Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's time to begin, isn't it?

My first big race "back" has now been completed with the finish of 70.3 St. George last weekend (race report coming in the next post!).  It has been an intense journey back to racing shape over the last 10 months, and it's time for a brief recap of what I've done to get there.  One of my big motivators appeared after going back to look at my previous results at Vineman 70.3.  For both my swim and ride, those who finished ahead of me had a mix slower and faster times for those splits.  For the run, not ONE of the people that finished ahead of me had a slower run.

That really highlighted what I already knew was my weakness--the run.  So, I prescribed myself a run focus for July through December of last year.  It was all about frequency and total mileage--the only "speedwork" was a moderately hard finish (tempo-ish pace) for one run per week.  I had a goal of 6 runs per week, starting at 30 miles per week and going up from there.  By October I was running 30-35 per week, November 35-40 per week, and December 50 per week.  With the slow and consistent build, I avoided most aches and pains, and was not forced to take any running breaks.  This allowed me to start tri training again in January without having to worry about running fitness--only getting faster!  In January, I started backing off mileage and increasing the proportion of faster tempo work, and in March I finally added in track workouts.  I have been satisfied with the progress overall, and have been running faster than ever. 

The second goal was to get to the point where I can take advantage of my relatively strong swim (at least for an adult onset swimmer).  Starting in January, I began swimming at least four days per week (five most), increasing from 14,000 yards per week to 25,000 yards the first week of April.  My pace steadily increased, and I was setting 100 and 50 yard PRs on nearly a weekly basis.  As a result, I set a significant PR on the Tucson Tri swim in March (37 seconds for an 825 yard swim!).  Unfortunately, the big swim peak in April swimming and my lack of bilateral breathing resulted in a nerve entrapment in my left arm and neck.  For a while, I could not extend my left arm without shooting pain from my wrist up through the shoulder.  No bueno.  For the last month I have been working with Melissa of Peak Action Physical Therapy.  The combination of Active Release Techniques (ART) and Graston has really helped, but it's going to be a process to get back to health.  It has also (obviously) really hurt my swim training.  I have been back down to less than 10k per week, and can't do any high-intensity swimming.  After taking this last week to entirely rest following St. George, I'm hardly feeling any nerve issues--just some wrist pain if I push on the back of my forearm.  Hopefully I'll be back to normal in a few more weeks!

I have previously gone through some serious bike focus blocks, so I have been putting that on the back burner so far.  To work on getting my fitness back a bit without committing a huge amount of time, I've concentrated on short, intense workouts, which have been really effective!  Generally only three rides per week with a hilly, hard, solo Tuesday ride, Thursday Computrainer ride, and a Saturday smashfest group ride.  The Computrainer workouts have been awesome.  With the combination of real-time power numbers on the screen and threshold tests every couple months, I know exactly where I'm at and how much I'm improving.  Not having ever trained with power before, I can't really compare with previous fitness.  But I FEEL stronger and I am definitely hanging with riders I haven't been able to touch in the past.

So, where am I at?  I have lost 27 pounds in the last year, getting below my lowest racing weight from 2007 (collegiate nationals).  I actually think a lot of the weight loss came from swimming!  I really started dropping fast after the first of the year.  I have also been eating less bread/sandwiches than I did previously during training (HUGE salads for lunch almost every day), and just eating more "real" foods.  My at-home physical therapy has continued, with serious core and stretching workouts three days per week.  It's looking like I'll be adding some shoulder and neck exercises to prevent the nerve entrapment from re-appearing after it's gone.  I know for a fact that I am running and swimming faster than I ever have--my PR per 100 yards is around 4 seconds faster, and my tempo running pace is 20 seconds or so per mile faster.  My bike is near its best.  So, PRs are new benchmarks to blow past!  I'm looking forward to seeing where I can get with a continued swim and run focus.

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