Friday, February 12, 2010

Too Much Too Soon, or Too Little Too Late?

A triathlete is preparing for Ironman Langkawi in Malaysia at the end of this month. He has invited triathletes to do swim-run brick with him. A brick is a set of two different sports done back-to-back; in this case, it is a 4km swim followed by a 30-40km run.

I was concerned when I replied. I had no issue with the 4-kilometre swim, as it is the least of our worries. However, to run a three-quarter to full marathon distance is somewhat extreme, and riskily close to the race. How do you expect your body to recover completely about a fortnight before a race?

Even if you are younger, you may still have to contend with mild soreness and the potential damage that comes with running such a long distance. Ironman involves a medley of 3.8km swim, 180km ride, and full marathon after that. 226km is a long distance, whichever way you travel and its toll on the body is substantial.

It is hard to cramp fitness into a short period of time, the way we used to mug for examinations. The musculoskeletal system undergoes damage, and needs to rest and recuperate so as to become stronger and fitter. This physiological process is called Adaptation. If what doesn’t kill makes you stronger – that is adaptation. However, patience is a virtue that you have to exercise, as it is essential for getting fit at a progressive rate. You put in too much too soon, and your body may not withstand the stresses of physical training. The soreness you experience after a long run, swim or ride is evidence of actual muscle damage caused by the prolonged distance and duration.

Enthusiasm and ignorance will not get you pass the finish line easily. Ignorance is not bliss. If you do the crime, you have to do the time. If your body is unaccustomed to performing for 10-16 hours continuously, you may experience the debilitating effects of cramps, muscular fatigue and nausea. It can be a humbling, long walk to the finish.

It is a tough call, yet do you need to take the risk?

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2 comments:

john cooke said...

actually enrico of all the training programmes I have done I have not had one which required me to do a 30km run .It just exposes the body to possible injury.better to go into an IM race under done.with 2 weeks to go not much can be done .Even the 230km ride last weekend was possibly a little close to the wind for most .I speak from lots of experience about what not to do . PS I am being extra cautious on the road as I am riding to work twice a week

Enrico Varella said...

Thanks, john for your sharing.

Incidentally, there has been feedback to this first-time Ironman participant who seems to have the speed, but not have the mileage. I assure you that it is not me, as I am still nursing my injured pride and fractured ego. My wounds are still healing and got me stiff where the scars are. Does tea-tree oil help in healing and reducing scars?

The 230km ride I did may have sounded extreme, but isn't Ironman training extreme in the first place? I say it jokingly as we knew it would be our last long ride, and we were building up the mileage progressively. We did have a few compulsory stops for drink, rest and grub so as to sustain our efforts. Nutrition is certainly critical in long rides and runs.

You are indeed an experienced and seasoned Ironman - your reminders are invaluable, John. I am concerned that this neophyte to Ironman racing will have to learn the hard way, without supervision, and the wisdom of hindsight. It is getting very hot according to current temperature patterns. Cheers, mate.