Mental Strength

Well what a month it has been! I would have like to have written my post weeks ago but time was not really on my side these last few weeks.
I did start out with a good cycle ride using my new clip in pedals (and my first fall), and then came Gareth’s “broken” bike, Gareth’s injury, my promotion in work, followed by a stress fracture in my right foot.
The ups and downs of training and working life are all there in the space of just a few weeks.

My work has taken up a lot of my time recently with many late finishes. But I still had the time to help Gareth recuperate from his injury and from his hard training sessions.  I also have a new Sports massage client, having managed to fit an appointment into my full-on schedule! Unfortunately for me last Sunday after a good run I felt a very sharp pain in my right foot and it didn’t subside, so I went for an X-ray on the Monday which revealed the smallest of fractures of my 5th metatarsal. Apparently the only cure for this is to rest. Rest is no friend of mine however; I don’t have time simply to “rest”!  The doctor said to keep my foot up but I can’t do that either there is always plenty to do!! So overall I am very frustrated right now, my running was going well and I had started to up the kilometres. Now the realisation that I am severely under-prepared for the Triathlon in May is scaring me! It’s only a couple of months away and I have never cycled up anything like the Tumble as yet and I have no idea when I will be able to get back into full training, so I may have to reconsider entering.  It’s a very hard decision to make!!!

I have chosen to call today’s blog “Mental Strength” because I feel it is so important in training, from the determination to train day after day, to overcoming an injury setback. Being strong mentally matters so much and dictates what you can achieve; it really is half the battle. Gareth’s determination and mental strength is simply amazing. As I struggle with the bigger challenges, (mainly big hills!!) he knocks down challenge after challenge as though they are no big deal. His biggest frustration has been his injury but he followed the instructions from the physio and was back to full training in no time. Even during a long and testing run he still finds that energy and the drive to carry on just as hard or even harder. He looks at hills as though they are some sort of game, whilst I’m stuck at the bottom trying not to let nerves get the better of me and doubting I can even make it half way! A week before my injury during a run, I needed to stop before a long and hard hill and I could feel myself tensing up, affecting my breathing and running style. I stopped to compose myself and went for it and managed to do it, slowly maybe but at least I managed! However I did have to stop even before I started!!! So somehow I need to learn to copy this strength from him! How I can do this is the Million Dollar question.
Finding a way to build your mental strength is difficult and unique to each and every one of us. Some people even say you are born with or without it. I am not sure about this to be honest.

Blueberry Breakfast Bar

Blueberry Breakfast Bar

Anybody can achieve anything if it really matters to them; they just need to find what it is that makes them “tick”!

Yesterday Gareth ran 36km. He looked tired but his recovery is very good. Today is his day off and he is back to it tomorrow. It’s relentless but he enjoys it (I think). I spent my time cooking as he eats…well, a lot!!!  I made some blueberry breakfast bars inspired by Deliciously Ella (from a recipe in last Saturday’s Telegraph) and also a gluten free Pear, Hazelnut and chocolate cake.
I have no doubt that Gareth will demolish them in no time so I will have to find something else to make quickly!

The fundraising is progressing well but could be

Pear, Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake

Pear, Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake

a lot better. So please if you haven’t done so already please donate here! Help Gareth and Paul meet their first target of £2,000 so he can join the cycle ride to Paris for #StayStrongForOws. Thank you….

Don’t forget also that for every £10 you donate before the 1st May, you will have the chance to win some fantastic prizes, like signed jerseys or tickets to Pro 12 matches – all proceeds will be going directly to the appeal thanks to the generous donations of the clubs involved.

Healthy Living

Our elimination diet is coming to an end. It’s time to reflect on what we have learnt!!

After all the trials we now know to avoid gluten, in particular gluten grain.  Everything else has been pretty much ok, but without excess…everything in moderation.

We enjoy eating clean and we have found some benefits in avoiding refined sugars and processed food.  Although I must admit it was a struggle in the last week or so with lots of nice cakes and biscuits in my office, I’ve been good and avoided them all together!

We learnt a lot about how to cook food properly.  Interestingly cooking methods have a great role to play in our diet (and in everybody’s!).  And I am not just talking about frying or deep frying either.  But for example roasting, barbecuing, and chargrilling food is to be avoided.  As soon as a food is browned or crisped, it becomes a source of harm for the body rather than being healthly.  All fats which change their structure become hazardous to health; but coconut oil is a much better and healthier choice and adds a nice flavour to your meals, and you can use it for your skin too!

I found lots of inspiration on these three great websites, Honestly Healthy Food, Deliciously Ella and Hemsley and HemsleyLast Friday we celebrated my father-in-law’s birthday.  It was a little challenge for us to make a nice dinner and a birthday cake.  After a practice last week I re-made a carrot cake and I think everyone enjoyed it!  Gareth will meet again with his dietician in the next couple of weeks, a further step in the journey, and the start of a new challenge.

The sleep hygiene that we introduced is also of great help.  In general we are both sleeping better and I now have time to read!  We have finally received our new mattress too! I was getting bored from being poked in the side by the springs in our old one…The saying goes that you are either in your bed or in your shoes, and in the last week we invested in both!  It was all worth it!

 The training has been going well; I managed my target of four sessions last week, while Gareth has been upping his own training, and mainly his running as the date of the Paris Marathon is approaching. I’m looking forward to it mainly because I’ll be able to catch up with my family and because it will be an important milestone for Gareth.

On Saturday, we went cycling together.  We rode 62km to Talgarth and back home through Bwlch. I really enjoyed it overall, but the last 10K was hard, really hard.  Gareth was only coasting next to me probably having his own back from when I coast next to him at swimming… I tried Gareth’s vegan protein shake afterwards and I think it has made a lot of difference as I was able to run 8k the next day at a decent speed.  I didn’t feel after coming off the bike that I would be able to manage that at all!  Monday was a rest day and on Tuesday I had to put my Sport Massage therapist hat back on as Gareth had done a mighty 36K run so I needed to help him loosen up his muscles!   We will now look to set a more thorough massage plan to go with his training as he is really stepping up the mileage.

My work has been really busy too, everything is so full on and never really stops during the day, so it’s nice to have that 45 min to relax in bed reading before switching off and starting all over again.  Perhaps it’s lucky we don’t have kids!!!

Gareth has also received a few donations for #StayStrongForOws , so if you have already given, thank you ! Only £4,880 left so if you are reading these blogs, please drop him a little something!

Life behind the Iron…man …

Behind every Ironman is there an Ironwoman or an Ironwife?? Except that I won’t be entering the gruelling event myself; I am too lazy to commit to such a lengthy training regime. But I have committed to give all the support I can to my very own Ironman from behind the scenes.

Gareth set his goal in November when he signed up, and then from 5th January the big changes in our lifestyle started.  He went to see a nutritionist and then we began the elimination diet on January 5th.  Yes “we”.  As there are only 2 of us it is much easier to plan meals, to cook and to shop, and also it means that we are doing this together. It is important for me to understand what he is going through, so I can help him more.

It took me a couple of weeks to adjust to my role or my multiple roles, those of housewife, cook, sports massage therapist, swimming coach…!!  I certainly didn’t want to become an “Iron-widow”!  In all of these changes I need to find my place, where I fit in, how I can enjoy it and not make it all a burden or tiring process.  After all since this is a once in a lifetime challenge, we may as well enjoy it together.

My primary and most important task is to make home life as easy as possible for Gareth so he can concentrate on his training, without worrying and rushing to do other things. (Although convincing him not to worry is another challenge all of its own which I began some 12 and half years ago…).  At first cooking proved difficult with our new diet, trying to make tasty dishes using a limited number of options and making enough of it!  Although the nutritionist said that during the elimination diet training will probably need to be eased back, Gareth has done the total opposite, so I need to make sure he is not left starving!!!  After a week I started enjoying it, I learned to be a bit more creative, trying new things with new ingredients. I attempted to make banana bread and carrot cake but without flour, eggs or sugar… although I didn’t succeed in making something edible, until yesterday that is!!!  As we started to re-introduce ingredients, I tried again, and finally we had a sugar and gluten free cake we could eat and enjoy.

I also entered the Abergavenny Triathlon myself.  I always fancied having a go at a triathlon, so on the 10th May I will be entering my 1st one. I could and probably should have entered an easier one.  As a decent swimmer 800m in the pool won’t be difficult, but a 50K bike ride up the Tumble and a 10K run up the Sugar Loaf will be a totally different kettle of fish!  I don’t like running up hills, and I am relatively new to cycling so you may think I am being rather ambitious.  So now I will have to balance home life, a full time job and training.  I am doing the meal plans so I have enough time to go to the gym some evenings.  I am setting myself a target of training four times a week. And from next week, that will include one cycle ride per week. I must admit so far I have only managed three!  So more commitment and better organisation is required, and maybe less cold weather could help too…

New trainers!

New trainers!

Tuesday will be my 5th session with my physiotherapist – my knees don’t particularly appreciate running on tarmac and they usually let me know all about it!  Last week we went to DW Sports in Newport, and underwent a gait analysis session, which showed I was using the wrong trainers, so I got a new pair with the correct support and cushioning. The analysis was free, and although the trainers weren’t that cheap it was worth it.  I went for a 10K run yesterday and I could feel the difference.  I’m really hopeful they will help alleviate the knee pain.

Some of you may say my life is a little boring.  Up, work, gym, home, cook, bed, (repeat x5), then: up, clean, training, massage, cook, and bed (x 2).  But there is something quite rewarding about seeing your better half getting on with his training, progressing, and being a little part of it.

I can only admire his commitment, determination, and all the hard work is putting into this, all with the selfless aim of raising money for Owen Williams. #StayStrongForOws.  So please donate.