Sport

A rambling post about training

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. (more…)

Injuries: There’s always a way

In a few days time, a full year will have passed since I fell from my bike and dislocated my shoulder on a short training trip in Belgium. The following months were awful: I had chronic pain and rather than heal, my shoulder got worse. Eventually I was told that I had frozen shoulder. It was affecting everything. No matter how close I held my shoulder to my body, running led to shoulder pain so I had to stop. Cycling and swimming were out of the question. I couldn’t even drive. I was saved by a shoulder operation to break away the scar tissue that had formed inside my joint, preventing it from moving. Then I had to deal with weeks on end of real, chronic pain and physiotherapy. But I was determined to get better and to keep as much of the range in my shoulder joint as possible. That meant persevering with the painful, daily exercises.

The operation was in January this year. Since then, I did lots of training and participated in three triathlons, two of them Olympic-distance. I probably reached the fittest I had ever been. I recall saying the exact same thing just after I dislocated my shoulder and feeling utterly distressed because of all the fitness I would lose for lack of continuity in training. It’s different now. I’ve had a knee injury since the beginning of August and a shin splint just wanting to make a guest appearance on the Nadia show. Both of them have meant that I had to become very conservative in my training and when that didn’t make them go away, I stopped running, cycling and any gym-related work that put pressure/stress on my knee.

Now, that shoulder that kept me from doing anything at all not so long ago is one of the few things that’s allowing me to keep active.  (more…)

The unsexiness of triathlon training

It’s 6:20 in the morning. It’s still dark outside. I’ve already had my usual breakfast – porridge with raisins – and I’m leisurely drinking my tea to get my single caffeine fix of the day. Soon, I’ll be getting dressed to go to the gym where I’ll head first to the pool for an 800 meter swim and then to the gym floor where my personal trainer will pulverize my legs and get my heart pumping at supersonic speeds. Then, and this is the trick, I have to find enough energy to get through a shitload of a workday.

I love a challenge. It’s my love for challenges that drives so much of the choices I’ve made in the past eight years. Participating in a triathlon is challenging. But it comes nowhere near as challenging as the lonely, boring and tiresome months upon months of training that precede it. I don’t love the training. I do love challenging myself to become hard-core. Going out for a two-to-three hour bike ride or a one-to-two hour run in the freezing rain is hard-core. It takes a tremendous amount of mental strength to get up extra early in the morning, already tired from yesterday’s training, and jump into a cold lake or even a warm swimming pool. It takes lots of mistakes and injuries to start figuring out when your body really needs a rest or you’ll just end up hurting yourself AGAIN or if you’re just being a wimp and get your sorry ass out there and just do it!

I have tons of inner conversations. (more…)

The amateur triathlete’s support team

It all started in 2013. I was training for a hike in the Andes in Peru. Then, while on a visit back home

At the end of my last Olympic triathlon this past August, I began feeling a minor knee pain. But by golly it felt great to sprint past a young, good-looking guy to cross the finish line!

At the end of my last Olympic triathlon this past August, I began feeling a minor knee pain. But by golly it felt great to sprint past a young, good-looking guy to cross the finish line!

in Cairo, I over-enthusiastically joined a group of runners on a 16km run. That day, I got the knee pain. Not long afterwards, I went on a hike in the Sinai mountains. I came down the mountain limping.

It was shortly after that when I got back to the UK that I started visiting a physiotherapist and discovered there was a world of knowledge I was unaware of in the field of sport. Six years of medical training and several years of dabbling in a variety of workouts and sports did not mean I had a grip on what I needed to do to get fit, keep fit, prevent injuries and deal with them when they came.

That was when I first really understood what iliotibial band syndrome was. Later, as I started training earnestly for a marathon, I discovered shin splints. Not that I hadn’t had them before, mind you. I just hadn’t realized what that pain in my lower leg was before.

But it was really only after I dislocated my shoulder after a fall from my bike while touring in Belgium that I slowly began to put together my full “athlete’s support team”. (more…)

Super Triathlete: Congratulations! You beat yourself!

I am SO tired.

The pictures from today's triathlon haven't come out yet, so here's one from my last triathlon.

The pictures from today’s triathlon haven’t come out yet, so here’s one from my last triathlon.

It feels GREAT.

Today I finished my 2nd Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) and I SMASHED it.

I only started doing triathlons last spring. I never would have even considered doing them had I not watched my husband do one the year before. Before that, I thought people who did triathlons must be MAD. When I saw my husband do one, I thought, “That looks like so much fun!” I was very anxious before my first sprint triathlon last spring (400m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run). But the moment I got out of the water (it was a pool swim), I was absolutely loving it! It was like I had finally found my sport.

I did a few sprints last spring/summer and then another sprint at the beginning of June this year. That June one was when I did my first open water (lake) swim. I cried on the way there because I was so anxious about swimming in a lake and not having a pool wall to touch every 30-50 meters (depending on the pool size). It wasn’t easy at all and I had to breaststroke through much of it. But since then I joined the local triathlon club and started going to their weekly lake swims. I hate the cold water but I’m now perfectly fine with the continuous swim. It can still be a bit of a mind-fuck. I get REALLY bored. I don’t always see the buoys. The sun sometimes blinds me and I have no idea if I’m going in the right direction. But I get it done without crying.

I did my first Olympic triathlon this past July, almost immediately after Ramadan. I only signed up for it about a week before the race. I trained throughout Ramadan despite the fasting, but not with a triathlon in mind. I was training only to maintain fitness. Luckily, the distances I was trying to maintain for swimming and running were close to Olympic triathlon distances. I was only doing half the cycle distances while fasting because more than 20km while fasting is too much of a challenge. I did everything possible to take in enough calories and fluids when I broke my fast every day. But by the end of the month, I’ll have to admit I was a bit depleted. I still did my first Olympic triathlon very shortly after. And I did really really well compared to my abilities.

But today, TODAY, dude, I completely smashed through all my own expectations. (more…)

The “mental” triathlete: understanding the craziness

I admit it’s not an easy thing to understand.

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon last year.

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon last year.

Why do it, if it causes you so much anxiety?

Why do it, if you don’t seem to enjoy it?

Why do it, if it comes with so much pain?

Yesterday, as I headed out the door to go on my weekly longish bike ride I felt like I wanted to cry. I was feeling cold and I was sick of the cold. I’m generally burnt out (I’m in desperate need of a holiday) and tired. I’d much rather just laze about under a warm blanket and watch crap TV on my comfortable couch.

This morning I forced myself out of bed, got dressed, foam-rolled my legs to try to wake them up, and instead of taking my time to say hello to the world by eating breakfast in my robe and getting some caffeine into my system, I ran out the door to do my medium-length weekly run.

When I was cycling across Europe two years ago, I blogged a lot about my daily anxieties; so much so that a friend asked, “Are you sure you should be doing this?”

The answer is yes.

I can think of a few reasons why.

Most importantly, I refuse to allow anxiety and an inner tendency towards laziness to take over my life.  (more…)

A day in the life of a PMSing triathlete

Today, Nadia woke up with full-blown PMS. Her energy levels were below zero and her brain failed to function. Even so, she managed to make herself breakfast, drink her morning cup of tea, and write an overdue article – barely.

Nadia had much more work that needed to be done, but the overdue article turned out to be the

I'm not the most attractive when I'm triathleting.

I’m not the most attractive when I’m triathleting.

limit of her work-related ability for the day. So she slumped onto her favorite (only) couch and turned the television on to Come Dine With Me.

Nadia was certain she’d have to send her personal trainer a note, apologizing for not being able to make her 1:45pm appointment at the gym. “There’s no way that’s going to work,” she told herself.

But like a robot, at 1:15 she forced herself off the couch, up the stairs and lazily got into her gym clothes.

At exactly 1:30, she opened the house door, gym bag in hand, and was shocked to find the car wasn’t in the drive.

FUUUUUUUUUUUCK! she yelled to herself. You see, Nadia had forgotten that she herself had taken the car to the mechanic just the day before.

“I DO NOT want to have to walk to the gym on a day like today!” she proclaimed. She had no energy! She was PMSing! The whole world was conspiring against her!

She threw her duffle bag on the floor and decided, “If I’m fucking going to have to walk to the gym, I’m turning this into this week’s short run. I am not wasting all that energy for nothing!” And so it was. Nadia ended up running to the gym (it’s a short run). (more…)

Smashing the UK national three-peak challenge

Ever since I was a little girl…

…is NOT where the story of this next grand adventure begins.

In fact, I can think of only one grand adventure of mine (which happened not to be sport or activity related) that originated in my childhood. I’m constantly coming up with new dreams and new ideas for adventures.

This story actually starts here:

I'm not sure which mountain this was taken on. The backgrounds in our pictures on all three summits are almost identical. Let's just say it was bleak.

I’m not sure which mountain this was taken on. The backgrounds in our pictures on all three summits are almost identical. Let’s just say it was bleak.

Ever since about four years ago when I first heard of the UK’s national three-peaks challenge, I’ve wanted to give it a go.

I have no idea who thought of this idea or when. I’m not even going to look it up to tell you about it because to me, that part is irrelevant. The national three-peaks challenge is about hiking up the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in a period of 24 hours.

It’s not an official race. There are no official times. There aren’t marshals or registration forms. There’s no one to announce you’ve accomplished the task. There are no certificates at the end or event T-shirts. There isn’t a specific day to do it, although I hear throngs of people choose to do it on June 21, the longest day of the year.

You just go out and do it.

I’ve been nagging my husband ever since I heard of this being “a thing” that we go and do it ourselves. He had already done it twice. He wasn’t enthusiastic in any way to do it a third time. I couldn’t understand why. My husband is huge on physical activities and challenges. But after four years of nagging and an opportune relatively free summer, he obliged.

He put together a team of five. It’s better to have a few people with you because the challenge involves an incredible amount of driving. Only days before our set date, two of the five pulled out, leaving us with a small team of three: me, my husband, and one of his work colleagues who also, it just so happens, was our third team member on our grand cycle from London to Paris in three days only three years ago.

I knew the national three-peaks challenge would be challenging. It wouldn’t be called a challenge otherwise. (more…)

Cycling and looking the part

It’s not like I don’t do anything else in my life. But for some reason, cycling inspires me to blog. I can’t

The bike that got me places

The bike that got me places

help myself. The whole time I’m cycling I’m composing a blog post in my head. The thoughts just flow. None of them are serious thoughts. I can’t think about serious stuff when I cycle. That is one of the biggest blessings about cycling: none of the serious stuff seems serious at all when I’m on my bike.

I’ve been convinced for quite some time now that the main reason I’m not getting faster as a cyclist is that I need a faster bike. Have you seen the bikes the pros ride? Do you think they look anything like my bike besides the fact that they have two wheels, bars, a seat and a frame? Have you tried picking up a pro’s bike? You can do it with your pinkie finger! My bike isn’t the heaviest bike in the world, but it sure isn’t as light as real cyclists’ bikes.

BUT have you seen the prices of the bikes the pros ride? You could get a nice car for a similar amount of money. So buying a really really good bike is out of the question for me. I CAN save up for a bike slightly better than the one I have now, though.

Having said that, my current bike has taken me safely across Europe. It’s a GREAT bike. It’s dealt with falls, getting packed on planes, and a rider who doesn’t really know how to upkeep it.

Anyway, since I can’t currently afford to buy a new bike but I still want to become a faster cyclist, I decided the next best thing would be to buy two new wheels. (more…)

The challenges of the inconvenient pee

I have very predictable pee schedules. I can get through much of the day without having to go to the toilet very often. Then I go to bed and I have to get up at least twice during the night to pee. Then morning comes and I eat my bowl of oatmeal and have a single cup of tea. That leads to peeing in copious quantities every half an hour for the next three hours or thereabouts.

This makes my life generally difficult. It makes travelling and training pure hell.

Who doesn’t leave their hotel first thing in the morning after breakfast to start their sightseeing? Everyone does that. I do that. But it means that I’m stopping the people with me every half hour to find a toilet until I’m past the critical period of multiple pees. It also means that when I was cycling across Europe, in need of very early starts to get my cycling done as early as possible during the day, I was stopping at the side of the road all the time to pee. I don’t even want to think about the number of people who might have seen my exposed rear end. I try to hide myself away but, seriously, how hidden can you ever be on the side of a major road, for example? It also means getting up at least twice in the middle of freezing cold nights to pee while camping.

Yesterday I had to get my run done early in the morning because I had other things that needed to get done the rest of the day. Do you know how irritating it is to feel an exaggerated sense of needing to pee with every single stomp of your feet on the ground? It’s AWFUL. But I persevered. (more…)