As the build phase of training starts to kick in I am feeling surprisingly good. Two consecutive weeks of 17hrs training and no injuries to report. This being my 4th IM build up I am use to this feeling and the temptations that come with it. The challenge is to know when to push just that little bit more and when to hold back. The Lore of Running has some interesting things to say but the bit I found most applicable is that if you feel tired and fatigued climbing two sets of stairs then it is time to back off a bit! To the non IMer this may be obvious but it is amazing how much you can tolerate in day to day life as you ramp up the hours.
Most of you will be familiar with the valley of fatigue as shown in the diagram. The idea is that progressive cycles of increasing load (grey columns) ultimately result in better fitness levels (blue). The evidence for this is marginal especially for athletes who are time limited since it can be a challenge to fit these variable hour patterns into a working career. What I think is clear though is that at a certain volume you get to a state where the training is not working any more and the fatigue starts to prohibit recovery and performance in subsequent sessions. At this point you need a break (so say the experts). Again this will depend on lots of variables like how hard and how long the sessions you do are. However there is also the real world which does not always follow the set plan. If after 2 weeks you are feeling shot then surely it is time to take a rest, if you are feeling great then should you push on for another week of training and perhaps more intensity... and that is the real fun in IM training.
Knowing where the edge is between too much and just enough takes experience and practice. The "wise" advice is that it is better to turn up undertrained than overtrained. This is advice I would agree with for those new to IM since there is a whole learning process to go through but for those slightly longer in the tooth you have got to be prepared to experiment to find that balance. Last year I felt similar at this point in my training leading up to IM lanza, in fact if anything I felt stronger on the bike and was running faster. This year however I am trying to bring my bike to a peak a bit later (I think my biking was better about 4 weeks pre lanza than it was come race day) and I am focusing on more time and less intensity on the running, only putting in any sort of speed work in the running n the last 4 weeks. Finally doing a second IM 6 weeks after the first showed me that perhaps I am better of a short taper so this year my last big volume weekend will extend up to 13 days prerace.
Hopefully the next post will tell how good this plan is.. otherwise I will have learnt a bit more about how to do it the wrong way.