I completed a slightly disappointing sweet-spot ride on Tuesday, but the real problems started right afterwards. Initially I thought I'd got some cramp in my right glutes, but the injury eventually revealed itself as a tweak in one of my lumbar vertebrae.
It definitely got worse before it got better. For the next couple of days I could barely stand and walking was very painful, although I did get back on the bike for some very easy commute riding starting on Thursday. The riding actually seemed to help; probably gently working the muscles helped loosen things up.
This was a very good week, because I think I finally figured out why I haven't been feeling right for the last few weeks or months: caffeine!
For a long while now I've had many of the symptoms of overtraining: poor sleep, mood disturbances, anxiety and general tiredness. This was probably caused at least in part from my high workload over most of the winter, in particular the 4-5 weekly weight-training sessions on top of all my cycling.
However, I backed off a lot over the last few weeks, but still didn't feel much better. I was starting to worry that maybe I was in some kind of long-term overtraining situation, but then I realized that over the last few months I've been drinking increasing amounts of caffeine, and that this could cause many of the same symptoms I've been having.
So on Wednesday I eliminated caffeine consumption, and sure enough I've slept very well ever since, and this weekend I've started to feel much closer to normal again, with the other symptoms disappearing as well. It's early days, but sometimes there really is an easy solution.
I've been assessing the training I've done over the last several months, and I think I need much more recovery than I've been allowing myself.
The penny dropped after last Sunday's ride; at the end of a relatively easy week I felt much fresher than I have for a very long time, allowing me to perform at a higher level than usual on Sunday. But even then, I still didn't feel anywhere close to fresh.
I attempted my VO2max intervals on Tuesday, but I abandoned them pretty early on. My legs weren't heavy or sore, but I definitely felt somewhat lacking in power about a minute into each of the first two intervals, which in the context of my performance over the past couple of weeks, combined with some other symptoms of fatigue, was enough to help me make the call.
This was the second week of the VO2max training mesocycle.
The intervals were okay. This week I moved from 5 to 6 reps per session, as planned. Just like last week, my performance on Tuesday was better than on Thursday, presumably due to the extra day's rest I get.
This week I began the final mesocycle of the Pre-Season plan, consisting of twice-weekly VO2max intervals in addition to the usual low-intensity weekday rides, long Saturday group ride and an easy Sunday recovery ride. This will be repeated for three weeks, followed by a recovery week before I move into the In-Season.
This is the first in a planned ongoing series of weekly training notes. If you want more detail, follow me on Strava, and see my full training plan.
This was quite long for a recovery week, but as indicated below, the vast majority was low-intensity and so contributed relatively little fatigue. My overall fitness is now high enough that this volume presents no problems.
For the last few weeks I've been incorporating a dedicated leg-speed workout (now up to 20 minutes at 130 rpm) on my Friday commute ride, to improve my core stability and neuromuscular efficiency. I've extended this by also adding 5 minutes leg speed work to the warmup on each intervals ride. This seems already to be translating into improved acceleration, as these examples show: