Sunday, May 27, 2007

Am I Being Fair?

All right, friends, I need your help.

My husband Dave and I just got into a big fight about his wanting to do a certain bike training plan while we're in Hawaii for two weeks early June. Knowing that he's been very supportive about my running marathons and doing tris the past few years, I feel terrible about not wanting him to do it and he's very angry at me. But I am truly worried about what might happen if he goes through with it and need some input from others.

The training plan was developed by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's personal coach, and appeared in Bicycling Magazine May 2007 issue. It's a short 3-week plan called the Spring Break Build Endurance with the last week being pretty much a rest week so I'll just mention the first two weeks.

Week 1 (10-13.5 hrs):
Mon: Rest
Tue: 1-1.5 hr w/ intervals
Wed: 1 hr Endurance
Thu: Rest
Fri: 2.5-3 hrs Endurance
Sat: 3-4 hrs Endurance
Sun: 3-4 hrs Endurance

Week 2 (18-21 hrs):
Mon: 1 hr Recovery
Tue: 2 hrs Endurance w/ 30-45 min Tempo
Wed: 2-3 hrs Endurance w/ 30-45 min Tempo
Thu: 1 hr Recovery
Fri: 4 hrs Endurance
Sat: 4-5 hrs Endurance
Sun: 4-5 hrs Endurance w/ 45-60 min Tempo

The training plan assumes the person typically trains 7-10 hours and says don't worry about overtraining because these are moderate-intensity rides and the person will get plenty of rest the following week. Yet, I am worried, very worried ...

My husband is a 46 year old, 220# disabled veteran who just got back into riding a bike last year after a ~20 year hiatus with help of special knee braces provided to him by the VA. Though he says his knees still hurt while riding, he loves being back on his bike and has lost over 40#. This year he's been consistently racking up 100-125 miles/week (7-8 hours/wk) with usually one long 3-4 hour ride per week. The volume in the second week of the training program would be about 2 to 3 times what he's been doing and he’s planning to ride alone most of the time along the Ironman Kona bike course, which is notoriously difficult with its hilly, windy, and oven-like black lava heat conditions.

What I worry most about is that he's a very heavy sweater and does NOT do well in hot and humid conditions. He does not know his sweat rate, has never used salt tablets, and has no idea how many calories he needs to stay strong. Though he plans to bring fluids and food, he tends to drink and eat only when convenient and often when he is way past needing it. He also has no recovery plan between the 3 back-to-back long workouts each week beyond just resting (no mention of nutrition!), which means he'll probably not recover well and get progressively more exhausted. And there are very few stores/gas stations along the highway, 35+ miles to the nearest one once past the Kona airport, and cell phone coverage can be spotty.

I love Dave very much, but I don't trust his judgment when it comes to things like this. He's a former Marine who has been trained to endure pain and suffering, and has a history of pushing himself too far physically (I'm a wimp compared to him!). 20+ years ago, he completed a long course triathlon and lost nearly 8% of his bodyweight due to dehydration (a visit to the medical tent for most folks). He once ran a marathon with his longest run being only 10 miles and his knees gave out at mile 16, yet he kept going despite excruciating pain and that was the last time he was able to run. More recently on some of our long rides in hot conditions he's become very dehydrated and bonked because he hadn't drunk and eaten as he should. One time he even got dizzy after only 40 miles (2.5 hours) so I had to ride home to get the car to pick him up. Oh, and did I mention that he also has had a number of precancerous skin growths removed as a result of too much sun exposure?

I offered to ride along with Dave or provide sag support by car, but he refused knowing it would impact other things I'd planned to do like swimming, running and relaxing.

I don't know what to do.

To jump into such an aggressive training plan on such an unforgiving course as Kona with chronic knee problems and no sound nutrition plan sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. On the other hand, is it fair to deny someone you love the chance to do something he really wants to do even if it might be the last time he's able to do so?

He says he'd run that marathon again knowing that he'd probably never run again ...


petra duguid said...

Oh Shirley - poor both of you. This is really hard. I understand both of your points of view. And I'm not counselor - I only have experience of my own relationship. But it sounds to me like you two have been drawn into opposing camps and that's not going to help either of you. By the sounds of it, your husband will go ahead with this plan regardless of your (entirely understandable worries). So all you can do is try to ensure that he is as well equipped to handle this as he can be - ie nutrition, recovery etc, as well as taking along cellphones and emergency supplies. So perhaps you can talk to him in terms of "I feel", "I am scared of", "It would make me feel better if you" and then tried to make it clear that you know you can't stop him but would be much less worried if he took some steps to ensure his health and safety. Always refer to yourself, your emotions, "I" - don't pin words / ideas / views on him ("You are doing something irresponsible" etc.) Somehow you've got to take your situation away from the standoff-position where he will be too proud to accept any help or advice from you and will feel forced into a defensive position. If he can see that you accept his decision (and perhaps hear your misgivings) he may be more willing to accept some compromises (from his point of view) in terms of his efforts and preparation. You could ask him whether, to reassure yourself, you could perhaps meet him for the last 30 minutes of each ride? Or just of the ones you are really worried about?

I don't know Shirley - this is a really hard one. Ultimately, I don't think you can stop someone determined to do something (and it sounds like he's a pretty determined character, which, I'm sure, is also one of the things you love about him) but perhaps you can just make him see that there are things he could do to make you a bit more comfortable with his decision. One thing I do know though - back away from the oppositional situation. Neither of you will get what you want that way..

Good luck and much love - for both of you!

Susan said...

Wow - what a guy! Wow - what a loving, concerned wife!

I hear ya, sister... I worry about my husband, as well. However, and I can't believe I am about to say this, as I generally ALWAYS side with the wise woman... due to the circumstances you've pointed out of his probably never getting to do this course again, etc..... I'd say have a LONG talk with him about your concerns (which in my opinion will probably make him be a bit more cautios and prepared.... if nothing else just to please you) and just "let him go," even though you'll worry. Mind you, I say this with only 2 years of marital experience under my belt! I just know that my life is soooo much better when I compromise a bit to let both of us be happy. For example, I flew to Chicago alone to do the Soldier Field 10, Really, that was a financial decision.... but I did not / could not complain when my husband recently planned a float trip without me (a guy's trip which could have easily been a couples trip). I figure if I "get mine" then he should "get his," even though I worried about him being out in a freezing creek (it was a few months ago). And I'm sure he worried about me flying to a humongous city all by myself late at night (even though I went to college there, but that's beside the point!) Hard to communicate, realy, but I think men sometimes need to just "do their thing," regardless of circumstances and potential outcomes.

I hope this helps. I'm sure he'd feel extra-loved and extra-xupported if you'd be "on his side" about this, even if you'd rather he not do it. You're right; he has certainly been supportive of your endeavors. That DOES NOT give him the right to practically PLAN to injure himself... but it does make is hard to discourage him from his tropical adventure.

I hope that this helps. Again, I have new to marriage and compromise! I hope my advice has not been offensive!

Your Fan,

Bigun said...

Get him a camelback, make sure he goes out with full water bottles, and enjoy the rest of your day. He's been through far worse, really - you've got nothin to worry about. These are BIKE rides, whatever happens, however he feels, he can limp home at 12mph without any problem. Besides, he's a Jarhead, thick skulled Marine - there's ain't nothing you or I can say to change his mind once a plan's in place.

Anonymous said...

As the person who has been married a grand total of 17 months, here is my advice:

Knowing Dad, he pushes himself. Sometimes too far, but it is an essential part of who he is and probably a large reason of why you love him.

I've seen how happy he's been since he started biking. If I was already in the shape that he his, I would probably want to do a program like this. You did say that the program is designed for someone that is already biking as much as he is. Hawaii is beautiful, so this gives him the chance to get out and enjoy it, while training for the Hotter than Hell. Isn't Orlando hot and humid also?

However, Dad, you are 46. Don't hurt yourself. Get out and have fun, but be willing to cut back if it is more than you can handle. Take care of yourself. Consider an nutrition plan to go with the training. You haven't spent enough of my inheritance yet.

If you really want to know what Dad can handle, ask him to check with his doctor.

Good luck. I love you both.


ShirleyPerly said...

Thank you Petra, Susan and Bigun for your wonderful comments!

No doubt it is ME who mostly needs help on how to deal with this rather than trying to change him. Being left alone most of the time (Dave travels nearly full-time and I don't interact with many people on a daily basis), I think I'd go nuts if I didn't blog about what's going on with me. I appreciate you being there to help me out. I may be strong but I'm only as strong as my support group!

MarathonChris said...

A tough place to be indeed! With my husband and I we handle it a bit like Petra stated. Voice our concerns, discuss how we will address it, and at the end, let each other go. Sometimes our discussions help to identify some strategies that help the exerciser as well as the concerned spouse. Perhaps you can get him to bring more nutrition/hydration items with him, or offer to meet him at a halfway point on one or two of the longer rides. Perhaps you can convince him to stop if certain things occur (knee pain reaches a certain point, etc.). Then you have to trust him and let him go. He understands your concerns as well as the consequences.

Then spend time working your plans and enjoy your time in Hawaii!!! :-)

ShirleyPerly said...

Katie, I wish he had time to see a doc but, as usual, he'll be on travel until the day before we leave for Hawaii. I may have initially wanted to "gain ammunition against Dad, than to really have an honest discussion to solve the problem" as you said in your email (but not your comment), but by the time I'd written the blog I think I mostly needed support on how to deal with the worrying (I realized I can't change the way he is and he'd resent me if I tried to). I appreciate your honesty on this.

And Chris, I know your husband is planning to hike the Appalachian Trail (no small feat) so hearing how you guys have dealt with this is comforting.

If anyone else has a comment, please feel free to post one. I never tire of hearing from the few friends and family members I have :-)