So here I am in the final third of my post-partum season, with the big races on the horizon. It seems like a good time to assess how things are going with my training and to consider if / what changes are viable in the final build to Tri Nats and Du Worlds.
Training volume. Without doing the actual math, I’d estimate that I’m averaging about 10-11 hours per week counting 1-2 hours worth of walks with the baby. Yes I log those. Weeks before a race are less and other weeks a little more. As an average training volume, this is not a lot to some people and it’s substantial to others, but that’s beside the point. What’s important is that it’s a sustainable volume for me, which is only true because I was able to regularly do more than that for a couple years prior to pregnancy. While that higher volume wasn’t sustainable long term for me, it did raise the bar for the volume I can back up week after week without breaking down. A little cost up front in the form of heavy, frequent fatigue and continual injury concerns brought me to where I am today.
How does the 10-11 hours typically break down over the course of the week? Here’s what I’ve done by run/bike/swim.
Run. Earlier in the season, I was maintaining about 30 miles per week running, all relaxed pace, for about 4-4.5 hours per week. Except for weeks before races, when volume was down to be fresh for the effort. In June, the 30 miles per week plan began fall apart with a sore achilles for a short while followed by a gross cold. Still, long runs have yet to extend farther than 10 miles, although those have been less frequent over the past month and a half. In this position, I don’t feel that doing the Raleigh Marathon in early November would be wise, nor fun. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll do the half marathon or something else, like maybe the Fall Cyclocross season.
Bike. Cycling was lower volume through May, with about 4 hours per week spent in the saddle. Occasionally, I’d have a 5-6 hour week. Bike volume went up a bit while run volume fell, but not always. I did increase the difficulty of the rides by including a few sessions of big gear and other intervals plus more roadie rides. Long rides didn’t exceed 3.5 hours.
Swim. At first, I was being a lazy ex-swimmer and doing only one swim per week. After a couple of triathlons, I realized that this wasn’t going to be adequate to achieve what I wanted to in the coming races, so I’ve since increased to twice a week (except for the week I was sick). Generally, that translates to once in the pool (~3000 yards) and once in open water (30-40 minutes).
Performance wise, how is the training working for me? There are a few different ways to assess this. I’ll start with the quantitative approaches.
Part of my performance measurement would be indicated by race results. True. If we ignore the heat sufferfest that was Du Nationals, I’ve managed to perform well enough so that I’m in position if someone else falters. I can’t control what other people do, so there’s some flukiness to the number of 1st place finishes I’ve seen, but I do give myself credit for minimizing the impact of my own mistakes and being close enough to the front to capitalize on others’ missteps. Notice I said “minimize” mistakes, not “eliminate”. Focus on the variables I can impact when I make a careless or tactical error in race execution is key. I let it go and keep an eagle eye out for small things that can improve my chances without wasting energy regretting. There’s time for post-race analysis later. In sum, race results suggest that the training is working even when considering the additive effects of race experience and smart tactics.
In the absence of VO2, lactate and power testing (which I don’t do), there’s another quantitative measure I can refer to. That’s paces I can maintain in training and races for all three sports. Intervals I can make in the pool aren’t too far off. Swim endurance is another story. Cycling is on par with pre-pregnancy levels. Running paces are still off by about 30 seconds per mile, give or take.
For a qualitative assessment, I have to consider how I feel physically, how I feel about what I’m achieving, and how I feel about my chances at the bigger races to come. By and large, I feel very good physically. It’s really nice to not be tired all the time. I also feel good about what I’m achieving. While I’m not at (nor exceeding) pre-pregnancy performances, I hardly expected to for a variety of reasons. Where I have a little work to do is in how I feel about my chances at the bigger races to come.
Training plan moving forward:
- Maintain and maybe sharpen bike speed, while ensuring adequate endurance for 40k distance race events.
- Swim volume and endurance adequate to comfortably draft my way to a decent 1500m swim split.
- Focus on improving run speed within time and training priority restrictions.
These impact current swim and bike training minimally, so I’ll stay on track with the two swims per week and make sure I do a few longer main sets in the pool. Also, biking is going fine. Perhaps another interval session or two in August and an allowance for a little less total bike volume to allow for more run focus.
So the run. I am accepting of the fact that continued nursing as the primary supplier of calories to my little one will likely mean slower run times. There’s no way I’m forcing weaning for a short term performance gain. However, I could help the gradual weight loss I’m seeing by reducing the number of times I eat to a point where I later realize that I could have done without. No restrictive dieting or calorie counting, just cut out the evening carbohydrate snacks that can lead to still feeling full when I go to bed. I’m not advocating going to bed hungry, just going to bed neither hungry nor full, in that in between and satisfied stage.
What else can I do to help run speed without risking injury? I’m wary of immediately ramping volume back up to 30 miles per week. I’ve actually run quite well in previous years on 25-ish mile weeks. Where I could see some improvement would be more regular hill repeats and tempo runs. To achieve this safely, that means continued shorter long runs no more than 10-11 miles up until Tri Nats. Du Worlds in late September has more running, so perhaps I’ll go up to about 13 in that final build and increase run mileage a little as the swim training drops off because I will be done with triathlons at that point.
So now you have a peek into what I do and how I think through my options. I’ve never actually written it down in this much detail before. It’s worth mentioning that plans are always subject to change based on unplanned variables such as work, family and how I’m feeling. You’ll probably also notice that this is a generalized 2.5 month plan without any specific schedule to adhere to. There are many paths to a positive outcome. I’d prefer to keep my eye on the outcome and choose the paths that make the most sense to that end as they emerge, rather than have the hubris to believe that I know today exactly what’s best for me three weeks from now. Makes for a more enjoyable journey.