Those two words are a wonderful sight. “Rest Week”. The phase of the training program, every third or fourth week, when total hours working out for a week drops from the mid-teens to about seven and a half. A nice respite, a chance to rejuvenate, a chance to take stock, a chance to spend an hour with Fran, who teaches massage at the local technical college.
If only it was all good. In the last column, the one on the far right of the annual training plan, is a small letter “t”. Slowly pulsing, black, blue and red; oozing pain. Because that one small letter, which always coincides with a rest week, means “test”.
Testing to evaluate progress. Testing to set baselines for the coming three weeks. Testing to make sure all is on track.
And it happened to coincide with a very busy week at work. A few 12 hour days, which mean late evening efforts. Very hard efforts. Efforts which make it hard to fall asleep. And I’m someone who can fall asleep anywhere, in any position, at any time of day. So “rest” becomes a relative word.
The basic structure of the week is to spend the first few days in “active rest”, which means I continue to work out, but slow and easy, keeping the muscles moving but not stressing them. It’s much better than just taking the entire day off. After those active rest days, the tests begin. One test in each of the three triathlon disciplines; swimming, biking and running.
Swimming – a short 400m warm-up, then 1000m at 1000m race pace, which is quite fast. And for someone like me, who has dealt with sinus issues for the past 15 years, trying to suck air in while gagging is always an adventure. Much like trying to take in a deep breath after gulping down a big piece of ice cream (not that I know what that’s like). This test is usually frustrating for me, since I can swim like a fish; but gagging, choking and sputtering have a tendency to slow things down. But the total time, divided by 10 to determine my average 100m time, is the baseline for my intense workouts in the weeks to come. In other words, I swim real hard for 15 minutes to figure out how to swim harder for 90 seconds over then next three weeks. Capisce? And in the interest of full-disclosure, that is not me in the photo, although some days I feel like that!
Bike – a short 15-20 minute warm-up, then all out for 30 minutes. Ideally one would use a flat course on a calm day, with no traffic, no stop signs and no distractions. Then there’s the real world. The one where I live in a non-flat part of the country (although I certainly wouldn’t consider it hilly either). One where the surrounding farm roads have stop signs and other obstacles every few miles. Luckily, very little traffic. The purpose of the 30 minutes is to figure out where one’s lactic acid threshold lies; at what point can I maintain the most amount of effort to get through the 30 minutes, without pushing so hard that I can no longer flush the lactic acid (burning sensation) out of my legs. Basically, finding the threshold is similar to finding the red-line on an automobile; it’s different with everyone. I actually like this test. If I push harder, I start to look like a rabid dog, foaming at the mouth, gasping and dazed.
Run – Complete warm-up of about 10-15 minutes, with several surges into hard race pace. Then a test similar to the bike test, but instead of time, it’s measured. One mile, flat out in a sustainable pace. Really takes me back to my track days as a teen; too bad the times aren’t similar, but that was over half a lifetime ago.
Each of these tests are on different days, but they’re sequential days. So at the end of my “rest” week, I feel as if I’ve worked myself to the bone.
And it’s a great feeling.
Hope all is well with you!