Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Post IM Recovery- Evidence

Pick up a copy of Joe Friel's 'Going Long, 2nd edition'. I'm a big fan of this book. When I first got it, I read it cover-to-cover. Now, I use it as a reference. Turn to page 327. Find the 2nd to last paragraph. It explicitly states, 'Do no running for at least four days after a half-Ironman-distance race and twelve days after an Iroman-distance race.'

Naturally, my first run after Ironman Lake Placid was 8 days post-race. It did not go well, just as Friel predicted. I was clearly not recovered from the big race. I had been doing active recovery swims and bike rides. But, running is the most obvious place to measure your recovery.

My first run was a 3.5 mile jaunt on a course with which my legs were very familiar.

Am I Recovered?- Take 1
I, like most of you, have a mental block on running distances. Currently, my lowest run distance is sitting on this route and the Ego tells me that I cannot go shorter than this run unless I am injured, running after a super long ride, or out for a joy run with the Wife. Since none of these scenarios applied, I was stuck with the full 3.5. Again, this is day 8 post IM.

I was supposed to keep my heart rate in zone 1 or low zone 2. The border of these zones for me is 163. As you can see, I failed miserably. My failure wasn't the only miserable aspect of this run. I didn't need HR or pace to tell me this sucked. I felt horrible. On even the smallest inclines, my legs burned and my HR soared. My average HR was in the middle of zone 2. My max HR was mid zone 4 (normally reserved for racing and speed work). The only reason my 2nd mile was so 'fast' was the inclusion of a half-mile hill (see hill profile above). This was my only workout of the day and the effort left me comatose. That was Monday morning (a good time to be a zombie). Definitely not recovered.

Am I Recovered?- Take 2
I decided that I would not go again for a couple of days. I did swim and bike easily during the next 2 days. Now, Thursday morning arrives. This was day 11 post IM (still 1 day under the Friel recommendation). I talked myself into going for a run (which was a frustrating back-and-forth conversation which I almost lost). Despite my relative suckiness at the discipline, I actually enjoy running. I feel free when I'm out amongst the elements. Here's the data:
This is the exact same course, at the same time of day, in similar weather conditions. Notice how my average heart rate is significantly lower (zone 1 as opposed to upper zone 2). My max HR is a good 16 beats slower. My overall pace is faster despite the fact that my first mile is slower and the downhill mile is roughly the same. I felt a little better on this run, but still not great. My chest did not feel open and I was definitely ready to stop by the end of the run. Not recovered, but getting better.

I continued to swim and bike. But, now the weekend has arrived. One of my favorite qualities of recovery post-IM is the inclusion of the Wife in my workouts. She went for a bike ride with me. She took me on a trail run. Since she does not carry the Male-Ego gene and does not feel the need to challenge each workout, we went slowly. It was absolutely perfect.

Am I Recovered?- Take 3
Since I declared that I was adding a short season to my schedule, I started short-season training on Monday. This is now 15 days post Lake Placid (3 days after the window of running opportunity). Monday morning, I went for an 18 mile ride, which included 5 x 1 minute zone 4 hill efforts followed by 1 minute easy. Then, I went for a 4.5 fartleck brick run (1 mile warm up then 5x[ 0.25 mile hard, 0.25 mile easy], cool down) immediately following the ride. My legs felt the effort.

On Tuesday, 16 days after the big deal, it rained. I was tempted to ride outside in the drink but the lightening and thunder forced me to set up the trainer (I am still sulking about this fact. I hate the trainer!). After a 10 minute warm up, while watching a bad movie, I did 5x 1:00 all out with 4 minute recoveries. Then, I set out for a 3.5 mile run, on the same course as I showed you before. When you see this data, keep the situation in mind. The other runs were solo workouts of the day. The previous days were light, easy type efforts. This workout was the second half of a brick. The first half included hard efforts. The day before included hard efforts and my legs were pre-fatigued going into the bike ride. Here's the data:
A couple of points of interest. Notice how the pace of the run is significantly faster. Again, this is on the exact same course as the other 2 runs. The heart rate numbers show a data anomaly, which I assume was an equipment malfunction. An extrapolation of my heart rate zones yields a max heart rate of 202, therefore 207 should be statistically impossible. This heart rate problem occurred around the 21:00 mark, which I can assure you that I was feeling fine, and may have been induced by the rain. I may have been struck by lightening but I cannot seem to remember (the Wife did notice a 'burnt' scent around the house when she got home but we did not find the source). It also goes to show that you cannot 100% rely on HR data.
I am assuming that, if you ignore the 2 obvious HR spikes (again, I am certain from equipment issues, lousy Garmin), my average HR drops a few points. Even with the anomaly, my average HR is only 1 beat off of the 8-day run. But, my average pace is more than a minute faster. Ready or not, here I come.

-Recovery is not complicated. Simply don't do stuff for a while.
-Trying to force workouts before your body has recovered will not be fruitful.
-Heart rate is not always reliable. Include rate of perceived exertion (RPE) in recovery.
-Workout with your Wife
-The indoor trainer should be avoided at all costs.

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