Friday, 12 November 2010
Firstly, a bit of background. Due to my working in the 'burbs, and OH being a city boy, we always get stuff delivered to my office as it's easier for me to wrestle items into my boot than have OH man-handle them onto the train with him (the other commuters would not approve, you know how they are, if you even bring a slightly bigger bag than normal you get ostracised from the commuting fraternity).
The people in my office are used to me getting deliveries so no real worries there. 6ft mirror for our living room; the Mad Boy Boomer aka our new karaoke machine; 10ft rug and underlay; hosepipe; lawnmower (it was a challenge getting that in the boot I'll tell you, a nice man from the pizza place next door to the office had to leap over the wall and help me with that one); plus the countless CDs and DVDs and books and clothes and day-to-day what not. But these are all pretty normal items (if not a bit bulky). When the first boxes of organic beetroot juice started arriving on a regular basis, people's eyebrows were raised and without saying a word I could see them thinking 'that must really make your pee purple' - let alone ' that sounds absolutely vile'. And they would be right. OH drinks it every day and whilst it makes him look like Dracula, he swears by it.
Of course there is lots and lots of kit. Recent items would be those outersock things that go over his bike shoes to keep his little feet warm on winter cycle trips. And those things that are essentially leg warmers but for arms (to keep his little arms warm on winter cycle trips). And the GB onezee - much laughter as my boss tried to squeeze into it. And the 2nd onezee (in case he ruined the first one), and then the 3rd onezee (in case he got caught in a freak mud-based accident and ruined the second one). No one was really that bothered by the whole 'GB kit' by the time that arrived (along with the zip up top, polo shirt, splash top...you get the picture). Obviously cycling shorts themselves cause much hilarity, drawing comparisons with nappies and incontinence wear (although when they all saw the teeny tiny nature of the saddle on Wednesday, I think it became clear why OH stocks up on the aforementioned shorts). Thermal underwear, gloves, shoes, trainers, bike shoes, pedals, wheels, inner tubes, oil, Muck Off, that pink powdery stuff that goes in squash, Maxi Muscle (this makes me laugh every time), gel pouch things, elastic laces, GPS, heart rate monitor...you get the idea. But this really is just turning into a list so I am going to halt it there.
You think girls are addicted to internet shopping? Trying living with a triathlete.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
He is delighted. I parked it in the middle of the hallway tonight so he could see it as soon as he got home. In fact, he spied it sooner than that as he pressed his face to the glass in the front door to have a peek before I could even get there to answer the bell. Bobbing up and down on the front step like he needed the loo, he bounded past me as soon as there was a crack in the doorway: "she's here!" he shouted. The proud father indeed. Straight away he was making the weird YouTube bike hardcore trance music sounds - I'm sure these constantly play is his head when perving over his bikes but it's not often it gets vocalised (thank goodness). Still in his city-gent coat he pulls it gently out of the box, cooing and aarhing, stroking and caressing, with whispers of 'there she is', 'look at this beauty', 'feel the weight of that' etc etc etc. I'm sure you can imagine (or maybe not? I don't know if all boys are like this around new bikes.)
Maybe they are. Perhaps not quite to the extent that OH is - but certainly there was a frisson of excitement amoungst a few of the boys in the office today. I had lots of questions from them: actually now I think of it many were similar to the loving comments OH was making. What's the weight? Will he use it for training? What make is it? What's the cost? This was the most common question. Let's just say they were silenced when I told them the answer. I happen to agree that it's not right for that amount of money to be spent on a lump of carbon unless it happens to take the form of a whacking great diamond positioned on my engagement finger.
But back to this evening. The most important decision to be made? What to call her. The TT is a boy (he is called Pacman on the basis that he gobbles up the competition like - you guessed it - Pacman). New bike obviously needs a girly name, with her more subtle black with white finish and only the occasional flirtation with a red flourish. I hope I'm not holding you in suspense about the name. We haven't decided one yet so I can't put you out of your misery. All I can say is that I hope OH isn't expecting that she will have her own room. We are going to run out of spare bedrooms. I'm also worried about the fact that I am now referring to this item, which will inevitably move me down the rankings in OH's affections, as a 'her'. It's ridiculous. Although I would be quite happy if Pacman and Lady Bike mated and produced mini-bikes which took the form of the latest models. That would save us a fortune.
As we acquire more and more of the dual-wheeled mobiles, I am surprised to find that I am actually learning more about them than I thought. I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad about this realisation. Take the quiz OH sprung on me tonight as he was dancing around with Lady Bike in his arms in a way which would make Anton du Beke and Anne Widdy proud. It's called 'what is the make' quiz:
OH: Who is the frame by?
Me: This is easy, it's written all over it - Cervelo
OH: And who makes the groupset?
Me: (Yes, I do know what a groupset is). Sram?
OH: No - guess again
Me: I think there is only one other main one - so it has to be Shimano. And something to do with Ace? Dura Ace.
Me: 3T Brezza? (I know this is wrong because these are now illegal for racing, but it's a test)
OH: (Repeats what I am thinking in brackets above)
Me: Well they must be 3T - that's what they've got written on them
OH: I'm so proud of you!
Me: (Probably even more so than on my graduation day? The day I got my first job? The day I went on stage dressed as a whore? That's a whole other story and not as bad as it sounds: think University Am Dram)
But it's made OH very, very happy. And a happy OH means a happy me. Using the situation to my best advantage I have decided not to bother cooking proper tea (we're having pizza when the Sainsbury's man delivers it in about 3 minutes). Normally he would have been whining about how he's a growing man and needs a full on dinner. But tonight, in his deliriously heightened state of New Love, he doesn't give a frik. And so I'm free to watch rubbish tele and do some online shopping when typically I would have been slaving over a hot oven. Rock on.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Part of the trouble is that OH has been on his yearly "time off". My mother wonders why he can't plan this time off over Christmas so he doesn't need to train on Boxing Day. OH would rather reschedule Christmas. So my muse has done a runner, for once not literally, and I've been left pretty stumped by what to discuss. Maybe I should just use this forum to air my general views and concerns on art, literature, politics? Not a chance! I don't really have intellectual or newsworthy views on art ("do you think we should get some personalised baubles for our tree this Christmas?"); literature ("I wonder why Gary Barlow is not on Twitter?") and politics ("Florence Endellion sleeps in a cardboard box - how sweet"). If I used this space to discuss my deepest, darkest thoughts you might well have me wheeled off to the funny farm.
This is not so say OH has not been busy. Quite the contrary. He likes to try and squeeze all of his drunken and debaucherous (well, as debaucherous as coupled up thirty year olds get anyway) nights out into this time off. The self confessed ring leader, OH suddenly becomes the most persuasive port-drinking individual you have ever met. "Yes of course you want to frequent the local 80s club and dance like a loon until 2am", he can be heard saying. And imagine what the neighbours think? 3am arrivals home clad in sparkly wigs and massive heart shaped sunglasses - they've probably got (another) committee together with the main discussion point being how they can get rid of us. And what about the Walk of Shame we had to do on another occasion? Dinner and a few drinks with OSF and Fiancee turned into a late night Singstar session (the poor, poor people in the flat above) and impromptu sleepover as we realised there was no way for us to get home until the morning after. It's like he needs to squidge in a year's worth of drinking opportunities into these 6 weeks and to hell with the hangovers! Urgh, let's not think about that. Even alluding to the T word* is making me wretch a little.
We've been having a great time and I think that's why it's been so difficult to begin the transition back to Triathlon Life this last two weeks. It's like going back to school. You know you don't mind it once it gets going but that first week back is such a bummer. To make it worse the nights are dark and the mornings are dark and there seems to be so much less champagne hanging around than there used to be. However, this is where we are and I'm not complaining too much. Once we get back into it those hazy days of Spandau Ballet and involuntary drunken vomiting will be nothing but a fuzzy distant memory (for OH at least - I'm not planning on stopping).
And how to ease the 'new term' blues? OH has submersed himself in bike porn. He is convinced that he needs a new bike (I know, another one) and as he builds himself a fantasy machine on his favourite bike site I steal back control of Sky+ and watch back-to-back episodes of SATC for the fourth time. Every cloud and all that.
* Tequila (euuugghhhhhh)
Friday, 24 September 2010
By now you will know that we are back from Budapest and into the one month of 'no training' to let the body rest and re-cooperate before we get into the hard winter training ("winter miles summer smiles" is how we like to refer to it). OH has shown remarkable stamina so far in sticking to this mantra with only the small blips of one gym class and one cycle ride taking place in the last 4 days. With the consumption of 3 pints at lunchtime today he has shown me that he really is giving himself a break - and giving the people in his office a bit of a laugh I would think, judging from the state he arrived home in tonight.
But, yes, we're back. The World Champs event over. It was rather cool, actually. With OH performing better than we had anticipated - despite him taking his crappy road bike and youth-sized helmet instead of his fancy TT bike and super-duper helmet, he still managed a very creditable 37th out of 120 in his age category and a new PB of under 2 hours. So we were chuffed. And have learned lots of lessons (the first being to take the fancy TT bike and the super-duper helmet - in comparison to everyone else racing he looked like he had turned up with a BMX with a basket on the front).
Watching the races though - and in particular the Elite event with its TV cameras and helicopters and road closures and pre-race interviews in cushiony hotels - I started to think about how sports people now have their own celeb status. I don't think this is a bad thing necessarily (except for Wayne and the doormat Coleen - there's always one who ruins it for everyone else). At least these people are famous for achieving something rather than just for sitting in a house for a thousand weeks doing nothing but moaning, crying and eating. Now I'm not saying that OH has anywhere near any kind of celebrity status in any way shape or form at all, and not that he would ever even wish to be any kind of celebrity, but I do think that his achievement in qualifying for the event in Budapest is outside of the normal bump and grind of every day life: maybe OH has become my own little mini celeb? Sometimes I feel like a Manager as I print out boarding passes and arrange insurance and pack cases that's for sure.
Think about it. Entourage - tick. Me and the nearly-in-laws (otherwise known as OH's parents) trekked out to Buda to watch and support our little triathlete. On some occasions the entourage was literal. Somewhat foolishly we decided we wanted to get a sense of the city so didn't get a taxi from the airport to the hotel, but to get the local train service instead. We then thought it would be sensible to walk the remaining god knows how many miles to the hotel from the train station - all so that OH could get a first glimpse of the bike course. Normally I would not have minded this. But please bear in mind that we had all of our suitcases and that I was wearing my nice leather boots - which you can guess were not of the 'ideal to walk 3 miles in' variety. We also had the bike. This was not fun. Packed into into its carry case it actually took on the look and feel of a mini horse. It's huge. As I trudged the streets of Budapest dragging along the Shetland bike bag I tried to ignore the funny looks on the Hungarian faces who quite honestly seemed like they had already had enough of this annoying triathlon business disrupting their daily lives.
Then there's the diva-ness. Picture the scene. It's 2am, the morning before the race. We have to be up at 5am for the taxi. We are wide awake despite having been in bed since 9pm. OH has announced that his sore throat has flared up - admittedly he does have a recurring sore throat problem - my not so favourite incident being when the Doctor told me/him that it was the worst case he had ever seen and if OH's throat were to get any more closed over I should take him to A&E. But honestly, this throat condition only seems to come on in the lead up to a race so I was a bit sceptical that the throat really was sore. Was it more in his head? Had he decided that he didn't want to enter because he had only got a push-bike to race on? But being the ever so supportive girlfriend I am I talked to him soothingly until he dropped off and I was satisfied that he was deep in sleep (as opposed to dead) before finally allowing myself to drift off....for the 3 seconds sleep until the alarm went off.
And the screaming fans. Of course I am (in all seriousness) very proud of him, he thoroughly deserved the shouts of support from the GB fans. But above all this, he seemed more thrilled with the fact that a man with a camera on the back of a motorbike followed him running for about a mile - checking out his kit and trainers and running style it seems. And yes, OH did do the stupid 2 thumbs-up salute (dear god) although I was relieved to hear that he stopped short of doing a Usain Bolt. OH is searching YouTube for this footage as we speak.
And Facebook. And Twitter. This is the thing that gets me the most about OH and his celebrity jaunt. He point blank refuses to join either of these networking sites and yet always wants to know if I have updated my status to reflect his new achievements - and then sit back and wait for the adoration to roll in. But wait! Maybe I am being unduly harsh. He actually is pretty shy and wouldn't act like a spoilt celeb (in public anyway) so perhaps my comparison is unfair. Well. Having said that - let me think back to two days ago: just finished the first day back at work and OH waltzes through our front door. Apparently one of the girls in his office has googled him the day after the race and has told everyone in the office that he was racing and how he got on. People he has barely spoken to thus far have come up to him to pass on congratulations and engage in conversations. As he kisses me on the cheek on the way in, he announces: "I'm famous!"
I rest my case.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
It might be worth quickly discussing the general rules of etiquette that apply at our pool. Despite there being nothing written down, or no signage, people just seem to know the rules. Perhaps when new members sign their free time away on their gym contracts, the pool rules are subliminally passed onto them along with their membership cards and direct debit forms. It sounds a little bit like Fight Club, but here are the rules:
- in the non-lane swimming section, people should still form their own lanes. These are marked by their flip-flops or water bottles at either end of the pool
- never swim in anyone else's lane
- if you get the lane first, it is yours - do not move to accommodate anyone
- if someone does get in your imaginary lane, you are allowed to swim straight at them. They are going to move first. Ironically it's a game of Chicken
- if you happen to end up swimming directly next to someone, that is taken to be their consent to race you. It is imperative that you win these impromptu bouts
- standing around at the end of the pool smooching with your girl/boy friend is frowned upon - think 'no petting' a la the Eighties
- don't talk to anyone you don't know. Just keep your head down and get out of there as soon as possible
Is this the same for all swimming pools? I don't know. But re-reading this list, I am thinking it's no wonder I'm not that keen on swimming. And if it's like that in the non-serious swimming area, what must it be like in the "I'm here to train; I'm wearing Speedos" section?
Which leads me back round to my initial discussion point about the men swimmers who run the gauntlet of the fast lane. The normal rules don't apply. Whether you each go straight up and down, or swim in a mini rectangle is decided there and then; seemingly decided with no actual conversation taking place. It doesn't matter who was there first. It doesn't matter how many floats or other aqua-paraphernalia you bring with you. It's all about the creation of the pecking order. Once the king-pin bird has been decided, the others will make way for you and allow you to swim at your pace whilst they stop at each end to let you pass. The weaker birds (what are they even doing in the lane?) have to be prepared to take onslaughts from the poultry higher up in the pecking order than them. They may even be bullied into an early jacuzzi.
But how is the pecking order actually established? Like the chickens, there needs to be a bit of argy bargy early on to show true strength and colour. They swim a few lengths each in their best front crawl to see who is fastest (think qualification races in Formula 1). They try and out stare each other through their tinted goggles. Occasionally, there might be a of collision, a grab on the shoulder here, an accidental slap there. It's pretty much like the Next sale on Boxing Day. But like the chickens, once the pecking order is established, it works. Each man is permitted to swim and get on with whatever he needs to in peace.
Very infrequently, there are those people who put themselves in the fast lane when it would be clear to a blind man that they would be better suited to the children's pool. It is at this point that the lane rules go out of the window. I can think of one such incident. In question were a husband and wife tag team - probably off-peak joint members - who had baggsied the fast lane for themselves. They were spending more time gossiping than swimming. OH got in. Perhaps foolishly, it didn't occur to him that the rules might go out of the window with these infiltrators. He started to swim; fast and loud. They didn't move. In fact, they persisted with their slow backstroke ("backstroke! What a joke!" OH said, as he recounted the tale to me). The man ended up mashing into OH which basically was like a red rag to a bull. A full on shouting match ensured. Wifey tag-teamer ran down to the reception in her swimsuit (I know! Hilarious) to get the Manager. He came, calmed the situation down. OH was too enraged to finish the work out and so left. It's just what happens when the unwritten rules are broken. Needless to say, we've not seen the tag team again. I keep waiting for a letter to land on our hallway mat to say we're being sued for Swimming Pool Harrassment. Bring it on...
Friday, 13 August 2010
So I thought I ought to begin with some general housekeeping. Plans are progressing well vis-a-vis our sojourn to Budapest. My in-laws have signed up for the 5 day city break extravaganza: flights are booked; hotel is booked; specialist insurance has been taken out. OH decided that he didn't want to stay in the GB team hotel (did I mention that his nickname for himself is Lone Wolf?) - that would have involved talking and interacting with other people - God forbid. So we have booked a centrally located hotel which pleased me muchly - this is turning into more of a holiday-holiday (as opposed to a 'sports' holiday) than I thought it would. I have also booked tickets to the opera which will be just fabulous. Not 100% clear on what language it's going to be in and if they'll have that little LED screen thing scrolling across the top of the stage with translations either - but I guess that might well be in Hungarian anyway - in which case I'm as lost as I was before. Will just need to swot up on Wikipedia the night before to memorise the plot - then astound my in-laws with my very detailed operatic knowledge.
We've also been in the North (well, north of Birmingham) for another preparatory triathlon. I am now more convinced than ever that we should buy a caravanette to facilitate our attendance of triathlons. At the moment, OH is certain that he knows how to show a lady a good time by repeatedly booking us into the local Travelodge the night before a race. Really; we should have a loyalty card. And it's not that I actually have an issue with Travelodges per se, it's more that I don't really sleep that well in an alien bed and when coupled with the fact that it's normally a very early start on race day, I tend to be a bit grumpy (which is not what the finely tuned OH needs from his support car at such times). So I figure that if we get a caravanette it will be like a home from home. We can take our own duvet and cook our own carb-based meals and watch our own tele - brilliant. And hopefully we could park up in a place which wasn't next to the meeting place for a big and loud group of chavs (as per our last Travelodge experience). Or near a bunch of very vociferous ducks (from the time before).
OH not yet convinced on the caravanette front. I'm not sure where we would park it during the off season either - not overly sure the residents of our street would like it blocking up the roadway. Bear in mind that the last correspondence which popped through our letterbox from the street committee was asking us to "adopt our street" by keeping the areas outside of our houses clean and tidy (I know, don't ask, we don't even have time to keep our own garden tidy). Not sure the modern day Steptoe & Son style caravanette would be overly welcome. But. I will persist with my quest to get one (along with getting a cleaner and a gardener and a cook and me giving up work - and all of the other things OH rules out).
But. Onto the main event. I thought it might be mildy amusing to consider the area of drink and triathlon. I'm not talking the Um Bongo variety (although some very cool cocktails do make me mindful of UB). There are no two ways about it - OH is a total and utter lightweight. When in training, he won't pick up a drink which means that for about seven eighths of the year, OH is sober - and honestly, just a teensy little bit square. This is why it's all the more hilarious that on those rare occasions when he does go out for a few, he's anybody's after half a pint.
We had an example just this week. I had forgotten what it was like. In the BC Triathlon era, OH used to be a bit of a city-socialiser and would often go out for 'just one drink' after work and then stumble home 7 hours later thoroughly pickled. In those days I was less tolerant. Many a night did I laugh to myself as I locked the bedroom door and left the sleeping bag in the hallway. Let's just say the poor dog had become homeless with the amount of time that OH spent in its kennel. But ironically, triathlon has been my saviour in this respect, and the nights that OH goes out for drinkies are now few and far between.
I knew that this week OH's night out would develop into a large one. As I packed him off to work in the morning, he was still blissfully unaware of what was going to happen. Be home by midnight! he shouted as he ran out of the front door. I knew that this was never a realistic assessment. He was meeting his oldest school friend (OSF) for some mano-a-mano time and they are just bad influences on each other. It was inevitable that it was going to get messy. OSF has just recently got engaged and so these drinks were celebratory as well as to partake in their usual debates of art v science (OH being a physics graduate; OSF, English).
Sure enough, at 10, I got a text. OSF had asked OH to be his best man! Fabulous news! Although by the time OSF asked the question, OH had already imbibed a pint and a half and so was pretty wasted (honestly). The panic he felt at having to do a speech infront of a congregation of wedding goers made him drink more. And more. A call at ten thirty confirmed he was totally and utterly sozzled. Giggle giggle, we are going for curry now, giggle, giggle. Won't be long after that, he assured me.
So when I wake up at 2am the next morning with the big OH shaped hole still in the bed next to me, I start to panic. I always assume that he's in a ditch somewhere. My heart is going like a pair of bongos. I text him. Finally I get a reply: "fell asleep on train. Successfully avoided casino temptation in [town near where we live] - in taxi now". Joy. Falling asleep on the train is one of OH's best skills. I remember him calling me on another occasion asking me to drive to pick him up from Didcot Parkway at 3am in the morning. You can imagine what response he got (it was no, in case you thought I would actually go and get him).
So he was homeward bound. I was more concerned with the fact that he had considered going to a casino on his own. What a loser. The next morning he looked hideous. As I got the peas out of the freezer so as to try and reduce the swelling around his eyes (caused from lack of sleep, not me hitting him when he got home) he muttered he was getting too old for all this. Me too, I thought.
Monday, 5 July 2010
Anyway, the point of this post and where this is all leading, is that OH wanted to buy me a GB fleece that would match with his. I immediately and in no uncertain terms said no - there was no way I would wear something that I had not totally and 100% earned for myself (and also any one who knows me would fall about laughing if they saw me wearing it - the irony would be too great). He couldn't understand it. He seemed convinced that I deserved it. I ran it past my mother who agreed. Despite all the training and sweat and commitment OH shows, they both seemed to think that I deserved some of the praise and consequent sporting merchandise for sitting at home on my backside and being 'supportive'. Well, no, I'm underselling my supportiveness a little here: think back to the early morning starts at the lake and sitting in random pub car parks waiting for him to run up hills. But even so. I've hardly been cycling alongside him handing out water bottles a la Tour.
But it got me thinking about what role the other half of the OH (ie. me) plays in all of this triathlon business. OH's new nickname for me is Support Car. Which is quite cute assuming that he doesn't think I look like an actual car (unless it was a nice Carrera or something, they are quite sexy). I presume not. I guess it's just being that person who he can turn to for help in all matters triathlon. On race day I am: box carrier (this is the place where he keeps all the kit); list checker off-er (wetsuit - check, goggles - check, bike - check, you get the idea); time keeper ('honestly, the race is going to begin in 5 minutes, please start to get your wetsuit on now'); moral supporter; car driver; shouter of instructions during the race (think Capello pitch side); photo taker; spy and susser out of the competition; sustenance provider and general all round encourager. Wow. The list is seemingly endless.
And what about before race day? That's another kettle of fish. Probably the biggest thing I actually do to assist in these times is to let him get on with it. In reponse to the amount of time OH spends training we have devised a way to manage our lives. Wait for it. I am Home Secretary, leader of the Home Office and director general for all inward-facing home-related activities. I do the cleaning and the shopping and make all creative DIY decisions. OH is Foreign Secretary, and he looks after all outward facing tasks. Lawn mowing, sorting out the house insurance, speaking to the neighbours - these all fall under his umbrella. Which is handy seeing as they are all the jobs that I hate. And whilst they are the nastier tasks, they are also the ones which take less time and are more infrequent, meaning that he has plenty of time to fit in his training. I'm not saying that this approach would work for everyone, but it does for us and I'm sure OH would agree that this is my most worthy contribution to his sporting success.
Other than that there's the usual day-to-day 'support car' tasks:
- advising on triathlon kit and co-ordination of bike to clothes
- filming OH swimming at our local gym so we can watch it back later and analyse (that was actually quite embarrassing)
- providing feedback as OH attempts to re-create the best swim stroke whilst lying on our lounge foot stool
- going with him as he susses out the bike courses for never done before races
- do you know, this list is going to get longer than all of the other posts put together so I may stop here, but you get the idea.
So when you put it quantitatively like this, I do do a lot! Maybe I should get that fleece after all. And the lady one-zee. And the shirt. And the tracksuit bottoms. And the swimsuit. Or maybe I just get an official looking T-shirt printed up with Support Car in big letters across the back.
Oh, and before I forget, we found out last week that OH has also qualified for the full distance triathlon race at the Worlds - I am very proud...
Monday, 28 June 2010
Actually, we didn't think OH had done that well at this particular race. This is the one just after his accident where I imagined him cycling the whole course standing up (like me in a Spinning class) so he wasn't really in tiptop form. He also had a bit of a mare with the swim - he was the only athelete in the whole race who chose to stand in the shallow water to get his wetsuit off instead of starting to run into the transition area and using that time to get undressed. He has never been much good at multi-tasking. I would normally have shouted at him to get a move on - but honestly, I was surrounded by other spectators and really didn't want them to know I was with the guy who couldn't run and unzip. All that transition training gone to waste. However. You live and learn.
The other interesting result to come out of this race is that it transpires that OH doesn't really like swimming in close proximity to other people. It seems therefore quite strange to me that triathlon is his chosen sport. Admittedly I can't imagine that I would be too keen on being swum over and across by strangers and having them pull at my ankles and grab at my shoulders either but then I probably wouldn't take up an activity where one third of that activity is something that I hated. Maybe I should encourage him to take up bowls.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
I assume all triathletes practice the transitions (don't they?) as it seems like a fairly easy area to make up some time. Certainly OH takes it rather seriously. His past experience shows that a few seconds can be the difference between the podium and the rather crappy plastic medal that all the entrants get awarded. So. We set up a practice transition area in our garden. I honestly don't know what the neighbours make of us - I suspect they are waiting for the right time to have us sectioned. (Having said that, maybe they prefer this more silent activity to our more vocal late night karaoke sessions).
The bike is propped up against the wall, shoes and helmet carefully arranged in their pre-ordained positions, towel on the ground to remove any stray pebbles between the toes. I have the stop watch at the ready. I can imagine that you believe this up to now, based on the histories I have shared with you thus far. But will he really get his wet suit on just to practice a transition? Surely not. But yes, he does. In fact, he gets it on and off three times just to make sure. And believe me this is no mean feat - it normally takes him a good 15 minutes just to get it on. He even found an instructional video on YouTube for me to watch so that I knew how to zip him up properly. Truly. This is a very serious business.
So the giant rubber man (complete with frog-eyed goggles and swimming hat) stands hands on hips in the middle of the lawn. A short sighted nosy neighbour might think that some kind of fetishist superhero had popped round. But all the potential embarrassment is worth it because I then get the hose and soak him. We are simulating the real-life situation of having just evacuated the lake. I know. It's hilarious. The Oxford graduate is reduced to standing statue-still whilst his rather gleeful girlfriend has complete license to drown him with icy cold water. I especially like the bit when he holds the front of the wetsuit open and gets me to direct the nozzle down his neck and onto his bare chest. One of my favourite triathlon moments, actually. As my deep belly laughter drowns out his screams I think that all the early mornings are worth it just for this.
Monday, 7 June 2010
Actually, I had a funny feeling that something was wrong. I'd been down to the local DIY store, sussing out paint tester pots for our hall stairs and landing (the next DIY projet) when I realised that OH had been gone ages, way longer than he should have been. I even got my phone out of my handbag and set it on the table beside me, so that I wouldn't miss it when he called. Sure enough, he did. Please could I come and collect him from under the motorway bridge? Why, I ask, almost afraid to do so. I've come off my bike, he says. My stomach drops away from itself. What the hell do you mean? I yell, not meaning to sound angry and yet finding myself annoyed that he is not telling me quickly enough what has happened. He sounds drowsy, a bit slow to respond to my questions. This makes me feel worse.
But he is talking at least, I reassure myself. I'll be there in one minute, I shout, wishing that were actually true - that the approximate 6 minutes it will take me to get there would shrink into mini-minutes. As I'm driving to get him, the same thoughts are going round and round in my head. What's happened? Has he broken anything? Will we be going to the hospital? I get irrational road rage at the biddy in the car in front of me who is driving too slowly - admittedly she was driving at the speed limit - but today this is too slow for me. Suddenly though I see the ambulance too soon, his bike propped up against a post, OH not to be seen. I park up, and creep up to the ambulance. They open the door and let me in and I can see him - he's ok, he's ok, thank god.
Well, I say that, but considering he only has what he is calling "flesh wounds", he's in a pretty poor state. His eyes are blackened and red raw, all of his bony extremities are covered in bright red open grazes. His cycling top has been scratched open, revealing bloody cuts and the largest area of road rash I have ever seen. The purpling bruises on his butt cheeks are already coming out - he looks like he has gone six rounds with Rocky - but thankfully this is about the extent of it. No broken bones, and as yet anyway, no more sinister injuries. So I suppose we need to consider ourselves lucky.
But how did this happen? Some shirt-less divvy pulling out onto an island (when OH had the right of way) and then, instead of going, he stopped directly in OH's path. So either OH could have driven into the car, or did what he did, which was brake hard and go head first over his handlebars. I cannot believe what a big advocate I am now of the cycling helmet. The one he was wearing is totally mashed - it would however have been a different story had he not been wearing it. If (by some miracle) I ever get on a bike, I will wear one no matter what the after effects on my hair.
Perhaps more scarily though is the fact that the paramedic man couldn't believe that OH had never been involved in a cycling accident before now (well, he did need paramaedic treatment once before - but that was from a crazy man who got out of his car and punched OH in the face because he must have gotten in his lane at the island - but that's another story). It makes me terrified of what could happen to him. You just can't control what everyone else does and that's the worrying bit.
I begged him afterwards to only cycle on a track and to stop going on the roads when he's in training. Of course he won't. There's a race this weekend and no amount of girl-crying, emotional blackmail or pleading will stop him competing. He's already been back out on the bike to 'make sure it's ok' - you can imagine that more of his concern was for the TT bike than for himself - but it's now had a thorough pit stop and you'll be pleased to know it's fine. What a relief. If only I could say the same about OH. I don't know how he's going to finish the race this Sunday with his bruises - he'll have to do all of the cycling standing up.
Monday, 24 May 2010
So, as I was saying, I am quite quite hideous in the mornings. OH barely gets a grunt from me as he leaves to catch the early train to work in the week. God forbid that he gets up even earlier for a pre-work run or swim. I have alluded previously to the shrieks of "you're a mentalist" and "if you don't be quiet I'm leaving you" which have been known to escape my lips. They only hint at what a joy I am to be around before the more earthly hour of 9am (I have to be better by the time I get to work, they would sack me otherwise). But, despite all of this, I almost-happily lever myself out of dream land and throw on a hoodie and tracksuit bottoms at this Sunday crazy o'clock in the triathlon season. Why? I hear you ask. Because actually it's rather cool at the lake. I'm always overjoyed that the place is already packed by the time we get there at just gone 7. It's a reminder that there are other loons out there. It appeals to the side of me which is comforted by the fact that some places open 24-7 (this might explain why I quite like the thought of working in a prison, or a hotel on more sane days, don't ask).
There's a shack open which pumps out the tunes whilst serving up bacon butties. The people are very friendly too - you have to hand it to the triathletes for that. This week, after a rather hardcore nose-blowing-hay-fever-induced session I got a nosebleed and some nice triathlon boy asked me if I was ok. Bless. We don't know anyone else there - we're both pretty shy - but this week not only did nosebleed man talk to me, but another guy asked OH about the flex in the shoulder area of his wetsuit. We were very proud. We must look more approachable than I thought we did.
The drill is the same everytime we go. OH jumps in, swims 3 laps, and I time him. As soon as he leaves the first buoy, I head off to the shack for my first cup of tea of the day (it is surprisingly good), back in time to press the 'lap' button on the stop watch as he completes the first circuit. Simples. I must have gotten rusty in the year just gone by though. My timing of the first lap was a little awry - I was not so looking forward to telling OH that he had gotten 3 minutes slower over the course of the last year. However, it transpires that OH had started swimming and then turned back and started again. Of course I was off like a shot to get my tea so completely missed that U-turn. He's actually faster than last year. Thank goodness.
We have a couple of days off work this week for the wedding of some good friends of ours. Guess what we are doing on Thursday morning before we head off to the church rehearsal? Can't wait.
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
I had decided that I wanted to go to France. Having only ever skied there and not really having experienced the France of Peter Mayle fame, I thought it would be fabulous for us to have a few cheeky little days away: long walks through the lavender fields; lazy brunches in a quaint village where we would charm the locals with our amazing linguistic skills; sunny afternoons in the vineyards quaffing the Chateauneuf du pape - you get the picture. So OH had quite a lot to live up to with my expectations being so high. So high in fact, that I decided I would book everything myself. The irony of the 'surprise' element of this birthday trip makes me laugh every time.
You may wonder what on earth this all has to do with triathlon. I am getting there, honestly. You may even already see where this one is going.
Despite my quite specific daydreams of what I wanted from this trip, I had not decided exactly where I wanted to go. Suddenly OH became quite interested - piping up now and again with his suggestions of where to go. What about Provence, he said? (I'm not sure why this hadn't occurred to me weeks ago bearing in mind my Mayle visualisations - I had been looking at Cannes). I did a quick bit of surfing, found a few gorgeous chateaux, and yes! We were going to go to Provence! It was like doing a deal with the devil. Once I had signed on that imaginary dotted line I had given the green light for OH to cycle Ventoux.
Ventoux, notorious for its gruelling gradient, is one of the most famous stages of the Tour. OH assures me it is like a mecca for cyclists. It would be like me spending the day shoe shopping with Carrie Bradshaw, he tells me, as if to try and convince me that to not let him cycle it would be a crime against humanity. How can he not at least attempt it if we are going to be staying only a few kilometres away? His puppy dog eyes widen. But don't worry - I am a hardened negotiator in these situations. OH and I have been away on way too many holidays together for me not to have guessed there was some triathlon-related intention behind his willingness to suggest a location for our trip.
So. The deal is this. OH can cycle Ventoux if we get to stay for an extra day (I had only been planning a 3 day trip). And we have to stay in a luxury chateau. And he really ought to get me a small birthday present for me to open on the day, alongside his funding this trip. He will get to cycle, I will get to chill by the pool with a book. With the thoughts of Ventoux-shaped glory in his eyes, OH readily agreed. In fact, he called me today to say that he has officially purchased the 'small, on-the-day present'. Result. I have tangoed with the devil and I think come out with a pretty good deal.
And to be fair to him, he has delivered. Our hotel looks beautiful - lavender fields abound with french wine and cheese featuring prominently on the dinner menu. We have a turret room (if only I had long hair for a Rapunzel re-enactment). I am very, very excited and cannot wait to go. Even with the Ventoux blip.
Of course, depending on when you are reading this, you will know that at the moment we're not going anywhere. Volcanic ash courtesy of Iceland is keeping all planes grounded in the UK. I will be so disappointed if we don't get to go. But OH probably even more so - his new nemesis, for the moment at least, just out of his grasp.
Sunday, 4 April 2010
It therefore caused me much consternation when I came to and realised that I had been dreaming about triathlon and was experiencing the same feelings I have with the exam/nightclub scenarios. Don't worry, I tell myself, you've already done the exams and passed. And you're now too old to be going to nightclubs so there is no need to get worried about inappropriately skimpy outfits. So what do I need to say to reassure myself that this dream is not real? It's not even me who features! Stupid me. I glance to the other side of the bed to see him intently reading his Tri magazines and I know I don't need to worry.
But back to the dream itself. As I said, it's not me in the race (thank god, although OH got very excited when I told him as he thinks that I am now receiving subliminal messages to enter a race for myself), but OH. I am anxious that for once he has not properly prepared for the race that he was now running in. To be fair, it was a slightly weird course - one lap of cycling, followed by two laps of rowing and then running, and then three laps of running. I was convinced that OH had simply forgotten to complete the second lap of the rowing/running section. I found myself in my running gear then, jogging alongside OH (yeah, right, quite literally in my dreams) shouting words of encouragement. Oh, and then yelling at him when he took a wrong turn off the course. Having then bumped into some 'competitively supportive' Kiwis on a tube which took you to the end of the course, I forced myself to wake up. I was not enjoying myself. I don't know what's worse - that I'm dreaming about triathlon or the fact that I am now worrying about OH's performance which is not even in my control. Aaargh.
So since the last post, we have had a very exciting time of buying the accessories for the new TT bike (I use the term 'we' here very loosely, you understand. 'Exciting' is also perhaps not the most truthful word). Firstly, it was this very odd looking water bottle thing which I have now learned fits neatly between the handlebars. Apparently putting it here is better than having it in the normal place on the cross bar in the middle of the bike. I appreciate that I am showing my ignorance here by not knowing the correct names for all these parts. However. The water bottle reminds me of something from Lawrence of Arabia, an animal skinned pouch slung onto a camel's back as vast trips are made across the desert. It has a big straw coming out of it. The only time I have dealt with a straw similar in length is at my friend's SATC party - we used them to slug our cosmos without even having to get up from the sofa.
Yesterday we took a 50 mile round trip to pick up the helmet. Please don't laugh. Think Bradley and Sir Chris at the Olympics. Yes, I am talking about the pointy pear drop helmet. I'm told it's going to save OH 30 seconds in a race. Well, that makes it worth the money, I think to myself. My only consolation is that it's black and white and will therefore go quite well with the rest of his outfit. It even comes with its own little hard-shelled suitcase. And because it is TT equipment, it also gets to live in the house with us. Yippee. You can only imagine how secretly thrilled I was this afternoon when OH announced that he now thinks he has all the kit he needs to complete a race. I mean, I'm sure it would have been a physical impossibility to even contemplate entering a race with an old-school water bottle. It will definitely make all the difference.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Today, Other Half has decided that he needs to step up his running training; ’up’ being fairly operative here. About ten minutes ago, I dropped him off, GPS in hand, at the bottom of a pretty substantial hill slap bang in the midst of the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside. Last night I was briefed with instructions on where I was to drive to and pick him up. Straight up, up a bit more, over the T-junction, a bit more up, a sharp right, up and up some more and I’ll meet you at the junction at the top of the hill, he says. My palms had started to sweat with all the upping.
I have dutifully followed these directions (at least I hope I have – otherwise we could be in trouble seeing as OH does not have his phone with him) and so find myself parked up for fifty minutes whilst only imagining what terror is going on beneath me. It is a shocker of a hill. And not short either. At some points even my car was struggling to make it, juddering in second as we laboured ever on upwards. To make matters worse, it is raining; that annoying kind of rain which from indoors doesn’t look particularly wet – but when you get out into it you feel foolish for ever thinking that...because of course the rain is wet. My poor drowned rat.
But, trying to be ever so “supportive”, I have only done minimal moaning about this latest escapade. I think my tolerance and assessment levels of what is weird (in comparison to other couples) is getting lower and lower. I’m actually pretty happy sat in my steamed up car – I do however wonder what the people arriving at the car park to drop off last night’s empties at the row of bottle banks in front of me are thinking though... I’m quite enjoying the chance to sit and watch and think about what to write. At least sat up here there is no way I can feel bad about not doing the hoovering back at the ranch.
I’m sure you are also hanging on to know about the bike. OH is like a new man. He keeps disappearing and I’ll only notice that he’s gone twenty minutes later and find him in the spare room (I know, I know) looking at it or fiddling with it or talking to it or something. I think it was worth the money just for the amount of pleasure he has had from sitting on it and marvelling at the aero position he can now assume (I had to take photos for him to assess this of course).
It’s not been all fun and games for me, mind you. The day he picked it up we were having friends over for dinner (friends which OH knows much better than I do). Inevitably, it took him so long to have it fitted and do whatever it is they do with new bikes in bike shops that he didn’t get home until ninety minutes after the guests had all arrived. By that time I was the best part of a bottle of white down and in no fit state to serve the lamb casserole and pavlova I had lovingly spent the day preparing. OH didn’t seem to notice – so happy regaling the story of when he picked up the new bike, already an anecdote of legend – basically consisting of: them applauding him as he arrived (seriously, give me a break) followed by photos of OH by the bike/on the bike which were promptly posted by the bike shop owner on Twitter. OH is famous. And yes, he did do that annoying two handed wave which I know he now regrets. I will need to do some work with him on his PR skills.
Friday, 26 February 2010
Tomorrow is the day he picks up his new time trial bike.
I think he ordered it about 3 months ago. We've had ups and downs, joyous moments and times of despair whilst waiting for it to be ready. When he got the call to say that the handlebars he wanted (3T Brezza?) were "not UCI legal" (I thought this was a chain of cinemas) and so was advised against getting them - we had a brief period of mourning. But happy days! We are now getting the Bontregar XXX Lite which apparently are equally as smashing. In fact they probably work out better seeing as they are white and will go quite beautifully with the rest of the bike (and Other Half's tri onesie - making sure his outfit is coordinated is my domain).
Now, we have been hovering around the question of where the bike is going to live for a few weeks. Please bear in mind that when looking for our current house (having viewed 43 different houses, this was quite a mission), we had to get one with a garage so that Other Half could have a training area. This made our search quite hard given the area that we wanted to live in. Everyone got so annoyed with us they pretty much had written to Kirsty and Phil. But eventually, we found a house that we both loved and which had the requisite garaging area. The days of the Concept II and the (now 2nd in the food chain) bike living in the living room with us were over! Or so I thought.
Other Half seems to think that this bike is going to live in the house with us. Inside the house! Where? I ask him. In the spare room, he says. What if we have people staying in the spare room, I ask. How often do we use that spare room? he says. He has a point. But, as it happens, we do have visitors in there tomorrow night and so how is this going to work? Other Half jokes that the bike will get the bed and the visitor the floor. Hmm. We shall see.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
I suppose it is partially my fault as I had encouraged him to enter this particular race (having discussed for about 3 weeks the pros and cons of each possible race) as I just wanted to get the dates in the diary so that I could start to plan our social life. I have been punished for my haste.
Having said all of the above, I do have to give some credit to Other Half for really trying to keep his obsession in check. He knows that it could so easily get out of control. Despite his (self-inflicted) punishing training schedule (I am thinking back to 6am this morning when he got up to go swimming before work - with me shouting at him that he was a mentalist and to get back to bed as it was still the middle of the night) we still maintain a pretty good social existence. We still go out for drinking sessions with our friends and have late night 'Buzz' and karaoke nights regularly enough. It could all be so much worse...
Other Half used to be a rower (as sooooo many of these triathletes were). From schoolboy to college (and occasionally university) rowing, it was one of his hobbies that got out of control. He became gaunt (trying to stay at 11 stone with a zillion outings a week for a 6ft 2inch guy is not easy). He was busy and pre-occupied with thoughts of making the squad and trying to get better. At some points we didn't see each other for 6 weeks at a time because of weekend training sessions (and this was pretty hard for a loved up 20 something year old like me). He got so caught up in the world of rowing that I became a bit peripheral for a while. That's not to say that there weren't also amazing times - spending my entire term's student loan on a trip to Barbados springs to mind as one of those... But it was pretty tough there for a while.
But, what can you do when you're a girl in love? There was more I liked about Other Half than didn't like, so there it was. I was so happy at Graduation time - thinking that never again would I have to endure such a set up. But no! I obviously didn't know Other Half very well. He took up coaching - the Ladies 1st XIII at his old college. He might as well have been rowing again it took up so much of his time. Early morning weekend outings meant no late night drinking binges for us (together, at least). Again it got the better of him.
So, having experienced the obsessive 'need to do everything to his absolute best, fight to the death' side of Other Half's personality, I do now appreciate that he is really trying to rein in this triathlon thing. He knows how not fun it is for me when he lets a hobby take over his life. Despite his OCD urges, he takes every Friday off, and for the most part, fits in his training sessions around our plans. I think he is finally achieving a balance between sport and work and me. He knows that it's me who comes to pick him up from the middle of nowhere when he gets stuck with a puncture.
Sunday, 31 January 2010
But we go nonetheless and Other Half loves it. As do I. It's the one physical activity where we're both at a comparable level. Well, pretty much. Technically I suppose you would say that Other Half is better than me - as he's skiing along you can practically hear the cogs turning as he makes sure that each turn is precise and is executed exactly as it should be. I have a more random approach which basically comprises getting down the slope as fast as I can not really worrying about what I look like. This means I attack the moguls with much more gusto than Other Half - I'm waiting for him at the bottom as he thinks about the puzzle of how to get down them in the most intellectual way. I just go for it. He's better at the red slopes. I panic about the ice. He just skates over it. But it works for us and for one week a year, in the physical/exercise sense, we are the same.
This year's trip was not without injury however. I always feel blase (I can't locate the accent to put over the 'e' here - please excuse me) and full of confidence on the first day and like to ski off and over stuff when I can. Ditto for Other Half. Unfortunately, he didn't notice the 5 foot drop from the edge of the piste (which I avoided) and whilst landing with the thump of a twelve stone man, managed to mash his thumb right into the ground rendering it pretty much redundant for the rest of the holiday. 'Thumbgate' is now much better thank you, but I knew straight away what he was thinking. Is this permanent damage? (As he kept comparing the swollen size of it to that of the other, more normal sized left hand thumb). Will I ever be able to undertake a fast transition again? Will I be able to hold onto my handle bars properly? Will this affect my swimming technique?
When he gets an injury it always makes me remember how much this triathlon stuff means to him. It makes me not feel such annoyance at my weekends being written off because of the training sessions (not that actually I mind this too much - it means I can get through loads of episodes of my new favourite vice in peace - SATC) as I can see how totally gutted he would feel if all of his hard work were to be wasted. If something which was out of his control impacted on how he were to perform. And so we go on.
Today's task is to decide which events to enter for the new season. There is so much to consider: the date of the event; if this is a Saturday or Sunday; can we get up there beforehand to suss out the cycle course (of course I say yes at this as it's a cheeky chance of a nice weekend away); what are the gaps between each event.... it goes on and on. Our study has turned into a military planning room. There are print outs of the courses and google earth open and triathlon-planning paraphenalia everywhere. I just leave him to his spreadsheets of results and times and cross references and go and make him a cup of tea. Behind every strong triathlete, there is an even stronger triathlete widow.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Putting yourself out there on any level requires a degree of balls. I am nervous sitting here typing this (even though I know no one will read it) because you think what if? So that is the first link to the pretty random title of this blog (well, probably only random if you don't know me) - I have a lot of respect for my traithlon loving Other Half because he totally and utterly puts himself out there every time he does a race. I could not (would not?) do it on many levels. Firstly and obviously: physically - I'm a bit of a wuss. I struggled with a 5k race for life about 3 years ago and could not contemplate running to catch a bus now, let alone running 10k 'just because'. I also don't really fancy the idea of getting some water bourne bacteria lodged in any of my orifices when swimming in some outdoors pond. And I gave up Spinning classes at the gym because I really felt like the seat was beginning to do me some damage (and wanting to have kids at some point, how could anyone object to me giving up these particular classes?)
So, more detail on the title of this blog. Many moons ago a certain rowing coach of my considerably younger Other Half called me the 'Rowing Widow'. I actually didn't believe this to be true until discussing it just yesterday with Other Half and university friends. To be fair, he had a point. Every night after school I would trudge down to the river, let myself into Other Half's car and wait and watch as he paddled up and down the river until 5.30 when we would pootle off home to do homework and chat on the phone and then begin it all again the next day.
When aforementioned university friends commented on the aptness of this label, and how funny (totally hilarious) it was that the title now fitted so neatly with Other Half's obsession with triathlon - it got me thinking about if I was the only one. Are there other Triathlon Widows out there? I assume it can't just be me who has to sit and look at "bike porn" on YouTube (the man who has filmed his brand new Cervelo P3 for 2 minutes to a back drop of Hard Core house is a particular favourite of ours). Am I the only one who finds it distressing that 'Muck Off' is pink but smells like very putrid lemons (Heston eat your heart out)? Is it just me who gets up at absurd o'clock on summer Saturday mornings to watch Other Half swim with stop-clock in hand making sure that he doesn't drown? (What I would actually do if he were to start drowning I do not know but I feel it's safer with me there nonetheless).
I'm guessing (praying?) it's not just me.