Training Lately: Back to Back Hard Rides

It’s Wednesday and I feel like I’ve somehow danced around a full-blown sickness. I could feel it building over the last week: mounting fatigue, a scratchy throat, aversion to food, pounding headache, achy shoulders.

It didn’t happen overnight, rather lots of sleepless overnights working late, hard training sessions and a random weekend of dog sitting. Add trail runs and long rides to the mix and it’s just a recipe for that overtired, rundown kind of sickness. Here’s what went down the last handful of days.

Last Friday evening, I was so excited to be done with my work week; it was a long one. The best way I can describe working in advertising is it feels like riding a rollercoaster backwards. There are constant ups and downs, sharp turns, and stomach-dropping moments, but you can’t see which will come next, so you just have to strap in and hold on for dear life. Oh, and you have to try and think straight the whole time. Last week we had a ton of work that came down all at once and I thought I could handle it all with less sleep and more training than usual, but I couldn’t. I never can. Because on Friday evening, in the middle of a beautiful trail run around North Table Mountain, I finally felt my whole body decompress for the first time all week, and I just wanted to lay down in the middle of the trail. My coils finally unraveled and I felt like a shell of myself.

Saturday morning, after a less than ideal amount of sleep at my friend’s house taking care of his dog, I was up early and out the door for a long, hot bike ride. I got on the bike just before 8 a.m. so I wouldn’t suffer too hard in the heat. I planned on doing a few climbs that would fatigue my legs and serve as good training for my 100-mile gravel ride, which is less than a month away.

^^^ Puppy dog! She is the sweetest thing on planet Earth. 

The thing is, when it comes to training and racing, I’ve never really had an issue with putting in the work. I ran cross country and track in college, and when our coach prescribed us workouts, I did them in their entirety with my best effort. I may have bitched and moaned here and there when it sounded painful, but I showed up at 5:30 in the morning every morning and put in everything I had on that day. On long run days, I ran every one of those miles with my teammates. And then when he sent us workouts over the summer, I did them even when it would’ve been easy to skip since he wasn’t physically there to hold me accountable.

When I trained for my first marathon, I downloaded a loose marathon training template off Pinterest, edited it based on my schedule and condition, and clicked off the workouts day by day leading up to the biggest race I’d ever done.

Hard work got me to my finish lines. And all this work gets me in trouble when I push when I shouldn’t.

On Saturday, as I churned the pedals up to Jamestown, my first climb of the day, I recalled those moments when I wanted to quit but kept going anyway. It’s especially tough when you’re on your own, but I think the athletes that are the strongest mentally are those who put in the time and miles when no one is watching. After stopping for a drink at the Jamestown Mercantile, I shot back down the canyon toward Olde Stage, my second paved climb of the day. It’s much shorter and steeper, and really lit up my legs. The third and final climb was Bow Mountain, a wind-y and mostly quiet dirt road that dumps riders out onto Linden, a paved two-lane road that leads straight back to downtown Boulder. Each of the climbs offered a fast and fun descent, which felt like just enough of a break before the next uphill.

After Bow Mountain was so done. I could feel the flu-like symptoms settling in, so I picked up an assortment of salads and veggie sushi from Whole Foods on my way back to my friend’s house to take care of his pup. I couldn’t even make it through half the things I bought. My stomach was churning and gurgling. Ugh. I did a lot of laying on the couch before heading to my hair cut appointment. I was completely useless the rest of the night while I binge-watched In The Dark on Netflix. (So good so far!)

^^^ I always go short for summer. Feels so good.

On Sunday I had another hard ride planned with a friend. One of the toughest things to do during training is get back on the bike with tired legs. Like if you’ve put in a big effort on Saturday and still had mountains to climb on Sunday. But sometimes stringing two back to back hard rides together with less than 24 hours rest in between is what you have to do before a big event.

On Sunday morning after another terrible night of sleep due to an upset stomach, I somehow mustered the energy and motivation to meet friends at Rapha for coffee before Laura and I headed up to Gold Hill around 9:30 a.m. Gold Hill is straight up hill from downtown, and I could feel Saturday’s ride pulsing in my quads and glutes. Every pedal stroke felt so hard, it felt like a fight. We talked the entire time, which helped and was so fun since we don’t ride together that often anymore.

“I don’t think I’m gonna make it all the way. I might have to turn soon.”

We were maybe about halfway to Gold Hill when things spiraled. My stomach felt too sick earlier that morning to eat anything, and the coffee I tried to suck down tasted like acid. Signs of sickness.

^^^ Cruising back down to Boulder. Grateful for the most perfect weather.

But Laura didn’t give me an out. I don’t think she even replied, which I was thankful for. Even though I wasn’t feeling great, I think it was important to follow through on this ride and make it to Gold Hill together. We hung out at Gold Hill for about 15-20 minutes, sipping cold drinks on the porch with a couple other riders who rolled in a few minutes after us.

After a cool descent back into town, I yelled “See ya later! Thanks for a fun ride!”to Laura and headed straight back to the house to a homemade iced almond milk latte and as cold a shower as I could tolerate. Both of those didn’t do much for my achy stomach and tired body, but I was happy to make it to the end of a week and weekend full of big training sessions. I prepped a little food for the week then did close to nothing the rest of the day on Sunday. I hoped for a good sleep on Sunday, but didn’t trust that my body would give it to me, so I downed some Nyquil and knocked out for TEN HOURS. When’s the last time that happened? Senior year, 2007?

I still woke up feeling less than 100% and from all my years of pushing myself during sickness, I knew heading out for a run or bike ride would prolong feeling crappy. Instead, I laid in bed a little longer on Monday and Tuesday and used those days as full-blown rest days. I think I walked maaaaybe 3,000 steps on both days, and that’s probably being generous. Doing nothing is important sometimes, and it felt wonderful to not even worry about fitting fitness into those days.

I’m feeling better today and got in a quick HIIT workout before I headed out the door for work. I didn’t push too hard, but just enough to sweat a little. We’re easing back in, and it’s feeling real good.


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