Not-Race Week: Surrey Division 1 Crosscountry – Mitcham Common, or A Cassandra Truth

January, we need to talk, you and me. I know we haven’t got along well, historically. I know you live in December’s long shadow; he’s a popular kid, that one, and I know it makes you a bit tetchy. For my part, I’ve never been too kind to you. I’m not a resolutions guy, I’ve never made any profound effort to make you feel special, or needed. I’m sorry, January. That was my bad. I feel like we’re capable of acting like adults, y’know, moving past this rocky road we’re on.

But seriously January, sort your shit out.

Frustration after frustration seems to have been the tone of the last two weeks. First the stye coming out of nowhere mucked up the start of last week. This week, just as I was getting back to normal, I’d hit a good weekend of training, I was feeling good – my achilles has decided it wants to play silly buggers. No running for me. Yay.

By and large, I have managed to work around my new condition. Swimming, obviously, isn’t particularly affected by a dodgy achilles. Cycling, also – so long as you’re careful there’s no major impact, so I’ve been getting on the turbo instead of running a bit. I would class me and my turbo, currently, as the best of Frenemies. Enemigos. Special F(r)iend. It’s really super dull, but I’ve angled my setup so it sticks straight towards my music speakers, and this is working for me so far. Until I can buy a smart trainer and get on that Zwift thing, that looks cool.

As such, my training this week has looked as so:

Monday: Rest day (because I didn’t have one last week)
Tuesday: 1 hr turbo
Wednesday: 45 min swim session, plus 20 mins each way cycling there and back
Thursday: 30 min swim lesson, plus 20 mins each way cycling there and back
Friday: 15 mins swimming
Saturday: 1 hr turbo
Sunday: 1 hr swimming, 1 hr 15 mins turbo (that I’m about to do)

One the face of it, that’s a pretty shoddy week for a prospective Ironman, so I’m going to qualify some things. One, I was knackered on Monday. Two, and massive props to Coach Tim, I got offered a last minute swim lesson and took it – and I’m very glad I did. Significant progress was made (I hope). Three, it’s worth noting that I lost a lot of hour-age yesterday morning by electing not to do the Chasers group ride; icy roads and a roughly 75 mile round trip probably aren’t the best thing with a dodgy achilles.

There’s also Friday. Friday was meant to be an hour’s swim, but my local pool has decided it’s no longer going to announce when it’s running it’s own swim classes, so what should have been nine people across four lanes turned in nine people in one as a veritable army or bright green swim-capped kids tromped out of the changing rooms like that scene in Return of the King where all the Orcs come marching out of the Black Gates to surround the combined armies of Gondor et al. Let’s call me Aragorn. Unlike the King of the West, I noped out of that situation pretty quickly, because it’s useless trying to do drills (or even some basic freestyle) in a lane with seven people doing breaststrokers and one other poor guy who was stronger, stouter and beardier than me. For the sake of continuing this over-elaborate metaphor, let’s call him Gimli. Gimli lasted the whole of a minute longer than I did before he too decided this wasn’t worth the hassle, and left the rest of the fellowship to fight it out over the remaining lane space.

However, big event number one – I missed Goodgym Lambeth’s 2nd birthday run. Full disclosure: I did turn up, for cake and beer. There’s only so much a dodgy ankle can hold me back from. However, I’d already missed the first group run of the year last week due to Chaser-y stuff, which I was trying to not make a thing. Also, Goodgym Lambeth’s 1st birthday thing last year was, in a butterfly/hurricanes sort of way, pretty pivotal in this whole blog thing happening (maybe even the Ironman, depending on how on point I am on any given day with analysis of my own motivations for signing up). I can’t explain why, for reasons, and I can’t explain those reasons for reasons. So there you go. I would have liked to have been there.

Big event number 2 (that keen observers will note, with outrage, that I completely forgot to put in the race calendar) – there was an XC race this weekend! That I totally missed! That I didn’t even make it to support at, because achilles and I have a stinking cold and I was in a god-awful mood! I didn’t even make it for the cake! It was the Chaser’s own hosted event, which made it extra-important, and it would have been a good first outing for my spangly new Chasers running vest. Also, after the torrid time I had trying my hand at XC back in November: I’ve still not completed a goddamn XC race since forever. The next one, and last in the league, is the day before Worthing Half Marathon. Hrm.

Hold up a minute. I just need to go hit that turbo session. Be right back.


Ow. That’s the uninspiring view from my turbo setup. Today’s session was powered by Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, which seemed very appropriate. Excitingly, I have discovered that when in an aero tuck position, seeing as I wasn’t doing a great deal with my hands, I could happily air guitar away on the world’s smallest invisible flying V (it’s a type of guitar, look it up). I discovered this during the extended guitar solo that concludes Fade to Black, and happily invisiplayed away on my invisitar until I decided to start headbanging as well, which resulted in catching my face on the tubing from my aero bottle and splitting my lip open. Whoops.

Having spent yet another week feeling like I’ve not really had a chance to properly get on board with my program, I’ve been in a pretty big funk for the last few days. Part of this is probably the usual January deal – work is bleh, weather is bleh, I feel bleh, let’s hide under duvet forts until this is all over etc. I think New Year’s Resolutions are the stupidest thing ever. If you want to go and quit smoking, or start whatever the latest fad diet is, or find the cure for world hunger or whatever, don’t wait for an arbitrary date to do it – that’s not motivating. You’re setting yourself up for failure. Get started while you’re actually concentrating on the matter at hand.

I kind of resent this because I’m thinking it’s what I’ve done with the cooldown period over Christmas and the New Year into the training plan. I think I could probably handle the various maladies and heaven-sent plagues a bit better if I hadn’t picked out a certain date and said, right: I will do nothing up to this point, and then I’ll throw myself in and it’ll all go swimmingly because I’m an athlete, right? Now because I did very little for three weeks preceding the plan, and the last two weeks have been so hit and miss, it feels like I’ve made no major progress in the last month plus. I don’t feel settled. I don’t feel like I’ve hit a routine yet, and I think routine is probably the only thing that has a chance of getting me through the other seven months of this. There’s a strong pressure towards positive change in January, and this is the first January I’m spending trying to enact that kind of change, and so far the experience is like running into a brick wall.

There is a silver lining, though. Taking a little bit of time to work on the cycling and swimming might not be the worst thing in the world; after all, I can do the running thing. My prep for the Worthing Half might suffer a bit over the next month, so I might have to lower my expectations for that, but the run will still be my strongest discipline come August. A little extra work on the swimming and cycling in particular might pay dividends in the long run (har). It’s all a matter of perspective.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I guess I’m doing okay. In a heartwarming coincidence, my Mum got a call from my Trish, my old case worker back when I was losing it in Cornwall (Mum’s a social worker, they cross paths semi-regularly), and Trish was very impressed apparently with the whole triathlon thing. Hi Trish! I hope you enjoy the blog, when Mum remembers to send you the link, and what I imagine are your super long hours afford you the time to read it.

So I’m still not completely despondent (yet). There’s a lot I need to be getting on with – I’d like to be running again, for starters. Running or not, I’m hoping I can hit my session plan a bit more accurately in the coming week. Also I really need to get back on the cycle commuting – haven’t really wanted to risk it with the weather lately, but an extra three hours a day on the bike surely provides enough benefits to cancel out the extra three hours a day breathing fumes stuck in traffic. Finally, I need to find a good resource to sort my diet out. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

On the subject of diet: right, time for some food. I’m off to try my hand at egg-fried rice. With my recent track record of injuries, I’ll probably end up smacking myself in the face with a boiling frying pan or something. Watch this space. Or your nearest A&E department.

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Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!

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