bike

Sport and my mental health

I have suffered from anxiety for years. It’s the kind of anxiety that I can usually keep at

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Feeling happy and relaxed after a day out on the bike.

bay. Most people won’t realize I have it because I hide it relatively well. Instead of thinking: Oh, she’s anxious; people probably just think: Huh. She’s a bit of an odd one.

Sport has played a huge role in helping me manage my anxiety. No matter how bad I’m feeling, if I can just get myself out that door and go on a run, for example, I know that my anxiety or stress will almost immediately dissipate.

I have found that the rhythm of sport—of running, of cycling, of hiking, of swimming—puts my mind almost magically at ease. Sport and my daily prayers are my form of meditation. They are how I cut myself off from the daily grind and tear myself away from one screen or the other, if even for a few minutes, to clear my head and start anew.

There’s a “but” coming up.

But, recently, as I’ve felt myself less and less able to manage my stress and anxiety as successfully as I have at times in the past, I’ve been reviewing my lifestyle choices to try to find ways to improve things. (more…)

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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…)

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…)

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…)

The cycling fall that was bound to happen

It was bound to happen.

If I was going to traipse around the world, hiking, cycling, marathoning, and triathloning, I was bound to

The day after the fall, making our way to Amsterdam by train instead of bike.

The day after the fall, making our way to Amsterdam by train instead of bike.

hurt myself somehow.

It comes with the territory. You can take as many precautions and reduce the risks as much as possible, but you can’t prevent the inevitable.

Living life is a risk. Sitting in a moving vehicle is a risk. Heck, spending most of your time in a chair in front of a TV or a computer is even more of a long-term risk than any hiking, cycling, gyming or marathoning I might be doing. Do I need to remind you about obesity, diabetes, heart disease and all the other myriad risks of sedentary living?

What was bound to happen? My bike wheel got caught in a tram track—you know, those huge, menacing, gaping linear holes in the ground present in many modern European streets. I fell—my right arm outstretched—and as I hit the ground the first thing I was aware of was that my shoulder had popped out of its socket. The second thing I did was to look behind me and make sure I wasn’t in the way of cars (or an oncoming tram). I wasn’t. I slowly pulled myself up from my strewn position on the road in downtown Brussels and as I did, my shoulder slipped back into its socket. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 33: The Small Stuff

We haven’t yet discussed the bug situation.

I'm starting to think Italians have a thing about leaning towers. The Duomo in Portogruaro.

I’m starting to think Italians have a thing about leaning towers. The Duomo in Portogruaro.

You know how when you’re driving, insects manage to smash themselves in your windshield sometimes? Or how flying geese smash into the windshields of planes? Same thing happens while cycling. Except that it’s all kinds of flying bugs smashing into your face. And if you’re wearing sunscreen, like I do, they stick. Or if you’re breathing with your mouth open, they fly inside. I had a paroxysm of coughing today while cycling because a bug went straight into my windpipe. Sometimes they fly right between the openings in your helmet into your hair. Because I’m camping sometimes on this trip, I’m getting a double dose of bugs. I have to admit I’ve come to like the little critters. They are my company since I’m all alone these days. We’ve figured out how to get along with each other.

In Spain, everywhere I cycled I saw so many little creatures crossing the roads. I would think that if drivers knew what was happening under their tires, they wouldn’t be driving at all. I was constantly swerving to avoid killing bugs and caterpillars. I haven’t seen many bugs on the roads in Italy, though. I wonder if Italian bugs just have more “street smarts” than Spanish bugs by avoiding roads altogether.

I had another road sign situation today. I was cycling out of Treviso and heading towards Portogruaro. The signs said while still inside Treviso that Oderzo, a town en route to Portogruaro, was 24km away and that Portogruaro was 54km away. I thought that was perfect. I’d have a short cycling day again. Couldn’t ask for better. But as I cycled towards Oderzo and got nearer to it, eventually seeing a sign that said it was 19km away, Portogruaro was moving away from me no matter how hard I tried to get closer. When Oderzo was 19km away, Portogruaro was STILL 54km away. It seems that I eventually was able to pick up enough speed to be faster than Portogruaro. It was actually 65km away from Treviso. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 19: El-Awady Galactica

Every day it’s pretty much same ol’ same ol’. There’s hardly any point telling the story

It was an especially beautiful morning in the galaxy today.

It was an especially beautiful morning in the galaxy today.

anymore. It’s getting old.

Captain Nadia El-Awady, now the elder of the El-Awady clan after their father passed away (ألف رحمة ونور عليه) and thus the captain, quickly downs her breakfast before she begins her work for the day. She takes her seat at the helm of El-Awady Galactica, a small ship that in no way properly represents the greatness of the El-Awadys. It does, on the other hand, reflect their sense of humility.

As Captain Nadia steers her way through the galaxy – as one does – she receives a red alert from Little Man In My Head, her constant companion (one of a multitude).

“Warning! Warning! Meteor shower approaches from the northwest!” shouts Little Man with his very big voice.

The meteor shower threatens to push the Galactica off course. It is severe today and we are heading right towards it.

(more…)

Nadia’s Maniacal Plan to Conquer Europe by Bike

Tomorrow is the day I set off for Lisbon, Portugal. I might not get to see much of it, which is quite disappointing every time I

A Facebook follower was very generous in helping me design this for a tshirt after my husband and I cycled from London to Paris last year.

A Facebook follower was very generous in helping me design this for a tshirt after my husband and I cycled from London to Paris last year.

think of it.

I’m freaking out. I spent most of the second half of yesterday holding back tears. I’m so scared. And for the gazillionth time I asked myself, “Why I am doing this?”

On the train on my way back home from a short wedding anniversary trip to London, I posted the following on Facebook (feel free to follow me on FB but I will have to apologize for not accepting friend requests) as my mind went round and round and round:

Questions that will soon be answered:

1. Can I enjoy myself when completely on my own? As in COMPLETELY on my own.

2. Can I motivate myself when I’m ready to give up?

3. When faced with a problem I do not know how to solve, is my solution to just break down and cry? (Yes is the answer to this one)

4. Can I be the kind of tourist who does ABSOLUTELY no shopping (except for food) for quite a long time?

5. How long can my back last sleeping on the ground?

6. How long can I last without a shattafa?

7. How much pain can I REALLY handle?

8. How long can I go without soap and clean clothes?

9. How much do I REALLY enjoy nature?

10. How long can I go without getting my eyebrows done without looking like an ape?

I have a very contradictive personality. I’m superstitious. I don’t want to tell people about my plans in case it jinxes it. I fear their collective evil eye. Yet I am, at the same time, a compulsive sharer. I want to be able to write about my plans and my experiences. It helps me process through my thoughts much better than keeping them to myself in my head. And I will not lie: I also need the support and encouragement of my friends.

So I’m just going to get it out there and tell you about this trip I’ve been planning for the past few months. If anything bad happens before, during, or after the trip, I’ll lay it on YOU, the reader, for your evil eye. So before you read any further, cleanse your heart, purify your thoughts, and send me nothing but good vibes. (more…)

London to Paris Cycle 2013

Part I: The Training

When my husband first told me that he was thinking of getting a few guys from the office together to cycle from London to Paris, my

Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!

Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!

first thought was, “Who does crazy stuff like that?” The words that came out of my mouth were, “Can I join?”

I hardly had any experience cycling but that was not going to hold me back. I bought a cheap mountain bike in Egypt just before I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009. I cycled a few times in Cairo as part of my training for the climb. That training consisted of leisurely cycling on flat road for no longer than half an hour at a time. I did not think it was leisurely then, of course. I now know what real training means. (more…)