they all require rest.

Grey Beard said...

I feel like the newbie here, as these are such helpful comments as I try to work this problem to optimize my own training.

My on-ride and off-ride nutrition issues, and the Big-D health issue of mine, are finally getting solved, so now I can recover from 80/6,760 on Sunday and do a 85-90% max flat 33 miler on Tuesday as a recovery ride, but am wondering where my tactical and strategic rests are going to be needed.

My hunch is "Eat before hungry, drink before thirsty, and rest before fatigued" is going to about nail it.

Knowing when fatigue, sickness, and negative returns are just around the corner, and stopping just short, is going to be the trick. Some here have found that corner and know when. Looking, like Rachel, but not there yet.

Benson said...

I think you're driven and focused.
Sounds like you're realizing some wonderful things about yourself and your abilities. Lots of good advice above.
Push yourself to the edge but don't plunge over it.
Definitely take those rest days seriously and really enjoy them with good food, sleep, and doing NOTHING.

Fizzgig said...

I use to think, how can she keep going when shes hurt, and needs to rest?

then i got hurt.

it totally sucks, i cant stop myself, its just seems so unfair to be injured, or have to admit you need a break!

Kelli said...

Hi, this is the first time i've come across you blog and its good to know there are more honest triholics out there. My mother likes to point out the fact addiction isn't just drugs and alcohol and i just shrug it off. But like you said about that book, there are tell tale signs of a triathlon addiction.

Herbalife Triathalon said...

I miss San Diego..but the weather in AZ is great too. Keep pushing yourself.

TriSaraTops said...

LOL at the Seinfeld reference!

I'm still working on this, too...but I don't live in San Diego so at least I am forced to calm down a LITTLE bit in the winter! I totally need to change the mindset that "weights don't count" and really focus on rest more. It is tempting to try and squeeze more and more and more in, but then I end up crashing and burning. Good luck figuring it all out--hopefully I can someday, too!

Seth said...

Also I suppose like most potential addictions what really matters is how it's affecting your life. If you just slept to much on a plane.. well no big deal. Hell I wish I could have gotten more sleep on my plane flight last night. If you sleep through two days of lab.. well then that is more like a problem. Still I hope that things are well in both arenas!