“I’ve got it.” Those words were the first sentence of Mike Reed’s Facebook post on March 29, 2020. Of course, I already knew. It was early in this pandemic--before we knew what we know now. Certainly before we knew everything--triathlon and otherwise--would be canceled.
Mike’s 2020 plan was aggressive. It included the Boston and NY marathons, two full Ironmans in early and late fall, and a few other half Ironmans and half marathons tossed in just for good measure. Mike joins the 55-59 age group next year and this was to be a big year to set up being the “young kid” in the new age group--with 70.3 worlds and Kona qualification as 2021 goals. 2021 is still looking good, but 2020 got wiped out--in more ways than one.
Everyone's reaction and response to COVID is different, and you should seek a doctor's advice before pursuing any training when you are injured or sick. Mike had a career as a medical practitioner and consulted with his doctor and other medical experts; with his knowledge plus Coach Dave's coaching expertise, the two were able to get Mike back on track. This is a case study of his journey back.
“I’m on my ass. I get winded walking upstairs. My resting heart rate has jumped to 50. [From his normal 38 bpm.] And the worst part is feeling like I’m not getting enough oxygen. It creates panic. The thought of taking a long walk is not even close to appealing.”
Want to see what COVID-19 looks like to a coach? The shaded blue area that looks like a cliff is “fitness”.
Mike’s Training Peaks calendar is always green. Relentlessly green. We saw only red after the morning workout on March 27th. The next time we saw any green was nearly 3 weeks later when Mike “hammered out” his first ride back on a Monday--20 minutes at 50 percent power on the trainer to see if he would be able to breathe through a workout. Boston would have been two weeks out.
In March, a two-hour run was no big deal. Tuesday’s workout title was “Walk--can be brisk”--a 30-minute affair, if he felt good enough to be out that long.
We built back gradually. It took over 6 weeks to build back the fitness that Mike had lost during the two-weeks he had been flat on his back. Although the general rule-of-thumb is about a 3:1 ratio for building back fitness after time off, it still felt fast. This ramp is testament to the shape Mike was in before he got sick and the discipline he employed during the comeback. Early workouts were ridiculously short and easy as compared to what he had been doing, but Mike followed the plan as written and soon we were able to extend distances and eventually add intensity back into the mix.
We put our eyes on an early-June Olympic race within driving distance of his home in Florida that hadn’t been canceled. Then, that race got postponed to mid-July and we were thankful for the extra time to get prepared. In mid-June, Mike injured his leg--something we’re still factoring into the training--and the runs moved to the elliptical. But throughout the early summer, Mike continued to make progress and his metrics ultimately exceeded those he had going into COVID. The “blue cliff” had become a canyon with a higher plateau on the other side.
On July 19th, the Treasure Coast Oly race went off in socially-distanced fashion and Mike toed the line--finishing 4th overall on a 90+ degree day. Mike ran 7:30 pace off an hour-flat bike in those hot conditions. Mission accomplished!
We’re both looking forward to what 2021 will bring. Simply having opportunities to race will feel like a win, but we have a couple of qualification boxes to check as well.
Coach Dave Sheanin believes that becoming “triathlon literate” is key to meeting your goals. Triathlon is indeed a lifestyle and like the other important areas of your life, knowledge is power. I encourage you to explore the nuances of the sport, be open to new ideas and ask questions – of yourself, of fellow swimmers, cyclists and runners, and of your coach.
Dave is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and Training Peaks Certified Coach