Rest Report? That must be a mistake. Endurance athletes write RACE reports. We don’t rest. Long and continuous training is what endurance sports are all about, right? Wrong!
I just finished six days of complete and total rest. No physical activity at all. Why in the world would I do that? Because last October I did a little race called Ironman Hawaii. The race went exactly as planned until about mile 8 of the run. That’s when I had some major stomach issues that left me crossing the finish line feeling empty (mentally and physically) and wanting only to get back to the Big Island and give the race another go. I was back at it before my sunburn even had a chance to heal. Running crazy amounts, racing every opportunity I had, ignoring my coach’s suggestion to take a break and recover. I was determined to get fitter and faster and get back to those lava fields.
And it worked – for a while. But gradually I started to falter. Training sessions were ok, but not great. Races were survived rather than conquered. Worst of all, I was totally oblivious to all of this. I thought I was totally fine and just figured more training would fix everything.
The turning point was a blood lactate test I did a few weeks ago. The testing process was pretty cool. I rode my bike on a PowerCycle indoor trainer and every three minutes my coach, also known as El Diablo for his love of inflicting pain on helpless athletes, would increase the wattage on the PowerCycle and prick my finger to get a blood lactate reading. This continued until the resistance was too much for me to handle and my poor legs just refused to turn the pedals one more rotation. Once I reached my limit, El Diablo sent the data off to the lab, and within a few short hours we had a verdict:
She is tired.
What?! But I’m an Ironman! I don’t GET tired. There must be some mistake! Nope, turns out my blood and heart aren’t nearly as good at fibbing as my brain. So El Diablo put me in timeout. Six whole days of nothing. I thought I would go insane. I expected to be bouncing off the walls and getting into all sorts of trouble. But I was in for a surprise. Within hours of succumbing to the harsh reality of no exercise my body completely shut down. I shuffled through the day like a zombie and was asleep by 7pm. Even my triathlete friends started calling me lame.
My vegetable-like state continued for four full days, but it did get better. By day five I managed to pick up my dry cleaning. On day six I wanted to go for a run. The final night of my exercise hiatus I could barely sleep – I was so excited to swim in the morning. The rest had worked. I was back.
But hard time doesn’t just end. It is typically followed by a period of probation, which is where I am now. While I am back to long workouts, they are very slow and closely monitored. Hours on the bike without a single hard pedal stroke. Running with a heart rate monitor so I’m not tempted to go too fast. I’m committed to following El Diablo’s “go slower to get faster” plan. No more double secret training. I’ve even mixed up my nutrition plan, complete with my new favorite Blueberry Repair Element Endurance bars to promote post-workout recovery.
Right now the changes are very frustrating. I miss racing. But if I take care of myself and follow the plan, I know I’ll be on the starting line at Ironman Louisville in a few months well rested, well trained, and ready to race. It’s actually pretty exciting. And then I will have a legitimate shot of nabbing that Kona slot.