Thursday, June 07, 2007

My path into endurance sports...

A few things I notice ever since I ramp up my training:

i) I eat a lot. I am never full. I have to make sure I eat enough after the night workout so in the morning I have energy to train.
ii) 8-9 hours of sleep does wonder for the body. Wed morning I bailed my morning swim so I can get more snooze. Tues night I was feeling really tired (and cranky). After the long sleep, I am recharged.
iii) Recovery and stretches are important to keep the legs fresh.
iv) Volume wise, I am hitting the limit (or close to the limit). My body and lifestyle cannot absorb more training. 18 hrs/week is a point (or close to the point) where I am training long and not feeling burn out.

Can I hit the elusive 20 hours mark? Body wise, if I continue to train and stretch my aerobic base, 20 hours is very doable. Lifestyle wise, if I take one day off I can put it a second long ride. With a new job, that might not be a good idea (I rather save my holidays for Ironman).

I can't say I won't be happy if i train hit 20 hours a week. However, the focus is to keep my lifestyle align. As long as my lifestyle supports my training, I dont' see why not.

Whenever someone ask me about training or how to start a marathon or a triathlon...I always give two tips: take it easy and make it fun.

Those two tips reminded of myself how I started into the world of endurance sports.

Before 2004, I am in fairly good shape. I lift weights in university (major bulking up). I also run on and off. I hadn't touch a bike or swim for years. I run from 20 minutes to 50 minutes.


I bought my friend's road bike in 2004. Everyday I would ride 2 hours after work. On the weekend, I would go long. Back then, there wasn't any heart rate monitor, cadence or nutrition strategy.

Two bottles of water and just go. We would stop at McDonalds :0). It was a lot of fun. My longest ride was 112 miles.


I signed up for my first triathlon. The 'training' plan was very loose. I would bike one day and run the next. Sat, I would swim, bike and run. I figure I should reherase as close to the actual race as possible. I start drinking gatorade. The night before my triathlon..I caught the idea of doing an Ironman.

After my first triathlon (July 2005), I signed up for a marathon (Oct 2005). I follow and adapted an online training schedule. I started using a Heart Rate monitor but I didn't follow any zones. I just kept my heart rate at 140s since that's an easy pace for me. I started taking gels.

I had a bike accident which I lost a few teeth. Despit that I was still able to do a marathon. 5 hr 17 min :). 98% of the females in that race beat me.....(my friend still tease me about that :D).


After the marathon, I learnt how to swim freestyle. My goal was to do a Ironman in it made sense to do a few Half Ironman for 2006.

I followed Joe Friel and Gordo's philosophy on training. Training wise, I was serious. I pushed myself quite hard during 2006. As a result, there were a number of times when I almost burnt out by going too hard (here or here) . Luckily I suffered no injuries.

On the other hand, I am better at listening to my body and myself. Whenever I am getting cranky, that's the first sign I need to back off. If I hadn't overtrain last season, would I know what is the symptom of overtraining?

Last year was a blast. I did two Half Ironmans (Peterborough Half Ironman and The Canadian Half Ironman), one long course (Muskoka Long Course) and one triathlon (Toronto Tri). I met up with Darren and he showed me the hills in Orangeville. Still not following an actual plan or zones, I bonked often.


Starting this year, I had a number of responsibilities which kept my training down. I am a leader of my church's young career fellowship. In Jan - Feb, I had to reduce training to take care of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I resigned my job end of Feb and went back to Hong Kong for March.

2006 I trained more consistently. 2007 I focused more on keeping my mental and emotional level steady. Whenever I feel stress and overwhelm, I back down. If work and other life issues comes up, training is drop down. I also kept my Heart Rate low. Zone 3 is as high as I go.

The stuff that occupy my life earlier this year..might actually be good for me. At least I didn't nuke myself early in the season. here I am. A few more weeks before my first Ironman. I am still surprise at how my body can bounce back with 8 hr sleep. This season, I have zero injuries, no burnt out and no sickness. These had been my goal for training. If I can stay away from those, I can continue on building my base.

Other than my 7 hr brick with a 2 long run back to back, I have not dig deep once. I am saving that for the Ironman.

I look back and still remember the days in 2004 when I first got my road bike and ride clipless. It was so much fun. So smooth.

That's the way to start, just go and have fun! I never plan too much. It is more imoprtant to not be a slave to a schedule, listen to the body and keep things relax. I am still tweaking the balance between discipline vs fun. Last Wed, I just decided to do a 3 km swim non stop just b/c I feel like it.

I never see myself that I have to give up life to train. I don't force myself go into crazy diet that I don't enjoy. I simply change my lifestyle to fit into those things.

I keep trying on different things discard those that don't work for me.

Example: Beets are great for you. I can't stand stand the taste. So I stick with yam :)

Whenever I talk about 5-7 hours rides, Orangeville, Hockley, Inglewood, Belfountain, Heart Lake Road, Mt Nemo (not really a mountain) comes to mind. These are places in my area just lovely to ride. Lots of empty roads, hills and lots of nice scenery.

What's next? I am not sure. I might do a marathon this fall. I probably sign up for Lake Placid next year.

I look back and see where I started. My first triathlon was simply for fun. I didn't even know why I signed up. I just know I can do one so I did. There wasn't any deep philosophical thought on this.

Who knew that I will be continue to stretch myself....and have fun doing it :)


Brent Buckner said...

Nice backgrounder.

What an upbeat look at your training season!

AddictedToEndorphins said...

When you talk about Mt. Hockley and MT. Nemo, do you ride your bike to these mountains from Mississauga or do you drive to them, and ride around them? 7 hour bike rides are beyond me!

Keep it up!:)

Steven said...

Nice post, Cliff.

You've come a long way athletically in the last few years!

Keep it rolling right into IMLP...and beyond!

Jeremy said...

Great post. It's cool to see how far you've come. How perfect of an addition will July 22 be to this story!

TRI Vortex said...

Stretching...I knew there was something missing from my workouts.

Rae said...

You've come a long way in such a short time! You are an inspiration for many!!!

DV said...

great progress, physically and mentally...

you've worked a long time for the rewards of lake placid - congratulations!

Tri-Dummy said...

Keep having FUN!!!

Born To Endure said...

Your progression is certainly will love it when they call you an Ironman!!!