Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm a liebster?

The fantastically-abbed, incredbly warm-hearted treadmill runner extraordinaire Emz tagged me.  And where Emz goes I follow.  At some distance behind her, but still..

Emz and I in Boston 2011.  Yes I was starstruck. 

The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. (Upcoming blogger? Not sure about that  - I think I have been at this thing so long that all my followers have dropped me.  But I'll take all the help I can get). 

The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. (I'm a sucker for being called these things so here's me jumping off a cliff for an award).

Rules for receiving this award:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they’ve tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Notify the people you have tagged.
5. No tag backs. ;)

So here goes - 11 things about me:

1.  I love reading.  I devour novels.  I read while I was in labour, I balanced books on my babies' heads while I fed them, I read in cars, in the bath, on the toilet, in bed.  Highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow - it's the oxygen for my life.
2. I'm finding the cycling bit of triathlon surprisingly tough.  I can ride a bike, I can clip in (and out, most of the time), I can handle myself in traffic - but I find it hard to really push myself.  If I don't commit to my ride and to really go for it, I find my heart rate dropping to a corpse-like pace.  I'm beginning to realise that all of those who have been riding bikes well and hard for some time have a bit of head start on me.
3. I'm a sucker for a dare.  It's very immature but I just cannot help myself.  This weekend we were in the lake district and climbed a mountain near the Honister Pass.  To quote from Wikipedia, " [it] reaches an altitude of 1,167 feet (356 m), making it one of the highest in the region, and also one of the steepest, with gradients of up to 1-in-4 (25%)".  We saw some crazy-ass professional looking cyclists heaving their way up this pass and the idea burned into my head that I should try this.  I discussed this stupid idea with a couple of my friends who I was there with, most of whom are experienced cyclists.  They all said it was "in the mind" and I figured I have a mind like a steel trap, so why not have a go?  I had a 3 hour bikeride on the books on Sunday and so, hey presto, Sunday morning saw me cycling to the Honister Pass.  It's pretty up and downy on the way there and I was fine with that.  After a while there is less vegetation and this is where I started to talk to myself ("it's all in the mind, you're strong, you can do this, imagine how great you'll feel, yadda yadda yadda").  And then I hit the first bit where the gradient is 25%.  OH MY LORD!  I was hanging on for dear life, terrified the bike would flip backwards with the pressure I was exerting on the handlebars, I was in my smallest gear and could barely get my pedals round and all I was thinking was "[insert swearword] I won't be able to clip out if I get into trouble".  I couldn't stop myself all I could think of was clipping out.  And I managed.  So there I was on this )(*(*&*&^*&% incline out of the saddle.  And then all I could think was "man the [insert swearword] up Petra!  What the )(*(*&*&^ is going on here? Get back on your )(*(&^*%^ bike!".  So I managed to get back on which was no mean feat on that incline.  And I pushed on and up.  And then, I was nearly at the top and I was going so slowly (and grinding my pedals SO hard, and my heart rate was off the chart) and then I hit a pothole.  And fell.  Not very hard, as I was going so slowly.  And then I could not get back on again, it was just too steep.  So I walked my bike the last minute or so to the top.  Where I was faced with my next dilemma - how in the (*(*& was I going to get down this pass?  It was absolutely hideous.  I squeezed my brakes with everything I had and slowly made my way down, imagining all the while what would happen if I came off the road (not impossible as it was v narrow and the cars were wedging past me) and just hoping and praying I'd make it to the bottom and telling myself I was fool to take on the dare.  By the time I got to the bottom of the hill my spirit was broken.  I was berating myself for being such a fool, for even trying this dumb thing, for ALWAYS rising to a dare.  Even if I'm daring myself.  My legs and arms were broken too - it was all I could do to get back to our holiday cottage....  I'm okay today.  Going for a very flat run this evening...
4. I'm Dutch but have been living in England for longer than I've lived anywhere else and the Olympics have proven to me that I now feel culturally British.  I'm going to get that passport sorted!
5. I'd like to be organised but am not.  I read Real Simple instead of organising my paperwork and photos.
6. I hate - absolutely loathe - board games.  And card games.  On the very rare occasions that I play a game with my kids I feel I should be given a free pass straight into Mother heaven as I feel I am making the most enormous sacrifice.
7. On the other hand, I love building Lego.
8. My go-to Karaoke song is "Don't Rain on my Parade".
9. My favourite food is mexican food.  I love Wahaca
10. I also adore Sushi.  Japan is the next country I'd like to visit.
11. I'm so not done with goals and challenges.  In the next 10 years I'd like to learn how to surf, improve my skiing, learn Japanese, improve my handling of personal finances and find a good yoga teacher.  Among other things.

Okay - my questions from Emz are:

1. Favorite social media? Facebook.  I have too much to say for Twitter.
2.  Favorite post workout meal? Big salad with chicken and avacado and nuts and seeds and all sorts of delicious stuff thrown in.
3.  Clean the house or do yard work? Clean the house.
4.  Favorite gift you've ever received? Beautiful painting from Adam for my 40th.
5.  Do you look most like your mom or dad? Like my mother, I think, though I don't really think I look that much like either of them. 
6.  If you could go any where in the world - where would you go? Japan - see above.  But I'm also desperate to go back to the US to see friends.  Do I have to choose? 
7.  Workout alone or with a group? Alone... 
8.  Favorite song at the moment? Call Me Maybe. I know, I know.  I've never been very edgy. 
9.  Three qualities of your best friend.  Honest, funny, loyal. 
10.  Favorite Olympic event?  10000m.  Strategy.  And seeing Tirunesh Dibaba win with such joy was great.
11.  Why did you start blogging? Because I was the only person I knew who wanted to talk and hear about running, and I wanted to hear about others who loved it.  It's changed my life, brought me new friends and a new career.  I'm not stopping!

My questions for the tagged ones?  I'm sorry this makes me feel like I'm writing an article in some teen magazine but go for it..

1. What is your next big goal / challenge?
2. What language would you like to learn to speak?
3. Which book has most inspired you?
4. What is the one thing you'd like to do but are afraid to try?
5. Best moment in the 2012 Olympics?
6. Favourite cuisine?
7. To what extent is your lifestyle shaped by the exercise / sport you do?
8. Has your exercise / sport affected your diet?
9. What is your favourite post-race treat - food or otherwise?
10. Which bloggers inspire you?
11. If you're not my FB friend, will you friend me now?

And here's my tagged ones.  Oh man - I hate this - it's like picking your favourite child - but this is just a sampling.  And some of you have way more than 200 followers - I know that.  But do it if you can - it's bound to be fun reading...

Good lord that took a while!  Hope you all have fun doing it!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Suck it up sunshine and do your job!

Crazy times!  The past few weeks have been crazy times!  Kids are still home from school (another 4 weeks of summer holidays to go) and we've had big birthday parties, sleepovers, a few days at the beach in Wales, the purchase of piglets and a trip to London to see the Olympics (more later).

Training has been a challenge.  Focus - what I was looking for in my last post - has not been easy to come by.  As always, I learn things slowly and by having truths pounded into my head repeatedly.  One morning I was on my trainer struggling to complete a 90 minute trainer ride.  I was constantly thinking of excuses to get off my bike and end this thing.  I thought of emailing my trainer and whining that I couldn't do this ride. When it struck me I couldn't, because my trainer was out doing an Ironman.  So she was not going to be available to pat my hand and tell me I was fine for not doing what I set out to do (which, incidentally, she wouldn't have done.  And I knew that.)  I sucked it up and finished the ride - without much conviction but with an inkling of understanding seeping in that sometimes I just need to suck it up.  The next week or so after that I struggled through my training - in my heart of hearts feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to do all this hard work. 

At the beginning of the week I wrote to my coach and told her how I was feeling.  Her response was an incredible email with various points I'd like to share:
  • the first year of triathlon it is hard to learn to fit all the different things in.  Certainly true - having a coach is making it much easier but I would still say the sheer logistics and planning that go into fitting it in are a challenge. 
  • It is hard. But if I want do this, I need to just do it.  Prioritise it.  And be brave about it. 
In this respect I am not a terribly brave person.  I like to make decisions that others approve of.  One of the things I am struggling with is right now is that in order to make my training work and my business work I think I need to make some lifestyle changes that others around me will not approve of. Training for marathons has been something I have been to fit alongside my existing lifestyle and I have been able to do it without it impacting much on those around me.  My lifestyle has changed in the past 9 years but not in a way that, I think, has had a great impact on others.  I eat well, generally, but there's also plenty of not so good food choices.  A lot of socialising around me involves alcohol and while I don't tend to drink too much, I will certainly go along with that.  Although I love my early nights and early mornings, I  will also stay up later occasionally to fit in with the bigger social schedule.

To fit in half ironman training, to fit in the amount of training I want to do with my clients, to learn the new skills I need to learn as a personal trainer - I need to make some bigger changes.  This may sound sappy, but it came home to me on a bikeride this week. I was trying very hesitantly to turn my bike 180 degrees in a narrow lane.  I was going at it slowly and hesitantly and it suddenly struck me that in my mind I was willing the bike to turn but my body was not doing enough to actually make it happen - I had to be brave enough to turn the wheel and follow through.  And in Oprah-like sychnchronicity, this is what needs to happen in my life - if I want to make a change, I need to actually turn my wheels in the direction I want to go in. 

At 40, I cannot burn the candle at both ends.  I need to take my training seriously, and adapt my lifestyle accordingly.  Improve my diet. Prioritise my sleep.  Get my training in every day.  And not feel - like I have been feeling - all apologetic about it.  I need to treat my own training like my job - part of my appeal, if I have any, as a trainer and a coach is my credentials as an athlete.  And while I'm no winner of awards and don't expect to podium, ever, my achievements are credible and I need to treat them like that.  To get them, I need to train.  So if I need to, I will get childcare in to get my training in.  If I need to, I will leave a social occasion earlier so I can get to bed and get up in the morning at 5am and train.  Most of the time, I will leave the wine to others.  (As an aside, despite years of practise, I am not much of a drinker and my sleep and mood improve massively when I don't drink).  And I need to believe that it is legitimate of me to do this.  And I need to be brave enough to stand up for this choice when people challenge me on it.  I am not surrounded by other athletes, many of my friends make very different choices.  And I respect that completely.  I now need to respect my own choices.

Herewith endeth the sermon.

And I leave you with some photos of an Olympic weekend of inspiration - my son Felix and I started off Saturday morning by spectating the triathlon in Hyde Park (and getting friendly with Gwen Jorgenson's family who were wonderful and inspiring, despite her disappointing race due to a puncture).

Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen

After that race we made our way across London - which is alive, alive, alive! in a way I have never seen it - to the Olympic park to watch women's hockey and just soak up the atmosphere, before coming home for an amazing night of British medals - gold for lovely lovely Jessica Ennis, wonderful Mo Farah and the great ginger long jumping chap.
Running the Olympic marathon course early in the morning
Shalane Flanagan
Kara Goucher in the red hat behind the green chick
And then yesterday I ran my prescribed 90 minute run partially on the marathon course (cheered on by funny volunteers who all rated my chances of winning the thing!) before heading out to spectate the women's marathon.  The weather was, at times, diabolical but what a view and what a sight they were - amazing!  We cheered EVERYONE and got quite a few glances from the athletes (my voice is gone today).  It's been so fantastic to have the Olympics here - so exciting to travel to London to actually see it. And the games are not over yet..

So inspired by what I've seen, I'm on my way to realigning my life and priorities. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thought for the day

Focus, focus, focus.  Isn't it strange how when you finally put your finger on what's bugging you the whole picture is clarified from different angles?

  • Today's blogpost from Sage Rountree - whose dvd of Yoga for Athletes I love (but I rarely take / make enough time to do it - point taken!).  She posted how the focus that is so central to yoga is so important during endurance events like Tour de France.  I started a new yoga class on Tuesday - there are very few yoga classes around here - and was feeling a bit "meh" because we "did" so little.  I mean - all this relaxing and letting go, right? But maybe, instead, this is what I should be doing - relaxing and letting go, focusing on a few poses, rather than trying to manically get through them all? 
  • Catching up on my blogs I came across a wonderful post from Amanda - and if you don't read her blog you should, she is wonderfully honest and insightful - and I just want to quote this: Living intentionally and making our life what we want is truly open to each and every single one of matter what our life is made up of. We have choices. We hold the power to make changes in our life. Whether this means making the most of canceled plans, changing the way we eat and the activities we are involved in so we can live a healthy life, learning something new, using our gifts to make a dream come true, or even something as simple as changing our furniture around and cleaning our windows to let some light in... we hold the power to create happiness for ourselves. It starts with intention and motivation. And creating happiness for our lives doesn't have to be doesn't have to cost doesn't have to be a daunting task that leaves us defeated before we even can be something small. 
I've long believed in sometimes doing the opposite of me - of shifting backwards in order to go forwards, just to unstick yourself.  Now I'm adding some goals about being proactive in my life, with my business and my family.  Allocating time and energy to each in turn instead of balancing them all at the same time (well - as much as that is possible with the family around all the time).  Small goals are a good way to start - and short-term goals are a good way to begin to get some focus.  So today's goals:
- workout in the morning - tick!  Did an hour on the trainer - I've been outside a lot recently (and been caught in downpours and storms and all sorts) so today I decided to shake it up and get back to some Ugly Betty viewing during a not-too-taxing bike workout.  I have another run workout to complete but that was not a brick so I will do that this evening.
- spend time with the kids this afternoon - after various appointments I'm going to head outside with the two of them to blow some cobwebs out of all our heads and catch up with them both.  I'm encouraging them both to do some goal-setting for themselves this holiday.
- diet-wise - well there's a hot potato that I'm not going to touch for now, other than to say I'm moving towards eating more healthily and cutting down on the not-so-good for me stuff, particularly the mindless eating I am so prone to do in reactive mode.

It's hard to see how gorgeous the poppies are in the field behind me - but they really are gorgeous.
I'm a work in progress and perhaps some of this stuff is needlessly sappy for you (though hey - in my biggest desperation I am still unable to get through the Secret)  but I feel some progress and much positivity.  Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time to press the reset button.

Things have been manic for months around me.  Or at least, they have seemed manic. I haven't had more than most on my plate but for some reason, my response to what has been out there has been more or less an entirely reactive one.  I've lurched from mini to major crises, putting fires out where I could.  In the middle of that I've tried to train my clients competently, have tried (and often failed) to stick to my training schedule and have no doubt driven my wonderful and saintly coach nuts with my self-loathing after missing yet another workout (one of my favourite emails from her starts with "Petra, You are a head case."). 

Apart from working out and reading, a lot of the other stuff I like to do has been left undone.  Emails and letters to friends and writing my blog. Both of these activities take some thought, reflection and concentration.  I have simply not had it - flitting around from unfinished job to another.  Completely lacking focus. 

I have been idly wondering why I haven't blogged - but only in the sort of ADHD way that I'm thinking at the moment - 2 minutes while driving somewhere or 10 seconds before falling asleep.  Had I run out of stuff to say?  Unlikely.  I thought maybe I'd run out of inspiration, but judging by the amount of notes I've made and unfinished blog posts in my feed, I wouldn't say that is the case either.  Today everything finally caught up with me.  The kids are home from school and it struck me that my messy, all over the shop attitude is really messing up my time with my kids.  When I'm with them I'm thinking of other jobs that need doing (and often trying to do them on my iPhone) and then when I'm not with them I'm feeling guilty that I'm not enjoying them (and they're growing up too fast and I'll soon be 55 and alone and needy and miserable and yadda yadda yadda).  My usual response to these moments has been to just instinctively feel guilty and spiral into a loop of self-hatred (cue: "Petra, You are a headcase").  But today I was so tired - and tired of myself - that I decided a better response was called for - a solution of sorts.  Focus.  Finishing one thing before starting another.  Being in one place mentally at a time.  Mornings for training people, training myself and doing my admin.  Including blogs, reading and writing.  Afternoons for the kids.  First day of it today and although I'm finishing this post off at night, it's worked for the kids and myself. 

So I'm back folks.  One flawed attempt at a time. 

Which leads me to a mini catchup.  I'm going to catch up on you - and here's your catchup on me.
  • First Olympic distance tri complete.  Summary?  Incredibly )(*(&^*^%&^% hard.  Much harder than I thought it would be.
    • Hard logistically. After all the planning, and all the packing lists, I found myself listening to last minute instructions in the morning and suddenly realising my race chip was in my transition box, in transition.  Which was meant to be closed at that point.  It wasn't, thankfully, and so I just had to fight my way against the tide of those leaving transition to retrieve my chip and put it on. 
    • Exhausting. I had kind of equated doing an Olympic distance tri with running a half marathon (not at PB pace).  It was not.  It was much much harder.  I was exhausted by the time I came off the bike and still had to run a 10K.
    • That's it really.  Tiring.  Exhausting.  Hard.  Fun?  I think so... 
  • Training. 
    • Going well until about 4 weeks ago when I got a slight rotator cuff strain showing (off) pushups to a client and then carried on swimming on it.  I have been out of the pool for 3 weeks and am not sure when I'll be back.  The shoulder is, sadly, not right yet. The rest is going fine.  I've been riding and running and riding and running.  Despite the fact that I probably should be focusing my attention on building an ark. 
    • Me - after a 3h15m ride and a 30m run.  Wet to the bone.
    • Thank god for my coach.  I have clearly not shown massive competence in paddling my own canoe at the moment and thank god I have her.  She tells me what to do, lets me off the hook when I won't and kicks me up the butt when I need it.  She's terrifyingly good herself but nonetheless does not give up on me.  
Onwards folks.  Part of the reinstatement of proactive me is me getting to bed on time.  As of tonight.  So here goes.  I'm back.  Tell me what I've missed. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And so it begins.

After years of contemplating it and faffing about and entering races and then not doing them, debating the purchase of a bike, buying the wrong size bike, selling it again and buying the right size bike, buying the wrong size wetsuit, selling it, buying the right size wetsuit, starting swimming lessons, stopping swimming lessons, starting swimming lessons again, thinking I can train myself, freaking myself out, hiring a coach - aaaaaaaaaaargh.  Finally.  I did my first tri on Sunday.

I will spare you the full blow-by-blow.  I had actually written it out but it was kind of boring, even to me.  Which would, no doubt, mean it is totally boring to you.

So I will give you some highlights on each element:

  • nerve-wracking.  It was a pool swim where people were set off every 2 minutes, slowest going first.  Coach had told me to go hypoxic and I took this seriously - halfway through I wanted to die / give up / pull out / forget about the whole thing.  Hung on in there though and finished.  10:30 for the swim and the run out of the pool to the transition area (generously will make that a 60 second run so a 9:30 swim.  Not awful).  
  • stressful - I could not  get past the girl in front of me - there were too many people in my lane (5/6) to get long enough to swim past her.  So I eventually swam under her.  She must have been surprised to see me bob up in front of her.  She was on my toes for the rest of the swim as I slowed down a bit... 
  • Thankfully someone had warned me about the start being steep so I had my bike in an easy gear.  This was the course (out and back).  I took it a bit too easy I think - I did the 17.5 km in 39:30.  Overtook people on the uphills, lost them on the downhills.  I must be able to fix that somehow next time.

  • Again, a bit of a bear of a course (the map is a bit short because it is a 5km, run in two loops). 
  • Loved this. The hard bits were over with - this is where I was in my comfort zone.  Yes, it was my first ever 5K but hey - that was always going to be a PB then wasn't it?  The first hill took a bit of doing but I powered up it the second time much more confidently and really enjoyed the downhill.   22:45 overall which I was very happy with as a first 5K time.
Can you see I'm happy?  Happy to be done as well.

Nearly there!

Transitions (apparently known as the fourth discipline in triathlon):
  • took a bit of doing!  An extremely kind and helpful triathlete I had met at the pool in the week prior had emailed me his packing list and a list of everything he does on the day before and before the race to get ready.  Invaluable!  Made me feel much more in control.  
  • A person setting up next to me offered to look over my bike and transition areas and helped me to set it all up a bit more efficiently.  
  • I was a bit inefficient in my transitions - the times were 1:50 and 1:39 and I think I farted about a bit too much... 
  •  2 days prior to the race I went to a local-ish tri shop to buy an all-in-one trisuit (am wearing it above). The trisuit was great once I got over the sensation that I was naked - I kept feeling I was in one of those nightmares where everyone else is dressed and you're not.  On the bike I threw over a long sleeved top (not really necessary though).  The seating area, however, was not so comfy on this short bike ride.  Do you think I could wear a proper pair of cycling shorts over the trisuit in a longer race?  Anyone ever done this? 
  • I also bought a new wetsuit (on account of the fact that I could not squeeze myself into the old one I had) and this was a success insofar as wedging myself into a tight neoprene skin could ever be classed as a success.  There's a lake on the farm where we live so I went out in on Saturday.  Cold. COLD!  But just about manageable in the wetsuit.  My hands and feet were freezing though.  I'll try again this weekend. 

So next it's the Olympic-distance triathlon in 4 weeks.  1500m open water swim - swim coach and overall coach say I can do it.  It will be a very different race from this friendly, fairly casual affair last Sunday - there are a lot of serious age-groupers (like my use of the lingo?) taking part and it's a much bigger, more official affair.  Am happy to lag at the back though - this is all about making it through and figuring it out.  So back to the pool / bike / run again this week!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A month of firsts

This has been a month of firsts.  And probably a lot of seconds, thirds etc.  And some things which just seem to happen ALL the time, forever (like not catching up on blogs, failing to tick everything off my to-do list).  But for the purpose of this blog and because you are no doubt bored of my excuses for not being up to do date on your blogs - let's focus on the firsts:

First ever 54 mile bike ride - IN THE BAG! (Can you see that it says on the photo "please do not steal images"? Now I feel guilty.  But not guilty enough to buy it...

It was wet and cold.  My triclub teammates said I was brave for wearing 3/4 length leggings.  I don't have full-length ones or I surely would have worn them.  But no matter - I had invested in a new pair of gloves and I was just psyched.  Before the race I experienced another first:
Yes I had to get that folded up new tire on my back wheel.  Aarggh!
But YouTube is a wonderful thing and I managed to take my back wheel off - I was SO afraid of doing that before AND I managed to replace the inner and the outer tube (a pothole had pushed a stone through both).

The race (or rather a sportive, but when you're not racing why split hairs?) was great.  The hills were a bear, especially for someone who doesn't train on them but in a perverse way I enjoyed them.  When I was climbing I was working SO hard I could not think of anything else - it was almost meditative.  Apart from my very heavy breathing. We took a break after the first 20 miles and then ploughed on for the last 34, eventually all riding on our own at our own pace.  I was happy to complete the ride in just over 4 hours, feeling strong and still in one piece. I even managed a 10 minute brick run afterwards!

The other - HUGE - first, is that I have got off my butt and made myself work at my personal training business.  I've really put some effort in some different directions and while one of them - a franchised group exercise setup - is beginning to look less appealing to me now, I think that the exercise of going through it and figuring out how to do it has proved extremely useful.  And as a result of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I have my first 3 clients!  I'm on my way.

And this weekend is the final first - for now - my first ever triathlon.  Like with the bike race I'm excited, not scared.  I know I can swim 400m now, I know I can cylce the distance, i know I can run a 5km race (is now a bad time to confess that I've never actually run an official 5k?) - so the question is just how I handle it.  Pacing and strategy is what it's all about, in my mind, and I'm going to see how I manage this.  I have a habit of taking things a bit too easy, so I'm going to push from the outset and see how I go.  And see how I handle the practicalities of the transitions - that bit does make me slightly nervous..

Race report to follow - I'm going back to my to-do list.  If I can do a tri, I can do anything.  And repeat. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

why I do this

I've just come back from my 5 day skiing trip in Austria.  We had a wonderful holiday with lovely friends, good skiing (surprisingly good snow despite it being April) 
my goggles are crooked and the angle doesn't flatter me but hey - check out that run! 
and a very carb-heavy diet (do they even have vegetables in Austria?).  I developed quite the passion for Kaiserschmarrn which is a messy mixture of butter-fried dough, stewed plums and whipped cream.

and here I thought that I didn't have a sweet tooth.  It takes more than a few hair raising black runs to make up for this.  
One of my favourite things about going away is the opportunity it presents to look at your life from a distance - to contemplate where you are, where you're going and whether you are happy with the overall direction of your life.

And I've come back very happy with everything. I was happy to be skiing, but also very happy to come home.  Not everything is perfect in my life (thankfully) but I'm lucky and happy and things are beginning to come together for me professionally.

Getting to 40 has been an interesting journey.  The one area of my life where I have not felt I have ever found much contentment has been my professional life.  I have jumped all over the place in my life (BA English Literature, MA American Studies, then I worked as a commissioning editor for an academic publishing house, an IT trainer for a management consultancy, a web designer for a news website, a marketing director for a law firm).  Nothing has ever felt "right", which is not to say I haven't enjoyed the jobs themselves.

I have written before - many times - about the mental shift that has accompanied training as a PT. Becoming a PT has been the culmination of a major personal journey which started with me taking up running as an overweight, direction-less new mother.  And I know I keep banging on about this, but the mental shift has been the most enormous thing and I realised on this holiday that I am still struggling with it.  I have some confidence in myself intellectually, but still lack it when it comes to being a PT.  Maybe this is because I was never a confident athlete as a child (I was not athletic, nor very competent) and maybe that's the time where our fundamental sense of who we are, or what we are good at, is shaped.  I grew up expecting to make my mark, professionally, in some kind of academic field - as a lecturer or a writer or an academic.  To find myself at 40 with a PT qualification is completely astonishing to me.  Or - in all honesty - getting the qualification was hard for all sorts of mainly practical reasons.  Actually starting work as a PT is much harder because I am putting the brakes on myself.  If I really look at myself - and stepping away from my day to day life on holiday allowed me that - I can see that I still lack the confidence to actually feel that I can help others, that I can tell others what to do when it comes to personal training.

And I need to get over that.  And myself.  And believe in me - believe that I can be of help, of support, of use to others in their journeys to personal fitness regardless of their goals.  And belief is just that - there does not need to be proof, I just need to have faith.  Hmmm.  Tough. ( I have been trying to read The Secret and just cannot get through it - does anyone have any tips on something I can read which motivates, encourages belief and faith and doesn't sound so sappy?  I know this book has worked for so many people I respect and value but I just cannot take it seriously. )

So why do I do it?  This training, this PT business?  Because, fundamentally, I believe (there we go again) that it is good to move beyond what you know.  Because it is exciting to see what you're capable of beyond what you thought you were capable of.  Because that is always true.  There are always places beyond your comfort zone where you can go and find a new aspect of yourself.  And that's not always going faster, or harder.  Sometimes just different.  My current personal mental block is core strength exercises.  Sometimes it just feels too much like aerobics - too many memories of the 80s and early 90s.  When I didn't exercise at all.  And I need to get over myself, once again.

I do this - the training, the business, the goal-setting - because I love figuring out all this new stuff.  Finding new ways of coping (and often having to find a few different ones before one of them works).  The struggle to get over myself and beyond who I think I am is incredibly invigorating and energising as well as frustrating and difficult.  More than anything else I have done with my life, I feel I am working towards the essence of me.

And then there's the community.  You!  All the people I meet, virtually and actually, who share my desire to push beyond what I think I can do and who want to motivate others to do the same.  I have held back on joining any organised communities for a long time, but I was recently approached by Jamie and Alyse from Fit Approach and asked to become an ambassador for them.  I have been reading the blogs on their site for a while and love the multi-faceted aspect of fitness and health they espouse and the honest and direct message they share about being and staying fit and healthy.

Fit Approach Sweat Pink Blog Badge

There are lots of us ambassadors - plenty of opportunity to shop around and find someone who appeals to what you are looking for.

After my 6 days off training, I'm back at it this weekend and I have a 9:30 hour training week ahead of me (ooph!).  Wish me luck!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Everything's coming up roses.


I could waste yet another post telling you what's not working for me right now (I'm still not caught up on everyone's posts, have left it another month or so to blog, and my inbox is groaning - this whole zero inbox thing is so not working for me right now) BUT that's the train of negativity which has now left my station - things are looking up:

  • my career is looking up - in the course of the past 2 weeks 3 different opportunities have come my way.  Interestingly, they are all things I haven't forced into happening but which have developed more slowly and, perhaps as a result, look like they are going to be right (for now).  (Does this mean I am going to have to learn to be patient rather than forcing things into existence?  Is this the kind of painful insight 40 years have brought me to?)  Watch this space - the reveal will come soon (when my kids are back at school and I can focus).  
  • That flu-thing I had last time?  It knocked me out for a week but I recovered, got back into the saddle.  
  • the coaching?  Is totally working.  There is NOTHING better than being told what to do.  (Am I actually saying that?  Perhaps it's only true when it comes to training).  My coach scrapped all workouts in the week when I was recovering from flu.  Had I not had her, I would have, no doubt, been back at it too soon.  As it was, there was nothing in Training Peaks so I didn't do anything.  And recovered.  And for the past 2 weeks I have been hitting it.  Hard - for me.  This half ironman training thing is no doozie - 8-9 hours of training a week and scanning ahead I can see 10+ hour weeks!  
But 3 months into this stop start process of becoming a triathlete, I am feeling a bit better about things.  While I am still not fast in the pool, I can sense progress.  The bike is also getting better, if still not very fast.  And the running is good despite the volume being way lower than what I'm used to.  But more than that, I am beginning to get my head round it.  At the beginning I was just overwhelmed with the whole thing - swimming! biking! running! transition! bits of equipment that need to be bought! aaaaaargh!  The individual elements are now beginning to assume their correct size rather than the monster proportions they were taking up in my brain.  If coach tells me to swim 2000m I now know I can actually do that.  So I don't agonize over it for days.  I've even signed up for my first sportif - that just sounds so Tour de France! - in 3 weeks - 56 miles - and I'm mildly confident that I will make it round.  Whatever was going on with me in January / February - I feel I've turned a corner on it and am beginning to feel some semblance of direction and progress again.  

Blogging has kind of taken a backseat while I've been leading my life, but I need to stay in touch because the stuff shared is the stuff I need more of in my life.  Take for instance this nugget which wonderful Meg shared in her blog this evening, with special reference to dealing with teenagers: 

I had just emerged from a discussion with my teenager which started off not so well - I should have read Meg's blog first thing this evening because she advises strongly to bite your tongue which I didn't do.  However, after I did bite my tongue I did my best to listen, to not offer advice, and to help along the lines above.  It worked.  (I just showed her the quote above and she pointed out that what I said to her initially was none of the above.  Painful but true.  She then said that what she said to me in response was also none of the above.  Also true. Being a parent is more difficult than training.) Thank you Megsie - I needed you back! And on a practical note - a great big elephant in the room for me has always been weight / core training.  I just have this deep belief in me that I can't do it.  However, I'm trying to ignore that belief (10 years ago I didn't believe I could run a mile so things can change) and the incredibly impressive and buff Jess is inspiring me with her workouts.  Some of them have me laughing out loud because they seem almost impossible but I'm trying to ride with it and do them anyway.  The only way is up (or in, as I want my stomach to be).  

There's no way to even pretend that I'm going to be reading your blogs because I'm about to head off for 5 days of skiing - but when I get back, I will!  I promise!  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Still on the team?

I was reading a blog post by one of my favourite running bloggers, Lauren Fleshman, where she writes about being part of a team and how it motivates her, and also how she feels when she is not part of the team (due to injury).  "But as the injury settles in, I slip further and further away. Emails from the team remain unopened (what does that have to do with me anyway?) Therapy appointments get scheduled right over practice times (I can’t run so why be there?) Before too long, a random run-in with a teammate at the grocery store becomes as awkward as a conversation with an ex-boyfriend. By eight weeks in, I might as well be shacking up in the Maldives. I’m totally gone."

I've not been injured recently, but I've definitely spent time away from my team.  You lot.  The other runners / triathletes / active folk out there, training for races and events and pushing yourselves in so many different type-A ways.  I've not been blogging, I've not been commenting, I've not been reading, I've not even been FaceBooking - I have just been out of it.

I've tried to put my finger on why I've felt so out of it. I think some of it has to do with feeling lacking in purpose.  Everyone else is gearing up for a race and I'm trying to get on with some non-running goals.  Deferring the VLM was the smart thing to do, but it also took a goal and a purpose away.  And while I have a goal, athletically, in the half ironman,  I was very much grappling with how to attack that goal.  Bite-sized chunks, sure enough, but it's surprising how un-prescriptive triathlon training from books is, compared to running training from books.  And my friendly coach-but-not-a-coach had given me an impressive training schedule but I still struggled with whether I could move things around, how I measured intensity and generally this feeling of "am I doing this right, teacher?".

The smart thing to do would have been, obviously, to stick with the team - you - and ask you for advice.  But instead I sank into a little slough of despond all of my own making and just flailed around for a bit.  I drafted quite a few blog posts, tried to respond to a meme I was invited to answer but couldn't find any enthousiasm for it (10 interesting things about me?  I don't think there are any).

And then last week I got a grip of myself.  Yes, I still have some things to sort out before my PT business can get started - some within and some outside of my control.  I am the world's worst procrastinator when it comes to finishing my website.  That's one thing.  But I can stop flailing around when it comes to triathlon training and ask for some help.  And so I did.  I got a coach.  An amazingly heavy weight feels like it has dropped off my shoulders.  I don't have to figure it all out myself!  I do what she tells me to do.  If it's too hard, I tell her and she adjusts the next workout.  If it's too easy, same deal.  My son has been home ill with flu and Tuesday evening I felt myself going downhill.  Had I not had a coach, I would have taken myself off to the pool as planned (because if I don't do a workout it proves what a bad person / procrastinator / useless athlete I am, right?).  However, I emailed her and she told me not to go.  I went to bed early and woke up yesterday in the throws of flu.  Unlike last year, I didn't waste any time in going to the doctor and getting my beginning chest infection diagnosed.  And I'm not panicking about missed training either - I have months to go before my race and my coach will help me to sort out my workouts.

So I'm back - back on the team.  I have a goal, and a plan.  Not flailing but waving.  Back on top!

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Yes it doesn't always rain / snow / sleet on my parade at newbie triathlete training towers.  I have various bits of news and insight to (over) share with you but why not start with the good news - I had a breakthrough swimming session this week! 

I missed Monday's swim class again, this time due to freezing fog.  But I made a vow to get to the pool on Tuesday and I did.  I had told the person advising me on triathlon (not a coach, not a coach, but basically a coach) that I was going to "swim 200s" and he agreed.  Sounds like I know what I'm doing right?  I got to the pool feeling nervous - I just tend to get very tired very quickly when swimming and swimming 200m without stopping, several times, was not something I was confident about.  However, another swim coach keeps telling me to slow down in the pool and while warming up I had this blinding insight - that I could not run until I really slowed down.  Maybe the same would work with swimming?  I tend to pump my legs frantically in the pool and so made a real effort to slow down.  And I did.  And I did it.  I did 4 x 200m and then even added on a 400m - all fine.  I could have carried on! No land speed records were broken (400m takes me about 10 minutes - I know!) but nonetheless - for the first time I thought - I am going to be able to get to the 1900m in the next 7 months.  I will manage it.  Amazing. I have been on a high about this for days.  

The other stuff - well meh.  Let me bulletpoint it for you: 
  • Virgin London marathon?  I've pulled out.  I can defer my place till next year and I found training for a marathon as well as trying to improve my biking / swimming too much.  I don't think I would have done the marathon much justice and I'm not interested in "just getting round".  A good-for-age place is an honour, like a Boston qualifier, and I want to give it my all.  In 2013. 
  • Business?  Hmm.  Eating the elephant in small bites is probably the best way to put it.  I'm not being as productive / effective as I need to be with this but will figure out just quite how and why I'm holding back and then share.  Actually, come on, let's face it.  It's still that pure fear.  I'm working on ignoring it, focusing on what needs to be done, not allowing myself to get distracted (I briefly tried to add yoga teacher to my qualifications but was made to realise by a good friend who knows me that this was just a strategy to avoid getting my head down and doing my PT).  I'm plugging away at myself though and will continue to.  I will wear my insecure self down and do it anyway.  
  • Biking.  Ah.  This is where I need some triathlete advice.  I bought a trainer, set it up, worked out how to use my bike computer (and this is the compressed version - both the trainer AND my bike computer were accompanied by diabolically badly written manuals so there was a fair amount of sighing, swearing, and checking out stuff on the internet before everything worked).  Now I am trying to figure out how to do workouts on the bike trainer.  I bought a Sufferfest download and I enjoyed it - though found the workout HARD!  I struggle with motivation and keep telling myself that if I can run on a treadmill I can do this too...  But it's not easy.  Tips / advice?  I've tried watching my tween's Ugly Betty boxset but it doesn't get me in the mood - I think I need motivational bike stuff.  And Universal Sports does not appear to work here... I've just ordered a Spinervals DVD but am open to any other suggestions you might have. 
So - things are a bit mixed.  I am still working on my half ironman training schedule - trying to put something together that is not so challenging that I can't complete the workouts but will get me to the start line in September in shape to finish competently.  Getting my head round 2 a day workouts is another thing but I am confident I can do this.  Eventually.  

In the meantime, in sporting achievements, let me share some photos of my parents (67 and 66) in Holland yesterday.  If ever there was a reason to get off your behind and get fit and strong, it's so that you can be their age and do this kind of stuff: 

My mother's in the red hat in front, my uncle in the red jacket next to her.  This is people queueing up to get their card stamped in the course of a long-distance skating tour - to prove they've passed all the checkpoints. 

My mother in the red hat, my father in the blue hat and my uncle next to them.  My uncle, incidentally, is 76... 

My father ducking under a bridge.

I am so proud and impressed with them.  Right now the Dutch are hoping that the Elfstedentocht will come to pass this coming weekend although it's looking unlikely - 200kms of unbroken thick ice are needed.  I'm homesick - would give a great deal to be skating through the small villages of Holland right now with my parents and my children.  Will plan my trips to Holland better next year!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

half ironman half shmironman. Or no comfort zones.

I've just come back to my computer on a rainy Tuesday.  After a failed workout.  I had 2 hours on the bike on hills in my schedule and woke up at 6 this morning determined to make it happen. Had breakfast, got dressed, got the bike packed into my car (not easy as it's a mini) and headed about 10 miles away from here where rolling hills begin.  I waited for it to get light and found, to my dismay, that the day was grey.  As I got into my first mile I was very conscious that I had no lights on my bike or myself (although my jacket is a fairly luminous orange).  The second mile in I realised I was struggling to get out of my bike clips.  This is a permanent low-grade fear of mine - not being able to clip out - which can escalate quickly at any provocation.  This was such a provocation.  I talked myself down, out of the clips and got my toolkit out to see if I could loosen the clips.  Didn't have the right size allen key (although my clips are already pretty low on their setting I still struggle to get out).  And I then proceeded to have a minor panic attack.  The hills I was intending to climb in this grey drizzle are pretty steep and the thought of not being able to get off my bike if it got too hard, combined with my fear that I was not visible enough in the drizzle due to not having any lights meant that I got on my bike, turned around, and headed back to my car.  Head hung in shame, but I couldn't do this. 

I'm all for the cheesy inspirational quotes.  I love Oprah, I encourage others daily, I have a Lulumemon bag hanging on my wall to inspire me ("floss! Do something that scares you!").  I believe in it - I believe in not getting too comfortable with what you already know, in constantly pushing on and beyond yourself. 

But in the last few weeks I have found myself, on a few occasions, sitting in my car in the same situation as this morning.  Panic struck.  Terrified. Close to tears.  Unable to move forward or ahead.

I hate the expression "comfort zone".  But it's very descriptive.  And I've spent so little time there in the past 6 months that I'm hyperventilating a little with all the "doing things that scare me".  I feel I've done little but do things that scare me.  Doing the course in London terrified me.  It terrified me because I was nearly the oldest one there, and was afraid of being thought ridiculous for even thinking I could do this.  It terrified me because so much of the material we covered, practically and theoretically, was new to me.  Mostly it terrified me because becoming a personal trainer is something I want to do so much and doing something you want so much can be very scary - the thought of failing at something you really want is so much more scary than failing at something you don't care about. 

But I did it.  I passed every subject, practical and theoretical, the first time round.  And I came home and thankfully my family was still there, they all survived without me around as much.  Home was, and is, very much a comfort zone.

But still the scary stuff continues.  Starting a new business? Scary.  And this half ironman training?  It's entirely utterly terrifying.  What doesn't help is that I am such a beginner at this.  Just working out my training schedule makes my head hurt.  Thankfully I have a coach who has been a huge help but my new training schedule is - you guessed it - scary. 

Most of the time I can pull myself together and tell myself to have faith.  To have faith that breaking down the elements I need to put my business in place will eventually result in me having a business.
To have faith that all the sessions in the gym, in the pool, out on the run and on the bike will eventually meld together into my being able to do this thing in September without collapsing on the course.  That spending time doing something that is so hard and so new to me will benefit me as a person, as a parent, as a wife and as a trainer.  Most of the time I find myself able to breathe in, to breathe out - to figure out how to break the problem into smaller, doable targets. 

What is my point here?  I guess that most of the time I try to "feel the fear and do it anyway".  To fake it till I make it.  To break my challenge down into small manageable steps.  But sometimes, just sometimes - the big picture overwhelms me.  Sometimes I freeze in the face of all I have to conquer.  I don't know what more to say about that - is it good or is bad?  It is what it is, I guess.

Today my new turbo trainer will arrive (courier willing).  Tonight I will set it up and tomorrow I will ride, indoors.  I won't have to worry about unsurmountable hills for a little while, or dark mornings, or scary cars whooshing narrowly past me.  I will go to the pool and do my drills without worrying about the 1900m that await me in September. I will go out and run my tempo workout so hard tomorrow I won't have a chance to worry about it. 

And I will go back to my inspirational quotes and use them as weaponry against my fear.  Here's what Penelope Trunk said yesterday "no one is a failure in the middle of a big change. You can't fail if you're moving toward something. You fail only if you stop." And I will keep reminding myself how great this felt, and how good it was.  Running was inconceivable 10 years ago.  Running Boston was inconceivable 5 years ago.  Who knows what I will have done 5 years from now?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


(Apologies - it's a long one).

Big hairy-assed goals, or BHAGs, are a recurring feature in my life.  If I'm feeling down or just a bit meh, that's the time to catch me.  Suggest something crazy to me, anything crazy, and I'll do it.

Generally it works.  I've LONG been a believer in the Opposite of Me and while BHAGs aren't necessarily the opposite of me they tend to serve the same function of shaking something (me) loose and up and onward.  They basically kick me into action when I need it.

But the thing about BHAGs is they are all those things - big and hairy-assed - scary.  And so right now I'm staring at two great BHAGs and trying to figure out how to tackle them.

BHAG number 1 is setting up my own business.  Oh, I've sort of dabbled in that before but not in any concerted way and not with something I felt as passionately about as my personal training.  It matters so much more, and is therefore so much more scary and hairy-assed.  I waste enough of my life over at to know that the way to handle panic-inducing goals is to break them down into doable steps.  I'm doing it, folks.  I've qualified, applied for my certification and insurance, am seeing the bank on Thursday and am working on a website.  Making everything into lists is helping me enormously - keeping my head down and working through stuff point-to-point is going well and it's only when I look up that I am caught in the headlights and start panicking (what if nobody wants to hire me?  what if I'm no good?), so I'm trying to avoid looking up too much.

BHAG number 2 - ah.  Waaay back in late November I was getting frustrated with the lack of structure in direction in my training.  Although I had the London marathon on my horizon this April, my training was not happening (enough) and I felt I lacked purpose.  You might have told me that I didn't lack purpose, that traveling up and down to London and doing this course and the studying and being away from my family and all was kind of eating up my time and energy and that this was okay.  And you would have been right.  But you weren't there when they emailed me that the Vitruvian half Ironman was expected to fill up within a day of opening.  Nor did you hide my credit card.  So yes, I signed up for a half Ironman in September of this year.  And all through December it seemed to be working - as a kick.  I got stuck in and started an 18 week 55 mile per week plan (from my beloved Advanced Marathoning - it really does work for me) and contacted the local Lincoln Tri club and asked to join their swimming lessons.

(Quick aside - I've mentioned before how I am really not much of a "club" person.  I like to run alone and train alone, at times that suit me and that fit in with everything else in my life.  I do realise, however, that I need "proper", "good" swimming coaching.  And oh my word - have I found it.  I am the slowest, worst swimmer in the pool and yet, and yet - I am getting great coaching from the coaches and everyone else is incredibly kind and encouraging.  So far, I have not missed a session and most weeks I've managed to get to the pool for a practise session as well.  So this bodes well!)

But yes.  There is a very big hairy-assed element to this half ironman.  In September of this year I want to get through a 1900m open water swim, an 81km bikeride and a 21km swim without falling to pieces.  I am realistic enough to know that just getting round is going to be my goal.  And the 21km run should be fine.  The 1900m swim and the 81km bikeride though - there's a different thing.  At present I can't actually swim that distance, nor ride that distance.  And I'm going to have to change that.

I hadn't really focused on the training until last week - Christmas got in the way, I was running well, the kids were home, I was finishing my course work..  Oh yes.  The coursework was what got me going.  Doing a case study on a newbie triathlete aiming to run a marathon and do a half ironman this year  (who could my subject possibly be?) got me diving into Joe Friel's Triathlon Training bible.  And panicking about the amount of biking and swimming I should be doing..  I'll spare you the full panic blow-by-blow but basically I spent a week running around flapping hands in the air saying "I don't know how to do this" and doing surprisingly little in terms of training.  And this week I am beginning to sort of come down to earth after some good chats with my tri coaches and particularly one with my life coach or BFF, Dawn.  Things pointed out to me include:

  • I can't do it all as an "A" goal.  I can't train 5 days a week on Pfitzinger towards the marathon and then add 2 swimming workouts, 2 biking workouts and 2 strength / conditioning workouts to that.  
  • I tend to overcommit and then exhaust myself and then get sick / injured.  Yup.  
  • Am I going to be a triathlete who's running a marathon or a marathoner who is doing triathlons? 
Okay!  I know!  I need to make a decision and adapt my plan accordingly.  A bit of soul-searching revealed to me that I was really, in all honesty, gunning for my 3:40 in London.  I didn't get near it in Boston last year and feel I could get it.  However, it would take everything in the next 12 weeks to get there.  And my triathlons (am doing a sprint in May, an Oly in June) will most certainly suffer if I don't spend more time on my bike and in the pool..  Moreover, the 3:40 - why?  Well, honestly, because it would be Boston qualifier and I could also use it for a Good for Age place in London.  Both of these are goals I've already achieved, actually.  

So I've decided to be a triathlete running a marathon.  And London is now a B (or even a C goal). I'm going to have to run less (makes me nervous).  And cycle more (I'm still struggling to fit my bikerides in).  And swim more.  And do weights consistently for the first time in my life.  And - more importantly - be okay with not beating my PR in London this spring.  It might happen, but it might also well not.  And I've got to get my head round to being okay with that.  

So training is a work in progress...  More on that next time.  Till then I hope you feel more confident about what you're doing than I do!