Category Archives: health

Winter training phase 1

Another week down on my back to basics phase. The exercises are still pretty dull but the progressions are coming. I’m at a similar point to where mistakes and impatience slid into my training post-op. I know I can do more, push past it, muscle through but taking time now will payoff long-term, well hopefully! Keeping my ego in check in pilates classes or at the gym, keeping the tantrums and frustrations to a minimum is the challenge but the long-term goals are there. 


With the chill in the air there’s no denying that summer is over. The daylight is getting shorter the high visibility tops are out and the open water swimming has come to an end. I never thought wading into a cold lake squeezed into a less than flattering wetsuit would be something I’d actually miss. There I was dodging other swimmers in a lane, staring at the black line going up and down, back and forth boredom building and I’m wishing I was in a lake. There will be many more sessions in the pool over winter. The plan is to build on my technique and endurance so that come next year the swim will be just a little more comfortable and I will be just further away from dying when I leave the water.


Cycling is still off the menu, and will be for another week or two minimum. The spin classes and Turbo are calling my name, I’m so tempted to answer the call. I’m pretty sure that when I reintroduce cycling this drive will shrink, after all who actually enjoys spending hours on a stationary bike or turbo. Isn’t it strange how you always want to do what you can’t. 


Time for the run talk. Running is going well, distances are on the up, times are coming down and most importantly I’m enjoying it. Running with a fibroid felt horrible, feeling it bounce around, the pressure on my bladder and bowel, the fatigue from the sleepless nights. I ran because I had too to keep some normality in my training, some control in my life. The feeling was so far from the enjoyment I feel now. Here’s hoping this enjoyment continues. Running will need to be a staple in my training with the challenges I’m setting for next year. 2018 is going to be a big year to make up for 2017!

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The easiest exercises are often the hardest.

Sometimes the easiest exercises are the hardest to do. Roll the clocks back six months, rehab was the name of the game but in reality training for the triathlon was eating away at me. I knew where I needed to be to achieve the goal of finishing the tri and I was willing to do anything, anything that didn’t involve taking my time.


Back to today, well Saturday, sat in a spin class. It was all going so well until the warm up. The first track began and almost immediately so too did the pain. I tried battling through it but after twenty minutes I stopped. I tried everything I could but nothing was working, fed up and frustrated I sat back and plodded along keeping warm. I shouldn’t have been surprised cycling has caused discomfort for so long now. I know I should have taken the warnings and stopped cycling, to be fair my body told I’d started cycling too soon but that damn triathlon was there taunting me. Stepping back from cycling would have meant regressing the training and that was just too hard to get my head around.


So here I am paying the price of impatience. I’m going back to basics starting back at stage 1 of the process, I have a list of exercises and progressions, I’m doing these 2/3 times a day and judging them based on 1) being able to do them 2) keeping the core engaged 3) any discomfort. Only when I’m repeatedly happy on all 3 judgements am I moving. These exercises are the easiest exercises I know but they are the hardest to do both in terms of motivating myself to get them done but also doing them correctly.


Running and swimming are still a staple in my training causing no issues at all. I’m building both technique and fitness in these areas, building for the next set of challenges. Cycling though is missing from my training and will be for at least the next month. Already the turbo is calling my name, the urge to ride or go to spin is getting stronger making me feel like I’m falling behind for next year. I need to take these lessons and stay to the plan however much it tests my patience. 

Great Scottish Aquathon.

Spoiler Alert:!!! We finished. 

The day started with the queen mermaid completing her 5km in 1:32hrs, around 20 minutes faster than anticipated. I was so proud of her, the 5km is swimmings equivalent of a half marathon and she has trained so hard for it. She left the water with a smile on her face and there it stayed all day.  


I was so nervous all day but standing in transition in our wetsuits with running kit laid out I was literally shaking. Those around us discussed their previous conquests while I buried my head into Becky’s shoulder questioning my sanity. As we warmed up the Great Swim staff were packing up, I remember thinking why would they pack up now. As the event progressed it became more clear that the Aquathon was the poorer relative of the Great Scottish Swim, close enough to be invited but not quite part of the family. 


As we entered the waters of Loch Lomand we stayed at the back, clear of everyone, I wanted my own space to try and swim. 150m in I felt pretty good, I was even contemplating telling Becky to go off ahead. Then out of nowhere the fear and panic exploded inside my head, everything was going wrong. As calm as ever Becky talked me down, waving the safety boat away, 600m to go I was refocused on each buouy. As ever Beck stayed by my side coaching swimming and psychology. The water was choppy, and this combined with swimming alongside the giant Maid of Loch my brain was fried with fear and emotions. 


The swim finished (and breath) we were into transition, changed and off running. Looking at my watch we were running at a decent pace which shocked me knowing how much energy I’d wasted panicking. We kept the pace going, enjoying the scenic park, focusing on on people in front of us, working to overtake them. Before we knew it we were back over the bridge, rounding the corner and running towards the finish line. Crossing the line I was relieved, happy and grateful. Looking at my watch I was only a few seconds short of my PB, this time last year I watched Beck at the same event my immediate future and health was in turmoil yet here I was surviving swims and chasing PBS. 


It was disappointing that so much of the event village had been dismantled, they had ran out of small and medium tshirts (I’m 4’11 a large tshirt just won’t work). As we collected our kit and made our way back to the car the announcer talked about those left on the course while even the photographer packed away.  To the organisers, everyone has worked towards this event, yes they may be slower but they are working, putting the hard work in, please treat us ordinary people with the same respect as those guys and gals finishing in impressive times. 


As for us, we have another triathlon in a couple of weeks, I’m aiming to swim without my personal lifeguard by my side. I’m loving this journey back to fitness, im probably fitter in many areas than I have been in over a year, there’s still some areas to work on and goals to be set!

The big showdown!

So tomorrow is the big day, the battle between two powerhouses. No not Mayweather and McGregor! the battle between my brain and body (powehouses? Who am I kidding). Tomorrow is the day of the Great Scottish Swim Aquathon, 800m loch swim followed by 5km run. I signed up for it all confident that the months of training would be long enough to convince my mind that I am more mermaid and less ugly sucker fish at the bottom of the ocean (I’m sure they actually have a name.) with 24hours to go this is not the case. My mind is convinced that I will sink, certain the water will sweep my off somewhere and positive I am a fool for agreeing to this. This is crazy, I’ve done the distance, I can swim and yet the battle continues.


So here I am in the back of the camper van with queen mermaid (aka the wife), her mother, Gary the open water widower and my trusty (waterphobic) dog Lexi, embarking on a 5 hour drive to Loch Lomand. Queen mermaid will be completing the swimming equivalent to a half marathon, 5km and her mother 2 miles first thing, I get the pleasure of waiting and watching all day before I dance with danger and dive (read waddle slowly) into the water. Kit has been packed twice already today, I’m convinced I’ve forgotten something but we are actually going to do this.


The swim is the precursor to the 5km run which a few months ago would have been a challenge in itself. I am looking forward to this part of the challenge, the finish line will be waiting with a medal and a tshirt and I will walk away slightly taller (metaphorically of course), once the relief has died down. The journey continues and I keep finding and booking challenges to keep life interesting. In the mean time if anyone finds my comfort zone please hand it back, I like to visit it from time to time.

Swim, cycle, run, sulk

As I write this I’m laid sulking on the sofa battling the after effects of a hill focused training ride. Whether it was the potholes, the hills or the overall training load of this week catching up with me my abdomen is screaming at me to rest. This is not how I imagined I’d be feeling 5 days out from my first triathlon. As frustrating as this feeling is I have to remember I’m still recovering, I’m little over 3 months post op and even a sprint distance tri is a big ask at this stage. 


My focus needs to change, it should be on finishing the challenge and a personal journey not on racing others. I’d love to take the credit for this change but in reality it came from a vomit infested pool that led to a chance meeting with an Ironman competitor while waiting for pool tests to give the green light to enter the pool. He had just got back from completing Challenge Roth despite falling ill early on the bike section. Our conversation didn’t focus on him but rather a chance encounter he had had with an older lady at an event in South America.  Long story short this lady had told him that it was all about focusing on yourself and that anything really was possible. As he recited the story I could feel the goosebumps on my arms, I felt on top of the world ready to take on any challenge. As inspiring as this was, it was also a reality check. I’ve spent too much time comparing myself to others (namely my wife and mother in-law) rather than focusing on my own journey. Thank you Mark for the lesson (pretty sure my wife has been trying to say this for a while but who listens to their wife?). I’m pretty sure the 5 minutes I spent on pool side listening to tales of triumph has had a huge impact on me and my journey.


Training wise I actually enjoyed an open water swim, the day had started with tears and tantrums as my fear of water raised its ugly head but ended with a steady 1.3km solo swim. On dry land I’ve broken my race-distance (4km) PB by 3 minutes and seen a marked improvement in my cycle times. The training is paying off, I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short space of time. Days like today are a stark reminder of what my body has been through. Am I fit? Am o good to go? Not at all, I’m still early in this journey but it’s exciting to see where this path leads.

A step too far?

With two weeks to go until “T-day” we (i.e. the wife) thought it would be a good idea to recce the area surrounding Castle Howard for the bike and run legs. You could feel the nervous anticipation rise in the car, and this was only a training ride/run. With the bikes unpacked and helmets on we made it just over 200m before we hit a roundabout. Right? Left? Straight? who knew? I had taken the time to write directions on my hand however a pre-ride trip to the bathroom resulted in me washing them off. We discussed and agreed it must be right and off we went (again). The undulating road suddenly got steeper, the quads burned, the eyes focused on the summit like a lioness stalking its prey. The view as we summited was almost as breath-taking as the climb itself, a taster of things to come. The sweeping rolling hills provided opportunities to practice the technicalities of road biking (like I know what I’m doing!). Playing with gears and riding positions I managed to avoid the pot holes and gravel patches, I was actually enjoying myself.

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The ride continued and amongst my happy thoughts were the words of my mother in-law “sharp left”, “big hill” no other words mattered. The turn arrived, it was time to get the pedals grinding. Suddenly I was overtaken, not once but twice. Here I was out of my seat, driving the pedals with all of my might, happy to just be moving and staying on the bike and they overtake me. I keep plodding along, checking back on Becky. the hill continues. I keep reminding myself everything ends, including this hill. The decent starts and finishes way to quickly for my liking. Becky shouts at me to stop, a quick pit-stop to adjust her seat and we were caught off guard by a sign saying Castle Howard left. Distance wise this was too early but with the directions washed away who were we to argue.

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We were into the final few kilometres and the last of the climbs, all that was going through my head was the dreaded thought that we had agreed to run after this. Arriving back at the car my watch confirmed we’d missed a couple of kilometres from the planned distance (must have been that left turn), at least we had gotten some good climbs into the legs. The bike was always going to be my best section, barring a few twinges along my scar line and into my groin I’d felt ok. With no time to celebrate my new farthest bike ride we gulped down some fluids and a couple of bites of flapjack and we were off on the run.

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The run began along the car park, the brick sessions must be paying off as the jelly legs were hardly noticeable. We ran, and ran, I became convinced that the GPS on my watch wasn’t working as the time ticked by so much quicker that the distance. A left turn down the hill and I got my first look at the lake, a deep breath put the thoughts of the dreaded swim to the back of my mind. Back up the hill we trotted, I was giving my all to keep on Becky’s heels, she was looking fresh. The gates gave me hope as they offered brief rest opportunities. As my legs and lungs burned the twinges in my abs became stronger and more frequent, the arguments between my heart and head continued. On mre than one occasion equal amounts of energy were given to moving forward and stopping myself from breaking down in tears. This was tough, I hadn’t pushed myself like this in a long time, I knew I’d come so far in only a few months, I hoped I wasn’t pushing myself too far, but I had to finish.

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The gardens were beautiful, but the sight I longed for was that of the car. Never has a Ford Fiesta looked so good. We ran passed it. I looked at my watch, we were 400m short of the planned 4 km. Yes we were those people running laps of the car park until technology dictated we could stop. As the GPS ticked over to 4km there was a patch of grass surrounded by a wooden fence. My body took over as I leant onto the fence to compose myself, I felt like I’d been to hell and back, the muscles around my scar cramped, I longed for fuel. The focus now is recovery, manage the pain in my lower abdomen and plan next weeks training, the final week of pushing it before race week. The journey continues, it’s nerve racking, it’s exciting, most of all it’s fun, well most of the time.

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This session had come after a tough week at work and in training. The triathlon feels almost achievable, I feel reassured that despite the relatively short preparation time I’m doing the correct things in training. Most importantly I know that if I hit rock bottom in the triathlon I should have the mental strength to push through. I’m only doing a sprint triathlon, people out there achieve much greater physical and psychological feats than this. This is my challenge though, my journey, my battles. I hope that in the future I can look back on this experience and smile knowing this is only the start of an adventure. We all start somewhere.

 

The vanishing training.

So last week I wrote about needing to reign my training in a little. What I didn’t need though was to reign it in quite so much. By the end of the week my training resembled a largely blank piece of paper with days of the week written on it. With only 3 training sessions it wasn’t ideal and having worked diligently to build my activity level from near extinction I was desperately disappointed by this turn of events.


The week began positively with a 5km run, the time of 36 minutes wasn’t exactly headline worthy but a new post op distance PB. The distance was a huge boost, during the run it felt great, almost pleasurable, a return to this time last year when I developed a genuine enjoyment of running. Post run was another story, my legs felt great, but my stomach ached, twinges and pulled. The post run euphoria didn’t last long but the positive was there, the foundations are getting stronger.


Tuesday was a complete write off, I was exhausted all day, it was all I could do to sleep, eat and sleep again. A better night under my belt I woke up feeling more human. Gymnastics was already ruled out, Abs weren’t feeling great so all paths led to the watt bike. Nobody said the road to the tri would be pretty and 23km going nowhere staring at a Watt bike screen certainly isn’t that. It felt good to go the distance, good to sit and stare at that screen and demonstrate the mental strength to keep going when things get tough. Yes I would have rather been upside down at gymnastics, but needs must and every session is progress no matter how small.

swimming forwards but stepping back.

When I was thinking about this weeks blog I thought I would write something profound about lessons learned, or self improvements (who knows these blogs may still come). Mark the 12 week mark with a bang. What has actually appeared on paper is reality, a story of celebration, frustration and stepping back to move forward.

 

I have written before about my relationship with water and battles with open water swimming. This week I took my first tentative steps away from the safety of the pool and into a lake. Walking in with Beck by myside, the cold murky water  filled my wetsuit, my heart rate rose and the arguments bounced around my head. Four hundred metres later and I dared to go solo, each stroke became slightly less nerve racking. Suddenly the realisation hit, I was swimming in a lake, ALONE. Holy S**t I was alone in a lake (ok there was other people around but not actually with me), I could sink and nobody would realise. Stroke, stroke, breath, stroke, stroke, PANIC, stroke, stroke, breath.  400 metres further and I am out of there, wet suit off and I sit down watching the real swimmers continue. Realisation set in, I’d just swam by myself in a lake, an actual lake, and I’d survived. In my world that is grounds for celebration.

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Celebrating achievements is great, as is looking back through my training diary from the last 12 weeks. The frustrations of recovery are still present though. At this stage I feel stuck in a kind of no-mans land. I’m not ill or injured but then I’m not fully fit either. I’m making progress but it seems the progress is coming in every area but my core, and this is holding me back. For the second week running gymnastics seems to have aggravated my abs, this made Pilates tough as every other movement brought uncomfortable twinges or pain. The continued battle between pushing through and listening to my body was ever present as I participated in a class yet felt like an outsider, watching others I had been at a similar level as make it look easy. I have so much to be grateful for, recovery could have been much more complicated and the improvements I’m seeing in my swim, bike and run are reassuring and evidence I’m moving in the right direction. The problem is I know the true mark of recovery from this surgery lies in the core. A lack of core strength/endurance can lead to so many problems and injuries. This knowledge is another reminder that I need to take more time to get this right.

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This week I came to the realisation that I’d miscalculated the number of weeks until the triathlon, oops. Its now just five weeks until the big day. Realising this, I’ve made the conscious decision to take a step back in training. anything that doesn’t directly benefit either my core or the triathlon is taking a backseat. That means gymnastics, zuu and body pump are on hold, at least for the next few weeks. A frustrating call to make and one that feels like a huge step backwards, but a step back may just be necessary to move me forwards.

I may be slow but I’m Tri-ing

Another week down and we’re now 7 weeks from my first ever triathlon (that wasn’t scary until I wrote it down). Having been down for much of last week I was determined to try and have a more positive week. Being back at work proved to be a challenge that I wasn’t 100% ready for, and balancing that with training was a challenge I hadn’t fully prepared myself for, resulting in a shorter than planned working week (3 days rather than 5) and a couple of missed training sessions. Physically I am still getting tired much quicker than I used to, my body seems to need more rest than normal and energy levels fluctuate. The signs of overdoing things have reared their ugly heads on more than one occasion offering a reminder that overdoing it is still a very real risk.

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I would love to be back to “normal”, back to 100% physical and mental fitness, from what I’ve read it can take up to six months or more to be fully recovered. For now though I’m proud of my journey. I’m learning to listen to my body, developing the mental strength to take a step back or day off training (ok I may still sulk at this), these are huge steps forward from my previous Gung Ho stubborn mentality.

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Mentally I’ve been in a better place. I still feel like I’ve got work to do on the mental side of recovery, and I’m aware that I’m not as strong or mentally resilient as I was, but just recognising these is progress. Now is the time to continue working on strategies and push forward with actions. The first action is taking the time to relax and think, that sounds stupid, I’ve just had 2 months of relaxing and opportunities to think, if only I’d realised the importance of this earlier.

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Physically progress has really slowed, I knew this was coming having made good progress initially. My scar is finally healing having spent the last couple of weeks kicking out the internal stitches. Movement patterns are coming back and everything is starting to feel more natural albeit slower. I’m enjoying being back training and having to do less regressions. I’m almost at the end of my “endurance” (read “get back to doing stuff”) phase. I’m comfortably back swimming, I’m regularly cycling and am seeing progress in both disciplines. Run wise my 4Km time is currently slower than my previous 5km time was and my run training seems to be stuck in a rut. Progress is hard work and slow, it’s mentally draining seeing the data come back and show little to no progress. I’m really having to concentrate and remind myself I’ve not been able to run properly for well over six months and have only reintroduced it in the last month. Any progress is good progress!

The triathlon seems to be creeping up quickly, 7 weeks isn’t a lot of time. I know that just finishing it will be a huge achievement but more and more it’s an achievement that actually feels possible.

It’s not all physical.

I wasn’t going to write this week, I’m not sure where to start, but I want this blog to reflect my experiences so here goes.

It’s been half term which means a week away from work and my first solid week of training. This should make for a positive week, but instead I’ve just felt lost and tired. I can’t think of any good reason why I’m feeling this way, in fact having received a letter confirming the all-clear from histology and discharging me from the hospital I should be happy. Things could’ve been a lot worse, and I’m both relieved and grateful for this. I guess this could be my mind trying to process everything that had happened in the last ten months. Before now I have been either too tired as a result of the fibroid or focusing on the physical side of recovery. I hadn’t really given much time or thought to the mental side. Mayne now is the time.


Whilst this year hasn’t been easy, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I have no idea what that reason is, however I promise myself that I will be a better person for having gone through it. No matter how I feel right now, I will come out stronger. 


I have a permanent reminder of this period, scars are reminders of the journeys taken. For now I’m going to keep looking forward, keep moving and accept that this journey still has some distance to go!