I’ve spent the last three weeks out in the field. For me that meant a week as an outdoor instructor at a pair of all girls camps (three dozen 14 year old girls, oh my!), a week as a guide on a 6 day, 150 km long pack-rafting trip, and most of a week as a parent helper at a pair of overnight primary school camps with my two boys. The first two weeks were too important financially to skip, and the last one was pretty critical to maintaining the work-family balance. But these weeks were pretty also pretty key training weeks my lead up to GodZone, this years “A” race for me. In fact, they lay 7, 6, and 5 weeks out respectively–prime training time.
Initially I struggled to decide whether to accept the offers of work, fearing that it would impact my training. But in the end the dollars were too hard to turn down and I decided to try to take the work. Same deal when upon return from that pack-rafting trip my boys informed me they wanted ME to come to both of their camps. I initially thought only of what workouts I’d miss and started, by default, rationalizing why their mom should go instead. But in then end I couldn’t refuse. I just sucked it up and did my best to fit the training around these priorities and in doing so got quite an education.
The first week’s work entailed daily hikes of 2-3 hours, as well as leading lots of “ABL” (adventure based learning) activities. It also involved lots of singing and screaming and organizing and talking with the other teachers. It was exhausting. Since I was getting paid to lead the walks and manage the activities, my training window was 6 to 7:30 am. No problem for my wife, but a major problem for me, as I’m hardly a morning person. To make matters worse the camp was set in Deep Cove, a stunningly beautiful spot in Fiordland New Zealand that also happens to be one of the wettest spots in the world. It was almost always raining. For someone who doesn’t like getting up early to begin with, getting up early to train is pretty hard. Getting up early to train in rain that is measured annually in meters is damned near impossible. But then again, so might be finishing GodZone. I managed the former by hoping it might help me manage the latter.
It was actually pretty good AR training. Headlamps, mud and water, darkness, and hills. Big hills. I was so exhausted by the early start coupled with the near constant activity that I wasn’t able to do anything fast, but I did do it. The same went for my training while guiding. Even though the trip was relatively easy for me, it still covered some 140 km over six days. I added an extra 16km on day two when I had to choose between an afternoon nap (the day’s seven hours of travel had ended by noon) or a trail run. A fartlek in packrafts on day 5, blasting from the last of the three clients to the front on the lake paddle, served as an attempt at higher intensity work, the first attempt in during the period in question. My back got knackered–a heavy ill-fitting pack and the long hours in the boat followed by the hunched walking position and crappy hut mattresses. But I soldiered on, pushing the clients through torrential rain (a third of a meter over two days!) and accross swollen rivers.
And then this most recent week–full days of leading hikes and kids activities on the beach, complete with atrocious food (the food situation gradually got worse over the three weeks…), and heaps of sandflies. A super cold night that reached zero degrees (celsius) with me in a 10 degree bag kept me from getting much sleep before being joined just after six AM by my teammate for an hour uphill run before the kids woke up. Then I went up the mountain again the next day once they went to bed. For lack of other options I did a 30 minute tempo paddle in a tiny packraft (scout) and a couple of 500 meter time trials on an inflatable SUP.
It’s been a complete departure from anything I’ve done before, particularly my normal way of training. I’ve been very busy. Very physically busy (unusual for me) for so long now.
Here are some of my take-aways:
- Relationships make training long hours very hard (for me). I always feel like i’m choosing racing over relationship when I train too much. This is why HIIT works so well for me in general–I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing time with my partner, or attention to my partner and family for an unreasonable amount of time.
- HIIT, at least my version of it, isn’t really compatible with even a reasonable level of other (physical) activity. I found it virtually impossible to do any significant HIIT over the past three weeks. My levels of activity, both physical and mental, were WAY too high. The motivation was gone to work that hard. I suspect that even if I would have tried my performances would have been sub-par, but in truth it was just impossible to try. Moderate/tempo pace work was the best i could hope for, but in light of everything this became pretty satisfying.
- Nutrition isn’t unimportant. But it’s not that important. My diet was pretty good the first week (and there were plenty of calories). That being said I didn’t eat and drink during any workouts, even ones that were 90 minutes long. I also didn’t eat on any of the hikes. I did eat lots during meals though. The second week, I forgot my lunches (long story) and so had only a breakfast of porrige before 6-8 hours of near constant activity (low-moderate intensity). This would sustain me fine until my freeze dried dinner. All in all I was probably taking in 2500 or so calories a day, and burning far more. I still felt good and strong on this strategy. The final week the food was crap. Frozen meat, white bread, and lots of ‘baking’ (cookies, brownies, etc). The first overnight I ate tons of the stuff and even though I exercised, I felt like crap. Not just physically, but mentally too–just a real funk. But the second overnight I brought my own food in and had the willpower to resist the baking. The exercise didn’t necessarily go any better but the mood was night and day different. Food for thought.
- It’s HIIT and nothing else or no HIIT for me.