Setbacks And Leaps Forward

Posted on January 20, 2014. Filed under: 5k, edinburgh parkrun, ironman, Ironman Austria, Ironmanflu, man flu, recovery, rest, run, swim |

December proved to be tricky.  Almost as soon as the thirty week training plan started, I was struck down by a particularly virulent strain of manflu – we call it ironmanflu.


What followed was a classic case of me not following my own advice, then remembering what I should remember, and then finally getting to the point that I should have been at several weeks earlier.  I remember reading somewhere years ago that pro cyclists take a day off a week, a week off per month and a month off per year. I don’t know if that’s true but it sticks in my mind.  And after a steady run of training from July, I should have taken advantage of a break.

Instead, a chest infection plagued me through December and everytime I had a day clear of snot I tried to run or cycle and pretty much went back to square one. Eventually, mainly out of frustration, I chucked in the towel and took the time from Boxing Day to the 3rd of January completely off training.  And, miraculously, I was cured.


Alongside ironmanflu I developed another issue in December.  This paragraph is best skipped if you are of a sensitive disposition about matters below the lycra line.

To cut a long story short the point where my saddle meets my left sit bone (to be clear that is part of my arse) chafed, rubbed and eventually exposed an open sore about the size of a 50 pence piece (if you are reading from outside the UK and don’t know the size of a 50p, then imagine a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon, at least that is how it felt).  Sitting on the saddle was like being vigorously prodded with a red hot poker conducting a massive current.  There was no dignity involved in this injury or it’s resolution but suffice to say I can once more sit on my saddle without suffering.

The sensitive can start reading again now.  Do not even think about scrolling back up for a wee look.  Arse butchery is not a spectator sport.


At the start of November I had video analysis done on my swimming stroke.  It was eye opening.  I have swum for 37 years, I swam competitively for nearly 15 years, and I was a swimming coach – yet I have been recently swimming like an octopus in a Mexican wave.  One complete shoulder rebuild, one shoulder needing rebuilt, a smashed wrist and a torn bicep left me swimming however I could manage as opposed to how I knew I should.

During November I dabbled with drills in the pool and then stopped swimming altogether, in the huff.  My plan of swimming Ironman Austria in under an hour hanging in the balance.  The problem I had continually was the neuromuscular link – I knew what I should be doing, I knew what it should look like, but I had no idea what it should FEEL like.   A pint with an old friend and Ironman in December led me to Alan Cardwell, an accredited Swimsmooth coach.  Swimsmooth has always appealed to me, as a former swimming teacher I really like their technique and the cut of their jib and discovering that I had a local coach re-lit my swimming rainbow.

I spent an hour with Alan in the pool this morning and in just an hour I got the feel for the water back.  Alan broke down the stroke flaws and then built the stroke back again how it should be.  Not only did I feel how it should feel, but I also felt the benefits.  On arriving at the pool I was cruising 100m at roughly 1:40, by the time I left I could hold 1:35 without swimming harder.  It was awkward, it was clunky, but it was the start of a reinvigorated swimming approach.

Unusually for me, I am actually looking forward to my next swim.  Project sub 1 hour Ironman swim is very much back on.


12015326906_3eb4411470_zBack in November before ironmanflu I was happy with running after a long summer of injury. The day before I was struck down I had recorded my longest run in months at 7 miles.  After only a handful of runs during December I was really worried that I was back to square one.  But no!  Luckily after 10 days of building back I managed a 7 mile run last week and knocked 12 seconds of my parkrun time taking it to a supersonic 26:59.  It may not be fast but it was absolutely everything I had – I averaged 93% of maximum heart rate for the 26 minutes and was ready to fill a bucket by the end!

I even starred in the parkrun photos this week!  OK, when I say starred, I mean a bit of my arm was almost in the picture. I couldn’t understand why the girl in black didn’t look more alarmed until I realised that her headphones protected her from the rasping breaths, grunting, spitting and snotting noises that were approaching her from behind.  If you could see my face you would see proper hurt.

On a more somber note, before Parkrun there was an impeccably respected moment of silence for poor little local boy, Mikaeel Kular, whose body had been discovered only hours before.  It makes me proud to be a runner that every single head bowed and we were left with our thoughts as the birds sang disturbed only by the hum of news helicopters hanging over his house.  Runners really do feel part of the community they run in regardless of where they live.


I read a lot, probably more than is healthy, and I love reading blogs of people preparing for endurance events.  Often they inspire but often they just jolt me and give me pause for thought.  Two that complemented each other perfectly had that effect at the weekend.

Firstly Michael Barnett wrote a blog about his cracking 5k personal best.  His inspiration was a Runner’s World article that said breaking 25 minutes for 5k marked you out as a committed runner.  BOOM, that comment hit my brain like a hammer.  The cogs started turning……

My current best 5k is 26:59

My best ever 5k was 25:43 in 2010, so……

Despite running 3 marathons, completing one Ironman and 3 half Ironman and more 10ks than I care to remember …..

I AM NOT A COMMITTED RUNNER.  Bollocks to you Runners World!

However, I then read another blog by Miss Running Bean that reset my running compass.  “If you run, you are a runner”.  Hell yeah!

As people start new experiences with a new year – if you run you are a runner.  If you swim/bike/run you are a triathlete.  If you swim/bike/run 140.6 miles under your own steam without outside assistance you are an ironman.

It really is that simple.


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4 Responses to “Setbacks And Leaps Forward”

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That’s a great swimming breakthrough – makes you feel good when people give you something that clicks.

You must be really pleased at having resolved your saddle / backside interface!

26:59 is damn good after nearly a month of no running.


The malfunctioning interface was causing sleepless nights and uncomfortable days!


Nice progress, especially on the arse front.
And agree completely the simple things are usually correct. If you run you are a runner, it isn’t rocket science.


You would not believe what a difference it makes for the wound to be 90% healed!


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