Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seeking Equilibrium

In the weeks since I returned from Ottawa I have been trying to find some balance, an equilibrium, in life and in training. School is on full throttle, cross country season is running along, and I haven't missed a planned workout. But I'm still trying to settle into my busy schedule after a month of focused effort.

With no serious races near on calendar, I have simply been trying to get my body to return to the dynamic state of fitness and function that I have been accustomed to. It is while I have waited patiently for that muscular equilibrium to occur that I realized how much I have taken for granted. A healthy lifestyle offers daily pitfalls that I have avoided through planning, studying, diligence, and a lot of luck. My luck has come up short in the last year. So I am leaning more heavily on the other facets of the lifestyle.

I'm really glad that I have learned how to eat healthy foods and take the time to rest when my body needs it. And I am also glad to have the Polar computers and software to guide me through my training sessions. Without all of these processes working together, I could have easily been in worse shape from the odd things going on in my body this year.

 Last weekend I entered a few events to test my fitness and my ability to recover. First, I ran in the YMCA 15K on Saturday. It was further (9.3 miles) than I had run at one time since June. In fact, the last time I ran 9.3 miles I ended up not being able to run again for almost two months!

I managed to run six miles comfortably at 6 minute pace, but my left leg/arse spasmed a few times and tightened up in the closing miles. Given the fact that I could not run six weeks ago, I was happy with the effort. However, when I consider the fact that I was running significantly faster with similar comfort for 13.1 miles back in the spring, I know that the recovery is ongoing. I must remain diligent in my daily therapy routine.

Then, on Monday night, I entered the local 12-mile cycling time trial events - both of them. Last year I rode the Hammerfest loop course twice to nail a sub-hour 40K. This year the course was an out and back, so I borrowed a (too small) road bike from my buddy, Drew, in order to enter the "roadie" class for the first time. In fact, my two minute warmup for the roadie race was spent learning how to use STI shifters!

Unfortunately, mother nature was not kind, my legs had been dented by 15K, and I made a big mistake in the first ride, so I was not able to hit my time goals. During my first tour of the course on my time trial bike I dropped a chain while climbing a short steep hill. My blunder came about because I was trying to distribute my energy over two races in the 91F (100F heat index) sauna.

If I had been racing only once, I would have stayed in the big chainring and powered up that little hill. But I thought of the 10 mph headwind I would face for the last six miles of both races and dropped to the small ring - just as I passed over a patch in the road. The chain bounced in and wedged against the frame. I had to get off and pull it out with both hands, which was not easy with a broken and bruised bones in my hands from my recent crash. Then I had to remount and get moving while climbing that hill. Reviewing my Polar heart rate file, I realized that this cost me at least 55 seconds, most of which was zero speed time while I worked on the chain.

Sweating like a little rain cloud I finished the first ride with an average of 25.4 mph. I can take comfort in the fact that my data indicates I averaged 26.5 while actually riding my bike.

The second race on the road bike started a few minutes after the first one ended. I stood at the cooler and drank a few glasses of fluid during most of that rest period. Then I got on Drew's sweet little ride and hammered away for another 12 miles. For nine of those miles I averaged almost 25 mph, then my calves started cramping and I started laughing. Both of these made it hard to push circles on the pedals. I finished with a 24.4 mph average.

In both races I took second place, so I brought home two more hammers. I should start renting them out or find a second job that would put them to use! As anyone close to me can attest, I don't care about placings or trophies. What I really care about is maintaining youthful fitness - a high level of fitness. All three of my recent events indicate that I am not completely fit yet. A review of my Polar RCX5 heart rate data reveals that my recovery after those three efforts is slow coming, so my body is still trying to reestablish an equilibrium
I'll keep plugging away knowing that I am progressing toward an equilibrium. Hopefully, my body and life will find that "happy zone" again sometime soon.  ST