Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 31: Review

Another great week back at training and the foot is still improving. I haven't gotten around to doing any walking sessions as of yet as there is still a bit of tightness, but I'm guessing that will loosen up when I start using it more. The motions that still exhibit that feeling are ones that aren't used in cycling or swimming, and I don't really know any stretches to address them. As such, doing a harder walk on it is likely to be the best medicine even if I have to limp a little while doing it.

On the cycling front, I managed to bring the bike in on Monday and get the derailleur looked at. The problem seems to be related to cable stretch, and riding it for the last few weeks seems to have finished off that process as their adjustments are holding this time. While I did end up missing one ride this week due to rain on Friday, I was able to squeeze in two 50K solo rides and one 70K ride with the group. All of them felt great and I'm slowly returning back to my previous speeds. Climbs are still a good deal slower, but the group ride was through Caledon East so I managed to get a good hill workout this time around.

To make the trip to the bike shop more worthwhile, I took the opportunity to swim down at the Olympium while they did the work. The bulkhead was in place so I still didn't get a chance to take advantage of the 50m length, it's certainly much more pleasant to swim in the cooler water rather than the soup they have up here. I'm routinely about 10s/100m faster in that pool because of it and I can hold it up for a lot longer. Unfortunately it's a long trip if I'm not down in the city, but when the opportunity does arise I'm eager to take advantage of it ;)

Week 31 Totals:
Running: 0.0km 0.0mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 188.8km (117.3mi)
Swimming: 6.4km (4.0mi)
Total: 195.2km (121.3mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 758.6km (471.35mi)
Walking: 28.4km (17.6mi)
Cycling: 2478.3km (1539.9mi)
Swimming: 161.8km (100.5mi)
Total: 3427.1km (2129.5mi)

I really do have to give cyclists who ride down in the city a lot of credit after this week. When the shop finished the work I took a quick test lap around High Park to make sure everything was working as expected. To get there, I had to ride down a short stretch of Bloor St. and it's quite a different animal than riding out in the suburbs/country. Trying to make the left turn into the street where I parked took a lot more aggressive riding than I'd like, and this isn't even close to the complexity of the roads down in the core. I don't have a clue how anyone can do this on a regular basis ;)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Week 30: Review

Given last week's successes, I continued building up both swimming and cycling this week. Fortunately, everything is still going along smoothly and there are no signs of trouble. I'm still limping a little, so I held off on introducing a walking regime, however it's gotten a lot better over the course of this week (no pain, just stiff). I'll probably add that in sometime near the end of this week to test things out, and hopefully I'll be able to get back into running in the near future.

As things went so well on the bike, I slowly added some hills in the rides this week. On Saturday's group ride, the plan was for a relatively flat ride but we missed a turnaround and ended up on some larger hills. Thankfully, aside from tiring me out, there were no problems so I'm likely safe to reintroduce them into my normal routine. Naturally, I will still like avoid explicitly looking for hills to be safe, but I'm also not going to go out of my way to avoid them.

As far as my fitness goes, I'm okay on flat ground but I've obviously lost a lot of climbing strength. Before the injury I usually opened up a significant gap every time we hit some hills, but this time a couple of them were able to drop me pretty comfortably when things got steep. The aerobic engine is still there, but the leg strength has been eaten away so my ability to power through the hard stretches is compromised. With that said, part of the issue was likely that I was being very conservative with the gearing to play it safe (ie downshifting early to granny gears), so when I get my nerve back things should improve.

I'm hoping that adding hills back into my normal routine will help to remedy that, and I think I'll add in a bit more aggressive speedwork to help. Naturally, doing explicit hill work would be the best way to get that back, but I'm not sure that I want to try standing climbs in the big ring just yet as that can put different forces on the foot.

Week 30 Totals:
Running: 0.0km 0.0mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 162.4km (100.9mi)
Swimming: 6.5km (4.0mi)
Total: 168.9km (104.9mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 758.6km (471.35mi)
Walking: 28.4km (17.6mi)
Cycling: 2289.5km (1422.6mi)
Swimming: 155.4km (96.6mi)
Total: 3231.9km (2008.2mi)

The weather for week 31 is looking a lot better, although it's going to get steamy again on Friday. We've got another group ride planned for Saturday, so I'm hoping to be a bit more competitive this time around ;) Either way, I'm just happy to be out there in this gorgeous weather once again and the plan is to take full advantage of what is left of the summer!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 29: Review

Now at the end of my first week back into training and the foot is feeling much better. It's still not 100% and I have to be careful with it, but getting the ankle moving again seems to be helping to make it more comfortable. I'm thinking that a lot of the discomfort last week wasn't so much the bone itself, but tightness in the connective tissues around it as they've basically been locked in one position for a month and a half. Fortunately, I don't appear to have lost nearly as much strength as I had expected so getting back into my routine is going to be easier than expected. I'm by no means as strong as I was before, but it is nowhere near starting from scratch.

In the water this week, I managed to squeeze in two sessions (Tuesday and Friday). While I'm a good deal slower than I was before the interruption, my stamina seems to (mostly) be intact and swimming for the entire session at my previous effort levels doesn't appear to be an issue. As this is the one sport where I can go full bore if I'd like, this is good as it will allow me to use the pool to help rebuild my cardiovascular strength ahead of ramping up the other two disciplines.

In an effort to train a bit smarter, however, I've taken to breaking my swim up into smaller bits and doing a more structured workout. My approach for the last few years has been to stick to long sets, but the more I read about this sort of training the more I get the impression that that was a mistake. Prior to the injury I had been stuck at a 2:00/100m pace for a long while, so I'm hoping that this new approach will allow me to eventually break through that barrier.

On the bike, I started out with an easy ride around the subdivision on Wednesday. That allowed me to stick with flat ground for the time being (as I was advised to avoid big hills as I started up) and test things out safely. Fortunately, everything felt great on that ride so it also helped to buoy my confidence a bit. It wasn't, however, a good ride to evaluate my fitness as the nature of residential streets doesn't lend itself to that (too much starting up and slowing down to get a feel for what is sustainable).

As such, on Saturday I headed out for a longer ride on some rural roads to get a better feel for where I was at. As it's nearly impossible to avoid hills from where I live, I drove out a few kilometers to get past them and headed out from there. Needless to say, it felt great to get back out on the open road. While I've certainly lost some degree of power, I was still able to comfortably maintain cruising speeds above 30km/h so I'm not too far back. My stamina at higher speeds (~40km/h+) has definitely taken a hit, but at this point I'm just happy I can still hit those speeds.

The one tricky part with the ride was that I wasn't able to get out in the morning, and it was a hot and humid day with full sun. When I broke my foot in mid-May, it was still the early days of summer so the downtime meant that I didn't get a chance to gradually acclimatize to the full-bore summer weather. As such, fighting through the heat was, and will continue to be, a challenge over the next little while. For the time being, I will have to redouble my efforts to get out early and keep it as cool as possible.

The other caveat is that my gears are still acting up on me. Shortly before my injury, I had my front derailleur cable replaced but when I took it for a ride the chain was rubbing when in the big ring and anything smaller than the 6th cog. I didn't get around to getting that addressed until last week, and it was working fine when I tested it outside of the shop. Unfortunately, on both of my rides this week it was doing the same thing so it's likely going to have to go back in. The result is that I basically have a big gap in my gearing and riding anywhere between 28 and 40km/h requires sub-optimal cadences.

I'm not sure if it's just the cable stretching out on me, or if it's something to do with how I'm putting it in the car but I'll have to talk with them about it when I go back. I've picked up a book on bicycle maintenance and am working on figuring this stuff out, but I'm reticent to mess around with the shifting until I have a better understanding. With that said, I'd like to take a more active role in keeping it in good condition as doing it yourself is always the best way to be sure that it's done right.

Week 29 Totals:
Running: 0.0km 0.0mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 56.7km (35.2mi)
Swimming: 6.2km (3.9mi)
Total: 62.9km (39.1mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 758.6km (471.35mi)
Walking: 28.4km (17.6mi)
Cycling: 2127.1km (1321.7mi)
Swimming: 148.9km (92.5mi)
Total: 3063.0km (1903.3mi)

Longer term, I'm hoping to get back together with my normal group for a ride next weekend. As most of them did races in Peterborough last week, they're still in a recovery phase right now so it's a good match for my rebuilding. Naturally, we will have to avoid the bigger hills for the time being, but I don't think it will be necessary to avoid them entirely as there was no hint of pain on either ride.

If I have the time, I'd also like to give water running a shot as it might be a good way to rebuild that part of my fitness up without having to worry about the foot. While it looks like an incredibly boring way to spend a workout, it's about the only way that I'll be able to keep my running strength up. I will probably be adding some walking this week which will help, but that doesn't cover all of the muscles that running does.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feels Good to be Back!

I finally got to the point where I can walk comfortably without any aides, so I headed back to the pool this morning for my first session. Naturally, with nearly seven weeks downtime I figured that I'd pretty much be back to square one so I expected it to be a hard slog. As I didn't really know what I'd be able to do, I elected to just play it by ear and do whatever I could.

Fortunately, however, once I got going I actually felt quite good and was able to get in a decent workout. For the first set, I originally planned to just do 100m intervals, but by the end of it I was feeling great so I opted to push that to 250m. Once I got near that point I was still going strong, so I kept going until I hit the 1km mark and took a break (still felt good, but figured it was unwise to push it beyond that). I followed up with another 1000m set, then switched over to some drills to test out my speed/breathing. Once I completed them, I still had some time left in the session so I did an easy 500m cooldown to finish it off.

I didn't push as hard as I usually do so my pace was pretty pathetic, however I want to take it carefully as I start back up. I most certainly have lost a good chunk of strength, but fortunately my stamina (which is a lot harder to build back up) seems to be largely intact. I'm just crossing my fingers that the same will be true on the cycling front, as I'm not really looking forward to going back to short little 10-20K rides :OP

Either way, I'll keep chipping away with it and hopefully get myself back into shape as quickly as I can safely get away with. I was flirting with trying another swim tomorrow as well, but the pool is going to be closed for an event so I'll stick to the Tuesday/Thursday schedule for now. I'm hoping to take the bike out later this week for a short jaunt around the subdivision, as that's the sport I'd really like to get back into given our weather right now! It's still going to be a long hard climb back to where I was, but fortunately it appears that I didn't fall down the mountain quite as far as I feared :D

In other news, the Peterborough half-iron race that I had originally planned to run was last weekend but I headed up anyway as several good friends were doing it and the sprint that went along with it. I do have to say that it was nice to see a race like this from the other side of the fence, so I'll have to make sure to do that more often ;) There is a lot going on during these races, and it can be quite an exercise to stay on top of everything as your friends go in and out of transition. It was a heck of a steamy day and it was hard enough standing around, so it's all the more impressive for those that were pushing themselves to the limit in those conditions!

The race itself was very well organized, with a good layout and minimal lineups for the multitude of registration steps. Only thing that would have made it better would be if the race timing folks could set up those text messaging notifications that many marathons have. Trying to be on top of when everyone is going to come in and out is much more complicated in this sport (especially with multiple races going on simultaneously), so having an idea of where they are would make spectating much, much easier :P

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Starting Over...

It will be six weeks tomorrow that I managed to break my foot, and as such I've been pretty silent here since that left me unable to do any training. Being stuck inside with that gorgeous weather out there was torture to someone who is used to working out every day. Watching the fitness that I've worked hard on over that time slowly melt away just made it worse, but fortunately I'm coming near the end of that phase and trying to figure out how to build back up.

Running injuries are usually a result of over-training or pushing too hard, but in this instance it was just a matter of bad luck. I was out on my regular Wednesday group run and we had gotten a bit stretched out due to varying paces, so I turned around to head back and get everyone together. Unfortunately, there was some loose gravel on the sidewalk where I elected to make that turn and I ended up loosing traction. In the fall, I got a bit of road rash on my left hand and twisted my left ankle.

At the time, the ankle really didn't hurt that much so I figured it was just a minor issue. One of the other runners had a band-aide, so I patched up the hand and kept running. The ankle was a bit sore, but wasn't really enough to cause alarm so I kept the pace low and just finished off the distance. When I got to the store I did my stretches and then headed in and cleaned out the wound on my hand. Unfortunately, after I drove home (and it had some time to cool down) it was hurting a lot more. On inspection, it was swollen up a bit so I made an appointment with the family doctor the next day and R.I.C.E.d it in the meantime.

I headed in the next morning and after examining it he didn't think it was broken, but had me get some X-Rays to be sure. Unfortunately, when the film developed and he took a look at them there was a small fracture on my 5th metatarsal. On the upside, there was no displacement and the ankle itself was fine, so it was just a matter of giving it time to heal. I left the office with an aircast and instructions to keep the weight off of it.

While I was told that swimming would probably be okay, the logistics of getting in and out of the pool were enough of a deterrent. I had to use crutches to get around and the slippery tiles on the deck were a bit of a worry, plus with a foot out of commission the ladders weren't an option and jumping in didn't seem wise. I probably should have sucked it up and taken the chance to keep my cardiovascular fitness up, however I didn't want to risk anything to foul up the healing process (eg accidentally kicking off with the bad foot).

Either way, fast forward to last week and I headed back for another set of X-Rays. Fortunately, the healing was going along better than expected and he gave me the okay to start walking on the cast. He did warn that the bone would take a couple of months to fully calcify, so I'd have to be careful and stop whenever I felt pain. I was cleared to stop using the aircast after a week, at which point I could carefully restart exercise. I was instructed to maintain easy running paces in the near term, and to avoid any large hills on the bike, so any races this fall are out of the question but at least I'll be able to start getting back into a routine.

As walking was still hurting, I stayed on the crutches for the majority of last week and have been testing it a bit every day. I'm now moving around with a cane with a bit of a mild discomfort (which is likely just tightened up connective tissue), but fortunately no pain. Once I work my way off of that, I'll head back to the pool as much as possible and integrate a bit of walking. If that works out well, I'll start cycling around the neighborhood and use that to evaluate my fitness level and what I can do.

Aside from dealing with the bone itself, I've developed a pretty significant muscle imbalance between my legs. As my right leg has been doing all of the work for the last few weeks, it's still got some of the muscle left but the left leg is pretty much all jelly. The doctor didn't seem worried about it and said that it would come back quickly, but I still want to be careful about it as I don't want to foul something else up. The bike should be able to help a bit with this, as if I can find a stretch of straight/flat road I can unclip the strong leg and pedal exclusively with the weaker one to build it up.

The other potential difficulty will be weight gain. One of the hardest things with the time off has been eating, as someone used to burning 6,000-8,000 kcal per week that's a lot of food to take out of one's diet. Naturally, some of that was in the form of sports drinks and gels that were easy to avoid, but I still had to make my normal meals a lot smaller. I haven't weighed myself as of yet as standing on a scale with one leg isn't going to be very accurate (and the loss of muscle mass is going to mask some of it), but I'm going to be a few pounds up. As such, getting myself back down to battle weight is going to be a high priority at the start.

Either way, I'm chomping at the bit to get back out there and see where I stand. I'm especially eager to get back on the bike, as the window of opportunity to ride outside is closing fast. It's likely going to take some time before I can regain enough strength to do significant distances again, and I want to get that process underway as soon as possible so I can get to that point. I managed to get a handful of rides in before the injury, and I don't want to go back to the trainer without getting a few good outdoor sessions in.

As such, the next few weeks are going to require a lot of work to figure out how I'm going to do this. While Running has always been my strongest sport, it's going to have to take a back seat for the next little while. Since racing isn't an option, the objectives for the remainder of the season are basically going to be:
  1. Safely rebuilding strength and avoiding injury. This will inherently be a tricky balance, as I have to be conservative to be safe, but if I'm too careful it will take the fitness a long time to come back. Finding the appropriate balance is going to have to be central to my focus.
  2. Building up a strong base in order to prepare for next season. The upside to this is that it will allow me to take a longer-term approach to preparations for races next year, rather than having to parlay fitness from one season to the next. Once I've rebuilt the fundamentals, I can devote more time to working with my weak spots.
  3. Getting my weight back to where I'd like it. Aside from the short term gain due to the injury, I was running a few pounds heavier than I would have liked before then so this is a good opportunity to get myself down to an ideal level. As counter-intuitive as it may be, it's difficult to maintain weight under heavy volumes as you need to take in a lot of calories to fuel all of the exercise. Taking in too little fuel can significantly impede performance, so it's often safer to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, doing that continuously leads to a slow creep upwards in weight.
  4. Taking some time to simply enjoy the exercise. While training for a race is certainly enjoyable, often one has to make tradeoffs to get to the final objective (eg foregoing the temptation to add a little extra to a ride/run when you're feeling great because it would negatively effect performance for the next day). In the macro sense the payoff of a well executed season is certainly worth these short-term sacrifices, sometimes it is nice to be able to just wing it and do what you like rather than what the plan says.
The next few weeks is certainly going to be a learning process for me, and I'm hoping to be able to get back into a routine relatively quickly. Planning is largely going to be impossible as it's going to require going by feel a lot, but at the same time I can't just go ad hoc as I need to avoid going out too fast too soon and injuring something.