Plans? They’re more like guidelines…..

So as weeks go, it’s been a bit plop.

Last Friday night I was in tears, bashed up and in lots of pain. I didn’t feel up to travelling to London to support my husband in the Big Half and things were looking very desperate indeed. But, as always, things seem better after a good night’s sleep and I woke up on Saturday morning feeling dejected but determined to get to London and assume my role as “Cheer Squad”. I took plenty of painkillers, pulled on my sturdy walking boots and gritted my teeth for the train and subsequent tube rides. The hotel we had booked was a 10 minute walk from the start line and Tower Bridge and so although I wasn’t able to dart about London to spot and cheer my husband on at multiple points of the 13 mile route, I was able to stand on Tower Bridge and cheer him at seven and a half miles.

On Tower Bridge

I will say that the gale force winds and a freezing cold downpour of rain in the 30 minutes running up to the start was helping to ease my disappointment a bit, but I was choking back the tears as I waved both Husband and, then a bit later, Hattie off. I made my way to Tower Bridge. I had chosen my triathlon club hat to wear as it’s bright orange and the first rule of supporting someone in a race is that you must be easy to see. I watched thousands of runners go past me last Sunday and spotted very few familiar faces, even though lots were there. But because Husband and Hattie knew where I would be and that I had a hat on which was so bright you could see me from space, this meant that they both saw me before I saw them. For anyone who is ever going to support people in a race, this is important to remember.

I was also very lucky to witness the Majesty of Sir Mo Farrah as he glided past me, not even looking like he was sweating. I cheered enthusiastically and shouted “you’ve got this Mo” as he ran within 1 metre of me. I think he realised that he was doing ok as he completed 21.2 k in the same time it takes me to complete 7.5 to 8k, but it never hurts to be reminded!

Husband got a very respectable time considering the 45 mile per hour winds that the runners had to endure and came in a few minutes under 2 hours and Hattie smashed her time by 15 minutes. All in all it was a good day for the runners, despite of the challenging conditions.

Magic Tape

Monday morning rolled around and I decided to seek a professional opinion. I booked a physio appointment for Tuesday morning as I am someone who needs to know the facts. Even if the facts are not what I want them to be, once I know I can move forwards. The Physio was brilliant. Encouraging and understanding but careful not to over-promise anything. My foot was black, blue, yellow and green by Tuesday morning and he examined as best he could but essentially massaged the swelling away and patched me up with some “magic tape”. I was told to walk as normally as I could on it, aided by painkillers, was given exercises and asked to return on Friday.

On Wednesday morning the swelling had reduced so dramatically on my foot that it almost looked normal. This encouraged me no end. I did every last one of the exercises, multiple times and began to hope. This was dangerous of course, but in a week of emotions both high and low, I couldn’t stop myself.

Thursday morning came and I was able to walk normally. My foot ached but it didn’t hurt. This further fanned the flames of hope. On Friday morning I virtually skipped to the physio appointment. My foot had almost returned to something resembling normality and so the Physio was able to examine it thoroughly. The basic facts are that I have ripped something complicated sounding on both sides of my foot, by the ankle and the outer foot and the upshot of it is no running for 8-10 weeks. I didn’t hear the next couple of minutes worth of explanation as I was desperately trying not to cry and process this information. But then I started asking questions.

I might be able to run in 4 weeks’ time, and it might be fine. But the emphasis is heavily on “might”. After you have sprained your ankle severely it is very weak and if you roll it again, apparently this could end up with a very long break from running (as a best case scenario) or surgery (worst case scenario). Therefore, to be able to run “safely” (and that’s a direct quote from the physio) it’s an 8 week break.

But, I can swim and I can cycle. Cycling needs to be gentle at first with little or no resistance for a couple of weeks but after that, there are no limits. The Physio was also on my side about how far can I “push” my body through exercise also. An aching foot is fine but a painful foot is not. The foot will need to ache as it rebuilds itself and I test it out, but pain is clearly not good and if this happens I need to stop immediately.

The triathlon is 12 weeks away, which means that I would be running a 13 mile final leg of the competition not having trained for it, which simply put means that the triathlon is not happening. I was devastated and was not looking forward to my PT appointment with Dr Crane at all. I had thought about cancelling it, but Dr Crane assured me that there was lots we could do that wouldn’t involve the foot. So fearfully anticipating 60 minutes of bicep curls, I set off.

It turned out that going to PT was the best thing I could have done. Dr Crane immediately understood what I was going through, gracefully ignored my tears and had some practical ideas. I’ve made massive progress working with him and much of my panic is not wanting the progress to slide. He knows this and so made some very good suggestions.

  • Try to get a deferral for next year or refund for the 113 triathlon. It will be frustrating if I try and complete it not having been able to train properly and these races are expensive.
  • Getting my ankle back up to speed will take time and the pressure of “maybe I will make it to the start, or maybe I won’t” is not helpful and is distracting – PLUS I don’t want to be rushed into running sooner than I should­. (his words, not mine you realise!)
  • Find an alternative race in September/October time. Keep training and make this the goal.

I left PT (after 30 minutes of arm weights, my shoulders feel reassuringly sore today)  feeling much brighter as I had a new plan.

I am very lucky in that I have many ladies and friends that are in touch with me and offer support, experience and guidance. One of these ladies, Triathlon Mum (yes I have named her this) messaged me last night with a suggestion that I would not have thought of in a million years. I contacted the 113 to request a refund as per Dr Crane’s suggestion, but as I hadn’t taken out cancellation insurance (Note to self – ALWAYS TAKE THE INSURANCE) I was only eligible for a small refund. These races are not cheap and although the fault is entirely mine, it was disappointing. Triathlon Mum suggested to me that as I can still swim and cycle, why not still compete in the 113 anyway? Do the swim, then the cycle and then stop. Do not take part in the run and plan for it this way – apparently some people do this. I wouldn’t be eligible for a medal but it would be strong training for whatever event I chose to go for later in the year. She competed in the 113 last year and as she has lots of small children and so doesn’t have lots of time to train, had focussed all her training on the cycle and had barely run at all. It can be done (although I suspect she is a much better runner than I am!) She also contacted me earlier in the week when I originally fell, to reassure me that as long as I could cycle, all was not lost. In her words “train for the cycle and you will complete the triathlon, train for the run if you want to WIN the triathlon, because you can always walk on the run”. Very wise words and words I needed to hear.

Quickly a plan began to form. I could do this. I would do the swim and the cycle. It would also keep my training on track which, in a week when I had been stress eating chocolate quicker than a 6 year old on Easter Day, was important.

So now the only question to answer was, what race for my “A” race? Merida is competing in the Weymouth 70.3. It’s the official Half Ironman race, fully branded with cut-off times. She and I had discussed it previously on a run, but I am a bit scared of a sea swim and the cut off times so had dismissed it in favour of the friendlier 113. But that was then and this is now and so as of 25 minutes ago, I am registered for the Weymouth Half Iron Man on the 22 September.

I better get back in the swimming pool and onto my bike next week.

Plans are more like guidelines anyway……..

HIIT Happens

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Thank you for reading.

20 minute run – easy pace

Over the past 3 years I have learned that running is an absolute rollercoaster of emotions. Much like the Grand Old Duke of York, you are either up, up, up or down, down, down and the past 2 weeks have demonstrated this in ways that even Nostradamus would have had no inkling to forsee.

I needed to do one more long run in order to feel confident that I would be able to get round the Big Half comfortably and had planned to do another park run sandwich but this time with a lady who I met when I spoke at “Run Fest” when I was invited to speak at it last year. If you’re interested in running, then do check out “RunFest” as it’s a buffet of interesting and motivating individuals who speak passionately about running. It’s inspiring and you also pick up lots of tips. (I suspect that people were a bit short changed in the “tips” department the night that I spoke!) @Sarahgetsfitandhealthy has an instafeed packed full of witticisms, mental health advice and observations and of course running and we have stayed in touch. She recently moved house and now lives locally and so we made a plan to run to parkrun together. Unfortunately, with life being what it is, at the last minute I had to bail due to a fairly serious family emergency. @sarah understood of course but we still haven’t run together yet. But we will.

This meant that in order to get the long run in, I had to bunk off work on the following Wednesday for a couple of hours in the morning.  It was a truly glorious day and the sceptical Brit in me wonders if we might have already had our Summer, but regardless, I was happy to take advantage of the sunshine. I needed an eleven mile route would end at my office near Temple Meads station and so being unsure, sought the advice of the “This Mum Runs” community who delivered fantastically. On the Wednesday morning, in the penultimate week before the Big Half, I set off on a journey that took me from my house to Ashton Court and then down Whiteladies Road back into town. It was wonderful. Every so often, and as you know from reading this blog that they are rare for me, but every so often I have a run that is perfect. I am sure the weather helped (I should have taken my sunglasses with me) but I felt strong. Everything was clicking. My breathing was right (I have been working on this with Dr Crane), I was hydrated properly, I had eaten and I was fast… *fast for me*… and was definitely well on track for a sub 3 hour half (which is my minimum requirement) but more than likely heading for quite a big PB. And I’m talking 7-9 minutes off my last half marathon time.

Suspension Bridge photo Feb 2019

I spend a lot of time training and most of the time I do it blind, trying to keep the faith that everything I do, under the careful instruction of Dr Crane, will get me to my ultimate goal of crossing the finish line of the triathlon in June in one piece. I complete every piece of training and give it my best, but often feel like I’m not really getting better and it’s hard to assess whether there is any improvement as I’m usually knackered from training so much and life in general. This is why a perfect run is so important to re-ignite the belief once in a while. It gives me the reason to keep going. You can feel the improvements and enjoy the experience (apart from running up Ashton Court hill – that will never be enjoyable).

I arrived at work and felt amazing. Those endorphins are powerful. Life was good and I was looking forward to racing Sir Mo around London at the Big Half.

Although I wasn’t really tapering, apart from a couple of light and “easy” runs, the focus switched immediately to cycling as apart from the Big Half, the next event on the radar is the 100k “Tour de Bristol” on my bike in early April. On Monday’s PT session Dr Crane and I went for a cycle around Bristol, in my cleats (which clip your shoes to the bike). It was quite windy and made my ears feel a bit unbalanced for the remainder of the afternoon afterwards, but it was enjoyable. Dr Crane is schooling me on “cadence” which is how many times you can spin the pedals in a minute (my watch has been set up to show me this….well now it has. It wasn’t straight forward at all and I did consider throwing the whole thing in the bin for a time, but now it’s sorted). The higher the cadence, the more times you pedal, which sounds like it is going to make you more tired, but in fact the reverse happens. We cycled up a couple of big hills and I managed to complete them. I was pleased and was feeling quite accomplished as we cycled back into town. Dr Crane is currently in possession of my bike as it needed some TLC (oil and stuff….) I do need to learn about bike maintenance before the tri as each time Dr Crane asked me a question, I looked blank and he could tell I knew NOTHING. He kindly offered to fix some bits for me and as this week was about running and I wouldn’t be cycling, it seemed like a good idea and I gratefully took him up on his kind offer.

The final remaining parts of the training plan prior to the Big Half, were two short and light runs. At this point, you are either ready, or you’re not. You can’t add to your fitness as it’s really too late, so it’s about keeping the body loose and not getting injured. Yesterday morning I had the final run on the plan – 20 minutes, run easy.

It was sunny and I decided that I would run to work, not care about the time, and would run “easy”. I set off and again, everything was feeling good. Breathing was good, legs were feeling good, arm swing was feeling strong. I was in a very positive mental place. My watch buzzed at 1 kilometre and told me that I had run it in 6.32 seconds. This is supersonic for me, but more importantly, it didn’t feel like I was going that fast and so was comfortable. As I crossed onto the Bath Road, I then started the usual mental conversation……”well if I’m running this fast, maybe I should try and run 5k just to see what I can do…….no don’t do that. You have a half marathon on Sunday. Don’t be an idiot”. You get the picture. But I was smiling.

The traffic on the Bath Road was stationary as it was rush hour and there were plenty of people around. In a heartbeat my week changed. Somehow, as I was running, I turned my ankle in a small pothole and fell very heavily onto the pavement. I fell forward onto my knees (which were scraped, I don’t know how my running leggings were not ripped), then onto my elbow (scraped) and finally caught my face in my hands, which were bashed up and bleeding across the knuckles. It could have been so much more devastating had I not managed to save my face with my hands.

I am 1 pound away from losing a stone since New Year’s Day, but I still weigh 14 stone and so I fell hard. Now I am ashamed to admit to you, that I am one of those awful people who finds it funny when people fall over. When they trip and are embarrassed I think it’s hilarious, but obviously hilarity turns to horror pretty quickly if the person turns out then to be really hurt. I am not a complete monster.

I imagine this is what it must have been like for the people in their cars. I fell and it would have looked hilarious to the onlooker but I immediately knew I was in trouble. It hurt. It bloody hurt. I burst into hysterical tears and was wailing and rolling around the pavement. I don’t really know what happened next but suddenly there were two cyclists with me. Both lovely, kind and friendly chaps, who were trying to console and help me although I couldn’t pick either of them out of a line-up today if my life depended on it. I wish I could thank them properly, now, in a slightly less hysterical state. At least I gave them an interesting story to tell their friends this weekend. One was lifting my, rapidly swelling, ankle and foot and the other trying to comfort me. I was hysterical. As I look back now, I must have looked like a crazy woman. I kept saying over and over again that “I am only running for 20 minutes as I have a Half Marathon on Sunday”…but of course, now I don’t.

My Good Samaritans were relieved of their duties as a runner and friend I knew approached. He quickly took stock and calmed me down and then accompanied me home. He was fantastic and very calm and understanding. He is also a man of the cloth and so blessed my ankle before he left, which is never a bad thing! I was hobbling and although I went to minor injuries and had an x-ray to rule out any broken bones (none thankfully), I knew I wasn’t running in the Big Half anymore. Diagnosis was bad sprain with no running for 3-4 weeks. When I burst into tears again (seriously, this is why runners need to be hydrated!) the nurse gave me a tiny ray of sunshine in that after a week or so of rest I can cycle and swim. Just no running.

I was devastated. In the most part I am a positive and determined person but yesterday was a dark day. I was devastated. I spent most of the day in tears and *might* have eaten a bit too much chocolate.

(*might = definitely did*)

I was going to give it everything I had to give on Sunday but now I’ll never know if I would have been able to.

Being a blogger, I posted some pictures through my facebook page as well as in the “This Mum Runs” community page and was overwhelmed to receive over 300 messages yesterday (both private and public) from people wishing me well. Empathising, sympathising, offering advice and comfort. Each one making me cry and determined to keep going. (I am crying as I type this). I am so grateful and this cannot be said enough. Thank you. It really, really helped me yesterday.

So I allowed myself one day of chocolate and self -loathing and then today have pulled myself together and administered a mental slap.

One lady, the Cornish Cakemaster, told me I can’t give up because I am like Mr Miyagi, which made me laugh so much I spat my tea out. But although I’m not very good at karate, this is a team effort. I’m not working towards a half marathon (although it will be a while before I can laugh about yesterday’s events) I am working towards a triathlon and this must remain the goal. Although not being able to run is a nightmare, (there is no way to pretend it’s not a disaster) it does give me the opportunity to focus on swimming and cycling for a while. Dr Crane sent me some wise words yesterday as I kept him up to speed with developments.  “Stay calm, stay positive and press on. That’s what champions to in times of adversity”.

I’m sure he’s right. For me, it’s a bit more simple….stop moaning and put your big girl pants on.

I’m currently on a train to London, with a heavily strapped up foot preparing to cheer my husband on as he is also running the Big Half. Tomorrow I will be a supporter. Hopefully, it won’t be long before I am competing again.

Ashton Court Photo Feb 2019