training

Battling self through a half Ironman: A superman like no other

“Of COURSE, you can do this,” I told myself. “Not only can you do this, you can beat your

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One second before crossing the finish line and breaking down into an ugly sob about how hard that race was.

time from last year.”

That’s how I convinced myself to stand at the start line of a half-Ironman distance event called the Outlaw Holkham Half in Norfolk (1.8km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) with very little relevant training.

I registered for the event last year, shortly after finishing my Ironman last September in a time that surpassed any of my expectations. Since then, I travelled frequently, fasted the month of Ramadan, went through a few bouts of therapy-worthy depression and anxiety, and lacked a general motivation to put in the necessary time to train for a half Ironman-distance event. So with a month to go before the event, I was telling myself that I might as well just pull out. I hadn’t trained for it and it was ridiculous to even give it a try.  (more…)

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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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Training: losing sight of the big picture

It’s very easy to get so caught up in one’s training for an event that one loses sight of the

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It’s not about the event. But crossing that finish line sure does feel great when it happens! (This picture is from a past event).

big picture.

That “one” being moi.

I’ve been training for an event for months. Like so many others, I’ve put in a significant amount of time, effort and money to get myself to this event. The waking up early to do a training session before you start the workday. The going out in the evenings for a run or a swim in a freezing cold lake when all you want to do is sink into a couch to relax after a hard day of work. The visits to doctors and physiotherapists – and all the moolah that involves – in order to try to figure out what the heck is wrong with your foot and shin. The new gear – and all the money that involves – because it’s better than your old gear and might give you just a bit of a chance to finish your event. We invest A LOT in order to get ourselves to that start line.

But things intervene. Life intervenes. Family intervenes. Illness intervenes. Injuries intervene. And sometimes all we can think is: But this can’t happen! I need to train! I’ve already invested so much!

Just thinking that the event is the priority and everything else is an “intervention” or a hindrance is twisted. It’s TWISTED. (more…)

The Ramadan Workout Final Report

For all intents and purposes, my Ramadan this year is over. That means I can sit back

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Because this is how I THINK I look while swimming in open water.

and reflect on what was a relatively intense training schedule while fasting this year.

Ramadan officially ends near the end of this coming week. But women don’t fast when they get their periods. There are other exceptions as well: those who are too ill don’t fast, and travelers don’t have to either. I feel fortunate to be a pre-menopausal woman. Sadly, that can’t last for much longer.

I’ve been exercising during Ramadan for a few years now. Every year I’ve pushed it just a little bit more than the previous year. The gradual progression has helped me understand my limits; or rather figure out just how far I can actually go.

This year was a particularly challenging year because I have a couple of important (to me) long distance events that require lots of training. I just couldn’t afford to pull back on the training too much for a significant amount of time. But I did need to pull it back enough to make sure I didn’t hurt or deplete myself. (more…)