I love cycling. I absolutely love it. I love that I can cycle fast, really fast and whilst I am not likely to win the Tour de France just yet, I feel pride that I am not terrible at it and don’t come last (something and a feeling that has so far evaded me in running, no matter how hard I try).
According to my Garmin watch (something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond movie), my top speed so far on my bike, Shiny Sheena, is 49 kilometres or 30 miles per hour. Admittedly this has only been once and I was going downhill, but it happened and it was exhilarating as it feels genuinely frightening cycling at this speed. Before I had my daughters, I used to own a pistachio green Vespa. Yes I was cool once! I loved it and pretended that I was riding through Rome rather than the streets of Bristol to and from work. Of course, now as I think back, I used to ride my Vespa such a short distance that the Me of today, would walk the same journey without thinking twice. But the Me of 2002-2007 never exercised and so I needed a Vespa to transport me the 2 miles to and from work. I feel sad as I think of all my past failed opportunities to exercise, but we are where we are and there is no point in looking backwards. The point I am trying to make here, is to travel the 2 miles to work on my Vespa, I used to wear heavy duty protective clothing, jacket and trousers in case I fell off, but I wasn’t even going as fast as I do on my bike, when I am only protected by comedy padded bottom shorts and a short sleeved top. I think this is what makes me slightly afraid but also why it’s so exciting and enjoyable.
Over the past 12 months I have run on the Bristol to Bath Cycle path many times, but have never gone beyond Warmley. A few weeks ago, I persuaded Husband to take the day off work and accompany me to Bath on our bikes. It was a glorious day and we really, really enjoyed it. I didn’t struggle at all as we rode into Bath. We didn’t go slowly and genuinely I didn’t feel tired and was sure that I could have cycled for longer. I was actually sad when we arrived and inwardly wished that Bath was more than 13 miles from Bristol. A quick pizza lunch later and we were on the return leg of our journey, needing to be back in time for the required “school run”. Interestingly this time, Husband was struggling a bit on his clunky and heavy hybrid bike and so since then has been riding my bike and is now checking out road bikes for himself. I predict a Duathlon (Cycling and Riding) at least for him next year. It was good to do a longer ride and it showed me that my legs are strong. It is good to feel positive about things once in a while.
Swimming is something I enjoy and as regular readers of this blog will know, since Christmas I have re-learned how to swim front crawl. For the Westonbirt Tri I swam half breaststroke and half front crawl but for the upcoming Portishead Tri I planned to swim it all front crawl.
The immediate thing I learned upon completion of the Westonbirt Tri was that I LOVE triathlon and will be doing more, but most triathlons have the swim section in a lake and for this you need a wetsuit. Having bought a road bike this year, I would need to save my pennies to get a decent wetsuit and so I put all thoughts of lake swimming off until next year…or so I thought. The very hot, and wonderful summer that we have experienced so far for the past 6 weeks has meant that you do not need a wetsuit to swim in a lake. The Triathlon Training Centre is located in North Bristol and I follow their facebook page. One evening it was announced that wetsuits were banned as it was too hot and so I knew I had to go and give it a try. No need for a wetsuit and so no real excuses not to go. I contacted RubyRed to see if she wanted to accompany me and as we sat looking out at the lake, in our trisuits, on the “pontoon of procrastination” as we fondly call it, lots of thoughts raced through my mind. The most pressing was whether I would be able to even swim in a trisuit with sleeves and then there was the topic of temperature. Even with a wetsuit ban in place, the first leap into a lake is likely to be “refreshing” to say the least. As I jumped in, I couldn’t breathe for the first couple of seconds as the temperature hit me, but slowly regained my composure and we were off.
The chap in charge of the lake is called Mike and he is quite a character to say the least. He is extremely suntanned and wears an enormous hat which makes him look not unlike Bristol’s answer to Crocodile Dundee. He has a terrible sense of humour but is also highly experienced in triathlon and had some very good advice for me. They also run beginner’s classes and he is very enthusiastic and encouraging. The lake is a 600m loop and you swim clockwise and between bouys. It sounds daunting but even I can touch the floor in most places at my grand height of 5 foot 3 and a half (the half is very important). When RubyRed and I finally managed to get in the water and had completed our loop, he was wildly complementary and congratulatory. Everyone needs a cheerleader like Mike. The centre also has a running track and a cycle loop so you can practice changing between the disciplines and can also complete a triathlon there if you want to practice.
I have since been back to the lake 3 times, the second time swimming two loops having met Merida there after work. 1393m is the furthest I have swum since school and most of it was front crawl which shows me that, as with most things, the thought and fear of doing something, ie swimming front crawl continuously, is much worse than the reality. Of the 1393m I would guess that at least 1000m was swam front crawl. My technique still needs work but I felt quite proud of myself as I sat back on the “pontoon of procrastination” considering my acheivement.
Running has also been happening, but not quite as often. It’s included a glorious trail run at Blaise Castle in the all important shade of the trees as well as a couple of exploring runs with Hattie. One thing I have noticed is that although I am running less (cycling and swimming more) my times are gradually increasing which shows very clearly that cross training, using different muscles, helps running immensely. On a personal level this is magnificent. If I can run less often (and when I say less often I am still running twice a week) but still manage to retain my speed or even increase it then I am a very happy person!
Unfortunately, as we edge towards the Portishead Tri, I am afraid to say that disaster has struck and I am once again under the spell of UGIDA. (Unwanted Guests in the Downstairs Area – or hemmaroids). Yes they are slightly embarrassing, but what can I tell you, they are extremely common. Lots of people have them (although they may not be as vocal about them as me) and they are quite literally a pain in the ass. But critically for me, cycling and running aggravate them enormously. They have plagued my training since April this year and my body seems to have no regard whatsoever for my fitness goals and plans for 2018.
I have surgery scheduled to have them removed on the 5th September which I am reliably informed is “quite painful” (why do people feel the need to tell you that by the way? I mean I know what’s going to happen, it will involve a knife and I’m not an idiot, but I don’t need it spelled out for me so it induces a mild panic everytime I think about it!?) and will put me out of action for a month or so. The recovery is no driving for 10-14 days (so I will be working from home trying not to eat cake), then gentle walking and then I am allowed to start running again after 4 weeks in order to then start building up distances again. I was hoping that my body would hold it together to allow me to complete the Portishead Tri but after much soul searching I have decided to withdraw. I am very sad about it but I know it’s the right decision. Even if UGIDA subsides in the short-term to allow me to compete on the day, there is every chance that competing would cause aggravation and then I would be in pain and it would spoil our family summer holiday.
As one of the wise UberTri Mums said, “it’s times like this that it’s important to remember why we train in the first place”. For me, if I go right back to the beginning of this, it’s about my daughters and family and being fit enough to enjoy an active family life. It doesn’t really follow therefore that a medal is worth sacrificing our summer holiday for and my husband and daughters don’t like seeing me in pain anymore than I enjoy being in pain. Once I realised that, it was easy to make the decision. Also having withdrawn from the Tri means that I don’t feel under any pressure to run or cycle and so I will not be running or cycling now until October this year, post surgery.
I am signed up to the Big Half in London on Sunday March 10th 2019 and so have plenty to motivate me to get back up to speed quickly after the operation. I am also going to complete an Olympic Triathlon next year – this will be a 1.5k swim (probably in a lake) a 40k bike ride and then a 10k run. This will be a huge challenge but I’m excited for it. My Christmas list is certainly looking different for this year including a wetsuit and cleats (cycling shoes) than previous ones where it simply stated “Clarins and perfume”.
But for now, I need to be sensible and try not panic about losing all my fitness that I have spent the last 2 and half years building up. There is still plenty I can do, so I will keep swimming, using weights (gently) and today I went to my first Ashtanga Yoga class which was extremely difficult and challenging. I genuinely thought it would be a good stretch with some breathing whereas the reality is that I suspect I may not be able to lift my arms over my head tomorrow without wanting to cry. Still I need to keep challenging myself. This year has not gone the way I wanted it to – after the London Landmarks triumph I had plans of sub 75 minute 10ks and the two Triathlons with the second being faster that the first. But life does not always go the way you want it to. My body doesn’t care about my plans it seems and so there will not be any more medals for me this year.
I’ll blog again later in the year as I restart my running journey after my surgery and until then I wish you all a wonderful Summer.