77 days to go, under 12 weeks now. I’m so busy with other work fitting around training I mostly don’t have the time to think about doing the Outlaw in July. Lots to do in the meantime so it seems a long way away. But I know I’ll soon be looking at the other end of June and beginning to feel butterflies every other thought. Probably at least once every couple of days I get them at the moment.
I was talking to my coach on the phone, a bit worried about being away for 5 of the next 8 week, and fitting in training, and how hard it was in the tough 20 hour training week I did 2 weeks ago to ride 2 hours and run 1, when the Outlaw is going to be at least 4x that. And he explained that I’ll be rested and psychologically prepared, and that we’d sit down and work out all my availability from now until July, and fit the training and taper around it, that “there are going to be a lot of people less prepared than you”. A ‘taper’ is where you bring training down, after building fitness and endurance, so that you’re really really well rested before the event. That’ll mean no training and generally staying off my feet and eating well for at least 2-3 days before the event. I’m travelling up to Nottingham 2 days early too so I can get used to the bed I’ll be sleeping in, and getting up as early as I’ll need to be up.
Prepared. I like being prepared. It’s the Crystal Palace Triathlon tomorrow – it’s less than 10 minutes from my house, and only a sprint distance, so it shouldn’t take much more than an hour and a half. Last night I wrote out my kit because I was worried I might forget my race belt – a small cheap but vital bit of kit so you can wear your race number easily/properly between disciplines. It’s not a usual bit of kit, so easy to forget. I wrote down what I thought was everything, and then proceeded to have anxiety dreams all night about not being on time or having the right gear to do the event, particularly in the dream I realised I left off ‘sports bra’ on the list. I woke up thinking that.
As if I’d go out having forgotten to put one on.
I like being prepared. Except proper prepared is really ‘having done this before’. Which I won’t have. I can’t really do anything but deal with that.
Anyway, I thought I’d share the general shape of my next few weeks with you.
Type of training week
Maintain fitness levels
Recovery from previous weeks and prepare for next big weeks
Lots of endurance work
Key sessions are
long ride (5-6hrs), long run 2 1/2 hrs, long swim >4k
Less training focussing on higher intensity to help you through a busy week
Recovery from previous weeks and prepare for next big weeks. Also helps you with a busy period of work
Lots of endurance work
Key sessions are
long ride (5-6hrs), long run 2 1/2 hrs, long swim >4k
Lots of endurance work
Key sessions are
long ride (5-6hrs), long run 2 1/2 hrs, long swim >4k
Start of Taper. Unload fatigue from previous weeks
Aim to maintain fitness without adding fatigue. No more really long workouts
Max Ride = 4hrs
Max Run = 2hrs
Max swim = 4k
Aim to maintain fitness without adding fatigue. No more really long workouts
Max Ride = 3hrs
Max Run = 90 mins
Max swim = 3k
Minimal training. Some higher intensity but only to maintain top end.
Key goal is to remove remaining fatigue and mentally prepare for the event
Today I did a ‘ramp test’ as part of my regular training. Coach Simon just got back from completing the Marathon Des Sables, and set me this to do today. These are his instructions, and my results. Note that I didn’t ask a friend to time me (I kind of thought that would be super annoying to most friends, who are all at work anyway), but I used my Garmin – which is able to count strokes for me, and time if I hit the ‘interval’ button at the end and beginning of every ramp test length. So there will be a couple where I fumbled a bit, but this is probably roughly right. The Garmin 910xt counts 1 stroke for both your arms, so I doubled them to the normal stroke count which is one per arm.
Below are the instructions I was given, and the results. FYI a tempo trainer is a little yellow thing you put under your hat you can set to beep on different settings – strokes per minute, time per lap etc., allowing you to set pace. One of the features of the device is ‘now comes with changeable battery’. That made me laugh.
50m Stroke Rate Ramp Test
“The Stroke Rate Ramp Test is a series of 50m swims with a short break in between. The stroke rate during each 50m is controlled by the Tempo Trainer and gradually increases. Take whatever rest is necessary between the 50m swims to change the stroke rate on the Tempo Trainer.”
“If you have been using your Tempo Trainer regularly you will be aware of your strokes per minute for steady paced swimming. Start the ramp test about ten strokes per minute below this natural rate and increase it by three strokes per minute for each 50m swim. You can keep going as high as you like but normally 15-25 beats above your natural rate is enough to experience your full stroke spectrum.
“Ask a friend or colleague to time each 50m with a stopwatch, count your strokes taken (counting both arms) and record how that stroke rate felt to you in terms of effort. It’s a good idea to use a scale of 1 to 10 to record your effort level where 1 is no effort at all and 10 is eyeballs out!”
Set by Tempo Trainer
Strokes per length
Had to concentrate to go this steady
This felt like hard work but ok
This felt surprisingly fast
Began to lose the rhythm
I could do it for 25m but not the full 50
I could do it for 25m but not the full 50
“To keep the test as unbiased as possible don’t try and assess the results or analyse things as you go along. Simply perform the set of 50m swims at the given stroke rate and record how each felt.”
A week or so ago I went to the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds to take part in The Triathlon Coach swim analysis workshop. It involved a hour’s swim focussed on increasing speed, with each of us taking a couple of minutes to be filmed swimming, before then having a two hour session on technique, analysing our stroke, and suggestions for improvements.
Swimming is my thing. It’s my sport. In every triathlon I’ve done, the water is my home. I’m always so glad that they begin with the discipline I feel the safest with – time to relax, and settle in (when I know a lot of other people are mostly concentrating on not drowning), the opportunity to get used to breathing and the silence of being-alone-with-yourself of triathlon.
I grew up swimming for a club, to a county level. I even did a couple of international meets. I trained in 3 or 4 pools across Lincoln: NK, City, Christ Hospital, and Yarborough. Early mornings and late nights. At Yarborough they had a walk way between the girls and the boys changing areas, where an attendant would take your things in a basket, before lockers were installed there (although as part of the club, you’d just take your bag on poolside). NK was the site of the strongest memory I have of a swim meet – of a 50m backstroke win that felt like I was flying and also not moving. I looked up and suddenly it was over, and I was 5m ahead of everyone else. I gave up swimming not long after I was 12 following a severe break of both my arms. My mum said I used to swim in my sleep when I had the casts on. I joined a drama club with all my new spare time (the routes life finds for us) I didn’t stop being a swimmer. When I worked in a kitchen in the south of France for a year when I was 18 I would wallow in the cool water of the Ardêche Gorge. I learnt to canoe and picked it up at a rate that unnerved my instructor, but to me always just felt like using the paddle as a hand, when I swim my hand is a paddle.
When I went to university it was a sports university to do drama (no irony lost) with a beautiful 50m pool, in Wolverhampton the pool was less nice and times restricted but I worked my way up to a swimming fitness I’d lost for a while, with the help of a waterproof mp3 player. Back to Loughborough for a PhD and over those 4 years I watched British Swimming’s training sessions and tried to straighten my stroke out. I built up my distances, but I had no clue how to construct drills and rests and paces for actually progressing my technique. I did remember paddle and pull buoy work though, and kick, so I added some of that on, and was eventually swimming 5k sessions as a mix of crawl, breast, back, pull, kick with no rests. Then I moved to London. Ironmonger Row’s funny 33m pool had me doing complex maths, I used to cycle from Lewisham to Ironmonger Row for an hour’s swim before a 10am start at work. I observed that London lane discipline was worse, and that people here kick harder. Lewisham pool was nice enough – a great resource for the community – but lane times severely limited, and once someone told me that the likes of me shouldn’t be swimming there. Later I thought up the comeback I never said: “I’m in the fast lane, there’s no faster one, though there are several slower, why not avail yourself of one of them”. In Loughborough they actually had a ‘faster’ lane. Slow, medium, fast, faster.
Every Saturday since I moved to London I would cycle from Lewisham to Crystal Palace to swim in the 50m pool there. A pilgrimage.
Crystal Palace pool, image from the www.crystalpalacecampaign.org site
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre is tall, the architecture angular, the sun spills in from 3 sides of windows, set in the heart of Crystal Palace Park. You hear the diving boards ricochet, squash court squeaks, but thankfully they don’t play any music. The pool is old, but graceful with it. One half always set aside for lessons – local clubs, or sometimes synchronised swimmers and an instructor repeatedly tapping the middle steps with a cane for the beat. The lanes for public use are open as long as I’ve ever encountered 7am-7pm most days, 10am-5pm at the weekends. It’s bliss. I can fit swimming into my day rather than my day into swimming. I can get sleep, recover. I can run with a backpack and get 85 minutes around the park in before a 3500m training session. In October I moved to Penge, which is a 5 minute cycle and a 10 minute run from the pool. They have a stock of pull buoys and kickboards so I don’t need to carry those in my backpack. There are a couple of pigeons that fly around in the ceiling sometimes. The water is cool – a proper training temperature – flags for turns, proper lane ropes, 2 minute clocks, even with 6 people in a lane there’s room to feel like you’ve got space.
And this year I got a coach, the last bit, the training sessions, I now have someone setting the drills, the distances, the rests. And I’m getting better. Hitting personal bests.
My Friday swim, followed by a 45’ run, looks like this:
WARM UP 1 x 600 m front crawl , 6/10 effort: 300m EZ, 200m Build, 100m hard 10 x 50m +20s rest – TORPEDO KICK + POLO Notes:Execute a GREAT push off from the wall. Keep your head down with your hands placed on on top of the other tucking the top thumb under the lower hand. Reach as tall and high as you can and if you are flexible then tuck your arms behind your head. After you have pushed off in the streamlined position kick as hard as you can until you run out of breath. When you surface do a head up “Water Polo” style stroke to 25m, then do easy freestyle for the end of the rep (50m) 10 x 100m single arm drills +20s rest after each 100m. Notes:This drill is perfect for developing rotation, Early catch and balance between L & R arm strokes. To view a video of this drill please click here – 25L/25fs/25R/25fs – on 1 arm drills have 1 arm by side. 5 x 200m PULL 8/10 effort + 20s rest. Work on cadence and good catch COOL DOWN 1 x 300m EZ backstroke
Swimming is all about being symmetrical and efficient. In a world of thickened dynamics (water moves like air does but with more force) the aim is to transfer as much energy into forward momentum as possible. Because you need to turn to breathe you need to carefully balance and counter balance your body in the water – any point of asymmetry and some of your energy propels you sideways, works against you and the water, not with it. Lots of splash means you’re moving air more than water, not enough and you might be too low in the water. Your body should be flat, if it dips, then your feet will drag. Movements should be smooth and aerodynamic. You train by concentrating on different things in each session, rather than trying to get each bit of technique right in one go. Ingrain it, add things in, find out what it feels like to do it right with a paddle that forces your stroke into the right position, then repeat it without. A different session each week will focus on: strength (upper body, and kick), technique, endurance.
This is me in the lake at Roundhay Park
I was taught to be a pool swimmer: power and sprinting. But I’m training for open water.
Unsurprisingly this is what the workshop stroke analysis showed me. I have a good pool stroke – my body is in a good position, I have a good kick, my elbows are high, but I have developed over-gliding, and am doing a series of things I learnt in the 90s which either aren’t thought to be best practice now, or that aren’t suited to open water swimming: explosive breathing, thumb entry, slow, powerful smooth stroke. I have a slow cadence (stroke rate) and a long stroke. Although I was about the same speed as others in the class, I had the lowest stroke rate – around 50 strokes per minute. Almost good for a pool stroke, but unideal for open water – where you need higher arms, a much faster turnover, where you need to breathe comfortably on both sides to avoid sun glare, waves, wind.
So, take a look at these three videos. The first is me, with my stroke rate of around 50. The second is a famously smooth pool swimmer, Jono Van Hazel, who starts out with a stroke rate of around 65, hitting 1:15 per 100m, and the final is the world’s best open water technique swimmer Jodie Swallow, who has a frankly astonishing ALL DAY stroke rate of around 90 (1:10 per 100m). She can keep that pace up for HOURS. Listen to the commentary there – it’s a swinging uncouth stroke in the air but she has immediate catch (the word for getting a purchase on the water with your hand), and still maintains high elbows (you might hear coaches talking about the importance of high elbows, but they don’t mean above the water, they mean under the water – it means you can use the big muscles of your back to pull on the water) and great technique all the way through.
This is me!
— Jono Van Hazel (stroke rate of around 65. 1:15 per 100m)
— Jodie Swallow (stroke rate of around 90, 1:10 per 100m)
2) improve my cadence (increase the stroke rate) – train at a higher cadence, by either straight-up counting strokes, or using something like this: http://www.proswimwear.co.uk/brands/finis/finis-tempo-trainer-pro-yellow.html which will beep for every stroke (and which can be used for pace keeping, you can use it sort of like a bleep test for swimming, knocking it down a second every 100m)
3) continuous breathing – unlearn the way I’ve been breathing for years. Relearn another. One is for sprinting, the other is for long distance efforts.
And keep up the strength and endurance training too.
I love swimming. It’s my home. It’s quiet and strong and every tiny alteration you make to your stroke makes you faster. It’s a field of never-perfect and of personal best. I’m excited to have new things to work on.
I was in Leeds today working with Simon on the details – strength and conditioning (more on that next) and nutrition. Nutrition can make a huge difference to your performance, and importantly, your recovery. Turns out training is as much about rest as it is about work. “And proper rest too, that means sleep, sleeping lots, and cutting out stress on rest days too”.
“So there’s a really good quote from a guy called David Costill who was an exercise physiologist who was probably the most prominent person through the 1980s. And he did lots of stuff on running and then got into swimming in his later career. And he said ‘The purpose of training is to stimulate growth, growth only occurs with periods of rest and recovery’ …which I really like because it tells you everything about training you have to work hard to get the body to adapt and grow and you also need to have periods where you rest and recover to allow those changes to take place because…if you just work hard all the time eventually everything breaks down. So I like his quote because it gives you all of what the process is. We train to grow and adapt, and the things that grow and adapt are the structures in the body, so within the muscles, the muscle structures change, within the heart the heart structure changes, the blood vessel structure changes, and because of those structural changes we then get a change in the way our body functions”
Work, and recover, fuel and rebuild.
Food is fuel.
It’s also a bunch of other things; it’s a gift, it’s a comfort, it’s family and friends and loved ones, it’s an enemy, it’s a friend, it’s sinful, it’s beautiful, it’s ethical, it’s bad for the environment, it’s harmful, it’s good, it’s bad, it’s super, it’s….
It’s really hard to take control of. The right kind of control. The light touch life-long control. There are times when I’ve been too controlling of food. There are times when I’ve not and that was good for me in some ways but in others I’ve felt like I’ve been wearing a costume of myself for a body. There are allergies and intolerances and ethical choices I have made that means I’m vegetarian, I can’t have milk or cream, and I can’t eat peppers. There are unpredictable things to my lifestyle which mean I often have to eat on the run, or I’m cooking for friends and it’s one of my favourite things to do, to show love in that way.
I can’t separate food from these things. But I do need to find a balance of them.
So today I asked Simon about nutrition. And he explained that it was simple: “the difference between healthy eating and performance eating is just really when you eat, timing intake to training. He has a set of guidelines – not rules – which includes no calorie restriction, no ‘bad’ foods.
Roughly, this is what he recommended
Eat every 2-4 hours, around 5 meals a day.
Have complete lean protein in every meal (plant based protein is fine!). If you’re training hard you want 1.4-2g of protein for every kg of your body weight. If you weigh 70kg, that’s 100-140g per day.
Have veg with every meal. Eat 4:1 veg to fruit throughout the day.
Eat healthy fats daily. Eat non-veg simple carbs only after training.
Drink water, black coffee, peppermint tea.
and plan. plan plan plan plan. Set time aside for it
keep a food diary.
take your measurements
make a weekly food plan
write your shopping list
go shopping, and stick to the list
prepare the food so it will fit into your life
stick to the plan
mark a X on meals you hit O on meals you miss and ? on meals that aren’t to plan. Work out your weekly adherence.
reward yourself with 10% do-what-you-like meals for 90% lean eating
track how your measurements change.
Now I’m not overweight. But I’ve been lighter. Moving to London 2 years ago stripped my lifestyle of a bunch of time and stability which killed my ability to plan and stick to plan. I want to lose weight. Which is a tough thing for a feminist to say – but it’s not about looking, you see. It’s not about being a thing looked at, it’s about building a body for doing. And if you are leaner, you are faster, you have less weight to drag up a hill, or lift off the ground with every running stroke. Power to weight ratio. I want to be faster. I want to be powerful.
So. Here goes. Here’s my plan for next week. Links go to my food blog, in case you’re interested!
Simon said to me, sitting across a falafel salad in Horsforth.
He had just described to me the ultra run across the Sahara Desert that him and his partner Fiona were doing in 3 week’s time, laden with all of their food, water, and camping gear. It’s a race of between 150 and 156 miles, over 6 days.
I had just asked “do you think I’ll be ready in time?” And that’s when he told me that he had 3 weeks to go until the Marathon de Sables. “If you put a gun to my head tomorrow, I could do it” he said “but there are still bits, still bits of training to do, it’s not complete”.
Simon is a fan of metaphors, he’ll use one and then he’ll explain it. I think it’s a useful way to talk as a coach, because if he talks about the thing visually, and then about why the visual works, mostly what he’s doing is taking time to find the way the idea fits into your head. This time it’s cake.
“It’s like a cake, it’s not ready yet, it’s not done, it doesn’t have the candles, I haven’t iced it, sure it looks like a cake, it’s baked, it’s got the two bits and the filling, but there’s none of the bits that makes it complete.”
Training is like a cake, he tells me – later on when he’s telling me to have a rest day because of my cold, it’s a brick wall (one missed session, one missed brick, it’s ok, it’ll hold) – “if I put a gun to your head tomorrow, you could do it, you could do the Outlaw”.
I tell him it just had never entered my head that I wouldn’t be able to before now
“Honestly”, I tell him, “I think it was deciding to make a piece of theatre about it. Before now I didn’t have to think about how to tell the story if I – if I failed”.
He echoes a sentiment I tell myself – that it’s about the journey, that’s the story I’m telling, “and that’s what training is, it’s the journey”
Some days I feel like I could do the race tomorrow. Some days I feel like I could at least get to the end of the ride. Some days I feel like the prospect of it is sat on my chest like my little brother did when we fought when we were little except that it’s now and it’s my 28 year old little brother who is 6’7” and can benchpress a whole lotta kg.
Simon tells me it’s about faith. Training is about faith – I might do all of the distance for the Outlaw separately, before attempting it – maybe not the marathon, but certainly the bike and the run, but I won’t put them together before. I won’t know that I can do it, not for certain. It would be foolish to try – training is not about doing the thing but preparing the thing – if I were to try before I could injure myself, exhaust myself leaving myself without enough time to recover and train, I would be trying to do the thing before I was ready; light the candles with only batter to stick them in.
Simon explains how there’s not really any way to train for the Sahara run, not really. That it’s about training and strength and conditioning. It’s about faith. And it’s about being strong, in your mind.
“I think I’m very strong”. I say this, and it feels… I’m used to apologising for that kind of sentiment. It’s a bald thing to say, like an invitation for the world to try and knock me down.
He says that like in real life there are bad days and good days, when I do the Outlaw, there will be moments when it feels like the best thing, and moments when it feels like the worst.
You know I still don’t believe that I might not do it. Some days I don’t know what to do with being that kind of person.
I scrat around for a piece of paper and a pen. I want to write down ‘training is about faith’. “It’s OK,” Simon says, “you’ll remember it”.
Argh life is hard to fit together at the moment. I have a bunch of things to write up – about the science I learnt in Newcastle, the feedback from the showings, the physio assessment I had last week. I’ll get up to speed soon. In the meantime, this is why I’m struggling to fit things in. The image on this post is my training for this week. SPORT. This week’s training looks like this, it’s in Training Peaks, a system which my coach updates every 3 weeks when I let him know where I am and how much I’m available/what I can access (am I away and therefore without a bike, e.g.). A slight step up every week so far. I’m really really enjoying having drills and intervals set for me. You should see how silly I look in the park doing running drills though. More on the drills in a later blog post.
I’ve got a day with Simon Ward (my coach! That’s still exciting to say) on Friday where he’s going to fit my new bike to me, teach me about aerobars, and go over some technique on the bike and in running. Then on the Saturday a chance to get in the pool with his Masters session, which is both exciting and terrifying. Exciting and terrifying are, I’ve always found, very similar feelings. I often try and re-configure terrifying into excitement. Sometimes it works. Sometimes.
172 days until the event. My coach Simon is travelling to run a training camp in Lanzarote right now, and he’s writing me a training plan on the flight over. And I’m in day two of the 10 days at Northern Stage (for Title Pending 2014) for the first bit of research, making the show. Over these days I’ll be spending 5 days with Alex Kelly as dramaturg/designer generating stuff to go in the show, I’ll have 3 days with sport scientists at the University of Northumbria, spend a day with filmmaker Niall Coffey working out how we’re going to work together, and do two work in progress showings at the end of next week. Phew! (Plus also I’ll be swimming, running or cycling every day).
Here’s a bit of writing I did today.
Yesterday I crashed my bike.
I crashed my bike into a shrub.
Yesterday I got up at 7am and went out for what should have been a short 50km ride – 2 hours. I was late heading out because I was tired and because I was scared. Like it’s genuinely quite scary cycling on roads you have no clue about around rush hour – all of these roads seem to be huge 3 lane carriageways or bridges or roundabouts. London has its share of those too, but I learned London in bits, Newcastle/Gateshead was a bigger challenge, attempted in one go. The night before, I decided to take a cycle path out along the Tyne – it’s on all the maps – planned a route with my Garmin. Yesterday I attempted it. It takes me a while to get to that point – actually riding out – because I am tired and scared quite often on my bike.
I crashed my bike on the way back.
I managed all of the difficult bits, had gone up a slightly challenging climb near a place called Wylam
I’m calming down, back on the cycle path, know where I am, no cars around, nearly back.
The thing about these cycle paths is that (like all British cycle paths) they put in some really stupid bits; a lamppost directly in the middle of it, that kind of thing. This is why usually I don’t use cycle paths, just deal with roads, but I’m too scared of around here, so I’m on Hadrian’s Cycle Route 72. The stupid thing Hadrian’s Cycle Route 72 likes to do is right angles. Right angles next to a big old river. The Tyne, in fact.
It was a cold day yesterday – I think the coldest weather I’ve ridden in, colder than the snow in Lincolnshire over Christmas, I think maybe I didn’t quite notice how cold because scared was all I had room for. Cold enough that the gutters were frozen solid even a few hours after sunrise. Cold enough that some kind of coffee or tea dropped on the cycle path in-between me passing by on my way out, and coming back, had frozen solid. At the bottom of a small hill, just before a right angle turn, right in front of the river.
In that moment I’m not scared. I’m just dealing with it.
I know I can’t brake, I know that if I hold my front brake I won’t stop in time and I’ll go head first into the Tyne. I know that if I hold my front and back brake my rear wheel will likely slip from under me and I’ll shoot right, under the – it now occurs to me – frankly insubstantial railings and into the river. So I steer into a plant border and pitch, left side of my body first, into some squat hibernating shrubs.
The shrubs are short and sharp and 10 minutes later I’ll think of the Casualty episode where the tree goes through his neck and I’ll rub where a branch dug into mine. The shrubs did fine. I guess I’m thankful for them, they helped me out, but also they were sharp and stabby and as I unclip my still clipped in left foot in order to get up and pick my bike up I feel their imprint on my left hand and throat.
30 minutes later I’m home and I think I’m fine.
I text my boyfriend, apologise that I forgot about his job interview (forgot to say ‘good luck’ before he left, I’m terrible). Mention the crash hoping a little bit it will demonstrate my state of mind.
Shower, get ready to leave, and my left upper arm is beginning to feel sore.
It’s 2 hours later, I’m getting off the Metro, and the soreness is sort of concentrating. I hadn’t even noticed impact on my arm there, but it feels like I’ve been stabbed, bluntly, deeply, in my bicep.
It’s 3 hours after impact and I have been buying materials for making the show. Post its, big pieces of paper, scissors, tape, blu tac, and a track pump with a gauge because I forgot to pack one. If you look at me in Argos you will see me anxiously kneading my arm, it is uncomfortable to hold a carrier bag for very long.
It’s 5 hours after impact and I’m in Stage 2 at Northern Stage with Alex, who has hurt his back, and I joke that between us we make one person useful enough to get his suitcase and my bags home, because I can’t hold anything in my left hand without it giving out.
There’s a timeline when you get injured. Slightly different between a crash type injury and a strain, but in both cases, in the same way, the injury grows inside you.
Injuries blossom, they bloom inside you.
Last year I tore my right hamstring (it was a minor, level 3 tear) trying to beat my ex boyfriend’s time over a hill in South London. He’d unfollowed me on Strava by that point – I wasn’t doing it so he would see, it was more a thing for me, a way to climb out of the stuff that I was feeling. I equalled his time. I hurt my leg.
After that ride around Richmond Park I travelled to Sheffield and back for a meeting. It was only really by the time I was on the train to Sheffield that my muscles started to feel tight. It was only really on the bus back from St. Pancras 12 hours later that it began to hurt.
Injuries grow, they bloom in your body, and it’s after the first sleep that you know the measure of them.
Today, I woke up and moved my arm, and it was sore all over, but not to a point. It’s that point, that acuteness, the sharpness is how you know. Instead it was duller, I was all over sleepy relief and the second part of the crash-type injury – the ripple of the impact as it moves through your body. It takes a couple of days; fans out. As I type this my whole upper body aches, like it might before you get a cold, radiating from my left side through to my right. But it’s not that sharp hurt, it’s a shadow.
At the time I am writing this I have 3 recovering major injuries, 2 historical critical injuries, and one set of very recent ones.
Yesterday (technically 185 days before I attempt the Ironman) I had my first conversation with my Coach – Simon Ward. A 45 minute chat over Skype for him to get a sense of how my training will fit in my life, and to begin to answers some of the questions I have about training.
I took him through what I’ve done so far, current injuries, and what my life is like in terms of fitting in training.
This is what I told him:
I’ve been doing triathlon for 3 years now, last summer I did the Cotswold 113 middle distance event, and finished in a time of 05:36:45 (Swim 30:55.5 Transition 1 04:52 Ride 02:58:08 Transition 2 03:57 Run 01:58:51)
I’m a swimmer from a county level from ages 8-13 and am pretty competent still. I picked up riding proper distances on a road bike much more recently – I’ve been riding above a commute distance for the past year and half now. I’m no great shakes at running but I can keep going at a steady pace for a really long time. I’ve done a trail marathon in the Lake District, and regularly train a 5000m swim distance. The furthest I’ve cycled was 134km from London to Whitstable as part of the Rapha Womens 100. I train between 10-15km runs, 50-100km rides and 3.5-5km swims and do one of those every day. I don’t take rest days. I work from home a lot although work erratic hours and am sometimes away from home for work so some days it’s really hard for me to fit in anything but a run.
I’ll be doing the Nottingham Outlaw ironman in July 2015.
Left Plantar Fascia strain – from stress/overwork, currently only minor but it’s been both feet before, and it takes about a month to be ok again. I’m not running where possible right now to try and let it recover.
Right shoulder ligament strain – aggravated by front crawl. This was sustained coming off my bike on a 14% descent at a surprise hairpin bend. My shoulder took the brunt of the impact. I was unscathed otherwise.
Simon laughed at the idea of a ‘surprise’ hairpin bend “was it not signposted?”
I suggested that I might have learnt the hard way about useful ways of braking on a descent that day.
A hamstring injury – right leg. Mostly healed. Injured almost 9 months ago now, sustained trying to beat my ex’s time on Strava over a hill in South London between Richmond Park and Lewisham. I equalled the time. I injured my leg. I’ve seen a physio about the shoulder and hamstring, and I have a general assessment with the physio booked in
Simon said that was a good idea. And then he replied to some of my concerns. I said I don’t like rest days, he asked why, “because they make me feel rubbish, like the feeling of your tongue when you’ve just woken up, they make my mind feel like that.” He replied “believe me, when I’ve structured your training, you’ll be thanking me for the rest days”
He said that the thing was not to aim for a time for the Outlaw event, but just to finish, he said it won’t just feel like two middle distances, I can’t take my time from the Cotswold 113, double it, and add 10%, “it’s a different beast” he said. He said ‘just finishing, that’s the success”
And then he tackled my final concern – how to structure training around a freelance workload that is a constant moveable feast – sees me working from home, but also (this month, for example) Hull, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Lincoln, plus my personal life taking me to Nottingham and the North York Moors. For a lifestyle that sometimes includes no days off, and rarely weekends.
He said “Did you know that this week, statistically speaking, is the week that New Year’s Resolutions fail? You know why that is? Life. It gets in the way. It’s human, we’re human. You can play make believe, but it’s messy, complicated and unpredictable, you have to train in that context. Fine, you’ve planned a 5 hour ride but if it’s snowing, too dangerous, then you’ll just have to get on your turbo and put in 3 hours. What if you’re stuck in an airport with a delayed flight? Run up and down the corridors. You’re not a professional athlete, you’re not the Brownlees, you’ve got a handicap, everyone has them, it might be your family, your work life, your erratic hours, a physical handicap. We all have obstacles and challenges, and that’s what makes crossing the finish line that bit more impressive. My job as a coach is to be your GPS, while you have your head down, my job is to help you negotiate a smooth path.”
And then we laughed about how it will be weird for me to be accountable to someone, I’ve been self-employed/working from home for nearly 6 years now. “It’ll be weird for you to have to answer to someone.”
Normally that would make me feel uncomfortable – having a boss, but it doesn’t feel like that. So far, it feels like having Alex in the room with me, as a director. The big picture, working together.