Wednesday, 21 March 2018

An accidental brick

So I set my alarm for 6am - I've not consciously tried to get up at 6 for some time. It went well. I got up about 6:18, performed some ablutions, then went downstairs to sit on the turbo trainer.

I was only on it for 22 minutes or so, but I was streaming with sweat afterward; I tend to move the pedals at a much, much higher cadence than I do on the road. Hopefully it will rub off on the road, with improved speeds or something.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Sweat pouring off me. Then it was time for Annie's bath so I got her ready, and Fern got in, waiting for me to pass her across. Just after, I heard the dogs barking.

For clarification, we have two dogs – or, I have one and Fern has one. Fern's is a six-month-old puppy, a huntaway, which is a New Zealand sheepdog. Basically, their version of a collie directs these massive flocks from the front, while a group of huntaways work the back, driving the sheep. They are big, strong dogs with incredible stamina, and a hell of a bark. High maintenance, as any working breed usually is, but also great running partners, especially for those fancying trying their hand at ultras, as Fern is (and at which she has already done very well).

So I head downstairs to see what the fuss is about, and both dogs want to be let out - Millie, who is nearly 15 years old and quite the Wonder Dog, and Farley, the puppy that at six months, dwarfs Millie. Millie is a 20kg mongrel, Farley is over 30kg we think, and growing. And he is pretty damn fast.

So out we go. Farley goes straight over to the fence and crawls through a hole he should not even be able to think about, and goes straight after the sheep in the field. I know he won't hurt them, but they don't know that and they - along with their very, very young lambs - run for their lives. I'm shouting and shouting (it was annoyingly rather like the video of that bloke whose dog was chasing the deer in Richmond Park. You know the one), he pauses, looks back at me, and fucks off good and proper.


No choice but to give chase, in boots that are not laced up, as best I can. Across a rutted, frozen field, chasing a fucking puppy. I caught the dog, smacked his arse (he knew he had done wrong, too) and walked home with him. I didn't have to hang on to him either, he came with me.

So that was my accidental brick.

Legs felt fine.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

I'm beginning to remember how good it was to have a coach...

...because the workouts are just there, you don't have to think, just do. Right now that would be such a blessing because, despite having a shit-ton of knowledge of some stuff, sometimes that is not the easiest thing to focus.

And the fucking swim workouts on the plans I have looked at may as well be in Cyrillic. Seriously. They are not in English. I'd love to find a just-get-your-arse-round-it program, that says, 'swim for an hour. Good work, have a cake'. Or 'run for an hour. Great work, now sit the fuck down'.

Dammit, did I pick the wrong sport?

In all honesty, I genuinely do think the programs I have seen are way, way too technical. They are not for true beginners, and assume a level of understanding way beyond where I am.

I guess, for now at least, I stick with the plan - muddle through, build endurance, do some (lots) of brick sessions, and turn up on the day ready to fight.

Next race though, assuming I can afford it (because I honestly cannot right now - the price of heating oil has doubled and we are almost out, for example, and one of the places that helps my daughter is charging from July (a nice new £1500+ a year bill, and though they are worth every penny it is money that has to be found). Bloody fucking money.

I'm whinging. Sorry.

Tonight I will go straight from work to the gym. There, I will smash the fucking treadmill (by which I mean, I will run for perhaps 40 minutes, very slowly), then I will get into the pool where I will swim for an hour. It's not technical, but it will get me to the start line. I hope.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

I unpacked the turbo trainer

I can't say I fully understand how the software and trainer talk, but it works. I did a fuck-off cherry-popping session on it, and the only thing I think I forgot was to put a towel underneath. I got a bit sweaty.

It was kinda fun though. Kept cadence fairly high (90-92), messed about with gears, did 17km in 32 minutes. Watts were around 150-160, peaked at 162.

Of course, the numbers mean next to nothing to me as I simply have no context. Let's just explore the software and see what it and I can do, and how strong I can get. And no, I am not going to buy a power meter. I wouldn't want to punish innocent technology with my manly legs.

If this is what the ride is like in July, I'd have the bike part done in just over 2.5 hours I think. I'd be over the fucking moon with that.

Monday, 5 March 2018

I had a low.

I did. Just a few days ago, I said to Fern "There's a fucking bike I've hardly ridden, a fucking turbo trainer that's not out of the fucking box yet, three pairs of fucking unused running shoes upstairs, and another fucking bike on the fucking way. What a fucking waste."

She said, "You've hardly used them yet."

She was right, of course. So this weekend, I went into the gym and hit it fairly hard, both days. Did quality cardio (pyramid on cross trainer, run on treadmill) and weights (a little bit of legs (adductor and abductor), kettlebells), then same plus upper body on the second day. And yes, I feel pretty fucking good now.

Still thinking, it's four months away and I have hardly any bike time banked, and the swim is still a fucking wreck. But I have enlisted a new swim coach, and the weather has not allowed me to cycle outside; turbo trainer will be set up tonight.

I binned the old coach because I didn't feel he was listening. Nice lad an everything, but when your student says "I don't think my cardio fitness is up to three strokes then breathe", you should perhaps listen or make that your fucking starting point for the session; also, when your literature says you will only have five people in the pool for adult lessons, don't put seven in there. It makes a small pool a lot smaller.

Anyway, my niece is swim coaching, and she's up for the challenge, so I said why the hell not.

I also joined a tri club, and they seem to be a very friendly bunch of people.

So, it's mostly positive, after some negative.

In other news, other aspects of life are pretty sucky but this is not the place for them.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Turns out swimming is hard.

Since I quit drinking, I have had the longest illness-free period of my adult life, I think. Colds pass by without me breaking a sweat, I may get a tickle here or there but nothing ever fully blooms.

I'm not speaking too soon, believe me. This goes pretty much precisely where you think it goes.

I was away in London for most of last week, and it was punishing. Meetings every 30 minutes for three days, no breaks for lunch or whatever, plus an awards event I had helped organise and was the industry 'face' of. By Thursday night, I was just fucked.

Friday, I worked*. Weekend off, and a tickle is developing... I still managed to do a quick workout Saturday and Sunday, with minimal coughing. But by Monday's swim it was becoming a more fully-rounded cough, with lungular cracklage to boot. So there I was, trying out my crawl, and just couldn't breathe well. But I at least got to study some other swimmers, which was really interesting; it led to me posting a query on a group I am in on Fartbook.

See, my teacher has been teaching me bilateral breathing – that is, breathing on both sides, so taking a breath on an odd stroke count. But I'm struggling with the rhythm of it, and, well, the actual breathing bit. Last night, watching all these perfectly competent swimmers, I was struck by one thing – every one of them was breathing unilaterally. So, I thought, why not train to swim unilaterally, but learn to do it on both sides? That way if water is choppy or whatever, I can adapt and retain speed and form, in theory at least.

So I put the question out there. And one reply hit a nerve, in a good way. The dude said something along the lines of, I started by training unilaterally but as my fitness grew, I switched to bilaterally. So while training and increasing fitness, he needed to take one breath every other stroke, but as his cardio increased, he was able to put an extra stroke in. Genius.

I had not even thought I could be struggling so completely just because I am now swim fit. It's coming home to me now just what that means, and that the part of this that is likely to have the greatest impact on me physically is the swim.

This week I am going to stick to cardio and/or weights in the gym until my chest clears up. But I have ordered cleats for the bike, so new pedals and shoes for when I am ready to rock and roll and not cough my bollocks up. That's another big step.

More soon.

Oh, I didn't run last week as it turned out. What actually happened is, I overslept massively every single day. Missed at least one entire press conference. Go me!

*stared into space, but at my desk.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Apologies for the slight break in your viewing.

It's been a tough few weeks with work and stuff, and I have tried hard to fit training in. I finally got out on the bike this week and fuck the weather; I only went out twice, but it was encouraging and fun, and hard enough for me to push myself. Two rides, each of seven miles, as I try to get used to my lovely bike.

It was good, and that was incredibly reassuring. I also had my first crash, 30 metres from the drive, on the way home. I made the mistake of looking up to see how far away the house was (the road to ours is a bit steep, and the road a bit fucked), and the wheel came off the crumbled edge of tarmac, and I hit the deck. I raised my arms, "Yes! First crash!"

Anyway, I have since invested in some gloves, and a couple more pairs of bike shorts. I have also checked out cleats and the appropriate pedals, which is cool.

I have also been swimminhg a couple of times, including what felt like an epic session in the pool; I was determined not to use the walls or floor to aid me, so I did 3/4 of a mile without touching anything. Not so hard, but it was. And why? Because each lap you are basically starting from a still position. Took me 45 minutes to do 3/4 of a mile, which while not quick tells me my breaststroke is pretty decent.

I did that session because the previous one was so disheartening; I just cannot seem to string together even a full lap of front crawl, and I honestly do not know why. I have another lesson tomorrow though, so hopefully I can get Teach to look into that.

I am, of course, no lighter, but I feel pretty damn good. My diet is improving, I am sleeping like a brick, and next week as I am away, I only have one real choice for exercise. That's right folks – next week I start running again, properly. Outside, whatever the weather.

I'm actually quite excited.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Another swimming lesson, and another lesson. I think.

Swimming lesson 2 was last Saturday, and it was just as good as the first, if not perhaps better - and I think I know the fundamental reason why. I'm not 100 per cent sure, but I think I know.

I left the house earlier than usual, as I wanted to get to the gym first and give myself a miniature beasting. This came in the shape of 20 minutes on the treadmill; 20 minutes is, for some reason, my first goal in terms of continuous running, it's the point at which you can think, I can run outside now. So I tried it, and I nailed it with plenty to spare. Sure, it was hard, but it was a happy hard. And that is not a euphemism.

The I jumped in the car and drove to my lesson, which is maybe a 25-minute drive.

The lesson was much easier. Much, much easier. I warmed up with some breaststroke lengths, he got me to work on my kick/glide, I think it came down to about 18 kicks to cover 50 metres. And it felt good. Then we did front crawl, and I did a length for the first time; I almost did another later in the lesson, too. So I was pretty chuffed, you know?

Monday rolls around, and I get down the pool; I was a bit late, so I didn't get into the gym first, but I got into the pool, did a couple of breaststroke lengths, then tried a crawl and… Nothing. Couldn't hit a length if I was on fucking fire. In the pool.

What I am thinking is, Saturday was good because I not only worked well before we moved on to crawl, but I also got my heart rate right up beforehand. It's kind of like calibration, getting my body ready for the worst that can happen. But I have to get really out of breath and beyond it, to move into the anaerobic breathing space, before I can swim even reasonably well.

I have a deadline right now, but Fern has very kindly said I can work late and go to the pool straight from work. I have my gym kit, so tonight we put that to the test. I will be very surprised indeed if it is not the case. Maybe I need to work out how I can reach that stage in the pool, but I can't help but think that I will be able to do exactly that once I can front crawl for more than a few seconds… Is this a vicious circle??

Oh, but my time for a length now I am kicking better is around 45 seconds, which feels kind of respectable. Which if I can maintain it, would give me a 24-minute half mile, 48-ish minute mile, 53 minutes-ish for 1.2 miles. Which is way below the cutoff time of 1 hour and 10 minutes. So there's that. But I want to do this, and I can't let a few shitty sessions set me back.

PS: Still not been on bike – had very high winds here, so fuck that shit. Maybe tomorrow?