I love Spring. It is my favourite season. Watching the trees and plants (and, unfortunately the weeds in my neglected garden) come back to life after the longest of Winters, makes me so excited.
My birthday is in Spring. My shiny new first-ever niece or nephew will be along in the Spring. The evenings are lighter. It’s slightly less baltic in the mornings. What is not to love?
This year, i decided to shove my A-Race back to August and give myself the long, dark Winter months to focus on rebuilding my strength and stamina after a brutal year of training for iron distance. It’s been a great decision. I’ll swiftly bypass the fact that I am hugely under-trained for the Dirty Reiver 130km in less than two weeks…. but this aside, I feel mostly ready for a few months of 70.3 training.
My plan for the Winter was to try to maintain my weight as well as my CV fitness, and work to improve strength and power on the bike while avoiding injuries and illnesses as much as possible. I’ve become good (some would say too good #hypochondriac) at listening to my body and thankfully, so far, I have only experienced a few niggles here or there. My biggest obstacle, as it has always been, is stress. I get very stressed. Once I am passed being able to deal with it psychologically, my body responds and I experience recurrences of the fibromyalgia I have worked so hard to beat. It can be exceptionally frustrating, especially as exercise, the one thing that alleviates stress, contributes to the pain which, if I’m not careful, can cause injuries that stay for a lot longer than I’d like. For example: in January, I was experiencing my usual shoulder and neck pain. Sometimes all I need is some light weights or an easy swim to allow my muscles to work through the tightness. But on this occasion, I pushed a little too hard and ended up with an extremely sore rotator cuff injury that lasted, on and off, until mid Feb. Not ideal for this swimmer!
With all this in mind, I have worked hard to recognise when it is essential that I take a big ol’ step back and reset mind and body.
Easier. Said. Than. Done. I can assure you.
The most important thing that I try to remember is: I do this shit for fun. I’m not an *actual* athlete. This isn’t my job. I have an actual job that I love and that pays my bills. I have life stress, family and a social life. (also I unfortunately have a garden. sigh) Life happens. I eat cake and pizza as well as vegetables. Life is short and is 100% for living. I’m not in this shit to win it. I’m in it to *live*.
Removing this competitive pressure from myself has been so important. Going into my new training plan with a relaxed mind set and totally flexible goals is (hopefully) going to make this summer fun and exciting as well as successful.
As things shift and change with my career, my family life (and my attitude), I have to remember to be flexible and to adapt. I mean, if last year taught me anything about myself, it is that I am tenacious as hell. Shove me in a difficult situation and I’ll drag myself out of it to the best of my ability.
Over the last few months, I’ve worked hard to bring my FTP up. I’ve attended to my strength and conditioning, I’ve enjoyed running (and hated it in equal measure but that’s standard for me) I’ve rekindled my enjoyment of “training” and made the most of parkrunning and days out on my bike. I’ve conquered some of the hills I’ve been scared of on my bike, and I’ve faced my fears of downhill MTB by accidentally not taking the chicken runs on red routes.
After Lakesman, I forced myself through some more events, I achieved the things I wanted to (apart from that illusive 5k PB which was JUST out of reach). But I felt sort of numb. Nothing was really hitting the spot and I knew I needed to take one of those big steps back and realise how lucky I am to be able to do any of this in the first place.
The last few years have shown me how cruel and short life can be. We get literally one shot at this, so why throw that away or waste it? While my body works, I’m gonna USE it!
I have channelled this renewed sense of purpose into this years “plan”. Which I refuse to put too much pressure on because this is an adventure and I want to enjoy it….and I am EXCITED to see where I end up.
I even went on a proper running adventure with my pal and colleague Laura. We hopped on a ridiculously cheap flight to Stockholm and spent a long weekend marching round the city in -12 and running in Djursgarden in the snow. We also discovered just how British we were by encountering a traditional NAKED (like…. extremely fucking naked) sauna where everyone jumps in the frozen lake after…. We wore our towels with shame/pride and closed our eyes in the communal showers and did we FUCK jump in the lake. Needless to say, when we visited a beautiful roof top spa the following day, the first thing we checked was that we could wear our swimming costumes……
So I guess, this Spring, I get to spend my time watching lambs play in the fields as I huff and puff on my bike, I get to chase choppers down in the pool (LITERALLY FUCK OFF IF YOU SWIM BREASTSTROKE IN THE FAST LANE WHEN THERE IS SPACE IN THE SLOW LANE) and I get to keep trying to run…… FOR FUN.