• Victoria Stears – #thetrilifereporter – month 1

    DAs part of my commitment to being part of #thetrilifereporter team for thetrilife I will be writing a monthly update on my training so you can get a flavour of what I’m up to and how I am finding being part of thetrilife Masters Program.

    The first two weeks of month 1 were great, I felt like I had some real structure to my training sessions and enjoyed training six times a week as it gave me something productive to do each day. My swimming came on leaps and bounds in each of my sessions as I had very specific drills to do, with each swim being separated into warm ups, drills, main sets and the cool down – every time I climbed in the pool I was able to split my session into manageable segments and mentally tick things off as I went along. Also each of my swims were scheduled to last somewhere between 35-45 minutes which is my preferred amount of time to spend in the pool. And then my training plan introduced fins and floats which I absolutely loved. Swimming with fins is possibly my favourite drill I’ve been set so far – it makes me super speedy (I’m usually rather slow) and gives me a chance to really refine my swim technique without worrying about my distance. I still favour breast stroke over front crawl, but I think that’s fine in a triathlon as I’m not setting out to be the fastest swimmer and once the muscles in my arms have built up some more strength I will switch to doing all of my main sets as front crawl. I also sometimes lazily switch to back stroke when I’m getting fatigued in my session as this is my best stroke and seems to require the least amount of effort (don’t tell my coach!).

    I found the bike sessions to be quite enjoyable, I’m doing them all on a turbo at the moment as typically after such a mild December and January the weather decided to take a frosty turn in February. This has meant I haven’t been able to take my Bianchi or Cannondale out as the gritters have been spreading salt on the roads, and well, my bikes are expensive and are the equivalent of children to me. I don’t mind turbo-ing for the time being though as I feel pretty badass doing my isolated leg sets which I imagine I would find challenging (and perhaps somewhat dangerous) if I attempted these out on the road. That being said, I really am looking forward to commuting to work and integrating one of my bike sessions into my day that way instead.

    Running has also been fun with a few regular sessions before joining the ‘transform your running in 12 weeks’ plan at the end of week 2 under the supervision of my tri coach, Liz, and another coach at thetrilife, Mike. Running is my thing but before now all I cared about was running a particular distance, giving little thought to the technical nature of that run and how I could improve myself in a measured way. This is where my new training plan comes into play which sees me doing dynamic stretches, speed ups, drills and time trialsVictoria drills throughout the week. I find this all thoroughly motivating, and also a little frustrating when I don’t perform in the way I want to.

    So, like I mentioned the first two weeks of my training were brilliant. Then week 3 started and I began to feel quite tired. I continued with my training during that week and really pushed myself, including an extra run in terrible weather at the weekend the day before my 5K time trial. Needless to say my time trial didn’t go as well as I had wanted it to (although it was in 40mph winds, so perhaps I should cut myself a little slack). What was great though was that immediately after I submitted my TT, thetrilife team contacted each of us with a ‘fatigue survey’ to check in and see how we were all feeling. It arrived at just the right time for me and was the reality check I needed. I had already figured out by the time the survey arrived that I was suffering with fatigue and suspected my iron levels were low too. The day after submitting my response, Liz and Mike got in contact with me asking for some more details and recommending I take a few days off from training and to focus on positive nutrition and rest. This was the start of week 4 and I had already completed my swim that morning and was feeling pretty drained so welcomed this advice. I say welcome, but in reality I was quite reluctant to take any time off from training.

    It was around this time I contacted my triathlete cousin and asked her to send me what she was eating in a day so I could compare this with my food intake as I was fairly certain all my problems revolved around nutrition. Needless to say our intake was quite different and made me realise that adding a banana into my afternoon or a few dates here and there wasn’t really addressing my nutritional needs. And whilst I knew this on some level, it wasn’t until I reactivated my MyFitnessPal account and started tracking things properly that I realised I was missing out on about 700 calories a day, or upwards of 4,000 calories a week…no wonder I was feeling so run down and fatigued. I was literally running on empty. And so week 4 involved a lot of rest and focussing my attention on my nutritional needs to get my strength and reserves back up, and whilst I am still not feeling 100% I am definitely feeling much better now and am back training properly.

    Month 2 will be all about learning from my mistakes, making sure I try to fit in some good quality extra calories earlier in the day and paying close attention to my food intake, and will also involve 5 races. So March should be pretty interesting and exciting, not to mention tiring!