Epic Recovery

A week has passed since camp finished. I left Invercargill with plans for very active recovery and also the hints of the camp cold. Those hints became the real thing and my recovery was less active than planned! An interesting mixture of fatigue, illness and some post event blues. I’m relieved I’m not the only one experiencing the latter.

I’m fortunate to very rarely get ill. When I do it frustrates me immensely. The cold was mild not much more than a blocked nose yet it acted as a perfect excuse to do less than planned. I suppose it did interrupt my sleep a little, but it didn’t make me skip the swim session after going to see Avatar. Neither did the street magician I watched for twenty minutes (though he was good).

The first time I went to the pool after Epic it struck me how unfit I felt . I splashed my way through a lazy set of lengths without much plan. Actually completing any distance seemed an achievement in itself. I looked at other swimmers and was convinced they were in much better shape than me. Some of them were at least faster swimmers. I’ve ridden the length of the country and I’m the weakest person in the pool!

Biding my time seemed the best idea. No point rushing things. The potential to do more harm than good is always there. That same instinct that drives me to greater fitness can as easily push me to breaking point. I was carefully reminded of this on Saturday when I headed to the gym.

Wellington was putting on some of its best wind and rain so being outside didn’t appeal. Instead the plan was an easy run in the gym and some core work. For some reason I thought it would be the perfect time to break in my new racing flats. Twenty minutes on a treadmill and my calves and ankles were locking up. Not the gentle return to form I wanted. I smartened up for a moment and called my run short.

Epic Camp has left me heavy. Too heavy to put my tired legs through any kind of running on lightly cushioned shoes. It’s not unusual for campers to gain weight. The sheer abundance of food available and a metabolism working overtime are a lethal combination. As I’ve seen after races I’m particularly good at piling on the pounds. I’ve come away a little too round for my liking. Not the lean image of an athlete I have in my head.

On Sunday I headed out for my first ride since camp. I was inauspiciously dropped within the first 10km. I knew I’d be riding easy, but hadn’t expected to have to ride quite so easily. These weren’t the legs that got me from one end of the country to another.

Two hundred watts acted as a barrier if crossed muscles and tendons protested sharply. Attempts to put mind over matter were short lived. I accepted the kind of ride I was going to have and enjoyed the sights of the bay. My ego was boosted ever so slightly by casual riders out for leisurely trips along Oriental Parade. Then dashed when a heavy weight cyclist with stick legs cruised by me.

I skipped the roads for the pedestrianised docks. A rough plan had formed to have a coffee and perhaps some cake. It never fully manifested as I couldn’t pick a place that really appealed. My weakness and current body image issues combined to make me question the wisdom of cake anyway.

Instead I returned to the road and the route home. Shortly reaching the highway and ahead the cyclist with the stick legs. Without trying I soon caught him and passed. He sat in my draft as I pushed into the headwind. This wasn’t the hard pulls on the front I’d been doing at Christmas, but at least I was strong enough to give someone a tow.

I got home and reminded myself to be patient. Rushing recovery doesn’t really work. I’m sure I’ve made that mistake once or twice last year. Hard to say for sure, but large breaks after Ironman UK and Kona didn’t seem to do too much harm.

Then today. Exactly one week after camp finished and things are starting to turn round. I didn’t do as much as I might have liked. Then again I realise now what I’d like and what I can manage aren’t exactly the same. What I did felt good. It’s starting to feel like I’m an athlete again.

A longer session at the pool 4.5km in a little under ninety minutes. Then a lazy afternoon as I was overcome by a massive sense of fatigue. As I was starting to worry that for all the good of the swim I still wasn’t up to much I came round. Finally an easy thirty minutes of running. Everything felt good only a little tightness here or there. I started to feel like a runner again all be it a heavy one!

As the week progresses I’ll see how I go. Trying a little more each day, but never pushing myself too hard. I’m hoping that come the weekend I’ll really be starting to feel my former self. Then one final build, three weeks to get myself ready for Taupo. Or maybe four if I feel strong and don’t want to taper so much.

I have an image of the athlete I need to be in my head, I know how to get there and just need to bide my time.