Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My Year in a Meme...

I’ve been thinking of a way in which to sum 2017 up so far. I say so far because I’m optimistic that we still have the final quarter ahead of us, and as D:Ream taught us in the 90’s, ‘Things Can Only Get Better’.

Worthy of noting however; further D:Ream pearls of wisdom include ‘Drop Beatz not Bombz’ and ‘I’ll be Your Dog’…

So back to the present, and a way in which to summarise the last 9 months. For those of you familiar with my previous updates, I tend to use analogies of some description to tell my story. Whether it be from the well known book of DJ Casper, ‘Cha Cha Slide’, Chapter 1, Verse, Never Ending; or the obvious parallels that can be drawn between my actual life and lemons; I like to dress things up in the vain hope of presenting something mildly less mind numbing than a run down of my Training Peaks account. Because in reality my life can be accurately depicted, graphed, pie-charted, GPRS’d and analysed by a few simple clinks through the afore mentioned website. 

Trying to be ‘on trend’ I started flicking through ‘Meme’s’ and ‘GIF’s’ that might represent the last 250 ish days. An hour or so later, whilst flicking through some obscure article entitled  “25 thing’s you’ll remember if you’re a white, British, 5ft5, female, from South East London, born in the 80’s, parents Dave and Carole”, I realised I’d got somewhat side tracked by the labyrinth that is the internet. So a little dejected, and clearly off task, I did what everyone does when they don’t know what else to do, I opened up Facebook. 

Now I have this theory that Facebook knows everything. You go to McDonalds once, and as if you don’t feel bad enough about it, you're entire feed is then filled with bikini clad goddess’ selling diet pills and HIIT workouts. It is all knowing! OK, in reality I know that I Googled the closest Big Mac and thanks to those misleadingly named marvels of technology, cookies, my browser now knows of my sins. But in my head I’ve built Facebook up into some mystical, big brother kind of character. And on this particular occasion, it didn’t disappoint. 

“Non we thought you might like to see this from 6 years ago…”   

Yes Facebook. Yes I would. 

And there you have it. A personal Meme, GIF, visual depiction of my 2017 to date, all rolled into one. And not a tenuously linked analogy in sight. See Facebook knows! 

As photo 1 suggests, 2017 started with smiles, all fun and games. 
But fairly quickly plans fell through somewhat.
Cue photo 2. 
I should probably have relaxed, laid back, and let things run their course, like my good friend Callum there on my left. Instead, I fought my body, and warred with my head, and got myself in a right old tangle. 
Insert photo 3. 

This seems to have happened on a repeated cycle all year too. Every time I’ve got myself back up in that chair, something’s come and knocked me back off again. Other than a long term achilles issue that finally said “no more” after Leeds WTS, there hasn't been anything major. Just lots of little things that have continually interrupted training, worn me down and hacked away at my confidence and my happiness. It’s been a battle for me, and those closest to me, and as always I’m grateful for their support and patience. They’ve seen me at, and carried me through, some of the lowest points in my career to date. They’ve stopped me from leaving the sport on more than one occasion. Whether they’ve realised it or not. 

After 10 weeks off running and 6 weeks away from the bike with the achilles injury, I was finally starting to feel like I was getting back to some respectable degree of form. I was happy, and though finding fitness was making training hard, I was enjoying it. I was harbouring no ambitions or expectations going into the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam. My aim was to simply race as well as I could, and have fun doing it in the process. However, the chair got rocked again this week, less than a week out from the race, and I was struck with what I can only describe as Death Plague (although medical professional would probably tell you it was Gastroenteritis). I’ll spare you any further details, other than my swift departure from a wedding I was bridesmaid at 2 minutes into the best man’s speech. After managing barely any food in the following 4 days, and failing the “can you walk for 20 minutes test” I’ve had to make the decision to withdraw from the race. 

So the chair is a little less stable than photo 1, but we definitely haven’t reached photo 2 or 3 again. I managed more than a couple of digestive biscuits today, so my perch is pretty much on a sturdy well built, and very level floor again. I’m still looking forward to racing Super League Jersey next week, and although my season has been a little bare, that will be my final race of the year. Both body and mind need a few weeks to relax and recover from a year that has been exhausting for unfortunately the wrong reasons. But I’m already excited about the prospect of next season, the challenges and hopefully success’ that it will bring. And with a bit of luck, next year’s Meme will look a little more like this;

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

To Change or Not to Change

Airplanes. Often the perfect location for reflection and thought gathering. 
Often not. Largely dependant on your neighbour, the energy levels of the 4 year old sat behind you and your proximity to the lavatory. 
That £600 upgrade suddenly seems like a wonderful deal after all. 

Airplanes do however, offer the travelling athlete enforced rest time. A chance to put your feet up without distraction and watch all 47 films you were definitely going to go and see in the cinema, if only they didn't clash with meal, and, or bed times. You can sit through an entire feature length without feeling guilty for not torture rolling your thighs or performing a circus style balancing act on a blue ball that takes over your living room. The fact that when you disembark your ankles resemble your Grandma’s and your back feels like its been subjected to some form of medieval torture device is by the by. I’ve sat on my arse for 24 hours, something I’ve been dreaming about for the last 24 days! 

The novelty does wear off quick though. Four hours passes so much quicker sat on a bike than it does sat in seat 37D en route to Sydney, via Singapore. I’m sure that little black saddle is more comfortable than this, used to recline but hasn't for a some time now, reclining chair. And seriously, did someone give that 4 year old a bucket full of blue Smarties before take off?!

So, sat in my less than perfect, not so comfortable, fairly distracting, location, I’ve decided I’m feeling far from thoughtful and and not so reflective. Sleepy and irritable spring to mind, but in a valiant, but probably unsuccessful, attempt to beat jet lag I’m forging on and battling the odds. I also realise that my last update came in the depths of post Olympic blues, and despite what Olympians are led to believe, the world doesn't end with the party. Weird. In fact we even seem to have entered a new year. One that no longer ends in a 16. Who’d have though?! Apparently no roads lead to Rio anymore. It’s all aboard the bullet train to Tokyo.

The end of an Olympic cycle often brings about a number of changes. People retire and leave the sport, make new goals, take different directions, try new things. Set ups change. Staff come and go. It’s the last phase, or maybe the first, of a 4 year ride. 

In many regards lots of things have changed for me. But lots of things will also remain the same. Change is good, but consistency is key. Some things I have changed myself, other changes have come about around me. Change is inevitable. It’s life. Sometimes its for the best. Sometimes you have to accept and adapt even if you don’t want to. 

I’ve unfortunately lost some world class training partners, not just in ability, but in personality and character. Not changes I would have chosen, but changes that are exciting and full of opportunity for them. This also means I’ve lost house mates and partners in crime. People that made me smile on a day to day basis, and made the tough days bearable. Vicky, Heather, Rhys; Thank you. I miss you all already. 

I’ve also had a switch up in my winter location. The last 5 winters have been spent in Leeds. Tough but fun. I’ve enjoyed every single one, in one sadistic way or another. I am a proud product of the Leeds machine, but I needed to thaw out a little before braving another. So this winter I’ve split my time between the sunnier climes of Australia and that beautiful place I call home. 

A warmer start to a year of training, and a change of scenery has been refreshing. Needed, both mentally and physically. And although my time in Australia has been important in a number of ways, it has also reaffirmed and strengthened my belief that the Leeds Triathlon Centre, its staff, athletes, terrain, sometimes weather, is the best environment for me to continue developing as an athlete. I may spend a few more weeks away than I have done in the past, but ultimately Leeds will continue to be my base, and my home. My coaching team won’t change; they are the consistent factor that hold me together and keep pushing me forward. They understand me as a person, and not just an athlete; an essential quality that is overlooked by too many. I am immensely proud to be associated with them, and will always be grateful for the time and effort that they continually invest. I am proud of the way in which they represent me and can only hope that I do the same in return. 

Neither have my goals or ambitions changed. If I think back 4 years I’m still harbouring the same hopes and dreams. I may be older, more experienced, but there’s still much unfinished business. My first Commonwealth Games eluded me in the last cycle; representing Wales has been on the agenda long before my 9 year old self decided the Olympics was a dream. On that note, the Olympic flame still burns bright in my belly and a ride on that bullet train would be nice. And as with anyone, in any walk of life, there’s still a continuing willingness, determination, to be better than I was yesterday, to be the best version of my self, both in sport and in life. 

Unfortunately my attempt at cracking jet lag is, indeed proving to be ambitious. You’d have thought that as an athlete I’d have learnt long ago that you can never beat time.  The inevitable sugar crash of my new mate Charlie has finally descended too, and the cabin crew have dimmed the lights indicating that they really do wish that you'd go to sleep and stop ordering fun size snacks and mini cans of fizzy happiness. 

So here’s to 2017 and beyond. Whatever it may hold. And whatever changes it may bring.