One of the luxuries of staying at home for longer is enjoying the longer days and warmer weather. Waiting for my visa to be approved is torturous! I need to get myself back to Sweden as quickly as I can as I know that is where I can improve the most. Sweden however is terribly cold and dark this time of year… That makes being stuck here a little easier to handle. I do have to start being careful with all the snakes about now, yesterday while running after my gym session I saw two Brown Snakes, the second looking as though it has just eaten a small rabbit or something of similar size – its been quite some time that I have had to be concerned about them. Here is a much friendlier visitor that was in the backyard earlier last week that a lot of people (primarily members of the Mens British Ski Team) were mistaking for a snake on Instagram – a big Blue Tongue Lizard of course! Come on fellas, I wouldn’t voluntarily get that close to a massive snake, my last name isn’t Irwin! Nor Kovacs for that matter – check out what that crazy man has been up to: http://pkovacsxc.wordpress.com/
After almost exactly 2 months since my accident and after being given the all clear medically, last Thursday was time to see how my body reacted to a maximum effort in the form of a VO2 max test. This is the kind of test that no-one ever wins, your body will always fail, its just a matter of how long you can last – Go till you drop!! This ordinarily gets me nervous, primarily for the pain you are about to put yourself through but also due to the amazing desire to improve on last time. This I hope gives you an idea of how much I was stressing about returning to that treadmill. Performing well in previous tests has been a continual mental boost for me throughout my career – on paper I could match it with the best in terms of raw Aerobic output however now, after this particular accident, it’s all an uncertainty. With Silvana’s (my surgeon’s) expertise, thankfully every measure was taken to try and preserve as much lung capacity as possible, however the actual damage done takes a lot more to determine.
It’s that fear again – the fear of my lungs having problems dealing with the most aerobically straining tests of all but also the fear of potentially seeing results that one of my greatest assets had disappeared. I was about as nervous as making my Olympic debut – quite simply ‘packing it!’ I made it through to the higher stages feeling very comfortable which put me in a much better head space. At 36 minutes is where I hit my record breaking result last time so I knew if I could just get onto the same stage as that (32-36min bracket) the result can’t be that bad! I made it through to 32min feeling like my system was still coping, after that though the speed at which I fell apart was dramatic! Usually I can feel my system struggling but I can manage it for a while – this time I just fell into a world of pain from the lactic acid. I forced it out to 35min which despite the discomfort was worth every bit back in satisfaction.
Above are my results and by looking at them closely, there are definitely some unusual things going on. At least however my biggest fear hasn’t quite eventuated. If no injury had ever occurred and I had just been restricted to the training program that I have completed over the past 2 months, the lactate curves and level reached would be as expected if not surprisingly much better than expected. I need to keep reminding myself that I have only completed a handful of sub-threshold and only 1 above threshold workouts. There is good reason for falling apart at a faster rate at those higher intensities – my body has lacked the training in those areas entirely. So with all things considering, I am amazed at how fast my fitness has bounced back.
The confusion comes when looking at the VO2 readings. As you can see on the graph, this test (blue line) shows lower VO2 levels at the same level of work. My best back in September 2013 was 89.7ml/kg and this test shows a bit of a drop to 80.75ml/kg. At first I was a little worried to see this, however the initial responses from the various physiologists I have spoken to have said its not an issue at all. If you are the same weight, and the test is running exactly the same protocol in terms of speed and gradients at each level, the only way you can reach the same level of work with lower VO2 readings is from an increase in efficiency. As I do more intensity training, these values will rise again (hopefully to what they were before) and I will be able to handle even higher levels of work. So to gain efficiency in movement by laying horizontal for 12 days is not very likely, however it’s almost certainly due to the training that I did before the accident. With my coach Mattias at DSA, my strength, endurance and intensity programs have completely changed and hopefully we are seeing some of these gains now even with this set back. To last another minute at the same intensity on the treadmill is completely achievable and I have faith now that I can reach this level of fitness and even go beyond before my key World Cup and World Championship events this season. It’s not in my interest and never has been to achieve the same results – I just can’t think about it that way and this time around is no different. I understand and appreciate the challenge of getting back to where I was last season and that should be enough, but that’s not the way I operate.
I now know that my body can handle the hardest of workloads, and mentally this is a huge relief. Intensity is going to be the primary focus in the coming weeks and as rough as that’s going to be, I’m ready for it!
Continued difficulties with my visa last week has delayed my travel progress. I am hoping to finally get the all clear in the next few days. Hopefully they realise that I’m not such a bad bloke and start becoming a little more welcoming!!! No, I understand the procedures that need to be followed but I do hope it’s all smooth sailing from here.