One week. In exactly one week I will be putting all my training to the test and taking on the biggest physical challenge I’ve done.
So how have I spent my last weekend before the big event? One final long swim? A long ride followed by a long run? Some strength work?
Nope. None of that.
I’ve done absolutely nothing today. In fact, I only got out of bed at about half 4. (Before that it was just trips back and forth to the bathroom to throw up. Yup, I was sick. Several times). I went out last night with a few people from work for pizza and I ended up dancing the night away. When I’m usually fast asleep in bed dreaming of the route I’m taking the next day on the bike/running I was having a dance off with a beer in my hand.
And my god am I paying for it today.
No regrets though. It was exactly what I needed. To let my hair down and relax. Is one week before the race a good time to do it? I don’t know, I will have to get back to you on that one. But right now? Yeah – it was.
Strangely enough my other half has said nothing about it. No moans, no grumping, no comments about how we were supposed to be swimming in the Loch and he had a bike ride to do. Nothing. So he either knew just how much I needed it or………. something is up his sleeve.
And right enough, when I eventually made it in to the kitchen about an hour ago for a glass of water and painkillers, up on the board was his training plan for a race he’s just signed up to in August.
But it’s ok. Once my Half Ironman is done – in 1 week – I can (and I should) relax my training. Step back a little to give my mind and body a rest and to give him more opportunity to step it up.
Will that happen? Maybe. Ha ha. It might last one week, possibly two. I will let you know.
After Fridays fall then Sundays ‘defiant’ half marathon (yes I can do this, I’m fine, the distance isn’t an issue, oh no wait, the pain!) I’ve had a rather quiet week so far.
Running is very difficult as the movement hurts my cheek a bit too much. At most I’ve done the odd mile on the treadmill to keep me from going insane but I’ve spent the entire time gurning like your grandfather and checking every two seconds it’s not started bleeding again. Good form it is not my friend.
I managed a session in the pool – which was one of those where I had to guilt myself in to going – and did an ok 2000m. My swim buddy bailed on me because of the rain and a heavy weekend but I had a set written on my hand – and I made him feel suitably bad the next day.
I also managed an open water session at Loch Ore again. However this time the wind was against me and it was incredibly choppy. At one point I was at the second buoy and every time I looked up – oh yes, my face was actually in the water! – I was getting further and further back from it. I persevered though but again the third lap was very much a ‘force yourself’ lap. Had Joe been finished his run I would have quit at 2 laps. It did make me feel better to hear the stronger swimmers complaining of how hard it was though.
Any form of weights, pull ups, push ups or even some yoga has been completely off the cards this week so far. My hand has turned a lovely shade of black and blue (which I’m taking to mean it’s getting better) and reminds me quite often it’s still not quite right. So it’s been impossible to apply any pressure on it what so ever.
So that leaves me with only one thing I can comfortably do – and it’s the one thing that landed me in this broken bodied state in the first place – cycling.
I’ve stuck to the spin bike as we appear to be in monsoon season right now, not keen to have another crash I thought it the sensible option. I’ve tried following it up with a run but as I said it’s still too painful on the cheek so thats been limited to a mile. I’m dealing with it all not too bad though to be fair. I mean, I haven’t hurt anyone (yet, however there have been a few moments that have involved clenched fists). There have been moments I’ve gazed longingly out the window desperate to go for a proper run, U2’s With or Without You playing over and over in my head…..
But I’m ok. I’m dealing with it.
I may have had to look the other way when I’ve driven past someone running down the street, getting their fix, wondering when I’m going to get mine, cautiously trying not to swerve in to them out of jealousy…..
Honestly, I’m fine.
In all seriousness I should be back to running properly again by Saturday. And even though I’m working I can still get out for my 5 miles at lunch time – regardless of wind or rain I’m running!
Then it will only be 3 weeks until event day. 3 weeks to get that last long ride in. That last open water swim. That last long (ish) run.
Plenty time to change the nappy as I will be well and truly ‘filling ma breeks’ by then!
In fact forget the drum roll I want a great big massive Mexican wave spanning countries and countries, flags waving, children clapping, streams of coloured paper in the air – get it done!
Basically I just completed my FIRST EVER open water swim.
Now you can understand the celebrations!
It’s just under 7 weeks to the Edinburgh Half Ironman and I knew I needed to get past this mile stone so headed down to the nearest organised open water swimming (safety first after all, can’t just go jumping in the local river!).
Time was tight and we didn’t get there until after the session had started but that didn’t really matter. I wasn’t convinced I would be able to force myself to properly swim anyway so was going with the intention of maybe getting about 50m along the front – possibly.
We changed in to our wet suits and headed down where we saw Brian on his bike. Stopped for a little chat and as Joe went to put his swim cap on….it broke. He headed back to see if he could locate a spare. Standing at the side of the Loch trying desperately not to look like I didn’t belong there I waded very slowly in. Very slowly. I waited for the water to start dribbling in and surprisingly it wasn’t as cold as expected. I looked back at the shore and Joe still wasn’t back. People were going off in dribs and drabs, it was very relaxed. I was not.
Right come on and you going do this? No. Seriously? Man up! No, I will just wait for Joe. Why? Isn’t that what I’m meant to do? What, you think he’s going to swim with you? You’re not fast enough. Right fine!!!
And I was off! I was actually off! Put my face in the water and went for it!!
I very quickly took my face out the water.
Oh My God I can’t see a thing!! Gasp gasp gasp!! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.
But…. I’m still going. Yes, I am still swimming. Head for the huge yellow thing, it’s right there. Deep breathe – intake of Loch water, choking, spluttering, BUT still swimming!
Round the yellow marker and on to the next one. Still going. Still can’t see a damn thing in the murky water, still not thinking about that, or what might be in here with me, including the massive pike the registration form ‘joked’ about. Still swimming.
I get back to the shore and pause my watch (if it’s not on Strava it doesn’t count after all). Holy crap I’ve just swam in that Loch! I was ecstatic! It might have been beyond slow – although I didn’t really get over taken – but it was a swim. Joe was back and had located another swim cap so we headed back in so he could do his first loop and I could do another. I waited for him to go first before going again.
A lot less gasping this time but still struggled to put my face in the water however, still got round. Again. This time my hand brushed some weeds but I was surprisingly calm. Didn’t panic at all. It was weeds. I am telling myself it was weeds. Nothing else.
I managed one more loop before time was up. On the last loop I got grabbed a few times and had to handle a crowded turning but I was fine. I did it.
Back at the van and I was straight on the phone to Ben who has given me a few swimming sessions. ‘I didn’t die!!!’ Was my message. ‘Woo! Gold star for you’ was the reply ha ha.
So it’s done! Milestone achieved, level unlocked, nappy changed! Can’t wait to go back and do it again. I’m genuinely shocked at how much it didn’t kill me. Don’t get me wrong it was far from perfect and it was only about 1000yards but it wasn’t as slow as it felt. I was only a few seconds off my standard swim time. That was a shocker.
So. More swimming to get more used to it (but I didn’t die!). Marathon this weekend. Then focusing on the final weeks of training.
Last night saw the second race in the Hills Are Alive series I for some reason thought would be a good idea for me to take on.
My day started great. My original running buddy and the guy who did the cycle to John O Groats – just the other week! – with Joe (husband) invited me through for a cycle. 30 miles on windy, country roads through beautiful landscape isn’t to be refused.
I also wore my new Wonder Woman leggings which are ridiculously comfortable!
Back home and I was unusually organised managing to get the youngest out on his bike and then bags packed for the hill race later on. Joe had decided to run it too after I had told him how bad the first one was.
Off we went (slightly late but that was his fault) and we bumped in to Heledd (from the club, always beats me, got me right at the end at Path Of Condie, still not over that one) at registration when we finally found it i.e. It was the picnic table outside the pub! It’s a small race to be fair.
Only about 55 of us were lined up at the start. 7 Road Runners but only 4 of us had done the first race. Stewart tried to joke that the game was on between Heledd and me but my only goal was genuinely to finish. I find these Hill races incredibly hard. Give me 26.2 miles any day over the 4 miles of steep up and downs. But! I’ve started. So my god am I going to finish them!
Off we went under the promise that there was lots of red tape to guide us. Same as Birnam Hill and before long I was deeply out of breath and very slowly climbing up hill. ‘Come on you need to run’ a guy who was sat at the side said.
I didn’t like him. Twat.
I had looked at the elevation many, many times beforehand if for no other reason than to assure myself it wasn’t going to be as bad as the last one. I knew it had the biggest climb to start, down then back up then down again. I could handle that.
My stomach had other ideas though and started cramping. Luckily, the fact I’m not used to running trails with big branches over them was a good distraction. About 2 miles in and I was overtaken by Mike and Fiona. They like the hill runs and enjoy these races. I, do not. I tried to keep them in my sights and was quite successful in doing so but lost them not long after the turn. Had I not seen Fiona at the turn I’m not sure I would have known to clip my bib number!
At one section I had to stop and look for this large amount of red tape we had been promised that would guide us. I can only assume the woodland creatures had eaten it or the fairies had taken it away as I barely saw any!!
At a steep, wet, muddy and rocky section the lead runners started coming down past me. I was so out of breath I couldn’t muster the usual ‘well done’ so ended up clapping as they went by. I will be honest though – I only started running at this point up the hill (yes, I had stopped to walk, bite me!) because I knew Joe would be coming past very shortly and I didn’t want him to see me walking.
Obviously as soon as he passed I walked again.
On to the final run down and I started thinking about the elevation chart I had looked at and how this hadn’t felt anything like that. It appears to be a trend with race organisers to lie about this. I wonder if they all get together, sit around a table and think ‘hmm, what would annoy the Runners the most? I know, let’s tell them this is relatively flat so they spend the whole time wondering if they have gotten lost – Runners love that!’.
Final stretch and Steph is there with the camera – poor soul had kindly walked down a bit to get some photos. She had no doubt had to wait a good 20 minutes for me and all she got in return was a very pained expression of ‘I am not enjoying this’.
Across the line and I was very kindly handed a cup of water from the other half. Kind of wished it had been vodka though. We didn’t stick around long as he was wanting to get to Tri Club for a swim session and I had somehow cut my legs and had blood all over them. I hadn’t even felt anything but when I stripped off at the van both legs were covered and I had small tears in my leggings. Luckily I hadn’t wore my Wonder Woman ones!
There are 3 more of these hills to go. I am not enjoying them. I do not like them. I am awful at them! Last road runner again, not that that gets to me too much but being in roughly the last 10 to finish all together is quite difficult.
And if you’re about to say it’s character building you will join the list of twats that is currently growing!
No, I’m sure they are ‘good’ for me. Well. Maybe. But, as I said, I started them, so I’m going to finish them.
Next is 4 days before Stirling Marathon. It’s a safe bet that I will actually be last at that one. No amount of ‘character building’ is worth risking the marathon over! It is up a hill I have ran a handful of times though so maybe that will give me a little boost.
What a stupid saying! I fell off twice on my last cycle!
I’m going to be honest. The cycling part of this Half Ironman is beginning to scare me. Reality is slowly hitting me across the face as it dawns on me that there are 2 different types of cyclist – those who are out for a leisurely cycle, and those who race.
Naturally, I fall in to the ‘leisurely cycle’ category.
Not ideal when you are racing.
I’ve looked at average times for my age completing a race like this and it has it down as 3hrs 30mins for the cycle. That breaks down to roughly 15mph average. I can manage almost 19mph on a 30 mile turbo ride but a recent trip to Pitlochry and back (also 30 miles there, 30 back) was more 13mph. That’s quite a bit to make up.
And it’s also only about half the distance I need to do…….
With no half hour stop for lunch either.
Pitlochry was Saturday and on my lunch run today (Monday) I could feel it in my legs – just above the knee on both legs. My other half had challenged me to run sub 8min miles today, even set my watch to keep my pace so it would go off if I was too slow.
I knew I wouldn’t do it and turned off the pacer before even starting.
First 2 miles were under 8 mins to be fair. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to climb the hill at that speed though, and I don’t like running less than 5 miles. Maybe that’s what I should concentrate on though – faster but shorter distances just for a little while.
I’m seeing some good progress with my swimming though. It’s all been pool based so far as it’s too cold for open water but that’s going to be coming really soon. I’m choosing to believe open water will be easier and I will enjoy it more (I’m a huge fan of positive mind set). I can not let it scare me. I will allow myself one – and only one – freak out, then it’s head down, get on with business!
On the upmost positive point though – I am dealing very well with panics when swimming. No longer do I choke and gag in the most unsightly manner when I don’t have my breathing right and proceed to give an Oscar worthy performance of my dying moments. Ok, slight lie, I do still choke from time to time but I can successfully recover from this and THAT is huge. Because let’s face it, that is most definitely going to happen on the day. I’m going to get kicked, elbowed, pushed around, water is constantly going to be where I need to breathe so if I can calm myself down – I’ve already won.
So. Running is still there. It’s taken a knock but I have a few races coming up that will keep me at it. Swimming is good. No room to slack and time to get in the ‘real pool’ but it’s good. And cycling? Well…… just got to keep at it. Ignore the average time as, at the end of the day, I’m not ‘average’. I’m a first timer at this. I will do what I do on the day.
I’m (loosely) following a Half Ironman training programme and this week had me doing a time trial for the swim section. This came with more difficulties than you can imagine and it came with a serious threat of a panic attack when I was trying to plan it.
Let me explain.
Problem number 1. I haven’t swam more than 400meters in one go since Edinburgh and even then I had what I call ‘Dip gate’. (They changed the start, I jumped in and ended up only going down and not forward, drank and chocked on half the pool water and basically wanted to die – all within the first 5 seconds of the triathlon starting!). Could I keep going for 1900 meters?
Problem number 2. How do I count 1900 meters? My watch has been playing up so can’t trust it to count the lengths. I can’t count and swim or I will sink and die. Breaking it down to sections will confuse me because, again, I can’t count past 4 before forgetting and ultimately sinking and drowning (spot the theme).
Problem number 3. It’s January, it’s mega busy. I will either end up having to wait and let people past or getting really frustrated having to wait for people to hurry up. And let’s not mention the ‘I’m going to breast stroke in a medium to fast lane but refuse to get my head and hair wet and growl at those who splash me’ people. (Stroke my ass with your arm again and I will grab your foot and throw you out the pool!)
Problem number 4. I hadn’t been too well the few days before so the timing was all off.
Problem number 5. I had no way of getting to the pool as the car had broken down and I was getting the blame for this.
Problem number 6. I didn’t really want to do it.
After realising all I was doing was making excuses I decided to count the lengths in 10’s and check my watch at intervals to keep on track. My mum has been coming swimming so she gave me a lift. I had been a little dizzy, not at deaths door, so I was fit and well enough to do it.
Suck it up buttercup or you won’t even make it to the start line!
I clicked my watch and off I went. There was only 1 other guy in my 25m lane and he was slightly slower and taking rest periods so no problem there. I counted to ten. I got this! Start again, count up to ten. Job done. I checked my watch and it matched up. Things are going great! Another guy jumped in but again it was no issue.
Up to 30, then 35 – half way! Oh no wait. You’re doing 76 lengths. What’s half of 76? 35 isn’t it? No it can’t be. Must be 36. How can it be 36 when you need to do 76? Is it 46?
WHY CANT I DO SIMPLE MATHS?!?
Oh holy …. What length am I on?!?
Right, calm down. You were thinking you were half way when you were on the other side over there so you must be one number up from that so half way is 38 which means you are on 39. But you can’t be on 39 as that’s an odd number and you are heading back to the shallow end – the shallow end is even numbers!
This goes on for what feels like an hour (reality is 30 seconds) until I get to 40 lengths.
Yes! Only 26 to go!
40 plus 26 is not 76 Ella. It starts all over again.
In the end I somehow figure it out and then keep a very close eye on my watch as I count down the last 400 meters.
Hitting the wall at the end I click my watch and take a breather. Despite all the chaos in my head (anyone else hear the voices? No? Just me then) I’ve done pretty well. Not spectacular compared to some but for me, pretty god damn well. I may look more like a sea urchin coming up from the dead than Ariel the mermaid but I feel good about the swim and that’s what counts.
Plus now – I have my base to work on. I have my first time I need to beat. And I have 5 months. A lot can be improved in 5 months. Maybe not the counting issue (I’m sure that’s a medical condition). Or the voices for that matter. But definitely the time.