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Middle-aged, middle-weight, mother of 3 on mad marathon mission
Middle-aged, middle-weight, mother of 3 on mad marathon mission
When I started this blog, it was to track my progress from an occasional kayaker to taking on the Devizes to Westminster non stop 125 race. Little did I know that would start me on a long distance obsession which has resulted in my completing the 30th Marathon des Sables. It has been a strange and sometimes painful ... but always wonderfully challenging journey

This is my occasional account of a middle-age mother's attempt to take on things which are really quite beyond her.

Fifty - but not out

crawlingkiwiby crawlingkiwiAug 21st 2012
An account of the trials and trauma of aging ... And finally pulling myself together (bit of a long post)

Today I ran for 15 minutes without stopping. To anyone with an interest in sport, that's probably a ludicrously short effort, but after the last few months for me, this is a huge milestone. I must have looked like a loon this morning, with the biggest grin on my face - but 15 minutes of continuous movement have shown me that my plans for the next year are once again achievable.

Let me take a few steps back to the Wednesday before Easter this year. I had trained hard for the Devizes to Westminster 125 mile non-stop canoeing race, which was to start in the early hours of Easter Saturday, but as I was standing on a chair to pack up the medication I would need (the irony is not lost on me), the chair collapsed and I plummeted through, seriously damaging my ankle. I was devastated and had let down my paddling partner - all the hours of training for nothing. I was on crutches for a few weeks and although I tried to keep paddling, the focus and desire had gone. Helen and I were able to compete in a few shorter events - with me hobbling and hopping my way through the portables (at locks you have to get out of your boat and 'run' carrying it - it's a big part of any marathon race) and while I did manage to achieve my 2012 aim of getting promoted to division 6, our races were sporadic. My general fitness and strength faded and what little ability I had to run receded as my ankle continued to be swollen and stiff. Eventually I was referred for physio and gradually some strength returned, although mobility was still compromised.

And then in June it was my 50th birthday. When I was 15 I had grandly declared that when I turned 50 I would kill myself, because really, what was there to live for once you are that old? When I shared that with my daughters they were (thankfully) horrified - not that I was contemplating suicide - but that birthday milestone did put me in a bit of a nosedive. I'm not usually given to self pity, but I did sink into a very low mood, which combined with my lack of fitness and ongoing injury, made me feel very unhappy. My mother had died comparatively young and very suddenly, so a sense of impending finality permeated everything. Everyone was banned from mentioning birthdays or age, while I tried to get myself out of my misery. And then I came down with flu. Not a bad cold, proper, aching all over, unable to get out of bed for days, flu.

Just as I started to come out of my illness, I was awake early on the Sunday and flicked on the television, to watch some ironman coverage of Ironman Austria on C4. There was the usual coverage of the elite athletes, with one or two 'ordinary' folk included. One of the women the programme featured, was a 65 year old Canadian, called Valerie Gonzales, who had started triathlon aged 50. Since then she has gone one to compete in numerous ironman races, but in this race she made reference to health issues and concerns about completing it. She did complete the race, although in a time outside her PB. Watching this extraordinary woman, I felt embarrassed at my behaviour over turning 50, and realised the self-pitying would have to stop. It was exactly the kick I needed. I tracked down Valerie's email and contacted her to say how inspirational I had found her - it was only after I had emailed that I considered how stalkerish I might appear, but it was too late. A little while later I had an extraordinary reply - reassuring me that getting older is not all bad. I felt humbled by realising others are facing their own health issues for themselves and their family and have been completely reinvigorated to face life again. Thank you Valerie.

So I set about making some targets. Whatever I chose had to involve the DW canoeing race, as Helen and I are determined to do that again - we had wanted to beat out 2011 time of 27 hours 46 mins by going under 24 hours. That race is always at Easter and I will need to allow myself some recovery time. Last time, my arms recovered very well, and although I had no speed and would watch as people paddled away from me, in the longer races (8 miles+) my stamina came through and I could generally feel them back in. What did suffer last time was my hamstrings, which were shot for about 6 weeks. So all of this would have to be factored into my plans.

I have always wanted to do an ironman, but in my current state of lethargy and generally being unfit, that is not a reasonable aim in the short-term, but a 70.3 race certainly is. My 18 year old daughter has also had a terrible time healthwise, having had 2 years out of international competition (she was a canoeist) with glandular fever. (My middle daughter is also suffering with GF very badly, so it's something we are very familiar with). She has wanted to do a half ironman, so together we set about finding an appropriate race. One stood out - the dates were perfect, a year to train and prepare, enough recovery time from the DW, easy to get to and importantly a fairly flattish course. Antwerp 70.3 is now our aim, for mid July 2013.

Of course there's a long way to go from my current state to finishing two major races intact. For the DW, training will start from September/October and because we know we can do it, as long as we get the miles in, most of my Sundays over the winter will be spent in a boat; we have to build up to being able to regularly paddle 6 hour sessions. The training involved for a triathlon dovetails perfectly with kayaking, the swimming helps with the upper body strength (and the kayak training helps with the swimming), the running is essential for the DW both for general fitness and for portaging (traditionally a very weak part of the race for me, particularly when the portables are long) and the cycling is an enjoyable alternative.

Now comes the tricky bit, I've set the goals but actually getting out and there and doing it is sometimes a different story, especially in the school holidays. When I have all day to do something, I often find I put it off all day until it doesn't get done, whereas when I have a busy schedule I am much better at fitting things in. But I am getting there and when I am lying in bed at 5.30 am, thinking of how much more pleasant it would be to stay put, I think of Valerie and I think of how it will feel to achieve my goals and I soon get moving.

Which is why my 15 mins non stop running this morning is such a milestone for me. I have only done 3 or 4 runs, which were just run/walk sessions, so to have trebled the time I was running, was huge. And swimming - in three session I have already built up to 40 lengths (admittedly not non stop yet, but that is coming). And cycling? My daughter and I went for a 'social ride' with the 'slow group' of our local Tri club ... 60k later me and my aching butt arrived back at the car. Yes I was slow up the hills, but for my first proper ride in years, it felt amazing.

I now have about 11 months to get it together, and from the little bit of training I have leafy done - I already feel so much better both physically and emotionally. I am dealing with being 50 ... And I am sticking two fingers up at it.
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Aug 21st 2012 09:53
Wow what a great fantastic blog. This is going to be an incredible year for you and it sounds like you're going to totally embrace all the challenges of Ironman 70.3 journey. Can't wait to hear all about it.

I also had GF at 18 and it does take a long time to recover but I managed to get back eventually and complete an Ironman myself, just needed to rest when my body said rest!
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