Okay, deep breath. Hhhhhhhaaaaaaaaathankyou Anonymous (totally have a strong inkling as to who you are), Cousin Charlotte, Vicky aka the only person who could keep up with me on a night out in Cornwall, Denise aka the former’s long-suffering mum to whom I will always be ‘Alex’, Debs, Katy, Debi, Anonymous again (also reckon I have a good idea who), Sheena, and Graham the wannabe-triathlete in denial.
If you haven’t noticed, I have started pushing the fundraising a bit more on various social media now. I’m in the run-in to Ironman Kalmar now, it’s time. Let’s go make a mockery of my low self-esteem and goal setting at the start of this whole project. If anyone has any creative ideas on how to boost this – that I can fit into my schedule – I’m all ears. Actually, I may have already jokingly agreed to a, er, ‘calendar’. Gotta use those swimming abs for something.
It’s been a pretty shitty week (in more ways than one), so the increase in donations has really helped. In fact, it’s been about the only positive thing that’s come out of this week. I mean, I finally got around to watching Nightcrawler, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. It’s very disturbing. Oh, there was new Orange is the New Black though, so I guess that counts as well. Prison drama and charity cockle-warming, a winning combination.
Want to know why this week was so soul-destroying?
Monday: Injuries sustained in last week’s race are compounded by a virus from the water. I spent the evening with my head in a toilet bowl.
Tuesday: On top of the virus and injuries, the DOMS has now set in as well to leave me a shivering, nauseous, crippled, immobile shell of a man.
Wednesday: I turned down a second Brand Ambassador-ship in two months. My landlady informed me that my house is being sold and I will need to move out.
Thursday: Finally manage solid foods again. Back at work and now way behind on stuff I need to do before changing jobs.
Friday: Start of the hunt for a room. I turn up to the first one drenched from a sudden shower, and it goes downhill from there.
Saturday: Get stood up by an estate agent for a house that could have been perfect. Duolingo teaches me the Swedish word for sadness (sorg).
Sunday: I turn down every flat and room I’ve seen so far. Also I burnt my pizza at lunchtime.
Ugh. UGH. You may notice there’s no actual training in the above. That’s because I haven’t done any. Obviously the start of the week, what with the illness and the muscles rebelling and the injuries, I couldn’t do much of anything. Even sleeping turned out to be a massive struggle: partly because I was so fatigued by it all that I’d need to take a succession of naps just to get through the day, meaning that when it actually came to getting a good long few hours in I absolutely couldn’t; partly because even when I was asleep, I’d roll over onto my left side and wake up in excruciating pain. I roll around like a drunkard chasing cheese down a hill when I sleep, so this happened quite often.
The lack of food was also a bit of an issue. Being forced onto liquid foods all of a sudden isn’t the best for keeping one’s energy levels up. It’s also tricky when you need to scoop a few cans of soup off the shelf and into your basket, and because your muscles have seized up and you have numerous cuts affecting the function of both your hands, you end up making some weird motion like a drunk T-Rex trying to stroke a peacock with it’s weird stubby arms while the guy in Saino’s just stares at you, mouth agape. I persevered and got that damn soup, because I’m not a quitter, but even then it was little and not-often. My appetite just took a nose dive, which was really unpleasant.
Wednesday though, Wednesday was the real kicker. I am genuinely honoured that people think my achievements both in sports and in writing about sports are something aspirational. I am flattered that companies would consider this good reason to have me represent their brand in the world of triathlon and Ironman and all that other jazz, and if I already use your gear – yes, I am happy to endorse it if I like it, and I am happy to continue paying for it if it’s genuinely what I would prefer to use (take note, Compressport/Zone 3). However, if you expect me to shell out a sizeable amount of money on kit that I have no idea of the quality of, just for the honour of being your walking billboard – no. I have a wetsuit already, thanks. I’m kind of happy with it, and your stunning 20% discount ain’t selling me a new one, I have arm warmers to replace. Why is my swimming even something you want to be associated with? What reality do you exist in? The sad thing is, this is the second company that has tried this on with me recently. It’s even sadder that I very nearly made the mistake of saying yes the first time around (cheers, Coach Coxy, for your sage and sweary advice on the matter).
This was followed swiftly with the extra blow of being told that the house I have lived for the last three and a bit years is being sold. For completely understandable reasons that it’s not my place to go into, but still. I moved here shortly after a severe depressive breakdown, when there was absolutely sod all for me anywhere. I was lucky enough to be afforded a room in London with no job and no prospects, which is a very rare thing in this city, it seems. I lived here through the ‘It gets worse before’ stage, into the actual ‘It got better’ stage, and now through my quarter-life crisis/physical renaissance. It might just be a rental property, but it’ll be emotional to see it go.
Flat hunting as a triathlete, I have found, is a bit of a bugger. Problem one: after last week’s crash ruined a lot of my expensive race kit, I’m having to hold back money to replace that – meaning in terms of being able to afford a deposit on a new place, I’m a bit limited in my options without ending up living in Erith or somewhere equally as unpleasant. Problem two: having two bikes is wonderful. Trying to find somewhere that’s as accommodating as my current house to store two bikes, without being entirely unreasonable to other inhabitants, is a royal pain in the arse. Problem three: it’s really hard not to punch a smarmy estate agent in his stupid smarmy face every time he pronounces it ‘try-ath-a-lon’.
All of this served to completely deny me the time and energy to do any training this week, which has ended up being a complete write-off. It also gave me a lot of time to mull over my six months of Ironman training, and the changes I’ve made in my life as a result. Conclusions: I am a hopeless addict.
I don’t much discuss addiction, as I never really viewed it as a problem in and of itself for me. It was always a symptom, just another way to do damage to myself in the pursuit of whatever self-destructive end I was chasing. I did a lot of drugs as a teenager. It’s easier to list the major varieties that I haven’t tried: acid, crack cocaine, crystal meth. As a young twenty-something, I was medically treated for alcoholism, although this was only done so immediately post-massive depressive breakdown. Addiction is often said to be a common thing for people with low emotional intelligence (there’s that term again), and I was not an exception. I know how that feels.
Going from 100 miles an hour to absolute zero in training terms had a profound, worryingly noticeable impact on my psyche this week. At my worst, I’d often describe depression as the feeling of being kicked whilst you’re down, a lack of respite from problems that you have no real power over or solution to, and every time you try and get back on your feet – bam. Something else. This week felt a lot like that: the injuries, the muscle pains, the sickness, the piss taking, the housing issue. None of these on their own would be a colossal problem, but stick them all together (on top of the most miserable political atmosphere I’ve witnessed) and it’s all been a little bit too much.
Although depression still rears it’s ugly head from time to time – I don’t think I’ll ever be over it, whatever that entails – generally the process of training for an Ironman has been wonderfully beneficial to my mental health. Even in the dips, of which there have been many, I was still more or less capable of functioning. But the last few days completely defeated me. Yesterday, as I was changing my bedsheets, I actually ended up crawling inside the duvet cover and just hiding there for a good while. A simple childlike gesture, but emblematic of the complete emptiness and defeat I felt. Depression isn’t just sadness; it’s a drain, more akin to a kind of anti-energy, the kind of thing they might eventually dredge up an answer to at the LHC (if it doesn’t turn us all into space-zombies first). One week with no exercise. One week.
That’s the terrifying crux of the matter. It’s said pretty often that the best way to beat one addiction is to find something else to fill the time, like self-harm replaced the alcohol replaced the drugs replaced the self-harm. And, for me, I settled on triathlon and sports. One week of that taken away – not just one or two of the three, but all of them – and oh, I went downhill fast. The other stresses of the world all played their part in denying me the opportunity to actually do some constructive filthy sweating, but by Sunday afternoon, I’d sunk to the level of hiding inside duvets and consciously uncoupling from the world (an act usually reserved for particularly ferocious hangovers). It was terrifying because I felt it, and I knew that it wasn’t just sadness, or just stress. It was depression. For a few hours, I felt very much like I did a couple of years ago, back when I ended up on the doorstep of the Maytree, and that scared me. Not wanting to be scared me.
So when I say the upshot in donations is appreciated this week – I really, really do mean it. Each and every one of you has put a smile on my face, and made sure I don’t stray too far into indulging melancholia and instead stay focused on the goal to do a really, really, really stupidly long race. Y’all are heroes.
Also, a massive thankyou to Joanna (who I mentioned a few weeks ago) and the fine chaps and chapettes over at Truestart Coffee, who sent me a wonderful ‘Get your shit together skippy’/’Get well soon’ package that has definitely cheered me up today. My efforts at Deva also got me a mention as one of the Team Truestart athletes of the week which I’m super happy with, so go read that as well. See, Compressport/Zone 3/Asics & Planet X while we’re at it – I will plug people if they’re awesome enough to deserve it. Sign me up dammit.
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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!