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Rachel Joyce Blog: Endurance Brain

  • By Rachel Joyce
  • Published October 2, 2013

My column is already two days late and I have been sat staring at my screen for too long. I’ve had some good ideas about subjects to cover this month but I don’t seem to be able to access them. This has been happening a lot recently and it can mean only one thing; the Kona build has begun and my endurance brain has kicked in. The warning signs have been around for a while now. I have made trips into a room to get something only to forget what that something is. My perspective of a legitimate bedtime has slipped from 9:30pm to 8:30pm over the course of a few days. I have also found myself reading the same page of my book for the third night in a row before turning over to sleep.

This is a familiar feeling and one shared by anyone who has prepared for a big race. In terms of balancing commitments I have it pretty simple compared to most age groupers out there. Triathlon is my job. My job is to train, be tired, recover effectively and train again. I remember it being a harder balancing act when I was training around work. I had to measure how tired I could make myself from training against the need for me to still function effectively at work. This meant there was no succumbing to the strong urge to nap under my desk most afternoons. Caffeine was my friend.

Even though you’d think I have oodles of time to get my training done, I still find that the day runs away from me and fitting everything in takes planning. By fitting everything in I don’t just mean training. It’s the other stuff like massage, seeing the physio, eating, napping, admin and sponsor commitments. I’ll admit that my sleeping habit does eat up a big chunk of my time. I love sleep – I’m a 10 hours a day kind of girl – and that’s something I am not willing to compromise on. This means I have to use time saving tricks in other areas.

One trick is to multitask at every opportunity. And I mean, every opportunity. I love my NormaTec recovery boots and barely a day goes by where I don’t spend some time in them. Over the last few months I have expanded the list of things I can do during this recovery time.

I now combine this with eating my breakfast, replying to emails, Skyping, sleeping (that’s my favourite) and writing my column. Watching TV doubles as a stretching and rolling slot. I’m sure foam rollers are a take on some medieval instrument of torture, so rolling my quads during my favourite shows does somewhat detract from my enjoyment.

Over the past couple of days, however, I am beginning to think my time saving compulsion has teetered over the edge of what is truly acceptable. Questionable techniques include cooking a week’s worth of quinoa and putting the whole saucepan into the fridge with a fork. Then there’s post long ride shower time. Is it okay to sit down in the shower and drink your protein shake? The thing that really had me raising my own eyebrows at myself was when I found myself in the supermarket with my swim cap on. Okay, that didn’t happen but it’s getting close.

I could go on but I think the point I am trying to make is that a heavy training load requires organisation, planning and flexibility. Anyone who knows me will be raising an eyebrow as organised is perhaps not the first word that springs to mind when it comes to describing me. I have learnt that planning my week, knowing when I will be doing each of my sessions and communicating this to my boyfriend, Brett, removes a lot of stress from my week. I especially like to know that there is scheduled recovery time built into some of my days. I told you I like sleep.

On the days where I have back-to-back sessions the thought of a couple of free hours afterwards is something to look forward to. It’s fairer to Brett too. He then has a good idea when I will be good for nothing and the days where there’s more free time for us to do something non- triathlon related. Of course, things don’t always go to plan and that’s where flexibility is important. I have learnt to not stress over the sessions that don’t happen for unforeseen reasons, or to shift things around to re-schedule if it’s a key session. We are not robots and sometimes going off-plan is the best thing.

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