What a year it’s been…sheeesh.
It’s also been about a year since my last blog post and as you can imagine, quite a lot has happened so I’ll try my best to catch you up. Quickly.
My training last year was going great. I was working hard towards my goal but alas, as I was to discover, you cannot control everything.
The 113 race (which is the big half iron distance race without cutoffs and a fairly flat bike route in the Cotswolds) was in June and this was the first big test. Except it wasn’t. I felt rough on the morning but put it down to nerves and so soldiered on, gingerly jumping into the lake ready to give it my best. About 800m into the 1500m swim, I started being sick. This is not an easy thing to achieve whilst swimming, I can assure you, and I spent quite a few minutes sobbing whilst hanging onto the end of a safety team raft with the chap on it doing his level best to convince me to stop. Obviously I am too stupid to listen and so I somehow managed to keep myself going and into transition. At this point I DEFINITELY should have stopped. But when you are SO driven by a goal, we do not always do the sensible thing and so I headed out on the bike. I bargained with myself that as it was two laps of 45k, if I felt rough I would stop at the end of the first loop. I stopped 10 miles in, after having been sick a couple more times in a layby. (Vomit has been quite a theme of my triathlon journey last year)and I ultimately pulled up next to a friendly looking Marshall for a “breather for a minute” but as I unclipped and put my leg on the floor I collapsed. I was put in an ambulance in the silver foil blanket of doom (which was overkill in my opinion, I was embarrassed enough as it was!) and was driven home by Merida, feeling very sad and sorry for myself.
I did learn on that day just HOW important it is to have an ICE person written on the back of your race number. I’m not sure prior to that race, I ever really thought I would need it, but let me tell you it is critical to write someone down. I didn’t have my phone on me as it was in transition and I don’t know the numbers of my friends off by heart. Thank goodness I had Merida’s number on the back of my race number.
As I was driven home, snivelling into the sweet tea that Merida had miraculously produced, I was mentally ruined thinking I “just didn’t have it in me” to be a successful triathlete. The very next morning I tested positive for covid, again, and so it became clear that my body had simply been determined to protect me by making me throw up and collapse. Perhaps I could be a triathlete after all?
The summer rolled on, training rolled on (a lot of it in temperatures in excess of 30C) and then the day of Weymouth 70.3 itself came. Now I could do a long and detailed blog about the day itself and I suspect that one day I will, but today is not that day. Ultimately, I was kicked in the throat by a rogue breaststroker around 1600m into the 1900m (the swim had been going brilliantly up to this point) and I swallowed A LOT of sea water. When I got out of the sea and ran to transition, I spent 10 minutes being sick in a portaloo (not recommended), then spent 4 minutes sat on the floor shaking in transition, before heading out on the bike. I was very shaken up, had no food in my system and ultimately, was pulled off the bike course having missed the cutoff. I was not allowed to finish.
This is where things became difficult and it’s hard to explain.
I am very used to finishing races last and I’ve never been embarrassed about it. SOMEONE has to be last, and if it’s me, then so be it but it’s important to show up and give these things a go. I knew that Weymouth was a big ask and knew that I would be chasing the clock to get the medal and expected that I would be crossing the finish line with only a few moments to spare. But I never really expected not to finish at all. Now you may read this and think this is stupid (and you would be right), arrogant (quite possible, I mean it’s half ironman race where the cutoffs are designed for MEN, and everything about me screams “take up knitting”) but the fact remains, that I never expected NOT to finish. But my legs and head were not strong enough on the day and so I failed.
Mentally, this was devastating to me. I was angry with myself, I was furious with the breaststroker, furious with myself that I hadn’t planned for this event and cycled up more hills, etc etc. I just couldn’t fathom that I wouldn’t have that medal. And so I fell into a dark place.
I was signed up to do the Bath Half in October (a month after Weymouth). But I didn’t do it. My heart wasn’t in it and I was worried that something else would go wrong and I wouldn’t be able to finish again. So I didn’t do it at all. In the space of 4 weeks I had gone from someone who would try everything to someone who was scared to try anything at all.
This theme continued for the rest of last year and into this year and I did very little exercise indeed. Weight has crept on and I bargained with myself that I would take this year to regroup, lose weight, get strong and then sign up for something again next year – maybe have another crack at Weymouth. I’m not sure if anyone believed me as I certainly didn’t believe myself. My triathlon friends were fantastic and did their best to rally me. It turns out that some of the triathletes and athletes that I admire the most have had an experience like this (failure). I nodded along dutifully as they tried to cheer me up but the point was that they had all come back and successfully achieved after the failure and I just didn’t feel that I would ever enter a race again.
But then, slowly, and more recently, a shift.
I woke up one morning in February and desperate to try and pull myself out of my hole, I decided to try and train for an aquabike (which is a triathlon without the running). I wouldn’t sign up for it, but I would train and this would hopefully help to drag me back into the sunshine. I did no swimming or cycling training but bizarrely woke up one morning and decided to go for a run. Yes. A run?!
I started run/walking. Never for more than 30 minutes and often less, but I started moving. I was slow. REALLY slow, but I didn’t hate it. Music on, sometimes with the dog, sometimes on my commute to or from the office, but it started happening.
I also started running and training a bit with Madame Maison, who is doing Weymouth this year and we get on fantastically. For me, helping someone else when their own goals is the perfect way to get me off my sorry ass which in turn helps me to feel better. Endorphins are the most powerful drug after all. We get on well, and we’ve been running together. This has been going so well that I persuaded her to sign up to the Bristol 10k with me (it’s in 10 days time) and last weekend we ran/walked 10k together and it felt AMAZING. It’s the first time I’ve run anything close to a “distance” since last August and I felt proud of myself, of ourselves and the feeling of achievement should not be underestimated. I’ve also been leading a few runs with “This Mum Runs” on a Sunday and again this has also been a good thing. When you follow a training plan for so long and grind away at it, it’s easy to forget that exercise is supposed to be enjoyable?! But it is. And I’m enjoying it again, finally.
I also completed the Tour de Bristol bike ride with my husband and Glinda 4 weeks ago and again, it was joyful. 65k was enough. Blimey it was certainly enough. I got off twice to push my bike up the hills as they feel harder than ever, but I got round in one piece and most importantly, I was smiling.
I’ve been going to the gym with my daughters a bit too. Lifting heavy weights is a great thing and we also now have a full size punch bag at home for those days when you just want to smash the living daylights out of something (I really recommend it).
The one thing I haven’t really been doing much of is swimming. But the weather is finally (please!) warming up and so I’ll be getting in the lake again soon.
The Bristol 10k running race is the weekend after next and this morning, I’ve signed up to do Westonbirt Sprint triathlon which is a lovely, no cutoffs, local race at the end of May. After saying for the past 6 months that I won’t do another triathlon every again, I’m going for a medal. I’m also strongly pondering signing up for the London Tri which is an Olympic distance race in August which cycles past the Houses of Parliament on closed roads. This feels like a big step and will require proper training, but I think I’m nearly there mentally and feel ready to train a bit again and so it’s likely I’ll sign up.
I’ve felt quite ashamed of myself being hidden and afraid to do anything. Especially as the original point of this blog was to be 100% honest about things and how hard they can be, but we are where we are. The menopause, home life, work all play a part too and for a while, it’s been better for me to prioritise elsewhere. However, I’m so pleased to say that I’m feeling ready to try again. Nearly.
Will let you know how the Bristol 10k goes – have already told Madame Maison to not allow us to chase a pacer as I’m bound to suggest it at the last minute…we’re going to enjoy it…..unless the pacer is close…obviously.