Mental strength……..and just being mental

Posted on July 1, 2011. Filed under: Half ironman, ironman, ironman regensburg, knockburn, knockburn middle distance, lochore, lochore meadows, lochore meadows triathlon, Pentlands, regensburg, Rory, shakey, Threipmuir, triathlon, Uncategorized, wetsuit |

Tonight on my way home from an open water swim at Threipmuir I saw an eightysomething arthritic, fella standing hunched over his walking stick and thought to myself “I wish I felt as fit and healthy as that lucky beggar”.  I am at the stage in Ironman training where everything hurts all the time.  I wake hurting, I run, bike and swim when I hurt and I go to sleep hurting.  Well, actually that’s not strictly true I had a wee bit on the outside of my left heel just next to the deep, healing blister that I got at Lochore that was fine until last night when I missed a tumble turn and clattered my heel down on the pool deck and left a dark bruise about the size of a 50 pence piece.  Seriously, this nonsense is supposed to be good for you.

I must sort out first things first.  Thanks to everyone that gave me constructive feedback on the last post.  I get it – less about triathlon and feeling sorry for myself and more photos of Rory.  Seems like I have found my place in life – Rory’s dad and official photographer.  So here you go…….

This week is officially my third last week of ultra distance training with a “long brick” on Monday, a 7 hour ride scheduled for Saturday coming and a smattering of 3.5 – 4k swims and it has proven to be as much a challenge of mental stamina as fitness.

Shakey, the training partner with an attention span of a goldfish with dementia, frequently asks if I get bored on some of the long sessions.  And I think that is the difference between an aspiring Ironman (there’s some confusion in my head whether you have to complete an Ironman to be an Ironman.  After all, you don’t have to be crucified to be as christian!) and somebody who just likes to go for a jog.  I have developed a really hard-edged never give up attitude when I am training that I hope will see me good on race day.  I hadn’t really thought about it before now but doing the Lochore Triathlon feeling as rough as I did was more a test of my mental strength than of my stamina – I had a choice to quit when I woke up, I had the choice to quit when I got to the venue, I had the choice to quit after the swim, I had the choice to quit when I had to stop to throw up on the bike and then again when I finished the bike and I had the choice to quit at any point in the run.  But I didn’t and whether it was stubborness, testing my toughness, delirium or stupidity I found a new level of strength that I didn’t have before.

Digger, Shakey and Stumpy discuss rubber suit etiquetteMy final moments of lucidity at Lochore

It’s funny that before I started seriously training for Ironman I thought it was all about the emotion, pride of the glory moment when I stumble across the line late in the evening on the 7th of August as I hear “You are an Ironman” and someone places some giant bling around my neck and then I swiftly get put on a drip and throw up.  But I now worry that will be an anticlimax after the hours and hours of training that I have put in.

In December I made a conscious decision to dump the ipod not only because I had got fed up listening to “I gotta feeling” but because I knew I couldn’t wear it in the race.  Since then I have run only with the sound of my own breathing and my own thoughts rattling about my head which probably doesn’t sound like that much of a challenge until you notice that just about every runner and dog walker wears an ipod because they struggle with the solitude.  Sometimes, of course, I run with Shakey and that is because I can transcend a new level of mental toughness if I can spend a solid hour with her chuntering on in my lugs.  Likewise, on the bike, I always do my long rides on my own and time really flies even during a 7 hour ride as I focus very much on the task in hand – climbing, gear changes, eating, drinking, pacing, heart rate etc – and managing whatever aches, pains and weather that comes along.

So, all that navel gazing said, the focus of this week was the “Big Brick”.  This was a 6am start on Monday followed by a 52mile cycle with a great climb in Glentarkie followed by a run just short of 11miles.  I wore my exotic white cap in anger for the first time and drew only occasional pitying glances.  As I mentioned above I am now in the peak weeks and this weekend will involve a 7 hour cycle and a 2 hour run, next weekend a half ironman rehearsal and the weekend after another 7 hour cycle and 2.5 hour run.  Then I put my feet up for three weeks, eat Bratwurst and get the Rosetta Stone tapes out so that I can fluently order a beer at the end (or get my money back!).

Shakey and I had planned to do the Knockburn Half Ironman next weekend, however, we heard last week that it had been cancelled because they haven’t found enough mentalists like us to make it worthwhile.  With my never say die approach I have subsequently organised my own Half Ironman a deux as I still need to do a full dress rehearsal at half distance before I head off to Germany.  So, the swim will be a 1.9k route around Threipmuir which is in blue on the map.  (The red is tonight’s GPS trace which I am quite pleased with as I did just over a mile over three laps and it looks like I swam as straight as an arrow).  We are in the process of recruiting someone who is almost (but not quite) as daft as us to look after our bikes at 8am on a Saturday morning and take away our “used” wetsuits.  The ride will  take in 56 miles of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Clackmannanshire, Stirlingshire and the Kingdom of Fife followed by a  half marathon finishing at the end of the Forth Road Bridge.  Hopefully, either Pam or the paramedics will be there to pick up the remains and maybe even give me a thimbleful of champagne (I am now officially dry until race day but every race needs champers!) to fend off the pains and get me to sleep.

I should say at this point although loads of people have asked me if I am doing this for sponsorship I have to confess that after the amount of effort it took to raise £4000 for the Anaphylaxis Campaign last year I decided to be totally selfish and just focus on me this year.  The Shakester, however, is doing this as one in a series of events including the Lochore Sprint Triathlon, the inaugural Stumpy vs Shakey Half Ironman (trust me this will catch on!), the Great Scottish Swim, the Dublin Half Marathon, the Great Edinburgh Run and the London Marathon for charitable reasons that are also very close to my heart.  Just before Christmas last year a friend and colleague Linda “the Hunts” Hunter was taken away from us far, far too young from a sudden stroke.  Shakey is raising money for the Stroke Association and, although we know things are really tight, if you did want to make a contribution here it would mean an awful lot to us.

This weekend sees a very painful time for me.  A busy event at work means that I will have an unplanned rest day on Friday getting home about 2am, up at 6am for a 100mile ride followed by a 3mile run, back into work mid afternoon until midnight and then run 12miles on Sunday morning. On Monday I will rest or maybe stretch to another blog update!


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Also, no mention of effort Rory made to get to “La Hore” to see his dad start the triathlon!


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