Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Festive Mountain Bike ride with Mr Hopkins

On 30th December I took the rare move of diverting away from my usual stomping ground and riding a bike with another person other than my incredibly patient husband. I only know one person as patient as TSK and that is Mr Hopkins.

We chose a route which would be sufficiently scenic yet achievable given the snowy frozen conditions, taken from my 1993 guide book of West Yorkshire.

Starting from Ogden reservoir we quickly mounted our bikes as 30psi gave us better grip than boots, trainers or cycling shoes on the icy car park.

The tops of the moors were suitably resplendent in their winter coat and the wind turbines stood pleasantly still. Wheel ruts and snowy rocks abounded for our entertainment and I amused Glyn with a quality flop into the snow from stood still.

We acquired a couple of clampit bikers intent on making us responsible for their routefinding until they realised they didn't trust a woman to read a garmin and they were unable to read Glyn' s paper map when he did deign to get it out for them (no innuendo).

They asked others as we descended down the hillside with reasonably wild abandon, except for the ice patches.

Soon our friends were back, following us across the reservoir overflow but a little more cautious about crossing streams. We tried once more to make them head slightly South of West, to no avail. They relieved us of their company at the first hill climb, persuading themselves that North was South but hopefully not getting run over at the next zebra crossing.

We slithered a little and took REST breaks whilst cars slid past from time to time. After admiration for the view of the reservoir our friends did not think existed at the top of that climb, wee turned back down to Ogden on a beautiful wide open rocky trail. It was time for pub lunch.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Run 4 of 100 and space

29th was the first day I had to myself this holiday. I had already set myself the mammoth task of tidying up the living room, moving all of the books into the loft to make more room for people. I started it on Sunday and mostly finished it on Monday while waiting for my cousin to pop in for tea.

It was great to see Keith and Daisy and hear about their wedding plans for 2015.

After finishing 'project floor', I jumped on the turbo. I say that like it happened really quick. Well after a day of hard labour in the loft the house was stone cold and I had to warm myself up as well as shift the bike, get the sensors working and actually amassed a selection of running gear with the intention of going back to the loft to do some strength sets in the newly appointed space.

The turbo session was tough. It was kinda difficult to engage and achieve high heart rates. Once there I was finding them difficult to sustain and started to tip the scale. I realised I was struggling to ride to a pace. Given that information I did manage to sort it out on the last few reps. Then jumped into my shoes and fleece leggings and sweatshirt to head out into the streetlights for an impromptu brick session.

There was only really our road that was cleared after TSK and 20 of our neighbours went out with shovels on Sunday to sort things out... so I did hill reps.

Determined to keep going towards my hundred runs in hundred days challenge I set my mind on doing 30 minutes. It certainly was a motivator because I first looked at my watch after 7 minutes. Not tired but bored. I'd probably already done 5 laps of the same street but my mind was made up and I turned the volume higher on my iPod and kept going. 13 minutes. Then Florence and the Machine, 'the girl with one eye' which will make anyone skip. I just hope my neighbours had shut their curtains by the time I skipped past their house at least 4 times. I had Eric Orton in my mind's eye, reminding me that, if you hate hill reps you're trying too hard. I kept it light, especially in view of my plans for mountain biking the next day, but with music alongside, the occasional Sprint crept in. After 29:55, another lap crept in to push me joyously into the 30 minutes timeframe with honour and I went inside to cook chilli.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Post Christmas Indulgence & run 5 of 100

On 27th December I was awake in the early hours of the morning, dreading that the snow would have gone by the time I got up.  I looked out of the bedroom window to check but it was still falling so I went back to sleep to see what santa bought me as a late Christmas present by the time I woke up.

It was a beautiful snowy day and I ate my breakfast full of the anticipation of what was to come but… ski-ing or running???

I stuck my nose out of the front door.  The cover wasn't bad but not brilliant either.  I ran up to the loft and checked the view out across the hillside where tufts of grass were protruding from the slopes in places.  I decided it wasn't good enough for skis and went off for a run instead.

After 10 minutes I was crossing sledger’s park, children already starting to amass, giggling in the sunshine.  I toyed with the idea of heading straight home for skis but instead decided to tire myself out on a short run before resorting to skis, hoping that I wouldn't do what I did 2 years ago and injure myself ski-ing, screwing my early-year run season.  I phoned Andrew from the bottom of the Rivelin Valley, telling him to get the ski stuff ready.

When I got in I changed clothes briefly then skinned up the skis and set about walking to the park.  It was chossy, slow and rubbish but it didn’t matter – we were skiing in the UK.  Sledging on planks was what it was really but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless and headed home tired and happy afterwards.

On Sunday, I really was tired from the exertion so decided to have one weekend off cyclo-cross by way of a “rest-week” – keeping up the heavy training for a bit but laying off the hard racing with a view to another short recovery before Derby and the National champs polish off the season.  Instead we had a walk into town to try out some sofas that we might want to sit on.  It's a hard life.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day Bogtrott

I had all kinds of plans for getting to the Boxing Day Bogtrott.  I'd mapped out the route, packed my stuff, put the phone on charge, printed membership forms for next year.  I forgot all of those things in some kind of rush to get out of the house.  Rushing I don't know why because we got there and the car park was empty and we were 1 hour early.

So early we drove home, got all the stuff and headed back out again.

On the way, I asked Andrew to check the map.  We'd been to the wrong plantation first time so it was a good job we turned around and took a different route out.  We snaffled the last one of two parking spaces and grabbed our stuff.  We were just in time.

Helen Elmore suggested I was being brave wearing shorter leggings and in retrospect she was right, I was about to make a mess of my shins.

We registered by Oxstones and were off quite shortly after.  I was tempted to go with Tom Saville but most were taking a different route so I went with the majority, knowing that I'd soon be dropped by Tom and his mates.

Sure enough, I was already bringing up the rear of the group through to the first checkpoint.  I quite happily stuck at the back, co-ordinating the acquisition of checkpoints (or otherwise) with other runners and enjoying myself running.

Just as the heather was really starting to hurt, TSK and I saw a mountain hare in full winter livery, obvious as a white thing on a brown hillside.  It was massive and sped across the hillside away from us.  Inevitably we followed it and found a path.

I took a few paths and navigation lines to get me off the heather which was gradually stripping away layers of skin and making my shins bleed.  I had a rather jolly stomp through a grassy stream (path?) to reach an icy spring then hit the perfect path, leaving the others to bog hop.

As I limped up the last stretch of hillside next to the wall, I mused that I really need to get more running done before the duathlons in March and April.

All in all I was very happy with my navigation... less so with my speed, being the last person on the hill although consistency is the new name of my game after all.

We had a little sit down after we finished then hobbled down to the car.  I am proud to say that my walking was fairly fluent and I could've done more... though not much more.

We went into town for coffee afterwards then headed home to eat dinner.  In the evening, looking out of the window to see inches of snow falling I felt like going running but decided to hold off until the morning for skiing instead.

Responsible? Me?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day Ride

I can't remember the last time me and TSK went out for a ride together and the last time I got into double-figure miles in one road ride was October, or Mildenhall 200k in August, if you count over 20 miles as double-figures.

Talk about specialising.

I got pretty pissy with myself, climbing out of Sheffield on account of a roaring headwind and Andrew chewing at my back wheel or riding off in front, nothing in between.  It was my own fault, I was tired and hung over.  I eventually put him on the front when we got exposed across Moscar so a least I had the wind to slow him down and the draught to speed me up.

Going down to the Ladybower was satisfying though a little scary as I was riding my narrow timetrial wheel and tyres in my 'cross bike - lots of clearance on those brakes.  I only really needed them at the bottom and even then the lights were on green.

Headwind behind us and we rocketed through to Bamford where we sat on the benches around the tree in the centre of the village and ate our packed lunch and drank coffee from a flask.  Although it was cold I was OK wearing just baselayers, a fleece and my gilet.  This is possibly my new, improved cold resistance on account of all the weight I have gained.  It feels good.  Just as we started to get cold we set off again and soon warmed up on the tt section into Hathersage.

We turned right and headed over to Grindleford, enjoying the long straight alongside the swollen river and battling it out on some of the climbs.  TSK eventually surpassing my initial flight of fancy.  Then we were at the bridge and it was time to head home on the long climb up Froggat, which I churned out in my middle ring 42/28 ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP, including past the Fox House where yummy mummys unloaded their mammas and pappas-wrapped kids in time for dinner with granny served by some underpaid gurning student waiters.

Not many others out on the bikes but we said hello to a few.

The descent into Eccleshall was dreamy.  Out in the road, no traffic.  By now, most are eating their Christmas lunch in the mid afternoon.  No potholled bus lane for us.  The best of the tarmac.

We follow the road straight into town, up to Devonshire green where we sit to finish the last of our coffee with a bunch of international students drinking beer in the park.  I put on TSK's waterproof to keep the wind off and set off up to home.  Our toes are cold when we get in but it's a great excuse to sit down for more coffee (the last cup was only the size of an egg cup) and relax before cooking the beef.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Getting on top of things at work then Rita' s birthday party. So glad the worK year is over.

A great ride to work. A party that made me feel like a student again and a ride home that made me wonder at a university campus without students.

Good job cos I was quite drunk and nearly fell off my bike.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dodging cats on the rollers

Finally an easy day at work followed by a trip to the doctors.  All but a few of my test results are in.  My haemoglobin is up at 150 so through the roof.  The cell mass has increased too.

I was tested for things I didn't know I was being tested for and those were clear, as was my biopsy.

I am only waiting for the anti-'s results.  Anti-this anti-that.  I will hear more on those in February at my next haemotology appointment.

I celebrated with a tour on the rollers.  The first time I have used them properly outside the disastrous attempt whilst in the lake district.  I guess my heart really wasn't in it then... and the rollers were set up wrong... and possibly they were the wrong way around.  I can't really remember.

For a while I set off with them facing the back door and the cat sneaked by just as I was getting going.  I locked the cat flap so she wouldn't come back in, bringing us both down in the process.  Part way through my set I got face at the window.  Sigh.  Hoping she would run away but sadly I got desperate paws at the window and I couldn't resist those gorgeous pink toes so I tried to encourage her inside.  By this point she had run away and sat on the windowsill looking like she was trying to shelter the rain as best as she could.

I tried to pick her up.

She wasn't having it though and I even ended up running around in the street in my shorts and vest in the rain.  Oh well.  Back to it an more paws at the window.

Eventually I was warm, she was angry so I opened the back door so she had clear reign to come in at her will.  I could just stop pedalling when she came near.

For a while she sat in the middle of the flower bed, trying to emphasise just how wet she was getting.  Looking at me but not quite.

Finally she came over to try and attempt to pass me.  I tried twice to stop pedalling but then only scared her off.  It was far safer to pass me whilst I was pedalling at 90 rpm, wheels spinning by at 15 miles per hour.

I settled down and enjoyed the view of the rain through the open door.  So begins the Christmas training period.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Back to Bicycles

I have no one to mither me with the inconvenience of more work today, this week. Only my own conscience which is strong, for the stuff I do now is stuff I won't need to worry about over Christmas so I don't go to the pub at lunch, I work and I earn the right to go home on my bike on time and laugh at the motorists. Sad little people who haven't used their holidays yet, trying to get home from a days shopping or those who have no holiday desperate to get something for that someone they haven't really thought about since their birthday and I pitty those who really just want to get home from whatever godforsaken office on the edge of MeadowHell. Not even the rain can dampen my spirits

I was drained of blood today. More investigations. At the last minute I wrote down the tests they were doing then didn't want to know. I get pains in my calf still. I think they may be psychological or there's every chance I just rode my bike too fast today.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

First weekend off in what seems like years

Norton Wheelers dinner was the only cycling event of my weekend. I didn't even make the riding part.  After the week I had at work and the monthly deterioration in my blood function I was soon flagging and retreated home to bed after a short afternoon.

Sunday was for finally cleaning the bikes after Bradford and feeling bad about it.

I exchanged some birthday presents which I am very happy with.

Technically I stayed awake but metaphorically I spent the day in the body of a sloth then decorated the Christmas tree.

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's been such a busy week.  Thankfully I saw it coming and rescheduled my birthday from Wednesday to Monday which coincided worth REST day after Bradford National Trophy (another story). We had dinner then watched the Hobbit in 3D which made me quite excited.

On Tuesday I felt like running again so I drove in to work and ran home. It was ambitious since I haven't run more than 10k in a few weeks and wanted to try and make a go of the 100 runs in 100 days challenge. I already registered a day late and knee that a 8mile run would wipe me out for another 2 days. Still, by 6pm I felt like it and it was warmish and not raining.

I stopped to talk to payment on the canal and take photographs and hang out with polo guys at the court and then to the screenwriter and I cooked real food.

On Wednesday as promised, things got weird and I went out of the office into my spare room and stayed there till. Midnight except a break for dinner.

Two days and one trip to the pub later I am staring at another return to work on Monday as an opportunity to get shit in order before returning in the new year. It is such a relief to be able to talk about the order of the day again instead of running around like a headless chicken.

Friday I got my bid done and in. Essentially alone - kind of how I like it. I am giddy for real life but there may be softly softly.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

National Trophy 5 Bradford

I had been targeting Bradford all year. It just so happened that it was also muddy, wet and technical. The perfect conditions for me. As the day approached I got more and more anxious that something would go wrong.

I took a call from my mum to say that they were coming to watch and I thought, well at least if I don't live up to all the hype about how well I've been doing, they will get to see the excellent quality of women's racing right now and just how much Yorkshire cyclo-cross is playing a huge part in my life.

Then I got the message that Lynn was not riding. Lynn is my pacer against whom I measure how well I am keeping up against those I consider the best in my category. She is also a team mate. So more orange!

The final dig at my confidence arrived in the form of a broken spring in my freewheel. Almost mercifully it would not mend and it happened at 10pm on Saturday so there was sod all I could do about it. I switched to a spare and got on with it.

In the morning I had an odd feeling of still being full of food yet I still stuffed my normal breakfast away with difficulty.

A few hours later at normal eating time I still felt stuffed full so I decided to leave out lunch.  We were later arriving compared to normal but calmer so I signed on and dressed in peace, pouring on my new skin suit which I am starting to love a lot. Warm up went well. I dropped a layer off at the pits because I was moving so fast I was generating plenty of heat. After 2.5 laps I lined up, cheering forwards my senior friends before vets started to make up the front row. I took the last spot.

Now, I recognise that I have one of the fastest starts on the cross circuit but I had practised it and stuck my gear in a little harder than normal because of the road surface. First objective to get off the line and away from the barrier at the side of me. Next objective, not to get in the way of any of the real racers who would be coming through in no time. I stared up the hill, focused on nothing but the road ahead and drowning out my dad's mate chuntering in my ear from the other side of the fencing.

Andrew said, 'now don't completely blow it all on this first hill'. I smiled (perhaps inwardly) and shook my head. That is exactly what I was about to do.

The gun sounded and I shot off the line before anyone else, for the first time all year, leading the national trophy race for a few brief moments before I was passed by Marrie and Tracy Fletcher. I could hear Lynn screaming, 'brilliant' at me and the more muted sound of Darrell saying what he always does, 'go on Andrea, that's it's, like I was supposed to keep this up all the way round.

At the first corner I sat in 3rd place and resolved to stay there as long as possible. I started to feel guilty that no one had come past me yet and indeed I managed to hold on to 3rd place through the pits much to the glee of TSK.

Alison Kinloch passed me next then I finally found a brief resource of energy to go with Liz Clayton and Juliet Horrocks before dropping away with Marrianne Heffron to hold a mini battle which I won going over the rather tall hurdles (Marianne is around 12 inches shorter than me).

Motivated by the small victory over a shorter person who had already admitted to being unable to eat through illness for most of the week, I set about riding the rest of the race at max effort. The pure joy of that one event you have set every thing aside for, you can ride like there is no tomorrow... at least like there's no training tomorrow.

Despite my efforts, I began to tire on the last lap and Juliet and Liz moved further ahead into the distance. The commentator was starting to wrap the race up, a massive battle emerging at the front of the elite women's race with my friend's daughter, Amira Mellor and  Evie Richard. Amira lapped me first and I managed my usual cheer of encouragement... when all is gone from my lungs I can only ever summons the breath to shout, 'go on Mi'. It sounds like I am cheering myself but by now she knows where I am going with it and, along with the rest of Yorkshire I am one of her biggest fans. I race with her mum who is also a triathlete but she is the most vociferous supporter. So I love it when she is watching, not racing because she screams in my ear too.

Back to the racing and I was suddenly consumed by Amira' s brother and her best friend, Sophie Thackeray, screaming support. I was crunching my last few gears up the road climb I had ascended so fluently from the start line. I was wondering why there were no more gears left. I looked up to encourage oxygen into the lungs, only to see Amira' s yellow jersey shift as she stood on the pedals to give it even more. Despite struggling with my breathing I let out an incredulous laugh. How on earth?

From then on it was in the bag for all of us. Sadly not for Amira who was pipped to the line by Evie despite a tough battle.

I walked strong up the muddy steps one more time and was overjoyed to see TSK on the finishing straight ready for a fist bump on my way past. I had a massive grin on my face which spoke volumes for how much I enjoyed that, how good I felt and how thankful I was for all the support on the track and off the track (TSK). I then took the luxury of standing by to cheer home the other girls behind me and those that were approaching to lap me - Tracy, Marrie and Ali, a full 5 minutes ahead of me.

I am writing this, not the evening of the race, for I was exhausted. It's not the day after the race for I have spent 3days at least coming down off the high. It is almost 1Week later where it is starting to fade into the distance and I need to write it down to remember how good it feels to get it right.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Snoozy Friday

All the good work needs time  to grow muscles so today was about resting them, getting work out of the way and laughing at all the colleagues who were tired and hungover today.

By the time bed comes around I am tired but only frustrated.  It's like my brain is still going so it's bored, not sleepy.  I hate recovery weeks.

Still, I get to look forwards to cleaning bikes, race prep, perhaps a bit of turbo and cooking tomorrow as TSK goes out for a ride and I try to relax.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Things that happened to me this day

My boss's boss today was reading from a script and thanked me for the 'work I had done on erm, erm, erm...' He got there in the end but frankly, the compliment was lost.

We watched a corporate pride video for the British firm which made some of us feel hypocritical at best, more, confused about the role that our bigger owners had in this video as we edge closer to German harmonisation. Bring it on I say (so long as we can lose Lotus Notes).

My boss led a session and again I disengaged when we were presented with the scenario of being on a family holiday 'with no heat and the wife is complaining and kids are screaming...' it goes on to question 'Would you cable a plug onto a mystery electric fire..'.  I decided it would not add much to the feminist movement were I to suggest telling the bitch to shut the fuck up and smiled boredly and gave all the right answers and smiled inwardly as my family holiday revolved around burning all of the furniture in the holiday home in order to stay warm.

What did make me feel proud today was the emphasis that the organisation is firmly putting on safety, finally and seeing the team in all its vastness of 14 sitting together to eat a meal together.

I did ditch the evening celebration in favour of turbo training and productive day on Friday. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep at the weekend if I didn't get some things well out of the way.

Turbo was good and hard but at the same time I controlled my effort, had a good discussion about practice effort and control then watched 2 tv programs before bed to properly relax.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A day of work and picking up the Vanu, recovering from yesterday's awesomeness.

I did get on the scales to find my body weight has dropped 1kg which is quite a relief after the constant accumulation on the blood thinners. We will see if it stays off. I do hope it's not a sign that the day is back though.

Monday, December 08, 2014

If I were to blog today it would be naval-gazing drivel so I won't.

6th vet at the North of England champs should cheer me up but I am flat.

Crazy work life and exhausted.

To bed to hope tomorrow comes quickly.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

North of England cyclo cross championship 2015

I rather fancied making this event a good one. It's like the nationals but at least 1/4 the size. I did most thing right in the week except a few late nights and too much walking with heavy shit yesterday which meant I turned up with a sore ankle.

I brave faced it and warmed up regardless... as best I could in 4 degrees C and a 16mph wind. I ended up on the start line behind someone with really bad starting stance and it translated into a rubbish start for me. Lesson learned!

I had to ride right alongside someone who was heading ever nearer to the tape and rather than getting pushed off course I leaned in while she bounced off me a few times. Ah those extra 5kgs pay off, not to mention being nearly 6ft tall.

As we rounded the 5th corner I realised I had never even ridden this awkward corner and ended up running it while everyone with me rode it.

I settled into a group with two Derwentside riders and the girl I had interlocked with earlier.  I was gutted to see my team mate, Hannah disappear into the pits mid asthma attack.  We dropped one rider after 2 laps but I continued to ride with Derwentside for the third lap.

I finally gained some ground through the hurdles and, now unhindered, took the lower line through the awkward corner, finding out just how impossibly easy it was to ride it.

I put all of my lung capacity into staying ahead and most importantly maintaining a gap so that she couldn't get on my wheel. I was half way around the course and enjoying a tail wind by the time I was satisfied I had a gap.

There was the remotest chance that if I had carried on that way for another lap or two I could have caught the next rider but alarm bells started to chime as I tasted blood on my lungs and I decided to rest up a bit for Bradford National Trophy next week. Towards the end of 3 laps to go, Amira Mellor flew past, lapping me and I then noticed Hannah Saville a couple of turns behind me.

As I assumed she had quit after her asthma attack I was mostly surprised and thought she may just have had a bike change and slipped back into the race without me knowing it. I decided I wasn't going to get lapped by my team mate and started pegging it again. For that, I am pretty grateful because I could have slacked off pending next week which could have been the wrong choice.  That said, I was relieved there were not many more laps as unclipping for the hurdles was hurting my ankle more every time and I was starting to think I would just plough into it instead.

I just stayed ahead in a weird twist, mainly associated with the effectiveness of our respective prescription drugs.

It was absolute bliss to shower at the venue. Why we don't have more of that?

We ate on the way home like we'd been to a big national event but all the same were in by 6.30. I disappeared into the loft to stretch while Andrew went to bed.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Excitement, Unconstrained

I slept in again today. After going to bed filled with work exhaustion but without the satisfied fatigue that comes from exercise I had a light sleep which was frequently interrupted by scrabbling kittens

I settled down to read my fell runner magazine.

Two hours later having gorged my breakfast I was fuelled and ready for a run.

It had been my plan to fire my legs up for tomorrow's North of England cyclo cross championship with a run. Let's face it, sitting on my arse and easy walks have not given me an answer so far so I am trying the Smithy approach.

I started heading for the Rivelin Valley but regretted it as soon as I hit the ice and cold still air lingering at the bottom of the valleys. I gave it a chance as a little boy in the playground muttered to his dad, "jogging? Really?". I said I thought his bum must have been cold on the swings. Sure enough though, I headed up the first available hill over Stannington and dropped over into the much more open Loxley valley.

Faced with a gate tied shut with unfathomable string knots I gave up on a trail run and turned for home. By the time I got to my road I had done close to 10km so I ran on up the hill a moment longer to nudge the distance over.

I headed into the loft for stretching with the kindle to research some events. There, staring me in the face was the carshare league and a quick review of the numbers made me think, "I'll do that!" One sanity check later and I decide I am not going to get any better at running if I don't do some running races. And that is how I entered my first British counter fell race.

It's silly really but feels right and has set me back on a track of better discipline, healthy food and early nights.


Friday, December 05, 2014

The kind of day when you get some really important stuff done then spend the evening remembering all the other really important stuff you should have done.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Day broken today by running around after the Vanu. Really want it to come back healthy this time.

Ended up working late to stay on top of things but now I will go to bed worrying anyway because I haven't had time to shut down.

Don't feel like riding to work tomorrow but I really don't want to go anywhere near Meadow He'll with the car so few Fridays before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A Comedic Hospital Appointment

It's odd trying to explain ironman training problems to an NHS doctor.  I don't like to brag to any old one (I am usually selective) and I'm no good. I'm just an average person who has done an Ironman in (to be honest) a pretty over-average time.

On the other hand I wanted them to understand exactly what I had been through before any alarm bells sounded and just how fucking clueless I can be about my health.

The very geeky Germanic doctor had a friend along, a kiwi (nation not bird). One was haemotology, the other anti coagulation. They were the veritable double-act with the Germanic doc trying to be professional and at the same time being reduced to giggles by the kiwi doctor who teased him for breaking the test label-printer then reverting to writing out the test cards by hand so he didn't miss anything. Finally fading, "are you sure you want all those tests doctor? We've only just cured Mrs Trep of the anaemia".

So I am to stop taking the blood thinning tablets and let my body finish off what the drugs started. Even if I have some clot left, extra treatment won't make much difference now.

They explained the pain I sometimes get in my side after a hard race and it seems little to worry about. In short it is my swollen lung rubbing against the outside of my body.

I am to keep taking my iron tablets because while my red blood cells are back up in number they are still small. This pleases me because it means I still have improvements to make and I feel that in myself. Although I am back to training, it still takes it out of me and I still struggle to get up in the morning.

I am being tested for hereditary diseases but even if they find anything right now it's doubtful that they would treat me any different except to officially make my family aware.

In s way I am fearful, that the benefits will wear off and I will be back to being me, carp as ever. At worst I am worried that the PE or DVT will return and I will miss it again but at the same time I will be free from the fear that if I do have a major crash I could die! I can race like I used to.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Bloody Fu.

It was weird going to Jessops hospital not pregnant.  Not that I've ever been there pregnant but that is mostly what Jessops hospital is for.

There's no bike parking at Jessops, I suppose only a few women cycle to Jessops... like Jo Jebb for example.

"So" said the doctor, "Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, how long do you bleed like this for??" as he shone a torch up my fufu.

My thoughts exactly.  Any guesses why I am anaemic?

He did some stuff which was quite painful and I left in a tiz.  Getting on a bike was exactly what I wanted to do to take my mind off it... and eat food once I got to work as it was 12:00.

I had an unproductive day.  I think the most productive thing was making a cup of tea... and eating my iron tablet.

I cycled home and remembered that I meant to go to the pool.  So I happily stormed through 4+4+2+4+4+2+2+4+2+4=26 x 50m lengths with some resting and rode home easy via the polo court.  It wasn't bad for a day I've been dreading since I got the appointment two months ago.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NT5 Milton Keynes spoiler

I so wish I had blogged about the cyclo cross world cup before British Cycling made me angry at the National Trophy. It was a brilliant day yesterday and today I am filled with frustration. When people support you and will you on then you have to disappoint them because of some official with a clip board and a one off decision by someone so removed from British Cycling.


I have learned one thing today. B C can't be trusted. There's no point entering the trophy series. I think I'll stick to entering one by one and take my money back when they change the rules. If you can run 6 under-16s races I don't understand why you can't run 2 women's races.

I am really looking forward to the triathlon season now. I can race everyone in the same event.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bitter Sweet Symphony

I left site today and went fell running in my lunch break. I ran Whin Rigg above Wastwater with the screes below me then I ran back along the road.  I forgot how outstanding the scenery is, how much I love running and climbing hills and how much it hurts coming downhill.

I loved every moment and was so lucky to have clear tops and warm weather this time of year.

I nearly chickened out of my route and was glad I didn't. I could see the river from the tops and estimated an 8 miler but it was 10 and I didn't mind. I will enjoy the recovery.

Chaffinches in a tree on the road beat their wings like a fleet of tiny bobbing hovercraft and I realised I have rarely been on the Wasdale road with so few cars. Today is likely to screw me over for Milton Keynes National Trophy but I don't truly care.


It's no secret that my boss and I have had our differences but we are getting on ok now.  We are away for a meeting today.  We both drove here separately as we go our separate ways after.

As usual I have my bike in case I feel like it and my fell running kit. I have my bike rollers incase I have to rush to turbo on Thursday or in case the room and hotel are suitable for training.

For some reason,  when I arrive,  I decide to bring the turbo inside. I decide that no one will ask me about it if I just walk right in. It's only when I have checked in and squirrelled my turbo away that I realise I have not brought the bag to sneak my bike in. I will have to parade through the hotel with it before any of my colleagues arrive.  I don't want to have to explain to my boss why I have my bike,  never mind what I plan to do with it.

Unfortunately as I head back downstairs I find he has arrived and is expecting to meet me in the bar.  I can see my plan to do something tonight fading fast.

Perhaps a run but I only have 30 minutes before dinner so I lay out my stuff and go to retrieve my kit bag.  They are all at the bar and I resign myself to my destiny. Steak, red wine and not a bad dinner conversation with two others present.

I finally get to my room too bloated for any  training of any kind. I can't sleep because of the buzz of the power station out the window and it's too stuffy with the windows shut.  I fall asleep briefly only to be woken by a sick feeling.  Partly the steak,  partly the fear of having to explain myself in the morning trying to smuggle the turbo back into the car.  It's really playing on my mind. I also have no settlers tablets.  It's been a long time since I have gorged myself whilst out on a meal.

After some sizeable time spent on the loo and some next to it adjusting the size of my stomach... not actually sick but close, I decide there's nothing like fresh air.

I do briefly consider going for a ride now but decide a walk in the car park will suffice,  during which I can return my rollers to the car and never have to explain to anyone why they were in my room.

Thankfully I am right.  I write this (hopefully) cleared of my sick feeling and without guilt. Whether I wake tomorrow for my bike ride or not the secrets of what I get up to while I am away remains between us.

All I have to do now is hope the military police next door haven't cottoned on to the woman wandering around in the hotel car park carrying strange objects and wearing pyjamas.

It is an exciting life I lead.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

First bad race

I felt like I was doing OK in the week. There were the early starts, the gym session where I felt quite strong. My build up to this weekend's cyclo cross was not good though. I missed my Thursday night turbo which I have so far refused to believe was one of my key training sessions in cyclo cross success. I had a tough swim on Friday when I usually recover and I did nothing aerobic on Saturday which left me feeling sluggish.

Last year, the Whitley Woods cyclo cross was my last good race before I got I'll. This year it turned out to be my first bad race.

We rode out. Spent too much time getting  cold and I had only just thawed my feet out by the time we started. I made a bad move on the claggiest part of the course and completely filled my bike clearances with mud and leaves. I ran to the pits, picked up my spare bike and jumped on. Nothing happened. Turns out the chain wasn't on.

5 places later and I got going.  The philosophy was simple. I switched to red for the claggy section then back to Phoenix the rest of the lap except one where TSK was busy helping someone else.

Nothing else went badly but I didn't have the strength in the conditions to chase down someone I have beaten before. I had a dig but really settled for my place in life.

I was glad I took dry warm clothes to ride home in and glad of a scout hut to get changed in. The hills on the way home were tougher than ever and my left calf muscle started to mutiny but we made it and I even managed to clean both bikes... except I missed a bit.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Can Do Better but not a Write-off

A walk into town. A solid productive day of bike cleaning, maintenance and DIY with a side salad of shopping, drinking tea and looking after TSK when he got in from eccy audax.

I think I might finally be getting well again.

Yesterday was the most exciting training day of the week so far.

We have a kitten issue at the moment.  Andrew and I usually wake up at 6 to 6:30 am and make our way down to breakfast.  I often lie in until gone 7 as I still haven't recovered from whatever I was doing the day before.  Lately, our kitten has decided that against all odds, she would like to get up for breakfast at 5:30am and attempts to burrow under the bedroom door at said time.

As the week has progressed, it has been feeling more and more intrusive to my sleep pattern, despite the last two years of ironman training where I regularly got out of bed at 5am to go swimming for an hour on my way to work.  In retrospect, the greatest indicator of my illness this spring is that somewhere along the way, I lost that ability to be up and about early in the morning.

Yesterday though, when the kitten alarm went off at 5am, I let Andrew deal with it initially and then just got up anyway since I was pretty damn hungry.  Despite my intentions to eat something then go back to bed, I went on to make coffee, pack my swim kit and get out the door.

After substantial levels of hunting for various bits of office and swim equipment, I still didn't make it out until 9am, making a 10am arrival at the office innevitable but I did buckle straight down to work and keep going at full speed ahead right up until hometime at 6pm.  What's more I even had the energy for a swim.

It was a relaxed swim including rests - some of which left me quite cool - but it was a mile swim (actually a little bit more) and a 50 m length swim so I should have been exhausted.  I used every ounce of energy in my body and stood in the shower shivering, trying to reheat before getting out to fetch my shampoo to have a proper wash.

Refuelled by protein shake I had a pretty stable and strong ride home up the hill where I wandered around the house chatting excitedly to TSK before eating my dinner.  Small measures but when the cat alarm went off this morning at 4:30 (today it was TSK going out audaxing) my body got me up again for food and rather than being exhausted.

That makes for exciting times.  So excited I might just go back to bed.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

so tiredd

I am so tired that I cannot see. No trainings, just really busy working

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Faced with a long day out of the office

The prospect of a long drive to Clitheroe, I sated by taking the pretty way. It took me 20 minutes too long but might've taken that much longer on the motorway anyway.

I took running gear to satisfy my exercise urge on Pendal hill but, y'know me, I ignored the sparkling hill bathed in autumnal sunshine and opted for Crowden Reservoir armed with a headtorch.

It was an unsuccessful run of out and back with some diversions to the edge of cliffs. That's what happens when you follow paths that are essentially climbers' tracks. The running was satisfying from an outdoorsy perspective, getting me away from driving and up to good elevation but disappointing because it was short and I returned to the car out of hunger.

I had the Garmin with me as my map so I even feel embarrassed to call it a fell run but I enjoyed it. It made for a good spin.

Interesting to note that the groin pain has gone after some rigorous stretching which made it crack like lightening.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Discovering the joy of pushing through your comfort zone.

I just read that phrase at a time when I was sitting on the sofa half asleep following my first fast multi sport race in some time. With the dinner still to make and the laundry still to do (complete with washing the mud and sand out of all my clothes) I was in a dark place.

Such hard work going swimming this morning after strength training. Got a niggling groin still but otherwise good tired. Only 40 lengths. Washed down with a film mocking Jay tonight.

Mock me

Such hard work going swimming this morning after strength training yesterday. Got a niggling groin pain still but otherwise a good kind of tired.

Only 40 lengths at the pool. Washed down with a film Mocking Jay tonight.  Brilliant date.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Good Intentions Etc.

A run to work turned into a ride to work with a gym session turned into a weights and yoga set at home. Clearly I was most comfortable there as I properly overcooked it and am going to bed hoping I haven't damaged myself. I can't be doing with a few days off right now. I need training before I let the growth begin.

Tomorrow evening though my lovely husband takes me out to watch Jenifer Laurence be gorgeous. What more could I ask for?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

National Trophy Part 3 - Durham

It didn't feel like a good day today. After what amounted to 2 days off, I didn't feel like a coiled spring at all so my head and my nerves got a break. Unfortunately no-one told my body so that continued to punish me up until the start.

I got 3 warm up laps at good pace and a tow off the start line from Marie Jackson. The course massively suited me with plenty of tricky sections to get my teeth into. I could have done with more power on the climb but there's a reason to get back to the gym if ever I had one.

I dropped the riders who were with me but despite trying, I wasn't going to catch Lynn today.  It was,however, just the kind of day I was looking for, one that persuades me that despite all potential distractions,  I do quite like the national trophy races.

I dropped a lap so I was ready for a warm down run. Of course that all changed by the time I got home (2hours sat in the car).

Tomorrow it's going to be honking it down in the morning yet I am determined to run to work. Got the gear, too excited.

Glad of my two days rest if it helps me rebound like this.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

quick update

My trip to the isle of Wight flew past so quick I almost forgot how infuriating my job can be. I then spent 6 hours on the motorway driving home. Friday I was exhausted and had a much deserved REST day if you call 9.5 hours work and an AGM a rest day.

Saturday, to my shame was in much the same shape. A fixed wheel bearing, a few chores done and dinner bought in. I miss Andrew when he is out for the day.

Tomorrow I trophy race.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A tough run

It was flat but it was long.  8 miles.  The farthest I've run for quite some time.  I meant to do 6 miles but accidentally extended it.

At first I was in the orchards in the dark.  Then I was on the roads accompanied only by the bin men for a while.

I finally left them behind when I turned on to a bridlepath and enjoyed the company of sheep and the Sheppey bridge beyond, my destination for later in the day.

The bridlepath took me around the edge of a marina where rigging whipped in the wind and a number of barges gave the impression they had been embedded in the mud for some time.
It started to rain shortly after and I pulled my coat back on.  I found myself on the map but rather than dreading the last 2 miles along a congested main road, I realised I could take the back road all the way to the driveway of my hotel.  It was bliss.  Pure, painful bliss.
I went to my site visit which was all very successful.  I bought lunch then drove the car onto a nature reserve where I sat and watched curlews and pewits going about their business of eating, next sitting and spiralling around in the sky.  I watched the traffic moving over the bridge so close to where I was sitting and yet so far away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Garden of England.

I am working away from home tomorrow and have spent all day getting here.  For an hour before it went dark I managed to ride my tt bike into the sunset, turn around and ride back to the hotel.  No moisture is falling from the sky.  I had too many layers on.  Once I had pumped the tyres up properly I was flying along, down country lanes, breathing in the fresh air and trying to time it perfectly so I didn't have to ride too far without the back light that I had forgotten.

It's so satisfying to be able to do it before settling down to do a last little bit of work before tomorrow.  Make up for a few hours spent faffing, riding then sitting behind the wheel all day in the name of the man!  Tomorrow I will go and talk engineering and pipes and buildings then I will sit behind the wheel some more on my way to my next site visit.

I did get to cross a bridge today and will get to cross another tomorrow which almost makes me feel like I have passed into another country.  Alas it is only Kent.  On Thursday I get to take a delightful ferry but on account of the proximity of the site to the port I doubt I will feel like I have strayed far from anywhere.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Following a day of rest, there's nothing more satisfying than a recovery ride.   With muscles still aching in the background, a good old pootle does the power of good.  I have also discovered that woosing out and taking the direct route home with all the traffic can save me (or cause me the loss of) 20 minutes (training) to get home.  No matter how pootlish I feel.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


A recovery Sunday filled with lie ins and dinner and shopping at b and q.

I cleaned my mtb.

I am ready for a week now.

Evil Sheriff National Cross Duathlon Champs

So today I ran the fastest 5km run ever, rode the fastest mountain bike race I have ever done (with my Garmin on) and did my 4th fastest ever finishing runs in a multisport event. It is no wonder I am exhausted.

I found myself a place way down the main field in the first run, even though I was puffing to get there, I was still well back.  My heart rate alarm sang out on my wrist, initially to tell me I was going too slow but soon to tell me I was going too fast.  I tried to let it moderate on the flat sections but given a hill – up or down – I couldn’t resist but let rip.  Powering up hills and flying down them is my only competitive advantage amongst the runners and I was determined to make it count.  Saving myself for later wasn't worth losing the few places on the first run and having to weave past those extra people on the bike.

The chap in front of me pointed through the woods to something and, on inspection, I was pleased to see the finishing funnel.  We overshot it a little then turned back into it.  I couldn’t help think that must’ve been fast but didn’t dare check my watch.  I wanted to make transition count. 

I envy the pro’s who make transition look so easy.  For me, time seems to slow down – I can’t get my feet out of or into my shoes.  My helmet goes on wrong.  Little things.  As I ran away I was happy to hear the commentator call that we were 26 minutes in which must mean my run was less than the “I’ll be very happy with that” 25 minutes that I was going for. 

I start the Garmin on the bike and we are away.  A flying mount and quite a few moments of sluggishness on the downhill before my legs have to engage with something solid to ride on.  I am so relieved to have lock-out on my suspension as it makes the forest trails go by so much easier.

However, It’s not long before we get into some fairly gnarly riding and I am impressed by this course.  It’s properly single track in places although there is a bit of space to the sides to weave around people and those that I am passing are good runners but worse bike handlers so they generally let me through.  I am out to make as much time back as possible and I know I have over an hour to do it in.

I reach a short sharp climb off the forest track.  People are already on foot so I join them, happy that I decided to put on my slightly smaller, less comfortable cyclo-cross shoes with mud spikes in the toes. I am faced with a woman lying on the floor still clipped into her bike and two men trying to slither past her.  I follow them to the top of the hill then run past everyone and jump on my bike, pedalling away whilst they sort themselves out.  I don’t see them again.

We’ve been warned of a big lip at the bottom of a long drop and when I find it I approach it cautiously and take a line through a puddle to the side.  I spoing out without any difficulty and set about weaving my way past someone whose chain has ridden over bottom gear and into the wheel. 

It’s the next descent that scares me more and I curse myself for not bringing glasses with me to keep the mud out of my eyes as I go down the thing completely blind.

I try to remember I have to do this loop twice and moderate myself.  I’m cramping in my feet which is either tight shoes or running low on energy foods having decided to wear my rain coat instead of my nutrition-stuffed cycling jersey to stay warm and dry throughout the bike.  I try to consume as much energy drink from my bottle as possible, spitting the mud and grime out.  I supplement this with water from my camelback hoping that at least I’ll not get cramp from dehydration.

We descend a long, straight fire track where a brave marshal waves for us to turn right.  This is the place I discover I don’t have much material left on my brakes and I nearly bowl him over and hit the turn in completely the wrong gear but we make it, still moving, still pedalling and press on past people who have stopped riding or had a mechanical.  We drop out of the woods and back onto the fire road where the first lap concludes with a massive soaking through a huge puddle the width of the course.  It seems to put the foot cramp to sleep.

The second loop seems to go by slower (although it doesn't) as there are less people for me to catch and my legs are used to riding the bike so the effort feels less.  I have to work a bit harder to stay focused although my heart rate alarm has not gone off once – neither too low nor too high.

The water splash is not as smooth this time – I exit it sideways but somehow EmVee keeps my momentum going in roughly the right direction and we stay upright through the climb on the other side (it’s mostly her and nothing to do with me!).  I find a few more people to catch but sadly, these are the ones who are going to pass me back within 10 of the next 15 minutes run to the finish line.

I don’t mind putting my wet shoes back on because my socks are already sodden.  I leave the coat behind because, despite it chucking it down, the run is only 15 minutes and I’m already hot.  I grab a last drink of water at a brief walk so I can actually get some of the cold (actually clean) fluid down my neck then leg it down the forest trail.  

The run hurts.  My legs won’t even respond to a command to go faster when someone passes me so I freewheel as much as I can (the feet are still going around but in no particular controlled way). I don't have the mental capacity to follow my progress through the simple square-shaped run, I am solely focused on my run technique and trying to make the damn thing as fast as possible.  All I am worried about is more people passing me so I am out to run this run as fast as I can. 

If people pass me it’s because they’re superior runners, not because I didn’t pace it right.  Most people pass me on the flat sections and I claw a little back with the uphill and down hill runs but there aren’t nearly enough slopes for me to gain an advantage.   In the end I think two women and two men pass me.  Neither of the women are in my age group. 

To cheer me up and take my mind off the pain, I high fived a few ladies travelling out on their run.  They look happy and relieved to be on the last stage.  I am just hurting and wanting it to be over.  The last 50 m are cruel now as the course has turned into a soggy sodden mush of grass, sapping the energy from every sprint step.  I had no idea what my time was or what barrier I was trying to beat but I wanted to do my best so I opened up with everything I had.  I still merely jogged over the line as I left my last powerful step in one of those puddles.

Final scores on the Garmin: 
Run 1: 5k in 24:40
Mountain bike: 20k in 1:14:00
Run 2: 3.75k in 18:43

Unofficial results posted: 235/328
F: 20/61
F40-44: 5/17

Run 1: 232, 33, 6
Bike: 233, 20, 5
Run 2: 214, 26, 7

Friday, November 07, 2014

Turbo Tedium

8 minute strength sets are not interesting. You can talk through them or stare at the floor. There's little to say about it except I did them in a 14.50 gear. Still it was nice to see everyone.

Friday was a recovery ride to work where I enjoyed riding past Friday MeadowHell traffic and hauling my stuff to work without the car.

I pondered switching my hr alarms to real zones so I can make sure I recover instead of the feisty traffic-induced forays into aerobic training. I enjoy recovery more now I am well. It works and doesn't tire me out because I can do an easy hill.

Still need to check my pace notes for tomorrow.

I find it difficult to think of mtb as a race. Grizedale and Whinlatter were about surviving.  Tomorrow will be shorter and have nowhere near as much climbing so faster. Bring it on.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Moments of Patience

I had a wonderful run yesterday. It was a head torch run after a long day at work. The lichen on the wooden steps in the Rivelin Valley luminescence in the light and moths occasionally bounced off my nose. I saw other head torch runners and bonked on my way home. I felt alive and vulnerable and mostly wobbly then I added a layer and ate food and got home OK.

I slept incredibly well.

Today I mountain biked and rode home the long way. When I managed to escape the roads I watched fire works. It was very special. I will sleep well again tonight. I wish I always felt this calm.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

2014 Wakefield Tri club Cyclo-Cross

Well that went well. Obviously better than expected, because I wasn't expecting much. An early start to meet Addam, my Sheffield Triathlon club protege, for his novice race seemed to pay off.

I rode 3 trial laps with him before watching them race then had plenty of time to prep for my own event. The carefully purchased food I left in the fridge at home was replaced with a porridge which went down well and was just enough.  I spent a sizeable time looking for my dad whilst warming up but didn't actually find him until the start line.

I did one more circuit before our race, just to find out how slitherey the course had now become. I got a rocking start, up with Lynn Bland and Kev Saville and managed to lose that placing more gradually than usual. Thanks to a slight over-balance by me, bumping into people as usual, I crossed the timing mat at the end of lap one ahead of Lynn for the first time ever.

I tried to catch the next woman left ahead of me, Sinead, but she made a short distance on me then stayed there, no matter how hard I tried. As I started to tire I kept one eye on the riders behind to make sure I wasn't losing ground then tried a bit harder. I was speeding up past an enthusiastic TSK and Addam was cheering for Trep which made me smile every lap (mostly internally).

I did an excellent job of demonstrating the art of riding sideways right before my new friend, almost - but not quite - losing it on the penultimate lap and the greasiest corner of the race.

I did no better than I did the week before - only comparing to the placings of others but as TSK says, if that was a bad day, I can't complain.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

From bad colds, great opportunities rise

Today is the first time I have had a scab on my knee wound. It's tiny. I can now start to believe it might actually heal. I took that good news and spent the morning preparing the bike for tomorrow's race. I couldn't find the source of the squealing noise that accompanied me over the line at Skipton and all feels well. I have even fixed a stiff brake cable, finding a short section of gear outer somewhat restricting flows. Oops, zero engineer points. After my 5am scrap blogging fest fuelled by early onset hangover and nibblings, I got up late and lunched late and got the car ready for carrying bikes again. My only regret was not eating more park in at last night's party. Cue purring with pride at my achievements yet positively in fear of what may come tomorrow. Pain, poor performance and disappointment or strength, efficiency and speed. I really don't know and it's worse than not knowing because I have over-trained. At least then I have failed well. They say improvements require 2 weeks to manifest so by that scale, tomorrow should reap the benefits of 2 days racing at Rapha. We will see and I will try and learn from it. It's a long time since I have been as fit as I was 2 weeks ago. I find out tomorrow how to make the most of it or how to lose it. Serious lesson learning territory.

day 2 of recovery. one way or t'other

A lie in, dental forms, van to garage. Counterproductivity compared to yesterday and a night out to let my hair down or rather, keep it tied up in plaits but there was beer and cake and great company. I am looking forward to a weekend. I lay in bed for a few hours not really enjoying much good sleep then got up to eat fruit. Wondering why I feel most prone to write when I am least capable and have little to say.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I seem to have accidentally jinxed today.  Wallet left at home,  vanu broken down in work car park and it's not like I can get the tram home cos I have no money. Missing turbo.  The only upside is I had a really productive day at work in between.

That's not going to do anything for my fitness now is it?

Waiting anxiously for TSK.

Seasonal Good Intentions (and nothing to do with Christmas)

I promised myself I was going to keep a training diary when I was recovering from my illness. I stuck to it in paper form for a while but it lapsed again when I dumped a pedal car on my head and I haven't taken it up again since. The next few years are now part of a bigger plan so I will take myself back up on the monotony and occasional eloquent glory and continue this blog as it was always meant to be - a record of the most epic and most mundane of my adventures. I choose (after a lot of setting up) a set of comedy stats from two days ago and a less composed record of yesterday's training events. If nothing more this should offer a more floral record of my exploits for me and more thorough waste of time for any of my friends and family stumbling back to this place whether I share my posts on Facebook or not. Facebook I find is largely written in order to amuse, entertain and wow others where my blog is through and through me so occasionally sweary, occasionally funny and epic and frequently dull. Tuesday's run stats. Near misses:1 Actual falls: 0 -not running fast enough.  Cartoon mice: 1 (made me think of Glynn R). Flamingos: 0. Salmon coloured bath tubs masquerading as flamingoes in the long grass: 1. That'll teach me to go out at dusk. Wednesday:planned swim session of 1 mile. Still building the endurance to do it all in one go. Proud of myself for finishing it since it was a) my first 50m swim b)my first after work swim c)started badly by swimming head first into someone because I set off in the wrong direction. The main cause of my exhaustion? Getting all the way to the bottom of the hill on my bike in the morning before realising I had forgotten my laptop. 35 minutes extra on the bike then.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Struggling & the Wonder of Dad. My 2014 pre-Three Peaks Blog.

Two weeks ago today I dropped a pedal car on my head at 21 miles per hour on a tarmac race track.  It wasn't my best day.

Given that I am taking the blood thinning drug, Rivoroxaban, and the fact that I broke my helmet, I had to go to A&E for a CT scan on my head to make sure I didn't have any small internal bleeds.  Small bleeds which in a normal body would usually sort themselves out in no time but in someone on blood thinning juice, could potentially spiral out of control, especially whilst tent camping overnight in the company of a bunch of boy scouts.

Not surprisingly I didn't enjoy the day in A&E and I spent my time mentally kicking myself for being so stupidly competitive (racing a 12 year old boy) and forgetting that I'm supposed to be taking it easy (racing moderately *is* my idea of taking it easy).

I have been very busy at work since then... very busy.  I have also been sleeping a lot - making up for poor nights sleep (because of the pain) by sleeping late and my body is recovering from the shock, fighting the infection that has flared up in my knee and making me sleep for a long time.  As a consequence I've been finding it hard to get out on my bike.  Even when I do have some time to go out, there's an emotional resistance, one which says, "best stay at home, you might crash and end up in A&E again".  I don't like this.

On Tuesday I went to the gym to do weights and then got home and sat on the turbo for an hour and I made it out off road on Wednesday night with a great bunch of people from Sheffield Triathlon Club.  They did my ego the power of good as I was helping them to learn some cyclo-cross techninques.  I also rode very gingerley yet at times very bravely considering my condition - and I was considering it.  It was always at the back of my mind as I bounced my skinny 'cross wheels down Rivelin Valley trails usually reserved for my mountain bike.  

I haven't been out on my bike since.  I do miss it but I am still tired and I admit to still being a little scared.

So yesterday I sat down and set myself some targets to achieve in between now and my major races this 'cross season and also next year's tri season.  I hope these intermediary hits will help me progress and give me the excuse I need to stop working every day and go and get some exercise at a reasonable hour of day (so that I can sleep at night).

For now though, I am staring down the barrel of the 3 Peaks Cyclo-cross on (what feels like) very little appropriate training.  It's over 3 months since Celtman and my diagnosis so that's my endurance in the can and with 2 weeks off because of my pedal car crash, I think my dad will be hauling me around by the bib shorts braces, not the other way around.  

Dad's been training as only he knows how (long and steady) and I think he's a wonderful 65 year old.  In fact, he's not allowed to be 65!  Every week he listens to me whine about my condition.  Every week he is resolutely confident about his ability to finish this year's race.  At least I know where I get my optimism from.

So I am heading out this weekend to do two cyclo-crosses in two days.  That is my contribution to endurance and fitness combined. Regardless of what motivational state of mind I am in, there is one thing that makes it easy to look forwards to next weekend and it's this...

(though I'm hoping there won't be any snow next weekend)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Return to Strength

There is a groove in the road from my house to Ponds Forge which has started to fill in over the last few months.  I don't usually use the gym but the pool.  However,  having exhausted all strength training options at home for certain upper body exercises,  the time has come to get back into the groove.

My journey starts, not with anatomical adaptation but by repairing the rear wheel on my bicycle so that I do not have to take my car to the gym.  There are standards people!

So tonight that job is done. Tomorrow I rest. Safe in the knowledge that I have swum today and will pump weights on Thursday.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Allerthorpe Post Race Analysis - Back on a high note.

I have to write these down before I forget.

Thank you to my lovely family-in-law
Before races:

  • Check tyres are OK & change / repair as necessary.
  • Charge your garmin(s)
  • Awkward things to remember to pack - number belt, track mitts, sweat band, hair bobble, HRM 
  • Remember to set up the HRM settings on your Garmins - screens, alarms
  • Check the lock laces on shoes
From today's race - learnings

Swim - went off a bit fast but not too bad.  I need to focus on upping the time which I can hold that pace.  All in all though, I am really glad with my performance.  I managed to hold on to a few people but let it go and swim on my own when I needed to take it easier.

Bike - Didn't know what HR to hold and my HRM kept telling me my HR was too low.  I guess I had it set to 4 minimum and I was mostly riding at 3.5 to 3.8.  Thing is, that's actually 4.5 to 4.8 so I was nearing my assumed threshold.  I backed it off to 3.5 to see me through the event but that did feel a bit slow so I upped it again.  It translated to around 20 mph on the bike so that was a bonus compared to previous PE rides.  To conclude on this, zone 4.8 is about right for being close to threshold for me.  I now need to concentrate on going faster in this zone and also coping well with occasional sorties above that threshold.  I can have a play with 3.9 & 4.0 in training.

Run - The run was trickier to keep an eye on.  My watch kept going off at the beginning leading me to believe I also had a HR low alarm set on that.  I didn't so the time I wasted walking and trying to change the alarm was truly wasted.  I seemed to settle down into a pace although I could only look at average HR because I hadn't set my screens up properly.  I eventually found my HR and realised that the alarm was going off because HR was high... so I need to do more Brick sessions then...

I continued for a while at a steady pace, keeping below my alarm limit of 173 but I was just getting passed a lot.  When someone came past me who was going only slightly faster, I dropped in behind him as he was a good size for me to draft him.  The extra heart rate of 180 bpm (anaerobic now) was offset by the reduced effort of running into the wind.  I reassured him that I couldn't keep it up, stuck with him for about 5 minutes then dropped away again when we hit the sanctuary of hedgerows.  

When two miles was called on the run, I tried to lift my pace to keep the number of people passing me to a minimum.  It wasn't too difficult to do and although it made my HRM sing out, it felt do-able.  With 1 mile to go I checked the time and estimated I could beat my PB if I strode out to an even faster run.  Unfortunately I couldn't keep it up longer than 1 minute and my legs started to ache and people started to pass me.  It wasn't a major event today (although a very important part of my recovery) so I backed off and waited until the final leg into the finish before releasing the finish beast!

The finishing beast was not strong enough to keep a couple of athletes at bay but it was enough to stop most of them from passing me.  My sprint finish started just before turning off the road and no-one else passed me.  Nor did I catch anyone.  It was 3 minutes long but felt like a lifetime.

Things to do before my next race:
  • set up the screens on the run watch so that I have the information I need - like actual HR.
  • More brick bike-run sessions.
  • Sub Th workouts to improve speed & consistency.
  • Super Th workouts to get accustomed to accelerations & to make speed attacks stick.
  • Endurance swim speed sessions in the water.  Work on speeding the third lap from 10:30 to 9:30 then all laps to 9:00
  • Look up how much time I was able to hold the finishing pace that I attempted with 2 miles to go and work on extending it.  Max HR duration 5 minutes at 180.
  • Check the bike HR settings for sub- and super- threshold limits based on today's performances.  Aim to keep 3 Peaks HR lower than that.
Swim: 29:07 average SPM = 53 Laps: 9:00, 9:33, 10:31 (T2011 - 29:45)
T1 - 4:27 Forgot gloves and went back for them in this weather! (T2011 - 03:56)
Bike - 1:16:52 Z3 - 12:29 Z4 - 59:05 Z5A - 2:04 Z5B - 0:44 Z5C - None - how very restrained! (T2011 - 1:12:52)
T2 - 2:48 Left helmet on & forgot to switch to lock laces! (T2011 - 02:42)
Run - 1:01:46 Z3 - 0:55 Z4 - 37:30 Z5A - 13:28 Z5B - 9:48 Z5C - 0:14 (T2011 - 57:41)

Overall - 198 /
Women - 34 / 49
Women AG - 9 / 13
Though I claim I could advance at least 8 places based on the number of people having a little walkie during the swim and the large peloton that passed me on the bike course.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Celtman – The great fail and the eventual diagnosis

No 1 thing you shouldn’t be saying to yourself before an Ironman: “When this race is over I’m going to get properly fit”.

View from our recce swim

Enjoying the wild life
Beautiful recce swim
Dedicated support crew
Certain aspects of the preparation went well, others not so well.  We made it to Scotland but we put a 5 litre bottle of oil through the van on the way there so we really didn’t feel like driving up and down the road to the Byre from Sheildaig.  
Our first view of the moutntain
We had to go out and register.  We had a swim and we went to pick up Lynn, the second member of my support crew from the station at Achnasheen.  All went well but it wasn't without stress with the van being so delicate.

Packing was a little more fraught.  It went on till late in the evening.  I was too excited and worried and I lay awake most of the night, staring at the lightened room, getting disturbed, worrying that the Vanu wasn’t even going to get us to the start and I would be trying to sprint to the start in my wetsuit on my bike.

A bit of silliness didn't get me to relax.
A lot of silliness finding TSK another warm layer to take up the mountain.  This one is tight fitting (mine).
On the morning of the race I had had 1.5 hours sleep.  The excitement of the last few days had taken its toll and I was Tired.

We were early to the start, racked the bike, picked up my tracker and got changed.  I waved goodbye to the support crew and got on the front of the first bus.  If anyone’s thinking of doing the Celtman event or any other with bus transport to the start, it’s the best policy.  You can get first place in the toilet queue when you get there.

The start was as atmospheric as it looks in the promotional videos.  There’s a piper, there’s fire pits, there’s a flaming event logo where we had our pictures taken.

I was interviewed prior to the start by race cam or Scottish TV or some-such.  I was a skinny blonde still wearing my colourful club colours instead of a wetsuit on my top.  I was suitably entertaining and upbeat yet dramatically terrified.  I can only remember thinking that I should have mentioned my resilient support crew and afterwards I could only think of the shame of mentioning my nervousness at the bike and the run and not mentioning the swim at all.  Perhaps I was trying to keep it out of my mind.  Still, in conclusion, being interviewed was not the best policy.  I had to rush to get into my wetsuit top and I had not warmed up properly.  I was already shivering before I got in the water.

I was glad of the people around me as we waded through the seaweed.  The sea didn’t feel particularly cold as we got in and I wasn’t really cold when we started.  I was totally consumed by the jellyfish in the sea.  At first I was twitchy about touching them with my hand but there were so many that there wasn’t any avoiding it.  Occasionally I skewered one with my finger and scooshed it through the water until it fell off my hand when my arm exited the water.  They ricocheted off my nose and all I could help think was, “I hope they’re not stinging, otherwise I’m going to be a mess”.

Out to the island was not a poor swim then there’s about 1700m clear distance to the larger Island of Tigh an Eillean which I had always dreamed of swimming around as a child.  To find my way I sighted on a house on the shore-line as instructed.  For 30 very long minutes that house didn’t seem to get any closer.  It probably was getting closer but because it started out so far away, it really didn’t seem to get closer.

As my body started to shut down I was finally alongside Tigh an Eilean and I tried moving in towards the shoreline to get some shelter from the imaginary tide that I felt was pushing me out to sea.

As the shivers set in good and proper I checked my watch.  I’d already been in 40 minutes and still had 20 minutes to do.  I could see the group in the distance, some would be getting out in 5 minutes.  I promised myself at least 5 more minutes.  I stuck my head in the water and paddled as fast as I could.  I occasionally reverted to breast stroke to give myself a change (as good as a rest right?) but that only made me feel like I was losing heat and being lazy, making my swim even longer.

After 5 minutes of intense effort my whole body was shaking and my breath gently muttered to itself.  I moaned out breaths and snatched them in.  I started to worry about the state of my health leading up to the race.  I had gradually been unable to train properly and despite 2 weeks of taper and a week of enforced complete rest I had not recovered, never regained that coiled spring feeling.  If I was seriously ill then this cold water could be really really dangerous.  My legs went into cramp – first in the thigh, then in the hamstring and I flailed for attention from the Kayak, calling out, “hey” as best as I could – though it still wasn’t loud.  By the time the lovely chap reached me and asked if I was really sure, I was absolutely positive that I wanted to get out and quit.  You don’t make that decision lightly after hundreds of pounds and time invested.  For me, it felt like it was get out of the water or die there.  I really thought I might have a heart attack.

Quitting in the water is the worst place ever, I am now convinced.  You have to stay in the boat until all the other athletes are finished.  When you get on the boat you’re convinced you’re going to freeze to death.  When you get off the boat, you’re warm, rested, recovered and ready for action!  Fortunately I had a steady stream of compatriates to re-warm and rejuvenate.  I had a fairly pragmatic approach to quitting this race.  By the time I reached race day, my fatigue for ironman training (we’ll get on to the causes of that later) had led me to start looking forwards to the next training session for the next big plan.  Although I was disappointed and concerned about my support crew and the damn fucking waste of space that I felt, I am proud to say that I’m the only person who didn’t cry on the boat.  Others had invested even more than me – the trips from Switzerland and Paris, the travel up from London.  To be quite honest I was too consumed in helping the bloke from London warm up and stop throwing up that I had little time to think about my own demise.

We were welcomed on the quay by a small clapping crowd of people.  It was gracious and not at all patronising.  We were told that we could go out on the bike if we wanted to so I walked up to transition with my support crew, got changed and I set off, full of beans, with Simone from Switzerland.

Simone lived up to her name.  She was so pissed off at herself that she swore all the way up the first hill.  I tried to engage her in conversation but she continued to swear at herself throughout the climbs so, when she stopped with her team car, I continued alone.

I started to get cold on the Torridon valley and added a windproof layer which, to be honest, is so thin, it doesn’t really count for much.  I tried to eat some wholesome food but it wasn’t going down well so I tucked into a nice sticky Torq bar.  That made my temporary crown fall out into 5 pieces.  As I picked the hard crunchy bits out of my mouth, Simone came past me again.

I chased her all along the valley to Kinlochewe where I resisted the temptation of the caf and turned left towards Gairloch.  Simone was with her support crew again and I called out, “only 15 miles to Gairloch” where there was a hot breakfast waiting for us.  I also knew that this stretch was quite flat so I was looking forwards to seeing what speeds I could achieve.

It was still cold though so I eventually rang Andrew and asked him to ride back to me with my knee warmers.  My logic being that if I could ride with him for a while and be warm, I might actually feel like continuing beyond Gairloch.  I also didn’t want him to drive the vanu any more than necessary.  I instantly regret not asking dad to drive his car out to me instead.  The road I was on was slightly uphill and I had a slight headwind.  I just didn’t feel right and had to ride down at 10 miles per hour to keep my heart rate anything like normal.

10km later I had my leg warmers on and some of the last 10km to Gairloch is a flying downhill.  I felt fine and didn’t even stop for the breakfast but instead whooped past my support crew saying, “Onwards and upwards”.

I rode past a pipe band playing outside the town hall and felt fine then I reached the first hill and everything fell apart.  Half way up the hill I turned into a driveway, sprawled out on the handlebars and gasped for air.  I knew that the next 30 miles were peppered with climbs equally sharp and one really long 5%er.  I looked at my Garmin displaying 50km and thought, “that’s the perfect training distance for an Olympic Triathlon”.  I told Simone I was done as she passed me again and called my support crew.

Again, as soon as I stopped I felt fine.  I wasn’t sprawled out in the car park, exhausted.  I just couldn’t ride up hills anymore.  I’ve never been a particularly strong climber but this was just ridiculous.  Three weeks ago I’d ridden Holme Moss and the Snake Pass.  Granted, those weren’t particularly fast either.  I put it down to over-training and decided I wanted to go and get some breakfast and head up the mountain to cheer on the other athletes.

After our gourmet breakfast at Kinlochewe I was just pissed off (unreasonably) with Celtman and confused at myself.  I felt a great urge to go to sleep so we took the tracker back to base to officially quit then went to Shieldaig and my support crew ate sandwiches and I slept whilst Lynn arranged to stay in the youth hostel so she could ride back to Achnasheen station at a reasonable hour to get to work on Monday.

Back at the Byre we set Lynn on her way then did very little with the rest of the day.  We had no internet so I couldn’t plan my next event and so I wrote a few things down.

“Just as there are diverse levels of ability in the sports that I do, so there are diverse levels of the ability to cope with the cold.  This year I challenged myself to achieve in something that I am so inherently bad at – cold water swimming.  Whilst I made improvements, they were too meagre and too late to enable me to complete this year’s race – the Celtman Extreme Triathlon.

Once I had been through the experience of being dragged, chattering, cramping and weakened, it was a relief to find that I could not physically go on to complete the bike ride.  I had left something substantial behind in the water.  For me it was my legs, for Simone it was her lungs, for Mark it was his stomach contents.
On the road across Ben Eighe nature reserve I was cheered up by the sound of wildcats fighting in the woodland.
I started to think about planning my next event to take my mind off this.  Something nice and short like a standard distance tri.
I’ve made a conscious decision to leave Ironman alone.  It conflicts with so many things, not least: my enjoyment of non-tri sports like cyclo-cross and fell running, hill walking and ski-ing (the cost of an Ironman easily works its way through the ski holiday budget).  I am immensely looking forwards to shorter open water swims and doing my job properly…”

At that, I fell asleep and woke 3 hours later at 6pm looking forwards to the rest of my life.
In the evening I went through my yoga set which left me invigorated and looking forwards to looking after myself over the coming weeks.  

“Not trying something new but repeating something from before but better.  It would be boring and presumtious of me to go into details but I hope it gets me where I want to be.  If not, I am either over-trained (not known), doing it badly wrong, chronically ill or genetically predisposed to not doing it at all.”

"Every Ironman athlete tells themselves that it doesn't matter massively if they don't finish because at the end of the day, they have enjoyed the journey and enjoyed the training.  Then, when you get there, to making that really tough decision to quit, you start to think that might be a load of bollocks because actually,  that training has stolen the last 9 months of much of your life.  Chances are though,  is you're now fitter, stronger than you have ever been in your life and you will not want to go right back to whatever happened before.  While I have called time on my iron campaign,  I am massively looking forward to putting the same level of effort into my future endeavours and going better,  not just further and harder."

The morning after the worst race day of my life we decided to go for a ride to Applecross. 

The Culin of Skye from Applecross.  If you click, you might just be able to see Jesus walking his dogs on the water.
I got frustrated with myself having to stop on the hill climbs heading home and felt relieved I hadn't continued the Ironman.  The seeds of doubt were sown though.  Why did I feel like this when I hadn't even tried yesterday?  After a day of slobbing around the Byre drying out wetsuits and reading books for the rest of the day, we decided to check out and head South.  I could’ve spent more time in Torridon but driving the Vanu up and down the Applecross road was not a risk I was prepared to take so I sold TSK on the idea of climbing Ben Nevis.

The day we left Torridon was gloomy and dank.  A good day to travel then.  By the time we got to Glen Nevis the weather was perfect again.  I went for a run through the forest.  Faced with a wall of fallen trees, I jumped and climbed from one trunk to another, persevering with the route to get myself back on the path 15 minutes later and 300m along.  It was worth it as the path had not been used for some time and I witnessed a Golden Eagle around 5 m away, soaring into the deep forest.  Day... Year... MADE.

I walked up most of the hill, choosing the steeper more interesting routes over the wide-open forest track and here is my view from the top.

Looking across the forest towards Stob An.

Mindful of the day ahead I descended again to base camp, a good meal in the pub and an early night.  We were back on the trail before 8am the next day and there were already plenty of people about.

Our route choice was to summit via the easy tourist path then take a look a the Carn Mohr Dearg Arrette and see how we felt.  The weather was fine and we were fine so we went for it. Descended the hard way to the mountain stream where we cooled our feet then took the tourist path back down to the pub for a very nice pint of beer.  I'll let the photos talk for themselves. It was one of the best days I have ever spent on a hill.

Short snow section on the final climb to the summit with Fort William in the valley

TSK takes a drink of water on by the met station

Carn Mor Dearg Arrette beckons us forwards

Later we would descend the steep slope on the right direct to the river before retracing our steps around the mountain to the pub.

Perfect relief for tired, swollen feet (note still got my nail polish on)

Centre of photo (well disguised), a snow bunting.  There are only 60 mating pairs permanently resident in the UK. 10,000 migrate here in the winter.  These ones live off tourist scraps.
Drying off before the final descent
When I got home to Sheffield there was the Tour de France to watch.  Two days of doing very little except standing about.  In Harrogate I wondered why I had to keep crouching down amongst people's legs trying to find some oxygen and get out of the sun.  

On Sunday in Sheffield a tiny ride out to Jawbone Hill.  Just enough time to get warmed up then an impressive hillclimb to play with, lined with people.  The most embarrassing ride I have ever done (even more embarrasing than the duathlon champs where I had to adjust my bike position three times).  I stopped by the side of the road four times to catch my breath back, each time collapsing over my handlebars, my lungs screaming, waiting for the blood to make it back to my muscles with some oxygen.

We finally selected a spot - the point of my final refusal to go any further - and made friends with the people already staked out there.  The highlight of my day was running alongside my team mate, already riding in the Juniors Tour ahead of the main race.  I ran about 300m before an official pulled me out before the summit.
My last dying run - in cycling shoes - perfect three peaks training
I then spent a few days planning my season upto the Three Peaks and working on site in Norfolk.  I spent a lot of my time in Norfolk either yawning or sitting down.  Thankfully it was sunny so I could do that outside.  I managed a hill reps ride near my hotel and it was so satisfying to do some specific training for the first time in ages but my heart rate was hitting max and I only climbed 25m each time on a 3% slope but I actually felt my spring coming back.  My calf was sore so I went for a walk in the morning before heading home then foam rollered the shit out of it over the next few days.
A different kind of beauty
I had a mamogram booked on the Wednesday morning (happy genetic risk 40th birthday to me!).  Playing catch up on some health issues, I booked a GP appointment on Thursday morning, just before my dental appointment to fix those pesky crowns in place.  The cancer clinic had emphasised my doctor's advice to change my pill.  Each for different reasons but now that my Ironman event was out of the way, I felt safe about changing things.

The doctor wrote me a prescription for the pill and measured my calf muscle.  It was 1cm bigger than my right calf so he sent me to A&E just to be on the safe side.

I "popped into" A&E as instructed.  The triage nurse was a triathlete so I could talk freely about my experiences without any justifications.  When you're describing sore muscles to most medical people and they then discover you ride bikes over hills for fun or do fell races, they file you in the "nutter" folder and it takes some effort to convince them there's an issue.  She listened carefully and nodded in an understanding way then said, 

"you've not been suffering any chest pains or shortness of breath have you?".  

"Well, actually..."

She rang the clot nurse directly but she wouldn't see me straight away because I was too young and my bmi was too low to indicate that I might have a problem with a condition largely associated with sitting on your arse for too long.  Back to the age-old athletic issue...

So I was placed on a bed in a cubicle and set about waiting to see a doctor.  After a while it got quite tiring so I lay down and had a snooze before the doctor explained that I'd get a blood test and need to wait about 2 and a half hours for those results.  If they were positive, I would get my leg scan and if that was negative they'd look at my lungs in the CT scanner.  I asked if I could go to my dentist appointment and come back later to get my blood test results.

"We recommend you don't go anywhere at this point" she said.  

"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?" I thought.  Low risk went out of the window.

So I waited in line for a blood test to check if I had the chemical in my blood which indicates that I have a blood clot.  By this point I was getting quite fed up with people telling me how low my risk was.  I was surrounded by elderly patients in wheelchairs.

Finally, a nice male Indian nurse came to take my blood but he didn't just take my blood. He put a fucking canular in my arm.  A FUCKING CANULAR!  I've never had one in my life.  The only people I have seen with one of those in have died or been suffering with the Cancer!  Then he said, "you can bend it if you want" and bent my arm.

"I don't want to!" I said and I started to cry.  Poor Indian nurse.  He scurried away and I was enveloped by fluffy lady nurses asking me what was wrong.  I felt a bit shit and I really wanted my new teeth.  Please send me back to just needing new teeth!  I rang the dentist but put off ringing Andrew till later.  I didn't want him to miss out on earnings because of my "low risk" condition.

After an unsugared (WTF!) cup of tea I rejoined the masses and fell asleep in my chair whilst all the old biddies chattered and complained about the state of the NHS around me.  I gradually allowed my arm to bend and listened to all the people who had complained get discharged because they'd "just got a sore leg".

My two and a half hours was up and the doctor reappeared in the waiting room, "Your test was positive.  We'll send you for your leg scan now."

The scan doctor was lovely.  We had a good laugh about the ease of finding my veins in my skinny legs.  When I told them I was there because of getting out of breath on hills on my bike, she said, "that's how the rest of us usually feel love".

They found nothing, possibly because they weren't looking where it hurt and I concluded that I really did just have a sore leg.  I was taken to sit in another chair to wait for my CT scan.  Although the thought of the CT scan was terrifying, I started to feel more terrified by the prospect of there being nothing wrong with me.  Suddenly the poor performance and shortness of breath started to make complete and utter sense.  If there was nothing wrong with me then I was faced with the prospect that I was just a shit athlete and that was more terrifying than a treatable illness.  The only thing scarier being *actual death*.  The months of banging my head against a brick wall doing more and more ironman training to the conclusion of seemingly no progress became less of a concern and more a process of disovery.

The CT doctor informed me that injection of the dye would cause me to feel hot, get a metalic taste in my mouth and feel like I'd wet myself (but I wouldn't have).  Great.  Reassuring.

She was right though I'd compare the last sensation to a shower in tea tree oil but I understand her more generic analogy.  Not every old biddy in Sheffield has taken a shower in tea tree oil.

I was a little unnerved by the CT machine since every Holby City and House episode we watch seems to involve someone having a seizure every time they go into the CT scanner, leading it to be known in our house as "the seizure machine".  I was asked to straighten my arms above my head (I'd just gotten used to bending it!) and they injected the dye which made my toes curl!  I was encouraged to close my eyes which was rather disappointing as I wanted to watch the machine which roars and whirls like a helicopter.  The downside to being an engineer.

A nurse said, "I'm just going to put this over your chest" presumably to protect my boobs which had already had one dose of radiation that week.  Of course when someone says that to you, you instinctively open your eyes and I caught the slightest glimpse of the stainles steel wheels inside the CT scanner rolling, things flying past my face at high speed, laser lights bouncing off my body.  Bang bang bang, I shut my eyes again.

A very clinical voice instructed to "Breathe in, hold it, breathe normally".  Over and over and then it was done.  A boy stripped the piping from my canular and people busied around me being REALLY REALLY nice.  I didn't feel like this was going to be good news.  I returned to my chair in CDU and rang Andrew.

Before he arrived my doctor returned.  "You have several blood clots in your lungs, we need to keep you in overnight.  We will be giving you blood thinners and your iron levels are very low.  In 2012 it was 140.  Now it is 91.  Do you know anything that might be causing this?"

I'll spare you the details of the deliberations and they are still ongoing as the doctors ask me more things, I remember more information and things that I used to take as normal are probably not so normal and I should've had them checked out sooner.

The first blood-thinner came in the form of an injection into my tummy-fat.  A bit like a bee-sting I sat and cried until Andrew arrived when I pulled myself together an again started giving instructions to my support crew to rescue me with some comfortable clothes (I was still dressed for work), the internet (I'd forgotten all of my mobile phones), some fresh fruit and a copy of Triathlon 220.

Up on the ward I met Joanne, the only other resident under the age of 65.  She was around 25 so between us I think we brought the average age of our 6-person ward down to 60.  Everyone else looked dead so I set about cheering her up and vice versa.  She had a heart problem but was in for a kidney infection.  Having handed her notice in a week ago, she travelled to work on the bus just to prove to her boss that she was sick and promptly collapsed in the office.  I like making friends with people as nuts as me.

I didn't have a bad overnighter.  I had earplugs with me to protect against the shouty nurse who attempted to wake the dead to "do obs" every three hours.  My residual memory will be of her screaming "Doreeeeen" at an elderly patient at 3am.

I got a shower in the morning, refusing a bed bath, and proceeded to flirt with the male nurse and prowl up and down the corridor for hours, waiting to see the even more handsome doctor who came to review my ongoing care and discharge me.

I successfully convinced him to show me the footage of my cross-section and was gutted that I didn't take my phone to film it - geek that I am.  Sure enough, little black clots drifted past in my illuminated arteries, like comets in a negative of the night sky.  

The doctor delivered the saving grace: that I did listen to my body this year.  Although I knew it wasn't the best training, I repeatedly dodged the speed sets in my training plan - both this year and last.  I just couldn't bring myself to do them and potentially that saved my life because in the last two years of Ironman training with blood clots in my lungs and all, I haven't over-strained my heart.

On Tuesday I learned more about my condition.  Because of the clots blocking the oxygen flow through certain parts of my lungs, those areas may be permanently dead.  Alternatively, a new life might blow back into them once the clots have dissolved and gone away.  The clots will have come from somewhere else (not yet known) and have travelled through my veins to my lung.  It is caused by a range of things from inactivity to a trauma somewhere and one rogue cell that's decided to clot on the inside of the vein instead of the outside!  Outcomes include: going through life without even realising you have one to death.  Death usually occurs when a big clot gets lodged between the branch feeding both lungs and you just can't breathe any more.  So far we don't know where the origin clot is but we hope it will be dissolved within 4-6 weeks so we might never know.

They're still looking into my anaemia which can only be contributing to my shortness of breath.  That might be related to the female cycle, my 9 month flirtation with veganism or an underlying condition that needs to be treated.  I'm hoping the anaemia is massively contributing to the shortness of breath and the effects of the blood clots (which can be more permanent) are minimal.

Either I am going to be sick for some time or I will get rid of the clots and come out of this hell on a peak with increased iron and lung function and a strong heart and suddenly start kicking-ass!

I can't quite bring myself to pull out of any of the races I've entered this year so I'm hoping it is the latter and working really hard on my recovery (not doing much and taking the drugs like clockwork).  Progress is happening.  When I walk (even slow, short distances) I get tired and need to recover (sleep) for a while but I can manage to do some very gentle adaptation-type weights which was all part of my "getting properly fit" plan mentioned above.  I always wear my heart rate monitor to make sure I'm staying in the recovery zone.  
The new gym, complete with supervision

As each day goes on, I find it easier to breathe.  I no longer have to sit on the bed and hyperventilate after walking up the stairs.  Small victories.  

At least now that I have a diagnosis with this condition I have the full, immediate and unquestioning support and monitoring of the NHS.  How many other non-professional athletes get free full blood data every 2 weeks?

It is, by far, the biggest and toughest challenge to my health I have (ever?) needed to face.  I feel that I am justified in being a drama queen about it but also am looking forwards to the journey and finding out just what I can make out of it when it's over.  

Ironically, the treatment for an illness normally caused by inactivity is to sit around and do a whole load of nothing so for now I have 2 weeks of lounging around trying to make sense and looking forwards to the future.