Does it ever feel easier?

From Triathlon Coach Regina Hammond

Regardless if you are a veteran or beginner, this is always a question you will ask yourself. This is because you will always want to feel stronger and go longer, faster – easier! As long as you have a specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely goal, you will be pushing yourself to a state of greater fitness. Increased adaptation to a training stimulus is necessary for increased fitness.

Since I moved to Colorado Springs, I have been trying to acclimate to the altitude and dry air. Knowing it would take time for my body to adapt physiologically, I planned an easy few months into my schedule. As suspected, being humble is the only way you can train consistently while adapting. Its one thing to increase your mileage too fast, too soon at sea level; at altitude you can’t even get that far. It’s not a matter of being able to push yourself. “You can achieve what your mind believes” does not apply here. Science and the necessity for oxygen stands in your way. Even if you gradually increase your volume of training, you need more recovery, which means more rest time. If you are training for an Ironman and already squeeze 18 hrs of training from your week, with barely a day of recovery in between workouts, you will not have more time for recovery unless you sacrifice your training time. At altitude, for each high intensity workout, you need at least 2 – 3 days of low volume and low intensity workouts. Personally, being busy with school works for me, since I have built-in study days which have no time for a workout!

Since this fall is somewhat unstructured, since there are no goal races scheduled YET, I am participating in a fall series of cross country races sponsored by the Lee Gardner. I grew up racing cross country from grade school through college but have not participated in many running only races in a long time. The fall series consists of four races that take place every other week at a different park.

Sunday morning after watching the entire NYC Marathon over the internet (Yeh Meb & Tulu!), I completed the third race in this series and won my age group. I am currently 2nd in my age group for the overall series. I wasn’t trying to be competitive when I started the series since I need a break from what I call, “the seriousness of Ironman training.” However, I have placed 3rd, 2nd and now first in my age group. None of the three races have felt easy. After seeing that I was doing fairly well in the first two races without consciously trying, I did start this past weekend’s race in the front of the pack. I enjoy trail running, especially descending rocky trails, but many people do not feel comfortable with this, so I needed to set myself up front of slow descenders before we hit the single track.

The reason I started this post about adaptation was because I finished the race and wondered if my lungs will ever adapt to dry air here? I sure hope so because my lungs felt like they were being shredded by very sharp knifes for the entire 55 minutes of the race! For me, it doesn’t feel anything like pushing hard at sea level. However, I am sure everyone is suffering as much as I am so I probably shouldn’t spend too much time wondering how soon I will adapt, and just keep running!

For anyone starting a new sport or at a plateau in their current one, feel comfortable knowing that it will hurt a little bit as you improve. I don’t mean you have to do hard workouts all of time. Contrary, I am running slow, low intensity runs in between these trail races. The races are my only intensity. However, regardless if you are a beginner just experiencing the heavy legs and tightness in your chest from your first 5k, or an experienced athlete trying to break a specific time barrier, you will always feel the burn of adaptation. Just expect it, embrace it and don’t try to force it. Triathlon Coach, Lee Gardner, is holding strong at seventh in his age group, of the Fall Series races.

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