Back in the saddle

This morning I have been mostly casually strolling around in my new trisuit, just chilling out, having brekkie, that sort of thing. Trisuits are the new onesies.

Ok, not strictly true – I’ve been casually strolling around and jumping up and down a bit to get a check on the strength of the in-built sports bra (my genetics have been generous in certain areas, and this has made the bra issue one of great importance), and sitting on my bike to see if the padding in that area is adequate. I have only just realised that my old trisuit really did not fit me properly.

Yep, now that I’m back doing my thang I’ve done what all good triathletes do and bought a bunch of stuff and nonsense to keep me happy. I’m not counting a new suit as actual nonsense, though. My old suit (the make of which I don’t remember, and I can’t be bothered to go and check) was unisex and zipped up at the back, so I had to wear a sports bra with it (uncomfortable amount of layering) and getting it done up involved a certain amount of contortionist ability that I just don’t have.

I tell you, there’s no better way to bond with people at a race than to emerge from the bathroom and have to ask them to finish zipping you up. Not. So my front-zipping, boob-accommodating new suit (Speedo Triathelite) is currently the new love of my sporting life. Also it’s a bit prettier than the old one. Also bought – funky new poser sunglasses for running and cycling, and a pair of shorts. And chocolate. Thank you, Decathlon summer sale.

So, now I have two trisuits, does that make me a proper triathlete? When do you start calling yourself that? I feel like a total fraud about 98% of the time on this front. I don’t feel like an athlete, I don’t look like an athlete, and for about four months I just walked kind of quickly and a lot. But I suspect, even now I’m back to training, I still won’t be trotting around feeling like an athletic type.

I’m not sure when you, if ever, decide on the ‘type’ of person you are, but I never thought sporty would be a word for me. I’ve done four triathlons over two and a half years (more would be nice, but then so would the more money for that), missed two these past four months, taken part in umpteen runs, and done a lot of training. But I’m still slow and I still struggle and I still feel like a faker because I have to work pretty hard to be below average at this stuff, let alone average. ‘Good’ feels out of reach – but then I never went into this wanting to be good.

This was taken right after I finished the ITU/Dextro London sprint tri in 2011. See that grin? That's addiction to triathlon kicking in, right there. (Yes, this is what I look like.)
This was taken right after I finished the ITU/Dextro London sprint tri in 2011. See that grin? That’s addiction to triathlon kicking in, right there. (Yes, this is what I look like.)

(Admittedly, it makes me grind my teeth a bit (sorry, teeth) when someone waltzes into a race for their first time and gets 10k in 56 minutes, and I STILL cannot break an hour (see? Slow). That’s not really a problem, though, except for when there are cut-off times. And I’ve made a deal with myself to work harder on the speed thing this time round.)

I’m taking my break as a fresh start, you see. It kind of has to be, although yesterday’s run felt good, if painful, for the first time since going back to it. I have sworn to work harder at the bane of my life that is cycling. Swimming … well, swimming, I just love. I took back to it like a duck to water (ha!) and am already back to where I was, if not a bit quicker. I suspect the extra padding I’m currently carrying around my waist might be helping slightly with keeping me afloat, but that’s not the point.

I would like all my training to be swimming at the moment. I have to remind myself to do the other stuff, too, because I’m not following a strict training plan at the moment. Just a ‘do everything at least twice a week’ approach to get through the UTI sprint tri in September. That’s my little A race this year (see, back to the drawing board. I’ll take a deep breath and look at a half ironman again in a while – just let me get through this one first. My confidence is severely shaken at the moment). Then there is a half marathon in October. And we’ll see how things go from there.

What I am grateful for is the number of people around me now interested in and attempting triathlon. Partly this is the Brownlee effect; partly I nagged a lot. Anyway, it’s helping to keep my enthusiasm levels up at a time when I’m getting annoyed with myself for not being as enthusiastic (now the practicalities of actually doing stuff have kicked in) about going back to training as I thought I would be when I couldn’t do it. <- runaway sentence alert.

I have a training partner of sorts (not really, but at least someone to swim with occasionally and talk over the ITU race with since we’ll be in the same wave). I also just loaned my wetsuit out to another friend who was the swimmer for a relay team at the London Triathlon and we will be meeting for further swimming.

I used to go running with both these people at work. It was difficult – I would struggle along behind them and curse them and be thankful for them at the same time. Someone once told me that if you want to improve at something, do it with people who are better at it than you. The trick is finding people who are patient and pushy and nice about it, and lucky for me, these people are.

We don’t go running anymore, but it’s nice not to feel alone in this weird hobby that I never thought I would have. I did my first triathlon completely alone – travelled to Dorney Lake by myself, knew no one there. People were welcoming and kind, but I would have killed for a friend to be at the race (even though I kept the fact I was doing it a secret from everyone). I hope this is a new, more sociable era.

This old world must still be spinning round

I’m a day late with this, because I spent the weekend celebrating my 31st birthday with visiting and London friends, and then pretty much used up my writing mojo on (bad) lyrics and a letter. Actually it’s a bit weird admitting that I spent the weekend celebrating, because in my 20s I went out of my way to avoid admitting I was even having a birthday. Apparently my 30s are going to involve enjoying the passing days a bit more, which is nice, actually. 30 was a fairly good year, but 31 feels as though changes are afoot. It certainly feels better than the uncertainty of 21. I mean, everything’s uncertain, but I’m a hell of a lot more confident about doing the things I want to do now, even if I go about it the wrong way a lot of a time. Basically, 30-something feels nothing like Bridget Jones’ Diary, and that’s a relief.

I thought about writing another list of things to do, but before 32 this time. However, I already have a number of ongoing projects that I can work at without have to write out that I want to do them – the aforementioned lyrics for one.  I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I had the bare bones of something I like, and that I’d recorded a rough version, pacing round the kitchen. I played it to a few people for some feedback. Overall, folks were kind about it, or genuinely like it. One of them is a musician friend who was quite gratifyingly enthusiastic about it (words like ‘goosebumps’ and ‘excited’ were thrown around). He asked if he could take the recording and add instruments, which suits me just fine because I don’t know how to even start that stage of things. If I don’t like result, we can change it (but the conversation was such that I think I will). If I like it, I can do a good recording of the vocals. You know, if it ever gets to that stage – maybe he won’t have time to do anything with it. Meanwhile, it’s spurred me on to write more things, which can only be a good thing. And maybe I’ll even get the nerve up to do an open mic night or something.

Oh, feck off Simon.
Oh feck off, Simon.

The other project on the go is a shadow puppet film, based on a short story by Fingerwords (for whom I’m Acting Muse. Which is to say that when inspiration doesn’t strike, I use threats and alcohol to bully him into writing). Quite a lot of research to do for that one before anything happens, but I’d like it to be this year’s visual project, because if we get it right it will be both beautiful and spooky.

My friends got me a book called Waterlog, by Roger Deakin, for my birthday. I read the first four pages on the way home and have decided that I’m just going to go and float around in a lido or bathing pond at some point this weekend, because, and I quote Deakin, “I can dive in with a long face and what feels like a terminal case of depression, and come out grinning like an idiot.No front crawl, no pushing it (I promise, Mum!). Just float about for a bit and gaze at the sky. I had my second round of blood tests and a chest x-ray last Friday, with the results due in about a week. I’m sick of walking everywhere and avoiding hills. I miss cycling, even, and that’s my nemesis. As incredibly exciting as it was following Rowena’s amazing 70.3 success last week, I was choked by a massive lump of jealousy (sorry, Ro!). I love the fact that her twitter feed has gone from worry and logistics to sheer confidence and excitement about her next tri – and I want that. Floating about aimlessly might help a bit.