Well this week has been full of milestones! Firstly I conquered the open water swim, well sort of. After some practice and acclimatisation between the jetties I got back out of the lake, across the pontoon and jumped in. Feet first and scoring around 1.5 for grace but I did it, and the success continued. Setting the goal of hitting the next buoy I swam a recognised stroke the whole way around the course. Yes there was tantrums, yes there was panics and yes I still wanted to get out but after successfully making it around not once but twice (yes my wife is that pushy) I left feeling knackered but just a little bit proud of myself. Does this mean my fear of water is conquered, not at all but it is a positive memory to bank away for when the fear kicks in.
As for running I set myself the target of running a sub 90minute 10km by the end of July and today I achieved just that. I acknowledge this is not a fantastic time by “runners” standards but for me and my short legs it’s a far cry from where we were a few months ago. There has been less success on the pull up front I’ve achieved two unassisted with a slight kip but fallen short of the 5, not only that but having spent so long on pull ups my chin ups have suffered too. Overall though training appears to be heading in the right direction.
Ratrace have had a few events recently and each one looks so professionally ran, the reviews are always top notch and they really seem to go the extra mile for participants. I cannot wait to get in on the action next year at the dirty weekend, I can see this being the start of the journey with so many cool challenges I think a season pass maybe in order. And getting to raise awareness and funds for a couple of worthwhile causes makes it all even more fun.
My training mojo has returned! I’m not sure where it’s been but prior to the last week or so I was having real difficulty convincing myself to train. I forced myself to go for a run, just a steady 10km I told myself, yet somehow I hit a PB (1:10:29) still slightly above my target of 1:10, which I will be having another crack at this week, but a whole 2 minutes faster than my previous best. The whole run felt horrible, I felt like I was running through treacle the whole time. Psychologically it was hard to keep going as my trusty strava reminded me just how hard going it was. I have strava set to give updates every 1km, usually these updates are great, they motivate you, remind you to keep pace and allow you to keep track of how far you’ve gone. On this run however every update was a reminder that I was running on average 30sec/km slower than I have been recently. The key for me though was to remind myself just how far I’d come. Two months ago a 10km run would have been out of the question (a non-stop 5km would have been a challenge) yet there I was running a steady 10km as an easy run feeling disappointed by my km splits. You just can’t please some people.
Away from running I have been combining Zuu (a primal bodyweight training system) with Crossfit style training. Zuu is amazing, it’s all about you controlling and unlocking movement patterns. The animal based movements look so easy yet put together it quickly chops away at your breathing pattern and quickly gives you a good dose of lactic. From that point on the choice is simple, listen to the headtalk and stop or ignore it and continue. There are a few movements that I struggle with technically that when combined with the metabolic demands of the workout are guaranteed to have me questioning the way forward. Crossfit wise I do a Crossfit style session a couple of times a week, I enjoy the way it tests aspects of strength when you’re already in a fatigued state in much the same way you get on obstacle courses. I’m no expert at planning training for obstacle course running, having only completed 4 before with very little preparation, so my training is very much a big experiment. So far combing running, Zuu and crossfit are providing me with some great progress. The next opportunity to check my progress is the Spartan Super in September.
I can understand how some people book weekly events, it’s not even one month since my last event yet it feels so long ago. I have also discovered a previously unknown addiction to obstacle race magazine, each edition is read and re-read to gain every ounce of information that may help. In addition to the knowledge, you get race reviews and upcoming race calendars. Now all that is needed is a bank account as large as my todo list. Well we can all dream!
Fear, such a short innocuous word, yet its effects can blur the boundaries between rational and irrational, send heart rates soaring and leave its victim frozen in their steps. If you have read my previous posts you will have gathered I have very little love for water, in truth anything involving more water than a bath is something I would rather avoid. A great deal of persistence, hard work and patience from my partner (now wife) helped get me into a pool and to a point of being a relatively competent swimmer. Yet still, on any given day the irrational part of my brain tells me I can’t swim and that the swimming pool is the most dangerous place in the world to be and should be exited as soon as possible. Over the years I have developed techniques to help overcome this from writing shopping lists, visualising Kata to doing maths. Recently these techniques have been tested to the full.
I was told that the first time you try open water swimming you will hate it, the second time you will still hate it, the third time you will hate it but by the fourth time you will love it. In reality the first time shock and fear left me making very little progress towards the “open water” portion of the lake, the second time I made it around and towards the end even managed to string a few strokes together. That brings us to today, the third attempt; in reality it was never going to be a success, for three days before I have thought of little else other than reasons why swimming was a bad idea. Little sleep was had, and the journey to Pugneys left me dry mouthed and sweaty palmed. Climbing in I was hit by a wall of cold water made tougher by a tsunami of fear. I am an incredibly stubborn person who hates being beaten so despite the fight or flight pressuring me to exit as fast as I entered I set off to the first buoy. Attempting first breast stroke, then doggy paddle then front crawl I just couldn’t get into any rhythm. The rational and irrational parts of my brain were arguing constantly, yes I can swim, yes there are a safety boat, spotters and my wife nearby but still this is WATER, and not just any water, cold dark open water. Technique after technique was tried, then quickly pushed to one side as I couldn’t help but notice there was a current taking me, and no matter how hard I worked I didn’t seem to go anywhere. Making it back to the jetty some 400m and 30 minutes later all I wanted to do was get out, get dry and hide somewhere thinking of my failure. What actually happened was my very persuasive wife convinced me to spend some time between the jetty’s working on stroke and head talk. Twenty minutes later I was just about stringing some strokes together, controlling my breathing and there may have even been a slight smile on my face.
It would have been easy to leave the water after the lap from hell, would I have felt better? probably in the short term, but longer term I would have been kicking myself. To add extra pressure/motivation I had previously signed up for The Amphibian long course open water swim, a 2 km open water swim. Why have I done this, in all honesty partly because I see how much my wife and mother in law enjoyed the Great North swim, partly because I like a challenge and partly because when I accomplish it, it will be an achievement I know I’ve worked for. You see we live in a push button society, you want a meal – put it in a machine push a button and ping there it is, you want a movie? just push the button, you want to get from ground floor to top floor? push the button. So much in life is about making things easier, sometimes you have to take yourself back to raw emotion, challenge yourself and push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of.
This week had been a strange week training wise. I have been struggling to get back into my pre-suffering level of training, I can’t put my finger on why but it’s just not there. Despite this I achieved two milestones; the first one was a new 10km PB at a time of 1 hr 12 minutes. I am confident I can get this below 1 hr 10 minutes before the end of the month as the first 2.5km was ran with my partner at a slower pace than my normal pace. Secondly I ventured beyond the jetties and out into the open waters of Pugney’s lake to complete a 450m “swim”. It may not have been 450m of recognisable swimming strokes but it was 450m on top of the water.
In addition to my normal nominated by my dad for the PTSD awareness challenge, 22 press ups everyday for 22 days. Why 22? On average 22 Veterans commit suicide every day a staggering statistic. Press ups won’t bring these guys back or take away there suffering but knowing people are aware of their battles may help even a little. Away from OCR my sport is rugby league, recently a young Leeds Rhinos player who has suffered tremendously with injuries has spoken out about his own battle with depression*. In a sport renowned for it’s toughness and masculinity this must have taken a strength far greater than that displayed on the field. But should it really be headline news that a player has mental health issues? should it be something people are afraid to discuss? Ultimately mental health is no different from physical health and sometimes our health lets us down.
*To read more check out Stevie Wards Mantality magazine here.
There’s no 56 days until my first Spartan experience. So much has been said about the Spartan races, how tough they are and the forfeits for failure. I have resigned myself to the idea of doing a few burpees along the way, I’m ok with it but the thought of what else might be waiting for us is both exciting and nerve wrecking. Ultimately though I can’t wait to be back on an obstacle course, in fact I’m not sure I can wait 56 days, it may need to be sooner rather than later.
This week I reached 300 vies on my blog, that’s 3oo exposures to my preparation for the rata race dirty weekend and 300 exposures to the charities I have chosen to raise awareness and funds for. If you have never read any of my other blogs and am wondering what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, follow the links and read more about my challenges and charities. If you have read my blog before you will be aware of the fantastic work Scotty’ little soldiers does. Today is Scotty’s Day with events going on across the country getting involved is easy. Simply text SDAY16 £5 to 70070 and support Scotty’s day and help put a smile on the face of a bereaved child.
The dust has now settled, the mud dried and the aches and bruises are disappearing. A week has passed since the Suffering and as I reflect on my efforts I find myself smiling and booking onto the next series in October. Overall I am pleased with my efforts, I entered solo, it was my first event above 5km, and my first event with walls and ropes. As with any event there were lessons to be learned;
- Nothing can replace perseverance, yes the 7/8 switchbacks were a psychological test however these repeated efforts were part of the journey to the finish line.
- The answer to a problem is usually in your hands. Yes it was me using the tyres as a step to scale the wall.
- Even when you are tired and think you’ve done all you can there’s always more in the tank.
These personal lessons and reflections can be applied directly to life. As we reach the halfway mark for 2016 life has thrown some curveballs in my direction. These have the potential to impact on my plans for the next 12 months however I believe that the strength and belief gained through hours in training and events can help my journey to my ultimate goal.
To keep me on my toes I like to push myself beyond my boundaries, whether it be conquering a fear, running further or lifting more. This weeks challenge was open water swimming. When you only learned to swim aged 25 because you fancied a swimming instructor, and you’ve never liked water there can be few better ways to spend a Thursday evening than plunging feet first into a cold dark lake. The first challenge is putting the wetsuit on, more of a workout than any session I had previously had in a pool. Wetsuit conquered we made our way down the jetty, as my partner dove headfirst into the dark water, I took the more cautious approach of sliding in. As I did this my brain hit the panic button! My heart rate soared, my breathing sped up and thoughts of becoming fish food flooded my brain. Composing myself I did my best to follow the coach from Wakefield Triathlon club through some warm up drills. For some unknown reason every time I put my head in the water I had the urge to breathe in, so here I am fighting the fear of water and my own brain is trying to drown me. Talk about battling the odds. Turn the clock forward and I’ve achieved 6 laps between jetties, actually jumped in and strung together 10 front crawl strokes with my face in the water. The next challenge is to tackle the open water part of the lake.
Training wise I set the target this month to run a sub 33 minute 5Km, I have managed this not once but twice. In addition to this my best 400m, 1km, 1mile and 2 mile have all been improved. Moving forward my aim is 5 consecutive pull ups by the end of July, I can do chin ups but pull ups have always escaped me. Upper-body strength has always been a weakness for me and whilst I want to work on strength I don’t want to lose the work capacity I have been working hard on. I have long been interested in Crossfit and recently discovered the Team Richey youtube channel. Unlike most Crossfit enthusiasts Craig Richey actually acknowledges other training styles and incorporates these into his training. Through reading and research I believe that with the right planning including Crossfit style training will facilitate the development of both strength and work capacity.