7 weeks to go: Back on the bike (baptism of fire)

This week I finally got the bike out on the road – with me on it! I’m going to say it: I hate the bike! I really do not enjoy cycling – most of the time. But it’s teaching me a lot about endurance and about overcoming anxiety and fear.

2 days off… but look at the big circle

I’ll start this week’s entry with the bike story. And story it is. I’ve started to enjoy Zwift and training on the turbo. I also realised I was in my comfort zone. I’ve learnt that one element of endurance training is not allowing myself to get too comfortable. There comes a time when I have to step out of that comfort zone.

That’s not to say I should be enjoying pain and suffering. It’s not some kind of sackcloth and ashes story. It’s recognising that to move on, sometimes you have to switch off the thinking and just do it. And so getting on the bike was all about that.

Unfortunately for me I have an overactive mind, and vivid imagination and the thinking bit never stops (probably why I do enjoy doing endurance sport). So after an accident on the bike, reigning in the fears and the thoughts and the feeling of foreboding is key. I have to remind myself not to confuse my gut feeling with anxiety.

The planned bike ride was on Friday, a trip to the Isle of Wight to go round the island. Chris had done it before and assured me it was mainly flat and traffic-free and a good place for me to get back on the bike. Warning! It’s not flat – or traffic-free, but it is a good place to get back on the bike.

It was as I said on Strava a Baptism of Fire. We emerged from the ferry to traffic and wound are way up some good climbs out of Ryde. I felt nervous being back on the road, and also on the time trial bike. But told myself to concentrate – and relax at the same time.

Most of the first 30 miles I cursed cycling. I was not in a positive mindset at all and repeatedly told myself I hate cycling. ‘I’m stopping this after the Ironman and going to concentrate on Swim Run’. I tried to rationalise what it was I didn’t like, and all I could come up with was cars/road/uncertainty. After cake and tea, and chats in a nice shop/bar/cafe, I took note of the nicer side to cycling. Exploring, meeting new people and going further than you can with running.

As we climbed up the steeper hill on the coast, I started to really enjoy it. Cycling into a headwind, having to focus on working to get up the hill sharpened my senses and put me into a good mindset. I like working hard enough to feel I’m being pushed – but I’m a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to speed.

I realise as I type this, I will look back in a few years and think what was I going on about? When I first did a sprint triathlon I was completely freaked out by the open water – now I don’t think about it and can’t recognise that frightened person. (I also didn’t have any idea what gears to use, or even when to change them then, but for some reason I didn’t worry about the bike). But for now, I’m here, and I have to be patient with myself. Back to the ride.

The rain started when we stopped for lunch. But stopped again after and there as a very lovely purple patch of cycling on empty smooth roads, picking up the pace, feeling comfortable as I had settled into my mantra of ‘relaxed, in control, fast’. As we got nearer to the finish, Chris who’d been waiting for me at points along the way, went on and headed to Ryde. Meanwhile, I was behind him religiously following the signs for the bike route (we’d been successfully following them all day) and for anyone contemplating the ride, note, they are very clear and will get you round the course without GPS. There is a but! Don’t do what I did and start the route again.

Hitting some serious traffic in heavy rain, I was starting to feel emotional. I was cold, wet and realised it had been too long since I’d seen Chris and I’d gone wrong. But I carried on following the signs. As I started to climb hill after hill (away from the sea) and saw a bus going the opposite way with Ryde on the front, I knew the signs were taking me back onto the course. I rang Chris, who was at the ferry. And so began my attempt to find my way back. I headed to Ryde but realised I needed to check where the ferry was, so typed it into maps. Luckily, I could hear the sat nav and followed the instructions – but when I hit another hill (away from the sea) I had to double check again. I rang Chris, he rang me. He said be sure you’re not going to Fishguard (he meant Fishoburne) but the  maps said, Ferry Port Ryde, so on I went with this journey. The sat nav took me into town, up hills, and out of town, then along a wooded path for about a mile. By this time I was cold, wet and getting a bit worried, but I could see I was heading to a ferry so told myself there was nothing to worry about. Just follow each step. I finally emerged from the path (amazingly puncture-free) to the ferry port. It was the wrong ferry port.

It turned out the ferry was however going to Portsmouth, so I decided to get it. There were more hiccups (missed the first ferry, went to the wrong car park in Portsmouth, waited at the bus station not the train station, lips were going blue etc). But Chris and I finally were reunited (he’d got the right ferry) and were so relieved we’d got back to the car before the car park closed that we just laughed a lot and enjoyed the heated seats!

By Saturday with a planned two hour ride, a run, a swim, we both felt tired. And I felt close to meltdown on what we changed to a 10-mile spin. We stopped at Devil’s Dyke and watched the hang-gliders. As I saw them set off on and up into the sky in what looked like a very precarious set up I realised that fear and risk-taking is all relative and got over my irrational thought process (brought on by being a bit tired I think!). A 5K run after the short ride was relaxed but not easy and I reminded myself that this is what IM training is about – getting out and moving when you’re tired.

As for the rest of the week. I’d had two days off training which did throw me off a little. Work had got busy and life’s demands were more demanding. I was disappointed to only manage one swim, but it was a reasonable distance at 2.5K the longest with my dodgy shoulder, and I had a great brick session on the turbo and fartlek running on Wednesday. I finished off the week with another endurance test, a long run on the Downs in wind and rain. Starting tired I had wondered if I would get around, then reminded myself I’ve run this Eastbourne run (The Friston loop) at least 300 times and must have had that thought process 280 times! The wind and rain battered us, but we did have the wind behind us on a few key hills, we ran through a field with a huge cow and her babies – and a bull in it. I rejected the option of a shorter route down, and we hit the top of the Downs and I felt totally exhilarated by the crazy conditions (I imagined my dad ‘yahooing’ along with me and laughing along with his nutty daughter)  and I also remembered this is living and this is me – and this is what I love to do. And so another week of training is done.

 

 

20 week countdown: week one

May 28th to Sunday June 2nd: ending with The South Downs Relay

I started this training blog with a 52-week countdown, then 40 and here I am with 20 weeks to go. This feels real! I’m writing this retrospectively, but week one of 20 started on the UK Bank Holiday, and my holiday in Portugal with my kids and friend from school, Celia (she’s lived in the US for half her life now but we’re still as connected now as we were from seven to 25 when she left). The focus for the end of the week was the South Downs Relay.

Fiona and Celia – endurance women 50 going on 5

Cycling was not really going to be an option on holiday so I’d already decided to relax about this and focus on the run and swim.

I didn’t achieve my goal of 4K in the sea, but did manage 2.3K which was fantastic. I loved the clear water with the fish swimming beneath me. I was pleased to get two 10-mile runs on beautiful coastal routes completed over the holiday, as well as some easier, shorter runs.

When people thought the world was flat,  Sagres, which is the last stop before America, was once though to be the end point of the world. If it were, it would have been a good spot to finish. It’s an ideal spot for triathlon training too, and even though I didn’t cycle, I appreciated the long, quiet stretches of road and if I’d had running company I might have ventured a it further along the trails weaving their way through the national park.

Homeward Bound

On Thursday morning I had one last lovely run in Portugal and we flew home late afternoon. So on Friday morning I was back home and woke up early, and decided to go to My Ride. With the South Downs Relay, a 100 mile run across the Downs, as part of a team of six, meant I kept the pace and heart rate low and was pleased to see just eight hours recovery on my Garmin.

The South Downs Relay

With a 530am start looming on Saturday I went to bed early on Friday, but woke up, wide awake at 230am! I decided it wouldn’t affect me as I’ve raced tired lots of times before.

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It did affect me! I was knackered and one minute a mile slower than I’d hoped/expected. However, as I type this on Tuesday June 5th feeling slightly ill, I think might have been harbouring a few bugs. But this was a team event, and my under performance didn’t deter from what was really a fantastic day of running, as part of a great team from Brighton Triathlon Club. This unique, invitation-only event, is very special to me. I’ve taken part five times now (in the past I ran with Hailsham Harriers) and it felt so good to see so many familiar faces – and to be inspired by older runners still able to record super fast time (most notably my running club, Arena 80’s Women’s team, all over 40 and won in super fast time).

For me the South Downs Relay marked the end of my messing about on the bike period and it’s time to really focus on the bike from now on! My road bike has been ‘pimped up’ by the guys at the Tri Store, Eastbourne, with new saddle, gears and bakes, courtesy of Chris and I’ve been measured for a Time Trial bike. I can’t avoid it any more. On your bike Fiona, on your bike!