So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time For A Few Small Repairs

"...days go by, I'm hypnotized, I'm walking on a wire; I close my eyes & fly out of my mind..." - "Sunny Came Home" (Shawn Colvin, 1996)
The thought didn't cross my mind until my last dental appointment. The dental hygienist who works on my mouth has done so for the past two and-a-half-years. She knows a great deal about me, seen me come in with my shoulder & arm in a sling, limping, or tired after a race. She knows me well, & the sudden decline in my dental health told her things she did not like.

"There are a couple of bad spots back there, & it's starting to look like it was during one of your first visits." She gently tapped on a couple of my molars and asked, "have you had any pain in these areas?"
I told her there wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but that my sinuses had been acting up all summer; it seemed like every time I hit the pool for a workout I'd end up hacking for two to three days. She didn't say much but provided a topical treatment to the area, scheduled me for a follow-up visit in two weeks, & suggested a few small changes to my care plan: Hydration, mouth rinsing, a different toothbrush, to name a few.

But, as always, that was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Waking up to a mild case of otitis externa (swelling of the ear canal) - or "swimmer's ear" - on a Monday morning three weeks after the dentist's visit made me think about whether the problems I had with sleep (bed at nine, up at five, back to bed until seven...), diet (why won't this weight come off!?), infections, & motivation (in all areas, not just athletics) this summer was more than being sick, more than being tired, but perhaps overtraining. Perhaps it was closer to overreaching back in the spring, as I approached 70.3 NOLA. But even at that point, a week out from the event, I could sense something was very wrong. I'm not a strong swimmer, & the thought of getting back in the open water after a disastrous day last November in Panama City - triggered by a discussion about swim courses at a race director training course - took me to a state of sheer, physical panic. Thank heavens for the "no-swim" choice on the day, a (very thin) silver lining to the black cloud of trying to get through a very warm day - including an open water swim - under your own power.

The following week was a road trip down into central Florida for the Road Runners Club of America convention. I felt pretty good for a couple of morning runs; nothing stellar, but good...good being defined as state of fitness a week after bicycling and running 69 miles. A swim at a local pool showed the fatigue was still there, though. And then, reality set in after the second mile of a 10K on Saturday. I was reduced to alternating walking & running sections, in the same manner I got through the 70.3 run course. After finishing in a time which was nearly a minute slower than my average performance, I knew it was time to take some time away. A month of easy workouts on the elliptical trainer & swims in the pool were good, but the aches & pains I had getting up every morning were disconcerting. Feeling like a person who is much older & much slower than you prefer to be is not fun. So, Vicki's concern about my dental health, added to the state of mental health - burned out - were possibly little more than manifestations of a greater problem of overreaching or overtraining.

As I've started looking at the training plan for Rock n' Roll/Mardi Gras 2011, the mantra less is more is making sense. I guess at 48 we take a little bit longer to recover from our indiscretions than at 28. Ibuprofen is no substitute for the occasional rest day. And there's no nutritional supplement that can help you perform when your mind just isn't into it.So far things seem to be going well. An extra day of rest, & listening to the need of my body to do only the amount of training necessary for the next event (why train for 14 hours a week if you're 9 weeks out from a half-marathon?) has felt wonderful, both during the two-or-three cross-training sessions I'm doing each week, as well as the workouts. I'm not eating ibuprofen like candy, either.

Every so often, like Shawn Colvin's "Sunny," we have to sit down, take a hard look at what we're doing to ourselves, & make a few small repairs.


Anonymous said...

Michael, since I know you pretty well, I need to remind you of "Kinder and Gentler". It is an integral part of a good training plan. If that fails to help you recover and be eager to race, then some extended down time is probably in order. As a note, Coach Schul used to give us a month off every year for that exact reason. Total recovery, both physical as well as mental.


Michael Bowen said...

Absolutely correct, Coach. Definitely taking time away from the "two-a-day" mentality, probably for the next six months or so. Additional rest days/low-intensity non-running activities.
Trying to keep the intensity levels of the workouts in check also during this time of the year - still mid-to-high 80s at sundown at 7:00.