The beginning of July has proven to be seriously busy with racing, training and preparation for my upcoming trip. The weekend before last I competed in the Thorpe Park Triathlon and last Sunday I completed the Surrey Badger Half-Marathon. Amongst all this I’ve been managing to pull together plans and some equipment choices for Australia and beyond.
This time last year I was just coming off crutches having had my Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstructed. I started running seriously earlier this year as part of my rehab. I entered the London Triathlon, which is coming up at the beginning of August, with a friend and have since put together a series of races to give myself a chance to see how far I’ve come. I’m now in the middle of these and absolutely loving the new experiences as I learn more about myself and the way my body reacts to different stresses.
I have been managing to undertake a fairly thorough triathlon training plan. I run at least three times a week; fit in specific cycling sessions, long days in the saddle as well as cycling to work and I swim in open water at least once a week. All of this experience and training came together last weekend on the bank of the lake at Thorpe Park. I have to admit I was incredibly nervous, something I wasn’t really expecting. I’m usually a confident person but this was a totally new experience for me and I really struggled at the beginning of the race. This was reflected in my time for the swim which was slower than in practice, but as I headed out on the bike I managed to settle. I’m likely to be in a lot of unusual and uncomfortable situations over the coming year and the impact of this stress is something I will have to learn to deal with better. Staying calm when confronted with adversity is going to be crucial when I’m far from home and in the middle of nowhere! The bike leg and run were a lot more satisfactory at least, reflecting the greater comfort I have with these disciplines.
Last Sunday brought a different challenge as I took part in my first ever half-marathon. The Surrey Badger takes place in the South Downs around Dorking and is described on the event website as an undulating course. This is a serious understatement. The first few miles follow fairly flat roads and paths and I was feeling comfortable, but very quickly some significant ascents and descents through the surrounding woods began to take their toll. The uphills were tough but it was going downhill that I struggled with most, as pain in my knee began to flare up. The middle part of the race was extremely hilly and there were a few points that I really didn’t think I would be able to finish.
Pushing on was difficult and I was frustrated that I didn’t feel I was running as quickly as I was capable of, but the pain was holding me back. Finally, having endured a long downhill, the last mile was flat. With the pressure on my knee reduced I could at least finish running smoothly and completed the course in a reasonable 1 hour 50. I was disappointed and slightly upset about how badly the pain in my knee had become. At least I had managed to finish. I proved to myself that I could complete the distance over tough terrain and that I had the mental toughness to carry on when my body really didn’t want to. I’ve come a long way since my first run outside for over a year in January. Then I hobbled round a short loop in South London. I’m now able to go for over 13 miles and am beginning to understand the kit and nutrition I need to keep me going.
Aside from racing, and managing to fit in a session of indoor climbing, the last two weeks have seen a serious step up in the planning for my expedition. My kit list is slowly coming together and I’ve just ordered a couple of touring bikes to try out. I have already taken ages agonising over this, reading endless reviews and advice. There is only so much that this can tell you though, so I’m excited to get them out on the road for a test ride. Hopefully, by the end of the month I’ll have this sorted and I can talk more about my decision and how I got there. Thankfully, a lot of my technical kit is taken care of, including some great GoreTex waterproofs from Berghaus. One item I’m looking to try though is the VapourLight HyperTherm FZ jacket. The flexibility this will offer in the variety of conditions I’m going to encounter will be great.
Over the next few weeks I have a 10km race and the London Triathlon, and with only two months to go until I leave for Australia, I need to really start focusing on the hard plans for the first stages of my adventure. I look forward to sharing how this goes with you later in the month!