Training is very much similar in that it takes a certain level of finesse to push your body to the right degree, and at the right times, to get best stimulus in building optimal fitness but without overdoing it. A dance of sorts on the edge of "enough," but not "too much," which of course comes with the risk of overstepping your boundaries. It's a calculated risk of sorts, and coming from someone who likes to stay as FAR AWAY from cliffs as possible, can be a scary place to be.
In regards to my training as of lately, I very much wish I could say "Everything is going great! I feel strong, confident and motivated" but that would definitely be a far stretch of the truth. Reality: training has been a challenge and filled with a fair share of ups and downs, similar to the rolling hills I'm preparing myself for along the bike course at Louisville. It in some ways reminds me of boarding a roller coaster, where you're strapped in and committed and thus have no choice but hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride! (I have a love hate relationship with roller coasters, can you tell??) Which is totally ok, just different. It's not my expectation to feel good 100% of the time as I know pushing through mental and physical fatigue (to a certain extent) are part of the process of getting stronger and preparing myself for the inevitable challenges of race day.
^^Riding out to the Shawsville 5k on the 4th of July...a rare moment of the hubby riding his bike! And smiling!!
The million dollar question then becomes, how much is "too much" and where do you draw that line? It's funny how quickly I forget how hard I am working somedays and take that fact for granted. In fact, as I write this I'm looking back at June training and realizing that I've averaged close to 12 hrs/week over the past 5 weeks, so perhaps it's reasonable for me to be feeling tired.
In late June I went to the doctor for a 6 month check-up and learned that my ferritin levels have dropped off from where they were last October. In technical terms, I'm not anemic (defined by low hemoglobin levels) but definitely iron deficient (defined by low iron stores a.k.a. iron stores). Although technically "within normal limits" for the average adult (my doctor wasn't concerned) my ferritin level of 23 mg/dL is well below the recommended level for endurance athletes (30-35 mg/dL or more) and regardless the trend it having dropped is not a good one. On one hand it's good I learned this sooner rather than later, and on the other it means I have my work cut out for me in the coming months to build those iron stores back up amidst peak ironman training. It also complicates the whole "fatigue" thing. Even so I am feeling optimistic in knowing that, while I might be fighting an uphill battle, things can only go up from here... right? It's hard to say how much this is actually affecting my training, but certainly it's only going to be helpful make the appropriate dietary changes to rebuild my iron stores back to into the recommended range.
Thankful for this ^^ guy for helping me through 16 slow, low energy trail miles this past Sunday... even if it was a slog of sorts and I ended up being the one to drag HIM through the miles. And look I even had a little energy at the end !
While I've had a few good workouts in the past two weeks, most days I've felt as if my fuel tank is running on empty (despite eating plenty of calories) and I've definitely been struggling through workouts more so than normal. Enough to be concerned that something is amiss, enough to know it's perhaps time to back off the gas. If anything I am thankful to have the guidance of my coach in helping to make those decisions so as to prevent me from completely breaking down. The past few days have been better, and despite Sunday's long run being a drag I actually felt better afterwards and since.
The past month has provided plenty of challenges and take away lessons. I may be relentless and hard working but I'm also very much human and not invincible. And while I'm confident that I'm moving in the right direction towards my goals. I know that I still have my work cut out for me in the months ahead and need to continue to take care of myself - mentally, spiritually and physically - so I can continue to put in the work!
Two weeks from today is my next race, or race weekend of sorts: I'm signed up to participate in the Culpeper Gran Fondo 100 on Saturday and Culpeper Olympic Triathlon on Sunday... so special thanks to VTSMTS chief of Ops Greg for the insane idea and coach Jim for approving of it :) Throw in some late summer heat & humidity and it should be a suffer-fest of sorts!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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