The Big Bear Effect, Training at Elevation (Overload Week 1)

Big Bear Bannor

I’m not going to sugar coat it, a month out from Ironman Mt Tremblant and only one thought has been going through my head lately – am I doing too much? pushing too hard? going too long?? The morning after Vineman, tired and beaten up, I reluctantly opened up Addaero to see another 23 hour week on the schedule with an added emphasis on riding and running (only 2 swim hours vs my typical 6). But this is Ironman, this is what I signed up for. When you’re used to the grind at a certain point you lower your head and focus only on what’s immediately in front of you, making it through the next workout, getting through another day (I love my workouts by the way, they’re a welcomed escape after a tough work day, rewarding and often enjoyable despite the pain).

People sometimes ask me how I can train so much with a full time job and the answer is simple, taking complete advantage of the weekend. I typically do 10-14 hours of my training, 50% of my volume, in a 48 hour period at the tail end of the week. This weekend included a 7 hour brick on Saturday with a 3 hour broken run/75 min ride on Sunday and just happened to coincide with a good friend’s wedding at Big Bear CA. I’ve had some experience at elevation. In 2006 I spent 2 months training with my college XC team in Boulder CO, but really nothing since. To be honest I didn’t even realize how high up Big Bear was. I made the drive up at night so I didn’t notice the extent of the climb, the actual elevation wasn’t mentioned to me until the night of the wedding (6,759 ft).

Entertained by the new Robo Cop, Escape Plan and a Seagal movie so bad I've already forgotten the name of.

Entertained by the new Robo Cop, Escape Plan and a Seagal movie so bad I’ve already forgotten the name of.

My 5 hour ride which I separated into a lap around the lake and 4 more hours on the trainer didn’t have power, only HR, so I had no indication of output. My run was weak but I thought it was tied to lingering effects of Vineman, or perhaps the hills. Later at the wedding when I passed out on a couch at 10pm guests thought I had too much to drink, but the truth is I had none, I was just FRIED. The next morning I had hoped to respond with a fast paced 90 min first run but my pace was even worse than the day before, struggling to get under 8 min miles, tired, weak and breathing very hard. The thoughts began creeping in, “am I spent? did I do too much? has Vineman got me crushed?”

I left Big Bear at noon feeling disheartened, and headed back to LA where after a 2.5 hour drive I went immediately to sleep. I didn’t know if I would even be able to complete my next 3 hour brick, especially as prescribed, based on how the morning had gone. I decided to at least give it a shot at making durations, even if the paces were off, getting out on the bike right before 6pm. Here’s a brief summary of how things went (morning run compared to evening run) –

Double Run

The pace on my second run isn’t what’s impressive about this double. It was the fact that I felt so good, completely void of any nagging pains or soreness. My MP3 died with 30 minutes to go and I ran the conclusion without music and in the dark. The silence let me listen to my body and stride. Nothing hurt anymore, I felt fresh and smooth, like I could go forever.

The purpose of this post isn’t to brag about volume or pace but to illustrate an important point. In a sport dictated by pure physicality there is a domineering mental component. Every impulse on my morning run led me to believe that my training was off, that I was doing something wrong. Occasionally the things I write aren’t what I necessarily believe but what I want to believe. I wrote just two weeks ago about the importance of believing in a system, then run a couple 8 min miles and all that went out the window. My Sunday evening performance helped regain that confidence. The run shows not only that I’m headed in the right direction but that my body is stronger than it’s ever been before, which is very exciting to me with Tremblant on the horizon. Only one more crazy week to go and I’ll be into taper time. Hoping for the best and doing everything I can to get to the start line healthy and ready to run my race.

For future reference after this past experience open to the opportunity to return to Big Bear for a training weekend anytime.

6,754 feet of elevation

6,754 feet of elevation

They love Jeeps up at Big Bear, I know I will be back!

They love Jeeps up at Big Bear, I know I will be back!

What Overload does to the floor of my room

What Overload does to the floor of my room

  2 comments for “The Big Bear Effect, Training at Elevation (Overload Week 1)

  1. agodesky
    July 21, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    love it!! I’m spending 3 weeks at 9k feet and will go down to Boulder for the Ironman. Hoping to see something similar there!!

  2. July 21, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Love it! I’m spending 3 weeks at 9k feet and will go down to Boulder for the IM. Hoping to see some similar effects there!!

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