Sunday, July 29, 2007

Grinding It Out

Another week down! I must admit that I'm about ready to start racing again because race weeks, and the races themselves, are a lot easier than what I've been doing as of late. Today underscored this fact.

Three weeks of aggressive training have started to take their toll. Key workouts are starting to get a lot harder to hit spot on, and my "top end" just isn't there. Legs are fairly stiff and sore just about daily, but surprisingly, my motivation has never been higher. My head has been the only thing that has kept me in the game up to this point in time, because my body wanted to hit the sidelines about a week ago!

I'm taking a bit of a gamble and pushing harder than ever in hopes that the extra work, coupled with an aggressive taper/sharpening phase, will bring about an adaptation/level of fitness that I've yet to ever achieve; Lord knows that I'll need it come August 19th if I want to finish even remotely close to the likes of Lessing, Andersson and Co.

Yesterday's pace ride was off by about 1 mph but I forged ahead, finished the rest of the day's workload up and ate as much as possible so that I'd have a shot at laying down the week's final big session today: A 60 mile intensive endurance ride immediately followed by a 9 mile run.

Normally, I wouldn't make too much out of a session like this, as the distances aren't anything novel for me. What made the day so tough was the residual fatigue coupled with the heat and humidity we've been facing (a cool day, I know, for you Atlanta boys (Jason & Andy) if you're reading!). Thanks to my coaching workload, I didn't hit the road until 10:30 a.m., so I was subjected to a mid day sun for about 4 hours. Fun.

Surprisingly, I felt great on the bike, sitting upright throughout and easily mashing the 53 x 15 - 13 @ 21 - 24 mph for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. I felt as though I had a tail wind at my back the entire ride as the rollers seemed to offer little in the way of resistance. The legs were feeling very strong.

However... by the time I got back into my apartment, the thought of heading back out the door for an hour of running didn't seem all that appealing. As I stripped down and stepped on the scale, I realized that part of my reluctance stemmed from a slight case of dehydration; even with my best attempts (they weren't good enough in retrospect) I had still lost about 5 lbs. of water weight.

No Bueno.

I downed a glass of lemonade, mulled about for a few moments and then stepped back out into the heat, moving ahead like a zombie.

As I passed through the first couple of landmarks that I use for daily time checks when running (a good way to figure out how fatigued the body really is), it was evident that although I wasn't feeling so great, my legs were moving right along. So... there would be no excuses today. I had to just suck it up and deal with the fatigue as it set in.

And set in it did. As I ran through Annisquam Village and across the private beach that looks out towards the Ipswich Bay, I spent some time contrasting my state of dehydration-induced fatigue against the fun that the 100+ people lining the ocean's edge were having. Why was I out here punishing myself when I could be splashing about in the water while sipping a cool beverage? Ultimately, my reflections gave way to the fact that I still had about 30 minutes of running left to complete, and fatigue or no fatigue, there was only 1 way to get home, so I onward I pushed.

The last 15 minutes of today's suffer-fest were worse than any long course triathlon I've ever completed, although not quite as bad as my '06 Boston Marathon experience (I thought that the Grim Reaper would be paying me a premature visit that day!). I maintained my focus, chalking the session up as a "mental toughness" day and stepped back into my apartment once more, thankful to have the worst behind me.

All of this hard work really helps to keep things in perspective; the reality of the situation is this: The infrequent, fleeting moments of glory that one does experience on the athletic field are the end product of nothing more than a consistent, day-in-day-out commitment to hard-core training.

As one of my favorite marathon runners of all time, Australia's Rob de Castella once said, "Running well is a matter of having the patience to persevere when you are tired and not expecting instant results. The only secret is that it is consistent, often monotonous, boring, hard work. And it's tiring."

Right on Deek.

I'll try to keep that quote in mind next week as I cap the working phase of my current training cycle. Taper time (1 week away!) is sounding pretty good right about now.


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