So, we've officially entered the part of the training cycle that I hate more than any other - the Doubt Phase.
As in, "Oh, God, I hope I did enough to train for this stupid race, but not too much so that I am over-trained and now past my peak."
I've trained for three different IM races now, and the Doubt Phase has hit me every time. I was hoping to avoid it this year because I was smarter about following a more structured training plan and figured that, if I just followed the plan, I'd eliminate any questions I may have about being ready to race.
But, truth told, I haven't followed the Fink Plan as closely as I had originally intended. Probably about 75 percent, really. Maybe 70 percent. Haven't run as much, haven't swam as much, and haven't biked as much as ol' Don prescribed in his "Competitive" plan. Some avoidance came from design - I didn't want to tax my wonky hamstring too much by running 4+ times per week - and some came from pure laziness/lack of will (i.e., just swimming 2x per week, and usually at distances shorter than those Coach Don recommended).
So, following the Plan hasn't really served to allay any concerns I have over being IM ready. In fact, I'm pretty anxious about being under-trained at this point. I know I've done more quality work than I have previously, but I'm really not sure if it's enough to have a good race on this particular course. Because it's a toughie. Don't let anyone tell you that all IM races are similarly difficult, because it's just not true. Flat courses - like IM Florida or IM Arizona - are nothing compared to hilly courses. You can argue that riding in the aero position into a headwind is equivalent to a long day of riding rollers, in terms of overall exertion, but that just isn't true. Riding hills just takes a lot out of your legs, which you then need to run on for 26.2 miles. Riding in the wind just slows you down, it doesn't (necessarily) wear you out.
But, at the same time, my body is telling me that it's been worked over pretty good - nothing painful, really, just an all-over body fatigue that doesn't go away. I also haven't felt like I've made any real progress, aerobically-speaking, for quite a while. For example, rides that I did a month ago are now harder than they were then. I'm able to do the prescribed workouts, but I worry that they're not making me stronger. Just more fatigued. Or maybe this is just the nature of a 30-week training plan? That kind of effort is bound to wear on you over time, and presumably the fitness gains will only show once the taper period ends. Pfft...it would all be so much easier if we just had a dial or gauge on our bodies to show how much fitness is in the tank.
This period is especially frustrating and confusing because, with only a few short weeks left, there's really not a ton you can do about it either way - you've either slacked way off too much or put away too many miles to make any real difference to your race result. The damage - if there is any - has already been done.
I guess there won't be a definitive answer as to where I am, fitness-wise, until Race Day. Until then, I'm going to just stumble my way toward the start line as best I can and hope for the best. We're just over three weeks out, with one more big weekend left to train.
Fingers crossed that I'm on the right path.