Friday, 28 May 2010

The Ups and Downs of endurance training. The Downs.....2

I wanted to write a little bit more on why I have found it so hard to sacrifice time away from Ad. I am naturally focused on the future, the new challenges I can face, new places to go and things to learn. Sometimes I wonder what drives me to achieve those things and why I can't be more content with both myself and then moment I am living in. One of my friends, a fellow RAF triathlete and blogger is living a new lifestyle according to the 'Primal Blueprint' - more on that another day - very interesting! She says it is not 'just a diet' but has totally revamped her outlook on life and she now sees a lot of her friends living under such pressure - a way she empathises with as it used to be her. She recently blogged this description of it influenced by her reading a book called, 'Born to Run'.

One of the more interesting aspects were the mini biographies of a number of the 'racers'. We are talking here about ultradistance runners, 50, 80, 100 plus milers, mostly mountain trail running. However there were also IM triathletes too. Many of them seem to be literally running from things, driven to batter themselves day after day, week after week as if undergoing some kind of either personal punishment or perhaps distraction from their lives.I certainly recognised a former me in the description and a number of people I know within my circle. In fact there are several bloggers I follow that profess to be training for a peak performance at their 'A' race but when you look at what they are doing, or the comments they make 'I really beasted myself', 'I love the pain', 'I do it to earn my recovery' etc it is clear that peak performance is very far what what they will achieve so it makes me wonder what is actually going on underneath.

I also see aspects of myself in this, though I don't think I am striving every day to 'batter' myself, more to 'better' myself. However, whilst that seems a commendable pursuit sometimes you need to sit down with yourself and go, 'you know what, you are actually alright as you are, stop trying to do all these things to improve yourself and just be happy with where you are at'. I think a lot of things I have done in my life have been driven by this desire to better myself and I am only just learning that maybe I am ok as I am. I remember saying to Ad, "I can't wait to be finished with triathlon and have some time." Bless him, he probably thought I meant to spend doing things with him and our friends and family, fun things, smelling the daises type of things. But I said, "yep, it'll be great, I'm going to re-train as a nutritionist and also learn italian and russian!" Another classic example of me trying to 'better' myself. Why can't I think the former option isn't more appealing!

And don't get me wrong. It really is starting to be. We had a wonderful time last weekend with our friends in Devon and their brand new baby niece. We had BBQs, swam in the sea, ate icrecream and drank wine. And I laughed a lot. In fact, one time I was laughing hysterically, like you do as a child. And Ad just looked at me and said, "Wow, it's so nice to see you laugh at something." Jeez. And suddenly it wasn't that funny anymore. I mean, how sad it that? That I don't laugh and be happy enough that my wonderful fiance who I adore actually thinks me laughing is a noteworthy event. Things have to change!!

It was summed up by an extremely upsetting event that occured during the week. The Chairman of RAF Triathlon died suddenly whilst competing. His wife was with him and I don't know if that was a blessing or not. He was only 54 and leaves 3 children. He would have had future dreams and plans and hopes and his wife will have had them for the both of them. And now they are both robbed of that opportunity. I just hope he was happy that day and living in his present, because that was all he was going to get. My blogger friend summed it up in her post of yesterday:

When events like this occur it's natural to take a step back and really think about your own situation. My husband is only 51, that's only three years younger and I know we have lots of plans for the next few years and well into his retirement which isn't so far away now. The thought of him just not returning home one day is an overwhelming one and certainly focuses your mind on what is really important. It's very easy to let the everyday minutiae of life take over, to allow inconsequential aspects of your life to assume far greater importance than they warrant. I guess to miss the wood for the trees.

It's also easy to keep putting off doing things you've always meant to, or really changing things that simply aren't working for you, taking the path of least resistance even if the end result would be a big step forward. Often it's fear, or inertia, or just laziness perhaps, or the notion that there is plenty of time. But as yesterday demonstrates there may be no more time.I've blogged this week about the importance of being present in every moment, of noticing, I didn't realize just how relevant those thoughts would become, because we just don't know what might be around the corner.I had planned to do a long ride today but it hasn't happened as I've been busy doing 'my bit' within the committee. And does it matter. No, not a jot. What matters is really appreciating what you have, making sure those you love know it and living in the present because 'now' is really all we can be sure of.

This sums it up greatly for me and though Ad and I have discussed my path for the next 18months and are fully committed to it, I also cannot wait for my retirement day in September next year when I can spend time with those who mean the most to me and do the things that really matter in life. I hope this lesson is also a positive one for the next 18 months of training. It will be difficult and there will be times I don't want to do it anymore. But if I can just be grateful every single day for the opportunity of being able to attempt an event such as this and fulfil one of my dreams, then the journey will become easier. People often say that attempting events of this magnitude are life-changing and i've always found it a bit cliched but I think, sometimes cliches are there for a reason and you know what, maybe they have a point.

The Ups and Downs of endurance training. The Downs.....

Since the Paris marathon but very noticeably over the last week I have been increasingly unmotivated to traing. I've fitted a few key sessions in and had a very good race at the Marshman Plus so it would seem all is on track. However, I have also missed some key sessions and am now relying on a base of fitness that is diminshing by the day. I can't out my finger on what it is - I have had lots of discussions with people who have done the Double before and it seems this lull is pretty normal and I am trying not to get worried. However, I have also felt increasingly reluctant to take time away for the time I can spend with Adam as it is now less than a month until he is posted OOA for a tour of 6 months. I have no idea how this is affecting me subconsciously but it has definitely made me aware of what is important in my life and triathlon has become increasingly less. Since we have become engaged I have really been focused on us and our future and spending time with family and friends has become so important and something we don't get to do enough of. I have also been thinking a lot about where my future in the RAF lies and what I will want to do when I do decide to move on. All of these thoughts are big considerations and have impeded the focus I need to knuckle down and get on with training.

I have however also been a bit ill. I think I am suffering for adult onset hayfever. I have never had this before but Adam suffers quite badly. I have had more headaches, tired eyes and pain behind the bridge of my nose. I have also, over the last three days felt absolutely knocked for six! I had a day off on Wednesday and was determined to try and get some quality training in. I wanted to do a minimum of 70miles on the bike with a 10mile run off. What did I manage? 42miles. I just felt exhausted. It was a big mental struggle as I felt mentally strong enough that if I had to I could have pushed on but I felt it was the right thing to do to stop. I initially berated myself for stopping but considering I then spent the afternoon fast asleep I figured maybe I had made the right choice. Being self-coached can be so difficult - to know when to stop and to know when to stop making excuses is often a difficult call!! It was so bad I was even thinking of withdrawing from the Double and posted my thoughts on various forums. I had such a lot of support and advice, it was great. Adam laughs at me for using the forums but when you are self-coached I think they're a life-saver. I got a wonderful message from one lady which I hope she won't mind me using - I have also copied my response to her to hopefully explain where I am at:

Hi Rach,
Just wanted to say that I totally empathise with what you are going through. I know our situations are somewhat different but I totally get what you are saying about how when you entered your life was very different to how you are now. Whatever you do, don't be hard on yourself. I get the pressure of a double Ironman, god knows how heavily it weighed on me. But it doesn't have to, others had a very relaxed view of it last year and did fab times .I just found that my priorities changed alot and realised that my kids needed me much more (been going through a messy divorce) and that really I wanted to spend my time with them not on a 5 hr bike ride. I thought that I'd be letting loadsa people down by changing my mind but I only found support.
Anyhoo I'm not trying to say stay in or out but rather whatever you decide needs to be the right decision for you.

Forget all the other voices, the ones that say 'should do this, should do that, would, could etc', do what totally feels right in your gut. You will get so much support on here whatever you do.

And my reply:

Hello, Thanks so much for this message - it really really helped me when I received it. Just to feel someone else gets what you are going through is great. So often with stuff like this you can get into the mindset that everyone is focused, strong, training like demons and never feels like giving up, having a temper tantrum or a cry or just lounging about eating cake instead. It was great to hear that from others too - to know that you experienced and accomplished athletes also have bad days was comforting! The pressure does weigh heavily but it is something I have to learn to deal with and that in itself is a very useful experience.

I KNOW it will be worse with the A2A. Adam will have just come home and I'll want to spend all my time with him and plan our wedding and just have fun and I won't be able to because I KNOW I can't blag the A2A and the pressure not just from myself and the enormity of the event but also from sponsors, fundraising targets, media interest etc. So I do need to try and link in to whatever these others have that allows them to be quite relaxed about it whilst maintaining the focus to train. I think that comes with experience too so whilst I wouldn't be stressed now about an IM because I know you can get round without digging yourself into a massive training hole, I have NO idea how you even attempt the double let alone the A2A which has only been done by 6 people! That's a pretty small group to get advice from. So I just need to do what's right for me, forge my own path and try not to worry too much!

I had a good chat with Adam yesterday and he has helped me to realise we both committed to this and though we knew it would get tough juggling stuff, he is 100% behind me and I just need to get on with it, do the things I need to do to satisfy me as an endurance athlete so that it 18months time when I retire I feel I gave everything a good go and can concentrate on beng a good wife and hopefully a good mum soon after that!!

Thank you again for your words - it really has been so helpful to have someone empathise with my position - it really does help. I know everyone would be supportive either way with my decision but I am just going to soldier on and see what I can achieve this summer.

And there's where we are at currently. I am going to do what I can over the next few weeks whilst also spending time with Ad which is the most important thing. I know however that he supports me totally and we have our whole life ahead of us.

The Ups and Downs of endurance training! The Ups........

Where does the time go! I feel so much has been going on that I haven't had a chance to write about because I am so busy! However, really that should probably be the time to blog the most so I can capture it in a little snippet each day as opposed to having to write epic tomes each time I am on here! So, the long and short of it was that I didn't pull out of the Marshman plus. I did write to the organiser to ask if I could but he was unable to refund my entry instead suggesting I rolled it over to next year. However, next year I am going to be much more focused on the swim side of things so I decided to bit the bullet and go for it!

A last minute B&B was booked in Folkestone - an interesting place that seems on the edge of the world and I set off on Saturday afternoon so I had time to register that evening. Registration was a doddle and I headed back to the B&B to setttle in for the evening. I cannot rate this B&B highly enough - it was lovely and extremely good value for money. The owners were super helpful even providing me with a cool box breakfast for the early morning start I faced.

Up at 4.30am and headed to the race start. The race is a 2,600m swim, 80mile bike and 20mile run. For the first time I actually felt I was cutting it a bit fine in terms of being ready as I struggled to yank on my wetsuit but actually I had plenty of time and the start was a few minutes delayed anyway. I didn't have the normal morning picnic I would to prepare myself for the day ahead as I ran out of time but I stuffed a few fig rolls into my mouth and hit the lake. Everyone was chuntering a bit that the lake was freezing so I waded in gingerly but actually it was fine. I surprise myself a lot in the water. I am ALWAYS freezing cold on dry land - I always have hoodies, jumpers etc galore even on the warmest days and am often found to continue wearing my coat through dinners in restaurants much to Adam's chagrin! However, I seem to manage pretty well in cold water and this time was no different. The water was cold but not take your breath away cold and I got settled in near the front. The hooter went and we were off. I found myself alone quite quickly - not fast enough to stream off with the lead group but too fast for the chasers. Having no feet to follow I just found a rhythm and concentrated on sighting. The course was a bit random as, at one point, you had to go diagonally across the lake which caused me no end of amusement (though also a bit of concern that maybe I was wrong!) as people's sighting was pretty terrible and most just headed straight over to the opposite bank and then swam up it instead of traversing diagonally across. Anyway, swim done in 44mins and I was out on the bike.

I set off pretty rapidly and felt good for the first few hours. Whilst a lot of the course was fast and flat some of the areas by the coast were extremely windy and my average speed dropped dramatically. This came around the 50mile point just as the HIM athletes turned off to the finish. The Plus athletes however had to face another shortened circuit again with the horrid windy section to complete the 80miles. I think the course ended up being a bit short and I was starting to feel a bit fed up of the bike actually by the end, however I was pleased when I finished around 4.25 for the bike.

I really REALLY did not want to run then. I figured I could use the hamstring niggle as an excuse, take away the fact I had a good swim and bike and head home to curl up on the sofa for the afternoon. However, I knew it was important to get some of these long bricks in and test my body when it was tired so after a short pit-stop I headed out onto the run. I promised myself just to run the first 9mins (I was going to practice my 9min run/1min walk strategy for the souble) and if I hated it I could turn around and walk back to transition. Strangely, and this has NEVER, EVER happened before, I felt ok going out onto the run AND, I started PASSING people. Yep, that'd right, elbow-out jogger shuffler, moi! Amazing. The run/walk strategy was extremely effective - I felt fresh and strong for the first 2 hours and then kept on pushing on without the normal massive reduction in pace and motivation. All I had to do was to run 9mins I kept telling myself. And it worked. So, long as I was extremely strict about keeping running again - as soon as it hit the end of tenth minute I had to run again, no matter how slowly, it worked brilliantly. And I finished the run in 3.11 including my little pit-stop. Considering my stand alone race 20mile time is 2.53, I was astonished. Cannot rate the strategy highly enough. These ultra-runners have been onto a good thing for a long time!

So, all in all, I managed to put a little sprint on at the end to finish under 8 and a half hours. A really good race and it had me full of confidence that you can do good things from a reasonable base of training. However, I do need to now ramp it up again as that base is not going to see me through the next two months aswell! A good day!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

As the time ticks on.......

Gosh, it seems such a long time since I wrote anything down but everything has just been SO busy! After my last blog Adam and I went on holiday to New York as, due to his work commitments, we won't have a summer holiday this year. It was a fantastic trip to a city that is very close to our hearts. We had our first holiday together there 2 and a half years ago and this time round it became even more memorable as Adam proposed! I am fantastically happy and so excited!

I did a little running whilst out there but was certainly feeling that April was becoming a bit of a lax month. Luckily I had just the solution! Two days after returning from New York, I flew out to Cyprus with the RAF Triathlon team for their long distance training camp. I was determined to get some quality cycling in as it has been the one area I am desperately needing miles in. Well it is safe to say that progress has been made with nearly 400miles of cycling completed over the 6 days with my longest ride being a comfortable 114miles (my longest cycle to date!). I did a 6 x 19M loop round the camp boundary and felt comfortable and as if I could easily manage another one or even two laps without it being too much of a burden. I did a 20min run off the bike which was extremely interesting! Whilst cycling was a joy in the warm weather, running was absoutely not! It was hard to get any proper run training in so I settled for a run off that long bike and a quality brick session of 2 x (38M bike, 30min run off) which went well and I was pretty happy with. A couple of open water swim sessions rounded off the camp and I came back a lot happier than I went away!

Training this week however has been back to marginal! I rest over the weekend to let the stresses of the camp be absorbed and went back to the gym on Monday to ease myself back in with a 40min run and weights. However, on doing my squats I think I have pulled my hamstring slightly and it is feeling uncomfortable even after taking yesterday and today off. I may try a swim session tomorrow and see if that helps loosen it off and then I am planning to cycle on Friday. We'll see how it goes but it isn't the best preparation for racing the Marshman + on Sunday. Whatever happens I MUST treat that as a long training session and not a race of any kind. I may even see if I can withdraw and focus on something else a bit closer to home. The extra stress of travel really can impact on things.

Well, that's a quick round up. I feel like I am quite far behind some people in terms of training volume but at least the training camp in Cyprus makes me feel I have this within my grasp. Task for the week is definitely to get some tri bars and lights - I must started getting used to things like that!