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Category: Isolation & Alienation

18.5k of mermaidness…ooops, I mean madness…

18.5k of mermaidness…ooops, I mean madness…

Oh wow – or, really, oh dear – it’s been a fair old while since I last posted! I could say that hmm, I’ve been super-busy, or I’ve run out of things to say (yeah right…) – or I could just tell the truth: depression has really kicked its heels in. Meh. I was dragged out to see a film yesterday and – apart from one brief visit to a shop nearby – it was the first time I’ve been out for about two weeks. This isn’t in my nature: I love being outside, I prefer fresh, outdoors air – I’m an outdoorsy sort of person. Well, at least I thought I was.

To be pretty blunt, depression never really went away at all, and my stupid social anxiety is dreadful – I’m being stymied by myself. The last eighteen months have been a blimmin’ struggle and things seem to have worsened this summer. I can attribute this partly to the end of the therapy that I’d been having, but it’s also because I lack any purpose in life – and I can’t find much meaning in life either. I was also going to say there’s little enjoyment, but I do giggle at a few things: comedy and some of the daft, daffy wee things that occur now and again. I read a few other blogs that focus on mental health and anxiety, and I’m always left wondering how the bloggers find the energy and oomph actually to maintain their blogs and write. Most of the time I’m in a heavy fog and find it difficult to get going at all. This is from a person who used to do 15hours of exercise alongside work each week, despite having depression and anxiety even then.

After the 140.6 and the smaller triathlon a week later (oooh! Photo opportunity here, I reckon! Quite pleased to note that my bike’s one of the first back in this pic…my smugness rapidly disappeared on the run itself tho’!). It also seems that I have a bike up my backside…

I had another event planned (to try to stave off the relentless bleakness). A few weeks ago, I did another endurance swim, this time it was 18.5k. It took place in a lake, and I’m still kicking myself for stopping at that point (I had 15 minutes left…I know there was little chance of completing another kilometre, but…eurgh. Very miffed with self.). The event was later in the day (not good. Not good at all) and it wasn’t as hugely busy as I’d feared, but I just didn’t feel the love. I tried to focus on the beautiful water, the wildlife – including swans who didn’t look overly impressed at our presence! – the changing sky) and the fact that I’m lucky enough to have a body and limbs that enable me to participate in such events.

I also really, really tried to remember a Level 42 song that kept me going during the 140.6 swim…don’t laugh at my choice in music now, I mean, my mini running soundtrack veers from Abba to XTC via Bauhaus, Doves, ELO, Eminem, Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Paul Weller, Portishead, Radiohead, Tears for Fears, and U2. Oh, and a bit of Ed Reardon and John Finnemore…alongside Tina Turner and Nancy Sinatra.

Blimey, you’re still here?…thank you for persevering! I could not grab hold of the elusive snippets of the soothing, much-loved Mark King et al-esque tune that lurked at the back of my mind. Instead, I was treated to Boney M (oh, thanks for that one) and – at least I think it was – Yazz. Showing my ageing years there (I should emphasise the point that I never, repeat NEVER liked Yazz)…anyway, I was slowly losing my mind! And I started to lose circulation pretty swiftly, despite my best efforts. And, also despite my best efforts, I chafed badly around my neck (quite grrrr-y about this as I consider myself to be quite the expert on how to avoid chafeyness), lots of blood and pain were happening.

oooh, this is where the chafing begins…just as well it’s fresh water, not salt…!

And my arms failed me: my right arm went dead, resulting in a very strange swimming style after only 9k or so – the pull phase of the stroke was virtually non-existent on my right side. And both of my elbows were screaming in pain. I’ve experienced neither of these problems in other endurance swims…grrrr, to say the least. I managed to avoid any cramps, thank goodness – I’ll never forget the chap who swam across me repeatedly during the Dart10k (heaven knows where he eventually ended up). I finally had enough, stopped swimming and swore violently at him (to no avail!) – this resulted only in me then having cramp for the rest of the swim, which was about 7k… I’m now careful about my electrolytes generally, but especially so in the lead-up to an event, plus I wear calf guards – when possible – for long swims. Not sure about the evidence base for them but hey, they seem to work for me!

Because my hands were seizing up, and my back was also giving up, I decided to get 6k in then exit the water briefly. I must learn not to stop and loiter at feed stations/water stops etc! Although the organisers were a bit concerned about my shivering and blue hands and lips (normal for me when swimming in open water, I’m afraid. My only solution, clearly, is to move to more tropical climes!). When I was swimming in the sea on a far more frequent basis (a few years ago), I tried to acclimatise myself by having cold showers and baths. This did work, but not much: I could only stay in the water in the winter for about 15 minutes before I started to become really quite unwell.

Ah! My ‘crocodile eyes’ position…sighting

This is one of my pet peeves(!): that some of the skins swimmers who refuse to talk to me because I wear a wetsuit just don’t understand that I have Raynauds and just cannot swim for long in only a swimming cossie. I’d love to swim sans neoprene but I’d be heading swiftly down hypothermia avenue (as has happened, unfortunately) if I did this. I doubt any of these swimmers will be reading this, but – just in case – I still think you’re very rude and arrogant. And I don’t need people like you in my life. So there!

Back to the swim. I kept plodding on, exiting the water at 4 and 3k intervals. One fab thing was that I did eat – ah, those joyous Nature Valley ‘Sweet & Salty Nut’ bars, sheer bliss…always! Yes, it was only a teeny bite here and there, but I experienced a distinct lack of reflux afterwards in the water. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

A spectator’s guide to counting laps…

Time’s winged chariot hurried near (apologies, Mr M), the light was fading rapidly and I realised that it would be foolish and futile to attempt another lap (only whole laps were included), especially as I was in trouble with my arm and elbows, so I faffed around in the water for a bit, then made my final exit.

Oh, how easy that makes it sound…never one for being graceful out of water at the best of times (my exit out of an E-Type has to be seen to be believed), my exit here was laboured, shall we say. Weirdly, this is probably the best giggle of the day though – I just couldn’t stand up properly!

I’m a-gonna overtake you (well, I better had!)

I felt an absolute sense of anti-climax after the swim, and I changed by the car and we whizzed off back to the hotel – I didn’t want to stick around any longer, I’d had enough of it all and felt a huge failure and like an outsider. and this feeling still hasn’t disappeared. Even though I’d told myself that my goal was to beat my previous best of 14k, I still berate myself for not getting up to 19k. If only I hadn’t loitered at that penultimate exit…it wasn’t really helped by a close relative’s first comment being, “Yes, but did you win?”. Nor, a few days later, by one of my closest friends (not that I have many!) utterly dismissing the entire achievement, poo-pooing it and swiftly changing the subject (someone else had mentioned it, I should add). Obviously I shouldn’t be seeking approval from others…but it would be nice to have someone go, “Oh wow!”…or something similar! My partner was a great support during the day and he was/is so proud of me…but those negative comments and reactions do undermine the positive ones – a real negativity bias, eh? I already felt flat, and it was a struggle to feel that I had achieved anything of worth…I still don’t feel that I’ve done anything of worth.

More than simply post-140.6 blues

More than simply post-140.6 blues

It definitely doesn’t seem like I did a 140.6 mile event only 16 days ago…!

I’m in a bit of a fuggy ol’ fog today, not sure if this is going to be the wittiest/wisest/most profound post but what the heck, eh. I think everything has caught up with me and I find myself currently in a pretty low state, flat and yet nervous about something or other (mainly the request from a certain someone to join them on a six-hour motorcycle jaunt – I’ve backed out of that, but blimey it’s easy to see how my anxiety and worry about it translate into other emotional and physical symptoms. Hmm, it’s quite interesting from that angle!). I’d intended to go for a cycle this morning – well, that didn’t happen, and my B plan of going for a swim also hasn’t happened.

So what HAS happened since my 140.6?

The week after, I did a sprint triathlon – I’d dithered about whether to enter this or not, but this particular triathlon’s a bit of a tradition for me, and I suspected that I’d be annoyed with myself if I didn’t at least attempt it. The days after the 140.6 were difficult, to say the least: I knew that I would probably suffer with gastric problems and pain afterwards, as this happened with the half-ironman. It was incredibly painful, and I lay curled up in a ball for hours afterwards. Forget sore muscles etc, they were fine – the sickness, er, other stuff like passing lots of blood etc – well they weren’t fine at all.

This time, about two hours immediately after finishing the 140.6, the agony set in, and it took about five days for my insides to settle, I was in pain for ages. Couldn’t eat or drink, and it seemed as if my body was sort of eating itself. Blood and all sorts…very yucky indeed. The morning after, I felt as if I had a horrendous hangover and a stomach in deepest turmoil, so had a warm bath for as long as I could bear. I’m so glad we had a day off as I simply couldn’t function. I was weirdly craving ReadyBrek and cheese on toast (er, but not together!), although I couldn’t really eat or drink anything.

An unexpected result of the 140.6 was having a terrifically sore throat and mouth, it was like having blisters everywhere. I checked this out – informally – and it would seem that this can happen as a result of breathing hard for such an extended time. Well, you learn something new every day – but aaaargh! And, when my appetite did finally return, I couldn’t even eat or drink because of the pain in my mouth and throat…gosh, was it all worth it?

YEPPPPPPP!! Of course it was!

But…

…although the joy (and disbelief) of winning were still there, I swiftly started to dismiss the achievement. I’m doing it in my head even as I type this. And this is what I’ll do: I just can’t seem to own my achievements. Forget about anyone else belittling my achievements – I’ll do it extremely well for myself, thanks. I’ve already made many excuses as to why I won. I feel that I should’ve done it all properly, instead of leisurely stopping at feed stations and run/walking during the marathon. That I should’ve aimed for a good time, not simply merely to finish the course…I can’t even look at the trophy, as I feel I really don’t deserve it.

(My head is currently arguing like mad about this issue as I write, by the way.)

I hadn’t told many people that I was then doing this other triathlon seven days after the 140.6. I entered it a while back, as I knew the event would sell out quickly, but I only decided to go ahead with it in the morning of the tri. I’d accepted that I wouldn’t do very well (I’ve always come in the top 3 females over the last few years), but thought I really should do it anyway.

As it turned out, the swim was ok, the bike was ok…but I stopped in the run to encourage another lady who’d stopped, we ran together – and then she took off, beating me to 2nd place. GRRRR! Never again! I thought I was quite well back in the placings and took my time in the run (owing to a combination of exhaustion and over-heating in the midday sun), but a couple of girls overtook me early on the cycle, one of ’em saying something to me about the traffic…now, she said it in a particular way that irked me (!), plus they were drafting each other (they were from the same tri club). For some odd reason, I was really peeved by these aspects, a steep hill was coming and I saw them struggling – so decided to take them on. And they never caught up with me – hurrah! (And phew…)

It was such a hot, airless day, and my throat started to hurt again as I ran, so I was pretty glad it was only a short tri. Heard my name being announced as I crossed the line, with the added, “And she’s only just done an Ironman!” and that was that. A medal, t-shirt and a small trophy. Good-oh – now I could relax. Ha, yeah right…

Many people would be chuffed with that small trophy – me? I dismiss it. I wish I didn’t. If it were someone else I’d be really chuffed for them, and would sing their praises to the skies. As it’s me, I feel nowt. I feel the same if I try to write out a list of my achievements: I’ll belittle them, dismiss them, stamp all over them until there’s nothing left. And where does that get me? It’s not a martyr thing, or a victim thing – I just feel sickened by myself and who I am, and can’t see that I’ve done anything of any worth.

Days like today really don’t help. I’ve not kept to my exercise plans and I feel trapped in my flat. For the first time in about two years I’m fairly happy with my body shape and size, and I’m despondent about my ability to maintain those aspects (vain, I know, but it was ever thus). My head’s in a blimmin’ horrible fog (despite eating and drinking a decent diet, no alcohol and little sugar), and my body’s heavy and listless. Can’t concentrate and definitely can’t think clearly at all. I just want to cry but I can’t find that release. I know it’s partly to do with worrying about the future – I have big decisions to make – as well as feeling hugely like a failure about the motorbike thing (oh gosh, if there’s someone out there who’ll go out biking with me, who’ll take it easy and not get annoyed with me, please do offer your help and company – because I do so want to get out on the motorbike. I can do it, I have my full licence etc, and it’s such wonderful freedom [although I would love to name & shame one of the instructors at my training school, as he killed any confidence I had…the other instructors were fine and even the examiner complimented me on my riding]. It’s only self-consciousness, a sheer terror of annoying/holding up other motorists, and worrying about taking corners that are stopping me…), but for some reason today I have a block on getting out in public at all. I just don’t want people to see me. I don’t feel worthy enough of being out and about…although I would really like today either to be out in the sea, or out walking.

Things have been like this for so long, it’s unbearable. Folk who see me out and about see a person who’s active, achieving things…they don’t know the reality behind the façade: someone who’s terrified of others and extremely, extremely self-conscious. I went for a swim yesterday and, although the session was interrupted for various reasons, it was a sociable swim. I chatted to a lot of people and had a good-enough swim. I’d been terrified about going, but I did it nevertheless. So why can’t I do it today? I know I’d feel better for it…what a pathetic wimp. I should be making the most of my physical health, not shying away from life.

How do you all manage days like today?

My first long-distance/140.6 triathlon – done!

My first long-distance/140.6 triathlon – done!

I DID IT!!!

I’ve actually gawn and done it! My first 140.6 triathlon! And, even more weirdly and surprisingly, I was the flippin’ first female to cross the finish line…

I’m still in a bit of a surreal, other-worldly state – it’s only a few days after this 140.6 triathlon, and last weekend seems like yonks ago, and I keep forgetting what happened on that weekend anyway!

I’ve not posted for a while because I’ve been very low – I do NOT know how other mental health bloggers maintain their blog. I kept thinking that those low times were actually the ideal times to post my thoughts, because that’s the reality of living with depression and social anxiety. But I couldn’t bring myself a) to write anything of length, and b) to share my bleak mindset. It felt like I was adding to my being a burden to others.

In recent weeks, I’d had a few longish bike rides (max. distance of 90miles), and I also did one 18mile run, but these were in isolation, never as part of a brick session. So I was a tad concerned! Two weeks before the event though, I had the good fortune of animal-sitting for a few days, which helped me to have a few sessions of cycle/swim/run back-to-back, albeit at shorter distances. It was quite strange, knowing that I was doing daily longer-than-sprint-triathlons, but I do think that those days gave me a bit of a boost. It’s always a pleasure looking after those animals anyway, and it definitely helped my mood this time around!

So, back to the 140.6 day itself…although I probably should mention here that I’ve been an unpleasant person to know, especially during the week leading up to the ironman – nervy, anxious, irritable, snappy (hmm, is that just my normal state?), oh, and terrified. I’d made lists of lists, and printed out the routes, and plans (and plan B’s. And plan C’s.) of what I would need to be doing beforehand, during each stage, and during each transition. I love my folders and stationery, so this extensive planning also helped with my mood. It didn’t help that I kept checking the weather forecast, which grew worse with each check: increasing wind speeds and gusts, rain and low temperatures for the time of year. AAAAAAARGH!!

We travelled up to the location two days before, and I’m glad we did, as the journey was hellish. It did occur to me, though, that for all the hours we spent driving up there…well, the equivalent time would see me still in the midst of the ironman, hours away from finishing. That didn’t help with my mood and nerves! I’d had problems yet again with my sleep so, although I was trying not to focus on how little I’d slept in the week, it was still a concern. I don’t worry about not sleeping the night before an event: it’s whether I’ve slept much in the week before. Luckily, the hotel was quiet and we backed onto countryside – I’m forgetting that an ‘A’ road was close by – and that was quite pleasant.

Righteo – here comes Saturday: registration and the safety briefing. We also drove round the bike route twice, so I could gain some sort of idea about hills, the state of the roads and not getting lost! I’d been studying the route elevation thoroughly, and it turned out that my hopes (that them thar hills wouldn’t be as bad as the ones I ride at home) were pretty accurate. But it was clear that the crosswinds were hefty, and the trees were swaying loftily as we went by. My nerves were going crazy… I was one of the first to register, and it was quite nice seeing others coming along too and racking their bikes alongside. There was such a mix of bikes – blimmin’ fantastic specimens next to so-called ‘normal’ bikes, and there was an absence of smugness and alpha-attitudes in the area. Some swaggering was happening, yes, but in the main most of us were looking pale and rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights-ish…thankfully the safety briefing had been brought forward (owing to people’s requests that they be able to see the World Cup football instead (!). Had this not happened, then we would have been back at the hotel by about 8pm, which had been worrying me.

I did have moments of panic during the safety briefing, and in the walk down to the lake the following morning, as there were – of course – so many people there. I think I tried to block everyone else out of my mind, it was strange – but I knew I couldn’t exactly run out, as I didn’t want to make a scene and then have everyone look at me thinking, “Nutter!”…I stayed and tried to feel invisible…

See how dark and cloudy it is? Eeek!

Roll on to 4am the next morning. I followed my plan and things were ok, but I was pretty much silent. I felt so, so very, very sick. I’d chosen to do this – no one had made me. It was my choice. Why on earth was I doing it? I knew why: I wanted to prove to everyone that I’m not an utterly useless piece of nonsense, with nothing to her name. I also knew that, if I make it to a ripe old age (maybe not so ripe!), I would regret having done only a half-ironman (“only”!!!) and not having at least attempted the long distance. I told myself repeatedly in the week before that it was all ok if I didn’t finish it or if I finished beyond the cut-off time. Of course I had thoughts that it would be fab if I had a time of 11hours (double my time of the half/70.3), but I didn’t think this was very realistic! As long as I made it to the start line, and didn’t quit before I’d even started, then that was supposed to be fine. I reassured myself that I could finish after the swim (although it would’ve been an expensive ol’ swim!), and that if I carried on after that, then all well and good. I’d planned to take it easy, to stop at the feed stations during the cycle and stretch my limbs and use the loo if necessary. Oh, and smile a lot. The run? Well, that was going to be a mixture of running and walking (Ha! And how I did indeed stick to that strategy…!). If I finished, then hallelujah!!

I think one of the main things for me was that I’d expected that I would have many, nasty lows throughout the event, and had thought about how I was going to deal with them…

I’ve had to stop writing here, as it’s just really occurred to me that this ironman was a massively HUGE achievement for me, for so many reasons. I didn’t give up – although I came close…but I just couldn’t quit – and it’s two fingers up to that man who did those things to me. I’ve done it in spite of him, and he’ll never take this experience and achievement away from me.

Back to the day…with my mantras on my arm, goggles, hat, lube and watch on, we made our way down to the water. The wind was getting up, and it wasn’t cold – but the air wasn’t exactly warm either. I tried not to panic too much…it helped that people were friendly and that there was a chap swimming in a loose (!) spiderman wetsuit – blimey, all respect to him! As the minutes and seconds were counted down, a quiet voice said, “So we swim up to that buoy and back again?” – er, no! Lots of advice on where we did have to swim was given and then, oomph! The starting whatnot went off! Eeeeek! This is it!

The water was lurvely…the clarity was pretty good and it tasted nice too! I found my rhythm quite quickly and, unexpectedly, felt ok. I didn’t want to rush this bit – I knew that swimming was my thing, and that I was lucky enough not to have to push too hard in order to get a decent time. I also knew that the distance was no problem for me, thank goodness. I had a small group ahead of me and didn’t chase them, I was swimming on my own and I quite liked that. I just stayed at my own pace and enjoyed it all – even the swans who came a little too close for comfort weren’t really on my radar at that time. I started to think about the rest of the race, then told myself off as I could do nowt about it all at that time and that I was to focus on the present – I could start thinking about the transition etc in the second half of my last lap. Until then, I wanted to switch off and enjoy the feel of the water, of feeling graceful in that water, and enjoy the Level 42 song that was playing in my head!

Graceful dive in…hmmm…!

I emerged out of my final lap, finishing the 2.4mile swim in 1:07hrs – and hearing the commentator’s voice announce that I was the first female out of the water did make me trip up in surprise and disbelief!

My first transition wasn’t the best, but I was cold and then had problems with my cycle jersey’s zip, which decided to break. An unbelievable calmness came over me and I finally mended the zip…I’d also had some calls to make about what to wear, as it was cold and rain had been forecast during the cycle stage. Humph. In the end I went for arm warmers under my cycle jersey, put on my winter gloves (I clearly don’t care about what I look like, eh) and ditched my plan to wear my waterproof cycle jacket. If it rained I’d have to make do with my very lightweight running jacket that was packed along with my spare inner tube, puncture repair kit and tools…

Headed off on the bike, narrowly falling off because my elastic bands on my tri shoe had fallen off (!), Bizarrely, my first thought when I put my foot back on the ground was, “Aargh! Now I’ve failed!”… I somehow obviously imagined I was back taking my Mod 1 motorbike test, where a foot-plant in the relevant stage is a fail. Gawd knows where my brain was at this time! It’s a triathlon, woman!

I’d told myself not to look at my cyclometer for ages, as I knew seeing single figures would have a yucky effect on my mood. That helped a bit. I just tried to get my head down and get on with it – which would’ve been great and lovely if it hadn’t been for those blimmin’ winds. So much for crosswinds, yep they were there – but so was a massive headwind. What happened to the tailwind??! Ah well…I knuckled down and tried to get through it all. Various songs played in my head (yes thank you, Enya, I’m sorry but I’ve never really been a fan…but your music did help for a fair old while, I admit. Better than Rupert the Bear, at any rate. Thanks for that agony, brain!), the scenery was wonderful (although the darkening skies and brooding, angry-looking hills/mountains in the distance were worrying, to say the least) and there were various people watching the event who, plain and simple, were fantastic – and the marshalls were lovely too, despite the grotty weather. And the people at the feed station were great, just so great. Being teased for looking like a hamster with flapjack in my gob will never sound as sweet! And thank you, the volunteer who sold me onto the idea of venturing near a jaffacake – it worked, even though I don’t think I’ll ever properly like the things!

Yes, hello!

You peeps who shouted words of encouragement – including the male cyclist who whizzed past me but said, “Looking strong there!” – well, thank you. Thank you SO MUCH. You will probably never know just how much your words boosted me and lifted me out of dark places. Thank you.

Oh dear, welling up again.

The dark places. They were foul. I had felt reasonable up until around 70miles, and then the demons struck. I questioned why I was doing such a stupid, utterly stupid thing, why I was still involved with triathlon at all when I’ve come to loathe it. I was in pain, I was a fool, why had I imagined that I could do this, I could do nothing of any worth, this would just prove to everyone that I was useless. I still had 40-odd miles to cycle, in horrible winds, and then oh my gosh there was still a marathon to run. ENOUGH.

And then I realised that I’d expected this, that my mood would plummet. I remember actually saying out loud, “This too shall pass…”. I reasoned with myself that I was going to feel bad, of course I would: after all, I’d been exercising for 4 hours and that was on top of the general and social anxiety and nerves etc. “You’re ok, you’re ok…give yourself a chance…you’ve got through ghastly stuff and this is all ok, you’re clearly strong enough ‘cos you’re here and now. And your limbs work, make the most of them. And if you don’t finish, then what? Will it really matter?” And I thought about what my psychiatrist might say to me had she been there, and thought about Paddington Bear (long story!), and I thought about my family, and about my partner, and how much support he has given me – despite nearly 7 months of anxiety and moods about this event (on top of my normal moods). I determined to come on, gal! and focus on the here and now.

And finally, after 4 laps of the cycle route, having waved and cheered on other competitors (who by now were becoming like old friends to me), I made it to the end of the last lap. Oh thank goodness – the wind had done its best, and the rain had lashed my limbs…but I’d defeated them.

Oh man: and still at least 4.5hours of exercise to do, and my worst discipline to boot. A metaphorical head-in-hands moment of agony. I emerged from the transition area and ran, nay, jogged – er, well, shuffled onto the run course. 6 laps of lake-ness and closed roads. I really did not know if I could finish this. The first lap wasn’t too bad, but I had a few moments where I couldn’t catch my breath and had a pain around my left chest and shoulder. Made it to the first feed station and shuffled on, gradually slowing down even further. Clearly, this stage was not going to be at my typical running pace!

I hesitate to think much about the run in this event, as it was physically and emotionally agonising. My left ankle was giving way and I had a headache from hell. I’d emerged from the swim feeling really thirsty, despite having been careful about my hydration leading up to the ironman. Strangely enough, I had drunk water at the feed stations, and I’d been drinking coconut water whilst on the bike and, whilst I felt sick, I didn’t actually throw up (you all know about my gastric/digestive problems and conditions) – but I knew that I was probably dehydrated, hence the headache and slowing down etc. I’d taken in a couple of salt tablets and I’d also eaten on the bike, and again was relieved that it had all stayed down, so to speak, but I’d taken in a maximum of only about 300 calories (I roughly estimated that I used up around 6-7000 calories during the event). But I could not take in food during the run, as my stomach was in agony and I felt that even taking sips of water was pushing my limits. I did chance upon a spare orange segment at the feed station at around 14miles in and it was heavenly…nectar…which is why I then grabbed a whole orange and gripped it for the rest of the marathon…!

So, six laps. By the end of the second lap I was in another very bad place – very bad: it’s odd to think about you-know-what when you’re shuffling along. A whole load of contradictions and messy thoughts happening.

The end/start of each lap was back in the main arena near the lake and transition area, and my partner had been there cheering and supporting me (and the others) throughout the whole day, despite the weather. I stopped, close to tears, and just told him that I couldn’t do this anymore, I had nothing left and I was in so much pain. He was very good, calmingly reassuring me that I could stop, it didn’t matter, that it was ok.

Which I then responded to with a tearful, “But I can’t quit! I’ll have failed everyone, including me! I can’t give up! I have to do this!”. Oh, very clever reverse psychology…but it worked. And wow, it worked well. Because he had given me honest, no-worries permission to stop, without any judgment, and because he clearly thought a lot of me and was obviously proud of me – well, I got on with the task. How bizarre. I thought little about it at the time, but the next day I considered it all and realised how profoundly clever his actions at that time were, if that makes sense.

The next four laps were incredibly slow. I chatted to people at the feed stations and shared pain concerns with other competitors – and the poor volunteers – and had two of the event crew (who were on their bikes keeping on eye on, and encouraging, the runners) repeatedly telling me that I was the first female. So come on, get a move on! Oh yeah, riiiiiiight. I honestly thought they were just joshing and teasing me. I couldn’t possibly see that my dreadful run would still see me being in first place.

The sun started to go down, along with the temperature, and I really began to worry about having to run in the dark. It was lovely though, to share others’ joy as they announced that they were on their final lap (some walking it) and that they were obviously going to FINISH!! I really, really was pleased for them! I can’t remember what I was thinking about during this time, the only details are that I was desperate to see my partner when I reached the end/start area each time, I was gripping a rather soggy, sweaty orange, and that at one feed station I stopped at, one spectator said to me, “You’ve done us proud, m’girl”! And yes, I did start getting teary at that – thank you for those absolutely lovely words, whoever you are.

And then…I realised I was heading back towards the main arena for the last time. I checked behind me, for some reason, went through the entrance and all I could hear were cheers and my name being shouted – “Well done!”. I turned into the shute towards the finish line, managed to find energy to sprint, heard the words, “…the first female…” and crossed that oh-blimey-so-very-welcome Finish Line. And was then told that I’d won the female 140.6…

YAAAAAYYYYYYY!!

…and then I cried in sheer relief and sheer disbelief. I’d done it. An achievement I could never have imagined…!

I’ve done it. I’ve done a long-distance triathlon, despite all the depression, social anxiety and flippin’ mad eating disorders. It can be done!!

 

Training, terrible teeth and, er, troubled toes!

Training, terrible teeth and, er, troubled toes!

Training, teeth, injuries…wow, it’s all happening – oh, and the end of my year of therapy…

I’m writing this during an enforced rest following a tooth extraction yesterday. After my treatment for the abscess a while ago, the dentist said they’d bring forward my extraction date. Well, after 15 days of hearing nowt, I felt that they were maybe extracting something else from me (sorry!) and rang up. I know! I actually made a phone call – and with success!

I was given an appointment for that day, which was perfect as it meant I could fit a swim in beforehand. Despite not having swum for about three weeks, I felt all right and my speed wasn’t that much slower than usual. Actually, it felt really good to be back in the water again, even though the pool was packed for much of the session, meaning that it was difficult to find any rhythm for quite a while.

The tooth extraction went well, touch wood (oh my, now I have images of wooden teeth – why did I choose that phrase?!), although I had expected the dentist to clean out the area as I still had an infection in the gum. I had the injections and then the tooth was pulled, after much wrangling and pressure. And that’s it! I’m hoping that it’s a simple recovery…I’d intended to run this morning, but I’ve read many warnings of blood clots being dislodged because of the increase in blood pressure. I’ll attempt a short bike ride tomorrow morning, I think.

I now have a huge gap in my mouth and only one half-tooth on that bottom side. I daren’t feel it, or even look at it. As soon as I’d left the surgery I (rather feebly) burst into tears – I’ve been in pain for such a long time, and have had so many abscesses in that area, that I think I was relieved that it was all over (I hope). But it also hurts to know that I’ve brought this upon myself. All the guilt and sadness flood back, and I feel shame and embarrassment too about it all. I can’t just hide it away in my mind as I have the tangible reminder of my past behaviours and their causes… Stupidly, and perhaps unhelpfully, I’ve also read about how tooth loss affects both functionality and facial bone structure. I have a huge dread that I’m turning into this old hag, with sunken cheeks and a slowly caving-in lower face. I’ve read about ‘bite collapse’, which can happen some of the rear teeth are missing (yep, tick that box) – this may result in the teeth at the front being squished forward. I don’t think those certain people in my life (who scoff at my distress about my teeth) really appreciate the consequences of having horrid, bad, post-bulimic teeth. It’s far, far more than mere vanity – it’s psychologically extremely distressing, and the functional damage has a deeply negative impact too.

Training-wise, I’m not entirely where I want to be, but then again it could be far worse. I’ve actually left the house! I’ve managed a few 80mile cycles, and the running (despite ever-present pain and injury) is slow but at about 15miles. I’m not concerned about the swimming really, that should be fine (famous last words eh…). When I did the half-ironman, I was diligent in doing brick sessions, usually sessions such as twenty minute runs straight after 50mile bike rides. I was fortunate then because I could do this in rural areas, which meant that there was little likelihood of people seeing me. I have great difficulty now in arriving back home and then going out for a run, because of the sheer amount of people who are around when I return chez moi. Even if I leave home at 5am, by the time I’m in my last (wheezy, painful, slow) stages of the bike ride there are – of course – more people around. I’ve also found that I’m increasingly anxious about seeing cycle groups when I’m out – I worry that they’re laughing at me, or cursing me because I’m so slow (my cycle average is about 17mph). I wave and say hi etc, as they whizz past, and tell myself that I’m only so slow because I need to maintain a zone 2 heart-rate (ahem…yeah, right!). I also tell myself that surely they’ve only just started their bike ride (PLEASE don’t tell me I’m wrong!!).

My time in therapy is now also at an end. And that important process deserves its very own post, I reckon…

A feeble thank you!

A feeble thank you!

I’m writing two posts in one day – good grief! I just wanted to balance out today’s other post and say thank you for all the lovely comments I’ve had since making this blog ‘live’.

I’m not so good at this self-promotion stuff, and haven’t dared to look at my site’s statistics etc…isn’t it silly? I’ve kept my head in the sand about the blog, as I feel oddly ashamed by it all, as if it’s all daft and vain…

…so I’m honoured to read some comments that I’ve received. Honestly, that people have taken the time to read my stuff and make comments is almost overwhelming. I really would rather that none of us had issues around mental health:  I’d much rather that there be no one to make comments, if you see what I mean. I hate the thought of others having similar feelings as the ones I experience, and yet it’s also really comforting. People have been kind enough to use the word ‘inspirational’ – and my reaction has been an unexpected one: gosh, yes I’m chuffed to pieces to hear from people, but I also feel inspired by your comments, by the fact that you’ve had the energy and motivation to contact me and be open too. If I can be of any help, however miniscule that help may be, then this will all be worth it.