In a moment of lesser spotted insanity I decided to do a triathlon. Actually it was Derek, (or John or Mary, I cannot be sure) a lab technician at DNAfit who analysed a smidgen of my spit on a Tuesday afternoon in September of last year and decided – how, is still a mystery to me – that my power/endurance ratio is 30/70 to endurance. I decided that this made me a perfect candidate to cross the line from awesome to vomit. Yep. That. Booked it while sitting in the bath for 5th June 2016. That’s this year! Blenheim, pretty. Sprint distance – 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run. Vomit, here I come.
Having grown up in South Africa my mermaid impressions are a thing of beauty, although my mermaid body is not what it once was. Can you swim ‘mermaid’ in a triathlon? Problem number 1. Problem number 2 was the fact that my biking skills extended to cycling into a ditch at my grandmother’s house when I was about 7. This was entirely due to ineptitude and not me trying to avoid squishing a slug (queue angelic heaven music and Jesus light beaming down onto my saintly golden locks), which is what I told everybody when I arrived home totally sodden and covered in all manner of cow slurry. Oh, I had a mountain bike that I have ridden about 6 times, hard work that going uphill thing.
Problem number 3 – running. All my life I have been avoiding this. I don’t like being late, so I leave early. Clicky hips and months spent in a cast as a baby meant that I was told running was a REALLY bad idea. Fine with me. Discectomy? Yep had one of those too. The reasons were numerous and entirely valid to me. And all that wobbling, you know the slow-motion shots of a running leg striking the ground and then The Wobble slowly rippling upwards, shuddering its way slowly through every crevasse of cellulite? Why would I put the good people or rural England through this? I like living here.
But there was something that made me think, I might actually be quite good at this. It’s in my DNA, so it must be true. Learn to swim, bike and run. Stop making excuses and just do it (that last bit is not original thought). Only my DNA also had some ideas about how it would grow my ankle bone …
Swimming. After weekly lessons I can front crawl my way through 1 or 2 km,without dying. I am quite a competent crawler, I can swim quicker than most people that frequent my pool, even the men (unless they are 6’3″ and have hands like shovels, I want shovels!!). I can do the swimming thing, I like swimming, I wear my goggle eyes like a badge of honour and am mastering 2 beat kicking. My coach said that my 400m was ‘really good’. See???! I hate sprints and feeling like you are going to die when you are trying to complete a distance at race pace, your lungs are exploding, your arms are next to useless and your form has gone from supersmooth gliding pro to thrashing idiot. But I like it anyway.
Biking. Nappy pants, lube, bruises, bastard cleats, bruises, dying lungs, hills, dying lungs, jelly legs, having to stop to drink as controlling rotating knife blades with one hand is clearly ridiculous, 3 saddles (good time to be single, I tell you!), überfluorescent gear, fear of cars, misplanned routes that involve walking, cold hands, dripping nostrils, crying eyes, wind, sidewind, headwind, never tailwind, turbotrainerboredom, trying not to brake downhill, braking downhill, visions of handlebar somersaults, leaning into corners – are you crazy?! – grunting, oh so much grunting. Have not made my mind up yet if I like it. I quite like it, but I have to find courage every time I go out, so having to silence the stories in my head is a hurdle every time. Also I have not been out again on cleats since falling really badly, working my way through Breaking Bad on the turbo at the moment and even I have not fallen off that (although I tripped over it on the way to the treadmill). So the joy of trying that again is looming. Please let it be cold, wet and miserable for a little while longer …
So we come to what is now my nemesis, running. I left this until last, thinking that my middle aged body would probably object to this adventure the most. Choosing shoes is a whole new post in itself, but suffice to say that I paid a running instructor for some advice on running style and shoe choices, and it might have been duff advice, although the jury is still out on this. I completed a couch to 5km programme, running 5km in 32 minutes. I am told this is a decent pace for a first attempt. I thought, yes I could actually be good at this. I loved and hated it. Everything hurt, every time I started running. All the bones, the muscles, the bits holding those together. Some runs were just plain awful. Others made me cry with the joy of getting better, and not feeling like a lumbering elephant anymore. I found a place, like in the swimming, where I felt I could just keep going, forever (or until I needed a wee anyway). I loved pushing through the pain, running with my heart, not my head (thank you Lara). And then my Achilles began to hurt.
I am personally keeping the sports therapy industry in the East Midlands afloat with my Achilles. Osteopaths, physiotherapists and sport-therapists have all had their thumbs of death in, over and under the tendon that attaches the calf muscles to my heel bone. I have literally cried with the pain of treatment. I have done eccentric loading and yoga stretches, I have Voodoo flossed and wacked a lacrosse ball against it, and have heel raised and kneebended my way through hours of The Kardashians. Nada, niente, nichts, nothing. So traditional medicine was the next step, and yesterday I had an x-ray. My heel bone is at a funny angle, there is extra bone growth at the front of my ankle and I have a spur. MRI scan is next to see what state the Achilles is actually in.
Is the dream over? Surgery is not an option. I can walk perfectly well and can live a very healthy normal life, the risk of a general anesthetic is not worth it. I am not sponsored by the Just Do It people, not being able to run will not ruin my life. It might ruin my dream, but in the big scheme of things, it’s really not that big a deal. Only it is to me. I really want to complete this journey. Part of me is tempted to just say ‘fuck it then’. That would be the easy thing to do. But there is something deep inside me, a resolve that keeps popping up when training is hard, when the coach doesn’t turn up and you still complete your drills instead of going home, when you have to make sure you eat enough all the time, that keeps me going, that thinks of my parents and friends cheering me over the finish line, that believes in my abilities. The uncertainty as to whether I can run with this skeletal make up , a lingering cold and the trials of bringing up two teenagers have completely destroyed my mojo over the past two weeks. Why should I train? Sitting on a bit of reinforced rubber for an hour is hard enough when you know you can reach your goal, but why do it if you don’t know if you will actually turn up at the start line?
Courage is the common thread that runs through all the training. You need courage to believe that your lungs will not explode and you will not drown. You need courage to push yourself beyond what you thought was possible – I know it’s not the Olympics, but Mickle Hill is my Olympic stadium and one day I will cycle all the way up it without stopping. You need courage to keep running when your body is screaming: “What the fuck are you doing you wobbling middle aged mother of two?? Go watch Jeremy Kyle and eat cream cakes on the sofa!”
I am feeling sorry for myself and cross with the universe for selecting those particular genes to be dominant. But if I give up now, then I cannot say that I have tried everything. If I keep swimming and riding while we try and figure out what to do and then try and get me to run without surgery, then I can probably walk the 5km and still not come last. So that is the plan, because:
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.