So, what have you missed? I'll try and keep it in chronological order. I still find the most fascinating aspect of all this is how my HEAD deals with it. My body is straightforward... It's either working or it isn't, but my HEAD is a temperamental beast, though I'm beginning to see a pattern. It would appear that I am getting better at preparing, but in more insightful moments I see it as keeping the bugger quiet. It's a case of learning how to do this. Hopefully, summarising my recent sporting efforts will give you more of an idea of what I mean...
4th May 2013: Scunthorpe Half Marathon. Pleasure rating 10/10. Pain rating 2/10. http://www.northlincshalf.co.uk/
This was awesome. No doubt about it. I knew my body could do it, having been broken severely by Sleaford Half in February. There's something about "I know I can do that because I have already" that does wonders for your headspace. I went in thinking if anything was going to let me down it was my body as I was having recurrent blister issues on all my long runs. Lo and behold, I did have to stop twice to try and sort my left little toe out, finally compeeding it and running it numb, but it did the job! My running buddy and I thrashed our Sleaford time and both felt sore but great! Job done.
11th May 2013: Lincoln Sportive - 10/55/75/100 mile bike. I chose 55. Pleasure rating 3/10. Pain rating 8/10. http://www.itpevents.co.uk/events/the-lincoln-grand-prix-sportive.html
I'm loath to score it 10/10 for pain as that conjures images of ambulances or at least a hospital visit in the car. This was an unfamiliar beast and I TOTALLY underestimated it. As a result, it bit me firmly in the arse and rightly so. I wasn't taking it seriously, thinking I could just mooch through it. WRONG. Mainly due to head reasons again. Firstly, it was about my third time out on my clip in bike shoes and my confidence was pretty much zero. To compound this, the route started with a right turn onto a main road, immediately followed by going straight over a busy roundabout. I felt panicky taking the right turn, then went into shut down on seeing the roundabout immediately afterwards. I pulled off onto the pavement, unclipping, and started to shake. Then I had a mini-cry. I was completely terrified and my head was full of visions of me flipping over someone's car bonnet. I pictured myself walking the bike back to the car, packing up and texting my friend (who was somewhere ahead) to let him know I had to bail. I was completely in that moment and reacting with it. After a few deep breaths I managed to think about the bigger picture. I HAD to get over this. I had triathlons coming up which would be much easier if I could get used to the clip in shoes. I couldn't go back to normal shoes now as it would feel like a step backwards. Also, I knew that 55 miles couldn't all be in such a built up area. We'd be out in the countryside soon, I just had to get that far and I knew I'd feel more comfortable. I challenged my all or nothing thinking: If I set off again, I could still bail if it didn't get any easier. I could stop whenever I wanted. This internal tussle happened pretty quickly. I blew my nose, walked my bike across the pedestrian island to cross the roundabout, and got back in the saddle. I found a group to tag on the back of and followed their lead until we got out of town, which was within 10 minutes. I sighed relief and began to enjoy the countryside. Soon after, I met three lovely guys who were going just a smidge faster than my comfortable pace and passed the time chatting with them until we hit the 25 mile feed station. It had taken an hour and forty-five minutes and the route had been fine. I set off again without the guys because I felt they'd been going a little slow just for me and didn't like the idea I was holding them back. From here on in, everything went wrong. My front gears began to falter and I was really having to mess with them to get them to change. This was a right pain because there was some massive ups and downs on the first section of the second half, as well as later at Scampton. Slipping gears aren't what you need on hills, especially clipped in, so eventually I gave up and just sucked up the fact that I would have to creep up the hills super slowly, legs screaming, on the hardest cog. The weather changed, turning into a nasty head wind along with icy rain which seemed to never stop. I became aware that my feet were sodden and I couldn't feel the front half of both of them, no matter how much toe-wiggling I did. My right achilles began to hurt on and off. This began to happen with at least 20 miles left, and all I could do was keep riding. I had no frame of reference for where I was and just kept telling myself the end couldn't be far off. I had my phone as a clock. I'd been riding for two hours so kept telling myself I must be nearly there considering how long the first half had taken... How wrong I was! I didn't know at the time but I had at least another hour to go. The weather and change in route difficulty slowed me right down. My achilles pain was so bad at points that I was riding and crying. I had loads of people overtaking me which didn't help where my head was. I got to the end and should have gone down a steep hill to come back up a steep cobbled street, as is the sportive's tradition. I had been telling myself that this route would be shut due to the rain, as per the race instructions, and that the alternative flatter route would be being used. This wasn't the case. I took the shorter route anyway. By this point, I was just satisfied (I was going to type happy, but that is definitely not the right word) to have got through it. I crossed the line and immediately headed for the car. I was wet, cold, miserable, in pain, exhausted and really pissed off with myself for my own stupidity at how easy I had expected it to be. When I got to the car I packed up on autopilot, got changed in the passenger seat and then cried hysterically. Like big heaving sobbing gasping for breath crying. I felt like I needed to get all that frustration and unhappiness about the ride out, so I just let myself go for it. After about ten minutes I stopped, wiped my face with a face wipe and felt better. I could start putting it to bed now. In hindsight, I am glad I broke it's back, because I need to do that distance in a triathlon later in the year, but I won't underestimate the distance again... No fear! However, my head now says "I know I can do that, even though it was really hard" and that is a good thing. I am hoping it will be my cycling equivalent of Sleaford Half Marathon, which was horrid, and my next 55 mile bike ride will be much better.
19th May 2013: Race for Life Cleethorpes 5km. Pleasure rating 10/10. Pain rating 0/10. http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/choose-your-event/cleethorpes.html
This was a trip down memory lane for my running buddy and I. We did the RFL in 2011 and wanted to see how far we had come since then. We had a right laugh all day! We set a target for 28 minutes and did it in 25.23 and found it easy! Like we could have pushed a bit further! It was a good lesson in pacing too. Head wise, no issue at all.
2nd June 2013: Dambuster bike route. Pleasure rating 8/10 Pain rating 2/10. http://www.pacesetterevents.com/dambuster-triathlon.php
My friend and I went for a camping trial at Rutland Water and whilst there did the Dambuster bike route.I didn't understand what an awesome idea this was until after we'd done it. The route is lovely. Couple of frapping hills at the start and end, but otherwise nice roads, straightforward route, happy days! I can already imagine that this will make it feel a little easier to deal with on the 22nd of June when I am waiting to start the swim. Taking the mystery out of it and knowing what to expect does wonders for your head: "I know I can do that". Though my achilles was twitching towards the end! Need some more long ride practice.
5th June 2013: Swimming the lake. Pleasure rating 8/10. Pain rating 0/10.
After seeing it three weeks on the bounce doing the open water swim course with 100% swimming at activities away, I finally swam the 800m lake. It had been taunting me for ages. It looked SO BIG and the end was so far away people appeared tiny. There was that thing in my head saying "what if you get in trouble down there?" I had to pop my lake cherry! I was due to go down there with a friend, but he bailed last minute for completely valid reasons so I was on my own. I was nervous getting in the water, then I just got on with it. Turns out I was too distracted by how utterly crap my sighting was to worry about how far away from help I was! It was nice to get 800m under my belt before my first open water sprint at Rother Valley this weekend. And I can chalk it up as another "I know I can do that, I've done it before" experience. This is clearly the way forward for me!
The power of the brain... It seems to me that all these events have been impacted far more by where my head has been than what state my body is in. My body does what I tell it. My head decides to accept or ignore pain, or fear, or choose to stop, or carry on. I'm amazed by this. All those references to being "psychologically ready" for events that are made in books and magazines make sense now. You can blag your way through a sprint, or a 5km run, but this big stuff is literally a head mashing experience. I like learning journeys though... so I'll crack on!
Till next time...