Motivation

Undoubtably, the one question I am asked more than any other is, “how do you stay so motivated?” It’s a fair question as motivation is one of the most important factors in success for fitness, but also one of the most difficult to maintain. Different people have different ideas about what success looks like and for me, it’s usually to finish the race or project I have set myself. Generally, once I decide I’m going to do something, I write a plan and then I just keep going until it’s done. I’m a bit like a robot and this has been the normal state for me since January 2016 when my new life in fitness started.

But let me tell you, I am struggling at the moment. REALLY struggling to motivate myself to do ANYTHING.

I completed the Joe Wicks 90 day plan and on the whole I was pleased with the results. I lost weight (8 kilos) and lost 17.5 inches in total across my body.

Joe Wicks resultsMy jeans are now loose and I have bicep muscles. I can do a chest to floor burpee (although they are still my least favourite exercise ever) and can do 1 full press-up. Yes 90 days of HIITS, watching what I have eaten and weights and I can do 1 full press-up – full nose all the way to the floor and up again but only 1 before my arms feel like they will explode. I blame my boobs which even after losing 4 inches from them, are still significant. They must make it harder for me to push up as they weigh the top half of my body down too much…….maybe? But I can also do 30 pushups from my knees now without a break and when I started I could only do 3. So all joking aside, it’s a definite improvement.

The Joe Wicks plan for me was incredibly useful. Not only because I learned to use dumbells and finally understand the importance of and enjoyed strength training. But also because I learned so much about nutrition and what works and does not work for my body. In cycle 2, we were permitted a second carb meal on the day when we trained. I was relieved and excited and definitely looking forward to more carbs as I had been a bit hungry from time to timevon cycle 1, but the reality was that my body struggled.  I was bloated and felt very sluggish. I was also thirsty and I was drinking 3.5 litres of water on cycle 2 so I did not understand how this could be true. Cycle 2 was the hardest of all the cycles for me. Weights and not enough cardio coupled with too many carbs did not make me smile. But I kept going.

By the time cycle 3 rolled around, I knew what worked and what didn’t and so when we were allowed to choose between 1 or 2 carb refuel meals on a training day, I shocked everyone (myself included) by opting for 1 and this is largely what I will do from now on in my life I think.

The most important thing I learned however, was nothing about sport at all. I am 45 and probably perimenopausal (although that’s not been officially confirmed by anyone medical) but I have lots of the symptoms. The most difficult symptom for me to manage has been that on day 1-3 of my period I am exhausted and completely lacking in energy, which causes me to want to binge and eat chocolate.  However, the 90 day plan taught me , critically, that eating 3 healthy Joe friendly carb meals on each of these days (regardless of wether I trained or not on that day), helped with my energy levels and stopped my need to binge. Honestly, this revelation was worth the money for the plan alone.

I finished the plan a couple of weeks ago and then worried about being in limbo, signed up for a sprint triathlon which is taking place on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s a very small rural event and is also being staged as a time trial rather than a race as social distancing will be adhered to. I decided that I needed this as a motivator to kick start my running again.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that I just cannot be bothered with anything running related at all. Now I can run for 30 minutes if I have to (and I will because in the next couple of months, Covid allowing, I will start leading runs as a Run Angel for “This Mum Runs” again as they hope to get the runs up and running in the next couple of months) but usually I just can’t be bothered. I much prefer run/walking in a structured manner – 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking. It’s just so much easier and less stressful. It also doesn’t help that in my head I think that after a swim and a bike ride, it’s unlikely I can run a 5k fast anyway so why try? I know this is stupid, but like I said, at the moment, I’m seeking excuses.

TT rideI do like my bike though and so have been doing fairly regular spin classes to keep my cycling legs strong and I also completed my first ever bike TT or Time Trial a couple of weeks ago. This was a 10 mile ride where you literally cycle as fast as you can. I rarely cycle as fast as I can as a social cycle is, well social, and long rides in races are never flat out at your top speed as you’re trying to save your legs for the run part. It was exhilarating to cycle at average speed of 27 km/h with a top speed of 48.2 km/h as I literally cycled as fast as my little legs could pedal. There were some fairly professional looking characters there with skin tight outfits and pointy helmets and I’ll be honest and say that I was very nervous indeed. I think without the encouragement of the lovely “Breeder of Boys” who also was there, I may well have not bothered, but I was pleased I did. I was last of course, but everyone was very friendly and encouraging and I am hoping to go again next week. I have also been lent a couple of “pointy helmets” to try by a lovely chap from our triathlon club and I am sure that they will make all the difference to my speed…..

But then what to motivate me to train beyond the triathlon in less than a fortnight’s time? 2020 has been an absolute disaster for races. Now I am not making light of the horrifying consequences of Covid 19 and I understand that for big races, it is right that they have been cancelled. But it is very hard to remain motivated to train, day in day out, without something to aim for.

I was down to do the Great North Run in September (cancelled) and then my final race of the year was to be the Great South Run in Portsmouth in October. This was cancelled last week. This was to be my final target, the one which forced me to focus on my running and hopefully would result in me falling in love with running all over again, which has been sadly absent since I twisted my ankle in March 2019. But now it wasn’t to be.

So my dilemma is now, what do I do? And the answer is I don’t know. Some days I have enormous plans and I am highly motivated but it isn’t consistent enough and I also find that trying to be positive all the time (which is my personality type), is absolutely exhausting and this further compounds my lack of motivation. On average I am still exercising 4 days out of 7 so it’s not terrible, but I do feel rudderless and without a focus.

I have ideas of course. I could just run socially over the winter. Not focus on time at all only aim to run 3 times a week and hope that the consistency will be the reward?

I could focus on trying to make my 5k time faster. I never did this as I started running in January 2016 and went straight to the Bristol 10k in May of the same year, so perhaps this would be a useful goal?

I could also redo cycle 1 and cycle 3 of the Joe Wicks plan to try and lose more weight, which in turn will help me to be a faster runner? I also have the “Graduate Plan” ready to go (which is Joe’s follow up to the 90 day plan) so could do this also (although I’ve had a sneaky look at the workouts and they look HORRENDOUS so there’s no need to rush into this!)

I could focus on weights? I will continue to weight train anyway as I know that a good level of base strength will be critical once races return, not to mention general health and well being. But I don’t get the buzz from weights in the same way that I do from cardio so this will only ever be a warm-up for me rather than the main show.

The honest answer is I don’t know what I’ll do but I will keep going, probably with a mixture of all of the above. Who would have ever foreseen that medals and races would be so important to me and therefore so missed once I couldn’t do them.

But it’s only temporary and we need to keep reminding ourselves that the “new normal” we live in currently, will not be forever. Races will happen again and so training, in some form or another must continue. I need to keep reminding myself that forward is forward regardless of how fast or slowly I move. Perhaps it will be useful for me to simply try and enjoy the exercise rather than making it time focussed? Time will tell.

However, until, I have a proper race to train for, or unless something specific crops up that I feel I need to talk about, I am going to rest my blog for a little while.

I do post regularly on Instagram under @ladyclaireabell about my fitness exploits so do feel free to keep in touch this way if you’d like to.

Stay well and safe and thank you for reading.

Running at Burnham on Sea

Cycle 1 into Cycle 2

I have completed cycle 1 and have started cycle 2.

Here are my results.Cycle 1 results

Cycle 1 and 2 underwear

And here are the horrendous photos of me…before and after (you remember I mentioned in my last blog that I needed new underwear….well now you see why!)

I am pleased with the results. The weightloss is good, but it’s more that I’ve toned up. I have definitely noticed that my body has got “softer” over the past 12 months and it’s good to feel some muscles are lurking once again underneath my insulating layer. We might not be able to see them yet, but I know they are back.

The most important difference for me though was that mentally I have been feeling a lot better and more positive. I mean, I can’t pretend that I’ve not still had days where I’ve wanted to stay in bed all day because what’s the point of getting up when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, but there have definitely been less of these since I started the plan.

Cycle 1 focussed on getting used to the routine of HIITS (hard) as well as reducing my carbohydrate intake.

Cycle 2, which I am nearly a week into, is allowing more carbs again (hello my old friends) and has introduced weights. The HIITs do have some cardio in them still, but no-where near as much as before. They are much more focussed on strength and weight training. They are hard, but in a different way.

Although I will say, Joe Wicks does love a burpee. They are everywhere and I genuinely believe that he does them before breakfast every day, just for fun. Conversely, I absolutely hate them, but quite rightly, Joe doesn’t give two hoots about my own personal preferences towards burpees and so the burpees remain.

The interesting thing that I’ve immediately noticed as I enter cycle 2, is that I think my body prefers having less carbs. I know that this may well change over the next few weeks, but my body did struggle a bit to start with. I was a bit bloated, but this also could have been to do with the fact that the wise people at Bodycoach HQ have UPPED my daily required water limit to 3.5 litres a day. HOW? WHY? I mean, I was already drinking 3.25 litres a day? I feel the same about this, as I do about people who smoke 80 cigarettes a day – there isn’t enough TIME to complete the challenge. I have to start my day drinking a 750 ml bottle of water before I get out of bed in the morning. It’s like I’m breastfeeding again – for the male readers, when breastfeeding, you are THIRSTY akin to a hangover where you are recovering from a 2 day champagne binge…but all the time.

On the odd day when I haven’t quite hit my water levels (there has been 3 days I think, and when I say I haven’t hit it, I’ve only JUST missed it), but I have woken up thirsty….almost like I am hungover. The body is clever and gets used to things very quickly and I have learned that it likes water. The very simple fact of upping your water consumption has a very quick and palpable affect on how well you feel. Try it…

Since my last blog, quite a few people (26 at the last count) have got in touch with me to ask about the Joe Wicks 90 day plan. This isn’t an advert for the plan – just to be clear – but I thought I would summarise a few points largely around the questions I was asked, as well as some of my own observations.

  1. You will need a blitzer, blender or nutribullet type gadget. I love my nutribullet and use it at least once a day, often twice.
  2. The first shop is more expensive than usual and this can’t be escaped sadly but you may also find yourself eating things that you haven’t eaten before and subsequently discover new things you like. I wish I had embraced frozen fruit and veg more from week 1 as it saves a lot of space in the fridge (one frittata recipe uses 600g of spinach!) and is importantly much cheaper. One of my favourite recipes from cycle 1 is a smoothie with raspberries and peanut butter in it (it is absolutely delicious and importantly tastes very naughty). We were buying fresh raspberries which are expensive and don’t last very long. So I would start freezing them when they arrived, so they would last longer, and made the smoothie more “frozen”. My husband (who has a keen eye for thrift) suggested, calmly, that “perhaps we could just buy frozen raspberries?”…. we now have a freezer full of fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the cost and my husband has had the good sense not to mention that he might have been right.
  3. The HIITs on the plan are more vigorous and challenging than anything I’ve ever seen Joe put on his youtube channel previously. There is no pretending about that. BUT, he does them with you in real time (gets sweaty and out of breath too) and he is an enthusiastic and positive trainer. For each exercise, if needed, he will give you an easier option if you need one so it can be tailored. I am still doing the “easy” burpees and still doing press-ups on my knees. The idea is for you to push yourself hard, without throwing up and you see your own progression is real time.
  4. If Joe stays down on the floor after a particularly strenuous exercise and doesn’t immediately jump up ready for the next one, for goodness sakes, STAY DOWN TOO. I learned this to my peril. I dragged myself up after a set of mountain climbers and felt a little light headed and had to pause the video to recover for a few minutes. NEVER EVER EVER get up before the boss does.
  5. Workouts, as a rule, for me, must be done in the morning, otherwise procrastination can set in and before you know it, you’ve spent all day planning the workout, but not actually done it. The only exception to this is a Saturday which is pizza day in our house. Joe has a lovely pizza recipe (yes it’s on cycle 1) but you can only have it after you’ve worked out. The promise of pizza is enough to make me do the workout, even press-ups and burpees.
  6. Caffeine needs to be reduced dramatically on the plan and I’m allowed a maximum of 2 cups a day. This was one of the biggest challenges for me as our family would win a gold medal at tea drinking. Truthfully, one of the hardest things about lockdown has been, not being allowed to visit Grandma and Grandad (as I expect many of us have struggled with) but missing the cuddles aside, we’ve not been about to enjoy one of Grandma’s famous cups of tea (seriously, she makes the best tea – my daughters and I have had numerous of discussions about it over the past few weeks (along with which restaurant will we go to first when they all re-open. Nandos for me, if you’re interested). If ever I had needed a wake up call it was this. For the first week or so I had a killer headache as my body struggled to wean itself off it’s drug of choice. It was hard. I have also realised that if I’m only allowed 2 cups a day, that one of them must be coffee, and Grandma’s tea excluded, I think I prefer coffee?! Who knew!?!!
  7. I have more energy. SO MUCH MORE energy and I am sleeping better. In a global pandemic, the ability to sleep well should not be underestimated.
  8. Planning is key. There is a lot of talk about batch cooking with these types of plans, but actually, I’ve not done that much. Lots of the questions I’ve received have been around “how do I fit this in with the family?”. The answer for me, was that I cooked the reduced carb dinners for us all (with one extra portion for me to have for a lunch later in the week) and then added a carb portion in for the family. They all had their own breakfasts and sadly sandwiches are not really allowed on the plan so the extra portions were becoming my lunches. My family have LOVED the food and on cycle 2 it’s even easier as there are more carbs.

I’ll talk about this more in the next blog, but as some of the HIITs in cycle 2 are not so cardio heavy, I have started running again and I’m also cycling too. The weather is being very kind to the British in lockdown and I’ve been taking advantage.

The lake is also open, so I’m going to try and squeeze myself into my wetsuit again next week and re-awake my inner mermaid as it will be a while I think before the pools open again and I’m really missing swimming. Of course, I’ll need to be able to get into my wetsuit (and out again) unaided due to social distancing rules, which worries me a little, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Stay safe everyone.

Garden 28 may 20202

90 days…

At the end of my last blog I said I wouldn’t write another one until my training for the GNR recommended, so you may well wonder, why you are reading this. Well the honest answer is, it could be quite some time until any races happen and so, along with many other people I know, I have changed my approach to exercise during lockdown.

I was continuing to exercise and was doing something every other day, but it was without purpose, which in training, often means that it’s easy to slack off and let’s be honest, I was slacking off a bit. I was also eating more than usual and this coupled with training and running less, meant that I was gaining weight. Not a huge amount, but I was now almost a stone heavier than the weight I was when I completed the 113 triathlon last year.

Lockdown wasn’t helping my healthy eating habits and then Easter arrived. I ate 3 Easter eggs in 2 days and knew that it was going to get worse not better. I was also struggling mentally with the lack of focus and so decided I needed a plan.

One of the continuing themes of my blog is that I am slow runner. I have reconciled this and proved that it has never stopped me completing anything, but if I want to do a marathon (which at some point I do) or a branded Half Ironman triathlon which has strict cutoff times (which I DEFINITELY want to do), then the uncomfortable truth is I need to lose weight and at the same time become stronger.

But how best to achieve this? This was of course the sixty four thousand dollar question.

I decided to do more strength work so started with extra “Pump” classes. For those not familiar, it’s an exercise class (Les Mills online) where the teacher takes you through guided squats, lunges, bicep curls etc with weights and it lasted 45 minutes. After the first class I was extremely sore and certainly knew that I had worked hard for the first time in a while. But whilst the exercise had improved, my eating had not lessened.

As I was scrolling Instagram one evening (it’s been a feature of lockdown, scrolling through social media), a deal flashed up for Joe Wick’s 90 day plan and it was half price. I have toyed with the idea of doing his plan before as Fitbit Sister did it a couple of years ago and it completely transformed her body and she was STRONG so I know it gets results. I have even got as far as speaking to their team directly about it, but the HIITs cannot be substituted for long distance endurance training and there was no way that I would have been able to fit in my cycling, running and swimming along with 5 HIITs a week, so have never signed up.

But now, endurance training wasn’t happening and likely wouldn’t be happening for a while so this was no longer an obstacle. The other challenge that the 90 day plan presents is that there is a lot of cooking from scratch and it’s very time consuming. Again, all being at home and having much less to do generally meant that this was now possible.

So I signed up. I took the obligatory horrendous photos of myself in my underwear (and immediately decided that I needed new underwear), took all my measurements and weighed myself and sent the information off. The plan arrived on Friday and I decided that I would take two days to read and re-read the plan. On Saturday morning we JW Plan for the weekplanned the menu (my daughters were VERY excited and helpful) and then shopped the ingredients we needed. I carefully placed the plan on the fridge so I could see what I was doing, cooking and eating.  It was now Saturday evening and I was wondering why I had decided to wait until Monday to start… I was anxious to get going, so I started Sunday morning.

The HIITs that are on the plan, cannot be found on Joe’s usual Youtube channel. They are in a secret place and you have to have paid for the plan to get the secret link. I am no stranger to Joe Wick’s HIITs and have done several of them before over the past couple of years. I am ashamed to say that my preparation for the first HIIT was a bit half hearted as I stupidly (and incredibly arrogantly as it turned out) wasn’t really anticipating anything that I wouldn’t be able to complete. I didn’t warm up properly and I did a half hearted stretch at the end of the session but that was it.

The HIIT itself was extremely challenging. It had moves I had never seen before and I was out of breath very quickly. I did complete most of it, but was working at a very high level and I was absolutely ruined by the end of it. (you can see how spaced out I am and how bad in this horrendous photo….!)

Sweaty HIITI lay panting on my exercise mat at the end, sweat dripping in to my eyes and worrying what the next workout would bring.  I struggle with burpees, mountain climbers and press-ups the most. Let’s talk about press-ups for a moment. You do not need weights to increase your upper body strength at all. All you need to do are press-ups. They HURT. Oh my goodness they hurt and are so difficult.  I can only do them on my knees. My arms burn like a very deep needle in being inserted into my upper arm. I’ve had a pain in my bicep all week and I’m only managing about 6 in one go. It’s pathetic.

Following the HIIT, I went about my day as usual. The food on the plan is good and by and large I am not hungry and eating high protein healthy food. There is a lot of preparation involved and you have to be organised, but having more time on my hands, this is fine.

As I went to bed on the Sunday evening, my legs were starting to hurt. I recognised the signs and knew that I would be sore in the morning.

The plan recommends 4/5 HIITs a week and 2/3 rest days. What you are allowed to eat varies as to whether you are on a training day than a rest day and you can eat more if you’ve trained that day. I spoke to the people at the plan and they said I was able to substitute 2 sessions a week for a cycling HIIT or spin class and so I planned to do 3 HIITS and then 2 spin sessions.

So starting on Sunday with HIIT number 1, I was to do number 2 on Monday, a spin class on Tuesday, then rest on Wednesday. Then HIIT number 3 on Thursday, HIIT number 4 on Friday and spin on Saturday with rest on Sunday. Then picking up again the following Monday with HIIT number 5 and then so on.

When I woke up on the Monday morning, I could barely move. The pain in my legs, glutes and general bum area was worse than any exercise related pain I had ever had in my life, even the day after a race. I was tearful as I descended our stairs, breathing as though giving birth whenever I sat down on anything and generally in a bit of a state. I did complete the second HIIT but it was painful. I was so happy to have a spin session the next day as anything that involved squatting down was ever more painful on the Tuesday. I nearly cried with joy when I woke on Wednesday to discover it was a  rest day.

I was still sore when I went to bed on the Wednesday evening – 4 days after the first HIIT.

Since then, I have been much less arrogant about the whole affair and have diligently completed a 5 minute warm up and 10 minute cool down and stretch session ever since. And so far, no more pains.

I’m in the middle of the second week so far and enjoying it.  Still can’t do a proper burpee but have some building bicep muscles from the press-ups that seem to be in every single workout.

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight (am not allowed to weigh myself until the end of the first 30 days) but I can report that I am feeling fitter and much better in myself. I like and need a bit of structure to my week and it’s been helping me mentally to focus on things other than Covid 19 and work.

I guess the most important thing is that I’m enjoying it, even if the 3.25 litres of water that I have to drink a day, do feel like a full time job in itself.

Stay safe everyone.

 

All in one leotards and Covid-19

So. How is everyone? Aren’t you sick of people asking you that? I am but largely because the answer can vary so very much over even such a short timeframe, sometimes changing dramatically over even just one hour.

Some days I am fully motivated to work, exercise, cook, clean, learn a new language, teach the dog how to walk nicely on his lead (not cracked that one yet) and then other days I can barely be bothered to get out of bed or brush my hair. I know I am not alone in this as my friends tell me that they feel the same. Covid-19 certainly has been a game-changer for everyone.

In my last blog which I wrote a few months ago now, I was planning a big year of exercise but the reality was that I was barely holding anything together at all, apart from work. I was working hard and enjoying my job again which was wonderful and extremely welcome. But as for everything else, well, everything else was collapsing. I had totally lost my ability to multitask and as I am a person who often has 17 balls in the air at once, and needs to have that many balls in the air to get through each day more importantly, this was a problem. Panic attacks and random hysterical sobbing started for no apparent reason (including one in a business situation, which was a real low point) and finally, mid February, after a particularly frightening couple of days, my husband suggested that I seek some professional help.

I was so angry that I couldn’t seem to pull myself together and felt utterly defeated. I had been continuing to walk to and from work, sometimes running to try and use exercise to pep myself up, but nothing was working. So, rather reluctantly, I met with a counsellor. It took only a couple of sessions to establish that I have PTSD as a result of what happened last Summer and I am still in the process of learning how to deal with this.

In those early sessions, we discussed many things, but the most important one, was that I needed to do “less”. This was to allow my body and mind to relax, reset and rest. Of course, one of the early sessions was us discussing that although I needed to do this, it wasn’t realistically possible due to work, family life, daughter commitments, races, training and social engagements. I did however cancel some upcoming social engagements.

Then Covid-19 happened and so now I am definitely doing “less”.

Work is slow, but ticking over but everything else has completely stopped. On top of this, the Government have advised that we don’t do too much “endurance” related exercise as it depletes the body of glycogen stores and limits our ability to fight the dreaded virus should you be unlucky enough to get it.

WeightsTherefore, whilst I am not exercising as much as I was this time last year, I am definitely still ticking over and managing to do something every other day, sometimes a bit more often than that and sometimes not quite as much.  Exercise has reverted to base levels for me and I have re-visited “Step Aerobics”, although without the all in one leotard I wore when I was a teenager and have also been doing some Joe Wicks HIITs. (Give them a try if you haven’t already). I was also very lucky to win a spin bike which arrived the week before lock-down (perfect timing) and so I have been doing an online spin class twice a week too to keep my cycling ticking over. I have weights but have always been terrible at doing strength work, but I have been using this time to embrace this a bit more. So all in all, when we are finally released from this lockdown, I should still have some level of fitness. Hopefully I will also be mentally rested and recuperated also and be ready to start training again.

All of my triathlon events have been cancelled and the Bristol 10k is not happening so all pressure has gone. Again, not having pressure is good for me at the moment and so currently, the Great North Run in September is my next event.  I have plenty of time to train for this and hopefully it will be enjoyable. Running currently is very hap hazard as I am largely preserving my outdoor activities for dog walks and although I sometimes run around a field with Bruce, it’s more for him than me, meaning it’s very stop/start and not very productive for training. But at the moment, it’s enough.

Running with Bruce in Lockdown

Stay safe and I’ll write more blogs as normality returns and training for the GNR starts in earnest.

Runniversary and a new decade

2020 heralds the beginning of a new decade and a new year.

For me this is the perfect opportunity for a reset. The 3rd of January marked my runniversary (4 years since I downloaded the couch to 5k app and changed my life for ever) and I did spend quite a portion of the day mulling over the past 12 months.

It wasn’t a great year as you know and many awful things happened.

BUT, good things happened too and I need to keep reminding myself of this.

  • I learned to ride Shiny Sheena properly using all the gears. You may inwardly snigger at this, I mean, it’s just a bike isn’t it? but road bikes are complicated and you almost need to sit a test to understand how it all works. I finally understand the difference between the big ring and small ring on the gears and I’m not afraid to cycle in traffic. This last bit is HUGE as I have been terrified of this for years and as Bristol is a “cycle city” this is quite important. This culminated in completing the Tour de Bristol 100k bike ride up welsh mountains and back in April. It nearly broke me, but I did it.
  • I finally learned how to front crawl and found that I love open water swimming. I find the swimming pool quite dull now and the chlorine makes my nose itch for hours afterwards. At the swimming pool there is no-one to assist in or out of a wet suit (which happens regularly up at Mad Mike’s lake with people you may or may not know!) I love the camaraderie of the cup of tea afterwards in the club house where we all shiver and try and warm up after the swim wearing gloves, hats and Uggs in May. I even enjoy squeezing myself into my wetsuit like a sausage….I am convinced that this burns at least 100 calories before I even start the swim. My swimming bag contains small plastic bags (to go over my hands and feet which helps you to get then suit on) and lots of body glide to minimise the rubs. At least I look like I know what I am doing from the casual observer.
  • I completed a middle distance triathlon. I do need to keep reminding myself of this as it’s huge. 70.3 miles propelled forwards by my own body. Much of the run was miserable admittedly, but I still completed it and against all the odds. I am super proud of this. As my Mum was taken ill 4 days after the tri, I didn’t really have a chance to digest it at the time or even think about it really, but I need to remind myself. And often. I looked at the medal on the 3rd January and it’s a good one. It might be my favourite….but there are some other contenders there for that accolade also.
  • I ran the Great North Run, which whilst it was an emotional decision to even try it, was one of the greatest things I have ever done. I absolutely loved it and I smiled from start to finish (which was no mean feat in September, I can assure you). I am running it again this year but this year I am going to train properly for it so I can walk the next day, unlike last year. I’m also going to be officially part of “Team Brodie” and will be doing some fundraising for them throughout the year – more on this as the year goes on.
  • I met and was enormously welcomed by North Bristol Triathlon Club. What lovely people they are. It doesn’t matter that I am the slowest and least competent athletic member they have ever encountered, they only seem to care that I am trying my best. They cheered me on at the 113 and have offered advice, encouragement and care when I need it repeatedly over the past year. I even won an award at the Christmas party – the “smiling through adversity” award and it meant so much to me. (Although if there had been a “who drank the most fizz and remained upright” award, I may well have been successful in this category too although I would have faced plenty of stiff competition on the night. Triathletes certainly know how to party as my slightly dishevelled and drunken photo here demonstrates).

I had been so intimidated by a “triathlon” club in the beginning and never would have joined had Merida not encouraged me, but you would be hard pressed to find a more supportive collection of people. If you have any interest in any of the disciplines of triathlon (many members only do one or two of them so don’t let it put you off) do look them up and maybe I’ll see you at a training session soon. http://northbristoltri.co.uk/

So where to this year? And where to this decade? This are very good questions. I have some events lined up – some serious and some not so serious. I have days where I am full of enthusiasm and vigour and want to book BIG events and then some days when I struggle to do anything. But on the whole things are moving in the right direction and I am doing much more exercise than I was 6 weeks ago.

The main thing is I have started running again. The physio told me to go easy to start with and mentally I struggle anyway as running often brings the tears. It’s an emotional release (probably because I find it so incredibly hard) and so for the last 4 weeks of 2019 I ran/walked (3 minutes to 1 minute) just to try and get back into the habit of running again, often whilst crying a bit, but it has helped me enormously. Run/walking is much more enjoyable than properly running and so it’s felt more manageable. Anything “too hard” isn’t an option some days and I was of the opinion that something is better than nothing.

Minehead Dec 2019Then a week ago, I ran 35 minutes without stopping. It felt great to know it’s still in there and I can do it if I need to. I didn’t start the run planning to see if I could run without walking, it just felt ok when I started, so I decided to keep going. Before I knew it, I had run the whole journey to work (I fit many of my runs in around my work commute) and I was elated. It also means that I am once again able to lead runs for This Mum Runs as a Run Angel. I didn’t do much of this last year due to injuries, not to mention the Dark Summer, so this very good news indeed. I love it. I love running with my friends and also love running with ladies at the beginning of their running journeys. It gives me genuine joy.

My big race and my big goal this year is going to be…yes you guessed it, the Bristol 10k. My old nemesis. 2018 and 2019 were blighted by injury (even though I managed to get round) but THIS IS THE YEAR. If I can keep my old knackered body going for 8 and a half hours to complete a triathlon, then I MUST be able to run the Bristol 10k in less than 75 minutes. I have already sought out a pacer for this event and Smiler has bravely (because I can be a bit grumpy in races if I’m trying to go fast, just ask Merida) offered to pace me to whatever time I want to go for. Already I want to go sub 75, but possibly, and hopefully, I will end up going for an even faster time. We’ll see as training progresses in the coming weeks.

In addition, lots of my close friends are doing marathons this year; Merida is running Manchester, Hattie and Smiler are both running the London Marathon.  It’s very hard not to get FOMO (fear of missing out), but I know I must be patient and take time over the course of 2020 to get strong again and most importantly, get my running back up to scratch after, essentially, having had a year out from it.

I have entered a couple of triathlons too – the 51Fiver, is an Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40k bike and 10k run – which is possibly what I should have done last year, but when do I ever take the simple route?!) and I’m also entered in the Long Course Weekend in July which is a 1.9k swim on Friday in the sea (with jellyfish I discovered last night – yikes), the 90k cycle on Saturday (it’s hilly, are there any flat parts of Wales?) and a 10k run on the Sunday. This is to keep my cycling and swimming ticking over as well as providing a good cross training programme for my running – which is my priority this year. I love cycling too and so I can’t give this up – it brings me too much joy. Life is short and we must do things that make us happy.

If all goes well and things are looking ok, I might enter the Weymouth 70.3 triathlon in September. I have a hotel room booked already (which can be cancelled up until the day before the event), and as I know it rarely sells out, I can make the decision a couple of weeks beforehand. It’s niggling away at me, because I was supposed to do it last year but I need to not suffer any injuries and rebuild my body before this can even be considered.

In fact, I think my greatest goal for 2020 will be to get to the end of it in one piece and strong.

I want to do a marathon in 2021 and so 2020 will be a year of foundation work, hopefully with some fun and events thrown in for good measure. For 2021, I have my eye on a bucket list marathon (which will be as serious as it gets) as well as a wine and cheese marathon in France (which will be decidedly less serious and will involve fancy dress) so plenty to motivate me to work hard this year and onwards, into the new decade.

It’s my birthday this week and I will be 45. No-one can tell what the future holds and if I’d told myself in 2009 (or even 2016 when I first dowloaded the couch to 5k app) that I would be a member of a triathlon club on 2019, I never would have believed it. So much has changed in the past decade and I wonder where the next decade will take me.

Let’s find out.

Decade to decade photo

Injuries, jiggles and a labrador….

Since my last blog, I’ve been sidelined from running due to an injury. This has been hideously annoying as I have really needed the time alone with my thoughts, but 2019 just hasn’t been my year and so it was not to be.

Following the 10k at Westonbirt, my right hamstring started to throb. Being a runner, I carefully ignored it but as I pottered along run/walking the following week, it progressively got worse until I could pretend no longer. As I stood making a cup of tea in my kitchen, my hamstring was screaming and I knew I had to take action.

A trip to the physio confirmed that I had torn my hamstring which required total rest – my body was broken after the triathlon, the stress of the “Dark Summer” (which is how I am referring to the Summer months of this year) a half marathon with no training and then finally winging a 10k the week after (which was probably the proverbial straw and my hamstring was the camel’s back). Some of my wise friends commented that this was my body’s way of finally forcing me to rest and they might have been right, but either way, it was extremely frustrating.

However, I concede that I was shattered – physically and emotionally and so I didn’t run and tried to rest as best I could.

I was finally given the all clear to re-start GENTLY running (and yes, the physio did almost shout it at me when he finally relented) in the second week of November. I was delighted but also terrified.

2019 has been a terrible year for my running. I sprained my ankle in March which meant no running for 8 weeks meaning that I shuffled the half marathon of the 113 triathlon in June, woefully underprepared. 4 days after the triathlon, my Mother was taken ill and the Dark Summer followed. This then led to me running the Great North Run and subsequent 10k at Westonbirt with no real training either. So although I knew that I wouldn’t have to restart couch to 5k from scratch, I did need a strategy.

The other problem was nothing to do with my legs or fitness. My Mother’s death has affected every aspect of my life and I cannot handle too much stress at the moment. Having been distracted from my job over the Dark Summer meant that it now required 150% of my attention (and importantly, I was delighted to immerse myself back into the job I love) and so sport and exercise needed to fit in easily. I also needed to be careful not set myself up to fail as it doesn’t take much for the tears to start at the moment. As running is always something that I find difficult, I needed to keep it as easy and achievable as possible.

So my strategy was that I would keep to my 3/1, run/walk plan and get out 2-3 times a week. I was confident that by the beginning of December that I would be back up to 5k and then would be set for the 10k race I have in the diary for the 22 December at Westonbirt Arboretum. But it hasn’t happened that way and this morning I have officially downgraded the 10k to a 5k. Up until last week, I have managed to run twice a week it’s true, but the runs are dreadful. It’s like starting from scratch all over again. I’ve gained 4 kilos since June and whilst I couldn’t care less about the aesthetics of this, I can feel each extra kilo when I run. The heavier you are, the harder work it is to run and as I’m not in the right mental space to try and lose the weight at the moment either, so it’s going to be part of me for a while.

I’ve been re-reading the very first entries of this blog to try and help spur me on and I will keep going but it’s tough. I struggle to catch my breath, it’s really cold which means that my asthma is an issue – the asthma that pretty much disappeared when I was fit is back and it’s crippling my breathing. I’m a bit more “jiggly” than I was 6 months ago and whilst I’m not self-conscious enough about how I look in lycra to not wear it in public, I know that my legs are not as solid as they were. My left ankle aches sometimes after a run and my hamstring still grumbles a bit. So there is plenty to work on.

But I also recognise that this is not the time to do it or push myself too hard – I just need to keep moving and at some point in the future, I will feel ready to take things to the next level again – hopefully in the New Year as I have some races already booked in for 2020.

So far, I’m signed up for an Olympic triathlon in May, the Great North Run, the Great South Run and I have the Bristol 10k firmly in my sights after the last 2 have been blighted by injury.

But for now, I am pottering and trying to get my fitness back. So far, I have (unintentionally) run every day in December and whilst I don’t think my diary will allow a full “running streak” over the whole month, I’m going to try to get out for at least 1 mile as often as I can. Running helps me when I’m feeling down and it’s an effective anti-depressant. This is a very strong incentive at the moment to lace up my trainers and get out there at the moment, jiggly or not.

In April of this year, we got a puppy – a fox red Labrador called Bruce (he has his own Instagram account in case you are interested in following his adventures @brucethefoxredlab). He is now 9 months old and is a bit of a handful (this is an understatement) but we love him and I, in particular and much to my surprise, completely adore him. He has really helped me over the past couple of difficult months and whilst he is hard work, I am pleased we have him. When the family discussed getting a puppy, my only wish was that we got a dog capable of running with me on the trails at weekends. Now whilst Bruce isn’t old enough yet to start properly running with me, I have run on a couple of his dog walks (let’s be honest, I’m not that fast and I do stop and walk when I need to) and he loves running alongside me. Last weekend, we and my husband ran through Ashton Court and I got a glimpse of what a magnificent running and training buddy he will become in future years. I’ve already googled races that we can enter together and this will be something that I’ll be exploring as he gets bigger and older.

Bruce, Jeff and I Ashton Court

But for now, please let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas and thank you for all your support and good wishes this year.

I’ll be back with a more focussed training blog in January.

The Great North Run

This is not a blog about grief and it never will be, but it’s impossible to write this post without touching upon it a little bit. My Mother sadly passed away on the 6th August and the grief is heavy. It’s debilitating and it is physical. I am surprised by just how physical it is and I am exhausted. All of the time. Some days walking is difficult, but I have been forcing myself to run and then walk and then run a bit more as often as I can. The days when I run are really the only days when I manage to sleep at night too so there is added incentive.

The topic of the Great North Run was weighing heavy on my mind as Mum had told me to do it.

A few people messaged me to say, “don’t do, it’s a terrible idea and you have enough on your plate” and they were absolutely right of course. Also a few people messaged me to say “do it. It’s a race unlike any other, but only do it if you can enjoy it”. I had no idea what to do. I decided to leave it and believed that the right answer would present itself, one way or another.

In the weeks after my Mum leaving us, I was lucky to have the support of family and very good friends. The Red Lady was always coming to support me running the Great North Run, if I did it, but she was never going to run it with me. She wasn’t trained for it, last having run a half marathon in 2016 and only running a couple of 10ks this year. One very good friend, I won’t embarrass her by naming her, has contacts at the Great North Run and over coffee when she was checking how I was, asked me if it would help me decide if the Red Lady could get a place to run it with me? I decided it would and she worked her magic and before I could even blink, the Red Lady had a place. The conversation when I spoke to the RL went a bit like this: “so, er, if I could get you a place on the GNR, do you fancy running it with me?”……….”what? that is INSANE! and yes, definitely!”.

So we were doing it.

GNR Celebrity busesWe arrived at the hotel the night before, following a 5 hour train ride, stiff, hungry and wondering what on earth we were playing at! An early night followed, during which I slept for about 45 minutes  and then a 6.45am alarm. At breakfast I was too nervous to eat but forced down some porridge and toast and then we went to wait for the bus and meet our “Team Bodie Hodges” team mates. What an absolutely lovely bunch of people they are. Many of them had run the GNR before and they were full of tales about how incredibly awesome it is. I was excited and nervous. The bus arrived to collect us and with a severe case of “imposter syndrome”, we boarded the bus.

We were deposited around 300 metres past the start line into a VIP area which had private toilets (I need about 74 pre race wees on average so this was magnificent news) and were able to watch the elite women and wheelchair athletes warming up. It was AMAZING.

GNR Nell and Gabby Logan

Dropping my bag off, I finally got to meet Nell McAndrew. What an absolutely lovely lady she is. Completely down to earth, friendly, and chatting like she was An old pal we’d met for a drink in the pub with even though this was the first time I had ever met her. We chat a bit on Instagram but we’d never met and I was so incredibly grateful that she had arranged this whole day for me. I tried to tell myself to stay cool, but I probably wasn’t! I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

We were able to mill around near the start line and watch the elite ladies go off. Being 10 metres away from Brigit Kosgei, Mary Keitany and Charlotte Purdue was an absolute highlight and privilege . They look so strong and fast. I could have started in the front row if I’d wanted to for the main race (and a couple of the Team Bodie Hodges did!) but I’m afraid that fear of being trampled to death got the better of me and so the RL and myself bid my team mates farewell and moved about 10 rows further back.

And then we were off.

With neither of us being even close to being half marathon fit, the Red Lady and myself had devised a strategy to get us round in one piece, and hopefully without injury. This was to run the first 3k in one go (in order to stop being crushed by the masses) and then run the rest of the race strictly adhering to run 3 minutes and then walk 1 minute and to keep to the left as much as possible to try and keep out of the way of the speedier runners. However, we needn’t have worried as the start of GNR is on two sides of a road. The elites were on one side and the celebrities and charity runners were on the other side so the first couple of kilometres were fine. Not one person was trampled and we were all smiling.

All was well until the runners came through who were chasing times. It became a bit “pointy elbowed” at this point and we did our best to keep out of their way as they speeded past us. We got into a habit of tucking in tight as soon as the red pacer flags ran past knowing that this was “peak” trample period. I understand what it’s like to go for a time if you’ve trained for long weeks to achieve one, but trampling over a middle aged trundler to achieve one is not ok and runner etiquette should be considered.

I have run quite a few races in my short running career, but I have never, ever, EVER run a race that is as noisy and well supported as the Great North Run. The crowds are SO LOUD that I found myself almost begging for some peace and quiet. Every third person had a tub of jelly babies, haribo or sweets, there were motivational signs, kids demanding high fives, spectators shouting our names, offering us ice-pops, setting us their own impromptu water stations, beer stops (yes at Mile 10 there was a chap filling up cups of Newcastle Brown and handing them out – obviously I had one), handing out cups of Lucozade that they had bought themselves, getting their garden hoses out to spray us and cool us down. It was AMAZING. It was not just for the beginning and end, pretty much the entire route was like this. It was hot and Newcastle was ready to party.

There were many highlights, too many to mention, but Elvis, singing karaoke in the middle of the road at mile 11(ish) was definitely one of them. The Red Lady and I danced past him and sang a bit too.

But it wasn’t just the spectators having a great time, the runners were too. Newcastle has a lot of bridges and under passes and so everytime we went under one, it is apparently law that we all shout “Oggie oggie oggie…….”. After about 57 rounds of this, I was ready to hit the open roads.

Running over the Tyne Bridge was epic and it was then, for the first time, that I got a sense of just how many people there were running the race. We could see runners as far as the eye could see and for the first time on the race, I felt a bit emotional.

Our 3/1 strategy worked remarkably well, on the whole. We had promised each other that we would strictly stick to the gameplan, otherwise, we knew that we would end up walking more than we wanted. I kept an eye on my Garmin watch and was in charge of shouting run and walk. 3 minutes is not a long time to run and I quickly got into a routine. As we ran, by the time I first glanced at my watch, it was usually showing that we’d been running 90 seconds, then I would look again and we only had 20-30 seconds left. 60 seconds was enough time to recover and RL was very good at reigning me in when I would go off too quickly at the start of each 3 minute segment. I tried not to think about the distances only the next 3 minutes. 10k rolled around and I have to tell you that it was the best, easiest and most enjoyable 10k I have ever run (running is always more enjoyable when you don’t care how fast you are going). We didn’t chat much whilst running, but chatted plenty whilst walking, often laughing about something we had just seen. I knew that kilometres 10-16 would feel tough so just tried to focus and on the whole it was ok although clearly it wasn’t entirely comfortable.

GNR Mile 10 ALONE High Res

Around the 10-11 mile mark, I felt tearful suddenly and this threatened everything because 3/1 works because your breathing is regulated, but crying really messes up your breathing, and I could feel proper snotty, gut wrenching tears bubbling under the surface. I confided in my buddy what was happening and we decided to take a couple of longer walk breaks to get things back under control, which we did. 2 walk breaks of 2 minutes and we were back in business.

We were now into the final 3 miles and we were tired but could feel the end was close. At the end of the GNR, you see the sea, then go down a very steep hill (which hurt my knees, ankles and boobs as the bounce factor on a steep downward hill should not be underestimated) and then you turn onto the final stretch towards the finish line for the final mile. We cheered when we saw the sea. I could hardly believe that we were already nearly there, but the final mile felt long. My legs were tired and my feet were burning.

If the crowds along the route were loud, they were nothing compared with the final straight. I couldn’t hear anything that the RL was saying to me at all. They were 10 deep at the barrier and people were sat on a Grandstand clapping and cheering us in. We crossed the line and I absolutely sobbed my heart out. We completed the race in 3 hours, 6 minutes and 15 seconds. It was slow, but I genuinely didn’t care a jot. It was magnificent and I truly count the GNR as one of my greatest ever achievements.

GNR finishing on my own

It is now that I must pay tribute to the Red Lady. Not only for agreeing to run a race with me that she wasn’t trained for (she’s mad), but also for how incredibly happy and smiley she was throughout the entire race. As we chugged along, she practically skipped, almost dancing and grinned the whole way through the experience.

We both lost our Mums this year to cancer and so we both had moments of pain during the race but we got through it together.

After the race, being in the VIP pavilion, we had a shower (yes, a SHOWER) something to eat and then we were on a coach that was given a police escort back to the hotel afterwards (as the roads were all still closed!)

I bid my team mates farewell and we went back to the hotel to head to the airport.

It was the most enjoyable race I have ever run. More importantly, it has re-ignited my love affair with running which has been absent for many months now. The Red Lady has told me it had the same effect on her. Therefore, we are both signed up to run it again next year but have made each other the promise that the GNR will always be our “happy” race and we will never rush it. It will never be our PB course, because there are too many kids to high five and too many beers to drink en route…. I will also be running for Team Bodie Hodges next year again and intend to raise some money for them.

Fearless Westonbirt Sept 2019

For the rest of this year I have only one plan. Keep running. I’m not going to put myself under any pressure for times but I’m just going to take each day as it comes and hopefully complete a few races. Life is for living and it should be enjoyed. I ran a 10k at Westonbirt at the weekend (slowly using 3/1 again) and I also have a place for the Cardiff Half marathon at the beginning of October.

One day at a time and keep moving forward. There are times in life when training hard and pushing for fast times are right but there are also times when they are not.

I have some plans forming for next year already, but for now until Christmas, the only plan I have is to keep moving forward and try and smile as much as possible.

 

The fourth discipline of triathlon is faffing…..

Faffing. It’s an official triathlon word that is used to describe the action that happens around a triathlon. Overthinking would be another word that would work well for this also.

For a triathlon, there is an enormous amount of “stuff” you need and the “kit lay” photo I will take on Saturday evening THIS WEEK, will probably need a wide zoom lens, possibly panoramic, to get it all in.  When I did the sprint triathlon last year, I wore a triathlon suit, which is like a long swimming costume that has a small chamois in it (which is the bike padding bit) that you wear for the swim, bike and run. But the distances required for the upcoming 113 triathlon render the, frankly laughably thin, chamois completely unusable for a 56 mile bike in particular and so I have spent more time stressing, faffing and overthinking the age old question of “what should I wear” to the triathlon, than for my wedding day. The professional triathletes seem to complete the whole thing in a swimming costume, but they have much less body fat than I do and their thighs don’t applaud them as they run along…so what to do?

As always, I turned to the professionals. Coach George Clack of https://bristolopenwater.co.uk/ had overheard a conversation I was having following one of the open water swimming lessons I have been having about wanting to do a practice tri (or Trytri) and offered to accompany me for the swim and the bike part of it. I accepted gladly and arrived as promised on the Wednesday afternoon.

It is very easy for faffing to take over when setting up your bike and transition area and George was very clear about not letting this rule your race. I racked my bike, got my bike and running shoes ready, socks unrolled and a towel and then got into my wetsuit. George is very calm and when you are freaking out internally, you need calm.

We got into the lake and waited to start. I am worried about the scrum that can happen at the beginning of an open water race but George put me at my ease. Let the racers go, count to 10 and then set off. Yes I’ll be behind them, but am I expecting to win the race? (I tried to keep a straight face) no, then setting off 10 seconds later to keep out of trouble, is worth the sacrifice. So I started my watch, waited 10 seconds and then swam off. I kept myself relaxed and got into a rhythm and before I knew it, I was out and running towards my bike, unzipping my wetsuit using a couple of tips that George had given me before we started.

At the bikes, I started to get a little frazzled. George’s mantra of calm, once again helped and I slowed myself down and looked at the task in hand. For a 56 mile bike ride, it’s important to be comfortable and so I was trying out putting on proper cycling shorts over my tri suit (for the extra padding) to see if this would work, and then taking them off again for the run. George’s philosophy again of taking a couple of extra minutes to ensure comfort would hopefully pay off and so before I knew it I was ready to start the bike section. Putting on shorts had taken an extra 20 seconds so after all that faffing, the difference in time for my transition was neglible.

The bike is always my favourite part and particularly so on a sunny day as this was. George coached me round offering advice on gears, seating positions, drafting and triathlon rules and as an experience triathlete and double ironman, he has plenty of real life examples and advice to share.Tri Suit by the lake

Before I knew it, we were back at the lake and I now had to complete the 5k run. George sensibly had ducked out of this part…can’t say as I blamed him…and I ran on my own. Immediately I knew I should have taken a drink with me and the training session was worth it for this alone as I will never do that again!

The afternoon was completely invaluable to me for many reasons. Mainly the confidence it gave me around transitions and the rules, but also the fact that it showed that bib shorts over a tri suit is a terrible idea and nappy cream was the only thing that seemed to soothe the problem.

George is available for one on one triathlon lessons and I fully recommend them. This is not an ad (just to be clear), just a general recommendation.

For comfort, the bike leg is the most perplexing part and important to get right. Over the past 4 weeks, since the last blog I have been on quite a few bike rides including a lovely morning over to Bath and a lovely cycle to Thornbury with some lovely Mummy Triathlon friends. Wearing cycle shorts is fine for pretty much any distance and so following the Trytri, I have decided to take a few extra seconds in transition and change into proper cycle shorts (under a very big over the head “toncho” towel) for the 113. This in turn means wearing a tri top and bikini bottoms for the swim under my wetsuit, so there isn’t too much faffing around changing in the first transition. I still wasn’t sure at this point what I would wear for the half marathon but I planned to test this.

Running as always is up and down and helpfully the weather has been hot too, which as you know, makes it harder for me, but none the less, I have been continuing to run. The problem is, that I seem to constantly go off too fast and so I seem to be dropping back into run/walk with alarming ease. I don’t have a problem with run/walk but I think in order to regulate my breathing for the race, slow but steady will be better. The other thing is that I can’t remember the last time I had a good run and this is worrying me. I’m tired and generally knackered. I’m worried about falling over again and this seems to consume every run I do. I also hadn’t managed to get a long run in and when training for a half marathon, this is always critical, but I kept putting it off because I was exhausted.

But sometimes life offers you a life line, whilst kicking you in the teeth at the same time. We’ve had some family stuff going on which has meant that apart from one run, I didn’t manage any training for a week. But this particular run was one I will never forget. I had planned to run 10 miles, but was in no emotional state to do it, but I’m a stubborn idiot (as I’m sure you’ve realised by now) so I set off. The first 2 miles were ok and then my mind took over and I started crying and I sobbed my way through miles 3 and 4 when I bumped into Smiley and her Mum. They are ladies I know through This Mum Runs. (Smiley is a London Marathoner who never stops smiling). They let me sob on them (actually, horrifyingly as I look back, I’m not sure they had any choice truth be told) and then insisted that they accompany me for the rest of the run. We managed 9 miles and I have never been more grateful to anyone in my life. I needed the run for so many reasons and without them, I am fairly sure that I would not have completed it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the running community is pretty awesome – thank you so much.

The week off training had helped me though and my legs once again felt like themselves. I felt, well not exactly rested as the week had been extremely stressful, but I was no longer “falling down” tired, as I had been for the previous weeks. The timing was good as last Saturday Merida and I went to the location of the 113 triathlon to practice and familiarise ourselves with the place (well me really, Merida completed an Olympic distance triathlon there a fortnight ago so she knows the place well). We swam in the lake (it’s nice, clear, there were shoals of tiny fish to be seen as I swam above them) and then we cycled one loop of the two loop bike course. We cycled with some members of the tri club and it was extremely enjoyable. The two ladies that joined Merida and I were lovely. Chatty, experienced, one training for Zurich ironman and both were very happy to impart their knowledge and experience to me. Now here’s the thing, the bike loop is flat. Completely flat. No hills at all. Now I know this can’t be viewed as a brilliant training opportunity for Weymouth 70.3 in September, but I don’t care. This was the confidence boost I have so sorely needed. I have been worried about the bike leg ever since the 100k uphill Tour de Bristol, but this should be fine.

Finally off the bike, Merida joined me for a 3k run around the lake, which importantly was in the shade. Hideous but manageable. I’ve done a lot of practice runs off the bike recently in preparation so I’m hoping I won’t fall over on jelly legs and embarrass myself in front of the more serious triathletes on Sunday.

So. I think I’m ready. Obviously, I could be better prepared for the run and I know the final 10k will be 100% mind over matter, but I’m confident that as long my ankle doesn’t go pop and I get enough food and liquid into my body on the bike section (I’m taking sandwiches and flapjack as well as technical nutrition stuff) I should get round.  Nutrition and hydration will be key and I still have 5 more days of faffing about that to go, but apart from this, I think I am ready.

I am mentally prepared for the fact that I will probably be last, but I am genuinely not bothered. Trundling as always will feature in the run and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just change into my Trundler T shirt for the run leg? At least it might make me smile as I grit my teeth for the final hour. Plenty of time to faff about that over the next 5 days.

My wave starts at 6.10am on Sunday morning and I will start swimming 10 seconds after that. I hope to complete the 1.2 mile swim in around 50 minutes, the 56 mile bike in around 4 hours and then the 13 mile run is anyone’s guess. I’d be delighted with 3 hours for that, but have no expectations really. The goal is to finish and then enjoy the cold can of full fat Coke that has been promised to me by my daughters. I suspect that Merida and myself may indulge in some other fizzy type drinks later on in the day also, if all goes to plan.

My next blog post will hopefully be a post race analysis but I still have to that “20 minute easy run” to get through this week. My sister said to me yesterday “don’t fall down any holes this week”. Wise words indeed.

Couch to half ironman distance triathlon? Let’s find out. I’ve promised my daughters that I will do my very best and this is all I can do. Let’s hope it’s enough.

See you on the other side.

Suspension bridge June 2019

 

 

 

“Have a crack at it and see what happens…..”

So much has happened in the last month that I really should blog more regularly but my training plan is full (understatement) and I also have to work as well as be a Mum and Wife so I genuinely struggle for time. But a lot HAS happened and so I’ve decided to split this into more than one blog, otherwise, you’ll need to take a break whilst reading it!

This post will focus on running.

As you know, I have been unable to run following the fall 2 days before the Big Half in London. I have been seeing a physio (who has been magnificent, even though he clearly thinks I am barking mad) who has gradually put me back together in the weeks since the fall. I’ve been a good student and have diligently completed all of my daily exercises, calf raises on the stairs, balancing on one foot, pushing my knee forward until it touches the wall to increase the ankle’s mobility amongst other things until, quite honestly, I was sick and tired of it. Dr Crane has played his part also as each PT session has also included some ankle rehab. I don’t know what it’s called, but in the gym there is a piece of equipment that is essentially half a large beach ball on a tray. I have stood on it to balance and then rocked my ankle back and forward (making it ache, but not hurt) and we have focused on weights that strengthened my ankles whilst not twisting them in any way. One thing I didn’t know, and may be useful for you if you ever become injured in a similar way, is that any machine in the gym which has yellow around it’s bottom is a “rehab” machine. It seems to be gentler so as not to irritate any injuries and I have spent a fair chunk of time on the rehab cross trainer in the gym as I have desperately tried to preserve my running fitness.

Finally, nearly 3 weeks ago and exactly 6 weeks after my fall, the physio said I could start run/walking on the foot. Apparently, although it was weak, at this point the only real way to strengthen it properly was to run on it, but CAREFULLY, he stressed.

The following Wednesday (17th April) was the first opportunity I had to try and I completed 30 minutes at 1 minute run and 1 minute walk. The first 5 minutes were quite uncomfortable and I was feeling a bit desperate and wondering whether I should stop, when suddenly it loosened and the pain subsided.  I was able to run fairly freely and it was as though my ankle had needed a very thorough warm-up but now it was ready for action. I managed 3.5k in 30 minutes even with 15 minutes of walking and I was pleased. Analysis of my stats showed that when I was running, I was running very fast. I had no idea whether this was residual fitness or pent up excitement at finally being able to run again, but whatever it was, I just knew that I felt happy. The Bristol 10k was fast approaching and long suffering readers of this blog will know that I have a bit of a history with this race. I was desperate to run it, even if I was only to run/walk it as a training run for the 113 triathlon (which has a half marathon at the end of it) and I wanted that medal. This year even more important as my youngest sister Queenie had signed up for it for the first time and I had promised to run it with her, so all the more of an incentive to get my knackered ankle moving.

The weekend after was Easter and I was away with almost all of my family (immediate and extendedElizabeth and I at Butlins) for a 4 days and 3 nights of absolute chaos at Butlins. The weather was hot and we all had a brilliant time. Queenie and I managed to sneak away for a 5k as I was keen to test my ankle over a greater distance whilst still keeping to the run/walking strategy and although I could feel the extra 1500m in my ankle later in the day, I managed it. Queenie was feeling happy as she didn’t want to run the Bristol 10k on her own and I finally felt positive about my running.

As always though, these things never follow a straight line and the next run was absolute pants. I only managed 1600m and my ankle hurt the entire time. As I was due to be out on a cycle later that same day, I decided to call it a day at just under a mile for fear of damaging myself and my mood was dark again and my confidence plummeted. But I knew I needed to keep trying and so I decided that company on the run might help distract me and so I reached out to the mighty network of “This Mum Runs” lovely runners and asked if anyone fancied a slow run/walk the following Friday. One lovely Mum, Scottie, did and we chatted away as we ran/walked and before we knew it we had run for an hour. Once again, I was riding high. On the Sunday, my eldest daughter (inspired by watching the London Marathon on the TV earlier that morning) came with me for 7.6k of run 2 mins walk 1 minute and again my ankle seemed to be ok. It was also my daughter’s longest ever run as she has never run more than 5k before, so this was an added bonus as she was also feeling full of confidence and achievement.

On Monday, at PT I was relaying all of my runs to Dr Crane who then deftly demonstrated that he is absolutely the right PT for me. I had carefully been telling him that I was going to run the 10k which was the following Sunday, but was promising to be careful and only run/walk it, when he said that as long as the physio was happy (and I was seeing the physio later that week) that I shouldn’t plan to run/walk it, I should “have a crack” at it and see how I get on. He said that I would “be surprised at how much running I would be able to do”. I was elated and felt like I had been given permission to run! Physio duly signed me off a couple of days later, although strapped my ankle up with magic tape (kinesiology tape) as a precaution, but I was ready.

As usual, at this point, all sorts of plans and ambitions started to flood my mind. Could I run the whole thing? Could I keep up with my younger sister? Could I even get a PB? Should I try for a PB? And as much as I tried to ignore them, they kept nagging at me.

The Bristol 10k is a big race. 13000 people run it each year. It’s very well supported and you are cheered pretty much from the moment you set off until you cross the finish line. I love it, but my youngest sister is not a fan of crowds and so I needed to take this into account and I was a bit unsure how to manage this. Then the Tequila Queen, who has been injured recently, messaged me to ask if I would like her to run with me and my sister and what times were we hoping for? This was brilliant news. This Mum Runs were providing the pacers for 75, 80 and 90 minutes and Queenie wanted to get under 80 minutes and this is what I had promised her that I would help her achieve. But the 80 minute pacer (who I know and is an absolute legend by the way) would be in the throng of the crowds, which Queenie would not enjoy. So the Tequila Queen and I quickly made a plan that we would set off on the run at the very back of the pink wave (or party wave as I like to call it) and TQ would be in charge of the pacing. The race is chip timed so it doesn’t matter what time you start, but starting at the back meant that there wouldn’t be 2000 people snapping at our heels which would hopefully help my sister and not put extra pressure on her in her first ever big race. My good friend Twin Mum was also running and kindly said she’d run with us too.

As we set off, I inwardly grumbled about the hot sun beating down on us. I had been checking the weather all week and it was supposed to be cloudy and cool – it most certainly was not. If anyone reading this has just got engaged, I strongly recommend that you choose the day of the Bristol 10k to get married as it is always ridiculously sunny and hot.

Things were going ok, Queenie was flying and I knew we were well on target for even my PB and so tried to relax into the run. The problem was that my ankle wasn’t comfortable. The day before I had been to the birthday party of SwimDad and I had got quite cold as we had sat in the garden. As I now know from the X-ray that was taken of my ankle when I initially fell, I have arthritis in both ankles and it seems that it is aggravated by the cold. My ankle wasn’t happy the morning of the 10k and at 4k I made the difficult, but ultimately sensible decision to not chase my PB. There was some hasty discussions between the Tequila Queen and myself when I asked her to keep running with Queenie so she could get her time. I didn’t want to compromise my ankle and I felt that if I kept running at the speed we were running at, I would be jeopardising not only this race, but ultimately the triathlon. I also wasn’t sure I could keep the same speed up, if I’m being honest,  as 4 run/walks in 8 weeks isn’t the best preparation for a 10k and my run fitness certainly was not where I would have liked it to have been. Queenie didn’t want to leave me and was quite tearful, but I urged her on and I knew she was in very safe hands with the Tequila Queen. Finally they ran ahead and Twin Mum and I relaxed a little.

We dropped the pace a little, only by about 10-15 seconds per kilometre, but it made a difference to my ankle and we were able to carry on. We walked twice I think (possibly 3 times) over the whole race and on the whole I am happy with how the race went. TwinMum usually runs 10k in about an hour and so she chatted to me easily as we made our way up Cumberland Road, which is definitely the most unpleasant part of the course. Lots of people were cheering and shouting to us and as we approached 9k I saw my family, all screaming at us.

Me running at Bristol 10k

Suddenly I became emotional. I have no idea why, but tears were pouring down my face, but we pushed on as I waved promising to see them at the end. By this point, I’d had enough and just wanted the race over with. I went into a sprint finish by the Hippodrome, which is much too early and I really paid the price. By the time I crossed the finish line I was close to being sick and then hugged TwinMum and had a little cry. I really didn’t think that I would have been running that race when I fell and so suddenly the emotions were strong. I ran the Bristol 10k in 80 minute and 56 seconds. This is my third fastest time for ANY 10k ever and only 2 minutes off my all time PB so all in all I’m pretty happy with it. Queenie smashed her time and took 5 minutes off her 10k time coming in well under 80 minutes. She was so strong and determined and I was very proud to call her my sister on Sunday. Enormous thanks to the Tequila Queen for selflessly pacing my sister. Tequila’s will be on me as a thank you (but after the triathlon!!) TwinMum was a legend. It’s lovely when you run with your friends. We had a good old catch up during the run and she was wonderful, keeping me going and also carrying my water bottle over the final 3k of the race. Thank you.

Jo and I medals

So we are now at 4 and half weeks to the Triathlon and (touch wood) my ankle seems fine. The 10k seemed to do it the world of good and it is definitely stronger which is a huge relief. I now just have the small task of getting back up to being able to run 13 miles in the next 4 weeks. It’s a big ask, but as you have probably guessed by now, unless something goes horribly wrong in the next month, it is no longer my intention to just complete the swim and the bike in June as a training exercise for the Weymouth 70.3 in September, I am intending to complete the entire triathlon in June as well. My training plan over the next 4 weeks is intense and has lots of running in it including a couple of long runs, which I intend to complete by way of a trusty Parkrun Sandwich to and from Eastville Parkrun. Maybe I’ll see you there?

I’ll keep you informed and will blog more regularly, I promise, over the next 4 weeks as panic sets in as we get closer to the 9th June.

Let the countdown commence……

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.