The kindness of strangers

P1040591

 

Well, I did it. I managed to get round the Outlaw marathon on Sunday, but it wasn’t pretty.  Not by a long shot.  In fact, I would go as far as to say it was a fucking nightmare!  In the run up to the event, everyone had been checking the weather forecast with trepidation.  As the event was in the UK, it would be easy to think the worries stemmed from the possibilities of freezing weather, howling winds and pouring rain, but for once, this wasn’t the case.  As it turned out, the 7th of July was one of – if not thehottest days of the year *insert melted smiley*

 

We don’t do excessive heat in this country, well at least not at sporting events.  Not usually.  Everyone training for the Outlaw Ironman had been training through cold, wind, rain and snow all winter, so to say it was a shock to be competing in 30C in the shade is a bit of an understatement.

 

I wasn’t too nervous in the run up to the day, because I’d done the training, and my two longest runs of 18- and 20 miles had gone pretty well.  I’m  a bit of a slow coach, but I had estimated i take 5:45 – 6:00 hours to get round, and I was happy with that.  The only other marathon I have completed I did in 6:55.  Surely I could beat that PB?  I mean, 6:55 is aaaaaages, so it shouldn’t have been a problem.  Except I didn’t account for the heat, and neither had anyone else.

 

I was almost too embarrassed to put my time up here, but then again the results are public, and all my friends that were there know how long it took me – 8:09 in the end.  Seriously.  Slowest marathon of the day, and that is even including all the men and women who had already swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles.  Disappointed doesn’t even come close.  Now I know it was fecking hot, and I still finished, but everyone else had the same conditions to contend with, so I’m not a special case (no comments please! 😉 ).  It almost felt as if it wouldn’t have mattered if i had done any training or not, and the worst thing is I feel that if I could go out and walk 26.2 miles right now it wouldn’t take me that long!!!!  Well, maybe once my blisters have healed…..

 

I had a couple of really low points during the day, but I knew I was going to finish, no matter what.  I’d been in a good frame of mind about the marathon in the run up, so it wasn’t a negative mindset that got to me.  I think I just had no resilience to the heat.  My 20 miler was done in temps of ~22C, so I thought i’d cope with the heat okay, but it really floored me.  My hands puffed up to look like a pack of butcher’s sausages, and my feet felt as though they were going to burst.  I tried to drink as much as i could around the course (there were aid stations every couple of kilometres) but it wasn’t enough, and i know I didn’t eat much – couldn’t face it.

So, what now?  Well, as much as i’m a bit despondent about it, I can recognise the positives – I got round despite the heat, and I finished.  I had a brilliant weekend away with friends – old and new – and I had a lot of good laughs.  If you asked me now would I have done it if i’d known it would be that bad, then I would have to say yes, no hesitation.  Why?  Well, because even though I didn’t achieve what I wanted, it has made me reaffirm a lot of things – that I want, or rather NEED, to lose weight and get fitter.  My body really suffered out there, and my lack of core strength really had me screwed towards the end when I couldn’t maintain good posture.  The extra weight on my feet really didn’t help me, and while I got there, it would have been more manageable, and less taxing on my body if I was 4 stone lighter.  So if nothing else, it will help me sharpen my focus.  However, I need to review my long terms goals in light of the effect the heat had on me – i’m not sure an Ironman in Western Australia in the middle of their summer is such a blinding idea now….. Anyway, that’s for later…..

 

The biggest reason that I would do Sunday all over again, however, is because of the amazing support I got on the day, and in the run up to the marathon.  I’m very proud to call myself a Pirate – a member of a ‘virtual’ triathlon club called the Pirate Ship of Fools.  We all wear bright yellow kit with a black skull and crossbones on it – if you’re a triathlete reading this in the UK, i’m sure you’ll have seen some of us about, and possibly some international triathletes will have seen us too; we get about a bit 😉  Anyway, never have you seen a more motley crew, but never have you met a more supportive group of people.  I can only blame the Pirates for getting me into triathlon in the first place, but secretly i’m glad they did.  I’ve made a lot of fabulous pirate friends int he last few years, and look forward to making more in time.  Running in the kit is a sure-fire way to get support from almost everyone.  It was hard to run (okay, shuffle) a few feet without hearing someone shout and encouraging “Aaaaaarrrrgg!” at me.  I spent some time walking with another triathlete who was really struggling with the heat, but was determined to keep up a strong walking pace in order to finish (he beat me, which I’m happy about!).  He gave me a couple of salt tablets too which I was very grateful for.  Another nameless lady walked with me and chattered for a few hundred meters when I was struggling a bit.  I asked if she had friends or family taking part and she replied “two friends are doing it, but I like to support everybody”.  I was also very grateful to my lovely friend Krista who popped up around the course and always knew the right thing to say, especially when I saw her at a really low point.  I also have to mention all the event marshalls and volunteers without whom the race would not be possible.  They are so encouraging and friendly, and I even got a lovely hug from a volunteer who seemed immune to the sweaty, stinking mess that I was.  Finally I’m ever so grateful to a lovely man called Richard who went out of his way to offer support.  I had been hiding in the shade while I waited for my friend Carolyn to finish the bike leg and hand over the timing chip.  Richard was hiding from the sun too, and I found out that not only had he completed Ironman Austria the week before, but he intended to complete the Outlaw too.  However, the sun was so hellish, that he decided to stop after the bike leg, being too tired to go on.  No wonder after the week before!  Anyway, he asked my name, and said he’d support me on the way round.  So once I set off, I saw him after a couple of miles when he shouted my name from the top of a grass bank, then he wandered down to shout encouragement.  I saw him again further round the course, and he told me to keep going.  The third time I saw him, I was heading out for my second and final long loop, and definitely looked a bit despondent knowing I still had a long way to go, so he walked with me for a little bit, we chatted and I finally found out his name.

 

This is what I love about triathlon, and running events.  People you’ve never met in your puff just look out for you and do their best to help you.  If you’ve ever been out and watched a sporting event and cheered folk on, then thank-you.  It means so, so much.  I always try to smile and say thanks, but sometimes it is too hard to even speak, but believe me, I’m still grateful.  It is no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t have got round the marathon without it.  So despite the utter hellishness of Sunday, my memories of it will be happy.  The pain will eventually recede, then I’ll get back to my plans and figure out what to do next.  I know I swore on Sunday that I’d never do it again, but of course I will, because I’ve got to beat my time, and prove to myself that I can do better.  Most importantly though, I’m looking forward to supporting at future events, because I want to repay the kindness shown to me on Sunday.

Happy days 🙂

Fall down 7 times, stand up 8…..

Gotta get back up....
Gotta get back up….

 

I had great plans for my next post.  I was going to come in here (such that this is a place!) beaming with pride at having completed my longest run to date.  I managed to trot out an 18 miler on the 9th of June, and unexpectedly i really enjoyed it.  So on the 16th I was going to get to the magic 20 mile mark.  It was going to be glorious.  I had it all planned: nutrition was sorted, alarm was set, clothes were laid out, and I knew exactly what I had to do.

So what happened? Nothing.  Zilch. A big, fat, ZERO.  Alarm went off, I reset it, then I put it off altogether.  I then decided to do the run in the afternoon, to match the conditions i’d be facing during the Outlaw marathon, since I won’t be starting that until early afternoon.  But the hours just kept ticking by, and eventually it was too late.  I completely bottled it.  I was so sure that the 18 miler had been some sort of fluke, that it could not possibly be repeated, that I might as well just not bother.  At the time these weren’t conscious thoughts, but that’s what happened.  I was so paralysed by the fear of failure that I didn’t get off my fat arse and do what needed to be done.  I even started panicking because I knew some friends would say “so how did the run go?!” and i’d have to admit defeat. Worse, I couldn’t even give a valid reason why.

Actually typing this makes me laugh, but you know when I started this blog, I kind of thought “this is it – i’ve taken the plunge by committing to write about my fears and dreams, so i’m on the right path, and NOW all these things I want to do will be possible”.  Ta da, I have arrived at the answer!! (insert photo of me sitting in Buddha pose, basking in my newly found wisdom).  Hmm, clearly not…. but acknowledging weakness is half the battle, right?  Well, it might well be half of it, but the other half of it is actually getting out there and doing something.  Taking action. Moving.  Possibly even more important than any of that, however, is not being afraid to acknowledge failure.  Acknowledge it, learn from it, and then move on.

No one likes failure, do they?  I mean, why would you?  Failing SUCKS.  I’ve never been good at dealing with it.  I don’t like to fuck things up, to put it bluntly.  Which is funny, because i’m far from perfect, but on the whole, i try to avoid failure.  Except…..I still fail at things. A lot.  The whole reason i’m writing all this is because i failed to achieve my goals, moped about it, sat on my arse, ate some more and ballooned out to where I am now.  I saw failure as just that, a ‘lack of success’, which is wrong.  I should view failure as a lesson – how not to do something, how to improve, what to try next.

In terms of my current goals, i can reflect back to one of my biggest failures, Ironman Regensburg.  The funny thing is though, I don’t actually think of that as a failure.  Okay, so I didn’t get to the end, but you know what?, i got to the start.  I rocked up, swam (like a brick, to be fair…), cycled a bit (slowly), then had to stop because i missed the cut-off.  One of the happiest memories I have of that day, however, is getting to the top of a hill on the bike course and thinking “wow, i only just managed to cycle that without getting off and walking, so i’ll definitely have to walk the worst hill”……except that was the worst hill, I just hadn’t realised.  I got to the feed station, passed through it then started to go downhill, when it clicked, and i’ve honestly never felt happier in my life.  I had achieved something major.  Now some people cycled up that hill cheetah like, as if on crack and being chased by bears.  Not me though, which is why I was so happy.  I don’t do hills, except I just did!  So clearly I can learn from failure – I can see the positives when I need to.  It isn’t all bad.

So what of that 20 miler?  Well, i’ve booked tomorrow afternoon off work to do it.  I’m not going to let it beat me.  I’m hoping it will go as well as the 18 miler, but even if it doesn’t, i’m going to get it done.  It isn’t even really about the running, it is just about not giving up.  For sure i’ll screw up again, and again…..and probably again, but I can’t let these times get the better of me.  Last weekend I fell down, so tomorrow I need to stand right back up 🙂  I’ll report back when it is done.