Saturday, my scheduled called for a 70 minute run in Heart Rate Zone 1 – 2. No problem. I headed out the door – the temperature was cooler than it has been and I quickly got up to speed. I set a limit on my heart rate at 150 beats per minute. Doing the quick math in my head this would be a 9 mile run. I did not have much trouble maintaining the 8 minute / mile pace while keeping the heart rate below 150. However, as the run progressed I would notice that I was slowing. A quick look at my heart rate and I would see that I was zoned out and my heart rate was falling into the low 140’s. A quick couple of strides to get back on pace and I was hugging 150 again. My run took me out to Beaver Pond and back and I finished the 9 miles in 1:13 - an 8:08 minute pace with heart rate average at 148. I could have easily kept this under the 8 minute mark but due to cardiac drift I would have had to exceed the 150 beats per minute. I really wanted to extend this run to 10 miles – I don’t know why but 10 sounds so much better than 9. I stuck to the plan!
I was also supposed to swim on Saturday. Not long after my run the rains came in with full abandon – lots of thunder and lightning. There would be no open water swimming. In addition, I just do not care for swimming at the pool on weekends. I decided to make this swim up on Monday – Monday is a scheduled day off. In the future, I am going to be proactive and reschedule any swims that fall on the weekends.
Sunday was KEY BIKE STRENGTH WORKOUT. It called for 2 hours on a hilly course. To push the uphill’s and recover on the down hills. The Heart Rate could hit low zone 4 but otherwise be in zone 1 – 2. I contemplated on doing this workout on the trainer to better control the conditions (and watch the Giro d’Italia on the internets). There were pop up storms all around but I took my chances and headed out the door. There are not many hills on the trace (rails-to-trails) so I decided to leave the trace just after Sumrall and do hell (I mean hill) repeats. There is a hilly loop that figure-eights criss-crossing the trace. I would do an hour of these loops.
Before I could complete the first hilly loop the sky opened up! The air was already chilled and the rain was cold. I was soaked in a matter of seconds. I finished the first loop and jumped on the trace at the first junction. I was just going to push the pace all the way home and out run this storm. I accelerated quickly and was pushing a good clip but I was unable to get my heart rate up into zone 4. I wanted to time trial this back at a heart rate of 165. This was not happening. My legs were aching and I was pushing hard but my heart rate was in the 140’s. I pushed harder but just could not increase my heart rate where I wanted it. I still managed to beat the storm home and gave fair warning to the other cyclist when I crossed their paths. It would end up raining hard all afternoon. I do not regret the decision of heading back. A heart rate in the 160’s should be obtainable – This was the rate that I did the entire bike segment of the ½ ironman in New Orleans.
I know what this means when I can’t get my heart rate into the high zones – fatigue! I have decided to not make up the swim that I missed on Monday and rest the entire day. No bike / run commute or anything. I am also going to re-evaluate my training plan. I have been hitting the workouts but I have also been adding a little bit to them on occasion. Sometimes, when I think they are not enough I will go ahead and ‘supplement’ with a few miles. For example, I have been adding bricks to many long bikes and extending many short runs. This is causing me to spend too much time in ‘no man’s land’ zone 3. From Joe Friel’s Blog – The Overtraining Threshold (while I do not have all of these symptoms– I can see and feel some of them).
+ Fatigue which doesn’t go away with 48 hours of low workload or even time off from training. The legs feel tired or there is general body weariness that lingers even after taking it easy for two days.
+ Little control of emotions — evidence of anger, feeling sorry for yourself, moodiness, depression, grumpiness. In short, you are hard to live with. A spouse or roommate may be the first to recognize this.
+ Performance declines. For example, you are slower at a given heart rate, or for any given speed, heart rate is higher than usual.
+ Self-confidence declines. This may be the best marker, but it’s hard to assess. One way to do it may be in the athlete trying to visualize accomplishing a very high workout or race goal. If it seems out of reach and farfetched, self-confidence may be low.
When any of these markers show up and linger for more than three days, there’s a good chance that the overtraining threshold has been exceeded. At this point the workload must be reduced immediately until you are back to normal. Then take time to evaluate what level of workload produced the problem, and make adjustments as you start back into higher workloads.
By learning to recognize your overtraining threshold and keeping the workload below it while designing the season around your limiters and strengths, you’ll improve race performances both in the short and long term. That’s smart training.