Thursday, 23 April 2009

Happiness in Hedgerows

Over a month has passed since my return from New Zealand – though it seems like much longer. The last five weeks seem to have brought rather more than their fair share of trials and tests for this recently turned ‘carefree and footloose’ full-time triathlete. Perhaps I really thought it would all suddenly become easy, that the sun would always shine and that end would somehow just meet….well of course I didn’t. But I have been surprised at times in where these challenges have come from, and pleasantly so in their resolution too in the most part.

Of course I expected to miss the close circle of triathlon friends and training partners that I’d built up through Tri London over the past 3 years once we departed the city in January – knowing that we were never likely to return to that scene – but I had expected to enjoy the freedom of training alone, with an option of falling into a new local scene should I choose it. Not quite so. There are a great many factors that I could identify as possible reasons for the lack of motivation that I experienced during the first weeks of my time here; the big bag of post-race fatigue coupled with a rather rude return to grey skies dropping wet stuff all over the place being pretty obvious starting points. Add in a couple of tbsp of disappointment with my result at New Zealand, an invalid boyfriend (in recovery from an op on a foot tendon – see Steven’s blog for the story!) and therefore my long-term training my partner being suddenly absent from the mix, as well as the personal stress brought about by this change in dynamic between us, and it was with less than glee that I’ve been heading out into this merciless terrain on the bike and just trying to keep it going for 3 or 4 hours.

I’m also discovering a new world of triathlon in a rural, provincial setting. With training facilities spread over a much wider area than we are accustomed to in London, and club members equally so, there are certainly more challenges for clubs when it comes to organising pool time and group sessions.. A lot of travel is involved for many and pool space is at a premium, with Taunton based Somerset RC Tri currently operating a waiting list, for example. However, after much time invested searching and emailing, I have been able to join the local council-run, tri-based swim sessions which many of the Somerset RC attend and they really are a jovial bunch of people. There was a great atmosphere in the pool – and it’s clear that there’s a good spread of abilities, and atmosphere of encouragement and most of all fun. For a more serious swim session I was fortunate to come across the Yeovil District Swim Club’s head coach Alex Pinniger. He trains 6 kids squads to a national comptetion level, and has a couple of promising young triathletes under his wing, too. He generously allowed me to join his evening sessions, where I was humiliated by 10-12 year olds lapping me over 400m! On the whole folk are friendlier here than in London – I think that goes without saying – which is lucky for a new-comer to these parts trying to fit into the not broadly publicized scene but, because of the dispersed nature of the club members, you just run into people less frequently, so it takes a while to get established. After countless hours spent internet trawling prior to my move, virtually everything of use that I have learned about the club was through casual conversation with swimmers, cyclists and runners that I’ve chatted to whilst out and about. I feel as though I have finally found my feet here – this evening I’ll be moving on! One thing that I’ve learned since the beginning of my life as a full-time triathlete without fixed abode is that routine and familiarity are important underpins to my successful training, and ultimate happiness. This is something that our plans for the following year rather overlooked in favour of international racing, exotic locations and cheap or free accommodation, but will certainly influence our thinking for after Kona.

So, although there are still plenty of things that I am working on and anticipate that it will take some time, I feel that I have at last emerged from my gloom, feeling strong and fit (aside from the hay –induced perma-snot) and ready to ride in the sunshine. I’ve sussed out some great new rides and run routes down here and with the sun shining there certainly is happiness in the hedgerows of Somerset.

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