Work Hard, Race Hard, Play Hard

Work Hard, Race Hard, Play Hard

Monday, June 4, 2012

Walking is Good Training..Seriously!!

Admittedly I am not very good at keeping up on triathlon news, blogs,  etc and I am always behind in Social Media updates, but luckily I have Sissy who is very on top of this and she gives me summaries on anything she thinks I'd be interested in. Thanks Sis!  Recently she forwarded me the attached written by the famous Brett Sutton. If you haven't read the article, you really should, good stuff here!  He basically discusses the merit of "walking"as a substitute for athletes that are injured and unable to run.  And I'll tell you  from personal experience why I believe he is spot on with this advice and why I found the article so interesting!

In July 2010 as I was training for my first ever IM WC's in Kona I had a bike crash and suffered a distal clavicle fracture and torn coracoid ligaments which required surgery 10 weeks out from Kona.  I was going to be in a sling for the next 8 weeks - not the ideal situation leading up to an Ironman. And I wasn't given much hope from the surgeons that I would be able to compete.  But I was determined. This wasn't going to be the race I hoped for in Kona but I would do everything possible to be on the start line in October. I couldn't let this opportunity pass me by. What if this was my only chance to race in the lava fields.   I was going to be in a sling for the next 8 weeks but I thought to myself, "Ok, I will just do whatever I can while in a sling. I still had functioning legs, so lets' put them to use!" I walked, I walked a lot, and I walked some more.  My goal was to remain as active as I possibly could and to try to maintain as much fitness as I could and not gain weight.

Just to give you an idea of the type of training I did over the next 8 weeks...I walked..and I walked...ALOT.  One day I walked 9 miles, I walked on the treadmill, I walked around Central Park, I went to the track with a friend/Kona training partner and walked while he did speed work. I did "doubles" of walking!  I was actually becoming quite a "speedy" walker.  I was also asking my doctor if I could do more. I finally convinced him I could do the elliptical, ride my trainer/spin bike while in my sling if I promised to keep my arm/shoulder totally still.  After seven weeks he gave me the ok for the Alter G treadmill.  But mind you...all of this was done with my arm in a sling. So none of this training was even close to full effort.

Clearly, there were many moments of doubt (among many other emotions) within these 10 weeks of whether or not I should race. The closer it got to race day the more nervous and doubtful I became. I had no idea whether I would be able to  swim 2.4 miles after surgery and having no use of my arm for the last 8 weeks.  I still didn't have full range of motion in the shoulder and its not like swimming was ever a strength of mine.  And then I didn't know how I would make it through a 112 mile bike and run a marathon after that.  It seemed like all I had done for 8 weeks was WALK!  What kind of Ironman prep training is that?  I also became increasingly frustrated knowing that there was no way I could compete to the best of my potential and the realization of how fit and well trained all my competitors would be started to set in.

I"m competitive by nature and  the idea of showing up to a race 'just to finish' wasn't my ideal.   My coach at the time, Jimmy Riccitello, was really great and supportive during this period and he finally convinced me to give it a go. He assured me that no matter the outcome I would be happier knowing I toed the line and gave it my best rather than not even trying at all.   He convinced me that it was ok to start and just see how I felt, take it one leg at a time and if I needed to drop out that was ok.  But, Jimmy knew me too well, he knew if he got me to start the race, get through the swim, then there was no way I wouldn't finish the race. He also emphasized the value of gaining Kona experience and the benefits it would have in case I ever made it back to the Big Island.  Boy, was he right!!  Thanks Jimmy!!

The week of the race, I had a conversation with a good friend who was also racing about goal times for the race. I admitted to him that my first goal was to make it to the finish but my second goal was to do it in under 11:30 hours. I knew he thought I was crazy and he told me to not set my expectations too high. But I had to have a goal and this is what it was.  I finished IMCOZ in 10:24 and I honestly thought if my body would hold up, I would have a shot at a sub 11:30 finish. But I didn't share this goal with anyone else.  I knew everyone would think I was out of my mind.

I won't go into the details of the race but the outcome was better than I could have ever imagined and I exceeded my own expectations and I"m sure I surprised everyone else who knew my circumstances. I ended up finishing in 10:47, far surpassing my sub 11:30 goal.  I swam a 1:17, biked  a 5:59 and ran a 3:22.  The highlight for me was really the 3:22 run split (and after all that Walk "training"  I never even had to stop and walk once!!). I ran a 3:30 at IMCOZ...and here I PR'd by almost 10 minutes without any proper run or ironman training for 10 full weeks leading up to the race. Walking was my training for the 2010 Ironman World Championships.  So there you have it, the moral of the story is I couldn't' agree more with Brett Suttons' article on the benefits of walking.  I had no idea I was onto anything when I decided to walk, I just figured it was the best way for me to stay as active as possible in lieu of running!  I honestly believe that the walking and other "training" I did for these 8 weeks enabled me to still be able to race as well as I did. The body is amazingly resilient and muscle memory is pretty powerful!  Had I become down on myself and just sat on my couch eating candy, I probably would not have had this same result. Ok, ok - I still ate a lot of candy, but at least I wasn't sitting home on my couch!!

I highly recommend the next time you are injured and are not able to run, that you take up walking (as long as ok'd by your doc).  I believe it really helped me and if you don't believe me, take Brett Sutton's word for it :)

Its also a reminder to me and hopefully to you as well, that when you get injured and your preparation and training isn't what you were hoping for, its not the end of the world, you can still have a good race....just modify your expectations and try to remain as active as possible and with determination and mental fortitude you can still get to the finish line!!