Interview: Emily is not playing

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a series of interviews on this blog… 

Meet: Emily J Macaulay

When I thought of/shared the idea of doing interviews, Emily is the first person that sprang to mind. We’re twitter associates, and haven’t yet met in real life. In Emily’s words, we ‘connected through a mutual friend talking about triathlon training and then discovered we both love Stella Duffy too’. Which is, frankly, a solid basis for a twittery friendship if ever there was one.

Over the course of our acquaintance, it’s become clear she is one of those rare people who puts her money (and body, and mind) where her mouth is. I’ve just realised that that sentence conjures up an odd picture, but the point is, she gets things done. And by things, I mean she has received an MBE for her services to equality and diversity, and she’s raised over £20,000 (actually, I think at least over £23,000 as of today) for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal by doing a properly challenging challenge almost every year. The Jane Tomlinson Appeal raises funds for childrens and cancer charities – Emily has cancer. She also works in a management position at Exeter Library, a job she moved to after nine years working in the criminal justice system, making use of a postgrad level degree in Criminology and Sociology.  Continue reading “Interview: Emily is not playing”

The loneliness of the long distance walker/runner/writer

I haven’t slept properly for the past four nights and, since I can’t pin the blame on caffeine, stress or much else, I’ve decided that part of the problem might be lack of decent exercise.

The Thursday after the Great North Run, I took myself off up to Scotland for four days alone. I stayed at an incredibly romantic and quite fancy shepherd’s hut (and completely recommend the place). No electricity, so when night started to fall, that was bedtime. After the first day, if I wanted a fire I needed to chop wood; if I wanted water, I had to fetch it from the next field over and slightly up a hill. Point being that even making a cup of tea involved some measure of effort. And I decided, in between reading a lot and writing a bit, to go walking. I bought a map of the area with trails marked on it, and went for a short explore on Thursday evening, and for longer walks on my own (six miles and ten miles each on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was a lazy day involving cake and a dog-sitting for the lovely people I met there).

Continue reading “The loneliness of the long distance walker/runner/writer”

In which I cry in front of Judy Blume

Sometimes I can’t think of anything to write for this. Normally I come up with something, eventually. Other times too much has happened and I can’t seem to pick any one thing to focus on. Normally, I get past that as well. But for the past week I’ve been fuzzy-headed and somewhat easily overwhelmed by things, so when faced with an overwhelming choice of things to write about, I shut down and didn’t write anything at all. Continue reading “In which I cry in front of Judy Blume”

Running and writing: why doing one helps with the other

I think quite a lot of writers run, and there’s reasons for that. I’ve been meaning for a while to write an entry about how getting into and training for triathlon and long-distance races in the past few years has influenced my ability to start writing again. Sport and writing, as pastimes, aren’t such strange bedfellows. Everything that is essential for getting through a training plan and completing a long race is something that can be picked up and applied to writing.  Continue reading “Running and writing: why doing one helps with the other”

Procrastination pyramid

When my To Do List looks overwhelming and I’m not getting anywhere with it, I like to restructure it as a Procrastination Pyramid. Today’s Procrastination Pyramid works like this: I should be going for a run, but instead I procrastinate by doing some WORKwork; which I delay doing by noodling about with a song, which I’m not quite in the mood for; so instead I write on the weekend’s blog post (being done early so that I can get on with the WORKwork I should be doing tomorrow); which I haven’t really planned in my head yet, so instead I do the washing up; which I hate doing so I take a break from it by hoovering.

procrastination pyramid
This is a work of ART, people, and it may change your life (for the worse).

It’s a bit of a lengthy approach, but everything gets done eventually, and you reach the apex, or bottom, or whatever. I haven’t thought this metaphor through very well, but the approach does work, mostly. (Apart from when I procrastinate by playing Candy Crush and watching the mermaid show on Netflix. No, of course that’s not on in the background now, how dare you even suggest… Oh fine, it is.)

In other news…

… Shortly after the last blog entry, I received an email from Upsolut Volunteering, letting me know that I’ll be marshalling at the ITU London Triathlon Age Grouper World Championships in September. I’m really pleased to be able to help. The people volunteering at the triathlons I’ve done are the people who make the day and I’m downright chuffed to be joining them.  Doubly pleased to be doing it, in fact, because Upsolut emailed volunteers a couple of months ago warning that there had been so many offers of help that they wouldn’t be able to use everyone. I’m marshalling the day after my own race – it’s going to be a brilliant weekend.

… I’m successfully assembling my dream team for The 48-Hour Film Project – London, and was happily granted a dream location to shoot in. More on that closer to the time, but can we say ‘turret’?

… I totally almost wrangled myself a record deal* with someone in A&R at Sony** last night, but then the conversation was hijacked by the presence of Superman*** who is now my bestie****.


*Not strictly true.

** Actually true.

***Again, true.

****Complete fecking lie.

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.

The trick is to keep breathing (sort of)

Good news, everyone! I can train again! I’ve been let off the leash of medical uncertainty and released into the wilds of ‘you can train with due care’, and I can’t wait to run round and chase some PB rabbits and refuse to come back when called. (It takes skill to belabour a metaphor like that. Admire my handiwork, please.) Continue reading “The trick is to keep breathing (sort of)”

Painting over the cracks

I am really, really grateful for my friends (even those that are currently not in touch and who I miss badly). They’ve been keeping me going this week, even if they’ve not realised it. Although it’s been a great few days in terms of passing hours and spending time with people, I feel as though I’ve been snatching at ways to be happy with increasing desperation.

It’s partly my own fault. Against everything I intellectually know about health and tests and waiting times, I stupidly managed to convince myself last week that the doctor’s appointment on Friday would be IT. That that Monday’s  blood test would be the concluding result, they’d stick me on meds, I’d be fixed and life goes back to normal. And that didn’t happen, of course. Instead there’s more tests to be done; referral to a respiratory specialist with at least a three-month wait; results to wait on before I can expect some sort of workable information. It seems like an age.

This year, in which I managed to get places in so many balloted races and which I was so excited about, is a write-off in terms of physical activity, and Friday was the first time I really had to face up to that. I had a bit of a weeping break down outside the doctors, then went out to a wine and cheese evening where I smiled and chatted to people and drank and deliberately didn’t think about it. Then I cried again on the phone to my mum in the morning, and then kept busy busy busy all weekend, meeting a new friend, chatting to my sister, going to the fair. It wasn’t until I was sat in front of a computer at work on Monday that I realised how much just keeping busy and seeing people had been holding off a fairly dark depression.

And yes, I know it could be worse. I have nothing fatal (I’m assuming), I can walk around and do most things, I have my job, my life as a whole is not so disrupted – so yes, bearing all of that in mind I’m just being a brat. But the total lack of endorphins, and the lack of reason and ability to get outside and away from people and turn off my brain because I’m thinking about nothing but breathing and moving, is the equivalent of going off my antidepressants long-term and without psychiatric approval. As a friend of mine said in response to an email I sent (which may have contained the line, If one more person asks me if I’ve considered maybe going for a walk instead of running, I’m going to kick a fucking wall down): “I read somewhere that runners are people who have figured out how to self-medicate for depression.” Exactly.

Another thing: I’m losing my sense of self. I wrote to my friend –

“… Also, I realised today that the more out of shape I get, the more effort I’m making with make-up and hair, because I don’t feel good about myself any more and I’m trying to cover it up. There’s a direct fucking correlation between how good I feel and how much of an effort I make with my appearance.  I am wearing LIPSTICK and a FUCKING DRESS. This is like code red territory.”

Yes, there was a lot of swearing in that email. I’m cussing like the metaphorical sailor these days.

Ordinarily I don’t care about make-up and clothes much, but I’m spending more and more time and money on gussying myself up.  I don’t really recognise myself in the mirror at the moment, and I don’t like it, but I don’t know how else to get myself up and out of the house at the moment, either. Maybe the effort is nicer for people who have to look at me, but I was always a scruff even when I cared, and I’ve spent 2+ years not caring so much because I was happier in myself and could have gone out in pyjamas and still be happy with myself. I really, really miss that confidence. I don’t know this person who tuts because her lipstick isn’t in her bag and who applies eyeliner on the train. I don’t like her very much.

I’m a fan of the natural look.

This weekend, I should have been at Wimbleball. Tomorrow morning I would have been travelling to Devon. Plan B, after cancelling my entry in the race, was to go to Devon anyway, but that has had to be called off. So instead I was at the doctor’s again this morning (spirometry test) and now I’m stuck in London, looking at day trips I can’t afford (because I’m broke because I spent all my fecking money on red lipstick and hairspray) with no clue precisely how I’m going to avoid thinking about all the things that I would have been doing this weekend if circumstances were different.

Monster and I signed up for a jive dance night on Saturday, which should be good. I’ve organised a few bits and pieces (the dancing, go loosely swimming, meet up with a couple of friends – including another blogger who is currently dealing with the hell of finding a social group in London). I’m really tempted, though, to just bring in an awful lot of whiskey and wine and drink myself into a stupor for four days. Because that’s the mature, adult way to deal with this.

No race? No problem!

It has been two weeks since I withdrew from Wimbleball 70.3. I have had my blood drawn and I’m waiting on the results of the tests; I’ve been given a date for the 24-hour ECG, which isn’t until the start of June; and I’ve been mostly very good about not doing anything that involves real exertion. Anyway, point being that the timing of the tests and so forth means that withdrawing was absolutely the right thing to do. No more kicking myself. Continue reading “No race? No problem!”