Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Comeback Case Study

by Mike Corona

Initially I thought my previous article on coming back would end the series. Then I thought I would continue to write about my attempt at a comeback through my "A" race this season: Syracuse 70.3 in June.

One of my favorite quotes is from "Rocky Balboa" about life. Rocky tells his son how, "Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life." He goes on to say, "But it ain't how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward..." The full quote is in the image to the right, and if it doesn't give you goose bumps, check your pulse!

You could say life gave me a nasty upper cut right to the chin a couple years ago, that resulted in losing my fitness and gaining lots of fat. Then I lost the itch to train and race. Through it all, I knew one thing: I had to keep swinging and showing up. Some days I absolutely hated showing up to the races so out of shape, but deep down I had faith and focus that the itch would return. I kept riding my bike, though not nearly as swiftly as before.

Eventually things came around a couple months ago and I started to want to train again. Looking back, the lesson to pay forward is to stay in the game!

I ended my previous article suggesting it made sense to "just move" after a long layoff, which is advice that the EC team has been recommending for years. The specificity of workouts doesn't matter. There's no pressure to hit sets; all you have to do is move. Lesson 2: listen to those who have been there before!

After an initial dose of "just moving," I felt it was time to put a fitness and nutrition plan of attack in place, and that's where I am at today.

Typically, I like a solid 24 weeks from an A race to allow for a decent period to prepare. Like most, I'll first focus on general fitness, then boost my threshold a bit, then just focus on the demands of my A race for the final six to eight weeks; for the half IM athlete that means lots of tempo!

It's tempting to hit the turbo and crank out 2x20s right out of the gate, but the truth is we don't need it, and it is extremely beneficial to simply hit some steady state training, and prepare yourself for the work that is coming. Also, this works wonders in managing fatigue, and fatigue will dictate the singular most important thing I have ever learned at EC: consistency trumps protocol.

You can have the best plan, designed by the best coach, but if you don't or can't hit it every day, it doesn't matter. The guy or gal who is at it every day, two to three times per day, is going to win every single time. So, when coming out of the gates off of your "movement phase," the focus should shift slightly towards specificity, but the bulk of that focus should be consistency.

I did do some testing to see where I am at, and I'll test every four to six weeks. I have no power meter on the bike, but do have a Computrainer. That is more than fine as I'll do most intervals on the CT, even when the weather is good. I did a simple 20 minute test and put my threshold at 210 watts. Ouch. At 241 lbs (110 kgs) at time of test, that puts me at 1.90 watts/kg.

In the pool, I just do a simple 1000 TT, which came in at around 17 mins, or 1:42/100. Ouch again.

The point here is to not beat myself up by comparing who I am today to who I was in 2012, but rather to gauge my fitness and mark improvements as I go forward.

I can set up power zones since all my training will be on the CT for at least another two months.

For the run I keep things really simple. Remember, it's all about consistency and running injury can happen very easily. I try to avoid top end testing here as I feel frequent running works wonders in triathlon. Over time, I'll do a 5k to see where I am at, but mainly run on feel and with a HR cap, adding in quick and short bouts of intensity over time.

When it comes to diet, I think it makes sense to be casually restrictive. What does that mean? Well, humans actually use a ton of energy just to sit and think. Then we use lots of energy to resist temptation! I used to walk into the break room and see a birthday cake and tell myself, "No way! That will power, over and over again, day after day, week after week adds up to lots of energy." I was getting hungry by avoiding temptation. Eventually I'd crack and eat.

I learned its best to tell yourself you can have some "bad" things once and a while. Over time you no longer have to tell yourself anything. So, to put myself back in the birthday cake situation, I changed my thinking to something like, "I'll come back in two hours, if there is any cake left I'll have a sliver." One of two things happens, the cake is gone, or I get my sliver. Either way, my mind is off and doesn't have to burn energy fighting the urge. I learned a lot of the above from the book, "Willpower". Great read about how much energy the mind uses. For me, I already knew the specifics of a good diet, it was more about setting up my mind for success.

Overall, my main goals towards Syracuse 70.3 are:

  1. Consistency
  2. Specificity of sport, from general to race specific
  3. Have fun!

As much as I wanted to put in weight loss and time goals, I took them out and decided to focus on the internals and things in my control, and embrace what comes.

The main take away for those reading who are trying to comeback: keep swinging and wait for that itch. It will come back and when it comes, scratch it!

Michael Corona lives in Syracuse, NY, with his wife and three boys. He strives for balance between sport, family and life, while working full time as a Certified Financial Planner, and as a multi-sport coach. Learn more by visiting NWTCoaching.com.
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