As I sat slumped on a pavement on a bitter January night, waiting for Beardy to come and pick me up, I sobbed. My shins were so painful it hurt to walk. My hips were in shreds. I was broken.
“If I feel like this after 7 miles, how the hell am I supposed to do a marathon in 4 months?” I thought to myself.
A few weeks prior to this, I had run my first ever race: the Edinburgh MoRun 10k. I finished in 1hr11 and couldn’t walk downstairs for 2 days afterwards.
I was struggling to understand how a human body can run without serious physical consequences.
Most of my salary was already going on Physio treatments for the injuries I was collecting faster than the miles were building. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.
I had no idea about nutrition. I was still losing weight. It was a wholly miserable time.
That first big finish line
Crossing the finish at the 2014 Edinburgh Marathon was a pivotal moment for me. I’d run to 16 miles and then walked the rest. It took me 5hrs40 (A time I’ve never really improved on) But, as it still remains, it wasn’t about the time. It was 100% about proving to myself that I am capable of tough stuff. And that I can do things that are difficult if I a) want them enough and b) work hard.
The journey to that point had been riddled with bumps and obstacles. First and foremost, my body was not ready. I was not strong. Determined? Absolutely. But I had about as much strength in my legs as a piece of over-cooked pasta.
I knew if I wanted to continue doing Stupid things, I’d have to get stronger.
So I did.
I worked. I cried. I worked some more. And slowly (very fucking slowly) I started to discover what my body was capable of. I began to understand my limits and how far I could push them.
Including strength work into my training became essential. Basic range-of-movement stuff as well as deadlifts, squats, HIIT and MetCon became staple parts of my weekly routine.
The Ultimate Goal
Early on, I knew I wanted to become an ironman. 140.6 was THE goal.
I wanted my first time to be special, informal and fun. I devoured hundreds of race reports, watched the live footage of Ironman branded races, followed trackers for non branded ironman races. I read the history of the sport, immersing myself in the inspiring world of the distance.
I focused on each discipline, building confidence and stamina.
Setting huge goals along the way was crucial in building said confidence: entering endurance swims, completing more marathons and generally being around bikes more often were all part of a Grand Plan.
And then finally, I stumped up the cahones and entered a race.
I chose Lakesman. I chose right.
Marie and Phil have built something unique and special with Lakesman. Everything is athlete focused. Everyone is there to push you and encourage you. It’s not about brands or money or gloating. It’s about working fucking hard for as long as you’ve worked to get there, and celebrating this effort with a 140.6 mile lap of honour in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK.
It’s about overcoming adversity in whatever form it has taken in your life. It’s about sacrifice. Commitment. Determination.
It is so much more than a race.
Lakesman was a fantastic athlete experience. From start to finish. I could not recommend this race enough.
I guess I expected to feel different. More Badass, or something. To be honest, I felt tired. Very fucking tired. I was buzzing but sort of quietly disappointed. I know I can go faster and do better. But the thought of doing that again just made me want to weep.
My energy levels peaked and dipped like nothing I’ve ever experienced: one minute I was itching to swim, the next I wanted to sleep for a week.
I’ve battled with utter disappointment about my time. I’ve felt totally gutted. I’ve cursed my weight, my lack of power on the bike, my lack of long distance rides.
But most importantly, I’ve LEARNED stuff: Train harder. Train smarter. Eat better. Your body tells you when it needs to rest. You CAN do tough stuff. You WILL do another 140.6. Chamois Cream is LIFE.
I ticked off some “smaller” events and set some goals to see my year out: Another 10k swim in Loch Lomond (ended up with a 4 minute PB), swam the relay leg of Aberfeldy middle distance in 31 mins (4th fastest relay swimmer over all!) Smashed through my 3 year old 10km PB with pacing help from my father-in-Law and I’m currently working on bettering my 5km PB (this is proving trickier than anticipated….)
Next year will focus on building my bike speed, mastering middle distance and getting faster and stronger across the disciplines, all while having as much fun as I can!
One thing that iron distance has helped me with is perspective. While I still struggle with stress, I can now talk myself down with greater ease than before.
In the words of Kara Douglass Thom: “Ironman will trivialise past hardship and prepare you to minimise those to come”
The strapline for this blog used to be “the journey to 26.2 and beyond”. Now, “it started with a marathon” feels much more fitting.
A huge thing to come out of Lakesman, was realising the importance of fixing my relationship with my body and body image.
I haven’t weighed myself in months. I can feel most of you reacting to that! “Oh gosh she’s let herself go!”. Quite the opposite.
I was sick and tired of having my days measured by a number on a screen.
You know what it’s like… you get up, get undressed for the shower, look in the mirror and think “oh yeaaaah looking like you’re getting the abs back there, Bean” and then you step on the scales and they are the wrong side of 72kgs and all of a sudden your day is ruined.
Here’s the solution: I don’t weigh myself anymore. And I feel fucking brilliant, for it! My clothes fit better than ever and food-wise, I stick to the same healthy balance with occasional treats which I no longer punish myself for.
I’m still active. Not 17-hours-a-week active, but active enough to enjoy exercise for it’s physical and psychological benefits.
I’ve loved this year. There have been really crushing lows, but the highs have more than made up for those.
On to the next adventure….