Thursday, December 10, 2020

Something new for 2021

 It's been almost exactly a year since my last post, not like anything much has happened... 

Certainly, running has been essential to many these past months (blogging about it perhaps not so much), and I extend a huge welcome to anyone who picked it up this year. I haven't been able to do much myself  It was time for a break, I guess. Back in 2016 after a failed attempt at running around Lake "Geneva" Léman, I figured it was time to try something else for a year – and proceeded in 2017 to do the 145-mile GUCR, followed by another (this time successful) attempt at running around the lake – so excellent choice not to hang up the shoes, except that it was followed by a sesamoid fracture. So 2018 wasn't great and 2019 was marred by a dislocated shoulder and my first 24h race left a bitter taste so I kept putting off the "off year" and signed up for the 220km Ultr'ardèche in 2020...

I started the year with a niggle in the knee from stupidly engaging in strength (weight) training that was supposed to prevent injuries but re-activated a ski touring-induced meniscus issue from ten years ago. I successfully ignored it until end March when, after completing a 9-hour training week, I realised that my race in May would definitely not be taking place – or pretty much any other for that matter. Figured that I might as well get this knee sorted out and finally take that mental and physical break from running.

My general practitioner told me it was a deep inflammation and I should stop running for a year. Even though I told myself that 4-6 months would be sufficient (whether out of stubbornness, knowing better, denial or as a coping method, or all of the above), what with covid and no races and now the injury, this was now turning out to be the year to really rest and do something new.. So I went out for some stress/comfort shopping by buying a fancy racing bike and signing up for the Alpsman in 2021 (Norseman-style XXL triathlon with Ironman distance and lots of elevation, except on the swim of course).

Then in August – still no running but able physically to go into the office a few days a week – a colleague suggested a physio, who lo and behold said it was a Baker's cyst and he could get me going in a few weeks. Music to my ears! And yes, by late September I was running 30-40mn every Sunday, and in November added some mild speedwork on Wednesday.

In the mean time, having heard that improving technique is much more efficient than training slogs to increase speed on the swim (and that was sorely needed if I want even a hope in hell to ring the bell at Alpsman and be a "top finisher", considering that my swim time and Vichy IM was about 1h52mn, so more music to my lazy ears), I took lessons at one of the two public pools in Geneva, which just happens to be right opposite my office building and had been one of the deciding factors in signing up for a triathlon.

Then, of course, we were all sent back home to work remotely just as I was intending to put into practice what I had learned. Also, at the only race I did this year – the sprint triathlon in the Lac de Joux where we wore masks all the way up to entering the water, quite unique – I felt like I couldn't breathe after only 5mn on the swim and had to cling to a paddle board for a minute or two before feeling comfortable enough to on. So it was time to get used to the wetsuit again and manage more than 150m swimming without hyperventilating from a mild panic attack and feeling like I was going to drown if I didn't get out of the water.

Once again, fortune smiles on me – I live literally a kilometre from the lake. So I bought neoprene gloves, neoprene diving socks and a really sexy neoprene hood, and have since swam five times – pretty much once a week – when the weather has at least been sunny if not near freezing temperatures, and the lake at 7-10°C, which isn't too bad once you get going, though at the lower end of the spectrum my hands did start to get a bit cold after 20mn (yes, I am now up to swimming 1k with nary a sense of anxiety).

It's actually nothing compared to cycling in cold weather! I'm really enjoying my bike far more than I though I would, but really, the toes – worse than skiing in a blizzard! I haven't yet managed to find the right insulating shoe covers so the last three rides ended with blue toes and agonising post baths, despite wearing ski socks and thinner socks underneath...

Still, I'm feeling confident and actually excited heading into the New Year's about starting some seriously structure triathlon training in January. Since I have no clue, I will be following a "super simple ironman training plan", which I liked because – apart from the title and it is indeed straightforward to follow – it reminded of how my training for the GUCR grew from a very manageable 5h the first week, with a 1h15 long run and some accessible speedwork to 10-12h weeks at the end (but at that point you're ready for it - and then it's race time).

After my experience at IM Vichy, I knew that what's tricky about ironman distance triathlon training is squeezing it all in – far more time-consuming than training for an ultra marathon. But with this plan, I can do the bike on the way to and from work (if I ever get back!), and the runs and swims at the lunch break. The weekends will be a bit busy, but only really starting in March-April and my family's ok with it, I think, it is after all the year of my 50th birthday :-) 

Anyway, after all that, I am very happy to be embarking on something new for 2021 and feel very fortunate to be able to contemplate doing so...