After the race I was able to enjoy 2 weeks of recovery/ time off over Christmas with family in Auckland. It was the perfect way to refresh and I arrived back in Canberra at the end of the year expecting to hit the ground running… errr walking.
Unfortunately there is sometimes a stark contrast between expectation and reality. The expectations coming into the second supernova nutrition camp were to pump out a huge month of training. I was coming in off 2 weeks complete rest and a week of light training, more than enough time I thought to bounce back from the 50km. It was a similar recovery strategy I had between Worlds and the China Tour and things worked fine there. This time around, I wouldn’t be so lucky. Moving into the first high intensity sessions, the pre-testing days of the camp, I quickly discovered my body was far from recovered.
The first of these tests was the VO2max. While my submax’s were normal I was definitely feeling fatigued by the end and my actual VO2max test was pretty atrocious. Having ended the last camp at 75ml/kg/min I was down to 67 and felt like I wasn’t able to push myself to max. The next day was the 10km time trial. We got hit with a pretty hot day, which definitely affected the times, but I finished in 43:18, a time that would amount to a slow fartlek session for me. In fact my last 5km in the time trial was slower than my last 5km of my 50km, which just about says it all.
By this point I realized was that things were off and that I probably wasn’t fully recovered from the 50km yet. Still I naively thought that pushing through and sticking to the plan of 3 weeks of 180+km’s would be fine, so long as I backed off the intensity. But then I had my 25km tempo testing session and that tipped the scales towards making a sensible decision. Struggling to get through this session at even a moderate pace it became all too clear that I needed more time to recover.
After a tactical day off to reconsider things I set a plan to take things day-by-day and really listen to my body. I started taking daily resting HR measurements and putting more stock into my training HR’s, focusing on keeping all the easy stuff in zone 1.
Out of this week the biggest thing for me was to shift my expectations to align with my new reality. Clearly busting out 180km weeks wasn’t going to happen so I needed to come up with a new measure of success. For me, having weekly or monthly goals is hugely important as I struggle to see long term goals and get easily bogged down in the monotony of the daily training grind. The goal had been to hit 700km in 3 weeks and had I kept that as the target I’d have set myself up perfectly for failure. I’m very happy that I was able to switch to a more qualitative goal of “keeping the easy sessions easy and getting as much as I could out of the hard sessions”. To measure this I decided I wasn’t to keep the majority of my easy walks in HR zone 1. Normally I don’t pay too much attention to my HR during training but I definitely see the validity of using it in these types of situations when you are trying to closely monitor progress in a fatigued state.
Luckily I didn’t have the added stress of being on the high fat diet again. Being on the periodized diet meant a normal carb filled diet 90% of the time, with a few occasions where after hard workouts that would be considered carb depleted I wouldn’t replenish those carbs and do another workout later in a depleted state before refueling with carbs again. This diet, which is much similar to my normal diet, definitely made things easier this time around.
Sticking to my goal, things started to get better almost day-by-day. My resting HR dropped from 45 down to 41 and workouts slowly began getting quicker without an increase in HR. That next week I got through 150km including a PB up Mt Stromlo in just under 63min. The next week things were even better and I was finally back to where I had hoped to be 2 weeks earlier, 184km and the easy walks were now being done with some of my lowest HRs ever for a given pace.
Moving into the final testing week I had one of my best ever speed sessions, doing 10x1km on 6:30 cycles in 37:25. My VO2 test produced my best ever sub-max economies with a lactate of only 2.7mmol at 15km/hr. My max test was improved to 70ml/kg/min with what I believe to be room for improvement (for purposes of the diet we were doing our VO2max tests fasted, which I am not used to). The 10km time trial saw me improve by nearly 3min, walking 40:24 and moving up 5 places from 8th to 3rd. My biggest improvement though came in my 25km tempo where I felt like I was cruising at 4:28/km for 25km, an improvement of over 8minutes from the pre-test.
Once the study had come to an end I had a hit out at some of my key fartlek sessions to get an idea of where I was at compared to where I have been previously. My favorite session for doing this is 4x2km with 400m easier in between, finished off with 400m hard to make it 10km. Having done this workout several times before key races it makes for a good comparison. Heading out and doing this on the road I adapted it slightly to be 2km hard with 500m float x4. My time of 40:23 was right in line with the other times I had done this session (40:18, 40:20 and 40:21) with the only outlier being a 39:24 I did last year in near perfect conditions.
This workout filled me with confidence and after another solid week of training I find myself excited to test the legs out in my first 20km race of the year. Not having done a significant taper for the race (128km last week and 110km including the race this week) the expectations aren’t to smash it, rather to see where things are at as we end the base training season.
With Nomi (my main spring 20km) a month away a big taper here, followed by a recovery week, followed by a couple off days from travelling home didn’t make sense and this way I can have a bit of down time next week before getting in another 2 weeks training before tapering for Nomi, which should put me in optimal shape there!
The race tomorrow (today, or in the past, depending on when you read this) should be a cracker though. Last week hot temperatures were expected, but it looks now like the morning will be crisp and low 20s. With a dozen or so athletes capable of walking under the 84min Olympic standard it will certainly be a competitive event. Personally the goal going in is to negative split the race, finishing the last half quicker than the first half and to walk in the low 82min range or quicker. Check out Chris Erickson's twitter page for live updates.