Firefit – My 2018 Season

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2018 – The comeback year.  I hadn’t raced in 2 years due to a back injury in 2016 and in 2017 we had a newborn that didn’t sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time so any serious race training took a backseat.  More like locked in the trunk, under the spare and threw the keys in the lake.  2018 was going to be the year though.

Until it wasn’t.

2018 started off rough with a partial bicep tear that I sustained at work.  That sucked.  As if the pain wasn’t enough I had to learn to do everything with my left arm.  (Ever tried to wipe with the other hand?  Go do it.). I also had to be very creative with my training – which I guess was a good thing.  3 months later though, the Physio Spot had me all fixed up and I was back making a push at 100%.

My goal was to get back to my former glory of running under 1 min 30 seconds.  Maintaining my PB of a sub-90 time was all I wanted but it had to be done with a few stipulations.  Family life couldn’t take a back seat so I needed to do it with only a fraction of the training time I would have committed previously and I had to do it with zero back injuries this time around.

My approach was this:

Focus on single-leg work to avoid back pain, de-load frequently and utilize speed work, implement time limits for tower workouts and find the minimum effective dosage for improvement.

Strength Training

Squats were replaced with the Rear foot elevated split squat, except for a month of re-building some front squat competence and then a month of using the front squat for speed work.

Increased work out density by using “fillers” to work on weaknesses between sets and maintain mobility and stability.

Speed work was used more than in past years – a) because I understood how to better utilize it and b) to reduce the amount of loading but still improve strength and power output.

I progressed slower than previously and trusted the process.  I took things week by week and rarely focused on the end goal of what to lift.  I also paid more attention to how weights felt than what was actually being lifted and kept reminding myself that I was preparing for a race, not a lifting meet so the stimulus was the important part, not the numbers.

I implemented the McGill “Big 3” daily.  The McGill partial curl-up, side plank and bird-dog exercises done daily helps keep my spine stiff and protected from the micro-movements that had plagued me for years.

Energy System Training

Everything was based around interval training.  High Resistance Intervals and Tempo Repeats replaced my cardiac output work and I used the “One-Minute-Workout”  method quite often.

I used the threshold method, lactic power and capacity intervals at strategic times and did quite a bit of cardiac power work on the tower.

My conditioning never took more than 30 minutes – quite often if it took 30 minutes it was because I did 10 minutes of mobility or stability work and there were a lot of rest intervals programmed.

Tower Training

Race training was the biggest difference for me.  In previous years I would spend 2-3 hours at the training tower up to 4 times per week.  There was no way I was spending 10+ hours on top of the gym time this year.

I enforced a 30 minute time limit with each tower workout.  15 minute set up, 30 minutes training and clean up as fast as possible.   I rarely set up the full course because of this.

I threw quantity out the window and was after quality reps.  Perfection each time at the right intensity for where I was at and needed to focus on.  Most of the time it was all-out on the tower for bursts.

I couldn’t just show up and do what felt good.  I had to have a plan so each night before I would review the plan I had made 1-2 months prior and adjust then re-adjust in my head as I drove to the training tower.  This helped me get from my door back, to the tower and back to my door in about an hour each time.  No guess-work.

Peaking

A few weeks out I started the process for peaking.  I achieved that state where you’re almost overreaching then backed off.  I felt like I had so much energy and was crushing the peaking workouts.  I got some bad blisters at a charity event one week out but found a way to make it work.  If anything it kept my from doing too much approaching race day. I did, however, get a lot of tower work in wearing Birkenstocks – which included mostly rope-pulls, kaiser work and dummy drags, anything else was too unsafe in the sandals.  But, I think it was a good thing.

I felt great and was thinking I might not just match my previous PB, it might crush it.  Everything was coming together.

Until it didn’t.

Thursday morning I woke up and felt a bit off.  No problem, 2 days out – just rest up and eat well.  I went to the tower to break in some new gloves with some rope pulls and was actually surprised at how effortless it felt.  Maybe just some nerves for the first time this year.

Later that day I noticed I was bloating a bit.  Weird.  The next day I woke up with what I can only describe as unreal abdominal pain and I looked 5 months pregnant.  I was still racing though.   Maybe no new PB but I was racing.  I poured too much effort into this to back out.

The next morning, race-day, I had to call-it.  I was up early to assess myself and I could hardly get out of bed.  All day I was mopey and upset.  The pain I felt in my stomach walking upstairs made it impossible to race.  To this day I still don’t know what the cause was.  All I know is my daughter was sick the week before so I can only imagine how a one year old felt with this.  (Actually, judging by how cranky she was the week prior, I have a pretty good idea how she felt).  Sunday relay races were out too.  Monday came around and I still felt like garbage.  Still in pain.

It wasn’t until maybe Tuesday when I started to see some relief.  My pregnancy had moved backwards and I was barely showing at all… but still some residual abdominal pain.  I was pain free Wednesday and by Friday the bloating was gone but still felt the effects of whatever hit me.

So, a year of planning and training was all over and I had nothing to show for it.

Except, a full-course training run in gear 2 weeks prior showed me I could run sub-90 and I always run my best on race day, at least historically.

In a way I guess I achieved my sub-90 goal, just not on the official Firefit course.

Back-pain did not derail my training this year.

Training did not interfere with being the husband and dad I wanted to be.

So I guess while I don’t have another pin or my name beside a time on the race archives, it wasn’t a total waste.  I’m way fitter than I was a year ago.   I achieved all of the goals in one way or another and my experiment showed me that I’m on the right track and I don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of time training.  Many lessons were learned.

In the end, the only thing that was for nothing was all my moping around on race day, complaining that it’s not fair and I just needed to be healthy for 1 week.  Well, Brando, it’s not fair but shit happens.  There’s always next year for the comeback.

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