Swim, bike, run, write.

The Training Diaries: For the love of it

"Speed bump ahead". It's ironic really. I posted the photo above on Instagram back in November 2019, with a (suitably w*nky) caption: "Fairly certain the (metaphorical) road to Ironman Vitoria-Gasteiz will be bumpy, challenging and I'll probably encounter a few potholes. But I'm fired up and ready to work harder than ever." Those metaphorical potholes I referenced? I was thinking they'd probably be more along the lines of little niggly injuries, tough days in the saddle, the odd failed interval run session. But the great big, gaping sinkhole that has been 2020? Well, it's safe to say none of us were predicting this particular bump in the road.

I haven't actually posted on here since a few days after Ironman Zurich 2019, almost a year ago. I have plenty of half-finished posts squirrelled away in the drafts folder, but life just got a bit crazy and then the longer I left it the harder it was to know where to start. So, here's a whistlestop tour of stuff that happened after Ironman Zurich:

1) I started a new job in a different department at work, representing a step up in hours and responsibility. Communications Executive by day, triathlon-obsessed weirdo by early morning/lunch break/every other spare hour. Several months later, they're still putting up with me and I'm feeling grateful to have a job I genuinely enjoy (and a boss who is also into triathlon - perfect!)

2) I entered another Ironman. After a strategy meeting over a particularly strong cappuccino with my coach at the aptly named 'Ideas Cafe' one lunch break, a battle plan was set and I had Ironman Vitoria-Gasteiz 2020 in my sights. Big goals were in place and I was all fired up and ready to push myself harder than ever.

3) I got to head out to Hawaii on spectator duties for G at the 2019 Ironman World Championships in October. It was the most incredible, surreal (and humid) experience and it's just made me even more determined to earn my spot to race there some day, however long that takes. The promise of a Longboard lager in Island Lava Java will forever be my motivation.

4) We got married! It was the most amazing day, and watching the video back now - with everything that's happened this year - Graham and I feel even more lucky to have been able to celebrate with a room full of our favourite people.

5) In January, I finally worked up the courage to start tackling the anxiety and other brain gremlins that have had a grip on me for way too long. More on that another time (if I ever work up the courage to hit publish...)

2019 as a whole, was a whirlwind. Moving house, changing career, racing an Ironman and getting married in the space of 12 months was incredible, but also a little bit exhausting. In December, I joked that I planned to spend 2020 laying down in a dark room. Apparently the Universe was listening, and three months later the world was in lockdown. Careful what you wish for!

Needless to say, racing an Ironman this July was swept off the agenda. There's been so much that has been terrible about this pandemic - and my thoughts are with all the people who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and precious time with family during all this. But one thing that has been such a positive for me is that it's just given me the space and time to take a step off the conveyor belt, assess my priorities and just breathe.

Lockdown has reaffirmed my love of triathlon. I'd got myself on a bit of a runaway train after Ironman Zurich, where my relentless internal drive to always be pushing, chasing, achieving, was starting to border on the unhealthy. I was so busy trying to out run my own fear of failure, that somewhere I lost the joy. And then COVID-19 happened. And actually, that enforced sudden shift put the brakes on that runaway train. With racing off of the agenda, I discovered that I still wanted to train. That my motivation was still right there with me. I didn't need a looming date in the diary to scare me in to doing the hard work. I was more than happy to go out and run 20 miles for the love of it. To spend entire Sunday mornings out on my bike for the joy of it. I even missed the 5am wake-up calls for swim squad and the lingering scent of chlorine. The doubts that had started to gather about whether I should be putting so much of my energy into triathlon were eradicated. The fear of failure turned into a pure, simple, love of swim-bike-run. Early in the lockdown, I wrote a post for the Stolen Goat blog about training as an anchor during tumultuous times. And honestly? Triathlon has been my lifejacket this year. It's given me focus, a sense of achievement and a sense of normality. The flying shit show that has been 2020 so far, has given me gratitude for the things I took for granted, and an appreciation of all my privileges.

So, now what? Yesterday should have been Ironman #3 for me, but instead I celebrated Not Race Day with a lake swim followed by just under 110km on the bike and a great big glass of Sangria when I got home. Training-wise, things have obviously been a little bit different without a race to build for, and I've worked with my coach to shift to a focus on maintaining a level of endurance while also building strength and power. I've been averaging between 12-14 hours a week, which has been enough to keep me out of mischief but not so much that I'll burn out. I've had plenty of quality time with my new road bike - there may have been a touch of mischief and a shiny new Liv Langma Advanced Pro 2 Disc may have turned up on my door step - and I've also added in more strength and core conditioning, along with daily yoga practice.

With 1 year to go until Ironman Vitoria-Gasteiz 2021, I'm actually feeling really positive. Early on in lockdown I chose to see this as an opportunity. Races might be cancelled, but that doesn't mean dreams, ambitions and goals have to be. I'm using this time to get my body and, crucially, my mind stronger than ever. And when I eventually get on that start line, it will be with a heightened sense of just how lucky I am to be able to do so. The fear and self-punishment that was starting to break me at the start of the year is gone. Right now, I'm soaking up every moment of joy from every training session and I'm excited to see what this body of mine can do over the next year.

There's not a doubt in my mind that triathlon is home for me. My swim-bike-run focussed life may seem crazy to others, my priorities might seem all out of whack - but the space this year has given me, means I know I'm doing exactly what is authentic, important and real for me. There's so much pressure to live your life according to what you should be doing and what's expected of you. Happiness comes when you allow yourself to walk your own path, and respect the paths of others. Do your thing (and don't be a dick).


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