Not Testing My Fitness?

This is a somewhat novel situation, my memory of my previous Ironman tapers is one of feeling absolutely smashed at the start of them. With just under 2 weeks to go to the race I don’t really feel too bad, but equally not too great. Warnings not to over do it or test my fitness sit in the back of my mind. The problem is – what is over doing it or testing your fitness? I can’t really say for sure if something I’ve done so far is too much and I doubt I’ll know after the race either. Frustrating and I find myself routinely checking out articles on tapers just in case I can glean a final bit of information.

I suppose what’s particularly unusual is I have a little bit of confidence and optimism already. It worked wonders in Busselton. In fact I think it’s essential. I need to go into the race, any race, with a plan and a belief that it’s perfectly within my reach. I already have it all formulated in my head. I’ll put it up again before the race as I did with IMWA. To me that’s a step in demonstrating commitment to the goal, no denying my success or failure after the fact.

When you are exhausted from weeks of heavy training the taper seems easier. The idea of testing fitness seems ludicrous because training is a slog. When you’re not quite that fatigued the thing is you can test fitness. I could go out on the bike tomorrow and chase a new PB and quite possibly grab it. It’s really tempting too because whilst it may deliver a little more fatigue or a little less recovery it shores up that confidence. I won’t though. Tomorrow I have a few hours of riding where I will throw in a couple of 10 minute efforts on a not particularly challenging climb.

All of this leads up to the key question bothering me at the moment. Am I getting the balance right? I’m not going to go into too much detail or talk numbers. Some of the concern comes from an interest in the Performance Management Chart in WKO+. Over the past few months I’ve not let it dictate too much, but followed the graphs with interest. I am coming to better appreciate the relationship between my training loads and fatigue. It’s at the point that I can largely see how I felt good on a particular day or poor another. I’m not sufficiently advanced to fully appreciate these values in an Ironman taper. Here I’m still feeling my way. Research suggests a careful reduction in training to minimise loss of fitness, but eliminate fatigue. Reality proves this to be the training equivalent of walking a tightrope.

Since my last day off and last post I’ve had a pretty decent weekend. I spent Friday heeding the warnings about pushing too much. Firstly at the pool where a surprisingly sore shoulder (still) put me off doing any serious work. I was happy enough to be getting a lot of consistency in my times. Then on the bike I scaled back plans as I found myself pushing into a headwind. Not because it was too tough, but because it was too easy for me to work harder. This was one of my good days and with Saturday and Sunday having some key training I decided not to burn too much energy. Potential mini hill repeats became a shorter, flat ride.

Saturday was the training I was excited about. A very hilly ride with Pete which guaranteed there’d be no taking it easy. An early start for a change too and having had great weather all week it was time for some showers. The other part of the plan was to test out some possible pre-race nutrition – two cans of V! A single can has some kick, two is even better. I headed out into the rain fuelled up on energy drink. As an aside one of the early conversations as we warmed up was how living here puts you off training in the rain. By UK standards these were pretty ordinary and it was probably about 20C at 6 in the morning anyway.

I’d suggested taking in Kennedy Drive and Tomewin and Pete suggested connecting them by Hogans Road which he assured me was nice and steep. My anticipation for this ride was driven by a desire to test myself against Pete. I know, the taper rules say no testing your fitness. This however would be too good a sign to miss out on. When I first arrived I would get dropped on the really steep stuff. I simply couldn’t put in the burst of power necessary, my legs lacked the strength. I know I’m climbing better so when we hit the Kennedy Drive climb and Pete moved ahead I stuck to his wheel.

Come Hogans Road and I was pushing from the start with no idea what was to come. At first it looked like Pete’s memory of the place was a bit off and it really wasn’t that tough. Then it kicked in properly and we both started to grind away. The road passes through some amazing, serene rain forest (particularly appropriate in the rain). Tranquil apart from the climbing induced heavy breathing. With neither of us wanting to take any risks our descents on the wet roads were comically slow.

To top off the work done so far there was Tomewin. A second, possibly third visit that week for me. Pete pulled away a little at the start and my legs definitely had less to respond with. I kept him comfortably within sight the entire way though and in the process set a few new PBs in the training software! Down the other side and Pete was done for the day leaving me to ride the next two hours over undulating, but not so extreme terrain. To finish it off I threw in an hours brick run all very comfortably at a higher pace than normal. All in all a pretty satisfying days training with an all important confidence boost. The question being, was that too much?

When I woke early on Sunday morning the answer seemed a definite yes. My legs felt like lead and I could realy use a few more hours in bed. Unfortunately I was also entered into another race – 8Km run race at Runaway Bay. So 40 minutes of cycling there at an easy pace that felt desperately hard to hold. Then a somewhat disappointing 30:19 for 8K putting me ever so slightly below 16Kph a bit poorer than my half-marathon PB! Still I think I can fairly claim I was tired and at least it was a quality workout. It was an odd race to experience. I didn’t suffer in the way I did for the previous month’s 5K. I never felt I was working quite that hard, it just wasn’t really possible to get there. Easy pace felt even worse on the way home! The headwind didn’t help!

So today has been another day off to allow for a bit of recovery. I went on a long tour of the coffee shops and enjoyed another sunny day. I considered going to the cinema, but it just seems wrong when it’s so nice out. Back to a bit of training tomorrow, but nothing too hard. Just in case!