Two Months In
Well folks, it’s March. That means I’ve been living and training at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) for just about two months now. The first few weeks were definitely an adjustment in terms of navigating my way around complex, getting to know people and finding a rhythm and pattern with my training. After two or three weeks I felt I was settling in nicely and then the fatigue set in.
For the first couple of weeks I was definitely running on pure adrenaline and excitement. I mean, I was finally here, living a childhood dream of being a “professional athlete.” Not only that I’m living at the Olympic Training Center where so many of our finest Olympic and Paralympic athletes have lived and trained. Star-struck, starry-eyed… Yep, that was me for a while.
One day in my second or third week I made my way to the Strength and Conditioning facility to do my run workout on one of the treadmills. There is one specific treadmill that I always use in the S&C facility. It has a sticker that my coach, Derick, slapped on it so that I know where the start button is. As I made my way past several treadmills I heard several people running extremely fast on the treadmills. When I reached my treadmill I heard a female voice say “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m just finishing up and you can have this treadmill.” “No problem,” I replied as I looped Skye’s leash around an unused treadmill so he’d be out of the way. The woman who was using my treadmill hopped off, quickly wiped it down and stepped away. Almost immediately I heard someone say “Hey Colleen, I’m a huge fan…”
“Wow, did I just kick Colleen Quigley, 2016 Olympic Steeple Chaser off a treadmill?” (Note: I’m not sure if it was Colleen Quigley, but I do know that the Bowerman Track Club was in town for a bit of training, so who knows.) Little moments like that would just throw me for a loop and make me think “what am I doing here?”
I think it was the next week that Derick decided it was time to tighten the screws a bit. All of a sudden I’d open my Training Peaks account and my run paces would be much faster. In the pool in the mornings I wasn’t exclusively working on technique. I had to still focus on technique but at a much higher intensity. Derick would set my tempo trainer and I’d have to beat the beep on the timer setting. I felt slow and sluggish in the water and felt like everyone was just flying through the workout so easily. My shoulders ached, my lats complained and my mouth constantly tasted like chlorine.
In the morning I’d wake up and my shoulders and back would feel extremely stiff. One week, this must have been two or three weeks ago now, Derick assigned me a hard swim set. I thrashed my way through the first two-thirds of the set at what felt like a snail’s pace even though I was swimming as hard as I could. Derick stopped me and told me to call it a day because I was going backwards.
The very next day the swim set was even harder with the main set being 5 by 400 at close to race pace effort. I felt strong on the first set so went out harder than I should have. Then the second set I settled into a nice pace. The third was hard to maintain and the fourth I completely fell apart. I dangled on the wall with my head leaning against my arms, chest heaving and blood pounding in my head. I expected and desperately wanted to hear Derick say “Let’s call it quits Kyle. You’re going backwards again.” But alas, I didn’t hear those blessed words. Instead I heard “10 seconds… 5, 3, 2, 1, go!” And so I had to push off the wall and do my best to crank out another set. And if the fourth set had felt terrible, this one felt like my muscles were being torn from the bones.
For the next week or so I floated through each day in a bit of a daze just wanting to survive each swim. My bike was the only thing I felt strong and confident in. I’d swing my leg over my trainer and after five minutes of easy spinning I’d feel the power surge into my legs and I could crank out any workout Derick through at me. My run was hit and miss. Some days I felt like I could run at a sub 6 minute per mile pace. Other days I wondered if I’d be able to hold a 9 minute pace. My weight lifting sessions were pushing my physical and mental capabilities as well. Some days I felt like I could lift the building, and other days I felt I could barely pick up a coin.
But then some time early last week there was a shift. My shoulders and back no longer screamed in protest as I stroked through the water. If anything it felt good to push myself and it felt like a challenge to raise the bar in terms of my technique and effort. Wattage ranges that only a few weeks earlier had been tough, were now seeming almost easy on the bike. But the real break through came in my run when Derick assigned me 8 by 1 km repeats at a 6:15/mi to 5:49/mi pace. I hesitated, unsure if I’d be able to hold those paces. Just the week before I’d really struggled holding a 6:45/mi pace. But I gritted my teeth and opened up what I call “The Hurt Locker.” And let me tell you, this workout Hurt! When I reached the last interval if I could see I’d say I would’ve been seeing triple. My legs were so shaky that I had to walk the cool down. But after that nothing seemed that bad.
Now we sit just about one week out from our first race of the season and I’m excited and nervous. Excited because I feel that I’m swimming, biking and running, stronger and faster than I ever have in my life. But I’m nervous because what if it’s a fluke? What if I can’t put it together on race day? In the end I know I need to trust my training and use next week’s race as a springboard into the rest of the season.
Interested in what a normal week looks like for me? Read on below.
Wake up at 6:00 AM. Feed and take out Skye. Drink a protein shake, eat a cliff bar or run to the cafeteria and grab some fruit and a bagel with almond butter.
7:30-9:00 Am: Swim, normally about 3500 meters.
Post swim, eat a larger breakfast.
11:15ish: 90 minute easy spin on the bike. Shower up and head to cafeteria to eat lunch.
3:30 PM: Strength and Conditioning, usually lasts 60-90 minutes and we hit just about every muscle group in the body.
Quick dinner around 5:15 after feeding and taking Skye out. Then around 6:00 PM head to Pure Bouldering (a bouldering specific rock climbing gym) to work on some bouldering projects, or head to CityRock to volunteer to belay kids with the Adaptive Climbing Team.
Get back to the room about 8:30 or 9:00. Shower and crash.
Same morning routine.
7:30 AM swim, again about 3300-4000 meters.
Breakfast and then normally around 11:00 or 11:30 is a high intensity run interval workout.
Lunch and then the rest of the day off unless I schedule a massage or elect to do some foam rolling and stretching.
Sometimes Tuesday night I’ll meet friends for tacos… Yum!
In bed by 9:00 PM at latest if I can manage it.
7:30 AM swim usually about 2500-3500 meters.
High intensity (normally threshold/race power work) bike session right before lunch.
3:30 PM, another strength and conditioning session. This one is normally a bit shorter, about 45-60 minutes again hitting just about every muscle group.
Try to be in bed soon after dinner. Definitely don’t be in bed later than 9:00 PM.
8:00 AM swim. This swim is usually shorter, no more than 2500 or 2600 meters and we focus on technique and drills. Although we’ll occasionally throw in some very short but very high intensity sets just to keep us honest.
Easy run right before lunch.
Rest of the day dedicated to stretching, foam rolling and/or a massage if I didn’t do one on Tuesday. Also, I tend to be low on workout clothes about this time of week so I’ll do some laundry.
7:30 AM swim. 3000-4000 meters with intensity.
Tempo/endurance bike intervals just before lunch.
And once again, strength and conditioning at 3:30. Normally this one’s about 75 minutes but we push the weight hard. For some reason my trainer likes to make me do a lot of pull-ups on Friday… Not fun after a week of hard swimming.
Dinner around 5:30. Shower and in bed by 9:00 PM.
Typically a tempo run at around 7:45/mi pace, but that seems to be getting faster each week. I usually try to get this done around 10:00 AM or so after breakfast but before lunch.
Afternoon I reserve for relaxing or hanging out with friends I’ve made outside of the OTC complex.
Typically a higher intensity bike session ranging from 1.5-2 hours. I definitely try to get this done early, just after breakfast. Afternoon again is reserved for relaxing, reading, hanging with friends and doing laundry.
Of course this schedule isn’t exact. There are a lot of moving parts, but this is the rough outline. And naturally I do take my dog out four or five times a day and spend some time on Facebook helping to manage the Bubba Burger Adventures Facebook page, and doing my best to come up with blog topics to update you all 🙂
So stay tuned as more updates and stories will be coming!