Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Since my last post, my health has improved a bit, but not enough.  I have been back to the doctor's and am waiting for results from a chest x-ray and bloodtests.  I won't bore you with the details or the symptoms but as much as I hope to wake up every morning feeling ready for the world and fully recovered, it has not happened yet.  Whatever is going on, I clearly have to take it easy for the time being.

Which means my tri training did not start yesterday. I tried 10 minutes of yoga on Sunday and collapsed in a coughing fit, so I know that getting out on the bike / run / in the pool would be madness.  Which leaves me - well - reassessing?

I'm not making any major decisions yet re the tri in July - I either will or I won't be able to train for it, so I either will or won't do it.  I am definitely heading out to Oregon for the relay in August, however - I've swallowed my pride and Jen and Zach are allocating me some of the shorter legs.  No PRs but plenty of fun - I am ready for that. As for longer term - a few weeks ago I was batting around the idea of a November marathon.  But I've pulled out of my London-Paris bikeride, I've pulled out of a 100K bikeride I was due to do in 10 days, I may be pulling out of my tri - right now I'm not committing to anything until I actually feel better.

Prudence (a voice I seldom listen to but she has a way of being right) tells me that when I do eventually feel better - and I'm officially off exercise for another 2 weeks - I will have lost a lot of fitness and need to build things back up slowly.  My osteopath has advised me to find some shorter races to run - perhaps to run 2 or 3 half marathons in October and November and to use those to get my speed and endurance back before starting London marathon training again in December.  I will have to see.

What this episode has made me realise, more than anything else though, is just how much I take my health for granted. I have been sidelined from training through injury before, but never this long due to illness.  Cross-training is not an option - there is no form of physical exercise I can take part in right now, other than walking - and as you might expect, I am struggling with this. I know in my head that running has been a big part of how I identify myself and feel good about myself - now I can feel it in my heart, because I don't feel the same.  This is no earth-shattering insight - I imagine that two good runinng blogging buddies of mine, Miss Zippy and Jill, who have both been sidelined from running for a long time, can relate to this. 

What it's also allowed me to see, and this is a somewhat more disturbing insight, is that I have for some time being using running and training as a way not to focus on much else.  I have been a stay-at-home mother on and off now for years - there was a 2 year period where I worked out of the home and I've taken on various freelance jobs when they've come along - but all in all I have not taken my career - such as it is - very seriously in the last 11 years.  And while that was fine for a while, and running was enough of a focus for me to be able to handle being a stay-at-home mother, my situation is changing now and I want to find a fulfilling and flexible career for myself.  It's a scary situation to face up to but I'm trying to muster the confidence and courage that running has given me and apply it to the rest of my life.

All of this will, I'm sure, be easier once I'm able to run again to take the pressure off...  In the meantime, I'm going to be brave and face the future and my fear of failure.  Stay with me, my friends!
In the absence of a decent current photo - who wants to see me looking pale and pasty?  This is me with my Big 5 marathon medals - London, Boston, New York, Chicago (x2) and Berlin.  No, I did not get the prize money as well...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Bring back the balance - when can I start training again?

Okay, so I've got this )(*(&*^*%^& chest infection and I've cancelled my London to Paris bikeride.   Of course my doctor told me not to cycle London to Paris when I saw her on Monday.  Given that I was running a temperature and had creaky lungs there was no surprise there but honestly, in my madness, I was still thinking "maybe?".  But don't worry people, if the doctor hadn't put the kibbosh on my racing plans, friends and family made sure to do so very quickly.  Of course - 5 days after starting my antibiotics I am perking up.  Out of bed, halfway human again.  Still partly thinking that maybe I could have done?  But given that I pant when I climb up the stairs I know, I know.  So I am being prudent (SO boring) and taking 2 weeks off - a whole other 10 days to go! - and getting a proper examination before I slowly go back to exercise (I hope). 

Anyway - that's by the by.  I'm not the only person who's ever had to sit out an event, and it's happened to me before - I'll get over it. But here's what gets my goat.  Many people have said to me, when they found out I was ill, that I was ill because "I do so much exercise".  In their eyes, I think, I wear myself out and "overdo" it.  My initial reaction at these comments is intense irritation and anger and I throw it back at them - I like exercising, I like training and anyway - I know a large amount of people (most of you) who train harder than I do and dedicate more of your lives to your sport than I do.  But reflecting on my reaction I realise that it's not really what people say to me that matters as much as what I feel they're attacking.  I realise that I get so angry because I feel like they are asking me to cut back on something, often the main thing, that I do in life for my own self-fulfillment and enjoyment.  Like many of you, I have a family and friends and a home and personal issues and occasionally a job that put demands on me.  All of these are good things and I am lucky to have them, lucky to be wanted and needed in so many different ways.  But sometimes I feel pulled in too many different directions.  When I'm asked to be somewhere for someone I go, almost without questioning.  And the more demands that are placed on me, the less I tend to question whether I should always accede to them, the more I just tend to flip from one to the other.  Yes - I find it hard to say no.  As far as this chest infection goes - who knows what caused it?  Maybe running Boston was tougher than I thought, I was tired afterwards and flew home on a germy plane,  I didn't take enough time off before starting up running again.  All true.  But I can tell you that in the last few weeks I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the rest of my life and how tiring that was.  I spent very little time exercising precisely because I was doing so much other stuff.  And I was beginning to long for a training schedule because I know how dedicated I am to following a schedule and how, when I'm training, I make smarter decisions on which of the demands from the rest of my life I should be responding to.  When I'm in training, I know I have limited time for the rest of stuff and so I am focused and directed.  So - in contrast to what people say to me - I think that training actually forces me to balance my life.  And makes me happy.  So as soon as I can, I will get my training head back on.
can you see one of the sweet things in the rest of my life?
Which means that 10 more of days of sitting things out is not something I'm relishing. Watching from the sidelines in any aspect of something in life is not something I enjoy.  I've never even spectated a race - and that shames me, because I have drawn on the support of crowds on many an occasion (never more so than when I had to do so, literally, in the 2009 London marathon).  And to thwart any intention I might have to become a better spectator, the ridiculous lottery system that the London Olympics has instigated for UK residents meant that most of us who applied got NO tickets at all while residents of the rest of the EU were able to apply on a first-come, first-serve basis for whatever event they liked.  Bitter, me?  But if anyone you know wants to rent a lovely apartment near the Olympics site during the summer Olympics, let me know because I'm cashing in, I'm going to spectate this thing like the rest of you - on TV. 

Where does that leave my summer plans?  Well - I'm not sure.  I am - so far - committed to two events - the Virgin London triathlon (July 31st) and the Cascade Lakes Relay (August 5-6).  I was hoping to start a "proper" 6 week triathlon schedule on Jun 20th.  I'm going to have to see how that works out with my health and whether I'm able to do so.  I have various triathlon books but was going to follow a combination beginner / intermediate program from - beginner for swimming, intermediate for cycling and running, but if I really need to start up slowly (do I? do I have to?) I will do the beginner program for everything.  I mean, let's face it, this race is not going to be impressive in terms of time, given the base I'll be coming from.  But I really would like, one way or the other, to do this thing.  I was considering doing a sprint triathlon in the run-up to it but I am abandoning that plan so I don't overcommit myself.  As for the relay - Jen and Zach who have so sweetly invited me onto their team have also reassured me that the point of the relay is the fun, not the time - so no-one is expecting anything lightning-fast from me in Oregon either.  The pressure is off. 

So bear with me as I grumble my way through my convalescence - do you think I could at least do a 30 minute yoga video? - and soon, I hope, I will be joining you out on the road again.