Thursday, June 9, 2011

Putting theory into practice

My previous post Flexible Training, Overload, and Recovery was inspired by the events of a recent recreational weekend cycling trip.  This annual two day round trip with friends consists of the entirety of Wisconsin’s Glacial Drumlin trail plus the distance to a hotel.  This year’s trip totaled 138 miles consisting of 90 miles of crushed limestone and 48 miles of pavement.

The physical demands of this trip paired with its scheduling required flexibility in my current summer training plan, which places an emphasis on running supplemented by cycling, swimming, kayaking, strength training and whatever else comes my way.   In respect to the running portion of my training after an initial 2 months of base training I have followed a ½ marathon training program for the past 8 weeks without much deviation and without skipping any runs.

Even the best laid training plans don’t always account for planned or unplanned events, social pressures, injury, etc…  Training plans are great macro tools but should not be used to tyrannically micromanage our lives.  It is important to live in the moment and make week of and day of training decisions that reflect our physical state, the weather, upcoming events, social pressures, etc…
To accommodate the glacial drumlin cycling trip I eliminated a tempo run and moved my distance run up a couple of days.  To avoid a cold windy rainy day I put off my now rescheduled distance run until the day prior to the cycling trip.  In the days after the cycling trip I eliminated another tempo run in favor of intervals and a distance run.  At the heart of all these decisions recovery was never far from my mind.
I can’t say I was fresh for the cycling trip after running 11 miles the night before.  I convinced myself running and cycling were different enough and utilize enough different muscles that I accepted the less than optimal recovery risk.  I made sure to eat every hour and hydrate during to entire cycling trip to aid recovery.  I had a large breakfast each day and dinner each night with a pair of refreshing beers.  I agree that after some threshold alcohol is bad for recovery and athletic performance but would not go so far as saying any amount has negative effects – below some threshold it could even be positive but that is for another post.

In the days after the cycling trip I delayed my next run until my legs felt recovered.  I did intervals and noticed my calves were my limiting factor where before it had been my quads and ham strings.  This leads me to suspect running and cycling most overlap in calf usage.  In that run and subsequent runs since I have hit my pace targets, had I stuck to my training plan and refused to eliminate runs, I suspect the lack of recovery may have led to a loss of fitness. 

I realize these events were not optimal for recovery and fitness gains but the social considerations ruled the day.  The trip was a great time and I was able to reconnect with old friends and meet new people.  While the focus of my training has been competitive running it is important not to pass on opportunities such as these that come up.  I love competition but also understand its potential to kill all the enjoyment that comes with living life.

Much of the trail was limestone cutting speed by over 1/3 in comparison to pavement.  Notice all the mud resulting from being caught in the rain the second day.
Speed and elevation are plotted against distance by use of a GPS training watch and associated software.  Average moving speed came out to be approximately 12 mph.

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