For the seventeenth chapter in my blog “Fatman to Ironman” I will describe my training, and build towards my first ever triathlon training camp “Mallorca 2019” For this chapter I describe the ups and downs of February.
As you have read in Ch. 16 – Training, and the build to Tri Camp. Mallorca 2019 – January. I had sorted out my race season and now had a really big target to train for. I was fully committed to Mallorca and after my experiences through January, couldn’t wait to get properly back into training,
As I publish this Chapter (2nd March 2019) ….. Ironman inform me it is 100 days until my event in Staffordshire!
Leading into February 2019
I had had a hard time injury wise through the last weeks of January, and it had begun to take its toll on my mental state of mind. I’m not saying I was loosing it, but I had started to allow negative thoughts to enter my mind. Something recently in my life that I am unfamiliar with. I had become so used to a structured life around training, it frustrated me I couldn’t train as I had been. I found it difficult to accept that I was injured, and it would be a long term recovery. I was shocked when The last day of January approached and things rather than getting better, we’re getting worse.
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill
I needed to get myself back into the right headspace. I had organised a follow up appointment with my friend and Osteopath Caroline. This was on the morning of Thursday 31st January 2019, and it couldn’t have come sooner. I would have a long chat with her whilst being treated.
I also chatted at length with Billy (TriForce) on the Wednesday prior to visiting Caroline and discussed things from a coaching perspective. I needed reassuring I guess. I needed to silence the demons in my head.
February – Week 1
I had now accepted that January was a write off. Ok I had one great week at the beginning, but since then the roller coaster had been free rolling down hill.
I decided that February 1st would be where I would get back on it. Billy and I had agreed on a suitable swim session and I was focussed. I was ready to restart my training year.
That day Wiltshire was hit with heavy snow. The kind of Snow that paralyses the UK. We had more than was required, and the councils had closed all the pools. Normally this wouldn’t of affected me. In the past I would simply shuffle my training and do a Turbo session on the bike. With this injury all I had was swimming. I was devastated. I couldn’t even go for a walk through fear of slipping on the ice and undoing my recovery. February 1st was written off.
I got up on the Saturday really pissed off with myself for forgetting the process, and focussing on the goal. I had written about this in my blog and should be learning by my mistakes. Ok let’s make February 2nd count.
Officially my training had me down for a rest day. Not a chance. I’ve been resting for three weeks. Billy was in Dubai with Fenella Langridge for Dubai 70.3 (Her first race of the season) and I didn’t want to disturb them. I would pick from a list of swims I had missed over the last few weeks and just crack on, off my own back.
When I got to the pool I realised I had forgotten my watch, or any reference to the intended swim. I sat in the car thoroughly cheesed off with things and contemplated just going home. I got a grip, and had a word with myself. This was not who I was, not now.
I would get in the pool that night, and swim a set I could remember. I made one up on the spot and decided to swim 10x25x10. I gave myself an hour to complete it, then just cracked on. Writing on a white board each time I had swam 10 lengths. Just like old times. Just like the days before my Garmin watch. Only this swim was without the pressures of my watch monitoring my every move…. A free swim.
I was buzzing when I got out, as the clock had only just gone past the hour, and my set was completed. I was at last training again. The last weeks of January I had swam my arse off, as I put it. But that felt like injury rehab. This swim was different. Ok yes I was still injured, and was still recovering. I felt great as I sat in my car recovering from exertion, slowly sipping away at the remainder of my hydration.
1st Structured session
The night of 2nd February I sent Billy a message asking for a swim set the following day. I was down for a recovery Turbo session of 45 mins. However, I had missed several Turbo sessions and knew I would fail this. Billy sent me over a set to which I immediately responded “I will smash that in the morning”
Without trying to sound big headed…. I knew I could. I just needed to get in the mindset of the Santa Swims of Ch. 15 – Shaping my 2019 training and race season, off the back of a “Santa Swim”
The swim set was made up of (after a warm up) 500 steady/4×50 hard x3 with a mix stroke cool down.
I would indeed go on to smash it with a 2.3k time of 54.47 I was content with what I thought was a solid swim, given the congestion of a Sunday afternoon council pool.
Billy had messaged me whilst I was swimming. He was still in Dubai, but keen to find out how I got on. When I sat in my car reviewing his message, I tried to compose a reply. In the end I just sent him a screen shot of my Garmin feed. I was blown away with his response.
Despite the fact my injury had left me with no kick (Off the wall) and I was turning like an oil tanker in the pool. I allowed myself to feel pretty chuffed with my efforts. I was conquering everything the Tri Gods were throwing in my path, and was beginning to see some improvements in my time splits.
Onwards through February
I didn’t train for two days after this swim. A difficult day at work had aggravated my injury and I would have to return to the doctors…. Having hoped for some sympathy, the doctor promptly advised me to get back in the pool. He was keen for me to keep using my leg as much as I could. He wasn’t about to sign me off work, quite the opposite. He wanted me to crack on! He knew how far I had come and wasn’t going to play to my weaknesses. He was giving me no option, a proverbial slap around the face with a wet Kipper, and get back in the water you fanny!
I would be back in the pool on Wednesday 6th February 2019. I had been on an emotional rollercoaster, and I wasn’t enjoying the ride.
Billy’s kind words, along with the trip to the doctor, changed how I would approach the remainder of February. I had beaten the injury demons that were creeping into my head and smashed two back to back swim sessions. I was now focussed on the process again and had a renewed sense of belief.
Over the next four days (6th -10th February) I clocked up 8100m of swimming, swimming every day. At this stage we were adjusting my training on a daily basis, as my injury began to heal. Billy would send me a different swim for each day, and every one of them I would smash. Determined to improve somehow on each session, and see gains, however small they were.
On Monday 11th I took a well earned rest day, and reflected on my efforts. As I browsed the stats stored in my Garmin Connect account… I was blown away…. My Friday swim (8th February) I smashed my 400m PB with a time of 7.27 my previous time was something like 12.08. The Sunday (10th) swim was truly epic…. A 750m PB @ 16.18 (Was 17.25), A 1k PB @ 22.46 (Was 23.38) and a 1.5k PB @ 35.44 (Was 36.42). On top of that I was now consistently swimming 2k.
The positives of injury
Before I write about the last two weeks of February, a moment to reflect…. Yes! It’s a bizzarre title for a paragraph, but the process of recovery allows you take an inward look at your self, and your journey.
When you are training, you are so focussed on the moment, the numbers, the following day, or the goal. It is easy to overlook where you have come from. I had indeed been on an epic journey, and it was time I started patting myself on the back for getting where I was at this point. Yes I was a bit downhearted in the first few days of February. Naively I thought I would just keep progressing. I never for one minute expected I would go backwards. However, I now had the opportunity to turn it all around and make February an exceptionally good month. I needed to think about my journey, and not on my injury. Why did it start. The many, many wins and successes along the way. The weight loss (Ongoing), C25k, making friends through sport, learning to swim, Aquathlon and triathlon medals and cycling Sportives. Etc etc. The biggest, and most notable gain I reflected on was that the journey so far had made me a better person, a positive thinker. A person that had learnt to believe in dreams, and make them happen. Once I had got to this mindset again I could focus on the next session…. and smash it.
February did turn out to be an epic month (As you are about to read).
Billy had tapped into a rich vein of form and clearly knew how to push my buttons. After my rest day on the 11th February 2019, I would accept my next challenge…. Swim 10k in a week!
Each day I would have a different swim set. Each of those swim sets would have their own individual goals and challenges. The problem here, and Billy didn’t know it at the time, was that the weekend was going to be a “Grandparent” weekend and training was going to be difficult to fit in….. On top of that I had Valentines day to consider, leaving just four probable training days. None the less, the challenge had been set, and I was not going to disappoint.
My stats for this week blew me away; –
12/02 = 2.5k in 55.12
13/02 = 2.4k in 55.01
15/02 = 2.6k in 58.20 & 1.6k later in the day in 35.31
18/02 = 2k in 43.04
Total = 11.1k in 4 days.
Hence the title of the previous paragraph… I had indeed found a positive from injury!
The focus wasn’t necessarily to become quicker at this stage, but to be able to swim 2k consistently…. Billy I told you I would smash it…..
Reflection is a very important part of progression. As you have read I used this process to help me smash the 10k in “Four” days challenge.
In this epic week, I found myself reflecting on situations that in the past would have been too stressful to even think about.
I remembered the double swim day of 15/02 especially…..
I was quite tired having got into the pool for the 0630 hrs swim, and swimming what was a hard 2.6k. Especially as this swim was based on the guilt of having not trained on Valentines day.
The later, lunch time swim was a real mental battle. I knew I was fatigued and felt I was going to struggle. In reality the biggest struggle was putting my wet swim Jammers back on. Once in the pool I would smash the mile….. Now the moment for reflection…
As I got in the pool I noticed Fenella Langridge doing a swim session. It didn’t seem to phase me as I got in the fast lane and casually got my self ready. I couldn’t have done this a few weeks ago. Wow! Now to swim….
Pretty much every stroke I thought about the day when Fenella had helped me, my bad experiences in the pool and my fears of drowning. However, in this session it drove me forward, the memory no longer created fear, it had become a drive or a force. I was using my weakness as a strength. Something within me that I had beaten or conquered.
Whilst I can’t say I was able to keep up with Fenella, a pro athlete, I was comfortable with being in the same lane as her and all the other fast bods…. A few weeks ago I would have snuck away under the rope into the medium lane.
I now had the confidence to use their strengths to help me. I would draft off of them, watch their technique from under the water, chase them before they turned, and where possible get myself amongst their wake. I was using this session as training for my event….. The big boys and girls were not phasing me. I had come a long way.
Build back to fitness
The following week was supposed to be different. My mind was now in a good place going forward, and I had recent successes on which to build.
However, the grandparent weekend had near broken me again…. more accurately the “Soft Play Area” had broken me. Ironic that a place designed to keep children safe, had quite the opposite effect on me. Fortunately adopting the prone position and plenty of ice, reduced this to a mere scare! However, it highlighted the need to start building strength back into my knee.
We would start the week with a two minute turbo session, no resistance, easy gear. Simply introduce my leg into the range of motion and see how it felt the next day. After this I would be straight in the pool for another 2.5k swim (48.23) The times were tumbling down.
The session of the 22nd February embraced everything I have written about. A truly epic beasting from my STAR coach Katie “Narna” McBain, (Somehow, cruel to be kind) and one which I fully committed. I loved the fact that I could see our journeys evolving, and somehow felt we were feeding off of each others recovery and development. Katie has been injured for some time too. Not once has she expressed a desire to give up. A true beacon of positivity, and one of which I continue to feed off.
The beginning of this session saw me buddy up with Charlie Waters, one of the group “DivStars” I started Tri with. We had been separated in the pool for some months now as he had progressed quicker than me. Tonight we would be pushing each other, and at times I felt I had the edge. Only to be caught up each time I did my oil tanker turns. I was ok with this too, as it just made me push harder in the water. I also knew that in the lakes I would not have a wall to be kicking off from anyway.
I used this session to practice my open water sighting and clocked my coaches huddled together watching me. I was becoming aware of my status and I was loving it.
Everyone had played their part in getting me here. Especially my swim coach Sue Hartwell. Ch. 9 – Widths to lengths (The making of a Triathlete??)
Whilst Charlie and I were being beasted by Katie. I noticed a new guy (Andy) and briefly said hello during a 20 second strict rest interval. He (over the course of a few more rest intervals) was able to explain his journey was following mine, only he was at the beginning of his. He had been reading my blog. I was empowered by the fact my blog was in some way helping someone begin their path into Triathlon. I used this to dig deep and complete the session. Cheers Andy (There will be plenty of time to chat when we are wearing our finishers medals around our necks mate, apologies)
I remembered the intimidating, barmy bonkers place a Tri club session can be for a newbie. Tonight, Charlie and I were adding to that atmosphere, as we raced and out paced each other, with Katie hurling “encouragement” at us. It was time to move on. We were no longer the beginners. We were graduates, Triathletes. Good luck Andy. You will smash it mate.
I finished that Tri Club session in bits. Absolutely spent, exhausted, and I loved it. After I got changed I found myself sitting next to Jacqui Taylor, my lane judge from my Aquathlon. Here I was, a year on from only being able to swim a length, to this. I had indeed come a long way.
More pain… leading to more gain….
In the last week of February my knee injury had taken an odd turn, it was affecting me psychologically in the pool, and my rehab on the turbo had been put on hold because of it. My swim times were still heading in the right direction, but I just felt like I wasn’t able to give it my all, when required. I was five weeks into recovery now and knew this was a different problem. I felt it was in someway associated but hoped it was a quick fix.
I was due follow on treatment from Caroline, my Osteopath, and we set a date. In the meantime I researched the issue and tried to understand what was going on.
It turns out my body had been reacting to my injury by tightening hamstrings and tendons etc. to protect the damaged areas. Caroline would confirm this whilst reminding me of my responsibility to stretch. I knew I should have been stretching out, but clearly I wasn’t stretching them out enough. My IT Band and hamstrings were binding against each other, and as they got tighter and tighter I was loosing the range of motion and unable to cycle or kick.
Fortunately Caroline got in amongst it, as we chatted through the pain of a thorough treatment session. The kind of session where I am left trembling and absorb a whole pack of chocolate brownies without any guilt at all. 2 hours later I would be in the pool for my last STAR Tri club session for February.
Last session of the month.
I would enter the last session of the month quite confident. It was my Tri Club night and I wanted to finish on a high!
I had just come off the back of a pretty underwhelming week of swimming. I had consistently swam 2k or above but felt I had plateau’d a bit and was looking for a break through. It had to be at Tri Club! It was time!
I got in the pool before anyone else and before the life guards had finished putting the ropes out! I wanted to get the warm up done quickly and get on with the drills… I wanted to smash this set. Bizarrely enough I found myself making excuses to my coach about having only just being treated by my Osteopath. Clearly that fell on deaf ears and before I knew it Katie “Narna” was interrupting my warm up and promoting me up a lane. I didn’t resist and quickly completed 6 x 50m. Then without instruction began the drills set. I knew what I was supposed to be doing and wanted to get on with it. I was racing ahead of the others.
Katie had noted my fierce determination, and decided to “buddy” me up with Andrew Mathews (One of the coaches, electing to swim tonight) Andrew is a really nice guy, as are all of the Mathews family. After our brief from Katie… Swim 50, change lead swimmer, and a very quick chat with Andrew…. I was off! Eagerly staying in his wake and drafting off of it. Andrew is a different beast when it comes to training, clearly. He was not holding back, and clearly didn’t want me to catch him…. I got to the wall of the first 25 hoping for a brief catch of breath as we turned. No! Andrew was off and I had to keep in his wake.
We had a strict twenty second recovery… Now I had Katie and Andrew reminding me of the ticking clock. It was my turn to lead, and my turn to try and swim away from Andrew…. My turn to turn without waiting…. my turn to build pace as we both began to tire…. 20 seconds was just about enough time to recover and we were off again… We would do this for 4x 100 at near race pace and we were both loving it. We really were pushing each other, neither of us wanting to falter and get caught….. Awesome!!
As we completed that I got a “Chuck up” from the team captain, Dale Kirk McCarter. (Soon to be a triple Ironman) he had taken some time out of his busy training schedule to see how Team STAR was doing. “You look good mate, effortless and smooth” The truth was…. Under the water I was blowing out of my arse. I’ll take that accolade though. Cheers Dale.
After a brief scan of the next part of the set, and a quick look at Andrew, we were off! No time to chat. This was serious.
We now had a 4 x 75 at the same pace but a reduced rest interval of 15 seconds. We were tearing up the lane as we both refused to slow down and be caught. Andrew got caught in some lane traffic and I seized my moment. A quick “Crocodile” look above the water line and boom! I dug in and got alongside him, only to pull back in behind as the lane got a bit congested… Next time mate.
we completed this in no time and quickly got about a 4×50. Increasing the pace and reducing the rest. We were clearly now both slightly above race pace, as we refused to be caught, changing roles each 50. I was overtaking others in the lane, with a quick “Crocodile” and go…. straight down the centre of the lane squezing between two athletes…. refusing to slow down. (Sorry guys we were on a mission).
We were now at or above the pace of the lane next to us. The lane supposed to be faster than us! We really pushed each other that night and I can’t wait to do it again Andrew! Great shout Katie xx
An easy warm down/cool down with ten minutes to spare…. Thats how to smash a session and how to finish a month!! Thanks for the comments Ina (Another STAR coach, who also has a video from when I just started with STAR)
The praise I got poolside, and after was overwhelming. I cannot thank the coaches enough. In particular Katie “Narna McBain and Sue Hartwell for their endless praise and positivity. We will smash this!!
Cheers Billy Harriss, TriForce
Thank you for reading the latest chapter in my blog.
Please take the time to read the previous chapters in my journey. Chapters 1-17 have been a lot of fun to write, and I welcome your comments and opinions.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. – C.S. Lewis
For the next chapter in my blog I will describe my training through March and the build up to my triathlon training camp in April. “Mallorca 2019”
Previous chapters in my Journey “Fatman – Ironman”
Ch. 14 – The gym, with a purpose
Ch. 15 – Shaping my 2019 training and race season off the back of a “Santa Swim
Ch. 16 – Training, and the build to Tri Camp. Mallorca 2019 – January
2 thoughts on “Ch. 17 – Training, and the build to Tri Camp. Mallorca 2019 – February”