Monday, March 17, 2008

Training - Unstoppable to Unwalkable

Figures, right? I cancel the race and the day ends up slightly damp, overcast, but otherwise completely uneventful. I woke up praying to see the whole world covered in snow, traffic crawling on the road outside, people scraping ice off their cars. But, no, that wasn't what I saw.

Oh well. The missus and I had a nice relaxing day off. We spent some time together where she wasn't working and I wasn't promoting. I have to admit that I ended up doing some training in (with the missus's blessings). I came away with some perspective as to what I've manged to do in the last 5 or 6 months of training.

First off, I decided to up my bench press weight to 180 lbs. When I first started doing the bench a few months ago I ended up at about 160 lbs as a comfortable, repeatable, but hard to do weight. I haven't changed that for a while so I decided that it was about time. With 180 I cranked out 8 reps, no problem. I read somewhere it takes about 5-6 days to fully recover from muscular tearing (i.e. what you do when you train) so I'll take it easy for at least a day or two, then I'll see how it goes with more weight. I used to max at 200 lbs but I have to imagine that I should be able to exceed that now. My goal now is to do 3x8 at 180-200 lbs.

I have other lifts but I haven't been playing with the weights as much. The bench is something I've always been fascinated with and so it gets the most experimentation. Plus any leg lifts stresses my fragile knees so I tend not to do much more than very light weights for my legs.

Another thing is I went for a run. I don't think I've done one since sometime in October, and back then I was just dying, and I mean dying, while running at about an eight minute pace. In fact, I couldn't run 1.5 miles in under 12:00 (I just checked my training diary). At first my legs were sore, but that went away quickly as my muscles adapted to the new stresses of running. Later my limits were all aerobic - I was gasping for air and simply couldn't breathe enough to run faster. My average heart rate typically hit 169+, my peak 180+, and I maintained the low 170s while I ran.

Incidentally I seem to go about 10 beats higher running than I do riding. Not sure why but it just seems to be the case.

Yesterday, on a sort of whim, I decided to check out how my running had deteriorated. I knew I could do some risky training (i.e. I'll have really sore legs) because I don't have a "priority" race for two weeks.

Yeah, Bethel is a priority race for me.

Anyway, I trotted along at a leisurely pace, covering the first half mile in a hair over 4 minutes (that deserved a double take on the watch), the second in a bit less than 5. My heart rate stayed in the mid 140s, proving that I really was taking it easy. Then I turned around and tried gunning the engine a bit, so to speak. I started running somewhat fast, found it to be manageable, so I accelerated. I waited for the air to suddenly lose all potency but that didn't happen so I went faster. And finally, since I knew I was coming up to the half mile marker in a couple hundred yards, I accelerated once again.

I slowed to a walk at the half mile marker. 3:30. And my heart rate was at 166 bpm. And I was barely breathing.

In fact, within 90 seconds my heart rate was down below 120 (and I was still walking), low enough that I called a couple people I forgot to call earlier. I left them both voicemails (go figure) in a regular voice, no breathlessness, no outward signs I'd just done a fast-for-me run.

My legs were a bit shaky though, the muscles not used to the running stress.

Finally, back at the apartment, I went to the dungeon and started my planned ride. I want to do some aggressive hours this coming week so I wanted to keep my time down to 90 minutes for this particular ride.

With no SRM I have no wattage figures. However I know the gears and I had my heart rate watch on, so I had an inkling of what kind of efforts I could make.

Ends up I felt very, very good.

Good enough that I lost track of time and the missus had to come downstairs to retrieve me. I'd done some fast big gear work, fast little gear work, and spent a bunch of time riding on the drops, trying to acclimate my body to the slightly unnatural posture it requires. As usual I had a DVD playing in the background, the images more important than the sounds.

Typically my fast big gear efforts (53x13-15) last all of 30 seconds before I blow, pedals turning slower and slower, my heart rate at 160-165 (my sustained limit while riding indoors).

But last night the efforts seemed less imposing. I felt unstoppable. I'd do a 60 second effort, then a 2 minute effort, then 3 minutes. I'd look at my heart rate at the end of each one, out of breath but not cripplingly so. 145. 148. 150. The numbers didn't move very much, and they dropped like a rock once I eased up. In fact it took me longer to find a good song on my laptop than it did to recover from my last effort.

Eventually, though, I got off the bike. I was in the middle of one of my efforts, imagining myself to be time trialing in the break along with the other guys on my DVD screen when I suddenly found the missus peering into my face (talk about a little shock). I hadn't heard her come downstairs as I couldn't hear anything except the laptop music with the earphones, headband over the earphones, and the volume cranked. And though I felt a bit wobbly walking up the stairs, I figured it was because I'd just done a pretty hard (for me) ride.

Later that night, when I came down to retrieve something, I almost fell down the stairs.

The running, I realized, had stressed my legs more than I thought.

I went from unstoppable to unwalkable.

I want to do some big hours today. We'll see how it goes. My first challenge will be to get into the basement to retrieve my bike without tumbling down them.


Rebecca H. said...

Be careful with the running! It's so easy to injure yourself -- I haven't been able to run for almost two months now because I hurt my foot, and I thought I was building running endurance up slowly. Anyway, I was grateful for the canceled race, as I was feeling a bit sick. I'll see you in two weeks!

Aki said...

I'm super paranoid about running - I tried it in 8th grade and ended up not being able to ride for a bit. I don't plan on running much more than a mile or two at a time so that doesn't hurt either. And there's an extra reason or three for running too, and my goals are very, very limited with running (but I do have goals).

Giles said...

Ack, running. I've never been a fan. Sometimes it's okay though; I can get to a time-trial type of heart rate (around 180 for me) pretty quickly and then just try and maintain that. Running seems to be just as tactical as TT--Just find a pace you can handle for as long as it will take you to get where you're going, then ramp it up as you're getting closer, if you can. Don't run your 'bank account' dry too early: once it's empty, it's empty, but if there's some left, you can always clear it out at the end.
As for the legs, yea, the occasional times that I do run, I can definitely feel it especially in the shins, something about my foot-balance cramps up the muscles which I never use for biking. I guess finding an efficient step that you can handle and balances energy-usage efficiency with muscular endurance is equivocal to TT where you're trying to mediate between aero position and pedaling efficiency.

Knees: do you do knee-specific strength exercises? I've added knee-extensions, 20 reps * 10 lbs (per leg) to my regular weights sessions, in order to balance out my medial quadraceps, and it's made a noticeable difference.

Aki said...

I find the front of my quads are sore after my first run or two. After that I'm so conservative that I really don't hurt anywhere. I do find it's much easier to hold a high heart rate running that cycling.

I don't do much knee exercises. Cycling seems to stabilize my knee better than anything else. I lift light weights (40 lbs for both legs) via leg extensions, tried squatting (90-150 lbs, prefer 90). Seems all lifting hurts my knees eventually.

However I can grind gears all day long and my knees will be fine. So I do big gear, low heart rate work.

Anonymous said...

It's not just you, Aki. Everyone's heart rate is higher while running than cycling because of the greater muscle mass involved in running. It's what allows you to do a great workout in significantly less time than on the bike. Makes spouses happy.

Aki said...

Maria - see now I didn't know that :) Still though, my running goals, for now, are limited to sub 30 minute runs. I don't know if that'll change any time soon but I'm actually running (when I run) less than 15 minutes at a time.