It has been 6 weeks since the weekend of the Paris Marathon, and almost 6 months since I truly embarked on this journey! Less than 4 months, and 5 challenges left to go, and it’s time to reflect on how far we’ve come…..and where we must still travel to…!
Since I signed up to the Ironman, and saw the nutritionist and a physio for the first time before Christmas, I have lost over half a stone (approximately 10 pounds in fact) in weight, and gained a good basis of endurance fitness.
I have also begun to learn things I had only read or heard about, and I thought I could not possibly understand. In the domains of cycle maintenance, swim-stroke metrics or cadence, I am slowly becoming an “amateur expert”, if such a thing exists! Granted, I am still asking Mave to visit once a week to check every single rattle on my bike, but at least I am changing punctures and adjusting saddle positions myself now! And I’ve stopped falling off the bike too….at least for the moment!
In the pool, thanks to B’s sadistic drills, my technique has improved dramatically and I am now wearing skin tight swimming shorts that I swore I never would, but which have helped make me faster. I really am becoming obsessive and probably beginning to bore those around me. This though seems to be the norm for endurance athletes of any discipline, constantly talking in what seems like code to outsiders, yet enthusing each other about Strava segments and elevation gain! Only this week did I begin to trot out statistics about climbing the Tumble to two non-cyclists whose eyes instantly glazed over……
I know I will never be able to afford the super lightweight bike and aero helmet that would increase my speed by a couple of KM an hour, reduce the effort I need to make, and improve my time by a few minutes. And I know that for a one-off year of activities and a solitary Ironman, it wouldn’t be a sound investment. But I still find myself looking at these bikes on the internet and wondering just how light they are, and how fast they go…… I really seem to have become an endurance athlete even when out of my trainers, swimsuit or clip on pedals. I don’t know whether I should be worried, or just more aware of how my disposition differs from others around me!
Of course, some (most?) of this could be excused by the mental aspect of the training. Not only is this a lengthy process entailing constant exertion which necessitates mind over matter to keep pushing forward, getting out and improving times and fitness, but it is also, for large parts at least, a solitary experience. Suddenly, I am now spending more and more time on my own, in the pool, on the bike or out running. That means the only source of conversation is, well, myself! And funny enough I talk about exactly the same stuff, no wonder I have become slightly narrow-minded in my outlook!
At least I can sometimes train with some like-minded people from time to time and talk bikes and Ironman plans without worrying about boring them to death! On Sunday last, thanks to a kind invite from Andy Tom, I joined a group cycle from Hoffi Coffi in Abergavenny which headed over the Llangynidr Moors and up to Hay, before returning via the Gospel Pass. Andy and Jan (whose wife owns & runs the coffee shop) are avid cyclists and many of the peloton had ridden to Paris with them a few months ago. This gave me an opportunity to learn to ride in a group, and to ask a whole host of questions about bikes; cycling to Paris and the Ironman itself! I was like an eager young lad badgering everyone asking for information! Two days later I ran 18Km around town, mostly with Mave, giving me yet more opportunity to talk bikes and fitness! The rest of the week’s training was a solitary affair however, with a 40Km cycle on Wednesday (over the Tumble!) and a long pool session of drills and intervals on Thursday, which amounted to 3.2k according to my watch, but was more like 3.6k (drills which do not involve the arm with the watch do not get recorded!!).
I also had my final physio session with Naomi (unless something on me breaks before September….!) and she asked what I will do after the Ironman is over. This is a question I have been trying to answer as I am sure it will seem strange to have no fitness goal in mind. Nothing to focus on, no guilt when having a lie-in or enjoying a beer….. It will certainly be different, but I equally do not wish to commit to anything further as that wouldn’t be fair on those around me. These events certainly take up much time and money, and I wouldn’t fancy doing anything unless I train and prepare properly, as I am able to do just now. All I can say at this stage is that I will enter some “fun” events with others (maybe a “Tough Mudder”) and offer myself as a “billboard” if a charity needs an entrant in an event. However I do state that I cannot continue to ask friends and family for donations as I am this year – that would simply not be fair!
Indeed, on the charity donation front, some continue to be extremely generous, and some less so. Surprisingly, some I thought would be very supportive are not, and others I hardly know are happy to donate without any prompting. Some to whom I have donated previously are unwilling to reciprocate, whereas others have doubled what I gave when they asked me. I suppose this is how the world works, and all I can say is I am thankful to all those who have taken the time, and continue to take the time to support me, both with messages and donations, I know who you are and I promise that I am grateful and remain thankful to you each and every step I take. It’s empowering and warming to know you are behind me.
As I mentioned last time I wrote, I was missing a few pounds and so last week I headed to the Cardiff Blues to shake a bucket and collect some loose change at their game against Zebre. Thankfully, the fans were generous enough and I managed to raise what I needed, and, once the auction money arrives on my JustGiving page (£125 for the Racing Metro jersey from Brian at Tight 5 Events), I will break the £2000 barrier, just in time for the deadline I had been set. To say this is a relief is an understatement, and I am now certain to be cycling to Paris in less than two weeks time!
Away from the training, there is still life, although it may sometimes not seem like it, especially to regular readers of the blog! But there is, and I continue to juggle my freelance working with Paul and also Community Music Wales, alongside the training. This week has involved a meeting in London to follow up on the Disney event, networking in Cardiff to push the CMW name, and a meeting in Taunton with Nic Sestaret (who coached with our team in Disney) to talk about future camps and tours!
I am also mulling over what to do personally in September. After the Ironman, there is a natural break in terms of training and my freelance contracts. The question is whether I seek full-time employment, or try to build my own business. At this stage I am not sure! It could depend on the job itself, the location, or indeed whether I can grow my own business to a larger level. Personal concerns will also play a big part in this decision as we seek to eek up another rung on the property ladder. Certainly plenty to ponder as the year goes on, but you never know what is around the corner and an offer or two may well crop up and make the decision for me!
All I can say for now is that despite today being a “rest day”, there is actually a good amount of housework I must attend to….right now!