Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Training Time: Like the Extra Pair of Socks You Wish You Had but Didn't Wash

Training's been on my mind lately-- or, I should say, more than usual. Though I've made a solid and steady (albeit, slow) return to a solid mileage base, I still find myself partitioning days into runs and cycle sessions, or runs and swims, usually both accompanied by some sort of stretching/strengthening routine. What was once a training program of 10-11 hours has expanded into 17 hours (or, that's what I logged last week-- 2 hours of cardio work each day with the exception of 3 and one-half on Saturday; the left over hours are devoted to prehab and various strength routines I do) and threatens to expand well into 20 hours. On a very basic level, I love it. Yet, in terms of the management of one's life, it's created a vortex of absolute chaos and sometimes utter panic. How will the laundry get done (a necessary function when dirty training clothes smell particularly rotten) or who will work the job to pay the bills that training necessitates (treatment of injury, new shoes and socks since all but one pair are hole-ridden)? Well, guess what: it's ME. I have (or, I should say MUST) do these things in order to lead this life.

I know what you're thinking:  she's complaining. Boo-hoo.

But, before you click away in disgust, let me say this came to mind in part because I'm working on an article for Go3 Magazine. I'm interviewing three athletes who have just qualified for the World Championship Ironman Race in Kona. Though I've only got one tri under my belt (and it was an Olympic distance one-- a far cry from an Ironman which is a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 run), I can say my recent training schedule might be a tiny taste of what athletes of Ironman World-Champ-caliber go through for years on end, day after day, in order to reach the level of fitness required to compete in an event that takes AT LEAST nine hours for most people to complete. And for most, it takes much longer.

That's not to say long distance running isn't hard. It is hard, but not in quite the same way. Statistically, most elite long distance runners only train for 10-12 hours a week (that's sport-specific training-- and I'm citing Fitzgerald in his book Racing Weight) whereas cyclists and swimmers AND triathletes are known to regularly log 20-hour weeks. The reason for this is quite simple: there's only so much pounding a human body can take. At least on a bike or in the pool, there's an implement or element to help you along.

Even 10-12 hours can be a lot, though, if you have a full time job or a family or both. Or a cat like mine who fills the cat box rather quickly and likes to leave tufts of fur on the white carpet that require daily vacuuming.

And here it comes: how can this madness continue? I'd like to think that I can train for the Olympic Trials just as I would love to train for an Ironman distance triathlon when my running-specific days have ended. But how can a person keep up a schedule like this without alienating friends and family? Or, perhaps more importantly, without completely losing their mind?

I'm excited to interview these athletes (not only for their stories of personal success, which I'm sure are amazing and inspiring) but also to find some clue as to how they have managed the demands of "life" with "training life".  I could really use some tips right now. The cat fur is piling up an the dishes haven't been washed. And there are so many miles to run-- (or, as Frost would say) miles to go before I sleep.