O YE’LL TAK’ THE HIGH ROAD

I’m sitting on the train to Scotland planning the route I’m going to cycle tomorrow on a day trip from Glasgow, hopefully up to the meet the lower reaches of Loch Lomond.

Despite some recent wins – breaking my open water swimming, ahem, duck for one – April was really tough.

I had a virus that sapped every bit of energy I needed to train. Like the flu, without any cough, runny nose or any of the coldy stuff that usually comes with. Climbing the stairs left me with sore legs and short of breath.

I made it through a week of work doing what I thought were all the right things. I eased off training, got plenty sleep, ate and drank good things, took my supplements. Crossfit was the first to go, and I scaled back other sessions: an “easy” 30 run into work, or a “steady” 60 min on the gym bike. A 1.4k swim set became 800m of just trying not to keep going without stopping for a rest every couple of lengths. The GP wasn’t optimistic, sending me for blood tests at the earliest opportunity and urging me to chase the surgery for the results a couple of days later.

What’s more, I was fully aware that my symptoms were very similar to the early signs of pregnancy. There are reasons that are nobody’s business why, but suffice to say that’s a scenario that for me is anxious-making. In the present circumstances of where we were in the month and other bits of my life we don’t write in blogs, it was next to impossible that that was the case. It doesn’t stop the people who see you from day to day making small talk with you though, and that was difficult even though I knew it was all coming from a place of concern and support.

The blood tests came back totally clear – annoying but also good to have confirmation that nothing big and hairy was going to throw me off course, so long as whatever this thing was proved only to be a passing virus that only needed a bit of rest.

This was a month ago and I’ve spent the past few weeks getting a few things straight. Shout out to the podcasts of Tara Brach: she doesn’t set limits on where you should take your insides during her talks and guided meditations, but she also doesn’t tell stories that are on a higher plane or airy fairy either. Her way in is about people dealing with the real world on a daily basis, and the space her talks create for me to check in with how I’m doing has really helped me get to the bottom of some stuff.

Things I’ve had to realise and get on board with (some of which I’m still carrying around and hoping they sink in…):

  • I need to get back to the mindset I had for my first half marathon. Back then it was ‘get round without stopping or walking’. Now it’s ‘go the distance, beat the cutoff’. That means re-sensitising myself to the idea that finishing is not a given. The challenge isn’t ‘being my best on the day to shoot for a PB’, it’s literally to get round.
  • I love CrossFit, but I don’t have the depth that comes with doing this volume of training over time. The volume is new, and so I’m not going to be able to fit in 2 WODs a week as well as doing the training I need to do to make it to the end of 70.3 in July. I stopped my direct debit for CrossFit when the virus took hold, and so my promise to myself is that come late summer I’ll be back, and I’ll treat myself to three WODs a week, throwing myself in to enjoy the gains I’m missing so much now I’m down to 2 lots of my own mini-WOD in the work gym each week.
  • I am invested. Before this month I was enjoying all the elements triathlon (and CrossFit, pretty much as new to me as triathlon) had to throw at me, but I was happy just pootling through it all. I’m now in the crazy phase: sh*t’s gotten real, pardon my French, to the extent that, yes, I’m now having triathlon dreams. Up until now I could plausibly deny being a triathlon bore. Now I don’t have a leg to stand on.
  • Whatever happens, you can’t ignore your what body is telling you for long. I had to give in to be able to see what was happening, and what the way forward was.
  • Finally, and probably most importantly: this is keeping me level. On and off I’ve always had downs of various depths, and exercise has helped bring me back to life a few times. The last two years marathons and now tri have shown me more balance than I’ve ever had before, unlocking so many good things in my life. I count myself incredibly lucky to have found the tools and most importantly the people to help me get from the girl in the rut who overthunked everything to the one who can get sh*t done at work and home and stay strong.

At the Lowry exhibition I visited in Manchester there was a quotation of Lowry’s up on the wall:

“Had I not been lonely, none of my work would have happened. I should not have done what I’ve done, or seen the way I saw things.”

It rings true for much of this stuff: if we don’t have questions we need to answer, if there isn’t a way for ourselves to be less sad, or worrying, or guilt-ridden, or self-pitying, or wanting, or wasting, then none of the work will happen, because there’s no reason for the labour.

Time for some cheesy sentiment from that earworm that’s been sitting next to me for this train ride. It may be the high road or the low road that I hope will get me to the finish line, but right now I just care about getting there. The road is varied and by turns breathtaking and a pain in the bloody arse, and ye can git te’ Scotland afore me if ye like, so long as you put the kettle on for when I get there.

 

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