I have 2 completed posts on my laptop and in my drafts folder. Neither of them are going up – the moment has been and gone. But here I am, 35 weeks away from IronMan Zurich and, you know what? Things are looking up for me.
Since my last post and a particularly pathetic post on FaceBook, I’ve had a bit of a mental sort out. I was hit by the blinding insight that, for the next year, I should see training as my job. For me that means that I’ve got to fit it in, every day. It’s a non negotiable part of every day and other stuff has to fit around it. Yes – I know – hardly earth-shattering but it’s helped me to make it seem both important and also somehow, less daunting. Something that just has to be done and – importantly – taken seriously. I’m actually doing what I spent my last post wittering on about – I’m finding my focus. One thing I don’t like about triathlon is all the kit. It all needs to be there, all needs looking after and all needs to be repaired / replaced etc. But instead of ignoring that because I don’t like it I’ve decided to grow up and do what has to be done.
A good example is sorting out my bike issues. I posted a pathetic and needy post on FaceBook about hating workouts on the trainer and struggling with them. I was overwhelmed with responses – helping hands and kicks up the ass and I needed both. One of the top helping hands was Alex Galbraith – the man who sold me my bike and is my go-to bike and tri guru. He told me to come to his shop and get sorted and I am so grateful to him for his time and effort. I am physically much more comfortable now that I’ve had a bikefit (I thought I needed a longer bike so I could sit higher – instead Alex dropped my seat and my handlebars and all of a sudden I’m comfortable in aero). Doh. Another big issue was boredom while biking – I was struggling with watching TV while on the trainer because for all of my many failings, I don’t watch more than an hour of TV a week because I find most of it quite boring. Lots of people advised podcasts and so I’ve rigged up a speaker and now listen to podcasts. Another big doh because I love listening to podcasts while running so I really don’t understand why I didn’t listen to them while on the trainer before now. But anyhow.
Another example is my swimming injury. I had it a few times in my last training cycle and sure enough, recently my shoulder started acting up again. But rather than just taking time off this time I’m having it treated and my swimming coach and I have worked on figuring out what’s causing it. Improving my stroke is not that easy, but will be the way forward.
I’ve just completed my first 10 hours + training week and while I realise there’s more, much more to come, I’m pleased with getting there and making the workouts I’ve done count.
More than anything else, I’m getting a bit of a handle on my brain and my fears. On a recent plane journey I wolfed down Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (a collection of non-fiction essays) and one of the things that really struck me was her advice to take on a project that’s a bit too hard for you. Reading about how she pushes herself to write something she doesn’t know she will be able to do made me think about taking on my Ironman goal which definitely feels too scary for me sometimes.
As you get older it gets easier to stick to what you know, and to do what you’re good at. There is nothing wrong with that, and I’m delighted that surgeons and oncologists and plumbers are sticking to their field and developing within it, rather than branching out. Picking up something new in your 40s is not what most people do, and it can feel very scary. First off, you have to face your fear of looking rubbish. There’s nothing like standing by the side of a pool, for example, in your bathing suit (that, in itself, is facing a fear for me), learning how to swim, from scratch. In the slowest lane, while people plough up and down beside you in the faster lanes at swimming speeds that are incomprehensible to you. Some of those people compete for Great Britain. And you are paddling behind a board. You have to pick up your ego and stick it in a box, believe me. Everything inside me screams “You don’t belong here! All these people are good at what they do and you are not! They do Ironman in 12 hours and think they’re slow! I am going to be happy to finish! Is it even worth doing?”. And I’ve come to realise – absolutely. It’s absolutely worth doing something that you may not, in the eyes of others, be very good at. First of all because obviously, all of the results-based stuff is relative. Good for one person is slow for the next. But more because for crying out loud – I’m 42! Who cares what others are doing and why on earth should that devalue what I’m doing? 10 years of running have brought me more positive personal change than I’ve ever thought possible and though I’m now much faster than when I started, I’m still no winner (apart from that one time, and yes, that photo IS and award are amongst my most treasured possessions). But I’ve learned what it’s like to train hard and race hard and that experience has changed me. As a child and a teenager, I never really tried much that I couldn’t do well, because I hated being uncomfortable and feared the derision of others. Along with the wrinkles and the stretchmarks and the fatty deposits, there has to be an upside to ageing and one of them, surely, is being able to name and then stare down your fears.
So yes – Ironman is maybe hard for me. But saying “yes” to the training and the competition opens me up for learning, for development, for even getting better for Pete’s sake! I know that by next summer I will be a stronger, fitter, faster cyclist, runner and swimmer than I am now. And saying “yes” to one scary thing makes it easier to say “yes” to more. In a few days I will be starting an induction to Crossfit course. Yup – Crossfit which I maligned and railed against. What can I say? That what you resist, persists? I’m curious. I know NOTHING about weightlifting and very little about strength training. So I’m going to learn.
In the meantime, I’m also looking to work a bit on nutrition, both during and outside of training. Please send me links to blogs and podcasts and cookbooks and nutrition books that you’ve found useful and helpful in training. I really struggle to read anything other than fiction, but I’m really going to try. Any tips / tricks / advice incredibly welcome! Got to go now – got a bike workout to get in :).