Monday, 16 May 2016

Change of Plan

Stephen Hawking. Smart guy.

So. On Sunday morning I woke up with the very clear idea that I'd taken the Ullswater swim off my mental calendar; that I didn't want to train for a big swim at all this year and I just wanted to do Coniston for fun (preferably a bit faster but eh). I've been rolling the idea around in my head for weeks, but it seemed to have crystallised. I took myself off to Sale for a training session that afternoon and spent a good hour and a half (and 3.6km) in the water at 12-14oC thinking about it. Today I spent about the same amount of time invigilating an exam (one-to-one rather than pacing a roomful of students, which is about as yawn-inducing as you imagine), thinking about it again.

You're not allowed to read or write notes while you're invigilating, but this is what my list would look like:

  • It's the next logical step between Bala and Windermere.
  • It's a point-to-point swim, which I prefer because you're not tortured by the lap-counting.
  • It's only a mile further than Bala, which should be within my capabilities.

  • I haven't found a kayaker I know and trust to come with me
  • I can't afford to stay over so I'd have to drive the distance there and back in the same day.
  • Hazel tells me it's cold; so does Patrick (by cold, we're talking about 14-15C on average), and I can only get to open water once a week, which is usually warmer. I'm not going to build the exposure I need in the pool.
  • My neck, shoulder, elbow and wrist still aren't right - I'm getting better at managing it but I have no idea how far I can push it. Cold makes the RSI worse.
  • I've got this ruddy great run to train for in September; the logistics of fitting the long runs in around the next four weeks of invigilation and then the kids being off for Summer are very difficult already without needing 3hrs at the pool twice a week plus open water.
  • I trained a lot Jan-Mar and I am sick of the pool. Any pool. The smell, the people, the fuss and the loneliness of training in a public session have really got to me.
  • When the kids are off, I have to train in the evenings. That means I virtually never get to spend any decent time with my other half - it's bad enough between his work and my other commitments as it is. 
  • I lose out on other things I enjoy; reading, yoga, making stuff, gaming, cuddling my aged cat. Not to mention sitting down to eat at tea time with my kids, and actually eating decent meals. Last year I managed my Bala training by dint of dropping the kids at home at 6pm after their lesson, then going straight off to a different pool and swimming til 10pm, grabbing a Starbucks on the way home because it was too late to cook anything by then. Not healthy.
  • I haven't improved my speed since last year. Even given perfect conditions, there's no way I'll make 7mi in less than five hours. That's a long time at that temp. Poor conditions could make it more like six and I will get pulled out at that point.
  • Have I said how much I hate the pool?
Big difference, huh. It just doesn't make logical sense to commit to a longest swim this year when you look at that list. The Lakes aren't going anywhere, though. I could do it next year. I could leave Windermere for many years, in fact - maybe when the girls are old enough to look after themselves through the summer holidays. Maybe I could leave it til I've done my black belt. Maybe in twenty years, when I've retired and can train whenever I like! I'm in good health and from a particularly long-lived maternal line; it's entirely possible I'll still be doing silly distances well into my 70s.

Is it giving up, quitting, not suffering through the training? Nah. As the quote above says, it's intelligent to be flexible, and I haven't said I'll never do it - just not this year. I'm not at all heartbroken at the idea; in fact I feel positively gleeful about being able to relax into the swimming season and enjoy a really lovely lake swim in July. I might sign up for some shorter swims in different lakes - I've always fancied a lap of Buttermere, for example. It also takes the pressure off the run training - if I can't get out one day, I can go another without worrying about pool time. Likewise I can be more flexible with karate if necessary and possibly have some other adventures (I really want to go to SUP Yoga again). I can also, hopefully, let my shoulder heal properly, because damn I am sick of these headaches.

The only person I'm racing against is myself, after all, and I'm not going to give myself a lot of competition if I'm bored, resentful, poorly nourished, lonely and in pain.

Monday, 25 April 2016

New Season

Well, it's been a while. I took a bit of a holiday after Bala and as Summer turned into Winter, so my right shoulder turned into a complete mess. I have blamed the weather at Bala for a lot of it - five hours of only breathing to the right can't have helped matters - but I know myself well enough to know quite a lot has been an RSI flare from far too much tablet and smartphone use. I did very little swim training and even less running in Autumn, despite having booked two 5kms and a 10km (which became 5km). Admittedly they were "fun" runs (does that word ever apply to running?) which involved dressing up at Glow In The Park, Run In The Dark and the Man Utd Santa Run, but I was embarrassingly unfit at this point, struggling with stitch and pain in my Achilles as well as my shoulder. I was not put forward for grading at karate in November, either. To be honest I was relieved as I was definitely underperforming.

By Christmas, despite retraining myself into bilateral breathing whilst doing the 22 miles of the Aspire Challenge, I was virtually locked up and in a great deal of pain. I couldn't raise my arms over my head without stabbing pain in my arm, and I was crying into my goggles before completing a mile. I saw my physio, who started the process of unlocking the culprit - my sternocleidomastoid, which was referring pain all down my arm and linking up to the carpel tunnel inflammation already lurking. A team mate took pity on me and exchanged an acupuncture session for cake, lifting the unbearable constant headaches. I've never been so grateful to be stabbed. A few more sessions of physio and suddenly I was returning to swimming form; able to cope with USWIM's indoor sessions and start thinking about the 2016 season.

I dithered a lot and finally set my sights on Ullswater with the BLDSA, a seven-miler - it seems a logical next step after Bala and before Windermere. I've also decided to do Coniston again, but with BLDSA instead of Chillswim - though I loved the 2014 swim, I hear the event has got quite a lot bigger and I'm not a fan of huge groups. I like having my own kayaker. I've yet to book these or find a 'yakker for Ullswater, but I remain hopeful despite a bit of a flare-up right now caused by wearing a wetsuit at the USWIM opener this weekend. I set a new pool 5km PB recently - finally got it under 2hrs by a whisker! so I'm interested to see how it translates to open water.

In the rush of feeling better in January, I did an utterly stupid thing.

Seriously? I entered not just a half-marathon, but the half-marathon? The one that's so important in the family?

I am an idiot.

But I am taking it seriously. That's a lot of money to throw away on not training! I hope to re-crack 10km and beyond this week - I've got good support, great shoes, better kit, I track with Strava and I have an awesome playlist. I had entered a 10km in Blackpool, but it was cancelled so now I'm having a rematch with Great Manchester at the end of May. I hope that'll help me cope with the noise and hectic atmosphere at Great North, anyhow. I can't say I like running yet, but I am definitely becoming more competent and there are moments when it's quite pleasing. It's still more about sheer stubbornness than anything else, though. And I figure if I can conquer a half marathon I'll be in much better shape for karate. I worry about fitting the training in as I'm also in the middle of finding work, doing other work and selling the house, but I will just have to suck it up and get on with it.

Last but definitely not least, I finally figured out heian godan, pulled my head out of my arse and took my purple/white (4th kyu) grading along with Eldest last month. In all honesty I do think it was less punishing than the last one I watched, but I think my fitness has also improved so I was better able to pace myself. I was pretty satisfied with the technical aspects but I'm well aware my sparring needs a lot of work before I'm ready for brown belt. I'm hoping to take that towards the end of the year.

I don't do enough yoga and I haven't kayaked for ages. These things make me sad. On the happy side Eldest represented her school in the local swimming gala and both girls are going great at karate. We've booked Iron Kids again and I'm doing a whole weekend's kayak escort at Bala, too. So lots coming up - but I will be keeping my monthly date with the physio, that's for sure!