Spaghetti.

Here I am, sitting in a terribly posh hotel near Knaresborough with Farrow&Ball on every wall, having driven 200+ miles in a hired Peugeot that I’ve called Nigel. I’ve had 4 hours of driving to compose this.

I’m going to start with an interesting fact about me:

Note: I should probably state for the record that use of the term ‘interesting’ is probably generous…

Fact: When I’m cycling up mountains (hills/ slight inclines) I rap Eminem lyrics in my head. 

I’ve no idea why. Probably because I know the words and the rhythm keeps my legs turning over. So imagine my horror when my coach sent me this meme:

spaghetti

Thus ruining Lose Yourself for me FOR ALL ETERNITY.

I discovered this when Sean and I did a route recce of the Aberfeldy Tri bike route on Friday. When climbing what can only be described as EVEREST (Schiehallion) on the way back, I started going through the words to Lose Yourself in my head. By the time I reached the summit, I was basically just crying and gasping the word SPAGHETTI over and over until I found a sign post to lean against and gather my tattered soul back together.

Song: Ruined.

The small victory of the day was 90km and over 2500ft of elevation gain as my bro in law and I tested our biking skills. It was tough. No sooner had I uttered the words “I hope I don’t actually ever need to change an inner tube…” did the valve sheer under light pumping (snigger) and I had to replace a tube before we even set off. Under 5 minutes though! Delighted!

The route was absolutely stunning. You are essentially climbing from mile 5-16. It’s tough on the way out, but the way back is something else. Almost the same elevation gain as the way out but over a much shorter distance.

The result? Near-vom-experience.

Here’s the bike data:

route recce

Have to say, that elevation looks steeper (as steep as it felt) on my iPhone screen…

I managed to take some snaps on the day too:

Schiehallion Glen

The clouds just lifting off the hills ahead.

schiehallion road

Schiehallon Road. (It definitely does not look as steep as it feels!!!) Loch Rannoch in the distance.

The recce was both brilliant and terrifying. What an absolutely incredible part of the world to race in. And it’s home. And shit. I need more hill work practice and SOON.

Stella was just perfect. No clicks or creaks and smooth-as-silk gearing. She flew.

Initially we’d planned a short brick run afterwards, but after the climbs, we felt it was sensible to maybe just have a sit down and a think about our life choices instead. Also, I’ve been on a recovery week after Coach examined my data in Training Peaks and realised I was loading significantly more than I ever have. And we all know what happens when I do that…. INJURY/DEATH/FLU.

I want none of those.

I felt really rather good after the bike. Like 10 minutes after. Ok 20. But the fact remains, I wasn’t in tatters. The tri-shorts held out. My arse was tender at best, but I managed. And while the thought of a half marathon kind of made me want to curl up and sleep, I could do it. I think…

BEANFACE

I even managed a smile after I’d peeled actual roadkill entrails off my leg. I KNOW.

So now things get a little interesting… I’ve arrived in Farensby in Yorkshire having driven Nigel the Peugeot down this afternoon. (Thank feck for Costa Coffee monopolising most service stations on the M74/M6) This can only mean one thing. Buying Season is upon us. The next 12 weeks consist of office/travel/training/office/travel/training. My plan, which I’ve worked so hard to keep consistent, will take some re-shuffling as I move through this tricky time. I am also project managing a huge department move at work. Stress will take hold pretty soon. The focus must remain on injury-prevention, calorific intake, sleeping when I can and maintaining fitness while continuing to push for improvements on the bike. It’s going to be hard, but in 4 weeks I will (hopefully) be wearing a medal while sipping (downing) an ice cold beer…

Luckily my London trips feature hotels with gyms so I can squeeze some light biking in there. And trainers fit in a suitcase…

And so begins the final push… 4 WEEKS TO GO!

In a bid to re-establish the CORRECT version of the song in my head, I’ll leave you with this:

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Nut up, or shut up.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”      – Theodore Roosevelt

I can remember my 5th year Tech teacher telling me that I always chose to make life difficult for myself. My designs were always outrageously complex. I could’ve created much simpler projects for myself. But why the hell do that? I was able to execute the complex sequences of operation and create bigger and better bookshelves and pen holders than anyone else…

This skill is one that I’ve carried with me forever. I still make my life difficult. I could have decided to do fuck all after the Marathon. I could have just bought a bike instead of gently cajoling (or violently forcing) my other half and his dad to build it. I could have given up several hundred times.

I haven’t.

One of the most important things I have taught myself, is that when something has to be done, you do it. I’ve taken this approach into my work, my home and my training. Raining? No problem. Snowing? Cold, but still no problem. Howling gale? Fucking lots of problems but fuck it.

I try very hard not to pansy out of things. Especially when it comes to training. Whether it’s front squats choking me until I have a bit of a meltdown (I have a fear of things touching my neck) or having to face up to a particularly brutal hill climb on the bike, I’ve begun to shout FUCK IT very loudly in my head (sometimes not in my head) and then enjoy the sense of achievement once it is done.

The Tri is 6 weeks tomorrow. That is terrifyingly close. I’m just about finding my road-biking confidence now. And I ran my fastest 10k ever this morning (I am getting tantalizingly close to sub 60mins which, if you know me, has taken over a year to get myself to). My long rides seem to be averaging around 14mph which is slow but steady. The other night, my brick ride averaged over 17mph. Progress. Tiny slithers of progress.

10k PB juky 4

With 6 weeks to go, and work about to get hella stressful for the next three months, I am consciously ramping it up while eating as much as I can to keep my body fueled. This has caused some “mental” problems. Especially when trying on typically unflattering tri apparel. My review on Wiggle of the Zoot tri shorts I ordered got rejected. Presumably because it said something along the lines of…

“These made me have a fat day and now I’m crying while eating free haribo and I’ll never wear shorts again. Whoever created these is a monster and hates women. And thighs. Don’t order these if you are larger than a size TINY.”

I was just being honest…

Happily, the Zone3 replacements that arrived this morning don’t make me look like an actual whale trapped in lycra. And speaking of whales, my new Orca visor kept the pissing rain out of my eyes and my hair off my face. The kit is coming together at last!

Stella continues to amaze me. We are venturing further and faster together and I absolutely adore her. Her mystery click keeps me and my local bike guru confused, but we have narrowed it down to chain issues and tomorrow she gets her first outing with a shiny new KMC chain. Here she is looking sultry as hell up a hill.

Stella

I’ve now reached the pointy end of training. It’s time to nut up or shut up. Bike is still taking precedent over the swim and the run as it’s the area I need to nail to get a decent time. Now that I can drink and open food while on the move, I feel I have conquered a massive hurdle.

If only I could master The Bike Selfie…

Chatting to coach the other day, I mentioned that I rarely see gains in my strength training. I’m not a powerlifter so I don’t really get to see huge increases in my abilities there (although I have improved massively) and I happen to train with some of the strongest people I’ve ever met in my life. So here’s little me, behaving like a pouting child because I have to do 5 pull ups while his other clients are lifting more than my car weighs.

But… I’m positively skipping up hills in comparison to what I used to be like. I haven’t even vomited on or near my bike for ages! I nailed several PR’s and a new QOM on the trail the other day. The signs all point to an increase in strength, and recovery seems to be pretty quick now too.

I also made a decision the other day. Which I may or may not regret. My main aim for Aberfeldy is to enjoy it, of course. But now I want to nail it. Give it everything. Not just “get through”. I’ve worked hard for nearly a year.

So head down now, Bean. Get on with it. Let’s do this.