Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Classics

It’s no secret that on 21st September I completed the London Classics this year and it’s been one hell of a ride. Although I’ve talk about the network of people who helped make it possible on social media, I felt it also needed it’s own post. After all, this will only ever happen once. It doesn’t matter how many more times I complete the 3 events that make up the Classics, there will only ever be one Classics medal.

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So back to the beginning. If you complete the London Marathon, RideLondon 100 mile cycle and Swim Serpentine 2 mile events (you spread them out over as many years as you like….), you can be awarded an extra, very big very shiny London Classics medal and be inducted into the London Classics Hall of Fame (a list on a website, let’s not get too fancy here…).

So, in 2018 I had a deferred RideLondon ballot place ready to go for 2019 and when I got my ballot rejection magazine for the London Marathon in October, I stumbled across the Dementia Revolution campaign offering charity places. I’ve always been a bit wary of taking a marathon place for a charity as I know the fundraising is hardcore, but having lost yet more family members to dementia earlier in the year, I decided to apply as I felt it was a cause I could connect with. A few weeks later I received a call to confirm I’d been offered a place to run, and fundraising began in earnest.

It wasn’t for another month or two that I started to apply my thoughts to the Classics, I was vaguely aware of them but a monster swim had never been that appealing, but with my 30th birthday coming at me in 2019, I thought it was worth a try. And that my friends, is how the madness started.

The Run
I can safely say this is the event I had the most experience in training for. I’d completed a marathon a couple of years back (albeit horrendous) and I’m used to and quite enjoy a good training plan. In Jan I joined my now much loved Adidas Runners community to give me some support and by some miracle, I managed to keep my training on track all the way through the trauma of moving out of our flat, temporary accommodation and moving into our new place the week before. Because that’s what everyone does on taper week right? Haul boxes?

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I smashed my stretched target time for the marathon and finished feeling a justified sense of achievement that had been lacking last time. Seeing friends and supporters all the way round was a huge boost and although for me, running 26.2 miles was physically more challenging than cycling 100 or swimming 2, it remains my favourite event.
VMLM 2019: 04:57 – PB

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The Ride
Rarely have I trained for something less than I did for Ride 100 2019. I’m ashamed to admit that in a world where it seems to be a badge of honour to battle through injury or chance your arm without training. My longest ride of 2019 was a 25 mile trundle through the Herefordshire countryside in May. I’m fortunate to know how my body behaves on longer distance cycling and I’ve completed long rides in similar circumstances but it’s poor show and disrespectful to all those who pour their heart and soul into prepping for events like these to be proud of the complete lack of effort I put in before the day.

As July kicked in, I struggled to stay positive about the event and failed miserably, seriously considering abandoning the whole idea as much as the night before. It’s the first time I’ve ever declined to have Tom come and meet me at a finish line because I just couldn’t face celebrating. But I completed. I spent almost 8 hours on my bike, it was a glorious day and whilst I didn’t have the joy factor or any major clarity or revelation, those 8 hours spent alone, albeit surrounded by other people turned out to be exactly what I needed to attack August and feel on top of things.

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Of all the events, this is the one I am near certain I won't repeat. I completed 92 miles of it in 2016 due to a accident cut off, and felt the route was overcrowded and found the waiting around and stretches of walking due to narrow roads frustrating. None of these issues have gone away and the event feels a bit greedy, a drastic reduction in the number of participants is needed in my humble opinion.

Ride London 100 2019: 07:50 – PB

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2 down... And that just leaves….

The Swim
I can swim. In fact I used to think I was a reasonable swimmer. It’s something I picked up and put down a bit at Uni, but it has been TIME since I entered a pool for anything more than the benefit of temperature reduction on holiday. I also actively avoid swimming freestyle because thought I wasn’t fit enough to swim it.

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Armed with enthusiasm and no idea what I was doing, I made the pool a regular fixture in my week in June and by July I’d signed myself up for swimming lessons with a coach, because 2 miles is a bloody long way to swim inefficiently. Learning something new has been so much fun, but the very nature of swimming and being exposed really raised some questions on body image, especially when coupled with trying to do something that I don’t perceive myself to be especially good at. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 3 months repeating and explaining the idea that sometimes, you have to feel the fear, and do it anyway. Especially when you see the horror on people’s faces when you tell them that your sole experience with open water is a quick 45 mins on the Thursday before the event on Saturday.

But swim I did. The 2 mile stint of the event is 2 laps of the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, and as has been true for both of my other 2 events (hashtag blessed?), I was exceptionally lucky that they day dawned with perfect weather conditions- warm, dry, still-ish. I felt like I could have kept swimming when I reached the finish, although my second lap coincided with another wave starting which was a bit washing- machine-esque.


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I’m not in a hurry to repeat the swim next year, but I’m already planning more sunrise Serpentine adventures with some amazing people who have supported me through 6 months of endurance sport.
Swim Serpentine 2 mile 2019: 01:33 PB (1st time)

And now with a little over a quarter of the year left, a medal as big as my face in my possession, here endeth the endurance madness for 2019.

And what madness it has been, but instructive:
- Feel the fear and do it anyway- it’s ok to be scared
Accept it so you can own it

- Trust the process, because if you’ve put the work into your training, that one rubbish session doesn’t mean you’re not ready

- Surround yourself with people who understand that competition isn’t always about others, it’s about proving to yourself that you are capable of more

- Feel the joy factor, because at the end of it all, what else is there?

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