It's been five weeks since Ironman Lake Placid and I'm still unable to shake the funk. Sure, I've had some successes in local races, but those felt more like desperation maneuvers on my part -- attempts to pull something positive from all the work I did before Ironman -- you know, so I don't have to look back at a wasted season.
I had an interesting conversation with one of my biking partners this past weekend. It involved my lack of improvement on the bike even with the massive amount of hard training leading up to the Ironman. I seem to have reached a biking plateau despite working my butt off. And I'm not going to lie -- I was very disappointed with my performance on the bike in Lake Placid. In 2009, I rode a much harder course at Ironman Coeur d'Alene but my time was only a few minutes slower there. Was I was holding back? Or did I really have no improvement whatsoever after a year of harder training? I'm still evaluating and coming to grips with it. At Lake Placid, I planned to go "easy" on the bike, but I still expected my time to be, at the very least, ten minutes faster. In actuality, it was about three minutes faster. It's hard to get psyched to do more work on the bike when there are no gains.
The improvements, instead, were in the two sports I spent the least time in. How does THAT happen? My swim time in Lake Placid was even faster than expected. Although, sometimes I think my swim is governed by some unknown force in the universe because despite spending very little time in the water, I often pull a fast swim out of nowhere. I've just never been able to justify swimming more than three workouts per week knowing it's less than one tenth of the total race time.
So, in preparation for Clearwater 70.3 in November, I've concentrated on speed work in all three sports, and, as usual, my swimming and running are the only places I've seen any obvious improvement. As a former competitive swimmer, I know how to "whip" myself into shape -- it's easy to do by imagining my swim coach's face screaming at me. In three weeks, I've managed to get my 100-yard pool intervals down to a time I've not seen since college days. Maybe I'm reading the clock wrong. Or maybe it's my vision. (There's that age thing again, as I recently needed my first pair of reading glasses.) But, even so, I do "feel" faster in the water.
My hill run repeats have also shown surprising improvement, unless age-related memory loss has also been plaguing me. Maybe I'm choosing different start and finish points from week to week. Or maybe I'm reading my watch wrong (there's that vision thing again). But even if that were the case, I can still convince myself that I feel better each week even after increasing the number of repeats.
Yet, I feel like I'm stuck in a post-Ironman-depression funk, and I'm worried it's related to bike speed. I'm beginning to dread that bike leg of the 70.3 -- you know, the one that "should be the fastest of my life" because of the ridiculously flat course? You know, the one that, last year, was my fastest 56-mile ride ever? It's the same one that turned out to be slower than 50% of the people I was racing against. These thoughts are now occupying my brain on a daily basis. They're sharing time with the fear that I've made a terrible mistake signing up for another Ironman in May of next year.
And now one more thought is creeping in: it's going to be a long winter.