Puke-worthy workouts

Finding my physical limits face

I’m only two months into the core of my training for the season, and this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about the long road ahead and the long road behind me. I am often doing a lot of self-reflection. When you are set to tackle a race of this magnitude there will be long, challenging, and at times, insufferable training sessions, and when your physical limits are pushed, so will your mental limits. And there has been some experimenting with my thresholds. This week has been particularly gruelling. I don’t know how many more VO2 max intervals I can take. It’s been balls-to-the-wall, and I even had my first post workout puke. It was moments after my sweat pouring, heart pounding spin when I began to feel this hot, uncomfortable wave of nausea engulf me with a suffocating grasp. I was on the verge of folding into a heap on the floor. My legs were heavy slabs of lead and I was practically spitting with every breath. It was all I could do to crawl to bathroom where I proceeded to hurl out every ounce of water I had consumed over the past hour. This was the very definition of leaving it all out there. Most normal people would say that’s a sign of overdoing it, but I know my coach would say that’s a sign that you’re doing it just right.
Each of these workouts this week have tested my limits and I swear I’ve had the lifeguards watching me with one foot already in the water, body pains I’ve never had before, heart rates that can only be compared to the beginning stages of a heart attack, and guts churning to the point of expulsion. At this point, I don’t know whether I feel good or awful. Most days I think I’m just too tired to know.

Ice bath. Heartrate went from 88 to 107 upon submersion.

Ice bath. Heart rate went from 88 to 107 upon submersion.

I make it sound like torture, yet, what makes me want to come back for more painful, long, puke-worthy workouts are the successes along the way. Like, being able to swim 50 continuous metres in the pool and not drown or scare the lifeguards, finish a triathlon and not actually die, swim in the open water and discover it’s really not that scary, and run longer than 12 kilometres and not want to die. And, even the failures makes me want to come back for more, because they taunt me to get better. Like, the first time I forgot my feet were clipped in and I toppled my bike, the time I crashed my trainer into the coffee table, the time I had a flat tire and didn’t bring enough spares, the time I couldn’t swim more than 25 metres, the time it took me three months to get rid of shin splints, and the time I couldn’t run 5K without my lungs being on fire. So, yes, the road to Ironman is long, challenging and at times, insufferable, but it certainly isn’t impossible, completely torturous, or even unenjoyable. It’s been a journey of many triumphs, with a few bumps, and, so far, it has been one of the best rides of my life. 

Bring da pain!

My lungs are on fire, my jaw is clenching and aching, my legs are like lead, my heart is pounding, almost out of my chest, and my mind is digging deep to find that last ounce of mental strength to compensate for my body that is on the brink of collapse. My RPMs are barely registering at 25, and I’m fairly certain that I could topple this bike over at any second. My coach is right by my side offering words of encouragement, trying to get that last little bit out of me, and it’s all I can hold onto as tears uncontrollably start to well in my eyes. Finally, he declares we’re done, and instantly my body begins sensing relief. This is the VO2 max bike test, and it nearly killed me.  
When it comes to the science side of sports, I can’t keep up. You show me formulas, equations, graphs, pie charts, symbols or anything remotely related to numbers, and I will look at you with horror and utter confusion – kind of like a child seeing Santa for the first time. Nonetheless, I find it fascinating, because over the last 10-15 years science has really driven sport in some unimaginable directions. Without it I don’t think we would have some of the powerhouse athletes today. So, while I may not understand it, I am, without a doubt, always willing to be a science experiment while someone else does all the thinking. 
The VO2 test was brutal, but once I didn’t feel like I wasn’t going to crumple on the floor and die a slow delirious death, I felt good. It’s just all apart of the process on the road to one hundred forty point six miles. And, anyways, I need to get used to the pain and the sensation of nearly dying, because at the end of it all what’s an Ironman without a little bit of suffering.