End of the Season

I met Emily about a month ago at a kid’s birthday party.  That’s where we, parents, meet up these days… or during the coffee shop for morning fix. She asked if I would be okay to type an end of season blog having written my first one at the start of the season around February/March.

To be honest I’ve been trying to find the time since and now, well here goes…

 

Since February I’ve been training for the Castle Series first sprint triathlon in Gort, Co. Galway. Whoever is familiar with this, knows it is a series of triathlons based in castle grounds across Ireland, England and France. I couldn’t have picked better location! I highly recommend it and will be signing up again for the longer distance events in 2018. It wasn’t the best of weather in early May. The water was so cooold!! I was dreading the swim, and I wasn’t the only one. Plenty of lost souls threading water on the start line had that familiar ‘I am sh*tting it’ look, including yours truly. New wet suit, new goggles, new thoughts, will I manage the transitions?, will my legs feel like concrete blocks after the bike?  Then ‘BANG!’ the gun fired and we were on, heads down in the murky water, the first experience of being swam over, kicked left, right and centre.  Once you’ve come to terms with the initial shock, the next sensation is the lack of visibility, not helped by my normal eyesight running a close second to Mr. Magoo. The only saving grace was the ginormous orange inflatable course buoys. The first turn arrived and I realised my breathing had settled, my stroke lengthened and I kicked for the shore with all my might.

Out of the water, wet suit half down (careful!), run to T1, wet suit off, now hopping on one leg, helmet on, race belt on, bike shoes on, bike off the rack and I’m running to the start in 3 inches of the finest muck Ireland has to offer (see pic 1). Then back to earth, I couldn’t clip my shoes in and it was time for some foot stamping and cursing. Once I’m finally going on the bike it felt amazing. 21km passed so quickly, a quick energy gel in for that extra sugar kick and I’m cruising. T2, bugger, fell off the bike, the sweet kiss of concrete on my knee, there are children present, don’t swear. Bike racked, trainers on and now for a run off-road around the castle grounds for 4km. Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty good and I flew through the finish line at 1h 21min.  My first tri (new lingo!) medal, wow, I was hooked.

 

Pic 1: Muddy...

Pic 1: Muddy…

 

Since then I’ve completed a sprint tri in Kilrush, Ennis, the Hell of the West in Kilkee (full Olympic distance, I did the 41km bike and 10km hill run) and the Castleconnell sprint tri.  In meantime I’ve also done the Limerick half marathon, Tough Mudder (full 11 miles with obstacles along the way for good measure) and the Newport bike sportive 60km. Along with my road bike group we’ve completed two long rides around the lake in Killaloe. The first was in June with Group 2, averaging 22kph and more recently in September with Group 1, averaging 28kph, 8 lads and little ol’ me, the only woman!  Wonderwoman, imagine the theme tune, haha. And I did my second Dublin marathon which sucked! Running did not come easily to me this year, but another one under my belt is ok for now.

 

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Pic 2: Muddier…

 

Basically, my Summer consisted of 5-6 training days a week. Swimming in the lake or pool 3 times a week. Not running much, just twice a week while my son had his athletics but it felt like I was cycling constantly. Every Wednesday, evening sessions, 500m swim and stationary bike intervals afterwards, hill repeats.

Every Sunday morning session with the lads, 70-80-90km routes with a restorative coffee afterwards.

 

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Pic 3: Only woman of the bunch!

 

I do rowing and bike turbo sessions at home, often at 6am, before heading off to work or else at 9pm in the evening before heading to bed.

My home also seems to have turned into a mini gym. Bikes and a turbo trainer, Concept2 erg, chin-up bar, 3 sport bags always ready, one swim bag (indoor), one swim bag (wetsuits), and yet another packed specifically for each race. It’s funny but as I look around me it’s still the same now!!

 

Looking back you can get a bit rose-tinted but it wasn’t easy at all. In the middle of all the mayhem I started a new job in June, but I had to keep my old job as well, such is the modern world. So it was 2 jobs, an active 5 year old who was on ‘his’ summer holidays, entertaining, training, cooking, shopping, the lot. Don’t ask me how I did it by myself, I truly don’t know. I had my ups and downs, more than my fair share of complete meltdowns and plenty of sleepless nights.

But despite all this, or perhaps because of it, I learned to be organized like the CEO of multinational. Dinners were prepared in advance and child care always had to be planned well in advance based on my training schedule. Although food was quick I tried not to let that lower the standard of nutrition. I’m also a firm believer in organic produce and most meals consisted of meat (lamb and sirloin steak mostly), fish, tuna and lots of veg, particularly sweet potatoes and avocados. I found I was snacking constantly on nuts, dried fruit, crackers, quark (I had to look it up too), nut butters (yum!). Now when I think back, I often ended up having a second dinner around 10pm at night. It actually felt like I was eating constantly.

Despite all this, motivation for me was never an issue. Once I’d signed up for a race, that kept me going. The high I felt was amazing.  Meeting like minded people at the events or even while out training. People for whom this lifestyle is our normal, is a tremendous feeling.

 

What’s for the future? Well, next year I plan on doing my first half Ironman, and all going well the year after my first full one. In order to prepare for the step up in class I am planning on hiring a coach to help me to train more smartly and effectively.

I am also hoping Santa will be kind and I’ll find a new carbon-fibre bike under the tree this year (no I’m not demanding at all!).

By the way, I can’t let the opportunity go by without mentioning how expensive it is to exercise in Ireland?

Membership fees, race fees, decent gear… thousands upon thousands of euro… but hey, who needs high heels anyway?!?!

 

Monika 🙂

Towards a better me: Part 11

I have sat down to write this post at least twenty times and re-written it closer to ten times. I have not been happy with any version so far. Not even this one. But I think I need to rip of the band-aid.

 

I think it is fair to say that I have been some what lacking in motivation with everything, training, writing and even cooking. The only thing I seem to have the motivation for is reading. Each day is simply, eat, work, read, sleep and do it all over again tomorrow.

 

I am currently over half way through another 12 weeks personal training course. But I don’t feel like I am progressing at all. Firstly, my personal trainer, Denise moved to newer pastures three weeks into the course. It was a bit of a struggle to hold back the tears on her last day. She was so lovely and chatty. Without her pestering me each week on whether I have attended all of my classes, I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself enough.  I’m like ah sure its “Games of Thrones” tonight, that so much more important than going to a class, right! I am slacking, I know this but can’t seem to shake free from it. I haven’t even done a single session that wasn’t a personal training or class.

 

Each week I tell myself I am going do better, I am going behave. I will go to my classes. I need to focus but I just can’t seem to achieve it. It didn’t really help that I was on holidays for a week and half. The PT sessions are released for booking in week batches on the Tuesday the week before. All of the prime evening and morning sessions go so fast. You need to get on real quick if you want to get the slot you want. I had planned to do the training on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday once I was back but being over in France I completely forgot and didn’t get on until later and there was nothing. So, my one and half week break became a two week break.

 

Then last week again the bookings went so fast even though I was checking every hour waiting for them to be released. I only managed to get things booked for the weekend. But then ended going up home for my mother’s birthday instead. So over half way through and missing three weeks! My rhythm is broken and I don’t know how to fix it. It isn’t helped by lengthy recovery times after. My joints are aching something terrible for four or five days. I was so thankful that this week is going much better. But no my lower back is in agony.

 

Another thing I am struggling with is food. Those who know me knows my love affair with food. I love food. Food is emotion. It’s comfort, it’s exciting, it’s memory. Food can evoke so much. When I get homesick, I attempt to make my mum’s beef stew. Its never as good as hers. But it’s enough to tie me over. If I’m really bad and heading up to her soon I’ll put a request for it. While over in France for holidays, Pierre brought me to a Michelin star restaurant, Clovis. To say it was an amazing food experience is a massive understatement. I can’t wait to go back next year!

 

There was a moment earlier in the year, when my boss was selling her practice, that I considered possible doing a culinary course. I love cooking and blogging about cooking. There is so much I want to learn about, to understand flavours and textures better. It was a very tempting idea, but a risky one. What if I wasn’t actually good at it. What if I did have what it takes. If I hadn’t had a mortgage, I might of taken the plunge. Maybe one day I will.

 

But at the moment, I am not really cooking. My poor KitchenAid is sitting on the counter unused and unloved. My dinners of late have been very lazy. Just chicken or salmon with broccoli with sweet chilli sauce. While it is quite tasty, there isn’t anything exciting about it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are just becoming monotonous. I long to get back into the kitchen and makes something new and exciting. But everything is hectic and busy. I hardly seem like I have had a moment to rest, a moment to breathe.

 

This week so far I have been moderately well behaved, I have taken my meds (most days), ate relatively well, been into the gym twice for two intense work outs. I was even inspired enough to make a new recipe, Garlic and Pepper Chicken Stir-fry. It was very tasty.

 

I do feel like giving up sometimes. Ever since my little face drop during the 5k back in March, my period has been consistently absence. I can’t help feeling sometimes that this isn’t gonna happen for me. Every passing month my belief is waning and I think that is where my lack of motivation is coming from.

 

 

Swimming: what I’ve learned so far

A few weeks ago I injured my knee. Not in a terrible, life altering way; but in a sort of way that got me thinking about other forms of exercise. I couldn’t run, rowing is a bit difficult for everyday and I couldn’t just do cycling (’cause that shit hurts my bum!) so I decided to give swimming a go. It was something I loved to do as a kid. I was called a water baby from the age of 2. I just loved being in it. A pool, the sea, a puddle, the bath… you name it and I tried to swim in it.

 

But I had never really swam for fitness purposes. It’s always been about splashing, dunking, diving, bombing and lying at the bottom of the pool/ocean. So when it came to knowing what to do I was a little stumped. But 1 month in here’s what I’ve learned…

 

1: Like all other sports, proper gear is essential

Being a former leisurely swimmer, you know whilst on my holibobs and such, all my swim gear was frilly bikinis and fifties style skirted swimsuits! Gorgeous for a day of tanning oneself with a few minor dips in the pool to cool down but completely useless for actual rigorous work. I naively thought that I would not need Speedos. I was wrong. Having to fix myself every 5 mins was time consuming aaaaand having my boobs pushed up created ridiculous drag, those puppies needed to be pinned down! I also owned no goggles and after an hour of swimming you REALLY wished you owned some. Chlorine is a bitch and you sorta need to see where you’re going, especially with small kiddos not looking around. Tis best to dodge them!

 

2: Breathe as often as you want/can

Honestly, this one feels like it should be a no-brainer but so many people (myself included) do this! Holding your breath while swimming. Taking one maybe two gasps per length. WHY?!?!? You wouldn’t hold your breath doing any other sport! Imagine trying to run laps over and over again like that. BREATHE! (I’m looking at you Coriel). Swimming is an all body workout, constantly moving, pushing through water, heart rate raising. It’s proper cardio. You need that air. So take it! I always thought that I hadn’t mastered the special breathing needed for swimming, like there is some trick that I was missing. I would do a few laps and my chest would be tired. When I finally gave in and breathed every time my head was out of the water it all changed. I could swim for longer and I wasn’t getting worn out as quickly. There is no special secret, there is no trick.

 

3: Swimming is deceptively tiring

I think this surprised me the most. I am a sweaty person, particularly when I’m training. Perspiring all of the God damn place! And I used to associate sweating and red hot cheeks with how hard my workout was. Obviously, it’s really hard to perspire in water. So when I started swimming for training purposes I was concerned I wasn’t going to get a proper workout from it. I was constantly adding with something. Running and a swim, cycling and a swim, weights and a swim. Then one day I decided to swim the equivalent of 2k in the pool, (112 lengths). I was like this should be graaaaaaaaaand. I was so wrong. Ver wrong. By the end I was so tired I could even bring myself to sit in the sauna. Or to sit in the jacuzzi. I just wanted to lie down. I felt like I had ran for days but I was not sweaty and I was not hot; I was just tired and so weak. Swimming is no joke, no picnic.

 

4: It’s really fucking good for you

Coincidentally, TIME magazine had a whole thing about exercise in one of their latest issues (the one with Leo Varadkar on the cover I think). Aerobic exercises (such as swimming and running) seem to be best for our brain’s health. All due to having to pump more blood to the brain, our biggest user of oxygen (again peeps, breathe!) It helps increase “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” this protects AND repairs brain cells. Aerobic exercises also can help to lower the chances of memory loss and Alzheimer’s, even if the person has a parent with Alzheimer’s or if a person is carrying the gene for it. Such a good reason to get the budgie smugglers on!

 

5: Swimming is making me a more confident swimmer

Ok this one sounds stupid, but go with it. When I was a kid, our school organised swimming lessons for PE for like 3 years. We learned everything. And from starting to swim regularly again I’ve realised that these classes have massively benefited me. Until now I just assumed everyone could swim with ease. Not so… I’m watching women and men in their fifties learning how to swim. And I’m impressed, it must be so scary after all that time. It’s something that comes naturally to me, easily to me. It’s a skill everyone should have. And I think it’s easier to learn that shit when you’re young. So peeps with kids, get them in the pool and teach them to swim. And if you’re all grown up and can’t swim, learn, now. It’s so lovely and worth learning.  You never know when it’ll come in handy

 

Oh and speedos are not flattering.

Towards a Better Me: Part 10

Realisation:

 

‘The Fear’ was still my training mate this week, but I had Denise back this week. ‘Did ya miss me?’, she said as she bounced down to the PT room. ‘Yes, Michelle made me do planks!’, was my reply. The laughter from her indicated she wouldn’t be taking it easy on me.

‘Any more issues since?’,

‘No’,

‘Good, time to take it back up!’

Oh, what I had let myself in for! It was a tough session, and Denise was holding no punches. But Denise had let slip, she had a new beau. The other girl taking part in the training session and I wasted no time in taking the piss and attempting to freak her out. And while it was fun to see her squirm, I was genuinely thrilled for her. Tuesday night was gone in a flash. It was quite a blur. I can only remember one of the bench presses. I couldn’t get over how heavy the 25kg bar felt. I hadn’t used it in the three weeks and it felt so heavy. It took everything to do those bench presses.

 

Thursday’s morning session was also a blur and quite tough, not helped by the fact that I had missed breakfast. Denise and I had the personal training centre to ourselves. I know I had the bench presses with the 25kg bar but I don’t know what else. Seriously, I really should write these soon as to the day as possible. It’s only been a week like! It was a very good session. I head to work after my shower very pumped and made to the office just on the stroke of nine.

 

I had my little sister and one of the bitchmittens’ founders, Rhona and her new hubby coming down the weekend and she was currently trying to convince me to go cycling. I haven’t been cycling since last June. My gears are fucked and take absolutely ages to change, which really grinds my gears. (See what I did there! Sorry I know I’m not the funny one.) And on my last bike ride, I only managed about 5km and half way through took my gear frustrations physically out on my bike and kicked the shit out of it! I may have even bent the back wheel, but I cycled back just fine. So finally, I reluctantly agreed to cycling if Pierre could fix my bike. Luckily (or unfortunately), he could and we were able to borrow bikes for Rhona and Cormac from our friends.

 

I wasn’t expecting much from me and I had told the others they may have to leave my lying on the grass somewhere while they went all the way to Crosshaven. It 15 km, I was thinking I’d be happy with 7km. It was a gorgeous day down in Carrigaline and the Carrigaline – Crosshaven Railway Walk was looking lush and green and full of people walking, running and cycling. We made our way out and everything was going well. Knees were a bit sore but that was about it. I was quite happy to fly past where I had stopped and had a fight with my bike. And I just kept going, I was in the rear but I was easily keeping up with the guys. The lads pushed forward leaving Rhona and I behind as we chatted. Though they didn’t get far. They had pulled over to take in the beautiful scenery.

 

After a barely of a minute of stoppage and a couple selfies, we were back on the trail to Crosshaven with me and Rhona leading the way. I was in great form, enjoying myself immensely, saying hello to everyone I passed. God only knows what they thought of me. Crazy lady on her purple bike! Before I knew it, we were in Crosshaven. We mused about whether to get a coffee here or head back and get one in Carrigaline to drink at the beach. Beach was the call, so back on the bikes we got and off we went. Unfortunately for me, the gears on bike were stuck in quite a high gear. And I was belting it back in, leaving the others in my dust! Pierre eventually caught up with me and I stopped to let the others catch up. Pierre has a bike computer on his, and clocked me at 28km per hour. Once I caught sight of Ro in the distance off I shot again only stopping at the end of the trail. It took the guts of 45 minutes out and only 1 minute back in. I got a chance to sit down and wait for the others. The gear issue became my undoing once we reached the big hill up to my house. I ended making the climb on foot. It seemed like the longest trek ever! I jumped back on once it had levelled out a bit and then there was only the short ride back to the house where the others were waiting.

 

All in all, it was very good day. I got to remember why I loved cycling so much. I used to go everywhere on my bike when I was younger. I was quite surprised that I was able to cycle the whole thing and with ease, if you exclude my aching knees and the hill! But when you compare it to how far I got last year, it was a clear indicator of just how much more fit I have become in only three months.

 

Now if only I could cycle the mini marathon and I be set.

 

Towards a Better Me: Part 9

 

The Fear. 

Firstly, my apologies for the lack updates. I had been put on a training ban by my doctor while an investigation into what happened with my face during the 5k took place (my face dropped on one side half way through the race). This meant I had no training and nothing really to blog about for two weeks. And then once back training, I spent a good couple of hours writing my next blog post only for it to go missing. Like I can see it in the recent items but when I click on it, it says it’s not there but there is no sign of it in the trash or any other folders. You are just gonna have to take my word for it that it was an awesome read! Hopefully, this re-write will be at least half as good.

 

I was rather upset with having to lay off the training for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want to break my stride. As a really lazy person, I was quite nervous about being idle for any period of time. Afraid my bad habits would rear their ugly heads. My doctor had really stressed the need to take it really easy until I got the all clear. Secondly, I was half way through my six week intense kickstarter at the Womens Fitness Gym and I really didn’t like the idea of losing out on any of the weeks. I mean money is a bit tight at the moment and I knew I wouldn’t be in a position at the moment to do another round for the moment. I was going to have to save up for it and I have few other demands at the moment. But worry I should not have. I got on to the gym to explain what happened and they allowed me to suspend the program until I got the all clear. So I only had to worry about reverting to my lazy ways. Eeek!

 

Eleven hours, three trips to have an MRI, half a meeting with the doctor before I was taken out for the second failed MRI, a lot of miscommunication between the medical staff, one negative pregnancy test, one rushed final consultation and a rather vague explanation was my experience in CUH. At the end of the day, I left really rather frustrated about our health system but with a letter in hand saying I was fit to resume training. The explanation was it is unlikely to have been a Transient Ischemic Attack (or a mini stroke) but it possibly could be the training.

 

I was prescribed some blood thinners and cholesterol medications to avoid any reoccurrence. I don’t like taking meds and I try to avoid them when I can. The best thing about trying for kids was no more pill. But then there was the PCOS and underactive thyroid and I have proven to be not the best a taking them. My bloods in the previous month had shown good levels for cholesterol, and with all my training surely they could have only have gotten better. So at the behest of my mother, I’m not taking the cholesterol until I speak to my own doctor.

 

Before the tests, I wasn’t worried about what had happened. But now, I was. The vague explanation had scared me some what. Would happen again? Would it be worse? Why is my neck feeling sore? Did it always twinge like that? I felt like I was overanalysing everything. Could not tell was there actually pain or was I imagining it. My session back with Denise was on a Sunday and the closer I got to it the more “the fear” grew. While on the bike warming –up, I didn’t even notice that I was crushing it at a level I used struggle before. I was so focused internally, am I feeling dizzy? Was this room always spinning? I should leave, just go home. And then there was Denise, “Where the heck have you been?” I sheepishly explained and she responded with, “we’ll take it easy so.” Though I did proudly tell her I did the run in 34 minutes and that earned me a high five.

 

Even though we scaled it back and took it very easy by comparison of what she normally puts me through. She is doesn’t go easy on you normally but doesn’t kill you either. She’s great for the banter and the giggles, which makes the session seem to fly by. It’s why I keep going back to her. But today, even with her pulling me right back from my previous level of intensity, everything was a struggle. Things I was smashing a couple weeks ago, were a struggle with the light weight. I mean it was easier than my very first but it was one of my worst sessions. I didn’t even make it the whole way through. I had to skip the kettlebell swings, the strain on my back from not doing them correctly was quite severe. (I don’t know what it is I just can’t get the technique right with those.) And the last set, well, that had to be abandoned even though I tried to solider on. Denise was telling me to stop as I had gone all grey. I put down that 5kg plate so fast and ran to the nearest bathroom to say hello to my breakfast. That session couldn’t have gone worse. But I was back in the swing and for me that was the main thing.

 

My fitness level had clearly taken a big hit, but the fear remained. I didn’t do a single class in the week to come for fear of overdoing it. I had a PT session with Michelle on Wednesday as Denise was off. And that went well-ish though my legs were trembling something terrible and she made me do a plank. I geared up to do my own session on Saturday before my weigh-in, but I missed judged the time and wouldn’t have had enough time and then chickened out to do it after. I was down a pound in the weigh-in but that more muscle wastage rather than actual weight loss. Though Lorraine advised with everything that I had gone through I should consider that a win. She advised me to take it easy and only do a session or class if I really feel up to it.

 

I did come to the conclusion that running the 5k at the pace I did with the little running training I had done might have been the main factors in what happened. I decided that once my current cycle was up that would try to focus more on the running training and supplement it one or two classes at the gym to shake it up a bit. While finances did play a role in not being in a position to actually do another session, should I have been able to afford it I would still opt for this plan.

 

While I do need to take care of myself and not push myself way out of my comfort zone, I can’t let “the fear” imped my process. I mustn’t use it to excuse myself from pushing myself and allowing my laziness to slink back in.

 

 

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