My Journey Post Fracture
Most people who have broken a bone(s) whilst out cycling usually have a pretty cool story to go with it to explain how it happened – like maybe descending down a beautiful mountain in Majorca and taking a turn too quickly, or getting caught up in a crash out racing... but that isn’t the case for me, and to this day I can’t fully recall exactly what did happen! All I can remember is I was on an easy social ride on 30th December with some friends and cycling in a straight line up a very mild gradient, going fairly slowly along a dry country lane. The next thing I know I am on my side in the middle of the road with my bike still attached – explain that one! Although a few people have said that your brain can actually erase your memories from the time of trauma, so you don’t remember how bad it actually was to protect yourself…
I was swiftly taken to Warwick A&E (via a lovely passing van man, as the ambulance was going to be up to an hour before it could get to us!) and later x-rayed and informed I had fractured and displaced my distal humerus, which required open reduction and internal fixation, and damaged my shoulder and wrist. In non-fancy terms, I had essentially sheared off the end of my humerus, managed to flip it upwards 90° which needed repositioning and reattaching with screws) – lovely! But I guess in the world of cycling, a pretty minor injury compared to the likes of Chris Froome etc. But still hurt! On my list of most painful experiences during this, the first night following the accident is probably second – not much sleep (attempting to sleep upright with a travel pillow around my neck and my cast on my pillow), lots of co-codamol and just resorting to watching Netflix on my phone. Strangely the accident itself does not take the top spot, possibly as I went into shock almost immediately. Although the journey to the hospital was pretty bad as I didn’t have any painkillers and felt every tiny bump in the road – the only downside of not being in an ambulance! The top spot is actually my first night post-surgery – I guess a lot of internal interfering made it more tender! Morphine was my friend back then that’s for sure! My first physio session is probably up there too as I almost blacked out from the pain – doh!
As an elbow fracture is slightly more complicated, I had to wait 10 days for a specialist surgeon to be available. So, in the meantime I was placed in a cast and sling and Netflix became my best friend and I embarked upon a new challenge of completing One Tree Hill (one of my childhood faves) - 9 seasons with ~20 episodes each – and I am still not finished (they now accompany me on my longer weekend endurance turbo sessions)!
What was a new experience was just before surgery they froze the nerves in my arm to act as a painkiller for when I woke up from the anaesthetic, rather than dosing me up on morphine. So, I woke up with a completely numb arm as if I had been laid on it or something. Such a strange feeling!
One thing the surgeon explained to me during my pre-op consultation was that one of the biggest potential side effects of an elbow fracture is a risk of loss of mobility if it isn’t managed effectively, due to the complicated bone structures in the elbow itself that control various movements (a lot of wrist action comes from your elbow which I never knew before!). Because of this, post-surgery I was only given a bandage around the elbow, sling and splint for my wrist – and was told I needed to get it moving ASAP. Even so it really did surprise me just how quickly you actually do lose strength and mobility. I only had the cast on for 10 days, and then begin proper mobility and rehab work with my physio 2 weeks post-surgery. The sensation of trying to move it for the first time, not long after surgery, I can only describe as like when you have been laying on your arm in a funny position for too long resulting in a dead arm that doesn’t feel like your own and you have no control over it. I could barely lift it off a cushion on my lap and certainly couldn’t bend the elbow. The most infuriating thing was not being able to do the basics such as tie up my own hair or spread butter on my toast. Fortunately, my fantastic partner was on hand to basically be my carer until I had built up enough strength and mobility to begin doing everyday tasks with two arms again (thanks Clive!)
2 weeks post-surgery, when the pain had died down a little, I started back on the turbo trainer (one armed in a sling) with the aim of completing Tour de Zwift – great timing! For the first couple of weeks, as my body was in recovery mode, I made sure I kept the HR low to try and not negatively impact any healing. But as I was meant to be competing at the ETU age group Aquabike Championships (1.9km swim, 90km bike) in Walchsee, Austria at the end of June I was keen to not lose too much fitness! Not long after, I received confirmation that I had been accepted onto the Catenary Cycling Coaching sponsorship programme, so I was really lucky that coach Tim was going to be able to assist in getting me back to where I needed to be.
After about 2 months post-surgery I was able to weight bear and as my elbow quite liked being at a 90° angle, I was able to start properly training on the turbo trainer using my TT bike with additional bubble wrap on the pads. So between now and then, persistent physio exercises and lots of time in the garage has meant I am almost back to pre-accident cycle fitness, according to my recent FTP test.
Running wise, it took a little longer to get back to and I wasn’t allowed to start again until 8th Feb, a month post-surgery. To begin with it was just really easy short jogs with a tubigrip supporting my elbow, with my first run back being parkrun – I was so happy to be back running, it was an amazing feeling even if I did feel super unfit and slow! One thing that got me going was a Strava/AfterShokz 'Be Passionate' challenge - to complete 15km in 7 days. It doesn't sound like much now as I am running at least double that in a week, but at the time this was a much needed mini challenge to keep me motivated when I felt so unfit and running was just hard work! I was then 1 of the lucky 100 finishers to win a medal!
About a month later I then began to incorporate more fitness related work in and since then I have been slowly building back my mileage and intensity. I am still not back to my pre-injury running fitness, but I am happy with the progress I have made so far.
Currently, my elbow is only a few degrees off fully straightening, I can almost touch my shoulder with my fingers again and almost fully weight bear! Shame my A race has been cancelled due to the current situation…(sad face)! But hopefully we will be able to race later on in the year.
So moral of the story, wear elbow pads even when out road cycling lol.
But on a serious note, one thing I did find to be really beneficial throughout this was to set myself mini goals to keep me focused and motivated. In the early days this was as simple as setting myself the goal of being able to tie up my own hair over the next week, ditching my sling for everyday activities, or eating with my right hand. Eventually this moved onto being able to do turbo sessions on the TT bike and gentle runs. They kept me on track and allowed me to see progression, even if a major goal such as competing at the Aquabike Championships felt out of reach at the time. Little goals are just as important as the main one.
I found out about this ‘race’ via a fellow Team Catenary athlete and couldn’t turn the opportunity down. For myself and probably all other fellow athletes, the current situation has been really difficult with most of our upcoming races being cancelled or postponed. It might not seem much on the face of it as we are still extremely lucky in this country to be able to continue some form of training within the government guidelines – particularly for those of us who have turbo trainers and home gyms. However, not having a race to aim for can heavily impact your motivation to train. So it is fantastic that virtual races such as the Castle Triathlon Series Easter virtual duathlon are popping up – and I hear they are going to be doing some more in the near future, so will be keeping an eye out!
As this ‘race’ was very last minute – I think I signed up about 4 days before it started, Tim was great and adjusted my plan accordingly. It obviously wasn’t an ‘A race’ so there was no taper and following my hardest training week to date I was certainly not going to be racing on fresh legs. But what was important to me, following my elbow fracture at the beginning of the year, was to ‘race’ and set a good baseline for where my current fitness was. I knew I wouldn’t be setting any PBs, but this would set a great benchmark to allow me to visibly see progress over the next few months – something that personally is a great motivator and will give be great for my confidence as I hopefully start seeing my times improve ready for races later on in the year (all fingers crossed that we will get some races this year).
Slightly different to a normal duathlon, to ensure it was within current government guidelines, the race was split across three days – Friday the 10k run, Saturday the 40k bike, and Sunday the 5k run. the longest transitions ever! On the Friday, we were blessed with lovely sunshine, so I made sure to get out early morning (still managed to get sun burnt though). I tried to replicate a real race as much as I could, so had the same breakfast as normal a couple of hours before I started (overnight oats with honey) and a gel (Torq) just before I set off. Frustratingly, part way through the pre-planned route, I had to start improvising as a bridleway had been shut off. This threw me a bit as I have zero sense of direction, so just had to run along random roads and hope for the best (and hope there weren’t any huge hills!). I somehow managed to not get lost and set a half decent 10k time – nowhere near PB times, but it was a great feeling to be back ‘racing’ with no elbow pain or calf and shin pain – the latter being injuries I suffered from last season. What was evident is that I need lots more threshold type runs to get me back to racing run fit (hate these sessions, but no pain no gain!)
On the Saturday it was the indoor 40k. Having only cycled indoors so far this year due to my elbow injury, I was confident that I could keep my focus staring at the Zwift screen and just concentrating on my pacing. Having looked back at my previous race power data (yes I am sad and have a spreadsheet), I knew over 40k what I could previously achieve (normalised power) so I set out to at least hit those numbers. I actually surprised myself and got a 40k PB, and a negative split! One thing that seems to be coming back quickly is my cycling fitness – thanks to Catenary sessions! 2nd fastest female bike time for the duathlon, and in the top portion of overall times too.
On Sunday it was the second run and on tired legs – not sure what is worse, going straight off the bike onto the run, or having 12 hours in between so DOMs have had time to start kicking in from the Friday run! Fortunately today, I had my partner Clive running with me. It is honestly so much harder to ‘race’ without the race atmosphere and adrenaline running through you, so having words of encouragement shouted at you every now and then did help to keep me going. Again, no record-breaking times were set but I was happy to push myself with tired legs, not suffer from any pains, and set my fastest 5k so far this year – almost 3 minutes faster than my first park run back after my elbow injury at the end of Feb. Progress!
To top off a fun weekend, I finished 3rd female overall and 2nd in the 15-39 age cat alongside fellow Catenary athlete Megan who had a great race to take the win. We even had a virtual prize giving with a virtual podium – brilliant!
The current situation is certainly very weird and is having a huge impact on all of our lives. I keep thinking that I am just going to wake up and it's all just been a big horrid dream. Unfortunately I don't think that will be the case...
I am now having to work from home from my kitchen table (which Ellie is certainly pleased about at least) and have had events cancelled left right and centre, which when you are an athlete who has already put in so much time and effort into training (and trying my hardest to get back from my elbow fracture) does feel as though your sense of purpose has gone with your end goal being taken away.
But in the grand scheme of things I am probably one of the lucky ones, with many people I know in really difficult situations right now. So, it is more important than ever to focus on the good things that still stand, be kind, stay safe and help each other. We can get through this together.
I had this lovely email from Team Zoot this week that I think is so true and so had to share with you all:
"As we navigate these uncertain times, we want to remind our triathlon community about who we are as a tribe and why we do this. Remember, it is not about the race, it is about the journey. The triathletes, we don't need race results to validate our lifestyle or give us purpose. The journey is the purpose. We love to race because we love to train. Together, we can continue to build this community and support each other as a group of enthusiastic athletes who love to swim, bike and run. This may mean you spend more time on your trainer and less time on group rides. Or, more time on solo runs and fewer runs with your training groups. Whatever you choose, we hope that you are able to find ways to continue to take care of your mental and physical health. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Our next races may be canceled or postponed, but we won't let that slow us down. Stay safe as we navigate these times and keep training "⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
One final thing to remember is your mental and physical health. As the pandemic continues to grip the world, we may all have to succumb to working from home or a period of self isolation. During this time it may feel lonely at times, so here are a few top tips that may help you and some of which I found particularly useful when I was stuck at home for 6 weeks when I broke my elbow:
1. Plan your days
Your normal routine might be disrupted and that can be stressful. Take the time to write down how you want to spend your day and stick to it as best you can. Having a clear sense of purpose for the day really helps.
2. Create a morning routine
Your normal morning routine will most likely be very different, so try and set yourself up a new one that will help you get your day off to the best of starts. It could be as simple as a cup of tea, or a quick dog walk (mine was catching up on last nights Love Island whilst having my breakfast lol.. don't judge). Whatever it is, it will ensure you aren't tempted to work from bed!
3. Schedule breaks
Give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen, or to get some fresh air (if it is safe to do so) - even if it is just opening up a window. If you used to go for a lunchtime walk or run - continue to do it if you can.
4. Stay connected
Human contact and connection is really important. Keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues via technology such as WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype etc can really help - seeing someones face really can make a difference and make you feel less lonely. You could also encourage your teams at work to set up additional 30 minute meetings via WebEx or Skype for you to check in on each other.
5. Keep yourself entertained
Be productive. Are there any activities that you have been putting off or just haven't had time to do? Well now is your chance! Can you finish that DIY project, read a book, spring clean the house, learn a new language or sign up for that online personal development course you found ages ago? These tasks can make you feel productive and give you a sense of accomplishment.
6. Stay calm
There are loads of great free apps you can use to guide you through breathing techniques and meditation that can help ease your anxiety and clear your mind of any anxious thoughts. Headspace is used by a few people I know who love it.
7. Keep exercising
Exercise releases those important endorphins which boost our mood. If you can't leave your house and don't have access to equipment such as turbo trainers, treadmills and weights then you can still get some exercise in. There are many great workout videos on YouTube which don't need any equipment to do, or apps such as Sweat give you routines to follow too.
More guidance can be found online - Mind.org have loads of extra information that you might find useful.
The important thing is that it may feel overwhelming and out of your hands right now, but whatever the scenario is for you right now, remember that you are always in control of your response even if at first it feels like you're not. We are all in this together.
Coping calendar from Action for Happiness below
The list is endless, but here are the main ones I can think of that are used fairly commonly in the triathlon world, which I know would have helped me when I first started my multi-sport journey!
Let me know if there are any more you would like to see added to the list!
Hope this helps!
Summary of 2019
2019 was certainly a roller coaster year for me, filled with lots of highs and lows...
I could have easily started off this blog post with all the extremely frustrating things I encountered during 2019, but one thing I did learn last year is unfortunately s**t happens and you just have to deal with it and think positively. So whilst I am feeling a little sorry for myself and have time recovering from breaking my elbow at new year (doh), I thought I would remind myself that even a year that felt as thought it had many lows did have some epic moments.
Stepping Over To The Dark Side
One major highlight for me, which ultimately shaped my year, has got to be finally going over to the dull 'dark side' as the running club call it and racing various open water triathons last year.
Leeds has got to be up there with one of my favourite ever races. It was my first ever open water triathlon in my home town, the atmosphere was amazing and I had Clive and my family cheering me on from the sidelines - whats not to love!
Also Redcar as it was my first ever sea and draft legal triathlon where I battled with some pretty scary waves and somehow survived!
As a result of training for open water triathlons, it meant I got to have such fun with friends at the lakes over the summer, experiencing some beautiful sunsets too.
I was also extremely lucky to be selected to represent Zoot Sports as part of Team Zoot Europe 2020, which I am super excited about. This company represents everything I love about the triathlon community - inclusion, encouragement, and funky race gear.
I really cannot wait to be back training and racing once my arm has healed, particularly when the long summer days return back to us!
World Duathlon Championships
Of course another highlight was getting to race in my GB kit again at the World Duathlon Age Group Championships in Pontevedra. It may not have been the result I may have wanted, but the experience was unforgettable.
In 2018 my season was fairly long with my A race in Ibiza taking place at the very end of October. This wasn't the case this year, so post ankle sprain when I had lost my mojo a bit, I spent a lot of time just running with Ellie (the ultimate run buddy) with no pressure for distance or paces, to bring the fun back into running. And wow what a difference it made - I've never felt as good in myself whilst running and somehow managed to surprise myself with how fast we could both go at park runs, competing in our first official canicross league race and winning the Tunnel Vision Dawn run. Love that dog!
Firstly racing alongside my amazing mum this season has got to be another highlight. She has only just started her triathlon journey, and I am just so proud of her dedication and enthusiasm. You will smash 2020 mum!
Then really just the amazing support I have had throughout the season. From my brother coming all the way to Redcar triathlon with me as no one else could do, to Clive putting up with me being out most evenings training. I am pretty lucky - thank you!
Situations such as breaking your elbow really do make you really appreciate things in life (like being able to tie up your own hair or cut up your own food). But in all seriousness, I am just super grateful for all my wonderful friends for their support over the last year, and even moreso for their kind wishes I have received over the last couple of weeks keeping me positive and smiling. So a big thank you to you all!
As I mentioned, I hadn't had a lot of luck last year from catching the Noro-virus at the beginning of the season, to getting shin splints on the lead up to my A race, to then spraining my ankle basically wiping out all of my summer races... and therefore zero consistent training all year. And then to top it off, I go and fall off my bike at the very end of the year and break my elbow resulting in surgery (doh!).
But as I have said, s**t things happen... roll on 2020!! Where I have just one triathlon related wish - to stay injury free and healthy (once my arm has heeled), so I can actually race to my full potential (please!?).
Big thanks to everyone that has supported me last season.
I wasn't originally going to post this, but my mum said it may help others working towards their 2020 seasons too, so here you go!
Over the winter months, you tend to wind down the training and start putting plans together for the upcoming new season of racing. Being fairly new to triathlon, my mum asked me for a little bit of guidance to help her start planning her training in the new year - moving towards a more structured approach to hopefully make those all important performance improvements.
I am obviously not a qualified coach, but from my own experience of structured training I gave her the following advice to help her formulate her own plan:
Training plan length and number of sessions
Most focused triathlon training plans for Sprint/Olympic distance triathlons are usually between 9-12 weeks long, so work this back from your 'A' race. Prior to starting your plan, I would focus on keeping base fitness up across the three disciplines, but nothing too intense, otherwise you can be at risk of over-training, getting fatigued/injured and losing motivation.
During your training plan, generally most guidance says you should be doing approx. 2-3 sessions of each discipline, depending on your strengths and weaknesses. If you have limited time, you can combine sessions e.g. run to the pool, do a spin class followed by a run/ bike to the pool etc.
For a sprint distance triathlon I would say you would need, per week, at least one speed session for each discipline, a run endurance session, a bike endurance session, and a strength and conditioning session.
Endurance - long, slower, continuous session (one bike and one run):
Speed – Interval training:
Strength and conditioning - performance enhancing strength training:
Key principles of training
Keep these in mind so you don’t plateau:
Remember, this is very generic and you should tailor your own training plans to suit your own strengths/weaknesses, and if in doubt speak to a qualified coach.
Following on from my last post about the benefits of a training plan and coaches, I am lucky enough to be able to share a guest post written by my coach Ben explaining how to utilise cross training to prevent and make the most of your training.
Variety is the spice of life
The appeal and uptake of triathlon across running clubs over the past decade has been huge, with many seeing it as a next step for a number of reasons. From a pursuit of greater satisfaction from endurance sports to expanding their circle of sporting friends or simply achieving greater variety in training and racing.
From a coach (who’s also gone down the path from runner to multi-sporter) it’s of benefit when a runner approaches me with the mindset of wanting to cross-train, whether it be limited to the months of their marathon plan or with further ambitions to do a multi-discipline event later in the season.
The addition of another sport or two doesn’t necessarily have to be taken as a move to triathlon or take the form of joining a local cycling or swimming club. Fitting a weekly gym spin or swim into the schedule can easily reduce the cost and other perceived barriers.
Being a runner who was initially larger than I would have liked to be, and due to resultant aches and pains could ‘only’ run a maximum of four times a week, the move to triathlon allowed me to make endurance strength gains through being able to train on non-running days (and as my experience developed, doubling up on running days with a morning swim or cycle).
Avoidance of running-based injuries by no longer feeling that I needed to run more to improve was an immediate benefit, but crucially it did also require a new skill that would be common to us all: managing our schedules to navigate another pitfall of training more, mental and physical fatigue.
Conservation of energy
Although I’m enthusiastic to help integrate cross training sessions into athletes’ plans, it’s important from the perspective of both coach and athlete to understand whether this will move the performance needle or in actuality just be a further physical and emotional drain from what can already be a delicate work-life-sport balance.
The addition has to be athlete-driven and its volume and intensity based on a combination of intelligent scheduling, effort management, and how self-aware the athlete is to their resilience, recovery, non-sporting commitments and work-life balance.
For most club athletes, fitting in the weekly runs can already feel like a second job on top of the bill-paying one, alongside family, social life and other interests. The luxury of being a time-rich professional with the opportunity for daytime recovery, more frequent sports massages and physio contact time just isn’t possible for the amateur.
Balancing life and physical ability against the desire to train like your Instagram professional triathlete heroes is therefore key in maximising A-race goals, whilst continuing to be a productive employee, parent, partner and friend. This is combined with understanding the physical and mental pay-back of additional sessions. Aiming for two weekly swims, missing two and under-performing on the third is a waste, is demoralising and (even worse) can affect running performance.
The weeks between training plans (after some well earned rest and recovery!) can be a perfect time to test a new routine alongside your core sport, without the pressure of it continuing for three months. For such an experiment I’ll often get athletes to try a new routine two to four weeks before a plan kicks off (with a bit of rest before any adjustments and the plan begins in earnest). Additional session volume doesn’t have to be huge to understand how it’ll both fit into life and gain feedback on its impact.
To summarise, although a multi-sport week can help reduce the risk of running injuries, it should also be understood whether complementary poorly managed sessions would result in fatigue, maintain fitness levels or optimally, improve performance. To do this it’s vital to use and understand your numbers.
Together with access to more training opportunities, the reduction in cost and the development in technology now gives athletes a plethora of performance metrics to train and race by. Heart rate measurements of effort and recovery, running and cycling cadence and bike power meters can all be utilised to ensure every session (or at least key ones) is completed to a beneficial level of stress.
Using the time before a plan to measure metrics such as maximum heart rate and bike functional threshold power makes setting training efforts for all the sports and the feelings an athlete experiences throughout sessions considerably easier to control and understand. Was a session easier or harder than expected? If so, was there a reason for this (e.g. course and terrain, forthcoming or recent illness and fatigue)?
For a start, find and dust off the heart rate strap that came free with your Garmin, then give it some use over the next few weeks and get in the habit of using it (as well as doing some research on understanding its numbers).
A change is a good rest
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on where and how you could potentially benefit from running a bit less whilst still training a bit more. Changes don’t need to be permanent, but who knows, they could be so good you’ll never look back on your old ways of feeling like running more was the only way to run faster and further.
About the author: Ben Parkinson is an England Athletics Level 2 CiRF-qualified coach at the Spa Strider running club based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Alongside ‘competing’ in running, cycling, duathlon and triathlons, he’s coached a range of local athletes including me (Hels). You can contact Ben by email and follow him on Strava:
This week I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at my running clubs (Spa Striders) coaching seminar, hosted by my coach Ben Parkinson.
The seminar was on the principles of designing an effective training plan, looking at training plan phases, weekly structures, key weekly sessions and supporting sessions. It was super interesting to see and hear the thought process behind my own training plan and the importance of looking at the overall picture with A, B and C races.
Having been coached by Ben for almost 2 years, with the focus being on the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza last October and the World Duathlon Champs in Pontevedra this April, was asked to talk about my views on a structured training plan and the benefits of having a coach. So I thought I would also share here!
Initially, Ben gave me a few questions to consider when I was planning my slot, the first was my thoughts on having a structured training plan...
I would say having a structured training plan is essential regardless of your ability level. A well designed training plan greatly increases the return you get on your training investment, and also reduces the risk of overtraining.
However, many beginners (I have done this too!) base their training plans on pre-written plans from the internet. Don't get me wrong, this is a great start and I am not knocking that at all as it is a good first step to effectively planning your training for a key race. But they are most likely not written for you - to fit in with your strengths and weaknesses, your day job (if only we could all be full time athletes...), and your other responsibilities. And often they are not at the appropriate starting level for an individual - the training volume of the plan may be too high or even too low for their abilities. This is particularly relevant to multi-sport athletes, as an individual will be starting each element at a slightly different level - for instance someone new to swimming, but competent at cycling and running would pick up an off the shelf triathlon training plan and probably would be fine with the bike and run sessions, but may not even be able to complete the swim workouts prescribed!
So this is where a coach can come in handy - to assist with tweaking and flexing a plan to suit you at the beginning and then throughout its duration as life challenges come along! For me, some of the key requirements of my plan for the 2019 season were:
Strangely I came across this quote the Monday before the talk which pretty much sums it all up in my opinion!
There are a few reasons why this resonated with me when I saw it! But simply.. it is so true. A coach acts as someone to bounce ideas off - they offer that second opinion on what to do and what not to do when it comes to training and even race choices, and they can help tweak and flex your training plan when needed. We may all think we know what we should and shouldn't be doing, but how many times have you thought back and realised you may have realised you may have made the wrong decision - I certainly have, thinking I can run through a niggle as I didn't want to miss a session and it made it worse!
So having coach, they act as an objective person who can give you that secondary viewpoint, giving you advice and keeping you on track.
It hasn't at all been plain sailing, and both Ben and I can tell you that we are always learning - every person's body responds differently to training. You can't expect that your first ever training plan will be perfect - it is only by testing and tweaking a plan can you fully understand what works and what doesn't work for yourself.
This last season has been a particularly tough one - at the very beginning of the season I was plagued with shin splints, then I caught the Noro-virus in February and then badly sprained my ankle in the summer.... and this is where a coach can be so beneficial and why I stress the importance of adaptability, flexibility and acceptance of change.
Unfortunately, rubbish things happen but you need to accept these and make the best out of the situation. So whilst I had shin splints for instance, Ben was able to give me alternative bike sessions to do instead, and then later on I was able to adjust my training plan post Noro-virus to slowly and carefully get me back up to the training hours I was doing pre-illness.
Ultimately, most of us are doing this for fun so make sure you are enjoying it! Never become a slave to your plan. Your training plan is just words on a paper, or in a spreadsheet or wherever, but the way your body is responding to the training will determine your success.
If you're constantly tired, injured or lacking mojo, your plan might be too challenging for you, and maybe you should consider scaling it back.
If however, you never feel challenged at all and your performances in races and training have plateaued, then maybe you're not challenging yourself enough - it does have to be a little bit hard!
I am certainly no expert in this, nor am I qualified coach so cannot offer detailed advice on setting your training plans. But if you aren't able to have your own coach then there are plenty of resources out there on the internet and in books that can help you tailor your own training plan to suit your own circumstances - just remember to keep it fun and listen to your body!
It seems so common for us to compare ourselves to others in pretty much everything that we do. But the thing is, you don't know other people's journeys and what got them to the places they are right now. And that doesn't matter. What does matter is that you're on your own journey and your goal is to be better today than you were yesterday.
Last Saturday was the first cross country race of the season and my first pure running race since my ankle injury. It was great to be back with the Striders, working as a team and having a bit of fun whilst getting muddy! No I wasn't that fast, but that doesn't matter at this stage - I had such a good time and it has set a great baseline to work from and improve over the winter months - I cannot wait for more muddy fun coming up! (Plus Striders always have amazing cakes at our cross country meets - what's not to love!
So just remember, your journey is going to look completely different to someone else's. Letting yourself compare yourself to others will only make you feel like you're not good enough and potentially hinder your abilities to push forwards. Focus on what will make you better tomorrow than you were yesterday.
We spend so many months of the year working hard towards our 'A races', putting our bodies through both mental and physical stress - you do need a break! Something that most sporting people will say is easier said than done, we just can't seem to stop ourselves!
So, since coming back from my ankle injury I have had no training plan and just 'trained' when I've wanted to - for the pure enjoyment of being able to get out and do what I love, but whilst having that life balance too and spending precious time with family and friends. If I wanted to go out for a run I did (often with the pooch!), but if I wanted to dress as Minnie Mouse and have drinks to celebrate my besties 30th birthday resulting in a written off Sunday - I also did. Off season is all about that balance!
So, Warwickshire Triathlon last Sunday was my final triathlon of the season - it was an opportunity to just go out and enjoy it with no pressure on times/paces/power. I really do recommend doing at least one race a season with the sole aim of soaking up the atmosphere and having a bit of fun!
It wasn't just my last triathlon of the season, it was also my super mum's too - who deserves a shout out. Having only very recently started doing triathlons, she absolutely smashed this one getting a PB on the swim and bike and finishing 5th in her competitive age category, only a few minutes behind the winner - proud is an understatement! I can't wait to see what is in store for her in 2020! (maybe branching out to open water swimming...hint hint)
With regards to my race, I had an ace time and was surprised to finish 2nd in my age cat! Frustratingly though I found out that the 'faster' swimmers had been set off first thing in the morning so were racing on clear roads. Everyone else was then set off from slowest to fastest as per normal for pool based triathlons, resulting in me being one of the last to go when Stratford traffic was probably at its peak... Out on the bike course I therefore got caught behind a bus that was stuck behind a slow cyclist on one of the main descents on the course where you could make up time - gutted! Note to self - have more confidence in my abilities and put a faster swim time down if I do this race again (I beat my predicted entry time by over 30 seconds, oops!)
So that brings a close to the 2019 season - now bring on the mud fest that is cross country season! Big thanks to everyone who supported me this year. It has certainly had its ups and downs but I've got my fingers crossed for a slightly more consistent injury free 2020!