I’ve started training seriously. Not that I’ve ever not trained seriously. It’s just that I’ve ramped up the seriousness level a few bars. It’s not going to be easy. Not that it ever was.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my anxiety seems more under control (I’ve had mild undiagnosed anxiety for years). I don’t know if this has anything to do with my new training program. What I do know is that I sometimes wake up in the morning feeling anxious, but that seems to go away once I’m back from training. It’s nice not feeling anxious all the time.
I’ve been getting recurrent injuries that have held me back from training the way I’d like to. Running gives me shin splints. And I’ve had on-and-off knee pain. The last time I got knee pain it stuck with me for weeks. It was bad. I gave my body the rest it needed to get back to being pain-free, while still swimming and gyming to keep a certain level of fitness. And then I decided to go to the experts.
I’m now working with a triathlon coach! It’s so interesting working with someone who actually understands this stuff. We had many email exchanges, a few phone calls and we went together to a physiotherapy center in town that treats British Olympic athletes. The physio examined me at length on two separate visits and then wrote a very long report about all the things that are wrong with me (there were a lot). It took a lot of self-pep-talking to see the positive side to that report. It’s obvious that giving birth to four children has affected my body. Falling off my bike and dislocating my shoulder has also. In addition, of course, to a multitude of other things. But she told me about a lot of exercises I can do so that the weak parts of my body can get stronger. That should help protect me from getting injured. My personal trainer went through the whole report and is now incorporating that information and the exercises into my routines.
My triathlon coach has also taken that information and tons of other information (on my best times, my challenges, my strong points, my main training aims) and put together a program for me. Her approach is different from the one I’ve been applying. My swimming, running and cycling training goals have always been related to gradually increasing my distance. Now, I’m training to time. I also have drills. I have days where I go out for a longish but generally relaxed bike ride or run. And I have days when the time is shorter but the effort I need to put in is harder. I love swim drills. I had never done them before. I haven’t had anyone tell me how to swim since I was about five years old! I just swim. Now I go to a training session with lots of other people and we’re given drills to improve our swimming technique and to improve our swimming fitness.
One thing I’ve learned from all this is that I haven’t been rotating. I run and swim like a stiff wooden board! Now I’m trying to rotate and it does feel like I’m becoming just a tiny bit more efficient. It feels good anyway.
Today I went out on my first bike ride in a long time that involved proper hills. I had been avoiding them because my knee was still not back to completely normal. I’ve lost some of my previous hill fitness, but my knee was fine and I know I can get that fitness back. It was so nice going out on the hills in the sun. My last two flatter rides were murky, windy, muddy and very rainy. I’m still just a tiny bit more careful than normal (I’m normally very very careful, which makes me unnecessarily slow). I fell off my bike mid-December when I had to brake suddenly so as not to get run over by a speeding police car that was going to turn into the road I was on without seeing me. Getting back on the bike after that was really hard. But I did it. And I’m now almost completely over the nerves.
I’m still slow. I’m a slow runner, a slow cyclist, and a slow swimmer. I don’t know if I’ll ever be faster. But I’ll keep trying. It’s all I can do.
Other athletes can be very intimidating. Today, as I was climbing one of the longer but less steep hills, I was going faster than I had done previously on this same climb. I had just finished telling myself how great and super-fast I had become, only to have a guy come up from behind me and whizz past. Like seriously he was going about double my supersonic speed. That can only mean one thing: even my supersonic speed is slow.
Sometime in January I saw a guy at the gym swimming pool who I know does triathlons. He had, like me, just finished doing his own drill sessions in the pool. He was working really hard. I said hi and started to talk to him. I’m training because I have a couple of hard-core events I’ve registered myself for this year. I thought maybe he was booked into some stuff too and thought I’d find out what he was training for. It turns out that his current training, probably double what I do with double the effort and double the speed, is only to maintain a base level of fitness. He’ll decide later what events he wants to book himself into. I felt almost a fool. Who am I to think I might be able to do stuff?
I’m going to keep going, though. I might be slower than all these people. I might be weaker. I might keep getting injured. But I have strong resolve.
It’s not always easy to actually believe the following, but I do try: I’m not in it to be better than others. I’m in it to be better than myself.
I do try.
All you can ever do is try your best.
When I was in my early 30s, I was walking up a 2km long trail that goes up to the top a 500 meter high hill. It’s a short, intense workout. I made my best time of 21 minutes….And an 88 year old man passed me…..
I have so many stories like that. When I ran my first 10km race, there were only two people who crossed the finish line behind me among at least 100 others who participated. Among all the people who beat me was a man who clearly suffered at some time semi-recently from a stroke. He limped happily way ahead of me.
The good news is that I’m definitely faster now than I was then. And I usually finish around the middle of my age group.
It hurt my pride–doing what I thought was so well, yet passed by someone so old.
Now that I’m older, I hope I can be like that man.