When athletes go quiet online, it's usually a sign that things aren't going super well. And to say that November and December we...

When athletes go quiet online, it's usually a sign that things aren't going super well. And to say that November and December were rough is an understatement. I had a few major setbacks in the late fall that, at the time, were incredibly frustrating.

First, on November 20th, I had an awful 6k test. I was more than 45 seconds off of my PR and spent the whole test gasping for air. Guenter thought we just needed to develop my lungs by incorporating more running, which led to an aggressive 80-minute run the following day. Deep down, though, I suspected something more was going on.

Then, in the wee hours November 24th, as I was getting ready to rage on a 2x6k workout and turn things around, I woke up and vomited 4 times in a row (and then got my period five minutes later). Great. I couldn't stomach anything for breakfast the next morning and ended up spending the whole day in bed, four hour nap included.

Finally, on December 4th, after a hard lift Monday afternoon, I tweaked by back during the morning erg session and found myself hardly able to walk by Thursday morning. Putting on pants was a struggle and getting onto an erg was absolutely out of the question.


Somehow, though, one month later, I snagged a PR on a 4x1500m workout and haven't looked back since. So what happened?

Well, first things first, I signed up with InsideTracker and got some bloodwork done. It turns out I was pretty low in both iron and vitamin D, and had worryingly high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. To fix the first two, I started taking supplements and about four weeks later started noticing marked improvements. I'll be re-testing in early March to see how things are looking.

The cortisol was its own issue.

The summer racing season was incredibly stressful and I never really took the break that my body needed. After Worlds, I rushed my time off to jump back in to training for Head of the Charles. All fall, my body was screaming at me for a break, and I ignored it. Hurting myself was exactly what I needed.

I spent about two weeks training primarily on the bike, which gave me the mental and physical break I needed from the erg. Although the sessions were challenging, they didn't use my whole body and so they didn't leave me as deeply exhausted as workouts on the erg would have. I came out of my injury feeling refreshed and ready to go, when I'd started it burned out.

I also made some serious changes to my sleeping habits. After skipping coffee on November 24th (like I said, couldn't stomach anything for breakfast) and taking the world's best nap, I decided to try skipping coffee on November 25th as well. I thought it might help me get back to training faster. I was rewarded with another epic nap. And so, I cut out coffee on November 26th (nap) and 27th (nap) and 28th (nap). It turns out, I was hiding a lot of my fatigue with caffeine.

I've always known I was a strong responder to and slow processor of caffeine, but I hadn't realized just how much it was interfering with my sleep. Nearly overnight, I added 60-90 minutes to my daily sleep totals. What a difference!

Now, in the back half of January, I'm feeling strong and ready for the challenges ahead. I just finished up a 10-day training trip to Florida with my highest weekly volume ever. More importantly, I was able to recover enough throughout the week to get something out of all that work. Next week, I'm back in Connecticut, training indoors and hoping to see some of the fitness improvements reflected in my erg scores.

February brings my first full month with no travel since June '18. I'll be using the four weeks to test my limits indoors and hopefully rack up a few more PRs before heading back to Florida in March to prepare for racing season.

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