I’m still alive! But it has been a bit dark in my triathlon brain. There has not been much room for jokes and lighthearted blogging tomfoolery.
I’ve been pondering my existence. As in, how useless is a human being that can’t run without warming up for 20 minutes? What kind of caveman would I have been, if at the first hint of a delicious wild boar racing past my rocky abode I had to stop and limber up while the rest of my clan starved to death? Would I have been a caveman vegetarian? How did I make it through evolution, along with whichever of my ancestors cursed me with these non-natural runner genes? Do I actually deserve to be on this planet?
And so on and so forth. It has been challenging, but challenging in a way that was totally made up in my head.
Because mostly my training has been going well. My swimming and cycling is coming along nicely. I have dutifully attended Masters Swimming Class each week, where I have been dutifully un-masterful. As the daughter of an English teacher, it hurts me somewhere deep inside every time I stand at reception and ask for ‘one ticket to masters’ swimming, please’. IT’S THE WRONG WORD, PEOPLE!
A couple of weeks ago we got a new Masters Swimming teacher. Jade left us for greener pastures, in what I fear was a direct response to my joining the group, so a nice lady named Kerry stepped up to the plate. The first week was entertaining, because Jade had clearly briefed our new coach Kerry on the various members of the club. And if you ever want to find out what someone really thinks of you, you just have to get them to explain you to someone who has never met you, and then see how the new person treats you when you finally find yourselves face to face with one another.
For the first Masters Swimming Class with Kerry, I was asked every 2 laps whether I was struggling or whether I wanted to do 50 metres kicking instead of 100, or whether I needed a 30 second rest instead of the 10 second rest that was prescribed on The White Board. Luckily I know I am crap at swimming, so I found it highly entertaining to realise that Kerry had been warned about me. Also, Kerry was super-dooper nice to me and I interpreted this to mean that Jade had also told Kerry I am nice. Which is, you know, nice.
One of the things that Kerry has taught me is that I must swim with my mouth open. She noticed I was swimming with my mouth shut underwater almost as soon as she started teaching me. She crouched at the side of the pool and demonstrated that by having my mouth open, I wouldn’t need to breathe out through my nose with such force. I challenge you to try it for yourself – it’s almost impossible to breathe out through your nose with much power when your mouth is open, as opposed to when your mouth is shut. Less power, Kerry explained, would mean that I would be running out of breath less and would only need to inhale a small amount when I turned my head.
Always willing to try something that will make swimming slightly easier, I attempted a few lengths of the pool with my mouth open. And then I was asked to stop before I swallowed all of the water we were supposed to be swimming in.
Swimming with my mouth open when I’d just got used to swimming incorrectly was hard.
Luckily, Jade was standing on the sidelines, watching us for the final time before she set us free from her warm embrace. She crept over to the side of the pool and said ‘You don’t have to open your mouth very wide, you dummy.’
Ah, of course. Just a little bit open. Not gaping open like the man in Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. I actually laughed out loud at my foolishness.
So I have been practicing swimming with my mouth just a little bit open. Sometimes I think it is heaps easier to swim with an open mouth! And then I get in the pool five minutes later and quickly become convinced that swimming with my mouth open is the most difficult way to swim! But such is the nature of swimming; sometimes it is hard and sometimes it is impossible.
In saying that, I have grown to love it. During the dark days, when I was sure I am the worst triathlete to ever grace this planet and considered giving up on the Noosa Tri, I always felt sure that I would continue with swimming for the rest of my life. Now that I can do it, I don’t ever want to not do it. Of all the things I have learned from embarking on this triathlon journey, learning to swim is up there as one of the best.
Then of course, there has been the cycling. Cycling is wicked ace and awesome all rolled into one gallumptuous slice of heaven. What a joy it is to cycle to a coffee shop and stuff my face with caramel cheesecake, nodding sagely to all the other cafe patrons who admire my proper lycra kit and special clip-clop cycling shoes. My ego will never get over the massive inflation that cycling provides it. I’m like an old lady addicted to botox, except instead of getting my lips inflated I’m getting my ego inflated and it probably costs me more.
Speaking of which, the cost of triathlon continues to skyrocket. Of course, we are coming to the crux of it now, the pinnacle of all of this training is upon me. So I have started purchasing the new goggles I will need for race day, etc etc. Being a whole year into training, some stuff is just starting to need replacement. I had to get a new rear tyre on my bike. My swimming cap had to be replaced when it got too stretchy and loose. Yet another swimming costume is due from KMart as soon as they get their summer clothes in.
To top it all off, now that I am a goddam professional I have had to buy all sorts of new kit. This Masters Swimming malarkey has meant purchasing fins (the things you wear on your feet to kick along like a duck) and a kickboard (the old foam board that toddlers use to learn to swim) and all sorts of wonderful toys. I had to invest in special cycling gloves with gel bits in the palm to stop myself getting achy hands on the really long rides. I have purchased 372 water bottles and lost 489 of them. In case you had missed much of the gist of this blog: Triathlon is an expensive sport.
But shopping is always fun, and swimming is going swimmingly, and I am the best cyclist that ever lived. So what’s with all these dark days I mentioned?
The stupid running, that’s what.
Boy has it been hard to not run. It’s such a fundamental skill that not being able to do it left me feeling like an absolutely useless waste of space. The longer it went on, the worse it got. Last Sunday marked 8 weeks since I completed the epic 26.7km trail run, where I injured myself. Eight weeks!
In hindsight, I’m lucky that I had the 100km bike race booked in after the DNS at The Sunshine Coast Half Marathon. It helped to keep me on track a little bit and gave me something to focus on during that difficult week. But writing the race report for the bike ride took all the positive vibes I had left and when I look back on it now I see where I’ve forced myself to write, rather than where I’ve enjoyed the usual blogging diarrhea I get that means I can write and write for hours. I was not in jovial spirits.
Something had to give. At times I thought I might not make it to Noosa. At other times I thought maybe I just wouldn’t be able to face blogging about it anymore. And in the end The Triathlon Gods stepped in and saved my ass. There’s no other explanation; it’s nothing short of a miracle.
Yesterday I was finally able to go for a 3km run. Pain-free and easy. Done. Just like that. The Physio had told me not to rush into it. He’d told me to be patient. And when he finally gave the go-ahead, I had almost given up hope.
I did it on the treadmill of course, as you should if you’re recovering from an injury – or so I have been led to believe. Treadmill running is painfully boring and nowhere near as therapeutic as outdoor running, but it’s softer on your joints than road running and it gives you the opportunity to jump off immediately if you start to feel pain. Which I was under strict instructions to do.
I warmed up for 20 minutes, feeling every bit a useless caveman as I feared. I was only 1% hopeful that I would be able to run without pain.
The treadmill beeped its countdown and I started planning a workout on the bike I could do when the pain set in. The treadmill picked up the pace; I broke into a pace I haven’t done for along time. And it didn’t hurt.
3km was my prescribed limit, so I had to stop and get on the cross trainer after that. I’ll be doing a few more 3km runs before I am allowed to upgrade to 5km, which I will stick with for another week before I will be allowed to test out some proper distances. I’m nervous and excited at the same time, but that sure beats the feelings of dread and despondency that have pervaded my triathlon thoughts recently.
In short: I’m Back! And you may find that I have rather a lot to say in the next few weeks, so brace yourselves. To quote Shane’s favourite movies (Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2, of course)
This shit just got real.