The time has come – again: it’s race week. Only a week detached from a tough day at Vineman 70.3, I’ve found myself in taper mode once again, and I have a tall task ahead of me this weekend: a full Ironman*. I’m racing Vineman AquaBike on Saturday – a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike, and then running the San Francisco Marathon with Taylor bright and early on Sunday morning.
So what happens in between races? I haven’t stopped working out during the week. I enjoyed a couple of quality sessions not long after Vineman 70.3 on 7/13, and I logged solid workouts last weekend: a 30+ mile bike ride, an open water swim in the San Francisco Bay and a 12 mile run. Despite the recent spike in volume and intensity, I haven’t felt drained during my key sessions, and most importantly, I’m not overtired during the day at work.
Admittedly, I’ve attempted big back to back workouts and races several times with mixed results, but my most recent attempts have been my most successful. My first foray into back to back races served as a great leaning experience: I raced Big Sur Trail Marathon, NYC Marathon, and North Face Endurance Challenge 50K in a 10-week span, and learned what not to do. At the end of 2013, I completed the Quad Dipsea (28.7 miles with almost 10,000 feet of elevation gain) and North Face Endurance Challenge 50K (with over 6,000 feet of elevation) only 6 days apart. Here are some of the key focus areas for my training weeks in between races:
- Sleep more: This. I can’t really emphasize this enough. If I’m feeling the early signs of fatigue after a race or stretch of hard workouts, I would much rather spend an extra hour in bed instead of pushing it when my reserves are low. I will sometimes shift my scheduled morning workouts to post-work so that I can log an extra hour of much needed sleep.
- Emphasize active recovery: After completing Quad Dipsea, I knew that I would need at least one full rest day before I attempted a shakeout run before the 50K a few days later. I took 2 days, and then went out for an easy run – the early miles hurt, but the rust came off once I was warmed up. Instead of taking a full day of rest after Vineman 70.3, I hit the pool for 15 minutes of easy swimming to promote blood flow, and then spent the balance of my workout stretching at a leisurely pace. If you have a race looming, aim for easy workouts and schedule a few key sessions to get your racing legs back.
- Soft tissues and myofasical repair: Taylor and I swear by stretching and deep tissue massages, but the jury’s out on the optimal recovery modalities for endurance athletes. Much like nutrition, what works well for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone, but we’ve both reaped positive results from a mixture of stretching and massages once (delayed onset) muscle soreness subsides.
- Listen to your body: The first attempt at racing back to back will give you a good baseline for how you could improve next time. Training exposes some of your resilience and ability to recover, but racing – especially intense racing is a different beast. If your next race is only a week or two after your previous effort, you most likely will not experience a noticeable drop in fitness levels. For that reason, I like to sleep when I need sleep, and workout easy so that I have plenty of energy come race day. In general, I would much rather sleep more and cut intensity, volume, or both in favor of feeling strong come race day.
You’ve done some cool races!! I have two back to back trail races (up mountains) in a few weeks and my plan was to just take it easy between the two. Maybe some spinning on the bike and some easy swimming in between, but that’s it. I totally agree that you won’t lose fitness in a week. I will take sleep over a work-out anyday if I feel tired. Sleep is so important for recovery.
This is a great post. I’ve looked on the internet for advice on doing, say, two marathons within 6 weeks of each other, but haven’t really found any good advice on how to train for that besides “don’t do it.” I’m not in shape to do that at this point, but in the future, I’d hate to have to wait two years for a June marathon because I already have a May one in mind.
The best advice I’ve heard is to adjust your expectations for each race. Instead of asking yourself “how can I train for three different races in 6 weeks?”, look at it as each race being part of your training for the broader goal of successfully completing a 3-race month, or something like that. I’m probably not doing it justice here, but basically: use the less important races as training runs for your favorite or last of the races. Do them for the experience and don’t go all out, so that you can minimize recovery time.
Single-Tracked Mind said:
I agree completely – adjusting expectations is essential, and using races as a way to train for bigger races is one of my favorite approaches; I wrote a post about it last year:
Thanks for reading!
I’m just wondering how you fit work into all that training! 🙂
Single-Tracked Mind said:
Efficiency. And coffee 🙂
ha! aye I suppose! Great advice though 🙂
Single-Tracked Mind said:
Good post. And, good luck.
Good luck, can’t wait to hear how it goes! What a difference sleep makes. If I could only get my body to understand how important it is and actually let me get enough sleep, I think it would be a game changer.
Good job on the Ultra, and also great advice .. Thanks dude.
Leslie @ TriathleteTreats said:
I think those are great tips! I also think refuel properly helps a ton! Making sure to get the calories in/replenished quickly after the big/long effort. I love massages for recovery. I foam roll every single day! Active recovery is key too!
I did 3 marathons in 3 months a couple of years ago. It wasn’t awesome but it wasn’t awful either. Learned a lot. But don’t really want to do it again anytime soon! 🙂
Good luck this weekend! it is going to be great training! Have fun too!
Wow. Good job!