Yesterday morning I gashed my leg with my bike trainer while carrying it down to the basement after a 90 minute ride. I always have a hard time carrying the thing – it’s heavy and awkward – but this time it completely slipped out of my hand and cut into my leg. I know why it happened: Fatigue. I’m usually tired after a 90 minute ride, so much so that my legs often buckle under me when I get off the bike, but the fatigue I’ve felt this week has been more than just that, and for several reasons. And I should have listened to the warning bells a little sooner. Because pushing through this kind of extreme tiredness is a recipe for disaster.
In my defense, I thought I was being cautious. Wednesday’s scheduled workouts were a 60 minute ride and a 60 minute swim. This is usually manageable if I’m working from home, but I had to be in DC all day for a summit that started at 8:30am. That meantÂ I would have to get up at 5am to fit in the bike ride. That in itself would be OK but I was planning to swimÂ at 7:30pm, on my way home from work, and I knew that would put me in the burning-the-candle-at-both-ends category. So I decided to move the ride to Friday, which was supposed to be a day off. Warning bell #1: a day off should be a day off.
Tuesday night/Wednesday morning I had trouble sleeping. I was wide awake at 3am. I finally got back to sleep at 6am, but the alarm went off a 6:30 so that wasn’t much use. I think theÂ peppermint tea I drank before I went to bed was the culprit. I don’t normally drink peppermint tea but happened to see it while hunting around in the pantry, and, well, it seemed like a good idea. But now I think about it, even thought the tea itself has no caffeine, peppermint is a stimulant for me. If I’m lagging, I’ll chew peppermint gum, and when I was younger, eatingÂ mints before a race was something we always did as it helped us focus. So I went into Wednesday on less thanÂ 4 hours sleep. Warning bell #2: sleep is an essential component of training.
I got through Wednesday just fine, and the swim was great, which surprised me. Thursday, however, was a different story. Despite sleeping much better, I woke up a complete zombie. Warning bell #3: zombies don’t make good athletes. I had to be in DC again, but went in earlier so I could run before work. I fell asleep on the bus on the way in, a deep sleep that I had trouble waking from. It was snowing, and I felt like a drunk as I staggered toÂ the office. I grabbed some coffee the minute I walked in. It was 7am and I was falling asleep, but I was determined to get in the run. It turned out to be a beautiful day to run, and I’m glad I did, but the pace was ridiculously slow. Part of that was because there were some slick spots, but most of it was because I was literally sleep-running.
I got through Thursday by drinking a lotÂ of coffee (intravenous drip capacity), fell asleep on the bus ride home, and crashed once I got home around 6:30pm. When the alarm went off on Friday morning I turned it off and rolled over. I have never felt such deep fatigue in my life. I wasn’t just tired. I was exhausted. Yet, I dragged my butt onto my bike for Wednesday’s ride that I had moved to Friday. I have never had such a hard time just staying upright. Warning bell #4 (“You’re exhausted!”) was pretty loud. 45 minutes in, after debating internally whether I was doing more harm than good, I threw in the towel. That’s when I realized I should have kept Friday as my off day. My coach has said many times, “don’t try to make up workouts you missed.” In my mind I wasn’t making it up, as I had just moved it, but in reality, it was a make-up.
The rest of the day I stumbled through a series of meetings and, at 3:30, when the last meeting was over, crawled into bed and slept until 5:00 when my son woke me to ask me to take him to bingo at school. I actually felt much better and got through the evening no problem.
After another good night’s sleep I thought I had recovered on Saturday morning, but the trainer incident indicated otherwise. I had been planning to race on Sunday, but cancelled that plan. I still ran for an hour, though. It’s hard for me to admit that IÂ need a break. I want to not just feel but be invincible. I hate not completing every workout. But I have learned the hard way that there is no benefit to pushing through this kind of fatigue. There’s a clear difference between feeling tired and being completely exhausted.
I’ve definitely learned something this week. Totals are a little lower than last week, but really should be even less, considering how I felt. Never try to push through real fatigue. It bites you in the butt. Hard.
Monday – 60 min ride (15 miles)
Tuesday – 45 minÂ dreadmill run (5 miles)
Wednesday – 2450m swim (60 mins)
Thursday – 50 minÂ run (5.3 miles)
Friday – 45 min ride (10 miles)
Saturday – 90 min ride (22 miles) + 1 mile run + 1550m swim
Sunday – 60 min run (7.3 miles)
Ride: 47Â miles (3 hr 15 min)
Run: 18.6 miles Â (2 hr 45 min)
Swim: 4000mÂ (1.5 hrs)
I am taking Monday off. Complete rest day.