Week 18 of 30 saw me complete my very first 100 miles on the bike; and some. I’d spent the week recovering from a very intense weekend at a trade show for work, which saw me on my feet for 12 hours on day one, not long after my first track session which did a good job of reawakening some plantar fascia pain in my right heel. By the time I arrived back home in Bristol, I had collected 29 hours of standing in my feet and not a lot of sleep, I was flattened. I tried to work the next day (Tuesday) but my body wasn’t having any of it, and I knew that my training was going to suffer for a few days. I’d got in a BAD tri bike ride before heading off to the show on the Saturday, but after this fairly gentle 35ish miles, I wouldn’t get the blood pumping around my veins again until the following Wednesday; when I headed to the harbour and Clifton for an evening run in the sunshine.
Cycling past beautiful yellow fields of springtime rapeseed made me smile – I always used to drive past it and wish I could get closer, and here I was, soaking it all up.
I ran 1.5 hours and loved every second. A great comeback run from a few days of hard work and no training by all accounts. I ran a loop around the downs in Clifton, which sadly recently has had reports of rape attacks in the early evenings. As I ran, alone on the downs with a smattering of evening air soaker-uppers, my thoughts frequently flicked to my days of boxing training in a North London Boys Club, with its smells of damp concrete floors, and the promise of 30 minutes of skipping followed by intense bag work and finally some pad work, shadow boxing and sparring in the ring on Sunday mornings. I’ve got a mean cross, and i was ready to use it. It made me fun faster and harder, these thoughts that men still use their strength in this archaic way against women. We just need to keep on running, and we need to multiply in running numbers, and we must never ever let them win by being too scared to run alone in our own beautiful city.
Impromptu Strength Session (1hr)
On Thursday I went to BAD tri swim with coach Tom. I arrived at the pool to find that no one was there, which I found a little odd, until I realised I’d arrived a whole hour early! Well I wasn’t going to sit and watch the synchro girls for an hour (as amazing as they are, breathing through their feet) so I blagged my way into the gym (actually, I just asked nicely which is my new preference to blagging – a frequent pastime in my twenties). My fuzzy time-keeping brain therefore actually gave me an impromptu hour of strength and conditioning in the gym, within which i causally strolled to to the pull up bar and owned it, feeling pround that my swimming and pull ups had paid off to allow me to lift my own body way all the way up and over the bar, from the floor, around 10 times.
SWIM SESSION (1hr)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that at the swim session, we had one lane each, and were to be raced / timed for a 1k swim. Upon discovering this, a rush of adrenaline surged through my body and I felt the familiar feelings of nerves and excitement. Although we weren’t racing each other, my nerves always tell me that I know what I can achieve – but it’s going to hurt to do it.
Coach Tom told us that we needed to count to 40 lengths, and that we needed to swim with something left until half way, check how we felt and push it up a crank if we feel good, thus producing negative splits rather than crashing after going out too hard. I ALWAYS go out too hard in the swim in a race. Always. Last summer, in one triathlon, i overtook THREE people in the first length only to significantly slow down after two lengths. Aside from being inefficient, this is also highly irritating for the others in my wave. In another race, I went out so hard that I couldn’t breathe and ended up panicking – which had been unheard of for me in a pool swim. I actually had to start breast stroking. So, I thought it would be a good idea to heed this advice.
So I shot off like a rocket, and stayed in place 1/6 for the first 2 lengths. Funny thing swimming 40 lengths whilst racing – It feels such a long way to go yet is over in a flash. So I counted my lengths to 40, but alas when I finished in first place, at 17 mins something, I was told I had miscounted and had SIX more to go! I actually swore at this point, which i later decided wasn’t very good sportsmanship (sorry Tom) before heading off for another six, finishing second and in 18 minutes something. In the post race diagnosis, I had gone out too fast, significantly slowed in the first third, and then picked up the pace for the second and third. I was pleased with my effort, and had learned something new. I need to go out a little calmer still.
200k bike ride (9.5 hrs)
I rested on Friday and even had a glass of wine which felt so good. On Saturday I would be up at 530 am to prepare for my 200k ride, a last minute decision to join a DIY Audax instead of my planned ‘Merry Monks’ Audax on the Sunday of 150k. The opportunity to get my first Century ride (100 miles) in the bag was too much to pass up after the disappointment of bailing at 50k in a hurricane at Barry’s Ball Buster (The annual Audax organised by the Bristol-based Las Vegas Institute of Sport).
I felt ok about the ride. I had about 8 energy bars with me (roughly one per hour), two bottles of Osmo active hydration and two further sachets for the fuel stops.
Learning to be a good Scout
BEFORE I started my 129 mile pilgrimage to the south coast and back, I had to use a nearby bush to go to the loo. I now know that I had decided to squat in a healthy supply of Cuckoopint, a toxic plant that causes redness and swelling. Somehow I had got this joyful fauna sap all over my hand, and by 9am my wrist looked like someone had stuffed it with cotton wool and painted it red. Not one to panic, I spent the next 40 miles breathing through thoughts that I had been incurably poisoned and i was dying on the bike, in a completely different sense to the bonking kind.
Luckily, a bonk was as close as I got to dying on the bike that day. As it turned out, Cuckoopint is bloody annoying but not fatal, unless you were to massage your tonsils with it at length. My co-rider Helen had a 1-a-day antihistamine tablet, which got rid of the problem in less than two hours. I was so grateful to her for being so forward thinking, and without Helen, I may have had yet another scuppered century attempt.
My First Bonk.
‘Bonking’ is the riding equivalent to running’s ‘hitting the wall’, which luckily I still haven’t done – I avoided that fate in the London Marathon, a feat that I was proud of – it is not a given that you will suffer to this extent in a marathon. Having not bonked before either, I can’t tell you whether I really and truly bonked, but I can tell you that after 95 miles I started feeling a bit forgetful, forgetting to eat and drink as regularly, and making little mistakes. By Mike 129 I was positively feeling drunk of brain, but my little legs were still feeling as fresh as a daisy. My Cuckoopinted nethers however, were as rough as sandpaper. It was actually so painful to sit by this point, that standing on my bike was becoming out of the question, as it was easier to stay sat on the pain than to revisit it after a little relief.
The ride took us 9.5 hours in total, and we’d stopped for a food break three times. By the time i’d finished my ride, I’d consumed:
A bowl of museli
Beans on toast
Eggs on toast
A cream tea
8 energy bars
5 bottles of water (75ml each)
And I felt good. My recovery was speedy. I had my usual recovery protein and Osmo pre load at home later, and aside from feeling like I had a hang over when I awoke on Sunday morning, I felt good. Even my legs and arse felt pretty fresh.
So last week, I completed in total, 13 hours of training plus 1 hour of strength and conditioning, and had my very first century and my first ironman distance cycle (112 miles) under my belt.
it felt good. 🙂 I didn’t exactly feel like running a marathon afterwards though – but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it (and throw in a few more brick sessions over the next 11.2 weeks!)
The following morning I had a rest, and watched the Virgin London Marathon from under my duvet with a delicious recovery smoothie, a mish mash of chia seeds, Pukka vitalise powder, coconut water, beetroot juice, fresh pineapple and a punnet of blueberries. Slurp.