Remembering January 25

I haven’t been able to write much about Egypt’s revolution in the past few years. I have 167242_494564512476_3077619_nbeen too traumatized. But today I find myself in need of acknowledging the day, January 25 of 2011, when it all started. I need to assert that I was there. I was on the tarmac when it all happened. I was part of it from start to finish. And now it is a part of me, for better or for worse.

My husband, a Scot, asked me two days ago whether I regret the revolution happening. Are things better or worse, he asked. They are worse, I said. But the country’s political, economic and security situations can’t be the only measure of our revolution’s success. We failed in all that. We were ready to revolt. But we weren’t prepared to take charge. We simply didn’t have the wherewithal. I vividly remember thinking the day after Mubarak resigned: I’ve done my job. We’ve removed the dictator. Now I need to leave the rest to the politicians who know how to take this forward. But they didn’t. The “good ones” squabbled amongst them, leaving room for the baddies to move in quickly and spread more evil than we had ever seen.

Despite all that, despite everything the country is going through, the revolution was not a total failure and I will never regret taking part in it. (more…)

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Training: Turning off the stubbornness

I have never been able to understand people who are all lovey-dovey about their

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I like to think my stubbornness gene has been active since childhood.

training. You know; the people who are on a constant high because they live a life of “activity”. The ones who wake up cheerfully at 5:30AM in the morning because they are about to go out for a 5km run in the freezing cold. The people who talk incessantly about how great their four-hour bike rides make them feel. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for them. But those feelings they have are something I have never experienced and I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have them.

I am the kind of person who wakes up at 5:30AM and thinks: But I just want to go back to sleep! I am the kind of person who never really learned to enjoy pain, and I find running in particular quite painful and thus not enjoyable. I am the kind of person who hates the cold, so jumping in an 18C lake for open water swim training is simply a miserable experience. I am the kind of person who can sometimes enjoy a bike ride, as long as I’m going at my own comfortable pace, I’m not expected to push myself, and I don’t have to ascend or descend too many hills, or to keep going for too long.

When I explained all this in a blog post once while I was training for my Ironman, and then shared said blog post in a Facebook group for people training for an Ironman for the first time, I got a lecture from an Ironman coach in that group saying something along the lines of: Well if you don’t enjoy it, maybe this isn’t for you. You shouldn’t do things just because other people do them.

That woman made me very very upset that day.

We are not all alike. We don’t all get lovey-dovey about training. Some of us find training extremely difficult both mentally and physically. But we do it because we recognize the value in keeping fit. And we book ourselves into events because they give us goal posts to aim for in our mission to keep ourselves fit. We are the people who hate the training, but love the benefits we reap from doing it. We are the people who have learned that we can do things that we really don’t want to do because we know they are good for us in the long run and that they will get us to our ultimate goals. We are the people who take these lessons from our training and are able to extrapolate them into other aspects of our lives.

Because I find training so challenging and not enjoyable, I have to turn my stubbornness gene on to full volume, especially when I need to train hard for an upcoming event. (more…)

The Unclimbing

I may not have summited the mountain, but I did discover the amazing wonders of the pee bottle.

I would not have thought it possible for women. I’ve long heard about men peeing in

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The view from our tent at basecamp (4,300 meters).

bottles while on the road and I was always envious. With years of camping, hiking, and cycling under my belt, I had become accustomed to the quick squat behind a bush and getting my business done. When I set up my tent on a campground, I always made certain it wasn’t too far away from the toilets. I’m the type that gets up at least twice during the night to pee; more during the winter when I’m cold. It’s a bother getting up, getting dressed, unzipping the tent, going to the toilet, coming back, unzipping then rezipping the tent, undressing, then getting into my sleeping bag. But what was I to do? If you have to pee you have to pee.

But on Aconcagua, Latin America’s highest mountain, I learned that it is very possible for a woman to pee in the comfort of her own tent into a wide-mouthed Nalgene water bottle with perfect aim. Of course, this means peeing in the same tiny confined space that your tent mate is sleeping in; that same tent mate that you only met for the first time three days ago. But does that matter? No! Not one single bit. Not when you don’t have to go outside into the freezing cold to pee in a dark, smelly toilet. Not when you can get your business done in seconds and quickly snuggle back into your warm sleeping bag. Besides, who wants to watch someone else pee? No one. So all you really need to worry about is others hearing the sound of a water bottle filling up with liquid. Actually, your real concern is peeing in your actual water bottle instead of your designated pee bottle. That is why the pee bottle gets taped up with duct tape that you can clearly feel in the dark to distinguish it from your other bottles.

The pee bottle is one of my most important takeaways from an extravagantly expensive trip up part of a mountain.

Aconcagua beat the crap out of me. (more…)

Here she goes again: But why, oh, why?

Today was one of those mornings. I woke up thinking: Why on EARTH do I keep doing this to myself?

As usual, at the time when I booked this trip, I thought it was a totally inspired idea. And also as usual, now that I’m about to set off on it, all I can think is that I hate traveling. I hate change. I just want to sit on the couch at home and do nothing.

Of course, when I sit on the couch with nothing to do, I am so incredibly bored with how

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If you happen to see a woman struggling to carry these through the London underground, PLEASE offer her a helping hand. Otherwise, I have no idea how this is even happening.

routine my life has become that I book myself onto trips like the one I’m about to go on today.

Something must be wrong with me.

Well, whether I’m totally sane or completely bonkers, I have no choice now but to set off on another epic journey. (more…)

Learning I don’t always need to be super-Nadia

Oh, those mood swings. Up and down, up and down. I wish there was a “straightforward” way around them.

Back in my Ironman-training days—now long gone, I promise you—I started seeing the race as such a scary monster that I needed to do something about it. So I booked another event for myself three months after the Ironman. It would be something I could look forward to and it would mean that no matter what happened in the race itself, whether I finished it or not, all that training would not have gone to waste. For the last two months before the race, I could tell myself that I was training to keep fit for everything that was to come. I wasn’t “just” training for a race.

Post-Ironman, however, my body was really in need of a break. My MIND was in need of a break. I hadn’t realized while I was training just how much pressure I was putting on myself to do every single training session exactly the way my triathlon coach had prescribed, AND to keep up with work without anyone thinking that I was falling behind because I was doing a crazy race. I made sure never to mention my Ironman training to the people I worked with (well, hardly ever). It was not going to be used as an excuse for falling behind. So I just never fell behind. (more…)

Reflections Ten Days Post-Ironman

This past year, I have been a member of a Facebook group that was set up by the

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I spent one of my recovery days just walking around Girona, Italy. If you ask me, THAT is what living life is all about.

Ironman brand organizers for people who registered to do an Ironman for the first time. Can you believe that about 70% of the participants in Ironman Barcelona 2017 had done an Ironman before? The more I have spoken with people, the more I have discovered that lots of people get hooked on the race. Some people do more than one Ironman race in a single year!

The Facebook group was really helpful. Being a complete novice, it was helpful for me to see how other people trained, what their plans were for what to wear during the race (one piece vs two piece), how they planned to go to the toilet (stop at a port-a-potty vs peeing on oneself while cycling/running…yes, that seems to actually be quite common), what their nutrition plans were for the race, etc. Once people in the group participated in the various Ironman races around the world, many posted reports on how their races went, most of them successful but some not. It was as inspiring to hear the stories of those who crossed the finish line as it was to hear the stories of those who did not. In both cases, a tremendous effort was had, sacrifices were made, and strength and determination shone brightly. There was so much to learn from every story.

As my race day neared, my nerves began to fall apart. During the major part of my training I was able to keep my mind focused on getting through one session at a time. I didn’t need to think about “the race”. I just needed to get through a training session. I could do that. Tapering began three weeks before the race. I started feeling fatigued. The race was also suddenly becoming so much more of a reality, which frightened the heck out of me.

It was around this time that someone in the Ironman beginners’ Facebook group wrote that he finished his race, but he wasn’t feeling, like others had expressed, that he had done something absolutely amazing. I think lots of people took that in a negative way. But when I read his post my immediate thought was, “I want that! That’s how I want to feel about this race!”  (more…)

I’ve always been an ironman

People who do Ironman races are not iron men. They are normal people just like you and me, but with an ironclad determination that can move mountains. Find that determination within you and you will move mountains too.

It was the most difficult part of the race by far. I had already done the 3.8 kilometer swim

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Walking on air in those final steps on the red carpet across the finish line of Ironman Barcelona 2017.

and the 180 kilometer bike ride. Now, “all” I had left was a 42 kilometer run. I was tired. I was sweating in the Spanish humidity like a pig. I really wanted to get out of my tri-suit, which I had been wearing now for more than ten hours, and jump into a shower. My quads were cramping in a way that made me think they might soon snap off of my knee bones. Even so, I found myself thinking, “This really isn’t all that hard!”

I realize how ridiculous that sounds. But what it really meant at the time was that I felt that the training I had done during the months before the race had prepared me well. I didn’t feel anything I didn’t expect to. Most importantly, I was able to keep going.

The real Ironman experience, I believe, is in the months before the actual race. (more…)

Overcoming yet another fear

I have spent the past few months disciplining myself to do things I find very difficult

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My Ironman race bib number.

and/or unpleasant. “Mind over matter” has been one of my many mantras. “I can do this” has been another, and “Just a few more minutes”, “Just a few more laps”, and “Just a few more kilometres” have been others.

I have been teaching myself not to fear the water, not to fear pain, not to fear exhaustion. And I have been telling myself I should not fear failure.

It is that fear of failure that has prompted me to write today. While I was doing a 50-minute intense treadmill session this morning, and doing it well, my mind was in complete self-defeat mode. Something inside of me was telling me that no matter what I did, I still wasn’t good enough.

The other Nadia inside of me has decided enough is enough.

On September 30, in less than three weeks from today, I will be standing on the start line of Ironman Barcelona.

For those of you who don’t know, an Ironman race involves a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km cycle followed by a 42km run, all within a specified period of time.  (more…)

Me and my second-grade crush

My second-grade crush has appeared in my dreams ever since I was seven. It’s not an

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The little girl who never really grew up.

everyday thing, of course. I have other things I need to frequently dream about as well: like walking into my high school and not remembering my locker combination, or wandering round and round my high school’s halls because I have absolutely no idea what classes I’m meant to attend. Those recurrent dreams cast themselves as ghoulish nightmares.

But my second-grade-crush dreams are always warm and fuzzy. I couldn’t tell you what happens in those dreams. I don’t remember. I’ll remember for a few minutes after I wake up, but then the dream gently wafts away, leaving a happy feeling inside of me. I couldn’t even tell you for certain how old my second-grade crush is in those dreams. I went to school with second-grade crush on and off until I was about 16. He was the cutest little boy in the second grade. But man oh man was he a dashing young fella at 16. I think I probably see 16-year-old second-grade-crush in those dreams.  (more…)

The real satisfaction in training

Man, can perspectives change in a relatively short period of time!

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon-involving a pool swim. This shit is HARD.

Yesterday evening I was feeling very tired. I’ve had weeks of hard training. Yesterday wasn’t any different. I did my morning gym session, came home to get some work done, then went back out for a very long bike fitting session to try to solve some of my on-going leg pain issues. I REALLY didn’t want to have to go to the lake for a swim. I was tired. I was cranky. It was dark and cloudy outside. But I’ve told myself that I was going to do everything possible to do all my training as best I could for the event that I am due to take part in in about five weeks time. My husband saw that I was tired and told me not to push too hard. I responded, “I’ve decided that I’ll only do four laps of the lake if I’m not feeling up to it.”

I’ll only do just four laps. That’s 1.8km. ONLY. My husband let out a “Ha! Times have changed!”

In May 2016, just over a year ago, we were driving towards another lake where I was going to participate in a triathlon for the first time that involved an open water swim. The few triathlons I had done before that involved pool swims. I cried the whole way there from anxiety. (more…)