Injuries, Jellyfish and bloody bumpy roads

As I sit and write this it is 75 days until Challenge Weymouth.  75 days until I don my wetsuit with 2000 other masochists and stride into the surf of Weymouth bay.  This brings me onto one of the things I would like to talk about…….jellyfish.

All along the south coast of England we have record numbers of Barrel jellyfish appearing just off of our shoreline.  Juvenile Barrel jellyfish are normally predated on by fish, keeping the numbers of adults in check.  Over-fishing has caused less juveniles to be predated, meaning that there are literally 1000’s of these jellyfish growing into adulthood.

A barrel jellyfish photographed off the Dorset coast

Adult Barrel jellyfish can get big.  I mean really big.  Up to 6ft wide and weighing in at up to 35kg (77lbs, or 5 stone 7 lbs).  Articles from marine experts are saying that there may be 10’s of 1000’s of these aquatic fellas off of the Dorset coast.

Now not all of them are going to be as big as the one on the left, but there are jellyfish the size of bin bags washing up on the coast all over the place.  Portsmouth has had a few and over the weekend there were large numbers washed up in Swanage.

I don’t want to come across as a big girls blouse, but I am less than happy at the thought of sharing my swim at Weymouth with these underwater whoppers.  Their sting is only as strong as a stinging nettle and poses no threat to humans; however I imagine that swimming into a 35kg jellyfish will be more of a shock than anything.  My toddler only weighs 15kg and I wouldn’t want to swim into her.  Plus she doesn’t sting.

Spotted off coast of Boscombe at weekend.

Made slightly worse is the fact that the swim at Weymouth is in September, when the sea is at its warmest.  If we have any sort of onshore breeze or current there is going to be a fair few jellies sharing the water with me.  

Just the thought of this makes me very nervous.  I am not exactly sure why.  They pose no threat to me; however there is something primordial and spooky about jellyfish.  There are beautiful sea creatures and I would never harm one, but also I am happy never to get that close to one.  I feel the same way about tarantulas (and I wouldn’t want to swim with any of those either).

My wife is convinced that if there are loads of jellyfish about at race weekend then the organisers of the race will do something about it.  I am not so sure, but we will have to wait and see.

I also seem to have picked up a little niggling injury.  Well I say little, we will have to see how much worse it gets, but I am definitely officially injured.  Self-diagnosis has led me to believe that I am suffering with a form of Plantar Fasciitis 

As you can see from the picture on the left, this is a strain in the fascia just after the heel bone.  A very common running injury, which manifests itself in pain in the arch of your foot.  I only have it in my right foot and bizarrely it goes away whilst exercising and comes on at periods of rest.    Recommendations on how to fix this vary hugely.  Some say to rest, ice etc; however there is a large movement away from icing injuries like this, as it may slow healing.

Others say to keep exercising but at a lesser level.  It is a bit of a mine field and hard to work out what I should do.  Luckily I have a bio-mechanical coach who I trust 100% who is going to take a look at me and hopefully give me some exercises to help this go away.  He is a former professional Ironman and will understand that I cannot just stop training with only 75 days to go.  Fingers crossed Trevor can get me sorted out and I will be on the way to recovery soon.  In the meantime I am going to back down on my running, but keep the bike work up and increase my swimming.  I have hardly been swimming at all if I am honest, so this little injury is probably a blessing in disguise.

Lastly I want to have a moan up.  A good old fashioned complaining session.  What us in Pompey would refer to as a “squinny”.  The more I spend time on my bike, the more I love it.  You start to feel at one with your machine, instinctively knowing when to change gear, when to stand on the pedals to finish that final hill, when to push on the flat etc.  The only thing that affects my enjoyment of my cycling time is the road quality (or should I say total lack of quality).

Broken tarmac – easy in a car.  Horrible on a bike

When you cycle you keep to the left of the road so cars and other faster road users can overtake.  This is just good etiquette.  The problem with doing this is that the shoddy road surface is even more shoddy the closer you get to the verge.  There are potholes that are actually small caves and endless miles of broken tarmac (an example of the sort of thing I mean is on the right).

When you are in a car this broken tarmac is nothing.  You just smooth straight over it.  On a super stiff road bike with very narrow tyres this is not a comfortable surface to ride on.  You can hack it for a while, but after a few hours of constantly bumping over this sort of stuff it starts to wear very thin.

Occasionally you can find some stretches of road that are blissfully smooth.  Mostly it is this bumpy crap.  So my moan up is this.  Hampshire is one of the most affluent counties in the UK.  We all pay a tonne of council tax to live in such a beautiful county.  Take some of that council tax and fix the roads up a bit.  I am fed up of jolting along on tarmac that should be in much much better condition.  That is not to mention the cycle paths, which seem to have a special sort of tarmac that breaks up even more than the roads do.  Just bloody well sort it out.

The roads in Surrey are much nicer.  That’s probably why everybody who lives in Surrey thinks they are better than everybody else.  🙂

Anyway that’s it from me.  Big week of training this week, injuries, jellyfish and crap road surfaces not withstanding.



You’ve gotta have faith

Faith is an interesting thing.  Some people have an abundance of faith, be that religious faith, faith in humanity or simply faith in themselves.  Others have relatively little faith.  I definitely belong in the latter group.  I do not prescribe to any religion, tend to have a fairly negative outlook on humanity as a whole and can be very hard on myself and my own abilities.  “A man of faith” is not how I would be described.

L-R Bushy, Me, Mike and Bruce

Despite outward appearances, I have never really “believed” that the Ironman was possible for me.  It was a thing.  A thing that was a long way off.  A thing that I had signed up to do when I was blissfully naive of quite how hard it was going to be.  

After starting my training I very quickly realised just how hard any triathlon is, let alone an Ironman.  The realisation of what I had signed up for hit me like a tonne of bricks and I immediately doubted that I would ever get it completed.  I was convinced my body would break down, that I would be incapable of continuing, that I would have to give up at some point during the race.  This belief, or lack of belief if you prefer, has stayed with me for almost 18 months now.  I have tried to maintain a brave face and tried to stay confident in front of others, especially my wife who is naturally worried about what might happen to me during the Ironman.  Deep inside I just couldn’t shake it off.  I didn’t believe that I could actually make it round the course.

After all, an Ironman is a very long way.  2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and then a marathon (26.2 miles).  Legend has it that the first ever person to complete a marathon was a Greek soldier called Pheidippides.  He ran from Marathon to Athens to pass on word of the Greek victory over the Persians, then proceeded to drop down dead.  He hadn’t even ridden 112 miles and swum 2.4 miles beforehand!  What a wimp!

For me, people who complete Ironman triathlons are some sort of super humans.  They have no body fat.  They train for 5 hours a day and never get tired.  They are as far away from me as a person can get……………..or are they?

Finally I have started to believe.  Finally I have faith.  Finally I actually think that the Ironman might be within my grasp.

There is no single reason for this.  Like most things in life a combination of factors have come together to start a spring of faith bubbling up inside me.

This is most likely a culmination of increased training, better knowledge of how training affects my body, better knowledge about nutrition and that I just “feel” fitter.  This feeling is not quantifiable; however I just feel more fit than I ever have before.  I must admit it is a great feeling.

On Sunday I took part in a Sportive cycling event.  These Sportives are organised cycling events of set lengths.  Bushy, Bruce, Mike and I had a choice of either 44 or 100 miles.  Naturally we did the 100.  A year ago we cycled 100 miles on the Isle of Wight and it almost killed me.  I felt terrible afterwards and took days to recover.  It was awful.

Top of a huge Cat 3 climb

On Sunday we cycled 100 miles in just over 6.5 hours.  I made myself some rice cakes to eat on the way round, got my nutrition and my water intake almost spot on and other than constant hayfever and a bout of serious lower back cramp at about 75 miles I felt good throughout.  I had awarded myself a day off of training on Monday for my Sunday efforts, but I didn’t need it.  I felt great.

This is why I have started to believe.  This is where my faith is coming from.  There is no doubt I am creeping towards Ironman competence.  Can I swim 2.4 miles?  Yes I can.  Can I cycle 112?  Absolutely.  Can I run a marathon?  Yep.  Can I put all three of these things together, getting my nutrition and water consumption spot on, pacing out my effort and making it round in less than 16.5 hours?  You know what, for the first time ever I am going to say………………