Sunday, January 31, 2016

Running Commentary


I have been struggling to start my Ironman training.  Struggling to do everything - run, swim, get out on the bike.

I'm supposed to be doing a fell race today - right now even.

Last night I was at my cousin's wedding celebration.  It was a great day.  She was so clever.  She got married in New York in December but had her party last night.  As such she got to wear her dress again and share her honeymoon with all her guests.  We had lego to play with and props to wear and a polaroid camera to take selfies with and I got to dance with the most beautiful woman in the room.  I danced with my dad and a twenty-something hipster complimented my dad on his moves.  He beamed with pride.

We got home at midnight.  I don't have a hangover which is a surprise for the quantity of proseco and G&T I drank but I was tired.

So I decided not to knacker myself on a 10 mile fell race that I haven't trained for and instead, stick to a 6 mile run to persuade my legs that it's Ironman training.  It's a day early but Vicki has me motivated.  My primary goal will be to walk out of today with a sense of do it again tomorrow... or perhaps the day after.


What a day.

I looked at my fell shoes then my nice comfortable road shoes and opted for the latter.  I don't often run on roads so it was to be something different and I just felt like wearing something pretty and new... yeah, bite me.

I ran about 10 steps down the hill then back up, deciding to grab a wind proof to go some way to keeping the 4 degrees rain shower from freezing every hair on my body.  I was glad I did.  The "light rain" wasn't exactly heavy but sure was persistent.  

There were few cars about and I wiggled my way up to the A57 steadily, then began the long descent down to the bottom of Rivelin Valley.  I was aiming for 6 miles and didn't look at my watch till I got to the bottom, where I decided to check my distance before deciding whether to run along the top of the valley on the other side (roadie-route through Stannington) or take my usual and much beloved muddy trail along the bottom of the valley.  At 2.57miles, the bottom of the valley still tempted me in as I didn't want to massively over-distance myself with more training to be done later.

The valley was as muddy as promised and I gently resigned myself (with the odd swear word) to getting my new trainers dirty.  I enjoyed every step of the valley-path.  Especially bumping into the Rivelin Valley Volunteer Group who I waved to and thanked as I ran past.

Dog walkers chatted about muddy hounds and teenagers said hello.  I was so happy that everyone was happy - even given the shitty weather.

At the bottom of my precipice climb to the house I was still 0.7mile short of my distance so I continued along the valley trail to the fire station then turned up the hill and ran a slightly elongated route home up the hillside, through a couple of footpaths I haven't run up for ages.  I forgot where they come out - at the top of our road nonetheless - and consequently dropped down to my front door after 6.01miles of running.

My muddy shoes and both rivers running in the valley

After a good dose of sitting down and a lunch of salad and cheese and coffee, I dug the rollers out.  Phoenix was devoid of a Garmin device for tracking distance so I set off for the loft to dig out Rosie Dragon.  She had a Garmin device fitted but no block on the rear wheel so I changed that out for my turbo wheel and had to go in search of a magnet and then change the saddle for one that doesn't give me tendinitis in very uncomfortable places.

Finally, by 3:30pm we were ready to go.  

For some time I have wondered what my new found yoga strength will do for my triathlon season this year.  The gains we made last year were pleasant but having seen where cyclo-cross went this year, I am excited for this tri season.  Particularly as the additional strength should protect me from Ironman abuse so much more.  I've seen the benefits in mountain biking already and in the endurance I have for getting back to running but haven't tested the form on the time trial bike yet.

On a parallel stream, I have been thinking that I need to get my position on the bike so dialled that I am able to ride the TT bike on the aero bars on the rollers.  Once I can do that I will know I am niggle-free.  No nasty, distracting wobbles in direction or power.

I am happy to say that tonight, I nailed it.  First day of Ironman training and I pretty much rolled out 60 minutes of roller riding in aero (along with a few more choice words).  I may have damaged parts of my anatomy but they'll fix.  There's a little bit of saddle adjustment to be done but I'll get there.

So, that's me, all motivated and doing good again.  Happy that I might be able to last a ski holiday when it comes, confident that I'll enjoy myself in the pool, happy I can run again and with a cyclist core to dream of and now newly focused on delivering an Ironman training schedule performance to rival anything I've dreamt of before.  I will not be letting anything get in the way again.  

The fog appears to have very much lifted.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

In the water... again

So on Friday I swam.

I concluded that there's no point pushing myself to ride and swim yet.  Last week proved that I can't do both with any fluidity so for now I will drive to the pool, drive to work (maybe squeeze in a run at lunchtime - although I didn't manage it today) and then drive home.

I planned to be up early and at the pool by 7.  In fact, kittens came and knocked n the door at 5am and woke us all up. I had an unusually relaxing breakfast, drove to the pool at a leisurely pace, walked in the door with the 7am queue and got in the fast lane this time.

There weren't many in the fast lane - 4 people?  I slotted in at the back and swam my 3 x 10 lengths with some semblance of form although I had to slow my stroke timer down by 1 stroke per minute since I've been out of the water for over a week.

I had my toes tickled and got passed a few times but there was no stress and I got out before everyone else and was showered and in the car on the way to work by 8am.  I could have managed another 10 but then we're all about consistency.  Traffic at 8am was sooooooo light.

I didn't manage to run because I went to the pub with my colleagues.  Sometimes it's nice to do this and we have a really good laugh.  This time, although it was nice, I would have actually rather been running.

My grad-boy left at 2:30 because his sister was ill and the family were all going over to see her.  I stayed until 5 when I realised I had to go to Meadowhall so wasted the last hours of rush hour doing laps of the mall and spending too much money but hey...

As a consequence, the drive home was a dream.  I literally flopped into TSK after unpacking my shopping and enjoyed knitting and then bed.  It feels like a fitting end to my rest and recovery from this horrible chesty cough.  It's not completely gone but I do feel better.  The swim made me sneeze because of the chlorinated water and nothing else.  I felt like the run.

I'm fell racing on Sunday so I'm not even sure what to do with my Saturday.  It's longer than I've run in a while and I'm very nervous about finishing it as I don't really have any mountain legs yet either.  In the same vein as last year, I might file this weekend under "whatever I feel like".  It's the end of January tomorrow.  It's time for this year to wake up.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Back on the bike... again

I still hadn't got over the cough that's been plaguing me since December when I raced the 'cross champs 2 weeks ago... when, last week, someone brought me a new cough.

I fell properly ill again but soldiered through at work because I had important deadlines to meet and things were there to be figured out.

If nothing else, I decided to give the ironman training a break for a week so I stopped riding to work, stopped swimming, stopped running.  Just kept up the yoga.  The last thing I did was ride home from work last Wednesday after a lunctime run.

In all honesty say that it didn't seem to help in the slightest.  I went to the hospital for a chest x-ray on Thursday and they told me the results wouldn't be in for a week.

I have new running shoes to train in and no incentive to run in them.  My lungs hurt.  I keep putting it off but nothing is improving.

So yesterday, in a fit of fed uppedness, I resolved to pack for swimming and ride to work.

I rode to work in the sunshine drafting a lady on a carbon bike. Had to work hard to keep with her as I was on Lovely - a steel bike with panniers - but I had the best time riding the white lines to stay in the sweet spot behind her. On the way home I watched a lady on a bike trying to ride through the Arts Tower carpark with an A1 portfolio file. Talk about a cheap hang-glider.

OK, OK, the swimming didn't happen so I got really good practice at riding home from work with all my kit.  It was windy and wet and I didn't enjoy a moment of it.  It was hard but it wasn't cold.  I was depressed but I wasn't captivated.  For once, riding was just miserable.  It may have something to do with bits of my commute being closed and poorly signed but whatever it is, at least I am back on the bike.

I have one day of this week left but I think I might try and swim and run with it tomorrow and you know what, after all the effort I've put in this week, I don't care how late I am for work.  At least then I have covered all the bases of triathlon... and my grad will have an easy start to the day.  I think at least one person really loves it when I get to work at my normal time.

Then it will be Friday evening and my toys have arrived from the ski tuning shop and so for once, I will be repairing bases and waxing skis in the comfort of my loft on a decent set of clamps and not just balancing the planks on my otherwise under-utilised text books and swearing.  Life is looking good.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

And prepare to ski

I am poorly again.  Third cold in 2 months and the chesty cough from the last one still has not gone.  I had an x-ray on Friday.

The work week has been a nightmare.  I gave up on exercise by Tuesday morning at yoga although I did manage Thursday morning's shapes.

On Saturday we drove to the ski shop... in Ilkley, to see the people who sold me my boots 3 years ago about the foot problems I experienced two years ago which stopped me running part-way into my Ironman training.  I don't want to go through that again.  In fact, I am still nursing the tendonitis that I acquired back then.

I had an appointment at 3.

I was seen at 5:30.  In any other shop anywhere else, this would have made me livid but somehow, spending the day surrounded by skis and skiers and climbing gear and like-minded folk made me super happy.  I chatted, joked and walked around in circles in my boots... oh how I love those touring boots and looked forwards to Italy.  I have every reason in the world to get well again.  I have every reason in the world to sink into a haven of training and nature and sanctitude.  I'd say solitude but this year, TSK will be with me on his touring skis and I am so excited for it.

Today I am sat on the sofa, buying ski maintenance tools and I am very very happy.

TSK on a sketchy black in Mayrhofen last year.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Remembering to be kind to myself - week minus 23


Given that I raced the national champs on Saturday and spent all day Sunday recovering, I figured it would do me no harm to start my training on a Monday.  If you have a good day in front of you, you might as well make use of it... and that I did.

I used the opportunity to swim in the morning, come out of the pool into sunrise, ride in the sunshine and home under clear, dark skies.  That went down very well and I got a good speed on, regardless of being on Lovely with a bag of still-soggy swim kit in my bag.

The swim was rough and tumble.  My first morning swim of the training season.  It was busy and choppy and I even resorted to the middle lane to avoid the washing machine status of the fast lane.  I didn't fancy resting because it was too much confrontation so I did 16 lengths then 14 before bailing out for the day.  It was slow but it was done.  Another tick in the box.


Like Monday, Tuesday dawned fine but I had promised myself a run and also yoga.  The yoga was blissful in the morning.  I feel well and very flexible and after the rush of Christmas, my brain is finally starting to calm down.

My promised run happened at lunchtime.

On account of my lack of running motivation I have been running with my heaphones and tunes on.  I rarely do this in the hills but, making my way through magna in Rotherham, headphones really help.  This time I ran the whole time - stopping only for one photo and not stretching when I got to the mid point.  I also didn't overshoot the turn of for my run back to the office.  It's no wonder I took 10 minutes off my last time for this run but I'm still not very fast with a 10:41 mile. It's a bit shit when wearing headphones usually makes me run faster.

... although I managed a yoga set and some very satisfying rides to work, it wasn't until today that my brain woke up again. I can look at this swan and remember back to the serenity of Tuesday.

I was half way through booking a ski holiday when my boss asked for a word. Well that's going to wake a girl up.

It turns out we have a very important presentation to deliver and I have been allocated a section of it.  Over time, the work was handed over. Descriptions, file locations.  I got up to leave as a message came through from B.  "Have you decided who to allocate that project in Cheshire to?"  My boss looked at me and said my name.  The phone on my desk rang and I picked it up remotely.  It was B.  Someone has to be in Cheshire before 12 tomorrow.  The first thing I did was finish booking my ski holiday before some bastard stole it from me then I gathered my things and headed over to Cheshire.

I booked into a nice hotel and enjoyed my evening immensely.  Catching up on this rush project then wiling the night away, restless, frustrated and excited.  It stopped being fun about 1am then I didn't sleep until about 3am when I ate some food.  I resolved a few things in my head... then followed up with porridge at 5am.  Running low on phone battery isn't good for sleep patterns.  Nor is a half-arsed curtain in some ex-travelodge.   I snoozed until I was woken for real breakfast.


Wednesday's site visit flew past in a flash of brainstorming and productivity.  Most enjoyable.  It would have made the drive home dreamy except I was stuck in traffic for way too long.  I hadn't even packed running gear to enjoy myself on the way home.  Although, by the time I got to Rushup Edge it was not only dark but also sleeting.

The day came to an abrupt end back outside the offices.  I felt like I'd been in a bubble all day.  Time to face the old life, the real world - although cuddles from my husband helped... immensely.  That's real world stuff.


Thursday felt like a hangover day.  I rode to work extremely quickly to get up for an 8:30 meeting this time. 

At lunchtime I disappeared from the office into the space under the stairs.  It's a secret hidey hole where I go to find myself - or more specifically my yoga mat.  Talk about flexible.  I am reaching parts of my body I haven't wrapped my fingers around for years and holding some good poses.  I stopped short of attempting another hand stand and instead attempted the wheel.  Successfully executed although one side of my body is more adept than the other so I need to work on that.  I find it weird that through my twisted mind, right now, the yoga is gradually unravelling my body.  

Back to work with a takeaway salad box.

It's a good job I'm enjoying this project... but by the time 4pm came around I was ready to go... specifically go for a haircut that I am desperately in need of and has been booked for some time.  I asked people to help me with things.  People made me late  As Mel ran her skillful hands through my hair I fell asleep right there and then in the bloody sink.  

One last hill climb.  One last bloody hill climb to the house.  I was knackered.  With a busy day to follow.


Despite packing everything I needed for the day's exercise - swim kit and run kit - I did none of it.  I was feeling ill so I drove to work - early, discovered things that I'd asked to be done hadn't been done.  A shitty start to the day.  It got worse with the dissolution of the project and effort.  My team of one and I ended on a low note.  We tried our best to start planning for next week but it disintegrated into him leaving early and me doing half the work before next week, just to get ahead of the game.

I decided the game wasn't fair and left it at work.

I tried to find the motivation to swim on the way home but it just wasn't there.


Saturday started slowwwwly.  One of those days where you can't feel your arms because they were over your face keeping the sunrise out.

We had planned to walk into town.  It's amazing how booking an expensive ski holiday suddenly makes you relish the idea of walking into town to obtain refunds on un-given and poorly chosen Christmas gifts.  When you get a credit card refund for an item you only bought to bolster the order so you didn't pay delivery and you used a voucher, so really, you're like, £18 better off from a £20 voucher when you only bought a £12 pair of knickers - that.  Paid for lunch anyway. 

On the way home we noticed the snow on the hills.  

There's no way I couldn't go out for a run - was there?  Back at the house I couldn't feel it.  I couldn't feel the will.  I am still feeling ill.  I knew my lungs would hurt when I tried to use them but, after a brief sit down to recover from the walk in town I felt able to go out.  I had to at least try to make this week pass without me missing out on (not just one but) two of my training days.  I vowed to try one exercise and I will give the other two a go tomorrow.

I went for my run.  I slothed down to the valley bottom then trundled along the river bank.  I tried alternate paths which were interesting.  Places I've not been before... places which looked like trespass but didn't seem to bother anyone.  

At the top of the valley I turned around and headed home on the flat - as much as possible.  The rivers were still flowing strong and I love this little overflow on my way home.  I listened to the river, the birds, the trees.  I wasn't missing the music, the bustle of work, the banter, my bed, I felt alive.  

Then I stopped.  In fact I stopped for every hill climb on the way home.  The lungs just weren't playing and there was a lot of coughing.  I resigned myself to a trip to the docs on Monday and slothed my way back to the house.  12:20 minute miles now.

Still, not to worry, the easy day of the week comes tomorrow - Swimming and cycling - and I felt good that I'd done today's run.  

I can't be hard on myself for missing Wednesday's sessions.  It was, after all, a day of walking around all day wearing heavy boots.  I can't be hard on myself all of the time - especially not with 22 weeks to go.

So tomorrow I will cycle and swim in the comfort of the indoors because I am a soft shite.  My lungs have no patience for the cold right now but I am happier today in the knowledge that this week has helped me to find some balance in life.  As things got tougher at work, things were figured out.  I am ready to start next week anew.  Perhaps my new year has come late.  Business left over from last year was slow to finish.  

Maybe there is a new year for me under this scab... if I just pick it a little.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

National Cyclo-cross championships 2016

Well, on this post I was clearly feeling ambivalent about the National Cyclo-cross championships and in all of 13 days since it was written, my chest infection really hasn't improved that much at all.  The annoying rattling cough continues to wake me up at various points throughout the night.

With a 9:30am Saturday start, at least there isn't much time to worry about how you're feeling.  Between finishing work on Friday, arriving in Shrewsbury for a hotel night with my husband and arriving at the venue, I squeezed in a small amount of aerobic exercise (that might be a euphamism) and a sizeable quantity of pasta and porridge.

Next thing I know, it's time to go racing.

Being first on the course has two advantages:
  • we get the best conditions
  • we get to ride around the course without being shouted at by shouty officials.
After 30 minutes riding the bike was already starting to chatter at me and lock.  I had to get it washed and quickly and I couldn't find my bucket.  Thankfully, the Parkers were on hand to jet wash the bike 5 minutes before I had to grid and after a few nervous moments of fuel top ups and messing with the choke on the engine, I was away again.

Gleefully, I found myself first on the second row and positioned myself behind Maddie Smith.

Usual banter dispensed with, I had the worst start ever of my National career with a jump in the chain slowing me out the back of the field.  It was my plan to go off slowly though and I found myself hopping over Tracy Fletcher and a number of other riders as the slippery conditions got the best of other peoples' grip on gravity.

By the woods we had all sorted ourselves into the relevant placings and my lungs had settled into mediocre performance.  I settled for getting round and holding my place.  Juliette Horrocks was with me and we exchanged positions a few times.  Generally, we followed eachother into the pits, relieved to get a clean bike each time.  Neither of us wanted to risk a mechanical.  Unfortunately my first change I found Red's brakes were rubbing horribly and I did an entire half a lap with the brakes rasping and my left foot slipping out of pedals.  I dumped her back in the pits and requested brakes looser, pedal tighter and carried on with Dirty Beast (the best bike, not Juliette).

Every  line I picked was the best one but every line also had its downsides.  I picked the most solid line - I rode into a post.  I picked the straightest line - my front wheel ground to a halt.  I slammed the brakes on to run - I could've ridden it.

I bumped over a curb and felt something clack.  It sounded like my saddle dropping but it wasn't.  I later discovered that my wheel had been skew and the clacking noise must've been something dislodging it.  For the rest of the race it rattled alongside me, the brakes dragging through the mud.

Another lap and a half passed and I switched to red again to give Andrew a chance to wash Dirty Beast.  I attempted to switch into the big ring for the road section but the chain dropped off.  For a moment I thought I'd get away with lifting it back on with the dérailleur.  When I realised I couldn't I was deflated and lost all will to drive on - just for a moment.  At that point I decided to stop being so crap and got off to put my chain back on.  Juliette had disappeared.

It was just at that point I got a lump of mud in my eyes and completed the next half a lap on a squint.  I amused myself my cheering for some of my friends moving in the opposite direction and answering back at Cripsin Doyle who accused me of not trying hard enough because I was smiling.

I felt like I rode half of that lap with my eyes shut and no focus and then Juliette was there again, just in front.  I pushed and I pushed as hard as I could for the next two laps.  I let rip with a primal scream as I hauled my bike through muddy puddles and up slopes and my calf muscles screamed for mercy.  The screaming was there to control the pain.  I wasn't going to DNF again, or end up in A&E.

The last lap was a pain.  I struggled through , un-exited but finish I did, unhappy about my position because of my cold but happy that with the cold, I did as well as that.  With over 1:20 before the rider behind me finished, I felt, for the first time ever, like I was at the back of the best group instead of best of the rest.

7th FV40 of 11
16th Overall of 27

I declare it over.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

New Years Honeymoon Period Over

At least yoga class is back and the pool is open. It is the slow return to normal.

Mercifully, Helena went easy on us so I was able to sneak in a speedy 850m swim too.

3 x 8 lap sets were tiring though my last set was the fastest so could have done more but that's the point now.

My walk back up to the car was slow. We drank coffee, walked to Gertie's for lunch then I went home to bed for a bit. I have decided to seek doc's advice since the afternoon naps will need to stop next week and rest didn't get me anywhere either.

The rest of the day passed without comment between books, clicking needles and a little cooking.

I just hope I can sleep (not cough) tonight.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Opportunity. With credit to @Elsie87

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”

[Edith Lovejoy Pierce]

One word: Keilder

Week: -25

2014 (January to June)
Swim - 67km miles 26hours 15mins. 
Bike - 1461 miles 143 hours 41 mins 19.4km climbing. 
Run - 314 miles 80hours 45 mins 10.6km vertical climb.  

2013 (January to June) - A better year
Swim - 82km 30hours 45mins. 
Bike - 1541 miles 135.5 hours 20.5km climbing. 
Run - 313.15 miles 62 hours 30 mins 7.44km vertical climb.  

Swim: 2.5 miles
Bike: 120 miles, 1023m climbing
Run: 26 miles, 289m climbing

Fuck Off Cold

So... New Years day.

I went to bed at 12:40, having driven home a tortuous route from my friends house (Anthony and Liz thank you).  Honestly, this year we really need to persuade the council to build that zip wire across the valley... or I could have been well and walked home in a straight line.

I got fed up with towing the heavy line of recovery last night and had some red wine.  Good stuff was on offer so it would have been rude of me to refuse since TSK was recovering from his hangover (thank you Rita for giving my husband a hangover) and playing DD for the night.

We indulged in our regular traditions of Scalextric and watching other peoples fireworks, being the only idiots standing around in the freezing conditions (little happy dance from me because it's cold again and I like to spread the love when standing around in the street with lovely friends and skinny cyclists who are soft - you know who you are).

Despite my best intentions to start persuading my body to get up early, I ignored my 7:30 am alarm and slept through until 10:30 am and read before getting up, eating, knitting, reading more.

Finally I'd had enough (again) of waiting for this cold to go away: waiting for my opportunity to train; the distracted, wandering thoughts flitting through my head; a complete lack of focus.  Am I missing my job?  Dear god - no, but in the absence of anything else really constructive and consuming to occupy body and mind?  I am missing engagement.  Andrew was tidying out the basement of stuff, searching for the truing jig to build wheels for Jes (thank you Jes) and really, I felt no better reason for me to get Phoenix out of Andrew's way and set up the rollers in the kitchen for a blast.

Yesterdays engaging activities included sorting out a playlist for the new laptop with all my favourite training tracks so I was ready to go.  I even got everything ready - bike, speed sensor, laptop, speakers, rollers, Garmin - before getting changed.

Of course, two tracks in and the computer stopped talking to the speakers and by the time I got back to my bike, the speed sensor stopped talking to the Garmin so time, miles and tracks were lost.

I promised myself no big ring riding to keep sensible with my lungs but then Green Day happened and I am unable to control myself in a song about cyclo-cross.

I also discovered a new game - that on my bike, I can play all of the guitar chords to the Plain White T's "Delilah", to "Go", by Delilah and just to prove that it's not just Delilah at work, also Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Breaking the Girl" and Birdy's "Skinny Love", which is a relief since my voice really can't hit the high notes this week.  It's an interesting game, simply ignore the beat of the music and pedal as fast as you need to in order to achieve the right squeal on the tyres.  Perfect for imitating those little surges associated with road racing or riding through mud.

Quite frankly, for a sick person, I beasted myself.  Though to be fair, I also went pretty easy on myself compared to my usual turbo sessions so I am proud of myself too.  Only one 2':20" foray into Zone 5.

And so, I feel tired, my brain feels still(er) for the first time all week and most importantly, I can start to enjoy 2016, not spend any more of it than I have to moping.

*Happy* New Year, everyone.