Me, Adam Ellenstein, Jen Howard, Ryan Toner, Inaki de la Parra
A race that demanding takes a huge recovery. Muscles respond quickly. Muscularly I felt fine after a week. Ligaments, tendons, hormone levels, etc take much longer - it will be more than three months before I return to baseline on a cellular level - at best. I finished Day 1 and threw up. I finished Day 2 shivering uncontrollably. I finished Day 3 and threw up. Two days after the race I got sick for over a week. I got better, went home for the holidays, and got sick again - I spent New Years Eve and New Years day sleeping. In between I did some maintenance workouts - basically getting out of shape slowly. Did I want to do more, push harder - absolutely. But my coach helps keep me in check and focused on the ultimate goal.
|My crew always had my back|
Did we have loftier goals for this years Ultraman? We did. In some respects we fell far short; in other respects we were a lot closer to exceeding them than I thought we'd be. In a race that is nearly a day long, that passes through multiple climate zones, and is held over three days, there are a lot of variables. I came to this race fitter and stronger than I ever had; this was the first time I truly felt I was racing the distance. I knew there would be lessons to learn and it has been good to take the month of December, process what happened, and ruminate on those lessons. It hasn't made my desire to get out and attack any less.
|I would rather lose on my competitor's best day than beat them on their worst - |
this dude pushed me to my limit and I look forward to another battle in the future!
It also makes missing the short baby workouts even harder. Because I got sick after the race I took two weeks completely off any workouts instead of one. I missed a short run over New Years - it's not much and I remind myself that it's better in the long run to recover and stay healthy, but it doesn't make it any easier in the moment. I remind myself that I came back strong in 2016 - I didn't do a single workout for 5 weeks after that Ultraman, when I crashed during the race and developed an infection in one of my wounds.
My coach and I also developed a plan over a year ago, to race UM in 2017 then wait until 2020. This was to recover properly (physically and mentally), learn lessons and build upon those lessons to be at the absolute top of my game when I came back. Racing this distance year after year we feel does not leave room to truly recover and peak at the highest level; a high level for sure but that is not what we're after.
And I can relate to many of my athletes' who are anxious about getting out of shape. It is a similar anxiety when overcoming over-training or injury. Patience and focus are key. I have one athlete, who I have coached for a number of years now that has exhibited this patience and focus beautifully - she was used to high volume when she came to me but she was also experiencing several concerning over-training symptoms. We started slow. Unfortunately she experienced a rather brutal injury (unrelated to training) less than six months after we started, and we had to back off even more. The next two years were up and down - it took nearly three years to build back to real run training. We made sure to focus on things that would build to long term success and health. There were a great many issues with her return to run training, based on the injury so we took that slow - focused on strength and bike development. While two years ago things seemed daunting and uncertain, her patience and focus, has yielded wonderful results and she will be competing professionally in 2018. There are a ridiculous number of people with physical ability and many coaches are bothered by the "waste" of that ability when they see it undeveloped. Why do we not look at this mental toughness, this focus, this patience the same way? When I was a young swim coach I had coached a group of 7-8 year olds with one 9 year old in it. The 9 year old was the slowest one in the group. But he listened - took in everything I said and asked questions. It was abnormal focus and patience for someone. When he was 10 he was improving but still miserable slow. When he was 11 he made some strides but continued to lag behind his peers. When he was 12 he hit his growth spurt and everything clicked. He went from one of the slowest in the group to one of the fastest in the state over all strokes and distances. All of a sudden one of the kids who had "no talent" was one everyone thought had the most "talent."
Consistency is the key to success - unexceptional looking workouts completed day in and day out will trump exceptional workouts completed inconsistently. Don't take my word for it though; here is a link to Eliud Kipchoge's training in his lead up to his win in Berlin last year:
Sometimes this consistency can take the form of a walk, or short dynamic stretch routine - consistency does not necessarily mean time consuming. Consistency also refers to consistent rest and recovery. We all love to hear about the crazy workouts that great athletes perform, but what we gloss over in reading about those workouts is the years of consistency and slow progression that led to those workouts. Articles like these are far more useful to the general population, in my opinion, as they help promote long term health and consistency:
Rest and recovery isn't glamorous; neither is consistency. But if you want the Shalene Flanagan moment you need to have the patience to take the good with the bad and the focus and determination to stay the course. So many people have the potential to do this - what that moment is depends on the person and their goals - what it amounts to is getting the most out of yourself. That might be running in the Olympic Trials, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, attaining partner in a law firm, or making sure your family spends 30 minutes of quality time together each day, etc, etc...
The winter can exacerbate a lot of the anxiety around illness or injury. The cold weather and short days can be tough on mood and motivation for anyone. The holidays can affect people differently as well with unhealthy food, stressful schedules, emotional stress - it can easily feel like things are spiraling. We can only handle so much stress - this needs to be taken into consideration as well - and if life stress is high, training stress will necessarily need to be lower.