I’ve always done bits and pieces of exercise, usually whatever the trend was of Zumba or HIIT, but it wasn’t until I started running in Spring 2015 with a good old Couch to 5k that I found a consistent fitness lifestyle. I did my first Parkrun that Autumn and managed my first 10k, the Manchester Winter Run not long after Christmas. I dropped a ton of weight and started getting faster. My first year runniversary consisted of a real purple-patch of doing local 10ks and I was pretty confident that by the end of the Summer of 2016 I’d be good to go for 13.1 at the EHM in Warrington.
By late August I was averaging around 20 miles a week but what I didn’t fess up to myself was the increasing number of niggles I’d ignored. Mostly these were lower leg issues – sore Achilles, sore shins, sore calves. Finally, after a particularly tough hill session, followed by a British Military Fitness session then a 10 mile run on successive days, I broke. On the silly little recovery run on day four, my left calf just went from under me with a deep pain right in the fleshy middle of the back of my lower leg. Bugger.
In denial for several days I tried a test run the following week. Same again. I carried on with this ‘3 days off and try again’ approach which in retrospect was just daft. The torn calf was no doubt just getting more and more damaged so I admitted defeat and stopped running completely. I manned the cake stall at the EHM and after 2 months complete rest, it was 3 full months before I could run pain-free again, only a few weeks away from Christmas. I put on a ton of weight and started getting slower.
So here we go again I thought – and started back on my original Couch to 5k. After a deliberately slow build up I hit the 10k distance again in time for the Lakeland Trail at Cartmel in March 2017 and again enjoyed a purple patch of local 10ks and some 17k Trails, plus my first Half Marathon at Liverpool in May 2017, 9 months after losing my EHM attempt. Happy Days. I dropped a bit of weight and started getting faster. I was all set – what next? A marathon? Tough Mudder? Hellrunner?
Having built back after injury I targeted another half marathon, the Montane 13 at Delamere in September. Suddenly – Groundhog Day struck. My lower legs again and this time my feet had also been niggling me all summer. By August last year, a 10 mile run incorporating the Birchwood 10k was to be my last run until November. Argh! The familiar generic sore Achilles issues has now become a nodule, a distinct bump on the back of my right leg this time. Sore to the touch, this was nothing compared to a spring ligament tear between my heel and ankle, alongside a good dose of heel pain in both feet – hello Plantar Fasciitis. I could hardly walk first thing in the morning, and yet again it looked like I had to spend the whole of Autumn resting yet again.
Though this had been building a while, the sudden ramp-up in pain after the Birchwood and restriction of movement literally took me off my feet.
Only in year 2 of running and how could I be on another repeat-loop over overuse injury yet again? This wasn’t fair! Should I give up running altogether? I put on a ton of weight and started getting slower. I decided that I had to give myself something to train for, to give me structure, a target and a reason to get my bum off the couch, yet spread the training load. If I couldn’t run, what else could I do? Ah-HA. Triathlon must be the answer! I have always enjoyed swimming and already knew how to build the running (twice). Riding a bike is like, well – riding a bike, so I signed up for the GoTri event at Orford Hub. This was Gareth’s idea – a good one too!
I didn’t have a bike so I bought the cheapest decent entry-level I could google -a bright red BTWIN from sports-supermarket Decathlon. I named her Scarlett. I decided to go for the fancy David Lloyd swim session that WRC club members could book – I was all set! What I didn’t remember was that though I could breast-stroke all day with my hair still dry, chatting as only women do, I had never actually learned front crawl. After quite a disastrous attempt (in public too) at David Lloyd, I set about studying Youtube on how to do front crawl. Several humiliating Orford Hub splash-sessions later, I felt I could manage enough lengths to freestyle the GoTri. Yay me.
So how was it? Well, even though it was just a short taster of the world of Triathlon, I absolutely loved it. Jumping on a bike soaking wet is absolutely ridiculous yet somehow I was transported gleefully to a child-like state of giggles as if I’d skipped out of a paddling pool at transition 1. Despite a stupid amount of preparation I was all over the place, talc flying everywhere, hat-hair frizzing up and running shoe laces tied up in knots. Triathlon also has a very special place in one’s beauty regime and if I didn’t laugh at the sheer humiliation of being wedged in to the world’s most unflattering kit I would probably have cried. Fortunately, there a no mirrors on a triathlon course so frankly my appearance was and still is someone else’s problem.
This is my triathlon story so far, and my first two sprint events are booked this Spring. Who knows, they could be my last but I’m going to give them my best shot. Having started training already for now at least, I am Triathlete.