“Rest” Week

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!

Srick, Snow, Brick, Glass

What’s with the title? Well, that’s my weekend boiled down to four words.

What’s Srick? Well, it sounds much better than Sick and more accurately represents what I did. Srick is a swim and run combination workout. Friday made for a 3500 yard interval/pyramid speed workout, a quick liquid lunch (no, not the alcoholic kind) and then a 5.6 mile run. Learned quite a bit about timing my food that day. Luckily it was minor gastro-intenstinal (GI) gurgling, not anything involving backflow.

Saturday was a planned Brick, which is a bike and run combination workout. A brick is the normal transition during a triathlon of any length, running right after the bike. The purpose of a brick is to get the legs used to the quick change in types of leg muscle used between the two activities. Well, the weather changed that plan, with an inch or so of snow on the ground when I woke up, more coming in and icy roads. No sense in getting out with the stupid people.

Forget trainers or rollers. Those are a last resort. I can’t stand riding inside for much more than one hour and even that’s a stretch. Same thing with running. Boring. You can stick forks in my eyes and I’d find that more entertaining and worthwhile than riding or running inside.

So I flip-flopped my weekend workouts and Saturday became a rest day. Which I was ready for.

Sunday was the Brick. Nothing like slogging into a stiff, cold headwind for an hour with snotcicles freezing on your cheeks. But the beauty of that is turning around and getting that stiff, warm tailwind. Flying through the sunny countryside with a strong tailwind really makes for an enjoyable ride, except for dodging the ice patches that are hidden in the shade while flying through a curve at 25 mph.

That covers the first three words. The fourth was a very pleasant surprise, sprung on me by my lovely bride.

We had the immense pleasure of 9th row seats, front and slightly off-center, for a wonderful retrospective performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble (PGE). For those of you who don’t know who Philip Glass is, you’ll likely be familiar with his works. I was first introduced to him, as a teenager, when I saw a screening of the first of Godfrey Reggio‘s “-qatsi” movies, Koyaanisqatsi.

For those of you that know me well, you’ll know that Koyaanisqatsi is one of my all-time favorite movies and consequently, Philip Glass has been my all-time favorite musician/composer. So it was definitely a great thrill to be able to see him in person, playing his selections of music through his 40-year career. We were even amazed at how good he looks at 70 years old. I can only wish I’m doing half as good.

The performance was held in Nashville’s beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which is home to the (of all things) Nashville Symphony Orchestra. You can read the Wikipedia page on the center, which is quite amazing in and of itself. But musically, one of the more interesting aspects of this beautiful hall is that it’s across from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, two blocks from the Ryman Auditorium and right around the corner from Broadway Avenue, home to many of classic country bars and music shops, including Ernest Tubb‘s Record Store.

The audience at PGE performance was quite eclectic, to say the least. From typical symphony-goer attire as dress suits and gowns to flannel pants, sweatshirts and knit beanies. In other words, a few folks didn’t get the word that Bonnaroo isn’t for a few more months.

Speaking of Bonnaroo, we’re disappointed that we won’t be going this year. It’s being held just 90 minutes down the road, but it falls right in the middle of recovering from my 1/2 Ironman and building my base for my full Ironman later in the year. That, and with tickets running $200 each for the weekend, the family/race budget would take quite a hit. So it fell off the priority plate pretty quick.

But with acts such as The Police, Tool, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, The String Cheese Incident, etc., it’ll definitely be quite a show.

I just hope someone takes some soap.