Monday 16 January 2012

Solitude vs Clubs

It seems strange that I learned this from a day with two top athletes and I'm under no illusions that I was privileged to learn that way...

Me, at 18 months, with my dad at Leeds University pool 
I'm relatively new to sport and fitness.  Having spent a chunk of my life being more than chunky and more than averagely sedentary, I came to sport very late in life.  As a child, I swam from the age of about 2 to 11 and part of that was as a member of Croydon Amphibians swimming club and then Stevenage Dolphins.  I don't really remember much about the swimming clubs other than being in races with my dad shouting encouragement from the crowd and the occasional being picked on in the changing rooms as I was a bit younger than most of the squad.  (Having gone to primary school in the Elephant and Castle, I could more than hold my own when being picked on; by comparison the home counties lot were amateur bullies ;o)).  But when I went to secondary school, the swimming pretty much ground to a halt.  Though there was a pool at my school, the support for sport wasn't brilliant and we weren't that good at athletics or team sports as a school.  However, there was a great swimming pool in the town centre, a 50m (Olympic) length outdoor pool where I got my mile swimming badge and my Personal Survival awards around the age of 8 or 9.  Shortly after I left my secondary school, the outdoor swimming pool at the school was filled in with concrete *sigh*

So, pretty much from the age of 12 I did no more sport.  Around 25ish I dabbled with swimming again (mostly to impress a boy) and I ended up doing a lot of long swims - never less than 1600m and on one particular occasion around 4800m.  But pretty much, from the age of 12 to 37 I did no sport and, near as dammit, no exercise.  And, to compound the problem with my own body, I lost a butt-load of weight and a large amount of muscle into the bargain.

In 2009 I got married and something clicked in my head that I wanted to fix the problem that I'd lost a lot of muscle and I was weak.  I may have been a lot less tubby, but I couldn't lift boxes to help someone move house and that made me feel quite worried.  So, I joined a gym and started to do resistance training.  A couple of weeks after that, I started to get off the tube a few stops earlier and earlier and walk the last few km home.  Getting frustrated with how long that took, I decided to try Couch 2 5K and dived in several weeks into the programme.  My heart rate would rocket to 190 or so for the periods I was running and I felt -terrible-, but I persevered and after a few months raced my first 10km race putting in a time under 60 minutes despite a touch of food poisoning and a roaring hangover.

Having messed about with cycling a tiny bit (pretty much learned to ride a bike to visit my then boyfriend, now husband, in 2008), cycling a couple of times a month for a few km at a time, along with being a swimmer by background (and now starting to put in some distance swims) and starting in running, I decided to join Mr TOTKat in doing some triathlons.  I set to, having heard horror stories about the fist-fights in the swim, looking for triathlons with the swim leg in a pool rather than open water and I came across the Thames Turbo sprint series. 

Thames Turbo are the greatest possible start into triathlon.  The races are extremely well organised and run, the club and marshalls are friendly and supportive and I think that made a huge impact on our feelings towards the sport of triathlon and made us want to do more.  We improved our times through the series in 2010 and in 2011 we signed up for a lot more triathlons, including a couple of Olympic distance ones (with some pretty robust open water swim starts - needless to say I'm pretty comfortable with that now) and I DNFed a lot due to a knee injury.  Training was erratic and inconsistent but we were just mucking about really.  The Ironman idea came up and that meant we were going to need to take things a bit more seriously.  Training to date had been a solitary affair for me, with the very very occasional ride or run with Mr TOTKat.

Cutting to the chase... Friday 13th January 2012 was the first time I've been out on a bike and a run with more than one other person (apart from races of course!) and it turns out that it's really quite nice.  So far, I certainly have preferred to train alone.  I'm an anti-social beast at the best of times.  Previously I was worried that for Ironman it is a big mental event where you have only yourself to rely on and your own determination and mind, I didn't want to come to rely on being in a group, get too used to it and the supportive environment of it.  And I worry ever so much about being The Slow One and holding people up.  So I'd really not wanted to join a club or train with others.  But that day with Ali and Jonny Brownlee, incredible as it was just to be with them anyway, showed me that people really don't mind as much as I thought they might.  It also showed me that, although I was quite ginger about most of the first part of the bike ride, overly worried that I'd mess up in some way, fall off, bin it down a hill or something, once I'd relaxed and warmed up a lot, the three boys really helped me fuss less about my usual worries by being so supportive and considerate.  It also resulted in me being a bit more gung ho towards the end, slogging up the long hill in the final stages and bombing down one descent, to catch up with them at the bottom, a lot more quickly than I'd been previously comfortable with.

I'd really like to learn new routes to run and ride as I'm not that imaginative and all I seem to see are the difficulties and negatives.  It's probably time to join a club and enjoy some company for at least some of my training sessions, have access to some other very experienced coaches, plus I'd really rather like to race in Thames Turbo colours :o)

1 comment:

  1. I love running alone, but running with a club has so many benefits too. Sometimes you want to be alone with your thoughts, but other times you can really use that advice, motivation and sociablility that comes from running with others. Good luck finding a club!