Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Joy in Life Without Ironman

So I started this morning paralysed by indecision - to do a running race? Or go for a swim? I need to maintain and improve  my running in 3 weeks for the Whinlatter Extreme. I also need to actually get going on regular swimming before Slateman in around 10 weeks. It was too late to do one and then the other (in any sensible order). With the run race at 11, I shouldn't have still been in my Jammies at 9.30 to do both. For a while it looked like I wasn't going to do either, such was my drive to become a part of the fell running crowd but my intense enthusiasm (finally) for the idea of taking a swim.

I suddenly realised that I am really lucky to be a multi sport athlete. Most people only get to decide whether to train or not. I get a choice of what to train at.

I decided to go with my gut, scratch the fell race and get myself swimming again. My biggest fear was finding out that in the 2.5 weeks I have been out of the pool, I would find that I have gone backward. I mitigated this with the sound reasoning that at least I would have got that first swim out of the way (again).

The new swim venue was perfect again. Temperature and space all good. I chewed through 26 lengths, feeling knackered but ready to tackle 20 more to make a mile. I knew I had slowed down but before I knew it the last 2 laps were done and I hardly knew what to do with myself. I am still not fully weaned off ironman training and keep wondering what to do with the left-over time.

Showered and back at the house I do bike cleaning and gardening. EmVee has been rusting in a muddy layer in the kitchen all week. The garden is disappearing beneath weeds. Leaving ironman behind has given me so much life back and being poorly last year has reminded me to use every second wisely. My job has taught me to appreciate the simple pleasures of being at home so I took joy from working alongside Andrew in the garden. He built things and after I had cleaned my bike I tore down last year's waste and planted out stuff - including putting the wedding rose in its forever place.  It would be sad if (when) we move but without being liberated I feel it may wither and die. It's probably true of marriage as well as roses.

I can't do anything by halves though and I worked on the garden until it got dark.

I then cleared up with a head torch on. It was exhausting but I went to bed ready for sleeping and looking forward to enjoying the view from the kitchen window in the morning.                      

Monday, March 16, 2015

Grizedale duathlon

(Reported 8/4/15)

Three weeks have passed since Grizedale. Testament to the busy job but also the time it took for me to recover. In fact I fear I have only just.

At least, thank goodness the weather was dry. It had taken me all my focus to get from injured to 15km running in 5 weeks. I wasn't sure I would be able to add rain and hills all at once and the hills were bad enough. By 200m I was laughing and joking with the lads at the back and as I removed a layer of clothing (unintentionally, for the photographer), I was at the back. I had it all to gain.

Fortunately, initial bravado in some runners gave way to fatigue as the hillside kept on rising and I started passing people back. None of them held on. I still felt like last as I descended into the valley, passing the last two marshals on my turn into transition but there were a few bikes left on the racking.

Now was my moment to shine. The first ascent couldn't be much worse than last year when I gave up trying to fight the cramp and just sat down to munch on jelly beans until the pain stopped. The issue was compounded by having my saddle too high and pedals too tight. No such hindrance this year as I passed two guys together followed by one more, also battling the cramp. I descended into my favourite descent alone.

Grizedale becomes a relentless jumble of rocking fire trails and bouncing single-track but is then interrupted by a foray onto an immense moorland space. You have to concentrate quite hard not to get distracted by the place. It wasn't so difficult last year - most of it was invisible under a sea of claggy air, fog and rain. This year though, my mind wandered, dreaming of where this place went, wondering what all the sign-boards say. It's certainly special for a reason and I should go up there and take a look one day - when I am not in a rush. There does come a time up there though, when you give up all hope of keeping feet warm and dry. I did remember about the puddle that, last year, was rumoured to be deeper than a bike and I skirted around that but pushing the bike through the tussocky rutted grass at the side of the path was too much effort so I rode them all and kissed my warm toes goodbye before the rolling descents began.

Thankfully there was one more climb to rewarm on and it so happened there were at least 4 blokes to ride past. I grinned at the last and asked if the saying is 'strong, or stubborn as an ox' as a chap stood by his bike getting his breath back or waiting for his mate I will never know. I disappeared before I got accused of being smug.

I started to run a little hungry on the way back. I had decided to leave my rucksack behind in the interests of riding lightweight and cool and the windproof coat I picked up had no food in it. Despite scouring the trail for dropped power-bars, I had yet to secure any race nutrition except the drink in my bottle. Although this seemed to be doing OK, I was getting ready to eat. The last descents involve gnarly boardwalk which I am inwardly scared of, having ridden off a telegraph pole at the London bike show 6 years ago. I could have done with tackling them on a stomach with food in it.

No matter, I was getting near to the food stash in transition although that didn't stop me joking with my parents about stealing their sandwiches as I passed them eating lunch by the trailside.

I enjoyed the ride down the hillside into transition. Last year it was the finish. This year I had another run to go. My wet feet had warmed and I remembered to take my jelly beans with me. I passed a man running sideways crab-style foot-over-foot who explained that he wasn't showing off but his kneed had gone and it was the only way he could run on the flat. Good job because the rest of the course only went up or down though it felt like a solid 2 miles before we started to climb. It was only a 3 mile run in my head. Probably a good job as I might not have set off had I known it was more like 5 miles. There was a lot of walking associated with the up part. I did catch someone up though.

This time the photographer caught me with all my clothes on and levitating which is always a confidence boost at that late stage of the event. I was slightly annoyed that the race didn't take us over the small crag up to the trig point on top of Carren Crag. I will have to go back and do it again in my own time!

On the way down I started to catch up another competitor on the descents. He got away from me on the flat but they were less and less frequent. So I ran as fast as I could on the flat and opened up like I usually do on the downhill. I eventually passed him but felt compelled to put a nail in the coffin and kept going at full pelt.

When there's water rushing under foot and rocks rolling around it's difficult to tell if there's someone on your shoulder or not. I opened up a road sprint just in case, like an alcoholic in a bar, knowing I was going to pay for it tomorrow. If anything, the finish line seemed to take longer to arrive. The man who had been running like a crab returned just as I finished my cup of restorative pg tips.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Surrey Riding

The kind of evening where you toy with the idea of shorts but stick to 3/4 lengths because it will get cold later.

Planning the kind of ride where there is a later.

I drop off the hog's back hill towards the South Downs way and enjoy sandy trails until it's time to turn South again and head for the road crossing I have imagined at the A3.

A lady dressed in a flat cap and jodhpurs smiles at me.  She's a little older than me and weather worn and I feel like telling her she looks nice because in spite of her lady-of-the-manor dress and wrinkles,  she carries it well and does look friendly.

She paases me back in a transit van, still smiling as I realise that maybe she's just amused by the enormity of my plan to cross the hog's back road.

I find my descent route then wait around 5 minutes in total to leg it across 2x2 lanes of traffic moving at 70mph

A short,  sneaky footpath sees me doing the same on the A31 a few minutes later. This time the central reservation is not a grassy median but a narrow strip of armaco barriers and I sit with my butt perched and EmVee standing precariously on the struts designed to buckle under the force of a crashing vehicle.

I don't like crossing in front of trucks but it is likely to be 10 minutes before I get another chance so I heft EmVee on to my shoulder and skitter across the road in my cycling shoes. It's a long 300 yards to the slip road to my tiny back-lane turn where I see a lady on her commute home and I wonder how she does this road every day,  or what she knows that I don't.

For the rest of the ride I am on trail and beautiful countryside roads which aren't even used by cars, except by the occasional resident. I suppose I have the efficient and behemoth A3 to thank for that.

The bridle paths are beautiful but unremarkable in the level of challenge they offer, except for one descent. I reach a turn after a long climb. At the top a man is sitting on a fallen tree, staring into the tree canopy above.  I ask if he's looking at anything interesting,  hoping for a woodpecker or an owl but he simply replies,  "isn't it a beautiful evening" and I agree,  setting off down the best single track of the evening, a ditch so steep-sided that my bars almost touch the sides and enough bumps for me to learn that I can put more air back in the forks. It snakes through woodland and I am so glad of the Garmin nav because it means I can enjoy my descent until the point where I make my turn to start heading home.

I am riding home on bridle paths through parks on the edge of Hampton Court yet there isn't a person in sight.

I am slightly worried by a caravan and land rover parked up in the middle of nowhere. A bit of me is vigilant for murderers and rapists and a bit of me is wondering if it is a national trust land rover (to explain away the rapist theory).

The sound of something crashing through the undergrowth heightens my alerts.  Now it's either a big,  slobbering dog... or a rapist.  To my relief and wonder it is two deer who I have separated,  one each side of the path.  They both stand taller than I, their beautiful feminine faces and big, brown vigilant eyes watching me as I roll by, hoping that one does not try to join the other in a mountain biker death-leap of glory.

 I am getting tired now so I wind along the easiest trail I can and pop back out onto country lanes. My lights go on and I start to be glad my knees are covered and disappointed in my choice of socks.  The sun has disappeared behind the hill already but there's the remnants of a pink stain on clouds in the sky. My day is not over with work still to do but the day has definitely been 'done' to an acceptable level of detail.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

An hour early for a meeting at work on Monday and a day early with my costing today. Something is wrong!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Sun Salutations in the setting Sun

A run in the Malverns on Monday on my way home from site.

Since then I have been working until 9:30 pm every night and waking up around midnight in a panic.  Oh well.  Zen can't be every day.