Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kielder Ironman Reccee - Celebrating what you came to do then running away - Part II

The rain that was promised didn't seem to materialize on Saturday. Overnight some rain fell and the change in weather was marked by winds and elevated temperatures in the morning. We didn't need the stove, just coffee and porride off the gas to get us moving on stiff legs.

Our walk on Friday night was good info on getting to the lakeshore path and we got talking about how the lack of very hot water and feeble pressure at the showerblock on the campsite means it won't be suitable ironman accommodation even in the best conditions... no matter how beautiful the surroundings.

Vibrant colours

There were a few people on the trail but not many and mostly we entertained ourselves with things I will have neither opportunity nor inclination to do on race day.

TSK being tongue

Picking my nose... or someone's

Janus Chairs
TSK turned around after 5km to make it a 10k run. I kept going to Jannus Chairs to make it the 11miles run that I missed through racing last weekend.  When I turned around at mile 5.6, I slowed right down. It took me a while to realise it wasn't over and I was the only way I was going to get back.

It helped watching the ospreys circle overhead.

Back at base I had caught up TSK and we showered and headed to the Kielder Castle café to watch the osprey up close and personal from the comfort of a big screen webcam served with quiche salad and great coffee.

Lurching from one meal to the next we took an overly long drive to get some dinner. By which time we were also running out of fuel.

You know that person who turns up in the wilderness on minimal petrol with no food and nothing to pay with except plastic? I never wanted to be that person... but modern life (this weekend) made me that guy.

Worse still, we got back to the campsite to find that our tent was completely surrounded by water.

After a brief panic about it being Sunday and no petrol and being too tired to drive home I had the brain wave of checking to see if there was a pod. Much to our relief and luck there had been a cancellation and the warden let us take the pod at no extra cost.

We set about transferring all our stuff from one end of the site to the other. Thankfully our bedding was still dry. I stubbornly soldiered on to cook steak, potatoes and kale on a single ring stove then we slithered exhausted into our chilly sleeping bags, missing the stoov immensely.

By Sunday we had had enough of Northumberland. We achieved what we came to achieve. The drive home through the wilderness in sunshine and showers was beautiful and powerful but we didn't have the inclination to clamber out of the warm car into squally rain showers and do anything with it.

It was a crying shame but I was content that next time I come I will be rested and ready to race here and I still haven't seen everything that the area has to offer.  For that reason, I am very much looking forward to returning in June

Monday, March 28, 2016

Kielder Ironman Reccee - Celebrating what you came to do then running away - Part I

"I know just the spot" said the campsite warden.

The forecast was for deluges of rain on Saturday so we picked a hardstanding area - one that we could just about get tent pegs in.  I did think it was a little low and a little close to the gravelled driveway that led down to the pitch from the top road but sometimes you take someone's word for it.  He really was a lovely jovial chap so I didn't want to argue and anyway, it was dark.

We went down to the pub for tea (the warden phoned ahead for us) then returned to set up camp and bed down for a very pleasant and quiet night with only a few other campers on site.

In the morning we built the stove then went out in the car to Newcastleton to get groceries, wood for the fire and drink some coffee with a scone.  Then set out on our bikes to access the Ironman course then ride around the main loop of it.  Within 20 minutes we reached the first major climb and both started to sweat profusely.  The sun was properly up and out now and we dressed down to two layers and 3/4 leggings (yes, we'd been wearing a lot more to set out in 6 degrees earlier).

The scenery was just stunning. Miles and miles of open nothingness and beautiful wooded climbs alongside clear rivers.  The road surface was average - a few potholes here and there but on the whole quite smooth.  None of the Scottish gravelly surface I'd had to deal with at Celtman.  I pretty much concluded that much as I was enjoying throwing my cyclo-cross bike about, I'd be just as happy doing 120 miles on the tt bike - even with the hillclimbs (mostly seated) and the occasional pothole or cattlegrid.

We rode to Bonchester Bridge, where we arrived around 12:00 but agreed that we were still working through the morning's scone so we rode the additional 37 minutes to complete the 7.5 mile loop that makes the second loop of the course longer than the first.  At the top of this loop we finally discovered the headwind that had made our morning so easy.  Turning face-on into a hoolie.

Back at Hobkirk and on the main loop, we cut back across to Bonchester Bridge to get some lunch in the largest-looking village on the route.  We plunged down the descent to the Horse and Hound pub (the only place in town) where the owner regretfully informed us that they weren't open until next week and she had no facilities to sort something out for us.  We were redirected to "The Alpine Shop" on our way back to Newcastleton.

We set about riding back up the long climb into the sidewind.  Well at least I now know that is to come on the course! 2 miles of 6% grade but it felt like much more without any lunch inside me.  We turned right and started to stalk the Alpine Shop with minor diversions to look at
The Alpine Shop was a chronic disappointment.  It wasn't a café at all, it was a B&B... and a shop selling alpine trinkets and nonsense and mostly... no-one was home.  My frustration at the owner of the pub only grew but hey, it was only another 12 miles back to the car and the lovely café at Newcastleton.  I kicked myself briefly for not bringing any snacks and for relying on Northumbria to provide some sustenance for us then got on with the ride.  That scone was still going strong.

I dragged TSK back.  I don't think he'll mind me admitting that.  He was carrying my water, tool bag and lock - for which I felt mighty guilty but he seemed to enjoy the extra training.  We concluded that the only food we'd seen on offer on the way round were some raw eggs from a free range farm and there are thick red lines which I draw when it comes to hunger.

We arrived back in Newcastleon a little worse for wear but with the bikes swiftly put away we set off to get lunch at 3pm.

We were all recceid out on the bike and set off back to camp where a good walk through the hills put paid to my desire for a brick session of sorts (the kind you do on a rest week with a sore knee).

Week 8 - The sloggiest easy week you ever saw

Week 8 has been a tough one.  No over-dramatisations here, I am wondering whether I can get over the tragic demise of week 8.

Week 8 was supposed to be an easy week on my training plan which is a bloody good job since I raced so hard at Grizedale.  I knew it was going to be difficult when, two weeks ago, a colleague booked two meetings with the client on Monday and Tuesday of week 8.  I begged him not to, citing exhaustion as the cause but he didn't believe me and went along and booked the meeting anyway.

So I spent my recovery cramped in the back of a car trying to drown out football chat on Talk Sport radio which, to be honest, was pretty easy since I couldn't hear the conversation in the front and had my laptop to keep me company in the back.

We did our site survey and moved on to the next site.  By 8pm I was back in another nameless faceless restaurant near a hotel serving Ashford International and I was drinking red wine and - well, at least Frankie and Benny's serves salad.  Undressed salad but salad nevertheless.  This is Kent.

Something gave me indegestion again.  Probably the attempt at yoga after two glasses of wine.  I tossed and turned under a full moon until 1:30 am when I got up to get some fresh air.  I had a pleasant - if cold - walk from Ashford.  I didn't go anywhere except the top of the hill on the road we were staying on in each direction.  For fear of being jumped by migrants or stout UKIPs thinking I was a migrant in my trainers, jeans and hoodie, I walked with my hands in pockets and head down until I poured back into bed and actually got to sleep until 5:30am.  I had no intentions on running or swimming and no bike with me so I ate some breakfast from a porridge pot, had another shower and did some small yoga until breakfast time at 7.  No way to start the day... but the worst was still to come.

"Lunch" was a McDonalds on the way to site.  Actually, I drew the line and went to Costa for a cheese toastie and was toiletted, served, sat down and eating before the hardy MccyD's queue.  Ah the joys of a healthy diet.

Site was not a breeze from 12:00 without any offer of further food or a coffee.  I allowed the others to do the talking and the measuring and followed them quietly around the place, interacting as required.

The drive home was much the same as the drive there except instead of my laptop to keep me company I had the land of nodd.  4 hours of uncomfortable sleeping did no good to the neck / shoulder stiffness I've been carrying but at least me knocking out zedds in the back made the chap who organised the meeting (and who was driving) the message that maybe in future they should listen to me when it comes to my own wellbeing.

I woke up around Mansfield exit and worked until we reached the office and i got in the car to drive home to my bed.

NOTHING was going to stop me riding to work on Wednesday although I had already decided to give swimming a week off to recover my shoulder.  It was a good shakeout ride for the legs.  No heroics on an easy week.

And then we were there again.  Thursday, time to go away again.  The morning's "run" training was loading the car with a sore knee - still aching from the weekend.  Up and down the stairs.  Every day I had been too hungry to move at lunchtime and Thursday was no different.  With deadlines to meet, we skipped the pub, grabbed a sandwich (well, I suppose the walk to the butty shop is still keeping my legs in) and worked through till all of 4pm when TSK and I headed up to Kielder for my second Ironman reccee.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Letter to my beautiful friend Vicky

Vicky, none of us can know how much or what kind of pain you are in so I'm just kicking some advice around from what I have experienced and learned over the last few years.

You said in the early days that someone had advised you not to miss a session.  I agree with this for newbies and people who need more motivation than usual.  For those who would miss a session just because they don't feel like it and would rather sit on the sofa and drink tea.  But you have determination, you have shown that and what you need to do is let yourself rest when you need to.

Like the long run that you cut short because you were exhausted and the day you missed a session because you were so tired on your feet.  I admit it, I have sat on the sofa in the loft and eaten half a jar of nutella with a spoon because sometimes that's all we feel like and sometimes that is OK.  All of the pros will tell you to listen to your body and I add to that, listen to your mind… then if you're strong enough, know when to ignore it.

So you know if you need to miss a session.  Don't do the long run at all costs.  Do what feels right.  If you feel like running far then do so but if the pain comes back, stop and get a lift home.

Take Ibuprofen.  Not to numb the pain so you can run but to reduce the inflamation and give the knee a chance to heal properly.  It won't heal its ills properly if it is inflamed out of shape and stands a better chance of surviving real life (the need to move around) if it's not inflamed out of shape.

Elevate at all times possible.  At your desk where possible.  In bed (pillow under your knee and calf or if you lie on your side, put the poorly knee on top and a pillow between your knees) and around the house - sit down lots.

Cold and heat - to reduce inflamation with the cold.  Warm to keep your circulation going and take all the toxins away.

When you are ready to run again, it would be nice to get a long run in before the big one but if you can't, focus on some short runs just to keep you moving.

You want your legs to be expecting that they'll have to do "that" again soon.   Case in point was this weekend when I did nothing on Friday then did a tiny 10 mile ride on Saturday.  Sunday's race was an absolute blast.

Adapt your training plan to  do less - for example 2 or 3 days on, one day off to give yourself more rest periods if you need it.  A week should be enough to recover between a long run and the race but only if it feels good.  10 days would be better.  Don't just STOP to rest, keep jogging, walking the dogs or yoga-ing.

Last year when I raced standard distance I did a lot of 30-40 minutes speed runs and 10km runs as specific training but when Becky took me out for a long run, I survived just fine.  Same applied to swimming and biking.  You'd be amazed how much frequent, short stuff keeps you in tune for longer events.

On the day it's all down to pacing.  If you set out feeling like you're going too slow you're probably going just fine.  Forget speed targets, go for finishing target and most of all, having fun.

Most importantly, believe you can do this.  Keep your shoulders low, your arms relaxed and keep looking up (except for making sure you're not going to fall over anything).  I once read that it's very difficult to feel pain when you look up.  It's true!

Keep your back straight (not curved forwards or back) and keep your hips still to engage your butt muscles as much as possible, thereby taking strain away from your lower legs.

Use your yoga.  Flush through your limbs and extremities with your breath, push the strain out of your body and focus on the in and out of your breath - mouth or nostrils.  Run like you're gliding.  Even if you feel like you're not, flow around the course.

Use heart mudra for your hands to focus on your heart, your engine.  It really works.  That said, keep your speed in check all the way round.  Don't be tempted to go fast to get it over with until the last half mile.

If you're really struggling, dedicate each mile to thinking about people who inspire you… but try not to cry.  If that doesn't work, count steps.  Just 10 more, and repeat until you finish.

I hope that helps.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Week 7 - Cheeky little race number

If ever there was a week to go underground with training it was week 7 & 8.

Week 7 started well-ish with the 10 mile run that I should have done on Saturday moved to Monday because of SHaFF (bear in mind Monday should be my rest day).  Rather than take the day’s rest I went into Tuesday with some easy swimming to try to protect the shoulder injury that I am starting to feel.  It didn’t work and actually I felt my shoulder pop but I completed my 1600m and went to work.
Knowing I was away on Friday, Monday and Tuesday I had deadlines to meet and therefore I worked hard – not only to get my job done but to get ready for a weekend away in Grizedale with the mountain bike. 

We drove to Hartlepool on Thursday evening.  As I sat in a seedy curry house I wondered where my life was going (and particularly where my training was going).  As I stood around in the only Irish pump on St Patricks day with a couple of middle-aged engineers and my grad and a lot of pissed girls, I knew exactly where my life was going – a short walk back to the hotel. 

I attempted some yoga and then went to bed but not to sleep.  I spent the next 4 hours attempting – unsuccessfully to digest my dinner.  Eventually 5am came around and I went for a run.  I could still feel the curry being digested as I ran – it’s rare I can run much on a completely empty stomach but I hardly ran, more wobbled through the first half of my run.

Despite my best efforts I couldn’t get down to the sea front.  I ran down cul-de sacs, dead ends and loop roads until eventually I found myself on a dual carriage way around the old shipyard.  Finally, a sign to the old headland led me to a beach where I duly took my running shoes off and had a brief paddle before running back to the hotel to load my mountain bike back onto the roof rack and put my tent back in the Thule roof box before breakfast.

The Hartlepool site visit was what I expected except I did manage to escape by 2:30pm which, to my benefit for once, meant that I was at the Campsite I’d booked in the Lake District by 5pm.  The tent was up and the stove built by 8pm by which time it was too late to cook anything constructive so instead I heated a tin of beans and coped with that.

The race aside it was a bit of a ferrel weekend for me.  I didn’t shower (I know! Eugh right!?) and I didn’t put up the inner tent.  I padded around in trainers or socks on the forest floor.  I cooked off the tipi stove – which took some effort to get going in the minus 5 degrees evenings.  I did yoga on the banks of the water and talked to few people.

Smokin' hot
Mum and dad came down to find me on Saturday morning as I was heading out on a short shake-down ride on the bike.  I threw myself over some stupidly steep climbs though so I guess that’s OK.  What’s important is I had my usual lunch at Hawkeshead.  One of those rare times I fancied a BLT.

Back at the campsite too early to eat, I went for a walk along the shore, saw deer in the woods and stopped on the boat mooring and watched a cormorant chilling out on the wall of the mooring for a good 10 minutes.  I lay on the pontoon, stretched my hands out and stared at the sky. 

A slightly more impressive pre-race pasta dish which saved left overs for post-race lunch on Sunday.  The lovely girls at the campsite agreed to me staying on late so I could pack up after the race instead of before.

At Grizedale I checked in with the race organisers before faffing and finding Ruth and Ed with whom to share pre-race banter.  Mum and dad showed up just before the start and watched us head off up the hill.  I felt good so decided to hold my place.  A few women moved ahead of me and I passed back all but one and otherwise held my own.  I could see Ruth’s brother ahead but wasn’t going to stick with him.

Off the fire road I relaxed a bit as the terrain got rockier and gnarlier, then I realised I was glad of the shade.  It was so hot running in the open.  I am actually getting to know the route now so I was relieved at the arrival of Carron Crag and the downhill.  I had a laugh with some guys taking selfies and videos on the way down and then hit the tough off-road descent, bouncing from rock to rock. 

Mum and dad had been chatting to another race supporter and drumming up cheers from strangers.  I burst into T1 in a good mood, hoping I’d kept the blonde lady who kept passing me at bay and changed relatively quickly.  I didn’t even forget anything… it was such a glorious day, I even set off on a mountain bike ride wearing nothing but a string teeshirt and my running vest on top.  As I went through the gate, the organiser shouted "4th woman" at me.  Seriously? NO?!  My first run had been almost as fast as my lunchtime flat road runs at work.

I rode through the bike climb where I had to stop and eat fuel 2 years ago when my PE was taking charge.  I stomped through a number of tough climbs feeling really proud of myself for riding all the good ones. 

I passed two women.  One from Bingley and another who I didn't recognise. I was, to say the least a little surprised but also could not contain my excitement and shot off.  I reached the moorland which is really so nice.  Memories of passing through here in the pouring rain in years before and this time it was sunny and beautiful, hot.  I passed Simon, cheering us across the fells and descended into the river bed only to climb out again, riding most of the way until the next gate forced me to get off and walk.  Another rider wanted to know how far we'd come.  5 miles.  5-bloody-miles! We were 1/3 of the way through.  Bugger.  Cyclo-cross mode again.  The 45 minute sprint.

I descended in company back into the woods and began to enjoy the break of a few fire roads until, to my horror I saw Ruth Marsden coming up behind me! Now I'm used to Ruth trouncing me on the run but I'd never before had the opportunity for her to catch me up on the bike.  Try as I might I couldn't keep up with her.  Not on the up hill and not on the super bouncy downhill bike that she was riding.  She's a strong woman.

I told her she was now in second place.  She didn't believe me either but we carried on together relentlessly for a few moments before I admitted reluctantly that I'd over-cooked it and sent her on her way through a gate to downhill away from me.

The course was so dry that I rode most of the stepping stones on the gravel alongside and the boardwalks were dry... so how someone managed to fall off one I don't know but there it was, a big muddy hole in the bog.

The descent to transition came with its usual mind wobbles as the bridlepath starts to look like a footpath but then we dropped in and transitioned and out again.  Run shoes just about sliding back on.

The second run hurt all the way through.  I just about found enough get up and go to run most of it except for the steepest sections.  At 5.1 mph average it was still OK although my descent was just as quick so I obviously didn't manage that one too well.  In fact, I let rip in the vain hope that I'd catch Ruth but with my uphill being 5 minutes longer, I couldn't make it stick.

I thundered past my parents squealing "No brakes!" to find I had crossed the line in 4th woman place overall and 2nd FV40.  

Run 1: 41:09
Bike: 1:58:30
Run 2: 48:28

Dedicated support crew.
I went back to the beautiful campsite, de-camped at my leisure - including eating left-overs and watching canoe-based boy-versus-swan from the comfort of lakeshore.

This weekend was owned.  It's just a shame it had to share my ongoing week.  I drove home to start packing for working away.

Monday, March 14, 2016

End of week 6 spilling over

Saturday morning I thought I would go swimming, I mean the awkward lanes don't start early right?

Then I wasted a lot of hours, forgot my reasoning, went to the pool and ended up sitting on the edge, feet in the water, looking at the awkward lanes and thinking, I can't do 1800m like that.  Not without injuring myself.

I got up and walked out before I got my costume and hat wet and went home to head out to ShAFF with TSK.

Next horror of the weekend, my Sunday booking for 7pm was actually on Saturday so we had 5 hours to kill in town. Day written off training wise. Still, no panics, 1 day of weekend left and I could juggle Monday rest day to Saturday.

I achieved the sum total of dropping my worn shoes into the post back to the manufacturer.  I walked home in strange shoes without my insoles so as to not exacerbate my blister.

It left me with a Sunday morning conundrum:
- swim - the pool will be properly open but I have probably worked hardest on this so it would be the most sensible thing to drop one session on
- bike - I have done a lot of work here too and could afford to miss a session as it is still my strongest. Then again, I can't remember the last time I took a road bike on an actual road. Neither of my fast bikes have had a shakedown ride which is reason and anti-reason to take them out when what you want is a successful day done in time for afternoon adventure movies.
- run - missed loads, don't want to miss more, just got my schwang back and got a stupid blister, shoes sent back so would mean 10 miles in race shoes. See earlier comment about doing something successfully.

I decided to start with the pool and make further decisions later.

1800 m passed with little surprise except bumping into the beautiful Charlotte Jenks for a chat and managing to complete the set in spite of feeling like I was swimming like a complete noob.

Back at home I couldn't resist the temptation of my first road ride on Dirty Beast in bright sunshine. I overdressed and sped up to Rhodside, getting faster as my confidence in my legs and my handling of the bike improved. I was aware that I wasn't going to complete my loop around Mam Nick and still be back in time for the yoga talk I had booked at 2pm so I did a deal with myself that I would turn back after 1 hour.

That was too soon and I cheered a few runners on the Skyline then, given the blissful conditions, I would turn back at the bottom of Mam Nick and save myself the long climb.  Thing is, I got there feeling good and set off up it anyway. This was a day for saying,"to hell with yoga".  I removed the sleeves from my jacket, hung them over the handlebars and clawed my way up, cheering more fell runners across the Mam Tor summit and chatting with Mick Stenton while I zipped my sleeves back on.

I raced a few people back along the Hope valley, finally only being passed by team mate Paul Sleaford not so fresh from an overseas business trip. We rode together for a while... at least he let me sit on his wheel up  Surprise View.

He left me to my own devices at FoxHouse which was a relief as I had to text TSK to say I would be late. I scoffed an energy gel (it was 1:45 and I was still functioning on nothing more than cereal and a protein shake). The next 30 minutes were a blurr but definitely including ruthlessly drafting a small boy and a Planet-X rider until he stopped to wait for his mate.

I did 47 miles in 2:45.

Afterwards I wasn't sure if I could move, never mind go out to watch a film or two then get up and run the next day but I was so late back I washed my face and went straight out. Spirit of Adventure 2 and mountain bike films did it for me and I came home flushed with the desire to eat, wash and sleep enough to run on Monday...

and I have.

It was so beautiful today that my run was uneventful.  I ran in shorts and my "race flats" (though I am unlikely to ever own true race flats) were perfectly comfortable over the 10 miles 2 times 5 miles circuit of Blackburn Meadows. I missed the stillness of Thursday morning's early run but I squeezed the 10 miles in to lunch and was back at work by 2, staying till 7:30 to make sure work was done.

Such is the nature of IM training. Little room for anything else but it doesn't matter because the important things and people fit with it and understand and everything becomes clearer... and a little bit sleepier.

Tomorrow is the first day of week 7.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Week 6 - Glorious in Retrospect but a week of contrasts

I   H A V E   B E E N   I N   T H E   O F F I C E   A L L   W E E K

Monday's rest day was like a holiday.  Sure! I was in the office until 8pm and I was really busy all day but I sat down, stood up when I needed to, pigged out in the canteen and even munched my way through two rolls of Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles... because they're one of your five a day right?

On Tuesday I wanted to get a run done since that is what I missed last weekend.  I also wanted to swim because I am determined to stick to my swimming plan.  I also booked into yoga as I left the pool on Saturday so was committed to that.  When I arrived for yoga on Tuesday morning I had the brainwave that I could yoga and then swim and still be in the office for not-too-shoddy-a-time.  So I took my swimming stuff to yoga class then walked straight from one building to the other.

At first swimming was difficult.  In my 12 laps of warm up I was still trying to breathe deeply - which is fine for breathing out as I could get in 8-9 strokes but less fine for breathing in because in swimming you have a 10th of a second to snatch a lung-full.  I had to wake up a bit, get moving a little.

My programme was for 8x50m then 8x25m sprints so for me, 8x66m then 8x30m.  The sets were going really well, taking almost 20 seconds off my previous 66m sets. (1:33 down to 1:15).  I didn't even notice the single lengths - they were so frantic but swimming after yoga was definitely good.  I must remember to warm up and stretch before my next triathlon.  It goes a long way to explaining why races have been a bit slow for me compared to later-in-the-day pool swims - early morning stiffness.  I was also looking up more and had changed back to a racer-back suit with long legs.  Something was working anyway.

I used my lunchbreak to refuel then headed home on time to ride my bike for 45 minutes.  8 hillclimb sets would've been hard to achieve on the rollers so I stuck Phoenix on the turbo trainer and set about blasting out 8 x 1 minute hill climbs as best I could in a kitchen... a very sweaty kitchen.

On Wednesday running seemed like an impossibility.  I didn't feel like it, the rain was pouring down and I had to do the 6 mile run - the one I dropped last week.  I sat at home telling my husband that my brain was trying to take the path of least resistance and I was refusing to go out for a run when I was instructing myself to.  He simply pointed out that if I run at lunchtime it would be warmer...

B E S T   C O A C H   E V E R

... warmer, yes.  Wetter, yes.

I determinedly changed, set the watch off in the cover of the work doorway then headed off into the pouring rain.  About 500m in, I couldn't be bothered with it but, complete with overheating and my water proof coat, I plodded on, over to Magna, along the busy industrial estate road and through Blackburn Meadows to the canal where water was not just overtopping the lock gates but filling the entire lock.

Holmes Lock
I settled into a pace (some sort of pace) along the canal bank and two guys came running past me.  Not even trying though moving considerably faster.  I mumbled something about it being tough to get out today and let them go.

Nothing cheered me up.  Not the farm, not the Asian Grandad on some kind of mobility scooter / mod bike / rickshaw / putput type of machine.  He shouldn't have been on the towpath on his motorised vehicle but when I said hi, he called back "Morning dear!" with such charm that I couldn't help but smile.

The old lock gates awaiting removal.
 I ran up the hill to the sandwich shop and checked my watch.  3.5 miles.  Is that all!!?? I was sure this route was 5 miles and I was only 1 mile from the office.  There were 10 people crammed into the tiny sandwich shop so I decided not to stand around soaked to the skin and started running again up towards the office.

I had an attack of training concious so decided to run along the road that I know leads to Yodel (and little else) to scope out the footpath that I know exists under the motorway and over to Chesterfield Road.

The footpath does indeed exist but the underpass is marked as closed with some big fencing and gates.  The sign at the end said something about private access which makes a mockery of the bike lane that runs around the industrial estate at the other end.  I wasn't in the mood for a one-way running fight with access laws so I turned tail and continued to Yodel where I took to the footpath that leads around the back of the school and back to Brinsworth village.

Thankfully the school was still in before lunch and there were no kids hanging about on the path.  Nothing against kids but big groups of Brinsworth kids tend to be obnoxious and abusive... just an observation.  I then realised one of the reasons was the path was disgusting and great swathes of puddle covered the path.  I was already soaked so I ploughed through the oily water and returned to the roads for the last wet splash towards the office... or so I thought.

Within 100m of site, I realised I still had half a mile to go.  I was NOT going to go through this and still not meet my weekly target so I retraced my steps and set off down the site road.  I got to the exact turnaround point, ran to the next bend in the road then retraced my steps to get me back to the road and into the office at 5.95miles.  That will do.  I went to seek lunch with no short ammount of comment made to bring into question my sanity and motives.

Within 10 minutes I was wrapped in fleece leggings and enjoying the rest of the day free of concerns.

On Thursday I got to swim again.  I hadn't booked yoga this time but when I got up I didn't feel like doing anything.  In fact, I woke up at 5:30 starving, ate and blogged and instead of running or going swimming, went back to bed.  In spite of myself I packed swim kit and running gear for work so I could do whatever I wanted - including coming home for a cycle at the end of the day if htat was what I wanted to do.  I didn't really want to run again - but you never know.

You indeed never know because the second I sat in the car I thought, actually, I could swim.  It was still only 7:15 so off I went.

I knew it was going to be tough and I fought my way through 8x6 length sets (I needed every break), battled with foot and calf cramp for the last few laps.  When I came out of the pool it was raining.  SO glad I decided not to cycle to work for training.

I didn't run at lunchtime because I did that yesterday.  Instead I rolled out the yoga mat.  I had a meeting in the afternoon that it was worth being calm for and I intended to make a lot of the session a lying down one, preferably with my eyes closed and nothing else going on.  I just about didn't sleep and that wasn't intentional.  I know that's not the point of meditation but yoga is a bloody good cover for having a nap at work.  I was constantly harassed by someone passing using their phone.  I could've ignored them but I couldn't ignore the conversation that continued in the gents toilet.  Ew!!!

My meeting went well and I returned home on a high, ready to get back on the bike.  An easy 45 minute ride.  On the rollers, in the warm.  What could be a nicer end to the day?  A shower and tasty curry - check.

Friday.  Last run of the week.  I was up early again but operating on later is warmer philosophy, I got dressed and packed my stuff for running at lunchtime.  Outside the house it was sunny but by the time I got to the top of the hill it was foggy and looking bloody cold out there so off I went to the office, arriving at 7:45, fully motivated to go out for a run.  I think I was scared that if I didn't do it in the morning it wouldn't happen.  There are three reasons for going to the pub on a Friday 1) pub 2) Friday 3) the canteen fish and chips is disgusting, the curry is oily and they don't offer a salad on a Friday.

I put my work stuff at my desk and walked straight into the ladies toilet to get changed, sneaking out the downstairs to avoid my colleagues and managed to get through the door without seeing anyone going the other way.  45 minutes with 15 minutes comfortably hard at the end.  It seemed a challenge because I was already running pretty hard but that was a warm up.

It was certainly a better run.  There was no water falling from the skies and the road to the golf course (though an ugly, industrial road) was lined with birdsong and the aura of spring.  The puddle on the bridge had subsided and so I kept dry feet and the passing through Magna was relatively easy as I was able to cross all the roads without stopping.  When I reached Blackburn Meadows I could relax and trundle along the canal at normal pace, without pain this time.

I ran under the underpass to avoid all traffic and took the back roads through Tinsley rather than dealing with kids coming and going from the Asian school.  They're much better behaved than Brinsworth kids but there are so many more of the tiny ones, they're difficult to navigate through.

At 26 minutes I started my 15 minutes of fast.  I wanted to get my fast 15 minutes in, even if I didn't manage all of the 45.  I did that distance in 43 on Wednesday - trying to get out of the rain!

My right heel started to hurt on the way back to the office with a blister so I tried tightening up the laces.  To no avail.  I stopped again and tightened the whole foot.  This time it improved but I was still in a lot of pain.  I did a lap up and down the road to extend my 15 minutes hard.  I couldn't believe it.  I was finally running really well and my bloody trainers are rubbing!  I limped into the office after 43 minutes of running but more than enough speed minutes and promptly sent an email to Saucony.  That'll teach me to buy online.

Work started at 9:30 and was a day of fighting with managers for sanity, trying to placate engineers and mourning the loss of a man I had only just met.  He was nice, competent and sweet and he took his own life.  I couldn't ingest the news in the afternoon and carried on about my business.  It hit me later, on the sofa at home and I had a little cry.  He was only a few months older than me and had a family.  If only he had asked for help.  If only someone had noticed but he was very good at hiding it.  Very good.  Poor man.

How different two days can be.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Training Through the Tired

Yesterday morning I was so tired I thought I might start early in the 3days / 2days training rotation I am planning later this year, giving me 2 rest days a week, not one.

I packed some stuff for training, regardless - running and swimming kit and got in the car to go to work.

I felt like going for a swim! Still only 7:15 so I turned right at the lights instead, fought my way through 8x6 length sets (I needed every break), battled with foot and calf cramp for the last few laps, then arrived at work at 9:15.

On a day that starts this way there needs to be yoga at lunch. I intended for it to be a lying down session and managed more stillness than usual but I am still playing with my new found flexibility so it wasn't completely restful.

Back home at a relatively early hour I indulged in the pleasure of riding my new bike on the rollers for a measly 45 minutes. An easy ride (yesss!) So zone 1 only, good music, singing. I ate curry prepared by my lovely husband and went to bed happy with the alarm off knowing I have 1 ride to do this week before the weekend.

Today I was awake at 5:45. Starving hungry. A hunger you can't ignore and go back to bed so I am filled with toast and wondering, wondering... dare I do that run now?

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Week 5 - The real beginning?

Damn what a week!  I'm sure it's been, like 10 days long but no.

So weeks 1-2 were fuelled by recovery from the cough I had carried through from Christmas.  I spent most of it trying to catch up with the training plan and actually approach completion of it.  I was kind to myself.

Week 3 was a skiing holiday and week 4 was a "rest week" in the plan - so easy distances really.

This meant that this week distances suddenly shot from sub-standard distance (1500m, 25 mile, 10km) to super-standard distances (1700m, 40 mile, 9 miles aka. 14km).

Monday was a rest day during which I worked half a day then spent the rest travelling to Scotland where I got together with an old friend and spent a much-needed evening gossiping and catching up.  It was heavenly bliss.

Not great for getting up and swimming on Tuesday morning though so instead, I decided to hit the bike with a 45 minute ride.  I didn't fancy running in the cold.  I started to change my mind when I realised I had forgotten my music for distraction and couldn't even focus on my stats since I was missing my Garmin sensor and heart rate monitor.  All I could do is watch the minutes go by and I swear I watched every single minute tick over in a grey corridor of pain.  The only upsides: my bike set up is apalling and half my gears don't work after the 'cross season so I walked away from that training session with pride for having completed it and a to-do list as long as my arm.

Tuesday was a day on site of being on my feet so no, I didn't fancy the swimming in the evening either so I did some yoga and went downstairs for a successful dinner with the customer.

On Wednesday I had the luxury of the drive home to deal with where I spent a good few hours diverting via Kielder Water to recce a part of the run route for my Third Ironman attempt.  I was really glad I did as the sky was blue, I was treated to a military plane fly-by and I got a sense of the place.  The path around the reservoir weaves away from the shore on quite a few occasions so you're not constantly on top of the water.  This is all good.  Changing scenery and all that.

I also drove down some of the bike route and it really is well chosen, quiet, serene... at least it is during the week.  

Despite stopping for lunch in a quaint tea shoppe, I was home in time to head to the pool for my 1500m swim set that I'd missed on Tuesday.  10 x 50m (66m for me) sprints which were tiring but done.

Thursday was tired back at home day but I hauled my bike out and rode to work to put a tick in the 40 minute ride box (1hr 30 minutes of riding).

Friday was a day for swimming again - before work this time and churned through 5 x 150m (165m for me) sprints and 1500m swimming.  I took the run kit to work but lunchtime arrived sooner than I expected and I needed to eat not run so I brought my run kit home and set out down the Rivelin Valley.

I really didn't feel like it and plodded through the first 10 minutes before starting my sprint sets of 5 x 1 minutes fast.  At least the sprints kicked off the endorphins and the mud / road shoe combo fired my adrenaline.  I hit 20 minutes and put in a sprint on the way back just to balance up the times.  I picked up my non-sprinting pace from 5mph to 6-7mph and arrived at the bottom of our hill with 5 minutes to spare so took a longer route home up slightly lesser inclines, hitting the 40 minute mark with 25m hike up the hill to go and I took every liberty and walked it.

I hit the weekend with only three sessions to do and one of them was reduced from a 9 mile run to a 5.5 mile run on account of getting the big one out of the way mid-week.  This felt like a good idea at the time but now I'm not so sure, having faced Thursday and Friday with a certain level of physical fatigue that maybe should only be reserved for non-working days.

On Saturday I didn't feel like going out on the bike.  It looked lovely outside but ominous clouds kept drifting across and I knew it was effing cold outside so I pottered around the house until it I could delay doing my ride indoors no longer.  I was motivated for it and not for being outside so it didn't seem to grim to be climbing onto the rollers with blue sky outside.  A number of people told me they'd had a miserable, cold and wet day out and not missed anything so I was happy with my decision in the end.  It couldn't be worse than Tuesday - I had music and sensors and everything.

After 10 minutes, my arse could cope no longer with the aggressive saddle angle I had set up in the morning so I had a mess with tools and sorted that out.  After an hour, I had a pain in my left knee which wasn't going to let me continue so I messed about with the cleats on my shoes and resolved that one.  After a further 10 minutes the right knee also went so I did the same adaptations.  Each of these little rests contributed to me getting through the session.  40 miles in 1:51:10.  Mostly in zone 2.  I dropped my heart rates a bit as I felt I was trying a bit hard towards the end to stay in zone 2.  It's the fastest 40 mile ride I've ever done.  It should be - it was in an enclosed space (no head wind) and on a perfectly flat road (my rollers) so no surprises, but the fact that I more or less kept riding for 2 hours in one position contributed to the excellent speed.  If I can maintain that effort in an ironman, I'm on for a 6 hour bike.  That won't happen (because hills) but it makes me excited for what is to come.

I got off the bike really satisfied that I only have one day to go and only one session that I am really interested in.  The early week's 5.5 mile run will get done if I still have the effort after the 1700m swim that is taunting me today.

Most importantly the ride fuelled my enthusiasm - for that bike and for cycling again in general when such tiny adjustments in position can make a massive difference to comfort.  I started to wonder if my groin strain I have been fighting since May last year is caused by this cleat issue and set off in to the loft to examine my post-ride flexibility.  It was good.  Very good in fact.  In cobbler pose my knees got closer to the floor than they ever have - even I think since ballet school (I was 8 years old). I also managed a seated forward fold with my legs straight (showing that my ham strings have stretched out).  There's still work to do but definite progress.

I boasted yesterday that I'm going to race this ironman.  I don't want to get too ahead of myself.  All of my distances are only tiny at the moment but I'm adapting and it's exciting to see. I have niggles, sure but they're only induced by change.  They're nothing a half day's rest won't sort so I'm excited to go to the pool today and yes, excited about Monday off.  

Update to come.

Despite forgetting my swim watch and hat my swim went well. I reduced my strokes per minute to 55 and, in the second half, 54 and just churned out the lengths. The upshot is I did 1700m in the time it took me to do 1600m three weeks ago. 37 minutes. Not a record breaking pace for me but improvement is everything.

I went up to the gym to find they have even moved some yoga mats into the main area. It's a little weird doing yoga to gym-bunny music but I stretched out some of the body hangover from yesterday's bad head stand and had a play with the crow instead.

Rather than going for my run I went to Waitrose to contribute to family life or maybe just to pick up the new yoga mat I ordered to live in the car with me... or possibly replace the office one. I am being kind to myself now and gadding around the house. It's freezing outside and I really don't feel the need to get cold and wet anymore. So it's ski servicing for me and maybe some curtain making. Mistress to many skills. Master of none.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Please stop asking me how I am

The fact is that I am fine.

I have suffered with depression. It's usually mild. It's often non-existent. It's not obvious and it doesn't affect anything. I am a practiced depressive. Exorcised.  Once upon a time it took control of me but I took action, sought help and I recovered to a state where now I occasionally suffer mild half baked depression. Look at me, I can't even commit to being depressed.

Depression strikes when things aren't going well. I am stressed.  I am tired. I forgot. I did wrong. Mild euphoria strikes when things are going well. When I am winning at life. When I am at the top of the stairs. On fire. In charge. Ok. Sometimes when I am stressed.

Fact is that when I get out of bed, in from work, in to work, arrive at the shops. I am just ok. I am Christopher Robin, neither half way up or half way down. It is indeed my favourite place.

If you ask...maybe you care... maybe you don't. Do you want the truth? What are you going to do with the information? Does it matter? Does it make me feel better or you? Will you understand my answer?

What makes me happy? A hug. The wind on my face when I ride. A cat with her tail in the air and a happy chirrup. You having fun. Helping. Giving. Sharing. Breakfast. Hot showers. Rain that turns tree leaves green and bark so black. Lace. Art. Camping. Biscuits. Feeling wild. Feeling tired. Clean teeth. Soft hair. Sunlight. Victiorian machinery. Debates about science. Marriage. Spaces. Fluffy socks. Flirting. Cheese and apples. Learning from others.

When you ask how I am it just reminds me that at that moment I am flat or earlier I was lost, lonely, insecure. It doesn't remind me that I have just been happy it reminds me that earlier, now, I was average or worse. 

I want you to see how I am.

 I want you to you recognise that I just rode my bike or that I had an easy drive, ran a run, finished it, found it, know what"it" is.  I am in the middle of it. That I just had an amazing idea, solved a problem, saw a thing, won a battle, beat the system. I don't need you to ask. If I want to tell you I will.

 If I am sad I want space to be sad because depression taught me that it's ok. I don't have to be great. I just need to be ok. You shouldn't have to ask. I don't want to say. I don't need to put a label on it because "ok" doesn't do "ok" justice and "great" is overstating life.

 Great is a bonus. A far fetched occasionally beautiful and present bonus.

I'm ok. I'm always ok. I only want to be ok.
So please. Stop. Asking. Me.