We're 18 weeks into training and most people on the team have done their "A" race or half way through training towards their "A" race. Many have just been racing to enjoy the sport and there is no "A" race. Still we have plenty of summer left even after this weekend's Boston Triathlon. These last ten years we've noticed late July - mid August becomes our version of the red zone, the time during which there is no recovery time from injury. In your own training schedules that is usually the period of time right after you've completed build and are ready for the performance or race phase - its when your body is at most risk for injury: you've moved yourself along the injury curve. We're in week 18 and its been fun and an adventure and we want it to keep going through the end of September. Here are the things to focus on at this time that you may have not needed to earlier on:
If you're going to build either endurance or speed you'll have to approach it judiciously. 18 weeks into anything be it softball or knitting means natural wear and less flexibility in your connective tissue. Whatever age you are the increase in pace and/or endurance requires an extended warm up time. CAREFUL though - additional stretching and enjoyment of things such as yoga requires extra warm-up now. If there is anytime to follow the increase by no more than 10% each week and moderate pace improvement as such it is now. To keep safe: run at least 10 minutes before stretching and/or doing speed work on either the bike or the track. Likewise in the water: swim light and then stretch arm muscles and resort to a swim buoy if the legs are fatigued.
If you want to know how close to the injury curve you are...run. How do the legs feel? Do you feel that after a couple of minutes you are either a) not loosening up or that b) the sense of fatigue is not leaving. Either of these signs could indicate you are prime for injury and your body not coming out of recovery quickly. It may also be a sign you're getting sick which means you're sitting on top of the injury curve. My old coach Jack Fultz used to say, "It's best to run except when it's best not to." At this stage don't! And for you "A" types out there if you have to then jump in the pool and do the breast stroke. Don't workout tired at this stage.
Your base is set unless you have a 70.3 or Ironman in September. Even then you should be pretty close to meeting your build distances. So if you have to add rest then do so. This is different from what we discussed above. This is not recovering from fatigue. This is adding or extending rest so that you can perform at higher level at your next workout. Simple as that sounds it takes a pretty well informed and disciplined athlete to do this: that's you guys. Remember the workout consists of: exercise-rest. If the rest didn't come neither did the workout.
Pull back on your stretching and lifting. It may comes as a surprise but swim-bike-run actually works out your muscles. What it doesn't do is make you look cut, pumped, etc. If you've ever run into Andy Potts who wins any IM or 70.3 he enters he looks like an ordinary guy you wouldn't notice twice from the way he's built. What he can do is swim 2.4, bike 112, and run 26.2 in just over 8 hours and put in world class times in each event. He's a walking example of specificity in training meaning that he knew when to hit the weight room and when he had to allow his connective tissue (joints, tendons, ligaments) become triathlon specific during the season. There's a good chance your knees, ankles, shoulder joints are way over the injury curve and lifting will finally cause the damage. As for stretching pull back - those really deep hurt-so-good stretches could mean micro-tears or a full tear at this stage of the season. Go 3/4 deep on the stretches.
You are now more prone to illness. Sure you're super Jane or Joe triathlete but we're in the stage where you're beating up your immune system pretty badly. Fatigue doesn't just mean the engine isn't going - it means there's some defenses down. How's this for a triathlon tip: wash your hands every chance you get. And carry a hand sanitizer with you. Do you know fish poop where you swim?
18 weeks in you'd think, "Man I train to eat!" And as part of Dreamfar Triathlon we encourage whole sale breakfast binge eating after workouts. But now is the time to double down on the good stuff and liquids. You've trained your body to fuel...its expecting to become a furnace regularly now which is great because you're a fat burning machine. Exactly what you wanted training to do. But it also means that the quality of the fuel matters and you have to pay even more attention now to help recovery. This is no time to look at that mirror and be pleased or unhappy: feed your body and feed it well (more about that in the next article.)
Hey you've done amazing getting to this point but there is much more fun coming. Be careful and stay out of trouble.