Friday, January 20, 2012

Visiting the dark places

Summer is finally here, and training 6 weeks out of race day is like a triathlete’s paradise: plenty to do, plenty to organize, lots to eat, lots of rest and you can forget about house works for a month or so. I am blessed with the best wife in the world, which makes things even easier. A few days ago I left for a swim, then work, then ride and then we met at the pool for a second swim, chillax and catching up.

On another subject, I often chatted to buddies training for long distance triathlons that every now and then they’ve been to a dark place while training. The reasons were many, the cold, the wind, the climbs, the intensity of the interval, the minimalist rest periods, the pace, the hunger, the thirst.

On 4 years training quite formally (over 8hr week), I’ve experienced most of the above symptoms at some point or another, however I’ve never thought of it as been in a dark place.

But all of a sudden IM training came along and I discovered a new meaning for dark place. It is that point where there are more reasons not to keep going than there are to keep going. Pain, heat, tiredeness, the elements but more importantly, the confidence that we’re more than ready already and changing or skipping one session is OK, and the same for the next day and the following.

This latter is the greatest of the dark places, because you cannot tell you’re there and you think you’re doing the smart thing. It is like radiation. You don’t see it or feel it, but it is there, and is very dangerous indeed. As the famous line from the usual suspects goes: the biggest trick the devil pulled is to convince the world he did not exist.

I had to pull myself out of that one a couple of times over the last month. Having someone with experience to talk, or calling the coach makes a difference, and changes the whole outlook.

More importantly, though, I am keen to hear from you and learn a bit more about this. What’s the darkest places you been in for endurance training?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

gear review - K-Swiss K-Ona

The K-Ona is advertised to be a multi-use shoe and not only a lightweight trainer. I bought them with the idea of using is as a racing shoe for half marathons or more.
The Looks:
the shoes are a nice piece of work, good finishing and a mighty look. They have IRONMAN written on the side, which is not of my liking, but they look quite racey.
The size:
When I bought the shoes I did not know much about how the sizing worked out on KSwiss and I ended up with shoes that are a tad too big. This is not great for two reasons, the first one is that my feet travel .5cm at sone stages, creating the potential for blisters. The second reason is that bigger shoes don't grab my feet as well as the perfect size, and my stride does not benefit fully from that.
The pros:
These shoes are like a feather, wearing them for longer (over 2 hours) runs I noticed the weight not becoming an issue, allowing me to keep good form.
Besides the light weight, they provide a great deal of mid-foot support and the material has gone over 200km of running with minimal wear.
Another test is the ability to go off road, in the few ocasions that I did take the shoes for a light off road run (park, mud, no roots, a bit of gravel) they stood very well.
The Cons:
Sizing-wise the shoes are on the wide side, so if you're like me, with thinner feet, they're not ideal.
The IM branding on the side. I'm not on for free advertising, but the prize was good and I did make a choice based on my wallet.
Even though the shoes were a bit big for me, the seams were a problem on the upper part of my feet, and the couple of runs I did without socks, the result was not great.

So, not an ideal start for K-Swiss and Valentino. The multi-use shoest turned out to be the plan B trainers. However, with time I started to venture more and more miles into them, and the last 3 hours run in the rain I did I did with my KOnas, and they responded. I am a happy customer.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The reset button

The holiday is almost gone, I've been enjoying the not-having-to-work-and-not-having-to-plan mood for the last 10 days and it was great. 

Every now and then I need to reboot and these days have been great at that. It was a rather uneventful Xmas break, but it did the job (I think) of cutting up the long IM training calendar. It would have been great to have the tramping trip done, but the weather gods weren't playing for us this year. In any case, it was all about attitude and I think we had a great one this time around.

Training was aided by a very lazy routine and lots of stretching and keeping a healthy diet (maxed out at 2 glasses of wine). All in all there was a couple of good days and a couple of days were character building sessions. 

The ability to set oneself up again is not as easy as it sounds. There is the peril of going too much off the path and taking a lot to come back (typical holiday piggy out). There is also a matter of timing (can't do too close to a race as re-setting takes a lot of energy). And there's the top 2 inches, re-setting is all about the top 2 inches and if one doesn't have a good network of close allies to talk about stuff, then it may not work at all. 

I then got to explore neuromuscular reset literature on the web, if you haven't done it, here's a sampler, but you can do your own homework. All I have to say is that it did spark a bit of curiosity, to the point that this may be my strategy for IM. I shall carry on reading, and check with coach, but I reckon there's something to it. 

Then it was Resolutions time, and this year I kept it to the minimum. There's three races that matter and they are IM, Sprint Worlds and a half in Argentina. Then it will be a matter of slowly going off road. That's all.

I wish you all a great 2012 and see you at the races