Monthly Archives: September 2016

A lesson in leaving the ego at the door

I am not the fittest, nor the strongest, never have been, but I am competitive, and stubborn and boy do I lack patience with myself, especially when it comes to training, fitness and sport! That’s not to say I am egotistical, not by a long way but I am someone that uses those around me to push my training. Leaving this competitive stubborn streak at the door when training is a challenge, a mental challenge that rivals the physical ones I enjoy so much, only this challenge is less enjoyable. 

Exhibit A: I was out early one morning this week “enjoying” a steady run, when this older lady complete with curly grey hair, Lycra shorts and a Tshirt from an event dated well before I was born jogged passed wishing me a good morning without so much as a break in her breathing. Now every ounce of my being wanted to speed up, overtake her and win the “race”, but no I smiled, politely nodded and took the next turning so I didn’t have to stare at the constant reminder of my inferior running ability. This event ate away at me (I know what you are thinking, no it’s not my proudest moment) I was annoyed at myself for letting her overtake me, I was angry at myself for being annoyed. 

Exhibit B: Pilates, now forget the stereotypical elderly ladies quietly working their way through well rehearsed routines. This is not the case with this class every class is different, different focuses, different challenges. I’ve done the class at various times on and off for a couple of years, never the top of the class but rarely the one struggling at the lowest level. This is where current frustration lies; learning to accept that whilst an exercise was well within my capabilities not that long ago it’s now well in advance of what I can even attempt. Whilst others in the group male/female older/younger are moving their bodies through slow coordinated exercises my body is crying out for me to take a step back and re-evaluate what is realistic. Sometimes regressing techniques other times stopping completely, starring wistfully at the ceiling waiting, hoping the next exercise is something my body will let me do.

These are just two examples of how my approach to training and motivation has had to change. No longer is it about using those around me as a yardstick to measure myself or push my training, no matter how much I miss that side of training. Motivation now is about putting myself in the best place for the challenges that lie ahead. In someways I suppose I am having to be more patient with myself, more mature in my approach. Some days the slightest improvement can make me feel on top of the world, other days the simplest task leaves a level of frustration far beyond what is proportionate. Yet everyday is a fight to be better prepared, stronger mentally and more motivated to look forward to what lies ahead. 

I only went and did it! 

A week after what was one of my toughest physical and psychological challenges this year and I am actually still smiling at what I achieved. If you have read my previous blogs you will know my relationship with water and open water in particular is a rocky one. From waking that morning to finding myself treading water waiting for the signal to go I was continually questioning my sanity and will to even attempt this challenge. This was not helped by a rather pessimistic looking sign at the start forbidding swimming. 

As the start signal sounded we were off, it took me ages to get into my stroke, breathing every other stroke just to keep the panic away. This was working I was starting to settle and dare I say enjoy the swim. Suddenly there was a hand on my head and down I went, as I resurfaced the safety kayak was asking if I was ok, before I had chance to answer Becky announced I was fine whilst pulling me back into a swimming position. The rest of the first lap went without incident, sighting was an issue but boy did the sight of the water exit give a huge boost! Getting out I felt like I’d just done my hardest work out ever, Becky announced we were to run the 100 m and we were soon back in the water. 

The second lap was actually enjoyable, as I relaxed and realised all the work in the pool was paying off, I was still alive and all I needed to do was finish this lap to have finished. With around 300m left my arms were dead, my shoulders burned and my head dreamt of getting out and into dry land. Aiming for the pylon and then the water exit, the stroke felt good, breathing relaxed and I began to feel a sense of pride. Here I was about to finish my first open water swim event. 

I crossed the finish line, got my medal, watched Becky go back in for her third lap and smiled. I had done it! Yes it was the shortest distance of the day, yes I stayed with Becky the whole way but I had swam the whole way, nobody can take that away. I have completed a few OCR events this year but nothing rivalled that sense of achievement! 

This event was well organised, had a great atmosphere and the location was great. If you like open water swimming check out Amphibian events. Dare I say I am even considering signing up for their short course next year. 

Spartan Sprint – you’ll know it at the finish, or will you?

With the Manchester Spartan Race cancelled my wait for my first Spartan experience was extended. By the time I was on my way to the venue I was excited and anxious to get going after all a race with the tag line “you’ll know at the finish” leaves you with high expectations. The start line set the tone for the race, yes you had to clamber over a small (4 foot-ish) wall just to get into the starting pen. As Spartan newbies we didn’t really know what to expect baring a fire jump and spear throw, thankfully the duty Spartan quickly discovered our wave was indeed a wave full of Spartan Virgins. It wasn’t long before “I am a Spartan” was ringing in the ears of everyone within a mile radius and we were off. Months of anticipation and excitement were about to unfold.


One thing I have noticed in the events I’ve done is how amazing the marshals are and baring a few that looked like someone had stole their last jelly bean they were smiling positive and full of advise (does “30 burpees” count as advise?). The guy dishing out the burpees at the monkey bars had some good banter and inventive burpee variations to keep everyone smiling following a good old British downpour. The lady at the barbed wire crawl dishing out advise and hugs. The ladies at the penultimate double wall were amazing, all day the supported, lifted pushed and encouraged participants over the wall yet their enthusiasm never dwindled, they were still going as we left the event village. The only real criticism  was the extended wooded section where not one marshal was to be seen and very little tape marked the route.


If I’m honest I was a little disappointed by the variety of obstacles, there was walls, rope climb, walls, spear throw, object carries, walls and drags, did I mention walls? Yes there were lots of walls, initially this was fine but having to clamber over wall after wall when fences also had to be climbed just got us wishing for a little more inventiveness. Admittedly they were varying heights etc but walls are walls. The main obstacle was terrain, rough, uneven and full of stingy plants, at the end of the day it’s there so use it and it did add to the course.

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Overall I enjoyed the race, it wasn’t a massive challenge but it was only the sprint. It showed me that my training is working as walls were much less challenging than in previous events, I was even successful at the two overhanging walls. The rope climb was one obstacle I had been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. It was made slightly trickier by the downpour that left the rope wet, muddy and slippery yet surprisingly I made it to the top and rang the bell (if you know my dad feel free to ask him how he got on). The remainder of the obstacle were challenging but realistic, and lets face it anything that finishes with a fire jump is going to make you smile.

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They say “you’ll know at the finish” but what did I know? I was left still questioning it. Other events I’ve done have been better organised, offered more variety of obstacle and a more welcoming atmosphere. Spartan is a brand known to the general population, its reputation is one of toughness and challenge, not for the faint hearted. Spartan race, for me, was similar to some big brand shoes, they do the same job as a cheaper version and from time to time you’re left wondering if what you’ve really paid for is the name. Having said that I’ve still got that nagging feeling that I’m missing something, there is still a part of me  that wonders if I am/could be tough enough to complete the trifecta? I can see where the “cult” label comes from, once you’re in you are left wanting to delve further into the community, see what the longer, harder races have to offer, see if you are strong and fit enough to take on their challenge or if you are just destined to a life of lesser known challenges.


So where to now? Away from OCR I have a mammoth 2km “swim” in 10 days time. OCR wise I am returning to the Suffering Race at the end of October and am looking for another race before then. I am already compiling a wish list for 2017. I started this blog to track my progress to Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2017 and help raise awareness and funds for two charities, the Royal British Legion and Scotty’s little soldiers. What I am finding is that this journey is one that will continue beyond next May.


If you would like to donate to our two worthy causes please use the link below.


Accept, adapt and overcome. 

Training has always been an escape, an opportunity to forget “real life” and just focus on one more rep or putting one foot in front of the other. Lately though it’s not been that way, it’s a battle, a battle between what I want to do and what I can do pain free. It’s a balancing act between being stubborn and pushing myself within limits. The truth is training in accordance with common advice on exercising with fibroids is frustrating, in reality nobody knows my body as well as me. Having initially been advised against high impact, heavy lifting and core work. What I’ve found is that whilst running is fine cycling is a form of slow painful torture resulting in abdominal pain for up to 48hours. Lifting and core work is more complicated certain exercises are fine others aren’t, anything face down is off limits whereas anything overhead is fine.  Every workout is a lesson and that’s what I’m trying to take from this period, even if, at times, I’m frustrated, annoyed and want to hide  away kicking and screaming (does that count as cardio?), I’m hopefully this experience will also make me more understanding when helping others on their fitness journey.

So what has my training involved? Running Wise I’ve dropped the volume and frequency whilst aiming to maintain some consistency. I’ve discovered that I can actually swim(ish), prior to he summer holidays 4 lengths would leave me knackered, I’m now up to 60 lengths, happy days. I have also found a fantastic ladies fitness class based in Whiterose crossfit, Horsforth. The ladies are so welcoming and the class allows you to work as hard as you want, usually whilst using what little breath you have left to have a laugh. There have been some tough workouts that have pushed me to the limits. I’m looking forward to more sessions with this great bunch.

Overall I’m learning to have some patience, to take a workout, listen to my body, adapt exercises when I need to and keep pushing forwards. This will, I’m sure, be tested this weekend at my first Spartan Race, there will be obstacles, there will be burpees and there there will be fun. Bring it on.