One down, 18 to go

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Today signalled the end of my first proper week of tri training for my middle distance race in August.  I was slightly apprehensive at the start of the week, because even right from Day 1 it looked like quite a high training load for me.  Anyway, all that was for it was to start it and see what happened.  The plan works on the basis of Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), such that the intensity of each session is based on RPE.  Of course RPE will differ from person to person, but the important bit to note here is that most of the sessions in the first few weeks are set at fairly low RPE, i.e. a level of intensity that would allow you to hold a conversation with someone if you were running or cycling along.  Not sure how you converse in the pool, but there you go.

So with that as a starting point, I embarked on the week.  I’ve loaded all the training sessions onto a program called Training Peaks, which allows me to track progress.  By uploading the sessions on first, it shows me what’s coming up from day-to-day, but crucially, when I finish a session that’s been recorded on my Garmin, and upload it to TP, it will automatically fill in the ‘completed’ part of the ‘planned’ session.  So completing upwards of 80% of the planned sessions will highlight them in green, less than 80% in amber, and anything below 50% or not completed at all shows in red.  Traffic lights of success!  This week I achieved 7 greens and 2 ambers.  The latter because my long swim wasn’t as long as it should have been, and my long ride today was a bit short too.  I’m not worried about those though.  This is week one, and it’s more exercise in a week than I’ve done in years, and that is NOT an exaggeration.  Keeping the RPE low has helped me get through it. I’m not counting chickens though, there are a lot of weeks to come, and inevitably I’ll get more fatigued as I continue to train.  The plan has one rest day a week scheduled in on a Saturday, but I will try to re-jig things when I can to include 2 rest days.  This week I switched it to Thursday rather than Saturday, and it was absolutely the right decision.  So the scores on the doors for this week are as follows:

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Distances covered were:

  • Swim: 4525m
  • Bike: 12.04 miles (mostly completed on indoor spin bike, so no distance for that)
  • Run: 9.3mi

Next week the plan is similar to this week, and it’s all just about getting it done.  In terms of the swim, the training plan I’m using gives the swim set in distance, and puts an estimated time with it.  However, I think the timings assume you’re part dolphin, and for the long swim, if I completed the suggested distance, it would take me nearly 80 mins I reckon, rather than the 40 they estimate.  So for the long swim i’m capping it at 1 hour.  As I improve, the distance I can cover in an hour should increase, so that suits me.  While triathlon is all about the bike, since the bike is the biggest portion of the race, I do need to improve on my swimming.  I want to be able to get out of the water in a good time (for me), and not be totally bolloxed.  Also i’m actually enjoying the swimming of late, so long may that continue.  When I think back to when I was training for the Ironman, I did bugger all swimming, and doubt I EVER swam 4.5K in a week.  It’s not wonder I sucked at IM, haha!!

Anyway, it’s been a good week, and the important thing is I’m enjoying the training, and i’m back out on the road bike which is a miracle in and of itself.  I just need to keep on it.

Happy Easter folks 🙂

Celebrations / Let the fun begin

Celebrations

The last four days have been pretty fabulous.  I jetted off to beautiful Barcelona with my pals Nicky & Grant to celebrate their recent engagement. Nicky queried whether she should have a hen do, asking where we could go, and just as I was about to suggest London, her reply of “please say Lanzarote” got us thinking about somewhere warm.  Long story short though, flights etc. to Lanza were not optimal, so a suitable alternative was found: Barcelona.  I’d visited many years ago with my sister & her friends, so I was looking forward to going back.  I think the weekend can be summed up in the following pictures:

We were lucky enough to find a nice hotel on the main drag (Las Rambla), just next to the Gothic Quarter in the heart of the city.  It’s a beautiful area with old buildings, winding, narrow streets and lots & lots of lovely bars and restaurants selling the most amazing food and wine.  So the weekend basically involved strolling from bar to bar, eating and drinking our way around the city.  Bliss.  We may also have stumbled upon a fantastic cafe/bar  (Cafe Schilling) with possibly the hottest barman/waiter that has ever lived.  The food there was fantastic, as was the ambience and nightly live music.  Perfecto <3.

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Beautiful Spaniards aside, I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’re ever in town; it really is a fabulous place.

Let the fun begin…

Sadly all good things must come to an end though (why though, I ask myself??), and we’ve returned back home and back to normality.  Booooo!  An afternoon & evening of chilling is on the cards, and then tomorrow I start my triathlon training plan.  I put it back one week since I was away most of last week, so tomorrow I start a 19 week rather than a 20 week plan.  It’s pretty full on from the word go, and the swim sessions are seemingly written for dolphins not humans, but I’ll give it my best shot.  Time to get cracking on the training and nutrition and see what I can do.  Let the fun begin indeed!

🙂

 

Taking the rough with the smooth

I’ve done bugger all this week, training wise.  I’ve had a good few weeks previously, but it all went a bit wrong this week.  However, I’m not worried about it.  There’s no point getting stressed about it, after all I’m doing this for fun, not as a career.

It’s been a busy week otherwise, lots going on at work and as a result I’ve got a last-minute work trip from this evening until Tuesday.  I’ve got a busy life outside of work too, and that accounted for a few busy evenings this week too.  Also, i’ve been really, really tired. Partially I think PMT is to blame, but I’m also wondering if my iron levels are low again?  I ended up on iron tablets for 3 months in 2016 which really helped; maybe my levels are low again?  I’ll get that checked.

Monday 19th was supposed to be the start of my 20-week training plan for the Cotswold Triathlon.  However, knowing I’d be away on leave from next Thursday for 4 days, and now that I’m away with work the beginning of the week, I’ve elected to start the plan a week late, and I’ll knock out one of the later weeks to make it a 19 week plan.

I was worrying about that a little but then I realised that you know what, this is all meant to be fun.  I’m never going to be breaking any records, and if life and health gets in the way for a week or two, big deal.  I’ll try to do some training when I’m away next week but i’m not doing to stress about it.  There are lots of other things I need to do around the flat at the moment, and i’m just not getting a chance, so something has to give.

Anyway, aside from all that, one good thing that did happen this weekend is that I got a proper bike fit for my road bike.  It was a 3-hour appointment in all, and it was really comprehensive.  We looked at previous injuries, current flexibility/mobility, what my goals and plans are, then there was lots of turbo-riding while I was hooked up to a machine that tracked my movements, then lots of tinkering about to get the best position for me.  The upshot is that I have a new, shorter stem as well as new narrower handlebars.  It was suggested I get shorter cranks as the cranks are not the ideal length for the bike size, nor for me.  So I’ll change those soon.  By the end of the session I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike, and was really keen to go out today to test it but more snow put paid to that.  I’ll hopefully get out next Sunday afternoon for a little spin, once I get home.  I feel quite excited about riding my bike again, which is important to me.  I’m looking forward to the triathlon later in the year, but the reason I’m doing that at all is to have a goal that I can get excited about and the training leading up to it is meant to be fun.  Oh and I also get a 1hr appointment with the fitter in 3 months so we can just check everything is good and make any further tweaks if necessary.

This week aside, the training I’ve been doing so far i’ve been enjoying for its own sake which is as important to me as ticking a box.  I’ve had a bit of a bleurgh, tired week, but next week will be better, and I can get back to training for fun & for a bit of stress relief.  It’s all good 🙂

Conquering fears

As I said in my last post, it’s been a few years since I’ve ridden my road bike.  Well 6 years, 7 months and 3 days to be exact, but who’s counting?  I used to really love riding my bike, and I especially loved the exhilaration of rocketing down a hill as fast as possible, knowing that if I came off I’d be in big trouble.  Somehow the risk of it made it feel even more thrilling.  Of course not riding my bike means I’ve lost that.

As much as I did love riding, I found extended periods in the saddle would totally kill my back, and there were many rides where I’d need to get off and lie face down in a verge until something clicked and I could carry on.  Knowing how much it used to kill me, it was an easy excuse to use for avoiding getting back on the bike for years.  However, I’m determined to complete the Cotswolds Classic triathlon in August this year, so last month I decided to sign up for a proper bike fit so I can get the bloody thing set up properly.  I should have done one years ago but hey-ho.  I deliberately chose the soonest date they had that I was available, knowing that the longer I put it off, the longer I’d stay off the bike.  So the fitting is booked for next weekend.

The other side of that is that I don’t want to turn up and have to admit that I’ve not even ridden the bike for years.  So yesterday I went out and round the block (well, around a small industrial estate next to my flat) just to get used to the bike handling again.  I’ve been on my hybrid, but as it’s a sturdier bike, I have to get used to the feel of a roadie again.  I almost then went on for a longer ride but bottled it and came home.  I think what I’m most nervous about is drivers.  I always give cyclists plenty of room, but knowing so many people who’ve been knocked off their bike gives me the shits (not literally, you’ll be glad to know).  I used to be really assertive in traffic, so I know it’s just a matter of building that confidence back up.

I was busy first thing this morning, so after a very late brekkie I headed out after 1pm.  OMG I loved it!!  I was only out for about 40 mins, and maybe about 5 mins or so I was stopped at the side of the road deciding whether to keep going or turn around, but overall I’m really happy.  I headed to the coast, so there was a lot of gentle downhill on the way out, and then of course I started to worry about being able to get back up the hills.  To be honest they are not exactly hills, but I’ve always had a total fear of anything not 0% incline on the bike, so after 4 miles I turned back.  I made it up all the inclines (hills!) fairly easily, so I needn’t have worried.

As for the traffic, there were quite a few cars about but every single one of them waited behind me until it was safe to pass and were really considerate.  I gave them all a little wave, after all if they’ve been nice, so should I be.  Karma and all that!

When I got back I went for a quick run, but my heart rate was really high and my legs felt bolloxed, so I only went round the block and ran for 10 mins.  It’s made me realise that while my spin bike s really good for general fitness, it definitely doesn’t replicate the effort of road riding, so I need to get out on the bike regularly.  I noticed my general cadence is much better, and I can ‘spin’ a lot more comfortably outside, the spin bike has helped a lot in that respect.

Anyway, this week I’ve completed 3 rides, 2 runs and 2 swims.  So 1 swim & run less than planned, but I can live with that.  The distances are not quite where they need to be either, but that will come.  I’ve been fairly consistent the last three weeks and I’m enjoying the training, both of which I’m really pleased about.  Only one more week until the official training plan starts. Yikes.

Mind over matter

Sometimes when you mix with people who take on crazy challenges as a matter of course, the desire to join them is too much to ignore.  Such was the case for me in 2011 when I decided to take on the challenge of Ironman Regensburg in Germany.  I didn’t come from a sporty background, and indeed I only took up triathlon in late 2009, having completed a couple of short sprint triathlons, building up to a half iron distance race in June 2010, where I came dead last.  I can’t even remember how much I weighed back then, but I was a few stone overweight and thought that training for the Ironman would help me lose weight.  It didn’t.  The ironman triathlon comprises of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run (marathon).  I had a 30 week training plan to get me to that start line, but if the truth be told, I knew from the word go that I wasn’t capable of completing the race.  I could picture myself running down that finishing chute on the one hand, but I couldn’t conceive of actually being able to get through the training in one piece.  Despite the couple of triathlons I’d completed, I didn’t feel as though I was in a better starting position as someone who’d just peeled themselves off the couch and into a tri suit.

Regardless, I started the training plan and smashed out the first couple of weeks, hitting all the sessions.  Cue the start of week three and I was totally and utterly fucked.  I missed quite a few sessions, just being too tired to complete them.  Weeks 4 & 5 I picked up the sessions again, but again after a couple of good weeks I’d be too buggered the following week to make good inroads into the plan.  My subconscious knew I didn’t have a chance, and this pattern repeated itself up until race day.  I hadn’t done enough.  I knew it, and although I was excited to take part, I knew in my heart that I hadn’t tried hard enough because not trying hard enough meant I had a ready-made excuse for not finishing.  If I’m honest i’m sure anyone else expected me to finish either.

I arrived in Germany and met up with my pirate pals, and very luckily was taken under the wing of Happychap who looked after me over the week.  We went for a run a couple of days before the race, and having only run about 3 miles I was totally bolloxed again.  Realistically I had no chance of finishing.  Anyway, race day came and I lined up with hundreds of others at the start line of the Ironman race.  I think I was 3rd last out of the swim, overtaken in the last few hundred meters by a guy in his 70s.  I barely made the cut-off time, but made it out on to the bike with seconds to spare.  It was a two loop course with a couple of hills in it (as shown below).

Regensburg

I’d driven the course on a previous trip, and knew that there was one hill that I may need to walk up.  I peddled on around the first lap, right from the start being overtaken from people on their second lap, a couple of pro riders glided past shouting “good luck!” to me which was a nice boost.  The hills arrived and I got up the first without walking, but only just.  My mind was all over the place, berating myself for thinking I deserved to be there, knowing I hadn’t put in the hard yards.  However, I thought I just needed to keep on peddling and see where it got me.  I must have got a bit confused as to where I was, as I struggled up another hill determined not to get off and push.  I was at my limits though, and was disappointed knowing that I’d definitely need to get off at push at the worst climb.  Except what happened next was I reached the feed station at the top of the last climb.  What? Have I not got one more climb to go? NO!  I’d done it, i’d managed to cycle up without stopping to push.  I can’t describe the feeling it gave me other than to say it felt euphoric.  I peddled through the feed station with renewed vigour and a sense of excitement.  In that moment my mindset completely switched.  Realising I’d achieved something I thought initially impossible, I switched from thinking ‘this is impossible’ to ‘nothing is impossible‘.  Before I’d left home, I was chatting to my pals and saying that I needed some kind of mantra to help me in the race.  I’d tried a few things out but nothing stuck until my lovely friend Krista said “you get to do this”.  That was it.  I might not have been fit enough, but I had two legs, two arms and the ability to get to that start line, many others would not be so lucky.  So when I reached the top of that hill I reminded myself that I get to do this, and I knew it was game on.  I cycled down the other side of that hill like a bloody demon, and when I reached the flat I knew I had to just go for it.  Before reaching the summit I’d toyed with pulling out, of giving up because I knew the finish line was not on my horizon that day.  But when I reached the top and had this epiphany I was absolutely determined that I was NOT going to give up.  I did a quick calculation that in order to make the intermediate bike cut-off, I’d need to cycle consistently at 25 mph for the next hour.  I’d never cycled at 25mph in my life, but that didn’t matter.  I peddled my bloody heart out from that point, and reached the point I was hitting about 20 mph for stretches, again not a speed I was normally acquainted with.  Logic & physics said that making that cut-off was an impossible task, but in my heart I knew I had to just go for it.  I knew that if I quit i’d always think “what if?” even though it would have been physically impossible.  So I went for it, and I smiled the whole way to the cut off point.  I’d never felt so good, because I knew I was giving it my all.  In the end I did miss that cut-off, but I knew I could live with myself because I tried, even against all the odds.

I’ve never attempted another IM since then, mostly because  I knew I didn’t have the real desire to commit to the training I would need to do to get me to the finish.  I’ve done various running races since then, many times again signing up with the view that having a race to focus on would help me lose weight etc.  That just doesn’t work for me though.  Last year when I discovered the low carb high fat (LCHF) way of eating, I realised for the first time in my life that here was a way of eating that worked for me, whether I did an ounce of exercise or not.  So last year I did pretty much zero exercise, but still lost a fair bit of weight.  A few times I gave into the sugar demons though and that set me off track for a while.  I’ve been on and off LCHF for a while, but I’m back on it now, because ultimately for me I know it’s all about mind over matter.  I’ll always struggle with the sugar demons, but at least now I get back on the horse rather than abandoning it completely.

Losing weight on zero exercise was fine, but it also made me realise that I was craving doing some exercise for its own sake, a position I’d never been in before.  Hence the reason I signed up for the Cotswold Classic triathlon this August.  I want a challenge, and I want to push myself and push my limits.  I’m not putting a time goal on it as such, but after so many years of being overweight and never managing to be consistent with anything really, I want the challenge of training and proving to myself I can do this.  I’ve achieved a lot in life because I refused to believe I didn’t have the ability (all my studying, flying etc.), and this time I want to see what I can achieve with my body.  I get to do this.  I still think of that mantra a lot, it’s what motivates me.

So this last week, having switched back to LCHF, it’s fair to say I’ve felt totally spangled.  I forgot that there’s an inevitable dip in energy that comes with moving towards being a fat-burner.  I’d promised myself I’d do 3 each of swim, bike & run this week, and I’ve almost achieved it – I’m short by one bike session, primarily down to bad planning.  To be honest a couple of the sessions were shorter than I wanted, but i’ve just been knackered.  I know my energy will return soon, so at the moment it’s just a case of pegging back the effort and getting the sessions in without destroying myself.  It comes down to mind over matter.  Next week i’m aiming for 3 of each again, albeit I might have to make them shortish and low effort as I still adapt to the LCHF lifestyle.  It’s exciting though.  I like having a goal and in a way I can’t wait to see what i’m capable of.

That said, I think it might be time for a nap.  Thank the tri-Gods above that recovery is an important part of training!

Have a good week folks 🙂

 

Swimming not drowning

Having decided to get my shit together (finally) and start building up training so I can cope when the actual training plan begins for my August triathlon, last Sunday I realised I had the week from hell coming up, and I suddenly worried that I’d fall at the first hurdle.   Four nights out of five during the week I had stuff on in the evening, and I’ve had full on days up to about 5pm both Saturday & Sunday.  However, I also realised that shit happens, and if I make an excuse for myself when life gets a bit busy, then there will always be a reason to shirk off the training because shit always happens when you least expect.  It’s called ‘life’.

The plan was to fit in 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs this week, as I did in the last week.  Considering how busy I knew the week was going to be, I tried to slot in the training around my life to make the most of the free time I did have.  As a result I managed to do 2 runs, 2 bikes and 1 swim….So not 100% compliance.  However, I swam 1000m, so twice the distance I did on each of the swims last week.  Not perfect but close enough for now.

Next week I wasn’t sure whether to aim for 2 of each again and extend the times a bit, or aim for 3 swim, bike and runs sessions.  Ultimately I’m aiming for the latter, as I need to get used to fitting in those extra sessions.  While you could say that triathlon is all about the bike, I’ve realised at the moment that the swim is my most limiting factor.  In years gone by I would NEVER have been able to swim 1000m in a sesh without practically dying, but while I can swim a bit more, it’s still pretty slow.  Sloth like you could say.  I was faster on todays swim than those last week, but it would still take me too long to swim the 1900m of the August tri distance.  So I think for sure an extra swim sesh a week will help improve things.  I know it’s early days, and I’ve got lots of time and training to improve that, so i’m not too worried.

Next week life should hopefully get a little quieter, but I’m also away at the weekend so need to fit everything in without leaving it too late.  It’s all good though, i’m actually enjoying the training.  Let’s hope to the tri-Gods above that this feeling lasts!

 

Softly, softly catchee monkey

Today marks one week in to the start of my training build up.  At the moment, I’m just building up to the start of the official training plan.  I’m so out-of-the-way of it, and so out of shape, that it’ll take me a bit of work to get to the point I can cope with the training.

So the aim for this week was fairly simple: 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs.  I didn’t plan a specific time or distance, but it was more about getting it done.  I had quite a busy week, so just slotted the training in around it, and today ended up doing a bike & run and then a swim as I didn’t plan it very well yesterday and didn’t have time (or rather the inclination, after a busier than expected day) to fit the bike in.  Anyway, I actually really enjoyed today, and doing a 30 min spin bike sesh immediately followed by a 20 min run (or a ‘brick’ in tri language, for the uninitiated) before a quick swim worked well.  It was all done fasted too, which I was happy with, especially since food wise it all went a bit Pete Tong at the start of the week.  All back on track now though.

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(the bike sessions at the moment are all indoor & time based, hence the lack of mileage!)

Nothing I did this week was particularly fast or long, it’s more about starting to build consistency.  I know I need to up it slowly otherwise injury or a buggered immune system leading to illness will follow.

Next week the plan is the same, 2 swims, 2 bikes and 2 runs.  It will be trickier as I’m working all week of course, but i’m busy 4 out of 5 nights during the week, and busy from 8:00 – 17:00 on Saturday and on Sunday.  So it’ll be all about being organised, fitting in the training efficiently and making the most of the free time I do have to just get the sessions done.  I plan to increase the time/distances very slightly, but again it’s more about just doing the work.  If I can fit it all in this week, which is my busiest week for a long time, then it will really help motivate me to keep going, and should make planning the following weeks a lot easier 🙂