Wonderful Weekend

This weekend was spent doing something a little bit different and was just what I needed.

S and I went away camping at Loch Tay in Perthshire, about a 2 hour drive away from Glasgow. We stayed in something called a Geodome which is a kind of domed tent with a bed, a wood burning stove and a couple of beanbag chairs and a coffee table inside. I know it’s not ‘camping’ in the traditionalists sense but I’ll admit after having my major operation where they pretty much cut right across my back, in addition to my front, I’ve not been able to sleep properly on cold, hard ground. Plus this way it means you get a decent night’s sleep and then you’ve got enough energy to do all the good stuff during the day – I’d just be tired and grumpy otherwise. The wood burning stove was brilliant too as it meant that the ‘tent’ was nice a cozy when we went to bed and the height of the dome meant that you could stand up properly making it easier to get dressed etc in the morning. The coffee table and chairs were brilliant as the dome had a clear section that served as a window meaning we could chill out in the morning with a coffee and breakfast looking at the wonderful view.

The views were definitely something to enjoy looking at too – the campsite we were based on was on the banks of Loch Tay on a sloped area looking over to the surrounding mountains, it really was stunning.

We arrived on Friday evening, found our home for the weekend and once we had put our things inside lit the barbecue outside to make dinner. Half the fun of camping for me is that I get to ‘play’ with fire. I love everything about cooking on a real fire, from the smell to the taste and the mesmerizing quality of flames. I had organised for us to have pork kebabs with tzatziki in pita breads for dinner on the Friday night so we got the coals lit as soon as possible to allow them to get hot enough to cook on. This weekend was also S’s ‘half’ birthday which sounds a bit cheesy but his actual birthday is the 27th December so everyone is very wrapped up in Christmas and it’s not really the weather to do anything like that so I’ve decided to move his birthday to the mid-point, June. Plus that also means I get to go on an adventure under the pretence of celebrating his birthday! Ha ha!

Because of this I also made S’s favourite carrot cake as a ‘birthday’ cake and although the candles didn’t light in the wind he said it tasted good which is a win in my book!

On Saturday after having breakfast we decided to go for a little drive and check out the local mountain – Ben Lawers. I wish I’d taken my Garmin with me because I’d be interested to know just how far we walked and how high we were. We actually didn’t get to the top, my bloods weren’t playing ball once again and I started to feel a little woozy so we decided to start making our way back down again. I’m determined to make it to the top next time! Hopefully we’ll be a bit more prepared too, I was wearing a fleecy hoodie which was too hot at the bottom and didn’t wick away any sweat and then wasn’t wind proof for further up which made me quite chilly – I would also like some better walking boots, mine were admittedly quite cheap and I find that my feet slide about quite a lot in them so getting some new ones properly fitted would be a good thing too.

Regardless of not making it to the top the views were pretty fantastic from the height we got to and it was definitely worth the effort to even get to where we did.

We headed back down and back to the campsite for a welcome cup of tea and some more carrot cake. We then headed down the hill a little way to the on site pub / restaurant for a couple of drinks by the water before heading back to our dome to make dinner for the night – steak, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. I’d welcome any suggestions on how to make baked potatoes work on the barbecue because mine were pretty much a disaster! I had boiled them for about 20 minutes earlier in the week before wrapping them in a double layer of foil with some butter and salt and pepper and then we put them in the coals of the barbecue for probably 30 minutes and they were still rock hard and raw in the middle! Oh well, better luck next time! After that we had to have the obligatory toasted marshmallows on the fire – I know, I know, I’m pretty much diabetic and shouldn’t be eating basically a fluffy blob of sugar but I LOVE toasted marshmallows and I don’t do it regularly and only had a couple so my sugars seemed to stay ok.

Yesterday afternoon was spent tidying everything back into my flat and washing all my clothes – I love cooking on a fire and camping but boy do you stink when you get home! I’ve since washed my hair twice and I can still smell the smoke!

I wouldn’t trade it for the world though, I had a great time!

The Week that Wasn’t!

This week hasn’t been great – it started off on a good footing after spending the weekend with my parents who were good enough to help me with a few things around my flat plus it was nice to see them again.

Monday started well, I went for my usual swim in the morning and although I was feeling a bit tired and run down I attributed it to a busy couple of weeks and thought nothing more of it.

Monday night I had my PT session with M which went well but I felt quite weak and a bit shaky which didn’t really make me feel worried just annoyed that my session wasn’t as worthwhile as I wanted it to be.

Tuesday morning was a different story. I woke up with a sore head and my eye hurting. I have gotten an eye infection a couple of times before which results in the pressure in my eye rising beyond healthy levels and I was really hoping that it wasn’t this infection again as it always results in having to go to hospital which is a bother to me more than anything – I’ve spent enough time in hospitals already!

I tried to push through work but my head was bothering me and my blood sugar levels weren’t playing ball either, some days they ‘bounce’ and are either too low or too high and don’t seem to want to settle. I admitted defeat at about lunch time and headed home for some much-needed time on the sofa in the hopes that my eye might fix itself.

In short, it didn’t work. Wednesday morning my eye was just as bad and I knew that the only thing that would sort it was a trip to the eye hospital to get the drops I needed to fix the problem.

That meant that I had to cancel my Wednesday evening PT session and in turn Thursday evening running training didn’t happen and my usual open water swim this morning didn’t happen either!

It’s annoying more than anything and I hate to miss training sessions – I’m queen of worrying about the amount of training I’ve done and so every time I have to miss a session I worry that it’s going to be fundamental to my end result.

Trying to combat that I’ve adjusted my training plan to start again from next week, 14 weeks away from the half marathon I’ve signed up for, and just have to hope that I can meet most of my sessions from now until then!

So my tentative training plan from now on is as follows:-

Monday Morning: Swim OR Run (I will probably have to fit an early morning run into my schedule eventually once my runs get longer)

Monday Evening: PT Session with M

Tuesday Morning: Off OR Cycle to Work

Tuesday Evening: Run and Tri Club Swim

Wednesday Morning: Swim OR Run

Wednesday Evening: PT Session with M

Thursday Morning: Off

Thursday Evening: Tri Club Run and Tri Club Swim

Friday Morning: Tri Club Open Water Swim (when it gets colder and the open water sessions finish I’ll change this to another run session)

Friday Evening: Run

Saturday Morning: Park Run

Sunday: Rest Day OR Bike Ride

Good and Bad Training Week Part 2

Wednesday morning started as usual with my morning swim before work – it wasn’t as great as my Monday swim but considered my work schedule and my back to back PT sessions I knew it wasn’t going to meteoric. I still managed my half mile in a reasonable, for me, time and once again although I didn’t like the early alarm clock when it went of I felt more prepared for the work day having been for my swim.

Wednesday evening offered something a little different – once a month through the summer our tri club offers a 10 or 20 mile time trial for anyone wanting to give it a go, S wanted to go and they had put a plea on the forum for timekeepers so I volunteered to give a little something back and keep time – S would be going after all so I might as well tag along. In short I had a great time but it was bloody freezing and drizzling slightly the whole time – don’t get me wrong it was much tougher on S and the other guys actually doing the time trial but I felt pretty cold standing with the clipboard ready to mark down times.

Apart from that though I really enjoyed myself and will definitely be signing myself up to time keep next time.

Thursday evening was run training with the tri club – I’m very new to this and this was what was called peak week – basically a really tough session before a step back / recovery week next week. I got told off for going off too fast again, in a light-hearted way, and for trying to keep up with some of the other runners who are clearly a lot faster than I am! That’s mainly my inexperience showing as I still don’t know what a lot of my paces feel like yet and so don’t know how to gauge each set, I’m not too worried about that, that’ll come with time and training, plus I managed to maintain consistent splits for all of my sets (1km out and back laps) and although I was absolutely shattered from a heavy work and training week and not at all looking forward to my first experience of peak week I left the session feeling tired but in a physical good way and strong and I felt more confident in myself. Don’t get me wrong, last night I was coming in last every time but it finally clicked with me that I really don’t care – my experiences are my own and my paces are my own and the only person I’m going to compare myself to is the me last week and as long as I’m equaling or bettering her then I’m cool with that. Plus the people there are so nice and never make me feel like I’m the rubbish one just tagging along – I already, having only been to 2 sessions, feel like part of the group and people even remembered my name and asked why I hadn’t been last week! Club running can be pretty awesome!

And that, finally, leads me up to today – this morning was my usual open water swimming – which once again started with a very unwelcome alarm clock and it had been considerably colder this week so I was dreading to hear what the water temperature would be. It turned out to be 14 degrees which is a lot cooler than the 19 degrees we had last week and definitely a shock getting in and I’ll admit that it took me a little while to properly get my head under the water but once I did and got going I wasn’t too bad.

This was also my first week trying out my new wetsuit – initially the open water swimming was only meant to be held for 4 weeks so, due to my current swimming wetsuit being approximately 3 sizes too big for me now, I rented a wetsuit for a month just to join in. Once they announced that the swims would be taking place all through the summer I decided to buy a new wetsuit for myself. I’ll need one for my Ironman next year anyway and I figured it’d be better to actually get a chance to train in it before the main event. During my previous open water swims I’ve had trouble breathing, now this is probably partly due to the fact that my ‘stomach’ now lies between my lungs taking up precious capacity for inflation but I also began to think it might be due to me not being fit enough which was annoying me. I know I’m not the fittest person in the world but I’ve been working very hard to improve myself and to feel like it wasn’t getting any better was quite frankly annoying – no one else in the session seemed to be having as much trouble breathing as me!

Well my new wetsuit is brilliant! I don’t know if it’s just a bit thinner or more malleable in the chest area but this session felt so much better for my breathing. There were still times where I felt like I couldn’t catch as big a breath as I wanted but that might be due to my own special internal layout and least this week I didn’t feel like I was fighting against a tight sensation this week and considering the water was a lot colder than last week, which can bring on that sensation anyway I think we’re on to a winner with this new suit!

This week we practiced turns and swimming in groups to get used to the general chaos that is open water mass swimming. I’ll admit that I actually find this quite fun! When I did my first open water event I got elbowed in the head causing me to swallow a whole heap of water and cough and splutter and then I got swum over which was surprising to say the least! However, once I’d come to know that that’s what open water swimming is about I quite enjoy the rough and tumble of swimming in a big group – makes me feel like I’m part of something crazy and exciting and bigger than myself – plus if you can get onto someone’s feet you can usually let them drag you along a little bit in their slipstream! And for this ‘slower than cooling lava’ swimmer I need all the help I can get!

Next week is looking decidedly calmer on the work front, fingers crossed it stays that way, and after this week’s tiring but self affirming batch of training I’m eager to see what next week brings! Also with it being recovery week across all the tri club training sessions I might even be brave and go to a structured pool swim!

This weekend I’ve got my Mum and Dad staying and next weekend S and I are going away for a wee, well deserved if I do say so myself, break. I’m looking forward to both!

Life is pretty good at the moment – now if I could just master how to make the days about 4 hours longer so I could get a bit more sleep it’d be pretty perfect!

Good and Bad Training Week Part 1

Yowzers this week has been pretty mental!

On one hand basically the shit hit the fan at work and I’ve been nose to the grind stone all week trying to fix a pretty major problem, it’s taken pretty much all of my energy and mental concentration just to keep my head above water.

Add to that the fact that I was away last weekend visiting my brother and his family which meant that all the chores I usually get done on a weekend, laundry, food shopping and food prep for the week wasn’t done so I was playing catch up this week with that regard.

However, on a positive note I’ve had a very busy but wonderful training week – despite not wanting to go to my sessions due to being stressed and tired from work I made it to all my planned sessions.

Monday morning was swimming – at 6am I got into the pool and swam 50 lengths, I only planned to swim a half mile (40 lengths in my pool) but was feeling good and felt like I should start pushing the distance a bit so completed another 10 lengths to make a nice round 50. Only took me 20 minutes but it got my work week to a good start (little did I know how much I’d need those good vibes later in the week!)

Monday evening was my PT session with M – we had to rearrange our sessions a bit due to both of our schedules so this week I was lined up to do back to back PT (Monday and Tuesday evenings) and I’ll be the first to admit I was a little scared. M’s sessions are always awesome and very full-on but at the same time pretty brutal and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope not having at least a day between seeing him to recover.

This session was based on heavy weights, I’m looking to really build up functional muscle and strength and to do that you have to go heavy. Add onto that the need for muscle endurance and we did some heavy super sets to exhaustion. Basically this involves doing a certain exercise for a certain number of reps (I did 15 reps per set) – the weight based on being able to complete the first 75% of the set with it feeling tough but manageable and then feeling more of a struggle to get to the end of the set i.e. my reps felt ok up until about 11 and then it was a bit of grit and determination to get to 15. This exercise is then immediately followed by another, different set without a rest period in between. This weight is also set pretty high and you have to do that exercise to exhaustion, basically until you can’t complete a full movement. The weight for me was set at a point where I should be maxing out at about 12 reps.

I did some arm work, lat pull-downs, chest press, shoulder press and low rows before hitting the legs with the super sets detailed above. Needless to say I basically had to crawl across the gym to my next exercise! Yes I am one of those people!

After my PT session with M I had 3 miles on the schedule for my half marathon training plan so I jumped, figuratively speaking, on a treadmill and set off. My legs felt like jelly after all the workouts which is a very strange feeling but it’s also very similar to getting off the bike and onto the run in a tri so I need to get used to that feeling and also learn to push through. My legs pushed through to a point, I was pleased with how I felt during the run and my pace but I could only hold on for 3Km – although I didn’t make the distance, knowing my training schedule for the rest of the week I called it good and headed home.

Tuesday morning I had ‘off’ from training but really all that means is that I get into work earlier – so it’s not even a lie in really!

Tuesday evening was my second session with M of the week – I had had my first nightmare day at work where my horrible situation reared its head and M had told me the day before that we would be doing cardio and HIIT (high intensity interval training) this session so I wasn’t feeling too confident going into this session! Plus my legs were aching from the previous days training.

We started off by doing the Cooper Test – M likes to do this to judge fitness level and with him I’ve done a handful of them since having sessions with him – in short I hate the Cooper Test.

For those who don’t know, the Cooper Test is a 12 minute run on the treadmill where you start the first 6 minutes at a steady state, this should be a comfortable pace that you can hold for some time. Then at the 6 minute mark and on every minute up to 12 you increase the speed each time so that you’re pushing yourself more and more each minute. There is a table you can get off the net that estimates your fitness level based on the distance covered.

Now I have a couple of issues with the Cooper Test – firstly because I’m a slow runner I find it hard to get what I have in my head as a decent distance – I’m basically running about 6:15 minutes for a Km which means that in 12 minutes I don’t even get to 2Km! I’ve gotten to 1.96 and I’m desperate to get to that illusive 2Km mark – I’ll get there someday but at the moment the Cooper Test and the darn 2Km goal is my personal nemesis! Secondly I don’t like that it’s based on speed, there’s no way I could beat Usain Bolt in a sprint but I bet I could keep running for longer than him (according to my tri coach J I’m the little engine that could) I’m one of those people who isn’t very fast but set me off at a speed and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll maintain that for a good distance – does that mean that Usain is fitter than me? (In reality probably yes but you get my point regarding speed vs distance?) A better comparison is probably Usain Bolt Vs Mo Farrah – would you say one was fitter than the other simply because they can run faster?!

Anyways enough of the moaning – needless to say I got my furthest distance to date, 1.96Km, but was still 400m short of my goal! Damn it!!

M then got me on the rowing machine for 200m intervals with 30 seconds rest in between – I had to do 10 of them and was pleased to manage negative splits for all of my intervals, where each interval is faster than the previous one. And that was without me being sneaky and holding back for the first few – I hope M doesn’t read this but I’ve done that before! I actually went off pretty fast and then when I was told I had 10 intervals to complete I was secretly wishing I’d employed my above tactic.

After the rowing machine it was onto the wattbike for yet more intervals. 10 200m sets again trying, obviously, to go as fast as possible but also to try to keep the left and right power equal on the pedals. The wattbike measures the force on each foot and gives it as a percentage – I’m pretty lucky that I seem to be pretty equally strong on either side and don’t really have to concentrate too hard to get an average of 50/50 left to right, I sometimes get an overall average of 51/49 which to my perfectionist brain isn’t quite good enough but I know most people struggle a lot with having a considerably more dominant side that takes over when you start to tire – I seem to be lucky.

After that I was pretty much done – my legs were not responding to my brains shouts of faster – they were being very childish and sticking their fingers in their ears and singing la la la at the top of their voice to drown out my brains commands. I still managed a pretty consistent set of intervals though, not negative splits like the rower but I only deviated by a couple of seconds per set so I was tired but happy about that.

We finished up with some crunches and yet another embarrassing moment of not knowing whether I’d be able to get off the floor or not! And so tired and incredibly sweaty I headed home to do the food shop and some laundry – joy!

Triathlon Part 2…

So I got in the pool when instructed and did a couple of warm up laps then got into my heat order, I was wearing a blue hat and going last in my lane.
Our heats were staggered by five seconds to give each swimmer the chance to get going before the next person was set off.
My swim was going well I got into a decent rhythm but the woman in front of me was kicking like crazy and stirring up lots of bubbles which made my breathing underwater a bit difficult. She was also going a lot slower than I wanted to go, I felt I had more in the tank. I tapped her on the ankle several times which is the indication to the person in front that you want to swap over but she didn’t seem to want to! Lesson for next time, over-estimate my swim time, I’d much rather be a half a lap behind my other heat swimmers than stuck behind someone getting ‘dirty’ water and kicked in the face! My swim time was 18 minutes and I’d been consistently doing 16:30 in the pool so that lost me a bit of time.
Swim Time: 18 minutes
After having a bit of a bother getting out of the pool, the ends of the pool at Stirling are incredibly high especially for someone as teeny as me and I found it very hard to pull myself out. I got out, eventually, and made my way to the doorway removing my swim hat and leaving it in the assigned bucket and onto the bike transition. The only thing I will say that was a little bit annoying was that the doorway I had to leave by was at the far end of the pool meaning I had to walk all the way round the side of the pool, the men’s heats took place on the other end of the pool, it was a 50m pool split into two 25m pools for the triathlon, which meant they had a much shorter transition. I know I’ll never be competing for a place and they are split by gender but I didn’t think it was very fair that we had further to go to get to the bike section. This was also a gravel path with a narrow strip of grass beside it – being barefoot I didn’t want to walk on the gravel and being in one of the later heats the grass was quite slippery from all the previous competitors that had gone before me. Although it wasn’t far it did slow me down a bit having to watch my step.
I headed through to the bike racks and found my bike, I put the all important helmet on, dried my feet and put my shoes on followed by my cycle jersey and sunglasses. After that I popped a boiled sweet in my mouth to see me through the cycle and my number belt, with the number on my back before unracking my bike and heading out onto the bike course.
The outward leg was brilliant, I felt like I was flying (for me anyway). The weather was a bit windy but sunny too so it made for very pleasant cycling, the roads that the bike course were on weren’t closed to traffic but for the most part they were wide and smooth with plenty of room for cars to pass without being too close, the signs for the course were very well-marked and there were marshalls at every roundabout and major point in the course making sure we went the right way and cheering us on. For the most part the outward leg was flat and fast then we went down a bit of a twisty decent and into a village / town and that’s where the bike got a bit more ‘interesting’ for me anyway. The return leg of the bike loop I was cycling into a headwind on quite an exposed part of land meaning I felt most of the gusts of wind, no wonder I felt like I was flying on the outward part! I must have had a tailwind! The return leg also included about three hills, for an experienced cyclist I’m sure these didn’t even register but I’m new to cycling and I really felt the hills on my quads. Another note to myself, learn to use my gears more efficiently.
I managed to make it back onto the Stirling University campus and was directed around some roads back towards the bike area and preparing myself for my worst nemesis, the run. However another very unusual event was due to happen just as I thought my bike experience was over, as I was coming up to a zebra crossing on campus a mother swan and her goslings were crossing the road! They were even courteous enough to be using the actual crossing! There were a couple of marshalls stopping traffic to allow the birds to get across and I and another rider had to stop to let them pass! The guy stopped with me turned to me and said, well that was interesting wasn’t it?! Crazy huh?!
Laughing I made my way to transition two, got off my bike before the dismount line and ran my bike to my rack spot trying to get used to my wobbly ‘run-off-the-bike’ legs.
Because I’m still new to cycling and don’t use cleats all I pretty much had to do was rack my bike, take my helmet off and turn my number round to my front and I was off.
Bike Time: ??
I headed out onto the running track of Stirling University and under a banner with people handing out water and along the course, through a gap in a hedge and a left hand turn to be faced with a short but very steep hill! Jeez oh! My legs still wobbly from the bike I tried to run up the hill but knew I was going to blow myself up simply trying to get up the hill with still the best part of 5k to go so I decided to walk. I was disappointed that I’d stopped to walk so early in the run, not being a runner I knew I was going to have to walk at some point and it was part of my plan but I wasn’t counting on walking until the second half of the run. Anyway, like I said I didn’t want to blow up just for the sake of making it up the hill so I walked my way up it and then started to run once I was on the flat again. The run took us around the technology park next to Stirling University and back onto the running track again. I got bit confused as to what was going on because I’d forgotten that I’d changed my GPS watch to kilometres from miles and when I looked at my watch and it read 2.63 I got all excited that I was nearly finished and thought the run had gone far better than I expected, but no, the run course was actually TWO laps meaning I had to do that bloody hill again! I walked up it again and went onto the technology park knowing that my run and my race was nearly over. I made it round the technology park and back down the hill onto the running track. I was nearly there! I rounded the corner onto the finishers chute and over the line – I was a triathlete at last!!
Run time: ??
Total time: 1 hour 53 minutes 47 seconds

I don’t have the stomach for this!

So, it’s the weekend after my triathlon and I’m taking a rest day, my nephew is getting Christened today so I’m visiting my brother and his gorgeous little family and trying to keep up with a crawling / toddling machine! Seriously, a triathlon has nothing on this little tyke!

Although this blog is pretty much for myself as a training journal as I plod towards my half and possibly full Ironman dreams, I didn’t make it private so there’s a chance that someone other than my Mum will read this! Hi Mum!! Here goes…

Hi, I’m GutlessIrongirl, a 30-year-old, female, engineer originally from England but now living in Glasgow, Scotland. I live in a cute little flat and desperately want a dog but with my work and training getting in the way I’m not sure it would be fair on the little guy to leave him in the flat all day.

Being an engineer is all I’ve ever really wanted to do and although I have bad days at work, as I’m sure most people do, most of the time I count myself very lucky that I get to do a job that I love.

I’ve never been a particularly ‘sporty’ person but have always loved sports – must try harder was the general summary of my PE school reports and I played rugby at university but I think I enjoyed the social side of that as much as the game and training.

When I started working in Glasgow I met a great handful of female engineers, there aren’t that many of us so we tend to gravitate towards each other, and most of us signed up to do an open water swim event in the Lake District, England called the Great North Swim – I think it was 2010 and either the first or second time this event had been on – it has since grown to be a huge event, both in the Lake District but all over the UK – it’s a brilliant event giving ‘normal’ people the chance to give open water swimming a go. Our event at the time was a one mile swim but now there are ½ mile and 2 mile versions too including a pro race giving you the chance to meet / swim with some of the countries greats. I’ve always been quite a good swimmer, I’m not fast but I can tend to hold my own when it comes to distances plus the group of us and some friends were going to rent a cottage and make a weekend of it. I happily signed up.

Two years later in 2012 I went back, alone this time, to complete the two-mile race which took place in less than desirable circumstances, it had rained pretty much constantly for weeks before, the lake water level had risen significantly, the water temp was lower than usual, about 14C when I did my swim, and it was windy and rainy leading to most of the days races being cancelled – I wasn’t that ‘lucky’ the two-mile event was still going ahead. I finished the race, battered by the waves and with only half my face working due to the cold but I was so pleased with myself for completing it.

Then about a month later everything in my world changed. I was diagnosed with Oesophageal Cancer and it didn’t look good. To the extent that my poor Mother was informed that if she were intending on having a big family Christmas she’d maybe best to do it sooner rather than later! After that my life revolved around doctors appointments, nurse appointments, scans, reviews and more needles than I care to count. I was extremely unusual to be diagnosed with this type of cancer so young but that my age, 27, could play in my favour by being fit enough and strong enough to take on what would be a grueling course of chemotherapy, a pretty horrendous and very major operation and yet more chemotherapy. My operation, in Jan 2013, involved having 2/3 of both my stomach and oesophagus removed to try to get rid of the tumour that had decided to stop and play inside me – it took over 10 hours for a whole team of people to perform the procedure. Another 9 weeks of chemo followed which would actually finish on my 28th birthday.

I’ve been very lucky through all this – the chemo and operation floored me there’s no doubt about it but in December 2013 I got my first all clear scan so all the suffering and, let’s be brutally honest, vomiting was worth it and I get to be here, having just turned the magical age of 30 to tell the tale.

My life has changed irrevocably since that diagnosis not only in my mindset and determination to make the absolute best of the life I’ve been given back but also due to the lack of a stomach (hence my blog name) my day-to-day living has changed completely too – I’m not going to lie at times its hard, keeping weight on is a problem, energy levels is a problem, I pretty much feel sick all the time and I have a real hard time controlling my blood sugars due to my new ‘plumbing’ but I am determined to not let this define me and I have vowed to all my friends and family that I’m going to come through this fitter and stronger than I was before I was diagnosed.

So this is why I’m doing this blog / training / Ironman – I’ve always quite fancied attempting something crazy like this and since my diagnosis things have turned from a ‘that would be nice’ to a ‘right what do I need to do to achieve this’ so that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I might fail horrendously in my attempt but hey at least I’m here to try right?!

I’ve also met some pretty amazing people while going through treatment and I’m going to try to use this event to help raise money in an attempt to go a little way to saying thank you for everything.

The Beatson Cancer Hospital in Glasgow is, surprisingly, one of the most amazing places to go to for treatment. All of the doctors and nurses were so caring and upbeat – I was worried going to cancer hospital would mean it was depressing / sad but it was quite the opposite. It definitely takes a special kind of person to do that job and they deserve any and all the recognition they get even though I’d bet that they’d be the first to say it wasn’t necessary and they’re ‘just doing their job’. They’re not. They’re doing so much more.

The OPA (Oesophageal Patients Association) is a charity based in Birmingham, England but who have an online forum for patients / patients relatives where anything and everything relating to this horrible disease can be discussed. Oesophageal is quite a rare type of cancer anyway regardless of what age you are and I found myself quite lost at times both during treatment but even more so after it all finished when trying to adjust to my new way of life and all the symptoms associated with that – the forum has been and still is an amazing source of information and guidance. It meant I could speak to other people who had been through the same as me and allowed me to feel like I ‘wasn’t alone’ in this. They also produce leaflets for eating during treatment, eating after the operation and medical cards requesting restaurants to provide me with a small / child’s portion of food due to a medical condition. They need all the support they can get because the support the forum gave me was invaluable.

So, anyway, that’s not me in my entirety by any means – I have interests and a social life and a million other things aside from my diagnosis but it is my driving force for completing my Ironman which is why I’ve told you all about it.

I want to prove to other people that you can do anything you set your mind to through any circumstances with the right amount of hard work and determination but mostly, this journey is to prove it to myself.

I am now a Triathlete!!

Sunday morning at about 10:38 I crossed the finish line of Stirling Sprint Triathlon making me officially a triathlete! I was so so nervous, S was laughing at me because of the look on my face as I waited for my swim heat to be called. However, once I got into the pool and started swimming the nerves seemed to melt away – I kept remembering that I’m doing this for myself and just being able to compete is a huge deal for me, plus once I started swimming I forgot about everyone around me and just swam, for the first time that morning I didn’t care where I finished as long as I finished – after all, I’ve been through a lot and it’s my first triathlon too!

Race day started very early at 3:30am, I have to take a tablet in the morning 30 minutes before eating so I left some water and my tablet by my bed, my alarm went off I took my tablet and tried to get back to sleep but it was futile, I’m usually a ‘when I’m awake, I’m awake person’ anyway and this morning I had the added nerves of the race going through my head.

Transition would be open from 5:45 to 6:45 and the event was an hours drive away so the aim was to get up at about 4am, make sure I had everything I needed packed, eat something with a fairly good amount of carbs and protein to help fuel me through the race and be on our way by 5.

Everything at home went to plan and we set off on time – I was on my way to my first race.

We arrived at Stirling University where the race was to take place and found a place to park in no time, I picked up my transition bag and bike and headed to registration.

There was only a short line to pick up my race packet containing my race number, timing chip and stickers for my bike (used when you’re packing up at the end of the race to make sure you don’t ‘accidentally’ leave with a more expensive bike than you arrived with!

Then it was over to the t-shirt stand, every competitor got a t-shirt as part of the race ‘swag’ so I collected my size and joked to S that I’d already gotten my t-shirt, I could very well just go home now! Strangely enough after dealing with my nerves, the early start and kindly driving me to the event he wasn’t up for that idea!

Next I went over to number marking where someone draws your race number on the top of your left arm and the bottom of your right leg with a big permanent marker, note to self, for the next race arrive at registration wearing more than just your bra underneath your hoodie! That way you don’t have to stand in a big hall surrounded by lots of strangers exposing more of yourself than you’d really like to while a clearly slightly embarrassed teenager tries to write on you with his pen!

With that all sorted and covered up once again I took my bike and kit into the transition area to find my bike rack spot and set up my bike and run gear making sure to place my helmet on the handlebars of my bike. This is due to the fear inducing statement that if you touch your bike without having first put on and secured your helmet you will be instantly disqualified from the race! Now not being able to finish the race due to fatigue or even falling / crashing and picking up an injury is one thing but being disqualified due to a technicality is something I wasn’t prepared to experience!

In front of my bike I put a small towel to dry my feet, my trainers, I’m still using ‘baby’ pedals not the clip in ones most racers use so I only needed one pair of shoes, with a sock in each one, my cycle jersey, sunglasses and a small bag of sweets. I suffer from low blood sugar, hypoglycemia,  resulting in me having dizzy, fainting spells when my sugars drop suddenly. That was another thing I didn’t want to ruin my day so before I got on the bike I popped a boiled sweet in my mouth and slowly sucked on it for most of the bike ride in an attempt to stave off a low sugar attack.

Once that was all set up and I’d triple checked I had everything I went back out of transition to meet up with S again and try to calm my nerves for what would be a 2 hour wait until my swim heat took place.

I survived!!

I actually survived my first run training session with the tri club last night! And even better than that I really enjoyed myself!

Like I said in my last post I was really worried about being the slow one and getting left behind because I know there are some really speedy guys at the club but we set off on a warm up jog to our training point in three groups fast, medium and slow. The fast guys head off and probably run a half marathon to get to our rendezvous point, the medium guys run off somewhere slightly shorter and us slow dudes take the shortest route to the meeting point. I really liked that because although everyone meets up again at about the same time, you never see the other group, you never get lapped by the fast guys and you never get left staring at everyone’s backs all the time because you’re the last one in the group.

We met up in a local park and did some stretching and then some running drills, last night focused on lower leg work with walking lunges, hopping and skipping and a couple of sprints – I felt like I was in Primary School again!

Then we moved onto the main set of the night which was 1km reps – each group slow, medium and fast were assigned a time to run off. Slow guys were going for 5 reps at 7 minutes, the medium group did 6 reps at 6 minutes and the fast guys did 7 reps at 5 minutes.

The aim was to run faster than the rep time to get a bit of recovery time before heading off again. For my group, the slow group we were to run the first 2 reps at a comfortable pace, the second 2 at 5k pace and the last one as fast as you can maintain for 1km.

My first rep felt really good but I got ‘shouted’ at by J the coach because I somehow managed to come in at 5mins 50! Ha ha – not a comfortable pace for me at all! My next rep was better at 6mins 25 and J told me to sit out the 3rd rep, I’m not sure why but it was probably a combination of it being my first time and having my triathlon on Sunday, I wasn’t complaining about a bit of extra recovery time anyway! My next two reps were 6mins 10 and 6mins 20. Not too bad for my first go! I’ll be in the medium group before I know it!! Ha ha. Most of all I really enjoyed myself, I never felt like I was dragging anyone down and the time flew by – I’ll definitely be trying to get that into my weekly training, there’s no way it can’t help my run times and, in that situation, running with other people is really fun!

Rest Day Guilt

I’m still trying to work out my training schedule – in hindsight, starting a new training program the week of my first triathlon was probably not the best plan, I’m too eager to get into the half marathon training and don’t want to ‘fail’ at week one but at the same time I’m well aware that I need to be more rested than ‘trained’ this week for Sunday – I’m very nervous that I haven’t done enough but in the very sensible words of my boyfriend ‘S’ ‘its too late now, all you’re going to do now is burn yourself out – nothing you do in this week can increase your times significantly but you CAN do stuff that may decrease your performance simply by panicking’ – jeez I hate it when he’s right!

So last night I was going to make up my missed Monday run (3 miles) but I have run training with the tri club tonight, it my first time going to a run session – wish me luck, so I decided to take last night off and chill out.

S is right – running those 3 miles last night wouldn’t help me make huge gains in my run times on Sunday but they might put enough tiredness in my legs, which were pretty beat up from the leg press the night before, to slow me down and lets face it I do not need any help in the slow category!

The problem with rest days – especially ones before a race is that I get quite twitchy convinced that I should be doing SOMETHING, ANYTHING and that sitting on the sofa is counterproductive.

Sometimes my training sessions don’t last that long, I quite often go to the pool and swim half a mile which takes me about 16 minutes – my whole session lasts just 16 minutes but I’ve done something and I feel like I’ve pushed myself a little bit at least. I’m still not following a training plan for my swims which I would really like to do some point soon, I’m very sick of not getting any faster. When that time comes I’m going to ask J if he can come up with some 30 minute sessions for me.

That would mean my session would be slightly longer, I’d get more out of it but still be able to get ready for work and arrive only slightly later than I do at the moment. When half Ironman training properly kicks into gear my swims will no doubt get longer and when that time comes I’ll adjust work accordingly but at the moment my little 16 minute swims on a morning before work are doing me fine.

But anyway, last night was spent chilling out and trying not to worry about Sunday or even tonight’s running session and not doing anything remotely exercisey – was it a good decision? I guess we’ll find out on Sunday!!

That’s more like it!

Yesterday at work I wasn’t feeling very motivated, a combination of going round in seemingly tighter circles with some of the tasks I needed to get out the door combined with a terrible night’s sleep, I had a montage of disaster dreams about Sunday – yes I am one of those people who worries far too much, and a general lethargy meant that I really didn’t want to go to the gym last night.

All day my mind kept coming up with reasons excuses to not go but the beauty about a Tuesday night for me is that it’s a Personal Training day which means that on occasion when I’ve really not been well I’ve called and cancelled but generally I drag myself there.

And guess what?! Within five minutes of starting my session with my PT ‘M’ I feel great – tired and sweaty definitely but also energized and revived too! It’s amazing how that happens isn’t it!

Last night we started off with a Max Power Test on my gym’s new Watt Bikes – M regularly gets me to do a running test on the treadmill so this is yet another baseline test we can repeat and see my progress – I’m one of those people who needs to see progress!

The first test was my max Power output over 6 seconds – you basically input some personal info, the bike tells you what levels you should set it to and then counts you down from 5 and you go hell for leather as fast as you can.

The second test was to find my power to weight average over a 30 second period – basically you have to pace yourself enough to get the most out of yourself but spread over 30 seconds rather than a blast of six seconds.

Then the next one was like a bleep test but on a bike – the bike gave me an average rpm to hit for a minute then the next minute the rpm went up by 15 and so on every minute – the aim was to keep going for as long as you possibly could go.

M wrote down my results to log in notes he keeps about me but I didn’t get that information – I’ll be honest I’m probably going to ask for them, I’m too much of a numbers geek not to but I do sometimes like the not knowing, I like giving my all and waiting for M to tell me if it’s an improvement on the last time – I’m queen of giving up before I’ve even finished because I can tell that I’m not going to beat a previous time. That’s another thing I like about PT, the numbers / times / intervals / weights aren’t up to me – I don’t need to think about it I just do what M tells me to do. This means that I spend less time over analyzing or talking myself out of a certain exercise because I ‘can’t be bothered to do that today’. I’m pretty self-motivated when it comes to running / cycling / swimming but when I’m at the gym I find it hard to work out what to do, especially if it’s busy and the machines I want to use aren’t free.

So anyway – I finished the Power Test on the bike and we went to the weights section for some strength work. M tends to get me to do 4 sets of 12 reps of an exercise and sometimes, like last night, he puts the weight up each time until my final set maxes out at 8 reps.

I did – lat pulldowns, seated rows, overhead chest press and inverted leg press (killer) – once again I have no idea of the weights I used I just know it got a lot harder as the sets went on!

After M nearly killed me on the leg press machine and I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to get out of it (you kinda lie on your back with your legs in the air – I know, so lady-like!) I gave my legs a bit of time to recover and then hopped on the treadmill to do the run I missed on Monday night.

Due to the fact my legs were shaking – don’t get me wrong, for my triathlons / Ironman training I WANT to train on tired legs – and the fact that I’ve got my event on Sunday I decided to go for my 2 mile run (scheduled for tonight) at an easy pace for me – I’m slower than a really slow thing when I run by the way. J my tri coach said that the run course for Sunday is pretty brutal and not to expect to get my usual 5K time or anywhere near so I used last night to train on tired legs, getting used to the wobbly leg sensation takes a while, plus my brain to not get downhearted at a slow pace / time, even for me.

I did 2 miles on the treadmill in 21:40 which is a 10:50 mile or a 6:44 km (I did mention that I’m incredibly slow!)

My fastest 5k time is 31:20 (although even I don’t know where I pulled that one out of the bag) which would be a 10:05 mile (6:16 km) and one of my other aims this summer is to try to get, consistently, down to a sub 30 5k – I have no idea if I’ll make it but I’m hoping that going to my tri club run training sessions will help.

Anyway – I left the gym feeling 10 feet tall (in actual fact I’m basically half that size) and feeling hopeful that I can at least finish on Sunday!