triathlon

The Michael Phelps in me

I get so frustrated with my selves. In my head, I’m the magical combination of a Michael Phelps, a Mo Farah, and a Chris Froome. Yesterday, for example, I was doing a long distance open water swim. Less than a year ago, I was literally crying as we were driving towards a lake in which I was set to swim a mere 400m. During that swim, I couldn’t catch my breath most of the time from anxiety. I had to front crawl a bit, breast stroke a bit, then tread water a bit while I calmed myself down. Now I can swim 2km with very little trouble at all. I’ll still get small bouts of anxiety if a wave splashes water into my throat or I find myself swimming over ten jelly fish, but I’ve taught myself to control the anxiety, calm down, and just keep going. So here I am yesterday doing my sea swim and thinking: I’ll bet the people on the beach think we’re so cool. I’ll bet they are wondering how we’re so fast. Then, as I scramble out of the water and onto the beach, my daughter says, “Mama, why were you swimming so slowly?”

The Michael Phelps in me was NOT happy with that comment.

That’s how it always is. I’ll be running and thinking the people on the roads must think I’m an Olympic athlete training for Tokyo. Then someone significantly older than me flies past.

I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to anyone else. My focus needs to be on making my today self stronger and faster than my last year self.

Someone tell that to Michael Phelps, please. He’s really starting to irritate me.

Adventures and races: embracing the dread

I find it very difficult (impossible, actually) to understand people who say they really enjoy

I think this was after my first triathlon. I wasn’t even happy AFTERWARDS here.

training. I also find it very difficult (impossible, really) to understand people who get all giddy about and at races they are participating in.

Mind you, I can completely understand that going to a gym class three times a week and meeting up with the gals afterwards for coffee is a truly enjoyable experience. I also can completely understand how going to a running club twice a week and running with people at a pace you can hold a conversation at is really fun.

Those levels of effort are not the ones I’m talking about.

I’m talking about people who train for marathons, triathlons, ultramarathons, ironman races, or arduous adventures (like kayaking across the ocean or climbing really high mountains) and who are constantly going on about how enjoyable their training is. Or you go to the event and they are all bouncy and smiley just before. What the f#$@ are they all happy about? I ask myself incredulously. We’re about to put ourselves through hell! How the heck is that exciting? (more…)

Training me…and me

“WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO MEEEEEE?” yelled the complainer, thrashing her arms and pounding her legs on the ground. “I’M SICK AND TIRED OF IT ALLLLL!” Had there been others, she’d have made quite a public scene. Fortunately, as always, they were alone.

“You know very well why I keep doing this. Now, when you’re done throwing your little tantrum, you will get up, put on your running clothes, do your warm-up drills, and get out there and run,” said the wiser one, very matter-of-factly.

Sometimes the wiser one makes the complainer go swimming at 6:30 in the morning. Other times she makes her go cycling in pelting, freezing rain. She’s a relentless slave driver. Just as the complainer never gives up on her whining.

My training is probably more of a head battle than anything else. (more…)

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…)

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…)

The Mystery of the Tightening Sports Bra

Old picture. But I think it’s important to add pictures to blog posts. So this will have to do.

Last week, while on my 2.5-hour bike ride, I noticed that my sports bra felt tighter than usual. This was a problem because, as I began a very long and steep uphill climb, it felt like my thoracic movements were limited (i.e. I couldn’t expand my lungs as far as they needed to go to get in the amount of air I needed to breathe up that fucking hill!).

It was extremely irritating. Since I didn’t have much else to think about on that ride (all the actually important things never seem as important while I’m cycling), I went into a state of deep contemplation as to what might be the reason behind the fact that the bra felt tighter.

Initially, I thought that I might have just clipped it up to the tighter hooks. My right shoulder is still healing from a dislocated shoulder, followed by a frozen shoulder, followed by a shoulder operation. For weeks, it was completely impossible for me to hook up a sports bra on my own. Do you realize that most sports bras are the kind with criss-cross shoulder and back straps?? Why is that?? When my shoulder froze and I realized wearing my criss-crossed-back sports bras had become impossible, I went shopping for a sports bra without the criss-cross back so I could first hook it up from the front then twist it around like any normal bra. They didn’t exist! I went online. Nothing! I had two normal-strapped sports bras that I bought three years ago and I had to switch between them for ever so long. Anyway, my shoulder finally sort of works now, so I’ve gone back to wearing the other bras as well. But it’s still a minor struggle hooking them up in the back. So, I thought maybe I just hooked it up wrong this time.

For some odd reason, I almost immediately dismissed this completely logical possibility.

The more logical scenario, I decided, was that all the training I had been doing over the past two months to regain my fitness after being out of commission for so long because of my shoulder led to an over-expansion of my lungs. (more…)