Training journal | Week 19 to 21| building greenhouses

A few weeks ago G and I started building a greenhouse.

To own a greenhouse again was a dream come true. It means a healthy lifestyle, outdoors, fresh air and possibilities.

It’s been a labour of love. When we moved into new home, the perfect spot for a greenhouse was occupied by a huge camellia. We had to wait until the nesting period was over (we’re blessed with lots of birds in the garden). Then dig out the camellia before preparing the ground to lay the concrete base. I’ll be honest, that bit took quite a long time too. The weather had closed in by then. Storm followed storm turning the ground into a quagmire. We were distracted by other projects until eventually we went to the garden centre and bought the bloody greenhouse. That move sharpened the focus. With the help of our (wonderful) next door neighbour and his cement mixer we got the based laid.

We took delivery of the greenhouse. It was in a million pieces and the most complicated set of instructions I’d seen in a while. But we found a dry(ish) day and set to work.

I remembered the last time I’d built a greenhouse. It was time consuming; painful (those window clips); and took way longer than I’d expected. This experience was not dis-similar.

We started to build. We threaded screws (hacksaw rescues), put bits in back to front, nearly stood on the fragile (but strong) aluminium several times. And swore a LOT. But with perseverance, we got the frame finished just as the sun was going down and the frosty air rendered our hands numb and unusable.

And then the rains got worse.

Over three weeks later we finally married a quiet weather window with time off. (It was called Christmas). We invested another three days. Building windows and doors. Threading glass lining on the frame and finally, gloriously fixed the toughened glasses and pinned everything down (hopefully to survive the glorious Devon weather).

Despite the frustrating moments, it was worth it to see the finished product.

This is the story of building a greenhouse. But it could just as easily be a story about training for an Ironman.

The weather, the apparent lack of progress, the joy when a little part goes well and mostly the time it takes to get anywhere (much longer than you think!)

I have a regular run route I’ve been repeating for my 45 minute recovery run. Apart from parkrun, it’s one of the few sessions that is measurable and consistent. A little while ago I noticed I was getting further round the route in the allocated time. Last week I managed to get to the top of the hill and beyond for the first time ever. I was excited and curious and so I checked my results over the same course going back eight months:

Blimey! Well it was a shock to see such a clear line of progress. And very confidence building.

I took that confidence into parkrun later that week and buoyed ran a stonker of a pb, taking another 45 ish seconds off my time. So, I checked my results there too… since May this year I’ve achieved four PB and chipped 4 minutes and 16 seconds off my original time. Happy days. 😊

I’m half way through my coached sessions with Jon and while progress has been slow, it is there. I’ve laid the foundations, it’s now time to start building the greenhouse.

Happy New Year!

Training journal | week 13 | Bideford 10

The picture above sums up my feelings entirely on crossing the finish line at the Bideford 10 last Sunday. Tired, slightly red of cheek and supremely happy.

This weeks training has gone well. With little time allocated to ‘recovery’, it was business as usual in the early part of the week. On Wednesday I decided to mix it up with the weights. I’ve been doing the same routine for the last few weeks so a change was due.

Out went my much loved and traditional powerlifting routine and in came a more ‘core’ focused routine. The new set was based on a routine I used to do with PT Pete. It yields tremendous results in improved strength and posture – something that I felt was lacking in the later stages at Beachy Head last week. As well as clean and press, it incorporates squats, lunges and the dreaded ab wheel.

I finished the session a quivering wreck, even sticking to light weights.

Oh crumbs.

It’s one thing for your PT to give you DOMS but another altogether to inflict it on yourself.

A steady turbo consolidated the effort and left me slightly broken going into an easy run the next day. I was clearly looking a bit rough as I was approached by a lady on route who flagged me down to ask if I was completing ‘couch to 5k’. That was a boost to the confidence and I called it a day soon after.

I’m still struggling with feeling rough, temperature control and a recurring problem that involves not being able to swallow either food or drink. Friday saw a trip to the doctors to have some tests to rule out anything sinister. I’m still awaiting results but in the meantime I’ve been told no swimming, gentle run/walking and cycling only and live every day life in moderation.

Training journal | Week 16 + 17 | Rest and recovery

If you read any autobiography of an elite athlete – involved in a sport that requires a lot of cardiovascular effort – you’ll know there is a fine line between peak fitness and injury. Paula Radcliffe spent a lot of her time seeking painful treatment. Dame Kelly Holmes was almost always injured, until she finally bagged double gold in London in 2012.

I’m not suggesting I’ve reached elite athlete status (the very thought haha)! What I do know however, is that even at my level, it’s tricky to balance sufficient effort to gain results and not overcook it so much that you end up injured. Especially considering the widely held belief that lots of cardiovascular based exercise is bad for humans. Google ‘chronic cardio’ and you’ll get a myriad of articles attesting to the evil of it.

My point? Living with fibromyalgia means I know roughly where my limits are. Although my body will constantly surprise me by mostly delivering what I ask it to. I also know when it’s had enough, it’s time to rest before fatigue becomes injury. So, at the start of week 16 I made the conscious decision to take some time off. It was bloody amazing.

Training for an Ironman is hard. It’s also time consuming. Suddenly G and I had time to go for leisurely walks along the beach again. Get fresh air without an agenda and start to pick up other hobbies that have been left by the wayside while training builds. I had a wonderful week and after a couple of days of feeling really rotten and washed out, started to look forward to proper sessions again.

On Saturday, G and I once again headed to Woolacombe parkrun for our weekly dose of sand. This would be a test to see how recovery had gone with an hour run written on the schedule. We arrived a little later than we normally would and so didn’t have time to warm up first. We would just have to throw ourselves straight into it. The first few hundred metres made my legs go wobbly. I think it was shock! After a few days off they’d acclimatised to not doing anything. But soon, they recovered and felt ok. The purpose of this run was to take it easy and just get used to activity again. So, I was really happy to cross the line in a new PB. Eight seconds quicker than my previous record. It looks like the rest was a success.

The following week started positively again. This was a week where speed work had more than a walk on part and so I was apprehensive and really excited to get going. Saturday had boosted my confidence. 

The week started off gently with a recovery trot to meet G for coffee in Bideford. These jaunts out are really important. I work from home and so have little opportunity to escape the confines of the four walls until the weekend. Often I can go for days without seeing another person other than G. It can be quite debilitating. 

The next day was a double bag of a swim followed by a session I’d been looking forward to for a while. ‘Defender’ is essentially an inverse ramp. Start high and then reduce either speed or resistance over a set period of time to lower the heart rate. The idea being, you’re working around threshold but because it’s getting easier, psychologically it helps with ‘perfection of effort management’. I loved it.

The next day G and I headed to the Tarka Trail for run reps. This session was a true measure of progress made. It was the same location as the miserable 400m reps in week 7. This time, the trail was dark and although we’d donned head torches, it was still difficult to get a real sense of pace. Despite that, I felt more in control. Able to concentrate and focus on form. It was world away from the last effort here. 

The idea was 3 x 1k reps, each a little faster than the last and then 1 x 3k rep in zone three. The reps successfully done, we headed back on a reasonably protected route to get the 3k section in. Because I’m lugging around so much timber, its a real challenge to keep the heart rate down. So the final rep was slightly easier than my general running pace. I focused on holding a strong core and good posture and completed the session with ease. Phew!

A thankfully relatively quiet lunchtime swim the next day set me up nicely to do the second challenging bike session of the week. 4 x 5 minute efforts followed by 5 x 1 min efforts. The minute sprints were killers but it was a fun session.

The last two sessions of the week (a long run and long bike) were interspersed by building a greenhouse. Although G and I only got the frame done before darkness fell and we had to stop building and get on the turbo instead. My legs were tired, but it was a good tired and a great end to a more consistent training block.

20/20 challenge

So, a change of pace and topic here for a little while. Three and a half years, waking up after a vote (that should never have happened and as it turns out was conducted illegally) my heart was broken. I didn’t agree that the (advisory) vote should be honoured and I don’t believe it was to destroy democracy to think that way.

In time, I hoped a way would be found to reconcile and remain in the EU but after Thursday devastating result, that hope turned to hopelessness. And frankly I’m scared. I’m scared for society, democracy, people on the brink of poverty and those already fallen into the crevasse, those relying on the wonderful NHS now and in the future and ultimately the safety of the world. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a lot of tears yesterday. Shed for everything we’ve lost for apparently very little gain.

So now, more than ever is a time for love and kindness. For the world and personally. Inspired by my great friend Lee. G and I have made a commitment to the 20/20 challenge to complete 20 things in 2020.

The twenty ‘challenges’ are personal and designed to contribute to self care, care of my community or care of the environment. They are meant to be fun but not frivolous. And a beacon of hope in a very dark time. Here’s the list…

1. Donate 20 items to charity.

2. Visit 20 new places (can be local).

3. Donate to a food bank 20 times.

4. Get back into volunteering and volunteer 20 times.

5. Spend 20 days where I don’t go online at all.

6. Read 20 books.

7. Watch 20 films I’ve not seen before.

8. Complete 20 thirty minute lunchtime walks.

9. Try 20 new exercises (dragon walk anyone?)

10. Replace 20 household/garden items with a more sustainable version when needed.

11. Pick up random street/beach rubbish 20 times.

12. Go on 20 different walks.

13. Lose 20 lbs

14. Save 20 £20 notes

15. Write 20 random cards to family & friends.

16. Do 20 random acts of kindness.

17. Do 20 things as a means of self-care (e.g. massage, or visit to art gallery or something relaxing).

18. Write 20 blog posts.

19. Cook 20 new dishes in a year.

20. Clean 20 road signs.

So, there you go. Starting Jan 1, I’ll keep you updated with how it goes.

And for those of you feeling similarly despondent at the moment. I need to borrow the words of ee cummings. ‘i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)’.

Stay strong x