Another year older and wiser (or should that be wider), you don’t need me to remind you that it has been a strange year, but at the moment Ironman UK in Bolton is still slated to go ahead- probably be a good idea to try do some training.
First lock down was fine in the summer, second lock down meant continuing to go to work but Dave Clarke and I did manage to get some rides in (subject to the rules). Christmas was a bit of a washout, further impacted by my ‘good’ knee suddenly becoming my ‘bad’ knee during a gentle run round the park. I thought I had managed to keep my eating in check, but Xmas jumper seemed to have shrunk a little. Having a little time off seemed like a reasonable thing to do anyway because we’d been training for what seemed ages (with the 2020 race cancelled) and much as we might need it, I, for one was really struggling to keep it up (the joke line there, if you’re looking for it is – ‘No change there then’ or ‘it happens a lot to a man of your age’).
First week of the new year and Ironman send a terrifying email ‘six months to race day’. Dave bursts into action and produces a chart. He claims it’s a training plan, but it looks suspiciously like the homework timetable he gives out to his pupils. (I’m only teasing Dave, it’s great you’ve taken the responsibility for our training and I’m sure it will be very useful- still I’ll be very upset if I don’t get a ‘good boy’ sticker or a gold star).
One of the things about lock down is that with all the extra time indoors Dave seems to be on a mission to watch every youtube video about triathlon they have, if it’s not Triathlon Tarin or Nick Bare it’s race highlights from those halcyon days when you could look at a crowded start line and not immediately mentally begin to chastise them for poor social distancing.
It’s no use me mocking Dave for his viewing habits when I’m just as bad, but just in a slightly different way; you know those ads that proceed a YouTube video, well I’ve started watching them through- I do want to know why sit-ups don’t work, the secret to a flat tummy, and the 15 minute training plan that will change my life (while also whitening my teeth).
My purchases to date are;
- A pair of Magic5 custom made googles (using a fancy face scanning app) because I can’t get anything to fit over my conk, with my piggy eyes and low brow and they were on special (they haven’t arrived yet and short of lying face down in the bath I can’t think of anyway of testing them when they do).
- An elasticated band with hand paddles to practice swimming movements (the movements seem to be about as close to swimming as a Thunderbird puppet doing a rumba but even so it’s probably an improvement on my stroke), and finally
- A set of suspension training straps, not actual TRX ones but the best rip off ones I could find with proper metal buckles, just in case the weight doesn’t drop off instantly (that’s not the only chubby consideration- rather than fixing the bracket to the wall I’ve actually bolted the bracket through the wall).I’m mentioning the straps now so that when I am found tangled up, I want it to be known that it’s likely to be clumsiness and not some sort of auto erotic asphyxia (further note- sucking on an orange is great nutrition and leather lederhosen are perfectly acceptable training attire).
Swimming is out, so 800 metres in the icy mud of Heaver was probably the last outing and there is no clear date for a return. I have a vision of all the competitors in Bolton running into the lake panicking with the shock and either running back to shore, being hauled out by the safety canoes or at best settling into a rather weak doggy paddle and all missing the cut off (apart from some posh lad called Cuthbert whose family pile includes a heated lake who wins overall). Dave’s suggestion is to suspend the rules and allow armbands, and if the pools are closed for much longer then we will need your support for #bouyancy for Bolton campaign.
Cycling, of the outdoorsy type has been limited to a Sunday morning ride and not of any great distance, and we have already missed one when the temperature refused to go above freezing and we were worried about ice. There is quite a gap between the vision of setting out on a crisp winter morning, well wrapped up, seeing your breath as a foggy wisp and kept warm with a sense of superiority and righteousness as you are training, unlike those fickle lightweights and the reality which is; an ice cold streak of spray up your buttocks which is rapidly joining up with the freezing pool of sweat running down in the small of your back (breathable not meaning that in breathes from anywhere useful), you can’t feel your toes, which is probably a bit of a blessing because for the last hour when you could, they were frozen. The ‘helpful’ little vent in the sole being perfect at directing an icy blast or puddle splash right where it can cause maximum discomfort. Gloves that are either so thin and ineffectual that Captain Scott doing jazz hands at the north pole in a blizzard would have a better change of managing a button fly than you would or gloves so insulated that after two hours your hands look like a piece of gammon that has been in a slow cooker for a week. And it’s no good thinking that you’ll break up the ride with a stop (even if you could find a coffee shop open) because restarting is even worse, sitting back down on an ice cold wet shammy pushed into your nether regions by a pointy saddle, wringing out your sodden skull cap and pulling in on, the clammy fabric like the creature from the black lagoon giving you a head massage.
Getting home and peeling off your tights, trembling with cold and having to spend another 2 hours gently defrosting in front of a single bar electric fire before you feel vaguely human again. The lack of daylight hours rules out an after-work ride. What we have been better at is doing three sessions a week on vintage turbo trainers to GCN video on the interactive whiteboard in Dave’s classroom because no matter how cold it is outside the sweat is guaranteed to be attractively dripping off your nose in under five minutes. The number of members of staff who feel the need to stick their head into the room for no very convincing excuse is rather disconcerting, but I suppose the prospect of seeing two such highly trained, fine figures of middle aged manhood clad in lycra turning a beetroot red and appearing to melt is just irresistible. They seem so impressed you can actually hear them laughing in the corridor as they head off home.
Running. Well I say running but I’m not sure even shuffling covers the speed I am currently capable of at the moment. I do seem to have completely forgotten how to run after just a few weeks rest and I’m so paranoid about my knees going again that they are strapped so tightly that I look enviously at the tin man from the Wizard of Oz for his flexibility. In order to try save my knees I am trying to run more off road around Overton Park. It is all pretty soulless but that’s fine, it is only a couple of minutes away from home so I don’t have the embarrassment of walking back miles from a long looping route looking like I’ve had an accident in my jogging bottoms if my knees go. There are so many people in the park. It quite strange seeing how other people run, there are of course those fit lithe runners who float past you like they are leaping from cloud to cloud but there are also a lot of ‘joggers’ like me slogging round the field. They are all shapes, sizes, and ages, dressed in everything from skimpy sportswear to parka coats and scarfs. Their styles range from a proper full running stride just in slow motion to a barely visible shuffle. Most disheartening is seeing someone across the field and thinking the poor dear, perhaps they have only just started or are returning from a serious accident they are hardly moving at all, and then realising that they are pulling away from me.
Last Saturday morning I woke early determined to have a run and venturing outside discovered it was snowing, a nasty windy sleet blowing about and thick sludge on the tarmac. Kept my conviction and set off although rather cautious against the fear of slipping on the ice. It went pretty well, not fast but certainly didn’t slip or feel less than secure under foot, a bit of a success. I have since seen a wildlife program explaining how one particular creature when walking on ice turns its feet out, leans slightly forward but keeps its centre of gravity low to prevent it from slipping over- I run like a bloody PENGUIN. (and fully wrapped up, with my nose sticking out the similarities don’t end there.)
This according to Dave’s chart is just the start and it’s only going to have to ramp up from here.
I’m sure that when the sun comes out, the roads dry out and there is more than a miserly few grey hours of daylight my grumpy bottom lip will wind itself in and training will become a pleasure again. Let’s just hope that by the time that happens we won’t be so far behind that we can’t make the Ironman.