Monday, 10 October 2016


I am quietly seething. 

Actually I'm not being quiet about it at all. 

I'm being feisty and ranty about it. 

Over the weekend, I discussed my sadness n dismay at the number of women who had replied to the thread on twitter when Kelly Oxford had asked women to tweet about 'their FIRST' experience of being sexually assaulted.

I discussed this with a female friend and we both confess that we had to think long and hard about when our first experience of being sexually assaulted was. 

We spoke about the shapes this took, and how, often, it was so blatant, that by the time we had realised and actually acknowledged once the disbelief had gone, (a hand up a skirt or similar), the perpetrator could be invisible in a crowd and onto the next victim. 

We spoke about the scale of sexual assault. About where being heckled sits on that scale. About sexist comments. 

I have had too many incidents to count. 

They vary in severity. 

My age has ranged from being under 12 to 35.

But anyway.... that's not why I'm ranting. It is, however, relevant. 

The stuff regarding sexual assault is linked to Donald Trump and his hideous comments about 'grabbing women by the pussy' has been far too prevalent this weekend. 

I am baffled as to how so many Americans can be so stupid and bigoted. 

And then of course there is my mother. The one who failed to protect when I was a child, yet rings me to tell me that I should stop running along the canal because 'a coloured man is attacking women near Rodley' 

Apparently I'm not to run as far on as Rodley. Seemingly the attacker doesn't travel. 

When I asked what colour he was, she was unable to tell me. 

I must assume he has been in the face paint. 

Unfortunately (for her), I have my mother my opinion with both barrels.

I told her that she needed to stop reading the Daily Fail given that it reports in such a way to completely dehumanise women. 

It also reports in such a way that she thinks it's acceptable to use the word 'coloured' to describe someone. 

When I told her I needed to know whether the attacker was of Asian, Indian, Chinese, Caribbean, dual heritage, rather than 'coloured'. 

She was at a loss. 

I told her that we all had a skin colour so I guess I needed to be careful of every man in public.

I told her about the Nell McAndrew article - and actually, if men were reading that, women out running, are nothing more than moving sexualised objects. Why wouldn't they attack them?

My rant continued that I refuse to be frightened. 

I won't ONLY run when it's light. 

I CANT run when it's light in winter. Sometimes I'm at work. 

And actually, I quite like running at midnight. 

Why the hell shouldn't I? 

Sometimes it's the only way to shake the day off. 

I work shifts. 

It happens. 



I'm sensible. 

I take reasonable precautions.

I wear a headlight. 

I wear flashing arm bands

I wear a high viz frog. 

I wear loud and garish leggings. 

I carry a whistle.

I stick to the main roads late at night.

I refuse to be frightened. 

I am NOT going to hide from the world. 

To an extent, I tell people where I am going, or at least how long I expect to be. 

I try check in and out with someone. 

But ultimately, I live alone. 

And sometimes, people are sleeping. And sometimes I forget. 

But I won't stop running because it's suddenly dark. 

Or because there is a 'craze' for dressing as a killer clown n scaring women. 

I won't stop running because there is a man attacking women on the canal. 

Not all men are cockwombles. 

Some are. Some aren't. 

Some could see a woman running in hot pants n bra n would still know they had no right to assault or abuse her.

Some men see women covered up and take it as a personal challenge. 

I hope nothing terrible happens to you or those you love while you're out running. 

What with the drivers hating cyclists, that's not safe either..... I should probably go back to drinking and smoking..... 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Small piece of weather

My name is Rachel n I'm suffering from post race blues.
I am using endorphins to regulate my mental health.

I said it. 

I feel like I am at the beginning of an episode of depression. 
I can feel it. 


Waiting to pounce. 

I am balanced on a knife edge, in fact, no, worse than that, I am balanced on the tip of the blade. 


In all the directions.

It could all go horribly wrong at a moments notice.  Or maybe even without notice. 

Into the abyss. 

Currently, because I know I might fall, I am furiously packing. 
Preparing things that might help. 

Rope ladders, pick axes, safety nets n the like. 

I am setting goals n entering races.
I am making plans with people, which I will invariably cancel when I am in the abyss. 
Mainly because, deep dark hole n inability (lack of energy) to climb out of it. 

Mainly because I will be in bed.
Or in tears.

I am telling people about my standing on the edge n peering in.... Wondering if it's easier to jump than to wait to see if I fall. 

I don't want drugs. 
I have used drugs MANY times before n while the regulate, they make me feel just as void n empty as when I'm depressed. 
They stop me feeling altogether. 
At least when I'm under a heavy blanket of misery, I am still feeling. 

And feeling gives me hope. 

While I can still feel, I am still alive. 
And that's why I don't want drugs, I don't want to become mono-feeling n robotic. 
I'm aware that other people may not perceive me like that when I'm on drugs, but that's how I remember them. 
I know drugs have kept me afloat n alive through more than one winter. 
They are a good thing. 

I know antidepressants aren't even admitting defeat. 

This isn't a battle. 
It isn't something to win. 
It just..... is

I have wonky brain chemistry. 
Drugs stop it being wonky. 
That's all there is to it. 

Endorphins stop it being wonky too. 
Or at least, they do most of the time. 

Trouble with endorphins is this.... 

What goes up, must come down. 

And when I am like this, my biggest problem is my inability to regulate. 
I swing too low. Then it takes more and more to get me back. 

Highs are giddy n fleeting. I cannot hold on to them.
I feel bereft when they vanish.

I am a junky.
I have had LOTS of endorphins recently. 

Norse endorphins
Rio endorphins
Because reality, I came home. 
And went back to work. 

September is historically bad for me anyway. 
Winter starts to creep in, days have more hours of darkness than light. Vitamin D intake drops. 
SAD wraps itself around my being n threatens to drown me.

Add post race blues n all the hope, anticipation, preparation n hype that a big race holds.... Then remove any sense of purpose or forward momentum. 

Add work being horrendously difficult n desperately unhappy (combining of course shift work, emotionally challenging children and colleagues I struggle with)

It all gets a bit much. 

I have been told (on more than one occasion, by more than one person) that my appearance physically alters when I am flat/sinking. 

I cannot fake it to those who truly see me.

I had a little epiphany when I was about 150km into the 180km bike leg of Norseman. 
I was OFF MY FACE on feel good n had accomplished a HUGE physical undertaking. 

I was riding across a deserted moorland, designing my next tattoo.
My face hurt from smiling. 
Joy leaked from my eyes.

There was a huge rock in the middle of nowhere. It hadn't fallen off a cliff. It hadn't rolled down a hill. 
It was on the tops. 
Nothing was above it. 

I concluded, in my delirious state, that a giant must have thrown it n that's where it landed. 

What's the relevance of me telling you about the rock?

Well, the thing with wonky mental health is random thoughts appear, without explanation or warning. 
Often big, heavy, unwanted fuckers too. 
Like the random rock. 

As I rode past the age old lump of stone n mineral, I was thinking about weather systems and seasons. 

How cyclical 'things' are. 
How change is necessary and how the seasons are wonderful in their own way. I love all of them. 
How the shedding of skin n growth happens to us all. 
How it is Ultimately Good. 

How we evolve. 
How our needs change over time. 
How we respond to our environment. 

How the weather is a good representation for emotion and mood.....

Sometimes, the sun shines. There is light n warmth cast on all things. 
Growth is fast. There is a positive energy. Everything is easier in the sunshine. Any shadows are easily explained, they shift quickly. 

Sometimes, there is rain which is warm and nourishing. It smells of earth n goodness. 
Petichor. A good name for a good type of rain. 

Occasionally, the rain is barely visible, but soaks you to the skin. 
Fine, wet drizzle. 
The inconvenient type that there is little protection from. Wet rain.

Then of course there is snow. 
Good fun. 
Beautiful. Cold. 
The sum of its parts altering its combined matter. 
Or of course, inconvenient.

The fog does exactly what it says on the tin. It disorientates. Traps, confuses, makes you feel isolated and lost. It is rarely pleasant or easy to find your way out of. 

Thunder and lightening bring change. Clashes, changes in atmosphere, disturbance, pressure. 
Warm meets cold. 
Shouting. Banging. Electricity. 
Resolution. Clarity.

Of course.... After the wet stuff, when the gloom lifts and the light begins to shine again, there is the magic of rainbows.

I decided on that mountain top that I would try treat my mental health like the weather. (And the weather would feature somehow in my next tattoo)
Something that is ever present. 
Something that I cannot control. But I can respond to. 
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Control what you can.

I'm not one to let the weather stop me playing out. 
There is nothing I love more than open water swimming in the rain.

So, when the fog consumes me, I will either send out flares, or lay low until it lifts (rather than wondering aimlessly, becoming more lost)

I will wrap up warm n snuggly to combat against the cold of winter. 

I will top my chemicals up regularly. 
With exercise.
With laughter
With good self care
With love
With good food, containing proper nutrients (and grown in the sunshine)

My brain may behave as though it has a broken valve and allow the chemicals to leak, but if I top up regularly n ask others to check on me, I can ride this out.

My survival rate is 100%

And it's just a small piece of weather.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Norseman 2016

I will apologise now for the length of this blog. In fact, no I won't. I'm not even a bit sorry. 
I want to ramble n empty my head in case I forget it when I am an old lady. 

I want to tell the world what I achieved. I want to inspire strangers who think they can't, and let them know that they can. I want to send people to sleep with my mindless drivel. 

I don't ever want to forget. 

I want to shout from the roof tops about how proud I am of my little body. My little body that isn't the right shape to be athletic. My little body that doesn't have big paddles or flippers for swimming fast. My little body that probably had the most body fat on race day within the field of athletes. My little body that only started all this sporting lark in 2010 with an open water swim, and a sprint tri at the back end of 2013. My little body that is driven by my own stubborn n other people's self doubt. 

I didn't think it was possible to enjoy something so tough and so painful as Norseman was. 
But I did. I properly loved it. 

And I think I am now ruined forever. 
No racing experience will ever come close. I don't even think I can find the words to describe it.

I knew before I arrived in Eidfjord that Norseman was a magical experience. 
I knew when my name came out of the ballot in November last year, that my life would change ever so slightly. My life would change because of the 9 month journey to follow, but equally, it would culminate on one special day. 

I had been to Norseman before as support crew in 2014. I had vowed that I would never return. 
But it had got under my skin. 
My soul was stirred. 

Personal circumstances changed in the lead up to the race, which resulted in a change to my support crew and me having a couple of days to myself in Norway before the race. In the end, it worked out perfectly.

Cathy and Jayne did everything and more. They kept me calm, had foresight, they knew were where I needed them to be, when I needed them. Most of all, they had fun. 
In the midst of the extremity, the rain, the cold and the fog, they remembered to smile n enjoy themselves.... But never to the detriment of my race. 

During the time I was alone in the days before the race, I was able to float in the fjord, fettle with my bike, Alice, n get her set up sorted. 

While Norseman is a race, more than that, it is an experience. 
It is both brutal and beautiful and delivers everything it says it will and more. An extreme triathlon that is basic, true and unique.

The sense of community and camaraderie is astounding. 
One competitor arrived without his luggage or bike due to airline issues. He started the race n finished black. This was on the back of competitors and their support crews donating various items of kit. Human kindness prevailed.

They tell you to train as hard as you can for Norseman.... then train even harder. The initial email telling you that you have a place says 'train swim, train bike, train run, train hills, train cold, train nutrition.... Then train some more'

They don't lie. 

3*C in August soaked to the bone n with minimal visibility isn't much fun. But I LOVED it. There were people dropping like flies due to the cold. 
My bioprene paid off. 
Huzzah for having a bit of podge.

Support cars making space for filthy bikes, athletes retiring, frozen n shivering. Not the day they had prepared for. 

The days before the race had perfect weather. Calm clear waters in the fjord.  I had arrived late on the Tuesday and swam as soon as I could on the Wednesday. 

I was alone and so very tiny in a massive fjord. The mountains, the perfect backdrop, falling into the waters edge. 
I was like a pig in poop. So very happy and totally at peace.
I was happy to swim sans wetsuit on the Thursday the water temperature was so warm.

When the social swim happened on the Friday, myself, Cathy and Jayne were the loony Brits getting in without neoprene. There were a couple of others, but not many. 

It was properly glorious. Never have I been so calm before a race. 

Registration happened, briefing happened, tears and goosebumps happened.... And then we checked into the Tricamp. 

A school hall full of nervous athletes the night before a race. 
I'm glad we couldn't book the hotel until race morning. I LOVED sleeping on the floor with everyone else. 

Somehow, we all slept. I think we all slept reasonably well. Cathy slept so well that she snoozled through the lights being switched on at 2am n a couple of 100 people getting up n ready to race!!

Carnage in the school hall
The journey to the start passes quickly, nervous athletes sat around on a ferry in wetsuits is quite the site. The atmosphere crackling with anticipation, nerves and excitement.

We are summoned to the car deck. 
It is almost time to jump. 
The hose is pumping sea water so that everyone can acclimatise before the jump. 
I spend a few minutes under the spray, filling my wetsuit. 

Then, it is time.

The bit that i was dreading was the easiest thing in the world. 
I didn't even think about it.  
No fear, no hesitation. 
Just leap into the sea in the dark.
All races should start this way.

Quickest part of the day is leaping off the back of the boat

The overwhelming thought i had while swimming over to the start of the swim was 'what kind of knobhead wears polarised goggles in a swim that starts in the dark?' (that would be me then) 

The ferry horn signaled the start of the race.
We were told the fastest route was along the shore line - at times I was wide of the pack to get out of the washing machine. I would have periods of swimming completely alone - and then a wave would come and throw me back in to the pack.

I made sure that enjoyed the swim - watching day break against the backdrop wasn't something i would get to experience again in a hurry. Although, I was reminded of why I dislike swimming in anything with salt water or a tide.
The final 500m across the front of the pontoon seemed to go on forever - it was like being on a watery uphill treadmill. 
The swim was long, or I swam long. 4km overall and much slower than I was capable of.
I later learned that others who swam a similar pace to me found it tough too.

T1 went to plan and was fairly uneventful apart from weeing on Cathy - little did we know it would be the first of many that day. Somehow, she is still my friend.

The bike starts to climb fairly quickly and doesnt stop climbing for about 35km. The first climb peaks at 1271m (that's what my Garmin got it at)

The climb is beautiful. The old road winding in such a way that you can look up and see cyclists on the path above you, winding through tunnels in the mountainside, the path you don't see or experience when driving it, Voringfoss to the left as you climb.

You can see the bikes below - there is another layer too.
I knew early on that I was bleeding places - I couldn't make my body work at the right intensity.
I had planned to ride to a certain power, but couldn't sustain it.

On the day, my head was stronger than my body. It was an odd thing, having such amazing acceptance so early on and being happy about the fact that I knew I wouldn't achieve black finish.  I accepted that I might not make 18 hours. The weather was cold, so very cold on the tops. Reaching Dyranut meant that there was a tailwind - but it was about 3* and visibility was poor.

Having finished the first climb, knowing that my body and brain weren't working together, I wondered how I would make it to the end of the bike. I knew what was still to come - and people were dropping like flies around me due to the conditions.

Not once did i think 'I cant do this' (which is rare for me) I only ever thought 'I don't know how I will do it' - so i kept on pedaling.

I smiled alllllll day - even through the grim bits
Turning right at Geilo meant that some of the worst weather was over - it was just going to be wet now. I had standing water in my shoes and another 90km to go - and still i smiled.

Cathy took 'make sure i can see you' to a whole new level. 
There were descents where I had rain blasting in my face so hard that I couldn't see properly.

When I stopped at the bottom of Imingfjell (to wee on Cathy again), I was already Unsure about my ability to make it to the top of the climb.  It was 'only' 20km, but I had already climbed LOTS and had around another 800m in the last climb.
(The total bike elevation for the day was 2963m which is 9721ft)

I was tired and cold.
My legs were empty.
But my head was strong..... Ish

I hadn't come all this way to give in on the last climb.
I might finish white, and I might finish last, but I had to do everything I could to actually make it to the finish.
I had to know that I had done everything I could - even if they pulled me off the course.

So i set off with Alice, climbing for the last time.
Cathy and Jayne over took but pulled over when they realised I had stopped shortly after setting off.
Jesus this was going to be hard.
They came back to cheer me on.

I was so very empty that I had to do it in short bursts.
I physically couldn't keep cycling.
300m then stop. Have a rest.
500m then stop. Have another rest.
This was awful.
My brain was screaming that it would hurt just as much, but would be over quicker if we could just carry on.

My legs wouldn't work.
I couldn't turn the pedals.
Carry on.
Ad infinitum.

I stopped just after one of the hairpins and a chap from one of the other support crews asked me if i needed a push.
Thank you.
I will do this.
It will be me.
All me.
Thank you for the kind offer, but I'm fine.
I have survived many things in my life, I'm certain that I'm not going to be beaten by a hill.

Many small chunks later, we reached the dam.
The climb was over.
Shortly, I would be descending to T2 and my bike leg would be over.

I had done it.
I allowed myself a little cry.
A broad smile that made my cheeks hurt and my eyes leak.
Somewhere in the desolate Norwegian Moorland, a sheep rang its cowbell in celebration.
I had actually done it.
Now the small matter of surviving the downhill to Austbydge.

As it got warmer and the miles ticked from 105 to 110, I found myself sad that the bike leg was going to be over soon.
I was sad that I couldn't have given more, but was so very pleased that I had loved it all - even though it was grim in all the ways possible. Never again would I complain about weather on the bike!! I also knew I had given everything that I could.

Just the small task of a marathon left.
T2 seemed to take ages - I couldn't co-ordinate my hands and for the first time ever, I had a desire to eat real food during a triathlon.
I went all diva-ish and demanded Brioche - Lo and behold! Brioche appeared.

I tried my best to override my body and make it run - i managed about 8 minutes of my run walk strategy and it all became too much. My feet were swelling and my body was resisting.
It wouldn't let me damage it any more than i already had.
I knew by now that I was in white position 200 and somethingth (210, i think?) - no amount of chasing would get me to a black finish.

If i maintained a reasonable march, I would make all the cut off's with time to spare.
So that's what I did.
I marched.
When I could, I ran and when I couldn't, I made sure i maintained a reasonable pace.  I ate proper food (who am i?) and enjoyed the scenery.

Somewhere around mile 10, I picked up Charles and distracted him for a while - we talked drivel at each other and debated whether it was an ogre or a moose we heard roaring.
But we kept walking.

Jayne met me at the bottom of Zombie Hill and was relentless in her quest to get me up the hill to the checkpoint. Somehow, we were over taking people - we were over taking quite a lot of people.
Who knew that was a thing?

Having made the check point, new time goals were set - sub 18 was still achievable.
Who knew I would be so pleased with a sub 18 hour?

What nobody tells you about Norseman and the white finish, is this..... you do laps of the car park to make up the distance.
Its like becoming the ultimate Strava wanker.
The only difference is, you get music, dancing, cheering and your card stamped as you tick off each lap. It was ace.

I would've loved to finish black.
I really would.
And maybe a few years ago, I might have had it in me.
Year on year, the field is getting faster and stronger - and I don't ever think I will be able to compete in that way. Not on that course and in that environment.
2016 is rumoured to have been the worst weather conditions recorded on race day. I also heard something about the biggest DNF rate ever.

I am stupendously proud of what i achieved.

Thank you Norway.
Thank you Norseman.
You were awesome.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Ready or not, here I come....

As I type this I am sat in a plane. I wanted to type 'I am sat on a plane'. But that would suggest I'm on the roof. And I'm not. 

I've just landed in Schiphol n will be travelling onward to Oslo very shortly.  But only after I've had Dutch Apple Pie. 


I don't even think I have the words to articulate it. 

For the past week, I have found myself breaking into broad, beaming grins, cheeks bulging, eyes twinkling. 
This has occasionally been accompanied by an enthusiastic squeeee sound, and almost certainly a seal clap will have escaped. 

I can't contain the feeling. It's far too big. There have been one or two tears as well. Not sad tears. Just big feelings leaking through my eyes. 

It is here. 
The race that has consumed me for the past 9 months IS ON SATURDAY. 

I cannot do any more. 
The training has been done. 
All that is left is a minor matter of a swim, a bit of a lumpy bike, n a run with a small climb at the end. 

It is 3 proper sleeps n a snoozle away (Friday night isn't sleep, it's laying down in the dark for a bit)

Taper madness is absent for the most part. There have been no major meltdowns. Ickle ones, yes. The cassette n wheel issue made me cry. But human goodness prevailed n it's sorted. 

Packing was a calm affair. 
I am amazed at how easy it was. It felt far too easy.
For months, I have been adding post-it notes to a box in the living room of things I need. I exchanged the post it for the actual item, cross referenced it with my race plan/packing list. 
It took all of 15 minutes to gather everything. 

Being organised pays. 
Who knew?! 

Getting everything in the case n bike box? That was a different matter. 

Friends have made my heart swell. Magical trinkets of love have been gifted. They are coming up the mountain with me. 

So much belief. So much support. 
I hope I don't let anyone down. 

I have a plan for the day which involves tactical stuff, head space management, ways to make sure I enjoy it as well as goal related stuff. 

People have asked me what time I want. 

I want to finish. 
I'd like under 16 hours. 
I'd really like black finish. 
I want top 160. 
But that depends who turns up on the day n what the universe has in store. I mainly want to finish.

I want to jump off the ferry without fear or hesitation.
I want a steady swim which uses minimal energy. I won't swim the swim I know I am capable of, but I would rather conserve energy where possible. 
God knows I'll need it. 
I'd really like to do the bike leg in a time I know I'm capable of (if the weather is kind)
I'd really like a 2.15 half marathon off the back of the bike. 
Then I am into unknown territory.
10km at 10% won't be fast.  

But the real answer to what time I want? 

I want to have the time of my life. 
And that's what I plan on having.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Brain dumps post Lakesman.

Lakesman was originally going to be my iron distance event of 2016. Then my name came out of the hat and it became a perfectly timed training event, 7 weeks prior to Norseman. 

I had taper in the plan, I also had the Leeds ITU Olympic tri in the plan as part of the taper - sadly that didn't happen due to illness - so I went into Lakesman feeling like I hadn't really moved very much for the past 2 weeks. 

Very well rested but with the demon voices telling me I had lost all fitness. 

Because it had become a training event, the plan was, swim as I would on Norse race day - aim to replicate the intensity in the water, then bike at the intensity I was planning to ride at.  If all was well, do a couple of run laps.  Replicate the flat half marathon. then STOP. 

I ride with power, so while the 2 bike course couldn't be more different, profile wise, I would still be able to know how hard I was riding, how much effort I was putting in etc. It was also a chance to test kit and fuel and see how I felt getting off the bike. 

Race day arrived - I had camped the night before to replicate as best I could what it would be like sleeping on the floor of a community hall.

I was TOTALLY calm in transition - ok, my porridge wouldn't go down, but that was more about my body not wanting to eat when it should be sleeping.
My body also ignored the 2 poo rule - it ignored ANY poo rule to be fair. 
It was as though it was in some kind of denial. 
Nerves or Adrenalin would have been helpful. 
Instead, I just had standard issue giddy kipper Rach - and 2 Imodium just in case. 

I was bouncy - dancing like a loon to Olly Murs singing Up. James Bay also created a small hip sway, foot shuffle and bounce. Little did I know that Up would stay with me for most of the day.

Kisses were exchanged, we made our way into the water, not much time for faff and we were off. 
I set off and found myself in a wide pack reasonably close to the front, moving across to get the best racing line was done gradually as I went up the long first straight. 
After an unknown length of time, I had settled into a rhythm and remembered just how much I love swimming, how much I missed racing in open water and actually how little training I had done.
Yes, I have swum, but I haven't done any speed work, strength work, training sets of endurance - possibly since last June. Certainly not with any regularity. 

Bilateral breathing and the direction of the course meant that the view changed regularly - I found myself relaxing in intensity and had to remind myself that I should be racing. 

I bloody love Derwent Water though. 

I came out of the pond after almost missing the last turning buoy, then having to turn back and swim round the inside of the last buoy (stupid moral compass).
There were whispers I was 5th female out of the water as I exited. 
Looking at the results, there was only one female competitor doing the whole race who came out in front of me - the rest were relay swimmers. That'll do. 

1.09 in the water - get out feeling fresh and happy. Tick. 

Quick transition and I was good to go.
I managed to squeeze in a quick squish in transition and was told that I was getting outside assistance - so I kissed the marshal too. Joy of being a relay team! 

The plan for the bike was to settle in and sit at 75% of my FTP. 
Andrew had been data nerding on BestBikeSplit and it was predicted that I should be able to ride the course in 6.20. So that was the goal for the day. 

I settled reasonably quickly, started my fuel strategy and found a rhythm. 
Rob came past me within 20km, we had a quick exchange about the strange noises Alice was making and how the swim was, then he was on his way. 

Everyone who passed me got a loud and cheery 'moooooooorning', as did everyone I passed. 
The marshalls all got a morning and a thank you, accompanied by a beaming me. 
Life was good.

The power data was reading that I was at 80% - then it occurred to me that the numbers on the Garmin hadn't been updated.
The percentage I was riding at wasn't the right number to begin with. 
I tried to do the maths and it didn't work. 

Lesson number 1.
Make sure the numbers you're using are the right ones.

Ah, fuck it. 
Go by feel and use the numbers as a guide. 
It was too late now. 
Fuckety bollocks. 

Every hill I encountered, Demi Lavato sang at me as I climbed. 
It was a good song to keep me in a good head space.

"You gotta hold on
Hold on to what you're feeling
That feeling is the best thing
The best thing, alright
I'm gonna place my bet on us
I know this love is heading in the same direction
That's up"

That combined with the headgehodges singing rude songs......

They weren't hills in the Yorkshire or Norway sense - but they rolled. 
I have a sneaking suspicion I may have over-fueled or under drunk (which is more likely)
The front hydration system had leaked in transition. Alice is so very tiny, that she was left swinging - this meant her front bottle leaked. 
I voted to remove it rather than faff. 

Lesson number 2. 
Have a front feeding bottle that doesn't leak so you remember to drink more. 

My left contact lens had been a pain for most of the week - after approx 50km, it was shouting to be heard - so out it came. I rode with one eye for the remainder of the course.

Lesson number 3.
I can see plenty enough with one contact lens. 

I saw Mel on the bottom of the loop, she was due to over taking me at any moment - I was over whelmed with pride for her. As I went round the roundabout, I was told I was 3rd lady. WTF?!
Me? 3rd lady?

That would change soon enough.

Lee came past and we had a brief chat as we cat and moused backwards and forwards.
Shortly after, Stuart came flying past, slapping my backside as he went!! 
It seemed only fair I returned the favour as I went back past him a few miles down the road. 
(This greeting exchange between myself and Stuart continued onto the run leg as well! I think I had 4 bottom slaps and gave out 3)

The bike leg itself was fairly uneventful - I missed Mel passing me as i nipped into a portaloo at one of the feed stations - I couldn't wee while riding, no matter how hard I tried.

Alice's noises eventually subsided and my thoughts progressively got darker as the miles ticked by.
At approx 80km, my hips were starting to hurt - I went to take some pain killers and dropped them.
Never have I been more gutted. 

My quads were hurting at approx 100km.
Shortly after this, my power dropped out.

Lesson number 4
Change batteries on the Vectors before racking.

I didn't have a clue how hard I was riding - other than I had just under half of the bike left to go, my legs were starting to grump and I was sick to death of headwind. 

After the flat coastal road, being slightly concerned I would be stuck on the loop at the top, unable to get off it and being made to go round and round like scooby-doo riding, when the hills rolled once more, I started to feel like a fraud. 

My legs shouldn't be this tired.
Everyone else seemed to be coming past me.
More women were passing and I was now probably down to 10th female.

I felt like I was going backwards.  
Initially, I managed to keep my head space happy, telling myself that my gearing would be different for Norseman. Different gears would make it easier. 
For all I was still smiling like a loon, I wasn't in a happy head space. 
I was convinced that the time Andrew had predicted was 6.15 and I still had MILES to go - the downhill straight into town felt like it was uphill.  
6 hours ticked by and I was still a long way back - the A66 seemed to go on and on and on. 
The headwind was relentless.

Weaving through town, the traffic was horrific.
Anyone would think that there was a big event going on. 
I pulled up to the dismount line with Cathy marshalling 'bike in' - Sarah was waiting for the chip, originally, I was running a loop with her - I told her to go without me.  

My hips were screamy by this point. 

John came and looked after me, briefly, making sure I had pain relief and recovery drink - he had to go back to wait for Dave coming in on the bike to start his own run. 
Colin followed shortly behind me. 

In the hours that followed, my hips hurt in ways I've never experienced before - not running was the right call.

But I cant do that at Norseman. 
I considered running a loop after resting for a couple of hours - that still counts as a long brick right?
I would've done myself a mischief. 

After a day of beating myself up, I'm ok.
I achieved what I set out to achieve - and I learned important stuff.

I rode to within what I'm capable of and given the wind conditions and lack of data - to produce that result based on feel is OK. 
I need to stop being my own worst critic. 
I rode alright. 
We didn't disgrace ourselves (myself and Alice, although she tried) and we (myself and Dr Sarah) achieved a 11.49 relay. 

I posted a 6.27 bike split. 
I have 6 weeks of solid training left to bank. 
I didn't fail this weekend. 
I achieved exactly what I set out to achieve and BEAMED while doing it.

I was able to spend the weekend with some of the people whom I love dearly and witness amazing people achieving awesome things. 
People pushing themselves beyond previous limits. 
Supporting others unconditionally.

I am VERY lucky to be able to do the things I can do. 
Even if they are ridiculous. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Mental health rants

I found myself throwing the chair back, frantically heading to the fridge.
Desperate for something to put in my mouth. If I was chewing, the words that were threatening to spill would stay where they were. 
And I wouldn't get sacked. 

'So you think you can put a plaster on mental health when it's a bit poorly?
Bollocks to that' 

Too late. 
I was off. 

'You've got mental health, I've got it, he's got it, she's got it. All our kids have it. 
Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's a bit tired. Sometimes it's properly poorly and needs a full chemical makeover. 
What the fuck is 2 days sat in a classroom going to teach me?' I spat at her. 

I sat back down. 

My other mother kicked me. 
In fact she kicked me so hard she nearly fell off her chair. 

'Well, you could learn about depression and how to get rid of it'

My other mother kicked me again. 
Harder than the first time.

'I'm sorry. What?' I asked. 

'You could learn about depression and self harm' came the response. 

'Oh. Ok. Cos living with it isn't knowledge enough? Silly me'

Kicked again. 

I needed to stop. 
My legs would be bruised at this rate.
But my 'self diagnosed Tourette's' kept the words falling from my gob. 

'So tell me what I'll learn'

Let's save the council 2 days wage n me 2 days of my life that I'll never get back. 

'Well, you'll learn what it's like for those who self harm. Why they do it. 
They'll explain what it's like to live with depression and how we can make it better' 

What the actual fuck?

I think I said 'what the actual fuck' out loud but I couldn't be certain.

Nice to know that any previous discussions I've had with the management team who support me have been acknowledged. 

Nothing quite says 'screw you' other than dismissing someone's personal experience and diagnosed mental health issues. 

I suffer from depression. 
So what?
People I love suffer from it. 
So what?

'And how did they suggest we make depression better for our kids?'

I was livid.
I couldn't hide it. 

I also realised I was now pacing round the kitchen, opening cupboards in a further attempt to distract myself. 

Well, if you go on the training you'll find out won't you' she smiled patronisingly.

'Er. No. 
No I won't.
Am I meant to jolly them along n tell them to pull themselves together?'

'Well, if we keep them busy, it will help. We can't let them wallow in their bedrooms or carry on self harming. It's not normal behaviour'




So not only do our kids have to be separated from their parents, live with people who they wouldn't ever associate with normally, have 20 different people looking after them (some of whom, they really don't like), they have raging teenage hormones, have experienced trauma, neglect n abuse, now we have to jolly them along n tell them they don't really feel how they say they do. 


There was no point arguing.
I may as well save my breath.
Bearing in mind this is someone who has previously told me that I didn't feel a certain way. 
The same person who has said that one of my boys didn't really feel anxious. 

I left the meeting. 
If I still smoked, I would have been in the garden, chain smoking.
I was so cross that after my open water swim, I still hadn't shaken it off. 
I can feel it in my shoulders.

When I am calmer, I will work out how to fight this. 
What to do with it. 
What to do with and about my colleague.

I know that I will carry on loving the kids, acknowledging their feelings and experiences. Discussing coping mechanisms with them, taking about mental health. Talking about feelings and how all things are ok. How we all have mental health, just like we have sexual health n physical health. 
I will talk about how it needs looking after and good self care. In the same way we clean our teeth, we can make sure our metal health doesn't get bits stuck that will cause decay. 

But sometimes, it's chemical and the chemical shift can't be helped and that's not anyone's fault. 
It just 'is'.
The behaviours that follow aren't the person making choices. No amount of being cross, shouting or rationalising will prevent a behaviour taking place. Neither will dismissing someone or they way they feel. 

Mental health is what it is. 
It's hard watching someone you love struggling. 
It's hard being the person to struggle.

But it's fucking horrific to be told to pull yourself together or that you don't feel a certain way. I've had it. 
It doesn't help. 

I assure you, if, in my darkest times, I could've jollied myself along, I really really would've. 

My leg is currently bruised. 
You can see that it's sore. You can see there has been trauma to my leg.... But you can't see inside my head.