“Dura ma bella”

“Dura ma bella” – Tough but beautiful

Those three Italian words have summed up endurance perfectly. Not just the locations of these events, but the actual physical and mental toughness required to complete the challenge.

Many don’t understand it. Why, WHY would you want to wear a wetsuit and get up at 4am to go swim in some swan shit and then sit on a fucking hideous contraption that you’re clipped to and that tries to kill you repeatedly and then OH GOD YOU HAVE TO RUN HOW FAR???

I see your point.

But to me, endurance isn’t about the “Main Event” as such. The event itself is basically just the lap of honour. The culmination of months, and sometimes years of hard work, grit and determination is what I love the most. It’s the same for any pursuit that you choose to follow, really. I suppose it doesn’t matter which sport you participate in, it’s all about overcoming fear, pushing yourself to be a stronger person physically and mentally, and about achieving something that not many others can, have or will.

My training is taking part in one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland which is inspirational in itself. I am lucky it’s so flat here, although I will need to find some hills, as Kenmore and Aberfeldy are in the Highlands… bit hillier than The Bit Near Fife. It will be tough, obviously. But months of training and practice and that so-called grit should hopefully get me there and finished.

So. What’s brought this on?

This week, I have been mostly motivating my ass. This has involved hours poring over YouTube videos of traithlons.

Below is a link to one of my favourites so far: Swissman 2014

Nails. That is all.

Previously I have blogged about why I do all this rubbish (But Why?) however, I’ve rarely sat down and thought about what truly inspires me. Or who inspires me, for that matter. Who keeps me going when the shit hits the fan? Or the rain is hitting my face so hard it’s like being stabbed by tiny knives? Or when my right quad seizes 6 miles into a 14 mile ride and I have to pedal, one-legged, up a hill that hates me on a bike that doesn’t fit me, with 8 cars behind me.

The answer? Many things and many people:

These guys:

family

My brave, stoic, hilarious mum. She kicked cancer’s ass and works hard looking after people and is one of the nicest human beings you will ever meet. My brilliantly intelligent dad who looks after all of his girls and gave me my inquisitive (and stubborn) nature. My not-so-baby sister who said “bugger it” to having a boring desk-job and went in search of her dream job. There is nothing easy about starting again. And nothing easy about veterinary nursing!

This Guy:

Brian

My other half. Who has spent the last 10 days rebuilding a car. (In addition to mine which is currently on a continuous it’s fucked-it’s fixed cycle) He does that a lot. He is also helping me build my bike, along with his dad. He is one of the most patient people I’ve ever met. And I’ve done my bit to test that over the last 7 years… The calm to my storm. (Not ever ever the cause of the storm in the first place… nope….never…)

These Weirdos

weirdos 1 - Copy weirdos 2 weirdos 3

My friends are better than yours. This is a simple fact. I love each of their beautiful wee faces tremendously. They pull me up when I’m sad, make me laugh so much I want to puke (and occasionally do) and each one of them is ridiculously talented and wonderful. Not to mention, they are supportive as hell.

Athletes

I am very lucky to have been welcomed with open arms into Coach’s team. Team Painless is a silly, wonderful place. And it’s choc-full of talented, inspiring individuals. We each have our own disciplines and goals and achievements. But we all share the same passion and enthusiasm and everyone is supportive of each other. That’s a lovely thing. The creator of this, of course, is Jonathan Pain. Coach. Boss. Who encourages us all to interact and be nice. It’s fun. Jonny is inspiring in himself, having achieved so much and done it all with grace and pride and a genuine love of what he does. Serious respect.

My twitter account overflows with athletes too. Pro’s and “normal folk” like me who are just trying to push themselves out of their comfort zone a little. This is a brilliant thing. The encouragement I’ve had through twitter has been amazing. Not to mention the tips, inside info and pointers on kit that have prevented me from making some pretty catastrophic mistakes. I’ve met friends for life, here. For sure.

Absent Friends.

Too many gone too soon. I often think of them when I’m out running or cycling alone. What they’d be doing with their lives now we’re all technically “grown-ups”. Would they be parents now? Would they have found someone to spend their lives with? What would they look like as late twenty-somethings and early-thirtysomethings. It’s so unfair that I get to do these things and they don’t. So I make the most of the legs I have and the ambition that I’ve got. For them.

Myself.

Ooooh she’s a cocky one, in’t she?

Not really. If I’m having a particularly shite week, or have found myself on the physio’s table yet again, I just think back to where I was before and how far I’ve pushed myself and what I’ve achieved, and I know that it’ll all be ok in the end.

I know I can do this. I do. Nothing is ever impossible. On August 16th, I hope to complete my first ever Triathlon. 70.3 miles. That’s a chuffing long way.

Why, you ask?

Because I can.

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Who even AM I?

Coach posted in our team Facebook page this week, and asked “who are you?” 

(He knows who we are, obvs. He just wanted us to interact and get to know each other a bit…)

Being a gobby bastard, I commented first and went for the “I eat too much and like cats” line. 

Others followed suit but then a few posted really sincere, inspirational and honest responses and it got me thinking. 

So. Who am I?

Well.

I am Bean. I was a lazy twentysomething who rarely got enthusiastic about anything other than Victoria sponge. I was a bit depressed. I was in denial about all of the above. 

And then I wasn’t those things anymore.

I grew up with wonderful, fun and nurturing parents who always encouraged me to do the best I could but it didn’t matter if that wasn’t as good as someone else because as long as you know you’ve done your best that’s all that matters. 

I stand by that. I’ve always been supported 100%. 

I lived in ‘Murica for a bit. Where I learnt that Americans can EAT. And they also call their kids BJ (Bill Junior). Poor kid. 

After that, we moved to Brussels where I learnt that you can’t ride a bike with two full sized french sticks under your arm (an actual cliche) and literally every local is some kind of predator. 

Up until the tender age of 13, I had struggled with Dépaysement (french: the sense of being a fish out of water or the disorientation felt in a foreign country or culture). I never really “fit” anywhere. And when we moved back to Scotland, I was plunged into a local school with a ridiculous hair cut and an even more ridiculous English/American accent. 

Hello bullies? Yes. One easy target. Do your worst. 

There followed 6 years of secondary school where I had heartbreaks and made friends and lost friends and cried and laughed and smoked in the bike sheds. I settled. Eventually. 

Four years of University and a fashion degree came next. Which I’ve used HARD and ended up crawling my way to being a Buyer. A grown up actual proper job!! A job I could only dream of in the days of Rachel Green working for Bloomingdales in Friends. 

But something didn’t fit. I was getting fat. And lazy. And my back hurt constantly. I felt lost again. 

So I made a change. I don’t think there was a specific moment where I said “no more cake” (because…. Well…. CAKE!) but there was a change.  My Saturday’s ceased revolving around the telly and trips to the shop for more croissants. I started walking everywhere all the time. And eventually I graduated to running. 

From 12st 10 to 10st 6 in a year, I finished my first Marathon on May 25th 2014. My biggest, proudest moment to date. 

So. Who am I NOW? 

I’m still a twentysomething (just). But now I am a runner. I am a swimmer. I am a (mostly terrified) cyclist. I WILL be a triathlete. I am a buyer. I am a friend. I am a girlfriend. I am a best friend. I am a cat lady. I am often crabbit. I am either too late or too early. I don’t like a lot of humans. I do like a lot of cake. (At least I earn it nowadays….) I am a proud daughter and an even prouder sister. 

That’s who I am. 

Waldeinsamkeit.

Waldeinsamkeit: (noun. [German]) – the feeling of being engulfed by nature or alone in the woods

Waldeinsamkeit

Running in the woods is my favourite escape from reality. You’re never truly alone in nature. There’s always a robin keeping an eye or a squirrel playing chicken. Having always been an outside-lover, my go-to place for stress relief is the woods…

We all know my talent for smashing bike helmets after run-ins with tree-roots, but on foot I’m marginally more stable.

Crunching over hardcore is tough on the ankles, tarmac is brutal on the knees, but peat forrest floors make a perfectly bouncy surface for my wobbly legs.

Being in The Woods brings perspective for me. Though ever-changing, they are a constant. A symbol of solidity when everything else changes so quickly. The same trees that I ran past on Cross-Country PE runs in school. (I say “ran”, I mean sauntered, with my mates, sharing a cheeky marlboro light out of sight of the teacher…) The same burns, rivers and Loch. And at this time of year, Crocuses, Daffs and Snowdrops litter the floor.

…. I feel like Alan Titchmarsh.

This need for clarity and peace has come about because I’ve been a bit (lot) stressed lately. Work, Car, Bike build, Work, Car, training, ad infinitum. It’s been tough and getting out has been hampered by persistent niggles that don’t seem to want to abate. Happily, I have been released (again) by PhysioDan who has, despite a wobbly knee, decided he’s happy for me to train on it as long as I promise to ice and stretch and not do too much too soon. Again.

This week’s training was hampered from the outset due to an almost fatal bout of Hangover on Sunday. A night out so heavy that I thought at 12pm on Sunday I’d almost definitely never be sober again… Lesson learned. Gin and Jaegerbombs do. not. mix.

During a particularly insomnia ridden night this week, I stumbled upon a Buzzfeed article about words that other languages have to describe things that we don’t have words for in English. Or something that makes more sense than that previous sentence. Anyway. One stood out above all the others for me. “Waldeinsamkeit”. German. So best shouted and not said as romantically as the definition suggests you should say it: the feeling of being alone in the woods. Or engulfed by nature.

I love this. It gives a name to the feeling that I have but can never describe. The feeling of being alone, but not really being alone.

Right about now is my very favourite time of the year to be outside. Still freezing in the morning but everything is about to burst into life and look alive again. It’s this feeling that I have a whole summer of training to be excited about that is keeping me focused.

Lighter evenings mean I can escape the Turbo Trainer and staring at a drying rack and venture outside again. (I have QOM’s to retain, thank you!) Lighter mornings make the prospect of getting up at 5am to run slightly less horrifying. Warmer days mean I can get the pasty legs oot and start working on my Lycra Tan.

I also have mouthfuls of midges to look forward to. And getting more acquainted with road biking. Essentially just me, clipped to a bike, trying not to die by being run over, constantly screaming inside my head.

I have open water swimming to get excited about. A swim in a freezing Scottish Loch before breakfast ought to provide a decent enough wake-up call.

I have many many miles of running to look forward to, hopefully. These, of course, will be done slowly.

For now, the miles increase slowly. And intensity too. My strength training is proving very useful and I’ve already seen marked improvement in my abilities there and also my endurance capabilities in the pool from all my upper-body work.

The alarming Injury Fear I’ve developed can, I think, be honed into something akin to being “Sensible”. I am not sure exactly what “sensible” means but I *think* it’s something to do with not being broken… either that or it’s some kind of French seafood dish.

Who knows?

Anyway. Fingers crossed I stay injury free!

Sat 21 March

Slow Progress

“Embrace the suck” 

One of my many mantras, which sits upon my wrist 24/7. Gifted to me by a wonderful buddy. 

I’ve been embracing the suck. All of it. And now I’m ready for it not to suck anymore. 

How much more patience is required? Because, for a quality I lack on so many levels, I seem to have had to nut-up and find a fucktonne of it within myself. 

Today was my first run in 8 weeks. Eight. I have 22 weeks until Aberfeldy. I have frighteningly less than that until my half marathon (which is really just a medalled training run) and all my confidence is GONE. 

The last 8 weeks have looked like this: Work. Home. Eat. Train (barely). Eat. Sleep. Work. Physio. Weights. Work. 

I’ve been more stressed and more under pressure in those 8 weeks than I have in the last 8 years. It’s all good prep I suppose. The work stress won’t abate until August. At least. And neither will the training. So really this baptism of fire is just a tepid introduction to 2015. 

I’ve whispered I can cope, I can do this to myself 15 times a day for the last 3 weeks as I drag my injured ass between London and Birmingham and home with tiring frequency. With the last of my big buying trips behind me I can now focus on clearing the backlog of work in the office and try to get myself back to full fitness. 

Although I’ve not been able to run, I have been doing a great deal of strength training with Coach JP and believe it or not I am actually getting stronger. And, perhaps more shockingly given the size of the pizza I inhaled on Friday, I’ve started to grasp nutrition. 

All these tiny green shoots of recovery, and yet still the fog won’t clear. 

In my previous blog, Baby Steps I chatted about the importance of returning to each discipline individually. I think that’s the key, here. Too much and I’ll incur another injury. Possibly. (Probably) 

So where does this leave me? Over-cautious. Over-anxious. Over it. 

Today’s run was to be short and slow. So I figured a zone 3 HR-based run would be a good plan. 

I wish I could go back in time to the point where I said *lightbulb* I’ll set HR alerts on my Garmin. 

Stupid Bean. 

I spent 3.3km/24minutes CURSING the bastard thing for beeping at me THE WHOLE TIME.

HR IS TOO LOW beep HR IS TOO HIGH beep HR IS TOO HIGH ad fucking infinitum. 

This meant my first run in ages was ruined by loudly cursing at my watch every 15 seconds and slowing to a pace that would’ve been better as a walk. 

Rubbish. 

Even the addition of my weird and posh new Shockabsorber run tights couldn’t lift me. 

My next run will be Wednesday. With HR alerts firmly switched to OFF. 

Luckily bike and swim have both been good. Bike is limited to 30min sessions just now which suits me fine because Turbo is SUPER dull. And within those 30 minutes I’ve seen progress on cadence and resistance. 

The next few weeks will hopefully see a return to running fitness with the initial goal of a 10k mid April. I want to run it with The Other Half to start getting him some bling. I won’t be putting too much pressure on myself for this though. That’s how I got into this mess in the first place…