Ain’t No Trouble

“Maybe, in some way, this has merged the two sides of you: the ‘robotic’, results-driven side of you; and also the more human, the part that needs to be acknowledged, and to be felt.”

Well, I never expect a stupid bike problem to ever be quite that profound. Goddammit Mr Therapist.

I don’t generally talk to my therapist about triathlon. Surprise, I know, seeing as that is all triathletes seem to ever talk about. Partly because, having known the guy for a few years now, I’m reasonably sure he’s not the kind of guy who gives a flying monkey’s about aerodynamic drag coefficients (although I’m sure he’d do a great job at feigning understanding) but also because I go to therapy trying to engage a part of me that is not the part of me that competes and races.

Race mode me is a very focused, one-note existence that doesn’t have much to say and just wants to do. When I get it right, at least. The last therapy session I had before Lanzarote was a complete waste of time. I actually got angry at Mr Therapist because he was trying to get me to talk about a bunch of meaningful things, and all I could think about was how much of a distraction the meaningful things would be from the arbitrary distances and processes that I needed to focus on in order to survive the hellish Mars-scape of Lanzarote. I’ve suffered through years of self-recrimination, just let me have my week off.

He had a point, though, because the meaningful things he was trying to get me to talk about was what happens after the race, when normal life resumes with a giant Ironman-sized hole in it that needs filling. I kinda assumed that I’d have a good ol’ smashup in Lanza, then come back and it’d all be gravy ‘cos there’s the small matter of some bumpy Scandinavian business in August. Turns out that between the two of us, I wasn’t the smartest person in the room at that time. Or any other time, really, when there’s two of us in that room. He’s a very wise, very respected master of the psychological arts. I’m… well, I’m me.

Following Thames Turbo it was loosely discussed between Coach Tim and I that maybe I should have a punt at qualifying for the GB Age-Group team. This seemed like a grand idea at the time, a good old lark and something I’d been making vague sultry eyes at for a few years. It seemed like an even better idea once Lanzarote went decidedly pear-shaped and I figured I’d have to get my performance kicks for the year in some other way.

It now seems pretty futile. I signed up, only to realise that because the one qualifier I can squeeze into my year is for the 2019 ITU Championships, and that your age group for said race/qualifying is based on your age at the end of the calendar year of the Championships, and that I will turn 30 just a couple of weeks before 2019 self-terminates, that as a 28 year old I am now competing in the shark tank of 30-34 year olds who have been doing this sport for years, have enough disposable income to focus on it exclusively as a hobby, and have a stable enough lifestyle that they can really focus on it. Meanwhile, I’m… well, I’m me.

But that’s fine, the age thing, that’s surmountable. I’ve never paid too much care to the people I’m racing against because why bother? They’re going to race their race. I’m going to race my race, up until the run, where I will race the race of whoever feels like stepping up to the plate and I will beat them at it. That has generally worked out well in the past. If it has to work against the sharks, bring it on. I am a bigger, scarier, fancier dressed shark than you.

Being me, that has become more of an issue. The sudden crash never came, there was just a general “Maybe I should have had a longer break” followed by a “maybe I should have a year-long break”, followed swiftly by “maybe I should have a forever-break from everything” and oh fuck here we go again. God. Dammit.

It’s just not happening. Race mode ain’t there. I think I’ve skipped more pool swims and quit more turbo sessions in the last few weeks than I’ve completed. It’s been overwhelmingly imperative to sit at home and not try to internally barrack myself for being a complete failure of a triathlete instead. I’ve only just got around to order enough spare inner tubes to actually complete the event, yesterday morning while I was sat on a train up to Durham for work. I don’t have a nutrition plan. I have not shaved my limbs. Things are seriously sideways when I still have hairy forearms this late before a race.

Instead, I’ve spent far more of the last week than I care to count up struggling with impulses to self harm, experiencing another bout of suicidal what-ifs. It is tiring in a way that a good ol’ fashioned Zwift power-hour can never be (yes, even the McCarthy Special). It is about as boring as a turbo workout though, that I’ll agree with. But it’s left me at the point where I seriously, honestly, am not sure if I can be arsed to race on Sunday. And I’m certainly not sure if I can be arsed to race sensibly.

Listening: Yndi Halda – This Very Flight; funny, when you find out a band you have been a fan of for years and years turn out to be friends of friends.

Reading: Romelu Lukaku – I’ve Got Some Things To Say; at the moment I’m torn between complete capitulation and the “I’m trying to kill you” approach to Sunday.

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