The Fear

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

It has been a somewhat challenging week both mentally and physically. Monday arrived and thanks to my unexciting bike fall and subsequent ‘faulty’ back muscles, I still couldn’t walk without a rest every 5 paces, and having spent most of Sunday evening checking, rechecking and thrice checking my drug stash, I really definitely absolutely didn’t have anything more powerful than paracetamol and ibuprofen. Not to sound all Trainspotting, but that definitely was not going to cut it.

I managed to snag an emergency doctors appointment first thing Monday, and somehow drive myself there. And with the soundtrack of muffled swearing I got myself into a chair in the echoey, germ-filled waiting room only to immediately be called and have to get up again.

I think the thing I love most about my doctors (apart from them having the drugs) is that they have been my doctors since I was a baby. So I can go in and he or she will say things like “what would you like for the pain? Here are the options. Feel free to say ‘all of the above’ if you want”

I said ‘all of the above’.

I got home, ate many things, took about 18,435 different medicines and settled into the only comfortable position: foetal.

PhysioDan massaged and used ultrasound and acupuncture to try and alleviate some of the pain and swelling around the base of my back. It definitely helped.

By Wednesday, and my trip to Glasgow to see the beautiful Hozier, I was able to walk and stand with only a bit of pain. Manageable. I did medicine maths and worked out that if I didn’t take anything for 12 hours before the gig I could have one beer.

I did the maths wrong. If I’d had any more than one I’d have been sound asleep by the speakers. Christ, I was chilled.

By Thursday I’d come over all sensible and made the tough but necessary call on the EMF10k. I grudgingly withdrew entry. It cost £30. THIRTY FUCKING QUID. But it is “only a 10k”. A distance I run often. It’s not my main focus. The only pisser would be going to spectate as my other half had entered with me. I wanted him to go for it. So at least he wouldn’t feel like he was abandoning his slow girlfriend.

Saturday turned out to be brilliant. Brian blasted the 10k in 53 minutes. The sun shone. I found my buddy Joe and we watched his lovely lady Ella cross the line of her first medaled 10k. She flew in and was looking strong at the finish. I got a sweaty hug off Steve Bonthrone and then found Brian and a Starbucks.

Lunch with friends and their wee ones followed. (I found out that wee Euan likes ‘Beekon’ almost as much as me. #MoarBacon) and then a trek round Edinburgh Castle allowed for some light hill-training. (Any excuse. Even if it’s a walk)

I didn’t mind being a Sherpa, really. Seeing as it was sunny. And my race envy soon disappeared when I remembered what the Arthur’s seat climb feels like.

Being a chronic over-thinker (some would say ‘female’…) I have spent a large proportion of this last week in a state of wobbly-lipped panic as I can almost feel my fitness evaporating and all my hard work fading away. This, I know, is rubbish. But with absolutely no indication of recovery time, and the added blow that I’m probably going to have to settle for a “less than average” finish time at Aberfeldy, I’ve felt like withdrawing more than once.

Not that I’m stubborn, or anything…

I won’t, of course. I will get better. I will do the thing I think I cannot do. I just won’t get enough miles in on the bike. Stella goes to The Bike Shop on Monday to have her gears checked. After that, I should have a bike that climbs hills. Bonus.

I now have to ease myself back into the disciplines very carefully. This happens far too often. It’s almost as if I’m not designed for this… I must try a new activity next year. I’m really terribly good at sitting. And also lying down. Can anyone recommend any events where you get a medal for sitting down and changing the Friends box set disc every 4 episodes???

This afternoon I swam. It was slow. I punctuated each set with stretching and back stroke between 200’s and 400’s to try and reduce the strain. It ached. I felt really bloody fed up. I’ve noticed my core isn’t engaging in the pool as it used to which is something I’ll need to address with more strength work. This feels like its causing my lower back to dip and bum to rise slightly in the water creating a dip in my back and allowing tension to creep in. Funny how I’ve not really noticed this until now.

Today’s effort. Way off my normal average pace of 1:46. (Incidentally, why is there an Elevation option here…?)

swim310515

I’m going to try a turbo session tomorrow evening. And if that feels ok, maybe a jog of some description. I’m down, but I’m not out.

Because I’m such a chronic overthinker, last year, I made a point of not really thinking about the Marathon distance. I went out and did the training, but I wasn’t ever really scared of the distance until the night before. It was a marathon. It was 26.2 miles. I was going to do it. No doubt.

But this time it’s different. I’m not so scared of the swim, and the run will be what it will be (probs not so much a run, if I’m honest…) but the bike scares me a lot. 56 miles is cock all to experienced cyclists and to the ironfolk among us. But to someone who had basically forgotten how to ride a bike until last year, with a road bike that is only really just beginning to be functional now, it’s a fucking long-assed way. To put it in perspective, a wise man I know told me that 10 weeks out, I’d need to be at about 112 miles per week to see optimal gains on the bike.

Shite. My biggest bike week to date is 50 miles… I’m 10 weeks out. 8 if you include some tapering.

So. Now I get by. That’s the plan. I do what I can on the bike. I keep plugging away in the pool. I keep run-fit.

The Fear can fuck off.

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‘Computer Says No’

Except it’s not a computer. It’s my body. And it’s not so much saying ‘no’ as ‘would you kindly fucking stop this triathlon shite, PUHLEASE?’

Being fit and strong and getting faster is supposed to be good for you. It’s not supposed to leave you hobbling about your house like An Elderly while wincing and swearing a-la-tourettes every time your back twinges.

But it’s my own fault.

I’ve been ignoring some niggles. I knew I was tired after the half marathon, so I rested. But not enough. And not until I’d been out on my new bike and thrown my neck out.

Patience is a virtue that I’ve never had.

The niggles have been minor. Mostly leg and calf related. Put down to being overdue some new runners and upping mileage. They’ve been compounded this week by my return to work after holidays. The 5am starts have been met with no enthusiasm whatsoever. By Friday I was nursing The Sniffles. Tanking the multi-vitamins and ensuring a minimum of 7 hours sleep a night has, for now, removed the snot.

My Saturday was actually pretty successful, training wise. A tension and mostly niggle-free 10km run in prep for the EMF 10k next weekend, followed by 3000m in the pool. All was well.

Sunday was to be two short-ish rides. I’m still breaking Stella in on the road, so I’d planned a long-ish lap of the loch in the morning with a quick blast on the MTB at night just to get some extra decent miles in the legs without the saddle-soreness I’d experienced last week (suspension is a marvelous thing…) The first 7 miles were great. The wind was behind me after 3 and I managed the first moderate climb with no troubles apart from the bike being reluctant to slip to the baby ring. (just testing… honest!) I didn’t even break and managed to hit 35mph on the beautiful downhill afterwards. I even SMILED. Usually downhills are spent clinging on for dear life with my mouth firmly shut because midgies.

Then came The First Disaster. I rounded a corner to the Auchmuirbridge climb. It’s a 3rd gear job in a car, and I always pass cyclists who are several shades of purple on this bit, so I changed down to the baby ring in prep, ensuring the chain wasn’t crossed and CLUNK. CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK. Every time I put my foot down, it jumped.

Fuck.

And then pothole. And then soft, squishy verge. The Second Disaster.

I quickly jumped up (having to twist my leg awkwardly to release the tight cleat) and realised that I’d have to push the bike to the top. There was no way I could get back on and start pedaling at the pointy bit of this climb. Especially if it wasn’t going to let me put any kind of power down.

Once the road flattened out the gears and chain were tip top! I even took her right up the gears and gave it welly. No problems! (The cleats have been tightened so much that it cannot be them!)

I then reached Climb to the Church. A Strava Stage I’ve been making decent progress with. I’d run into difficulty here on Wednesday when ‘operator error’ caused the chain to fall off.

The clunking started again. But this time in the big ring. I stopped, ran over to the pavement and called the other half who sleepily instructed me to limp it home carefully.

No further problems coming home. Thankfully.

It wasn’t until I got off the bike in the driveway, and hobbled (more than usual) to the front door, that I realised there was something very wrong. Now, I’m no stranger to back pain. But this was something pretty nasty. Forward bending motion is fine. But I have no backward flexion in my spine AT ALL at the moment. Walking, standing and carrying even a mug of tea is a challenge.

Body is firmly saying ‘no’.

So it’s time to sit down (sort of, that hurts too) and take stock. I know when I get to the start line on August 16th, that I’ll be more grateful of the time I spent recovering and resting, than had I over-trained myself to serious injury.

I shall be seeing PhsyioDan as soon as I can. I shall be feeding my muscles with protein, fat and carbs and I shall be sleeping until a normal time. Even mum’s magic hands couldn’t un-knot the knots this morning. So I know it’s really time to relax a bit. I’ll call this week a taper week for the 10k and remain positive that I’ll be feeling better in time. If not, no biggie. I can support my other half as he takes on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

Until then it’s painkillers, napping, hoping that there is no heavy lifting required at work and a wee swim on Tuesday if the back has eased off at all. And probably some acupuncture and spinal manipulation courtesy of Dan.

Oh. And plenty of hobbling and swearing.

It’s all about the what-now??

I was sent a link to a blog this morning. A blog that made me irate while lying in bed nursing a sore shoulder/neck after a weekend of athletic excess. A blog so unintentionally (I hope) insulting and condescending that I slowly staggered through to the living room from my pit of despair in order to write this probably slightly over-defensive rebuttal.

Click HERE for a link to Tom Demerly’s article.

To anyone who wants to see more people engage with triathlon, this probably seems like a great blog! And to be fair Tom Demerly clearly knows his stuff about endurance and triathlon and being an all-round awesome human with some ridiculously tough challenges under his belt. Who am I to argue with such an accomplished person?

I think what you might be trying to say Tom, is that the Triathlon industry could make more money by tailoring products and marketing towards those of us who perhaps aren’t “in it to win it” but want to better ourselves physically and mentally by becoming fitter and tougher. This isn’t a ‘day job’ for us. Just a hobby. So we don’t want or need to spend the earth either. Therefore stop trying to peddle £5k TT bikes to people who probably won’t actually get the gains you claim they will. And maybe make some kit that doesn’t accentuate sausage legs and back-boobs.

That’s kind of all you needed to say…

You cover some sensible and pretty accurate ground to begin with, making reference to how the recession impacted consumers who previously had disposable income and now have less cash to throw about or set fire to or whatever. All of that made perfect sense. Triathlon is an expensive hobby, but it’d be great if you could get decent enough kit for less than a trip to the moon. All fine.

But…. Then it all gets a bit “fattist”. Even the title hints at the underlying theme of “curves”

“The number of svelte, uber-athletes is smaller now than it was 20 years ago relative to the general populace, who apparently has been spending what’s left of their shrinking discretionary incomes on Krispy-Kremes, not qualifying for Kona”

*Shocked face*

Last time I checked, The Scale of Fat doesn’t go directly from ‘Svelte Uber-Athlete’ to ‘Skint And Crying While Mainlining Donuts’….

“The sport is growing from an increasing number of new athletes who are more average, heavier, less athletic but still inspired to participate– if not necessarily compete.”

The sport IS growing. And I’m sure Tom will agree, with his sporting pedigree and involvement in many an association geared towards improving Triathlon as a sport, that this is BRILLIANT! Look at all these people who want to push themselves physically and mentally?!! But hang on… “heavier” and “less athletic”?

Ouch.

Quite often, Joe Average takes up an athletic hobby because he or she is unhappy with their figure. There’s really no need to draw further attention to this. Especially in a sport famously rife with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.

“There has never been an ad campaign in triathlon featuring realistically sized, average age group triathletes.”

This is true in as much as most sports-based retailers, magazines and events use elite athletes to market them over  poor old Joe Average. It’s called Aspirational Marketing. It’s not un-realistic in the same way that fashion brands push skinny over normal. We know we’ll never look like Jess Ennis! But people would usually rather see her on the face of an athletics magazine than that of Charlene from the local Co-Op who did her 5K race for life last week. No offence, Charlene.

The faces they use to market products and services are not the problem, here. It’s the attitude that accompanies it. The elitist and frankly pretty snobby attitude that you get within ANY sport. That’s a real problem.

My final bug-bears lie here, Tom. Where you skip further towards dangerous territory:

“Apparel manufacturers have missed the mark too, alienating prospective customers with images of sponsored pros with little or no recognition among average triathletes and building clothing that is too tight, too short and in size runs that are humiliating to try on. If a forward thinking triathlon apparel brand introduced a tactfully marketed apparel line called “PR” with upward-adjusted size runs, modest cuts and middle-road visual appeal they would outsell too-tight, mis-sized brands designed to fit anorexic Kona winners.”

I agree. The sizing jumps are too big between S-M and L. All this needs is some light attention to pattern grading. Dress sizes. Easy. Not a sodding “plus sized” range! This now means Joe Average has to put up with kit snobbery as well as bike snobbery! Kick us while we’re down, why don’t you?

“Yes. I’m looking for your plus sized lycra. With ‘modest cuts’ because I do not wish to inflict my plus sized thighs on any ‘proper’ athletes. And my love handles may throw their focus off their race.”

And then. “Anorexic Kona winners”.

Oh dear, Tom. Oh. Very. Dear.

Let’s be quite clear that the likes of Sebastian Kienle, Frederik Van Lierde, Crowie, Mirinda Carfrae, Chrissie Wellington and Leanda Cave (to name but a few) do not in any way look ‘anorexic’. And I’m SURE your use of that term is purely “for the bants” and that you don’t actually mean it. Because that’s just outrageous. Bit insensitive to refer to an eating disorder when discussing an athletic pursuit that has experienced quite negative press about this before. The incredible Chrissie Wellington has revealed her own struggle with body dysmorphia within the sport, as has Hollie Avil. Who gave up her successful and still promosing career following two battles with an eating disorder.

These are fiercely talented, accomplished athletes who strive to be the best that they can be. They eat well, they live well and they work damned hard. Anyone entering the world of triathlon aspires to be at that level of fitness and skill. And what I think you’re suggesting is that newbie triathletes who are perhaps, as you say, “average” look at these incredible athletes and think “pah, she needs a kebab!”.

No.

What you’re doing is, yet again, drifting down into the depths of body-image and the rabbit hole that is body-dysmorphia.

Allow me to finish with the following:

I accept that I am considered “average” by elite athletes. But you’re getting a bit personal with the “heavier” and “less athletic”, buddy. What you’re saying here is “hey. It’s cool that you’re not as fast as the elites. You only need to compete with yourself! You’re average and it’s the taking part that counts”.

Let me tell you the most important thing I’ve learnt since deciding to undertake this Triathlon Adventure:

No one who has ever completed a triathlon is “average”.

I cannot emphasise that point enough. We may not be “elite” but training for a tri, especially if you have kids and/or a full time job (which we need to FUND this clearly incredibly expensive sport) requires über dedication and a kind of drive that differs to that of a person motivated by sponsorship and podium-payouts because TRIATHLON is their day job. The kind of dedication borne from a person who wants to be the best that they can be, while fully accepting but not really caring that we won’t be winning Kona anytime soon.

Don’t you dare belittle that by saying “ah it’s ok! You can do this AND be slightly fat and poor. It’s the taking part that counts”. You use the term “filling from the bottom” a few too many times, for my liking. Is that a fat-jibe or your way of saying that Triathlon is filling with average people who look rubbish in lycra? I think both.

We already know that. And to be quite honest, we’re not that arsed for winning! I just want to be able to eat cake and still look smoking hot in skinny jeans. I don’t need a crazy-experienced athlete to tell me that this is actually ok. Because I already know it is. I don’t need to win! My income doesn’t depend on winning. I have a job so that I can buy cakes.

That’s kind of liberating.

Birthdays, Bikes and Bells. 

Where to even start!! 

It’s been a crazy week. The first of a fortnight off work (finally. It’s been AGES) but hectic none the less. I had a birthday (mine and other half’s) and a half marathon and cake-dates and a new bike. 

Let’s start with the bike. 

Built by Brian and his dad, my Dedacciai carbon framed beauty would’ve cost around £2k new. They have worked to build this absolute beast. And she weighs less than one of my cats. 

Hello Stella.  
Then the half marathon happened. Loch Leven half was my nemesis, this year. Last year I shouldn’t have done it. 2 weeks out from Edinburgh and properly injured, I forced myself to walk/run it in 2:27. 

This year is a different story. 

The plan was consistency and no injuries. I’ll probably know more in the morning but so far the only aches and pains are standard post-endurance niggles. 

My splits are pretty even. Although I did set out pretty quick by the looks of things. And I managed new PBs over 10k, 15k, 10miles and 20k. My final time for the half was (I think) around 2:16. I’m so proud. I didn’t walk. Apart from when taking on water. So all of 2 minutes walking in 2 hours is huge progress. 

  
The race itself is brilliantly organised. It’s a very “clubby” event though, so even at my relatively not-shit pace I was still quite far back in the pack. Because it’s such a popular race for experienced and fast 1/2 marathoners and marathoners, they all beast it in under 90 minutes. 

I smiled the whole way. I took a gel on around 10k in where there was a water station to wash it down. That was sensible. I got a boost before I started to flag and I really felt the benefit. At one point, I passed my buddy Michelle (another of Coach’s clients) who was in a bit of trouble. I checked she was ok and she waved me on. I managed to shout and wave at a Marshall further up to tell them to go find her. I know she’s fine now and took the tough decision to withdraw (she needs to save herself for Edinburgh in a few weeks). She took the most amazing finisher pic of me which I’ll show you in a bit. 

Oh. It was HOT! It rained a bit and was quite cool at the start, but as we turned a corner onto the flat ‘moss road’ on the way to Scotlandwell (where mum, dad and Lissie were all waiting) the wind went away completely and it was MELTING. Short-shorts and t shirt combo was the best choice. Even with SPF30 I think I have sunburn. Oops. 

I love this pic dad took of me. Mum shouted “bloody hell she’s not crying this time” and I got the giggles. 

  
Around 11km there’s a not-terribly-steep-but-terribly-steep-after-11km hill. I overtook a lot of walkers and this became the theme of the second half of the race.  
Having been in their shoes last year, I seized the opportunity to encourage and try to motivate each runner I passed. I know the route so was able to give those unfamiliar with it, a brief summary of how little they had left. I made some people smile, dished out some fist-bumps and high fives and continued on my journey. That was nice. 

I’d had a stitch on and off for a few miles and knew it was because of my quicker-than-normal pace. So I used breathing techniques and sipping water at water stations to make it fuck off and, for once, it worked. 

By 12 miles, my head was starting to question itself. “Walk. Just a bit. Go on.” But my legs kept going. I’d been feeling pretty worried about my shins coming into this race but they’d stopped niggling around 4 miles. By 10 miles, the IT bands were starting to ping a bit. And the old hip problems were causing some minor stiffness. But I just kept the pace slower and pushed on. 

Once I passed the “one mile to go” marker and ran into the housing estate before the school, I started feeling a bit anxious about the finish. I’ve no idea why I get this. It’s bizarre. I could have honestly stopped here and walked the rest. 

But I didn’t. 

Suddenly; I burst into a cacophany of bagpipes, cheers and neon Lycra and there was the finishing chute. 

I picked up my knees, high fived my buddy as I passed, waved for dad’s camera and sped over the line in 2:16. 

That’s 11 minutes faster than last year. And I’m not (so far) broken. 

  

So there we go. And the medal? A cowbell. Odd. And I’m not sure what the link is, but there must be an in-joke in there somewhere between the clubs. 

Today I have mostly eaten everything in sight. And legs permitting, I hope to give Stella her first flight tomorrow. 

It’s a very exciting time for this budding triathlete. 

  

Huge well done to my future bro-in-law too, who finished in under 2:10. Go Sean!!!

 
Peace out, for now x 

  

8 Things Endurance has taught me about Endurance. And myself. 

It’s been a long, bumpy road, this past 18 months. And as my 29th birthday speeds towards me, along with the anniversary of becoming a marathonererer, it’s made me all nostalgic and shiz. 

So what’s this “adventure” taught me about myself, and my new hobby? 

1. Good. Bye. Dignity. 

Imagine squatting for a pee in a bush only to turn round and be face to face with a confused greyhound while its startled owner awkwardly backs away. “Come on, Milo. Nothing to see here”. 

Or running out of water mid-ride. Unclipping in a typically wobbly fashion and then waddling into a cafe with not insignificant amounts of snot on your chin. 

Get used to it. 

2. Soreen is your friend. Embrace it. 

2 years ago, if you’d have waved a malt loaf at me I’d have recoiled in disgust. “DON’T try and call that a cake. It’s not a cake. It has RAISINS in it” 

Well. Now me and Soreen are BFFs and I don’t even care. Original, Banana and the holy grail that is Chocolate flavour are what fuels my longer sessions. And provide “lunch pudding”. 

That leads me to my next thing what I’ve learnt:

3. I can fucking EAT. 

Let’s face it. I never had any issues with putting food away. Like, srsly. But being told by coach that I needed a minimum (A MINIMUM) of 2500 kcal a a day just to maintain energy was literally the best thing anyone has ever told me. 

Of course, this technically needs to be 2500 kcal a of goodness. so no breakfast kebab. Boo.  But if, say, I’m down on my fat and carb macros for the day, I can actually eat Nutella out of the jar and it’s not even remotely frowned upon. 

I’ve also had to create new meals. Allow me to introduce you to 

“Post breakfast”

“Breakfast pudding ”

“Pre lunch”

“Post lunch”

“Lunch pudding”

“Pre dinner” 

Life is good when you can have thrice the amount of pudding in your life. 

4. I cannot BEAR padded shorts. 

Of course, I have to. Because who wants to sit arse-on-saddle sans padding for 4 hours? Not. Me. 

But it’s afterwards. After melting on a turbo trainer for 45 minutes. When there is no fluid left in your body because you’ve sweated it all out and it’s been absorbed by the bike-nappy. 

*shudder* 

5. Humble-bragging is a very real thing and you don’t even realise you’re doing it. 

“You look tired”

“Oh not really. Was just up at 5am today to smash an 8k run in before breakfast” 

“You’re mental”

“Not really. Just gotta be done. It’s tough but I feel so amazing right now” 

(That is a lie as you eat your 18th digestive of the morning.)

Which leads me to:

6. Everyone who says 5am sessions are invigorating and amazing is a LIAR. 

5am sessions are not invigorating. Or amazing. Or fun. Or “energising”. They suck balls. Big, hairy, sweaty balls. 

They are essential to those of us who have a full time job. But they are in no way fun. 

Saying that, I always try to take positivity from each session. So the only thing I can say that I love about early sessions is the quiet. I can sit in peace or run undisturbed. And that’s nice. 

7. I am the angriest I’ve ever been in a swimming pool changing room. 

Sweaty. Chlorine scented. Tiny cubicle. Gross floor. Can’t get leggings on. Can’t get bra on. Can’t find phone. Dropped my goggles. Where’s my car keys. WHY THE FUCK WILL THE TOWELS NOT GO BACK IN MY BAG. 

8. Pain free running EXISTS 

There was a time where I thought this would never be possible. But it is. Combining the three disciplines has improved my recovery and strength so much. And by including strength and conditioning, I can lift heavy things AND put them back down again now. Every pain free step is a blessing. I remember back when I had to stop and call for a lift. 

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes running DOES hurt. But not always. And that’s progress.