Sunday, 17 August 2008

Ups and downs....

Having taken a pop at my mile swim pb on Monday, raced the Pool Triangle on Wednesday and competed in an Olympic distance triathlon this morning, today's post will be focused mostly on my training and preparation for the final 'A' race of our season in just under three weeks time.

Lets start on Monday morning... I wrote last Sunday that I was feeling good in the pool and with a solid couple of swim weeks in the bank I was thinking about having a crack at my mile pb. Sometimes the pool at Virgin can be ridiculously hot and/or really busy and as either of these conditions makes going for a pb swim impossible I'd have to wait till the morning before deciding. Fortunately it was neither of the above, in fact probably the coolest it's bee for a long time, so following a couple of easy 400m reps to warm up it was game on. I always like to find my pace prior to a mile and having wanted to break 24 minutes for the 64 lengths since the beginning of the year I knew that sub-45 second 50s would be the order of the day. Four consecutive 50 metre efforts, each in 43 seconds, later and it was game on... Although it probably costs me the odd second I like to glance at my watch at 400, 800 and 1200 metres so that I can accurately monitor my pace during and reflect on my pace following the effort. Going through 400 in 5:53 I was feeling great and knew that if I could relax through the middle 800 without losing too much time it would be mine for the taking with 400 to go... 800 and 1200 followed in 5:56 and 5:57 respectively and at 14 seconds ahead of schedule I was feeling both relaxed and strong. Having saved a little (only a little) for the final 16 lengths I managed to come home in 5:52 (despite rapidly failing technique) to clock 23:38 for a new pb by 45 seconds and finally break 24 minutes for the mile... a great start to the week ;)

Unfortunately, as well as my swimming is going, my cycling is suffering... in fact I'd actually go further than that and say my bike legs have well and truly broken! I'd had a really good week of training last week clocking 21.25 hours, 20k swimming, 150m biking and 32m running... all capped off with a total rest day whilst taking in the London Triathlon. The one downer of the week had been the LBT club time trial championships where unable to produce the required power from my legs and despite giving it everything I had I'd been unable to match the previous week's performance where I'd pb'd at the Pool Triangle. In the process I went significantly slower than last year for the same course and took a jolly good kicking from my good friend and training partner Ben G. Having done a couple of hard rides in the days leading up to the club ten I just put it down to general tiredness and didn't think much more about it. In fact all four of my rides that followed later in the week, albeit none of which required much effort, seemed ok... Fast forward to this Wednesday (13th August) and I found myself on the start line of the Pool Triangle confident of a solid performance, having gone 30:30 two weeks previously I was looking to edge a little closer to my season goal of a 'long 29'...

Frustratingly, 32 minutes and 51 seconds later (on a reasonably if not amazingly fast night) I'd chalked up both a season and lifetime personal worst! Right from the start of the hilly 20k test I'd been unable to produce anything like my normal power with my legs refusing to raise my heart rate out of the 140s, some 20 beats per minute lower than normal! For those of you who are interested in the numbers here's a table showing my heart rate and times for the four 'sectors' of the ride where I take split times, both for my pb ride two weeks ago and my 'pw' ride this week...
The key figure is the average heart rate where during my pb effort I started at 155 and increased by five beats every split, compared to this week where I only managed 141 for the first 4.9 miles and not much more for the remaining three sectors... both were 'max' efforts!

Moving forward another four days to this morning's race in Allerthorpe (in an attempt to sort things out I'd taken two complete leg rest days on Thursday and Friday and only done an easy run and ride yesterday) I was hoping that normal service would resume... unfortunately having just managed to hit 150 after about 15 minutes of the bike my still empty legs were struggling. As I worked my way through the 40k ride I was unable to stop the gradual decline in heart rate and by the end couldn't even hit the high 130's!

Cutting to the chase.... why do I think this is happening?.... and what can I do to change things round in the next 20 days?

If you've been following this blog over recent weeks you'll know that I'd decided to experiment with removing all refined sugar from my diet. Having read several articles on the associated problems of high sugar consumption and with no Ironman style 100 mile rides or 20 mile runs in the pipeline I figured now was as good a time as any to see how it would affect both my lifestyle and athletic performance. It seems however that this lack of sugar in combination with up to three hard training sessions per day has left my cycling muscles seriously depleted of glycogen (which is the form of carbohydrate they use for fuel, see here and here). Even though I'd seriously upped my intake of complex carbs (pasta, rice, bread etc) it seems that without the rapid release simple carbs (i.e. the sugar present in energy drinks, gels and bars) my muscles were unable to keep up and over the 14 days have gradually become more and more depleted in their vital fuel stores.

I could of course just be knackered after a long hard period of training but if this was the case my swimming and running would probably also be suffering but I feel strong in both and have also pb'd in training sessions on the treadmill and in the pool (see above) in the last seven days. On top of this, as Helen and I follow a similar training schedule and nutritional intake we normally perform fairly similarly... she has continued to include refined sugars in her diet however and has ridden pb's in the last two pool triangles, won the LBT club ten in a massive pb and today her strong bike helped her to third overall in Allerthorpe.

My thoughts at this moment then are that my bike problems are associated to a cumulative depletion of glycogen, specifically in my cycling related muscles... so what to do?

I had originally committed to a five week 'trial' leading up to the Vit but it is such a focus for me that I've decided to reintroduce simple sugars to my diet immediately, particularly around training and racing. In fact, I made this decision within about 30 seconds of crossing today's finish line and dived straight into a couple of cups of coke (along with 1.5 bananas, two slices of melon and a cous cous and chicken pita) swiftly followed by a large homemade flapjack. On top of this I'll take a complete leg rest day tomorrow and remove all hard bike sessions from the next nine days of my training schedule.

Hopefully this reduction in the energy demands on my cycling muscles combined with an increase in the availability of fast acting simple sugars will see my legs recover over next week or so. Obviously I won't therefore be riding in the coming week's Pool Triangle but I will be back for the final race of the season on the 27th of August to see if my theory is right.... if not then we'll have to resort to plan B... although I don't know what that is yet ;)


By way of an extremely short race report from today's 1.5k/40k/10k effort... a tough swim where I had my goggles kicked off in the first 50 metres, a shocking T1, the aforementioned bike, a good T2 and a pretty decent run saw me finish in 2.05 and 6th place overall. Even though I think the swim and bike were a little (only a little) short I'm really pleased despite to post a decent time having struggled so much on the ride.

If I can sort my legs out by the 6th of September I'm still confident of posting a pb at Rutland Water ;)


Finally to today's picture which ties in nicely with today's quote....

"the British are coming"

Aren't the Olympics great :)

See you soon,



Ben G said...

Sounds like you were solid in the swim and run today another strong race. Mr Phelps talked today about putting training money in the bank, since IM Germany you have banked a lot of cash. You've upped the frequency and intensity of your cash deposits recently, so a decent period of rest and recovery (don't be tempted to cut it short) in all 3 disciplines is required. This WILL set you up nicely for when you make a seriously large withdrawal on Sat 6th Sept.

Rest is your friend


runtilyoudrop said...

Sorry I missed you at london tri. I would be careful about your dietry changes while still aiming for an "A" race. I think most who use low GI/paleo diet find it takes quite a while to adapt to. I think it is also accepted that in the 3-4 hrs post hard exercise anything goes since your body will suck it up. Alternatively you have to stoke the fires with lots of low gi cals and fat in the golden hours post exercise.

See you at the Vit