I used to be a solitary trainer. The thought of trying to keep up with someone on a run, or worse, talk to them whilst I struggled for breath, was just too much stress for me during my early days of exercise. I was happier plugging myself into some music and setting off alone.
I am now a complete convert and try to train with others whenever possible. There are so many reasons for this, all of which make training more enjoyable, and ultimately significantly improve your performance in the long run. This started when we first joined GTC. Having thought a triathlon club would be full of honed, elite athletes who might not welcome a middle-aged slowcoach, I very quickly discovered I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not that there aren’t some marvellous honed and elite athletes in the club, but there are plenty folk just like me. We first took part in the group swimming lessons (now a staple of our week), and realising how friendly and encouraging everyone was (not to mention the excellent coaching), we branched out to running and swimming sessions too. Most clubs (be it triathlon or not) have a variety of sessions so that you can suit one for you. And not only do you get to enjoy the new friendships and camaraderie, you tend to be pushed harder than you would ever manage if you are on your own. All of my disciplines have improved immeasurably by taking part in regular group activities. And getting to know fellow club mates also means you have chums to take part in events with – a much more fun situation than solitary racing.
But you can’t do every training session in a big group. More recently, I have had to do some much bigger training sets, when organising a bit group isn’t so feasible, but going on your own can be very lonely (and boring). In the last couple of months I’ve had some brilliant support from friends, colleagues and club mates who have come with me to offer company, tips and support on my longer distance endeavours.
My friend Jeff White and I have been colleagues for years since we were both in training together (he is also now a consultant at the Beatson). Jeff actually appeared in my original blog (firstmarathonmum) as we both trained at the same time for the Edinburgh Marathon 2015, and we did some training runs back then. After completing that, we both swore absolutely never to do another marathon ever again, and have both subsequently failed in this proclamation. Jeff ran the London Marathon both last year and this year for Sarcoma UK (he is a sarcoma expert), and only two weeks after completing it this year, he came with me for my pre-marathon long run – a 30km out and back along the Forth and Clyde Canal in blistering heat. I would not have made it back without him and was tremendously grateful. In fact we’d done an earlier run this year with one of my other training buddies Michelle (see later) and found ourselves in a windy blizzard, where, with 3km to go, my ITB went (I think just due to the low temperature – fortunately it hasn’t happened again since) and we had to walk back in the freezing conditions, nearly catching hypothermia. Despite my protestations, neither ran on ahead, but kept me company the long way home. Not only has Jeff come training with me, he was also through at the Edinburgh Marathon yesterday (see Busy Week), supporting his fellow Sarcoma UK runners taking part. Getting a huge cuddle from him at 11 miles, and then again at 24 miles when I felt I couldn’t go another step, was just fabulous and brought a wee tear to my eye.
We have made some marvellous friends through GTC, many of whom, like us, have both parents and children in the club. We were initially introduced to GTC through my sister Catriona, a mad ultra-distance runner, whose entire family of six are enthusiastic triathletes, right down to teeny 8-year-old Talia, making her debut on the racing circuit this year. Many a session and holiday has been spent with them, as well as numerous races. Since joining GTC, we have spent a lot of time with two families in particular, the Donaldsons and the Treharne/Goughs, and they are now my regular go-tos when I need a training buddy. I was a little bit scared of Mike (Donaldson) when I first met him but it turns out he is one of the kindest people you could meet, and can regularly be found transporting half the children of the club (mostly ours) to training (he is one of the junior coaches), sorting the variety of mechanicals that happen at every race, supporting and calming racers in transition and generally helping at every turn. Although he doesn’t necessarily look it (he won’t mind me saying that), he is one of the fastest triathletes in the club (despite not being the youngest by a ‘couple’ of years), but has come on numerous runs/cycles/swims with me and/or the kids, where he patiently travels at half his usual speed, when you know he could be off like a shot in the distance if he so chose.
His wife Michelle is one of my favourite people. I met her at my first ever swim session at the club (by pure coincidence it was her first session too), and we’ve been friends ever since. Despite being faster than me at swimming and running, we’ve often trained together and put the world to right as we do so (at my pace). In the last few weeks, I have had real problems with my calf, to the extent that I was worried I wouldn’t manage the marathon. I needed to do a 24km training run about a month ago, but didn’t know if my calf would hold out for even 5km. Michelle kept me going on that run, without a word of concern that we might need to walk back over 10km if it gave out at the apex of the route. And, as I mentioned above, nearly froze to death keeping me company on a previous sorry walk home in the snow. We’ve raced together on numerous occasions and enjoyed many a weekend/holiday away together, where training doesn’t feel like a chore.
Viv Gough is probably the main reason we are doing Ironman Wales. She and her husband Gareth are marvellous triathletes and were both signed up for IMW last year. Sadly Gareth badly injured his shoulder in a bike accident and had to withdraw, but Viv completed it, and seeing her achievement was such an inspiration, that we find ourselves in the situation we are now in. Viv and Gareth are both doing it again this year, and thus, we have spent many a pleasant hour training together. In La Santa, we did most of our long cycles together, and Viv and I have had many more sessions back here. And indeed we just completed the Etape Caledonia (see Busy Week) together, which was just lovely – it pushed me to significantly improve my time, and again lovely Viv I’m sure sacrificed a better finish by staying with me (especially during the last 10 miles when my legs started to go on strike). And we had a most splendid evening the night before watching the Eurovision Song Contest in the caravan, eating Viv’s vegan pasta (Jamie and I added our own cheese).
And finally my own lovely wee family, who are also my training buddies. Holly will come on some of our sessions, but now that she has almost moved in to her theatre school, it’s not so easy for her to take part. Paul and I have relatively separate training plans, so whilst we train together when we can, it’s not always possible to juggle things so that we’re able to train at the same time, unless on holiday. But my main training buddy at home is Jamie, who doesn’t seem to tire of his slow old mum at all. In La Santa when we did our half Ironman cycle route, Jamie came with me to keep me company as the others were a bit too fast. He did the same during the Easter weekend in Tighnabruaich, and on numerous occasions in between. It doesn’t seem to bother him that he also could zoom off into the distance, and we’ve had some really lovely days together as a result.
I’m not sure I’d be where I am now without the support of all these marvellous people, and if we make it to, and round, the Ironman, a huge part of that will down to them.