Sunday, 11 October 2009

Illness, Injury & Ironman


With an estimated 60,000 cases of swine flu confirmed in the past 3 weeks alone the UK is definitely not in it's best health. Last Tuesday in class at uni I was surrounded by coughing and was definitely feeling a bit paranoid about the risk of catching something, unfortunately my worries were justified and come Thursday afternoon I had a severe tickle in my throat, by Friday morning I had a classic case of the MAN COLD.

The man cold (noun): referring to the common cold, symptoms include sore throat, coughing, blocked nose, sore eyes, ears and swollen glands. Can only be contracted by a man (any male over the age of 18) and generally goes hand in hand with a complete denial that they are in any way of ill health.

I had a man cold.

It arrived on Thursday night and before it had settled in I was already drawing up the battle plans; lots of sleep, kiwis, oranges, lemsip, WADA approved Vicks nasal spray, warm clothes, a day off university and a couple annoyingly missed training sessions. As a lot of you know I treat any kind of illness as a challenge, maybe even a fight. I get genuinely offended that something thinks it has the right to invade my body and stop me living my life, not literally but figuratively, I have to stop what I love doing (training) and do something else. That constitutes as an act of war.

So Friday morning rolled around and I was ready to fight. Now I give my coach full credit, on the phone on Thursday night he did mention that if I wasn't feeling 100% to maybe give the Friday morning 6km swimming session a miss. All I heard was "maybe" so like most of us would have done I woke up at 0455 as per usual and headed to the pool. This turned out to be a bad idea and 4km later I had exited early and was making a B-line for my bed.

2 hoodies on, PJ's, nasal spray, box of tissues and plenty of water...I was ready for my bed. By 11am the man cold had taken over and I was losing hope. I had literally been "ill" for 5 hours and already I had forgot what it was like to be healthy, though I was still insisting I was in perfect health (much to my mum's amusement). As the day marched on and I began trolling through youtube videos and festering on facebook I actually started to feel a bit better, energy levels were back up, the throat wasn't quite as tickley and I had stopped going through tissues at an incredible rate. This was more like it, I was winning.

Come 10pm and confidence was high, I knew my immune system was too well looked after for it to roll over that easily, in the morning I'd be back on track. As the sun rose on Saturday I rolled over to find my nose is once again blocked, not to worry I think and I head for the nasal spray (WADA approved if I haven't already mentioned!). Quick shower, big breakfast, lots of water, fresh air and what do you 2pm I'm back to normal.

The point in my little ramble? Any obstacle or problem along the way, no matter how little or massive it may seem, is just another challenge. Training is a challenge, racing, eating right, sleeping right...all challenges. But it doesn't stop there, being healthy is one of the most important parts of daily life and staying healthy is most definitely a massive challenge. ESPECIALLY when those around you are not. Getting ill can be seen as a "problem" and people can often roll over and be out of sync for weeks. But if it can be treated as a an unscheduled training session of sorts, where the aim is to get back to 100% as quickly as possible. It can turn from being a negative experience to a positive process.

Bringing me nicely onto my next topic: Injury

Essentially in the same category as illness, an injury is a major hurdle. I've been there and done that maaaaany times, no doubt there will be more to come, maybe next week (hopefully not) or maybe in 5 years but they will come. Just as illness is concerned an injury will pass, even though it feels like it will never leave. I guess that's the biggest challenge, convincing yourself that it's not the end of the road. Being able to put up a decent fight, do the recovery, find the root cause, fix it and get back to work like nothing happened, that's what makes a champ.

But of course if you can avoid the injury in the first place, problem avoided. So here I am, on a journey through winter training, no end in sight but with 2 omnipresent parts to my training that are essential yet unspoken. Stay healthy and keep injuries at bay, for as long as I can. Ideally though I will avoid them for a long time and I am taking many steps to do just that. My new diet is in place, filling me up with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, fruit, veg and all the other things to boost my fatiguing immune system as the winter goes on. Also my new strength & conditioning programme is in full swing, ironing out all my imbalances, building on weak areas and strengthening up my

So that's where we're at, a constant fight against potentially training crippling illnesses that seem to be everywhere while still getting in the hard training that if not treated properly could end up pushing me too far and leading to an injury. So it's definitely a fine balance, push hard but take care of yourself. And trust me the two and so veeery counter intuitive.

Again bringing me nicely to my third and very important subject of the day IRONMAN. Yesterday was the 31st Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and my first experience of watching the event unfold live online. As a lot of you know August was my first Ironman as a spectator in Penticton, BC. It rocked, see:
for the blog post on that weekend, I loved it.
I'm not sure if I'll be able to do justice to how awesome last night was, I will however...try :)

The race started at 6pm Scotland time and I had everything set up, my balance ball, resistance bands and medicine ball (all in case I needed to do a quick workout while watching), speedtheory water bottles, snacks, a trisuit (in case I felt the need to dress up) and the dog...another avid fan.
I wont try and describe the whole race and how it unfolded but I will give a brief outline of the main points. In the men's race last years winner Craig "Crowie" Alexander was the odds on favourite to defend his title as was back to back champ 07/08 Chrissie Wellington in the women's field. Both were successful, unsurprisingly but that was not where the impressions were made.

Chris Lieto a long time Ironman and an Uber biker went off the front on the 112 mile bike and held his lead on the marathon to within striking distance of the finish line, he finished second by 2 minutes. Awesome athlete and I hope he gets his win one day.

Chrissie Wellington really blew it away in the women's we all expected. Coming out of the water a few minutes back on the lead she proceeded to cut through the rest of the women's field on the bike leg like a sharp knife through nutella. Impressive! With an 11 minute lead heading out onto the marathon she held 6"30 miles and finished with an awesome 20 minute cushion. Something about seeing someone just do their own thing, a league above everyone else and love every minute is pretty cool.

The history of the race is enough to make your hairs stand up on end, let alone seeing it unfold in real time. Those guys out there yesterday were putting it all out on the pavement, if they blew up they did it for everyone to see, but if they did everything right and strung together just the kind of race they was a good day. And boy did some of those guys have good days, there were a few tough days too though. OK, a lot of tough days.

It's enough to make me absolutely certain of the fact that I HAVE to do an Ironman and pretty certain that I'd want to get my butt to Hawaii at some point too. It didn't take a lot of persuasion but here I am, head over heals for triathlon and already pledging my allegiance to the Queen-K...even though I think she'll have to wait a few years.

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