Saturday, 10 October 2015

A letter to my body

Dear Body,

I'm guessing over the next few months we're gonna fall out.
Possibly a lot.
But that's OK, cos ultimately, you will be pleased we did this.
It is likely that you will have days where you are sore and tired.

It is likely that Chimp will try and sabotage everything we are all working towards.
Chimp will want ice cream and lie in's.
Chimp will try and convince you, that being lazy is good.
Chimp will tell us that staying in the warm is better than going out for a run in the rain.
But we know different.

We know that running in the rain is actually lovely sometimes.
We know that getting up and training is hard, yes it is, sleeping is ace, it really is, especially for one as sleepy as we are... but we know that the training won't do itself.
We know that going in the outside when it's cold n blowy makes coming home to the inside even nicer.
We know it will be worth it.
We know that the bad sessions still count.

We need to look at The Bigger Plan.
We want to be faster, stronger, leaner.
If it were as easy as wishing for it, that would be great.
It would be so very easy.....And everyone would wish for it.
Sadly, due to the amount of ice cream consumed, lean is now going to be a bigger battle than it needed to be. There is now in the region of a stone to shed.
A stone of ice cream. That's quite an achievement (and not something to be proud of)
We could shed more, but that would be excessive and unnecessary.
We don't even need to do it over night.
So long as we are leaner for when we are toeing the start line of Paris Marathon, that'll be OK.
And once we've lost it, lets not do the yo-yo shit that we're so good at.
Can we keep it off for a change? Please?

It will mean saying no to ice cream and biscuits.
I know, I know.
There will be ice cream occasionally.
Just not every day (sorry).
There will be lie ins too.
Again, just not every day
You remember how you felt on race day, right?
You remember how you wanted to be faster and stronger over iron distance and half?
You remember how we all wanted the same thing?
Even the Chimp got giddy and wanted in on the action.

We're having this conversation now, so that when the depression hits again, which it invariably will, we can look back at the deal we made when we were healthy.
When the Chimp attacks, we can re-direct it back to this blog.

It is well accepted that we will never be the fastest.
We will never win our AG.
Lets re-phrase that.... It is very unlikely we will ever win our AG.
Never say never n all that.
We may pick the perfect race and those who would beat us might decide to stay at home on that day.

We can be better than we are now.
Wouldn't it be amazing to find out just how fast we can go? How good we could be?
Yes, we're very late starting all this sporting lark, but it doesn't matter.
We can still be the best version of ourselves.
We can still give it our everything.

We can aim for holding specific power on the bike.
We even know the number we want to hold.
We may hit these targets early in the training and increase them.
We can work on being a better runner.
Smoother, more consistent pacing, better physiology.
Stronger core.

We have times that we would like to achieve.
Times that we don't want to say out loud, but the universe has heard them.
They will be course specific.
And realistic.... Ish
(after all, we need to dream big enough for it to frighten us and it has to be worth getting out of bed for)

It would be easy to say we will get up every morning at 6am to get training done.
We all know that this will be a routine battle which will lead to fallings-out and de-motivation.....because, ultimately, we are rubbish at mornings.
Not only are we rubbish at mornings, we are rubbish in Winter, we are rubbish in the dark and we take an age to get out of the door for a run regardless of time of day or season.
We are rubbish at all of these things separately.... so together? We are properly pants.
That is fact.


We know it will be a huge battle.
And there will be days when we fail.
It will likely be the Chimps fault on the days we fail.
But that doesn't mean we have failed overall.
One bad day, is just that, a bad day.
It only becomes an issue if we wallow in it and allow it to seep into the rest of the week.

We can be consistent with our food.
We can be consistent with our training.

None of this banting business, no silly diets, just consistent meals, reasonable portion sizes, plenty of greenery and rainbow coloured veggies.
Beige food and biscuits will be kept to a minimum.  (boooooooo, yes, yes, its rubbish)
Ice cream will be kept to being a treat.  
Ice cream will be earned.
Carbs will be used to fuel.
Protein will be used to repair.

We all accept that doing a shorter hill session and swapping sessions round is better than missing one totally.
Body weight sessions may need to be done at home.
Intense turbo sessions may need to be done, rather than long rides.

Life WILL get in the way sometimes.
But we want this.

So, body, apologies and all that.
But we have work to do.

It may be that we aren't in a position to 'compete' in 2016, but we will certainly doing more than completing.

Going long takes effort.
It is not a short race, so it stands to reason that the plan shouldn't be short either.

Its just a shame about the ice cream........

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ironman Mallorca

My journey of 140.6 miles started a long while ago, my 3?th birthday, which happened to fall on the Long Course Weekend in Tenby.  

It is all Signe's fault.  
She is the one who planted the seed.  
She is the one who encouraged my stupid notions.  
And for that, I am eternally grateful.  
I cannot thank her enough.  

It's probably her fault that this blog is so long too. 
Got a biscuit n a brew? Good. 
Then I shall begin.... 
Packing for Mallorca was stressful.  
We were travelling on Tuesday, so Monday entailed suitcasing and bike boxing.  
As the day wore on, messages of support came through, each one making my eyes leak more than the previous. By the time Bear was counting out how many gels I'd need for the marathon, I was in full-blown, snotty sobs.  

hadn't contemplated making it that far.  
There was a plan, a definite plan for the swim n bike.  
But I hadn't thought about the run.  
I genuinely believed I would make it to the run, but the plan for once I arrived would be formulated on the hop (or shuffle as it were) 

Wing it, was the best I could muster.  
One foot in front of the other. 
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
For 42km. 

We flew Tuesday n I was supremely bouncy as soon as I saw transition being built - and the size of transition - oh my god!! 
So. Many. People. 

Racing giddy kicked in. 
I was keen.  
I was ready.  

Well, I was as ready as I was ever gonna be given my build to the race. 
Having been hit by a car in June at the start of my major build period, training had been less than ideal.  

But it was time. 
Ironman had rolled into town. 

There was an irritating cough that appeared at the same time as the Ironman Truck - regular doses of paracetamol n more than few words to the sky. 

Alice was reassembled n taken for a ride with Bear, along with new friend n fellow competitor, Andy. Alice was twitchy.  
She felt frisky on her new tyres n borrowed wheels.  
She was ready too.  

Wednesday brought anxiety n a slow painful run, attempting to clear Equinox24 from my legs. 
I was full of doubt and 'who's stupid idea was this'.  
'What on earth do I think I'm doing' and 'I can't do this' rattled round my head. 
I told myself it was normal pre-race stuff n the stupid voice would stop soon.  

I thought back to the conversation if had with my dad before I left.  
Dad; 'do you think you can do it?' 
Me; 'course I do. I wouldn't be going otherwise. Do YOU think I can do it?' 
Dad; *rolling eyes* 'well.... Erm' 
Me; 'you don't do you?' 
Dad; 'Erm, it's a long way' 
Thanks for that then. 

Thursday was sea swimming n trying to solve the dilemma of what to do - there was the potential of wetsuits being allowed.  
Quick! Panic buy a cheap sleeveless 2mm suit! (Was actually too good not to buy!) 
Quick! Make sure it fits!!  
I had panicked that I was making the wrong choice for the wetsuit.  
I knew my x-terra.  
I knew it was fast.  
I knew how it fit. 
I knew where it rubbed. 

I had a goal time n goal effort level for the swim. 
I didn't know if my new suit would stick to the plan.  
So, Friday saw me swimming in my 'old' wetsuit. 
Just to check.  

The buoyancy hurt my hips. 
I was too high in the water.  
What if I swam in the wrong suit?  
What if it messed my time up?  
I had to give myself a shake at this point.  
I was doing my own head in.  
Worse still I was doing my own head in for nothing.  

The plan was swim a 1.10. 
While I'm capable of swimming faster, I didn't see the point in getting stressed n blowing myself up early in the day.  
It didn't warrant the amount of attention I was giving it. 

Friday was also briefing, then fettle n faff.  
Somewhere in briefing, Paul Kaye (the voice of Ironman) told me I only had 16 hours to complete the distance.  
What? When did that happen?  
It was 17 hours when I entered.  
Bugger. Bollocks. Wank.  
Nothing I could do.  
Stick to the plan.  

The plan was straight forward.  
Swim; 1.10 - 1.15 take it really steady. Find some feet n conserve energy. 
T1; 15 mins max (loooong transition from water to bike out n I needed to put my eyes in) leave by 9am 
Bike; 7 hours / be home for 4pm. Stick to pre-discussed power numbers (% of my FTP), IF number (0.75 to 0.80) n speeds. 
Bear has maintained for a while that I'm a better rider than I believe I am. We joked about how long it would take me to warm up (this is my usual excuse)
He agreed if I went sub 7 hours and/or was home for 4pm I would be the proud new owner of his Fast Forward wheels.  
If I was in any doubt about my race plan, it had been removed!  
T2 n run; plan TBC.  

Race Day 
I slept soundly on Friday night, waking with the alarm at 4.30.  
The hotel made breakfast which we had ordered for 5am.
I picked at the food, opting for a bread roll n coffee.  
I waited for the coffee to work it's morning magic before taking an Imodium.  
 Heading to transition in the dark, I felt calm, despite the fact I felt as though I was forgetting something major. But what?  

I had driven the second loop of the bike course on the Thursday n given the car a major puncture (I had ripped a gash in the tyre while avoiding a group of cyclists)  
Hopefully this would be the only puncture of the holiday.  
Hopefully it would be the only thing to go wrong. 

The biggest stress on race day was maintaining that I was doing the right thing by not putting my lenses in for the swim.  One of the Team Leaders had informed me there would be a station for competitors to place their glasses before the swim, and that this would be really obviously placed for collection after the swim.  
I couldn't risk it.  
It panicked me far too much.  
I opted to leave my glasses in the tool kit on the bike, leave my lenses in my bike kit bag till T1.
Walking from transition while blind, walking to the beach in the dark, freaked me out more than I liked.  

I sat on a beach lounger and waited from 6am, watching more people arrive.  
It took every shred of energy not to run back to transition to put my lenses in - but if someone knocked my goggles, salt water in my eyes had the potential to ruin my day. 

At 7am we were allowed to have a warm up swim. 
As I made my way to the waters edge, the sun was rising above the palm trees, there were hundreds of rubber clad silhouettes wading into the shallows. 
It is something I wanted to capture on camera, but didn't, knowing the scene would never truly be captured. 
It was better in my head. 
That way it wasn't open to interpretation. 
It was, selfishly, mine alone. 

The water was warm, inviting.  
I had made the right wetsuit choice.  
My shoulders were free, I wasn't worried about over-heating.  
I felt good. 
I was relaxed.  
I kissed Bear goodbye, told him I'd see him 'in a bit', then positioned myself for the rolling start in the 1hr - 1.15 pen.  

Pro men start. 
Pro women start. 
A few good lucks to those around me.  
Then we were off. 

The Swim (7.39am) 
I waded slowly into the water, still feeling calm.  
I had practiced running into the shallows.  
I had practiced dolphin dives, diving through the water, pushing up and forwards to cover ground, like leap frog but differenter. 
I was better at diving than running (goes without saying really!).  
When the time came, I was unable to do either of these things, it was just too busy.  
I waded slowly, surrounded by people, diving forward into the sea, ready to swim when the water hit waist deep.  

Stroke. Stroke. Breathe. 
Stroke. Breathe. 
Where the hell has this come from?  
Take a minute.  
You know what to do.  
Breathe out more than you think you need to.  
Expel the carbon dioxide. 
Breathe slowly.  
Breathe deeply.  
And SWIM.  
Stroke. Stroke. Breathe. 
Stroke. Breathe. 
Stroke. Breathe.  
I was overwhelmed by the occasion. 
I was doing an Ironman.  
I wouldn't be finishing an Ironman if I didn't stop being a dick.  
I set off again, focusing on my breathing.  
Slowly, I calmed again.  
I started picking people off.
I began to make steady progress n finally allowed my thoughts to wonder. 
How far had I gone?  
No idea. 
Just keep swimming.  

I thought about my friends who had supported relentlessly. 
They never questioned my sanity. 
They simply loved me harder than I ever thought possible.  
I gave myself a shake.  
I needed to make them proud.  
I needed to stop being a soppy cow n swim faster. 
I was sad that my family would never experience the magic.  
But, as Roald Dahl said, 'If you don't believe in magic, you won't ever find it' and some certainly didn't believe.

I had a job to do n swam the rest of the distance in a blur.  
I avoided a few punches, although I did take a kick that was sufficiently hard that I needed to check all my teeth were present and correct!  
The Australian exit seemed to slow me massively - lots of time wasted wading in to the turn point, then wading back out. 
Stupid sea swimming. 
The second loop was significantly shorter but felt slower. 

Total time = 1hr 9mins 43secs for 4058m 

T1 (8.49am) 
I opted to walk briskly to and through T1, grabbed my bag after identifying it easily despite being 'blind' (I was 597 so looked for the shape change in number from 500's to 600's) 
The ladies changing tent was TINY. 
The men had 3 large tents, where the women had a small square tucked at the far end of one of the male tents.  
I washed my hands with the water I'd packed, knelt on the floor n spread my little towel on the bench.  I expected the women around me to be in their own worlds, focussed on themselves, but 3 asked if I was ok. Did I have enough room? Could I see to find the lenses?  
Ironman is ace.  
I beamed.  
'No thanks, I'm good, I'll be quick n out of your way' 
I am adept at putting contacts in without a mirror, within second I was cheering loudly 'I CAN SEEEEEEE!' 
My joy infected the women around me and they beamed also.  
Lots more 'good lucks' n that was it.  
I ran to Alice, using the shops n trees to locate her, Bear screaming her exact location.  

Total time = 10 mins 40secs 

The Bike (9.00am) 
I mounted Alice as Paul Kaye announced my departure from transition. 
Bear screamed at me to pedal faster.  
And that was it. 
I was out on the longest bike ride I've done. 
Instantly I loved it.  
The roads were fast and smooth for the most part n the km's seemed to be ticking off nicely.  

At 20km in, I hit the first feed station which was CARNAGE.  
If everyone was like that, I would need to stop rather than brave the masses.  
The banana skins, gels, thrown bottles n riders strewn across the road weren't worth the risk of injury. 
Luckily, the following stations were much more civilised. 
I continued n noticed a pain in my left arm developing.  
Ignore it.  
My left foot was also threatening is 'usual pain' - again, ignore it.  
I only ever got foot pain on the turbo.  
It wasn't welcome today. 

At 30km there was a German gentleman asking if I had gas for him.  
At 30km in?  
No I don't. 
Not my problem you risked it n lucked out. 
If I only had 30km left, I may consider it, but not so early.  

Left foot pain.  
Pedal, pedal.
BAD left foot pain.  
Just on the outside, opposite my arch.  
Always the same place.  
Can't do anything about it.  
Pedal, pedal.  

I was supremely surprised at my pace. 
I had a list on my aero bottle of average paces n what time they would each give me.  
Plan was a 3 hour first loop, a 4 hour second loop. 
My IF (intensity factor calculated by power output) was pushing 0.98 and should've been at 0.75. 
I had to work out how to reduce the intensity factor, while maintaining my average speed.  
All the while my foot still hurt.  
Other than the pain in my foot, I felt good, but didn't want to push toooo hard on the first loop.  
I had a mountain to climb on the second.  
Equally, I wanted to be 'in-front' enough that I could afford for my pace to drop slightly on the second loop.  

The roads felt fast, but, oh my god, it was windy in-land.  
Descending one of the hills on the first loop, I topped out at 56kph - as I hit the bottom of the hill, the road twisted and a cross wind hit HARD, unexpected and making me wobble.  
I had a chuckle to myself.  
I was having so much fun.  
A couple of people I knew went past and we cat n moused backwards n forwards for a while, chatting at a distance.  
I knew the loop was nearing an end as I made my way down Reed Road for the first time - named due to the size and quantities of plant life lining either side of the road.  
I would ride this stretch twice.

I had driven it as part of the recce of the second loop. 

Bear had played on my irrational fears n 'joked' that clowns lived among the reeds, waiting for passing cyclists to snatch.
There was a body of water running along the side of the road, which he informed me was inhabited by crocodiles.  
The reality of cycling it was very different to the image my mind had created.  
Instead of screamy, hysterical clown noises, I heard a multitude of birds singing in the sunshine. 
Not scary at all.  
Although when there was a ripple in the water, I got my head down n pedaled like mad! 

Before long, it was time to head back into Alcudia, past transition and on to the second loop.  
I knew Bear would be beyond transition. 
I'd asked him to be away from the crowd so u wouldn't miss him.  
As I rode round the roundabout, I could hear the cowbell, long before I could see him.  
His mobile support unit put a smile on my face, then, I was gone. 

Onwards towards the grotty surface on the coastal road towards Pollensa and then towards Lluc.  
I had stopped at the feed station before the climb and somehow found a clean loo and given my foot a stretch.  
No use, it still bloody hurt.  
I got back on Alice and made my way forwards, slightly apprehensive about what was to come. 
My numbers were higher than I had planned, still at intensity 0.89, god I hope I didn't blow up.  

As I was fretting, I was joined by 2 dragonflies. 
Big, beautiful, iridescent blue dragonflies.  
One flew along side, matching pace with Alice, casting a perfect shadow as it flew, it's mate, dancing in front of me, leading the way.  

I beamed.  

As they left me, the road started to climb ever so slightly, I passed the 110km mark n the sign to the summit. 
This was the part I had dreaded.  
But, I know I can climb.  
I began the climb n immediately noticed the lack of air.  
Any breeze that had been present previously had vanished.  
The air was still and HOT.  

I overtook a Shiv early on, smiling to myself.  
Each person I approached and passed, I spoke to, mainly as distraction to myself.  
On the lower sections, Alice shrieked and groaned.  
I was convinced she was going to die. 
That something would fall off her. 
I checked with others that she was ok. 
Nobody else's bike was screaming.  
Maybe it was just my knees!  

The road seems relentless.  
It is not obscurely steep, but there are parts which 'look' flat and the tarmac continues to suck the life from your legs through the deception. 
Then there are false summits and descents which make for giddy moments of rest and cooling. 

I was loving it and hating it simultaneously.  
My thoughts quickly fluctuated and for a long while my brain screamed  
'I hate this, when can do it again' 
'I love this, make it stop.' 
'Oh my god, this is awful, which Ironman can I do next?' 

I told myself to calm down.
I had a long ride back (still 50km left) including a technical descent which I needed to concentrate on.  
I knew that there was another climb on a terrible surface.  
Not to mention a marathon.  
I continued to pick people off, all the while getting stronger as they struggled more on the climb. 
However, I knew it was likely that they would all fly past me on the descent, while I made my way down like a nun!!  
How right I was!!  
The hairpins were made easier by the closed roads, but the unpredictability of the other cyclists worried me. 
I allowed myself to enjoy it though and tried not to sit on the breaks.
I knew that i still had work to get back to Alcudia for the run so set about making as much progress as I could.

The wind picked up again and the heat remained present. 
As I'd ridden the route, I had a rough idea of what was left and it seemed to take forever to hit the nasty steep before turning back down Reed Road for the final time. 
I will confess the nasty steep was so nasty that i rode the first one, but when it kicked again, I walked. 

Wuss I know, but it was walk or fall over!!
I voted to walk.
I can do long alpine climbs.
I can't do short steep climbs.

Just before the nasty steep bit, I had a chat with a bloke about how far was left. 
He told me it was only 15 miles. 
I was working in km and couldn't do the maths. 
I told him about the deal with the wheels and he assured me I could make it in time. 

I didn't believe him, making the conversion made my head hurt too much.
I resigned myself to the fact I would be over the 7 hours but the time I made it into transition. 

Coming through the reeds seemed to take forever.
As I made my way down the straight road to transition and started to pass the runners, I looked at my watch and then checked the time with another cyclist. 
I could see Burger King in the distance.
I could do this. 
It would be close, but I could do it.
I hit the dismount line and looked at my watch.

Total time = 6hrs 59mins 37secs \o/

T2 (16.00pm)
Bear was stood behind Alice's parking slot, cheering like a loon.
The flag was flying and the cowbell was ringing.
I was beaming, if a little sore.

My foot was still in pain and had been for the entire ride. 
Walking to the change tent HURT
I 'quickly' wiped my face with a baby wipe and knew i would have to get the 'run' underway.

Total time = 9 mins 37secs 

The Run (16.09pm) 
I tried to get moving, but my foot wouldn't have it.
I finally decided that I had cramp - and that meant I would have to sit down n give my foot a good poke.
Finding the right height curb was an interesting challenge. 
Too low and I wouldn't make it down and I certainly wouldn't make it back up. 
Poking my foot didn't help.
I had one option.
Carry on regardless.

The first lap was brutal.
I couldn't get going and it was HOT.
I was sore and it was HARD.

I was desperate for my first lap band, but it seemed so very far away.
By the time I finally received it, I had also discovered the joy of Red Bull and Coke.
I reached Bear at the start of lap 2 with a cup of each in either hand.
I was giddy at the change in taste, but that was soon short lived as I over indulged in sugary, caffeinated, liquidy goodness and made my stomach 'jiggle' 
Running became (more) difficult for a lap and I vowed that I would stick to the fuel strategy and cool myself with sponged instead of excess liquid loveliness.
Sad times.
The remainder of the run was fairly uneventful.
I chatted with a few people on the way round and apologised profusely to Bear at the start of lap 3 when I genuinely believed I was doing terrible. 
Darkness had started to creep in (in the outside, not in me), although, in my head, this meant I was taking an age. 
Apparently I wasn't.
12 hours in and a half marathon to go. 
That's OK then. 
Never had a half marathon felt so comparatively short.
As I started lap 4, I ran down the road, brandishing my arm shouting 'look what I've got'.
On it were 4 different coloured bands.
They meant in 6km time, I could turn right instead of left.
They meant I could exchange them for a medal. 
They meant I would hear the words.
My final half lap was shared with 2 girls who were concerned they wouldn't be allowed to finish. 
They were told at the top of the mountain that they had missed the cut off and would no longer be supported by the aid stations. 
They had set out on the run, adamant to finish, regardless. 
One had traveled from America and one was doing her first triathlon.  
I bid farewell to the girls when i had 1km to go, worried that I had peaked too soon. 
After 200m of running, I had to walk again.  
As I neared I could hear the music.
The lights were getting brighter. 
My smile grew ever wider, so wide that a fat salty tears escaped.
They tasted of happy and determination.
They tasted of adventure.
I had made it

Rachel Stead. You. Are. An Ironman.

Total run = 5hrs 53mins 54secs

Total Ironman = 14 hours 23 mins 16 secs