Hooray! Just in case you missed it mid-week, I’ve authored another guest blog piece for the fine people over at Truestart coffee – go read it, and marvel in awe at just how in touch I am with the human psyche (seriously, do it, it’ll make the rest of this post much more amusing). I’d been hoping to put something together for Truestart ever since Simon and Helena kindly babysat Agro for me while I helped set up the Thames Riverside 20 in March; I’ve since started fuelling a lot of my heftier training sessions with their coffee, so it’s extra cool to have something published by a company whose product plays a significant part in my prep for Ironman Kalmar the the mo. I had pretty much cut caffeine out of my diet for a while, but now I’m reintroducing it (slowly) I am really noticing the energy boost. In particular I’m crediting a lot of my success on recent long bike rides to this.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much caffeine in the world.

Monday: Rest day, planned
Tuesday: 30 mins running, 30 mins cycling
Wednesday: 45 mins swimming
Thursday: 15 mins running, 45 mins swimming
Friday: Rest day, unplanned
Saturday: 3 hrs 55 mins cycling
Sunday: Rest day, super-unplanned

Gee, and I thought last week sucked. Now comes the amusing part, I guess, depending on what your view of me as a person is and how much you like irony/hypocrisy. I’m maybe being a bit hard on myself there, but in the current mind-frame of the week I just don’t know.

First things first: when I thought that I should have taken it a bit easier during last weekend’s Kingfisher Aquathlon, it would have really just been a super good plan to stick to that idea, as I’ve now pulled something in my left calf. I think. I mean, I think I’ve pulled something, not I think it’s in the left calf (it’s definitely in the left calf). I even had to do the whole stop to stretch it out, exaggerated pain face so everyone knows I’m injured and not lazy, never lazy, run/walk home thing on Thursday. Everyone knew I wasn’t being lazy, right? Right. Good. I’m not lazy.

I’m just crippled by a lack of – well, not motivation. I’m still motivated, and I am still all in on this slightly ridiculous jolly I’m intent on. It’s not a lack of confidence, either – sort of, ish. I am very confident that, having recovered from having a broken oven and subsisting almost entirely on fish and chips for a fortnight, that I am absolutely in the physical shape of my life and am becoming a stronger triathlete by the day (okay, cool it, jackass). No, it’s not that.

Having had a bit of a swim-related crack in composure midweek which might have led to me, in modern parlance, ‘losing my shit’ on whatsapp (sorry Em) and having a bit of a meltdown, I’m coming around to the idea that a lot of my recent training issues – especially for swimming – are down to Social Anxiety.

Ugh. I hate that phrase. It’s one of the ones that’s been bandied about to the point of becoming meaningless. For a pretty liberal mental health blogger, I seem to be remarkably conservative when it comes to mental health terminology. Yes, I’m very aware that that comes from a lifetime of assuming that everything was my fault and no other extraneous forces could have possibly been at play. No, me realising that doesn’t mean I’m about to undo a decade long spiral of thought overnight (assuming, of course, that I intended to). I don’t generally pay much attention to the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with Social Anxiety, because it’s not a diagnosis I agree with, and I’m pigheaded like that.


See, look! I can strut about on the Common like all the other shouty wankers in their puffy coats, yelling enthusiastically at a poor group of slightly terrified charges who don’t really understand what I’m doing to them, or why (answer for 100 points – as a coach, I’m a sadistic bastard). I am encouraging; very, very sarcastically encouraging, but encouraging nonetheless. The sarcasm and the enthusiasm is enough to draw giggle from onlookers, and a couple even ask how they can sign up to join in. See? No Social Anxiety here, no siree.

But swimming, swimming is a different game altogether. I thought I was getting used to being around people when swimming, which was a big no-no for me last year. Evidently this is not the case. Wednesday night is a perfect example: Crystal Palace pool, national sports centre, I rock up and have a lane to myself. It’s bliss. I have a perfect fifteen minutes’ swimming; in my head, I’m cooler than Phelps (Michael, not Fred, I’m cooler than Fred) in that Underarmour advert everyone was raving about a couple of weeks ago.

Then everyone realises that I have half of a National Sports Centre pool to myself and all hell breaks loose. Okay, that’s completely false. People join me in the lane and a swimming club starts in the lane next to me. That’s not quite hell – hell, for my money, is like tinnitus the buzzing sound is replaced by endless repeats of It’s Chico Time – but it’s enough to set the questions off: am I swimming too fast? Am I swimming too slow? Do I look like I know what I’m doing? Are people laughing at my attempts to tread water while I try frantically to secure these hand paddles and start swimming before I drown? Oh Christ, I’ve just whacked someone with one of the paddles, are they going to be angry? Have I apologised enough times? Do they think I’m Canadian? Please don’t let them think I’m Canadian. I should point out that this is a fifty meter pool, it’s not like I need to be anywhere close to other people. But even in the other lanes, the super-fast butterfly people who swam out of the womb, I can feel their eyes on me too. Look at him, they laugh as I languish up and down the lane, look at him with legs that sink like Menhirs. There is no surer sign of an amateur triathlete than sinking legs, and right now I am feeling very, very amateurish.

Just like that, I’ve quit halfway through a set. Again. This has been far too common over the last few weeks. Either that, or I’ve not started because I’m scared of all the judge-y judgement people judging me. This probably works into why I prefer open water swimming to being in a pool: it’s a lot easier to feel isolated when you have an entire lake/ocean to play about in. As much as for my own sanity I do need to spend time around other people, it’s pretty clear that I just seem to train better by myself. I’m still too self-conscious when training in larger groups or close quarters.

This hasn’t been the whole cause of the last few week’s mishaps; work has also been horrifically sapping my energy and patience, to the point where I’ve done things I said I wouldn’t do until post-Ironman and now have interviews for potential new jobs lined up. Whoops. Having had an article published about how to keep a sound mindframe during long training plans, I’m now stuck in a bit of a rut mentally where I’m constantly questioning myself, which is compounding existing physical exhaustion with some heavy mental exhaustion.

I keep trying to tell myself that no one ever made it through an eight month training plan for anything ever without a few bumps along the road. Hopefully (it seems I end every blog post with a ‘this will definitely change my fortunes this time!’ segment these days), a shift in impetus from drill-based swim sets to some more simply formatted sessions will help with the chronic overthinking of everything in the pool and allow me to just concentrate on the swimming stuff. And hey, I’ve got a turbo again now, so at least I can go back to whinging about that next week.

Ah tits. I just got so caught up in writing this that I managed to leave my bag on the coach. It’s a hard life, this self-critiquing.

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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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