Get Out of Your Rut

The problem with the moderate intensity rut.  Let me start off by saying that I have committed this mistake as recently as this past week.  That being said, I know better, and yet I understand first-hand the drive to go fast as an athlete.  Let me paint the picture for you.  I was scheduled for a 1:50 ride in Z2.  Without getting too deep into the numbers I ended up executing the bulk of the ride in Z2 but just barely.  You see I was feeling pretty good that morning (except for a sore back from being kneed in the ribs by my 5 year old daughter when she climbed into our bed at 0300 that morning.).  Having missed the better part of 3 weeks of my training from being sick, I made the conscious decision to go a bit harder.  Now on the surface it may not look like a big deal if you just look at the numbers.  I was pretty much on track with what was scheduled.  But here was the issue...I know what a Z2 ride should feel like and this ride was definitely flirting with being a harder (moderate) effort.  As athletes, we often do not look past the training session that we are in.  We fail to think about how the choices made in one session directly impact the next several sessions.  Here is how I was affected negatively.  My next session on the bike called for harder intervals that were to be 2x20 minutes at an output just harder than I will be doing in my June race.  While I was able to hit the numbers required on the 2x20 minute intervals, the effort took way more out of me than it should have.  See the pattern forming here?  By knowingly pushing what should have been a fairly easy endurance effort on the first session, my next session became that much more difficult.  Now here comes the real key piece in this example of what not to do.  After my 2x20 minute intervals on the bike I got home and cleaned up and sat thinking to myself, “You are never going to be able to hit your ridiculous race goals.  If you can’t handle that power output for 40 minutes how in the heck are you going to do it in the heat and wind on the shores of Kona for 2 hours and 25 minutes.  You will fail.”  This conversation in my head took place in about 2.5 seconds, but left a trail of destruction for several hours.  

I bring up my mistakes to help each of you see through a different lens and hopefully reflect on yourselves.  I could bring up countless studies on exact training zone times and how they apply to each of you, but I will keep this simple.  In order to truly go hard on the high intensity training days, you must go easy on the easy days.  Unless you are in your first year of training, the factor that will determine your speed on race day is how hard you can go on the hard days.  Don’t screw this up by turning your easy days into moderate or moderate/hard efforts.  If you do, here is what you should be prepared for: a performance plateau that you can’t break through; illness, injury, generalized fatigue that does not improve with a few days off; a feeling of being stale and rarely being able to train at higher intensities.

To wrap this up, it is critical to understand that training at lower intensities has great benefits in and of itself.  In addition to those benefits, it also allows you to hit your goals on the higher intensity days because you will not be dragging around a body that is constantly fatigued.
Sometimes Z2 end up being a fall leaf hike/run