An Athlete Blog – Ailbhe Carroll, Irish International Triathlete

More often than not, athlete’s blogs are left bare and unattended during the winter season.

‘Well, I’m not racing, so what will I write about?!’

There is so much more to an athlete than their races. An athlete is not a result or a series of results. An athlete is, believe or believe it not, just a normal human. They have lives. They have pets. They have families. They have other things outside of their chosen sport.

‘But why would I write about that? Nobody will care or relate to that. People only want to know about my results!’

Lets just take a step back and think about ourselves for a second. Who do you most relate to? Is it somebody you know absolutely nothing about or somebody who has opened up and talked about something you have gone through before, or something you have a passion about and could sit chatting endlessly about over a good coffee?

I reckon the latter.

I personally love reading peoples’ blogs. You often see a whole new side to a person you never even knew they had. That may be a funny side or a confident side or it might even change how you look at that person completely be it in a positive or negative light.

A blog can pull on heart strings, it can hit the funny bone or it can simply put factual information on the table for people to take home and put to good use. It can often spark the imagination in the reader and send them to a place they didn’t know existed. If you are open enough to reading things, then the mid-morning journeys are an endless opportunity. A then boom, the morning coffee break is over. Work resumes.

The most current and in topic article at the moment, from an athletics view point at least, is that of UK athletics middle distance runner, Bobby Clay. Bobby is based here at Loughborough and she came here with a rather decorated junior career. She has been struggling with injuries, namely stress fractures, over the last 18months and she wrote this beautifully written article in the latest edition of the very popular athletics magazine, Athletics Weekly.

http://www.athleticsweekly.com/performance/bobby-clay-my-osteoporosis-nightmare-70422

The link is here for all to read, and I can not advise this read enough. It has come from a phenomenal place of strength to share this and a selfless act to put this problem in the public eye to help and prevent it ever happening again. Chapeau Bobby. We wish you all the best in your recovery. Keep the faith.

So as we are fast approaching the deeper, darker side of winter, what else beckons on the horizon with some niggles and injuries? Illness. Winter seems to be that time of year where athletes feel they need to do more….niggles. They need to make every session even when they don’t feel 100%….injuries. And they need to push through every barrier they find to make sure that 60min prescribed run doesn’t finish at a god forsaken 45 mins because their chest feels tight or their nose feels blocked….sicknesses.

Ironically, I am writing this from my bed as I lay here nursing myself back to health. Over the last 2 years, 6 months and 3 weeks, I have found happiness and consistency in a very healthy body. During that time period, I managed to dodge illness by being absolutely meticulous about everything. In August this year, I did pick up a nasty vomiting bug from a race, but as that was something out of my control, I deemed it not worthy enough to end my streak of health. (Mind Games?!) And then, a week out from my last race of the year, I picked up a nice wee cough, but I was still able to train through and not make myself any worse…again, not worthy enough to end my streak or have a sick day from work.

This time however, wow – knocked down like a bowling pin, never to be played again. Zonked.

So here we go: Every month, girls, hopefully, go through a rather uncomfortable time where their bodies do their thing and regenerate as needed. Often during this time, the body can be a little on shut down, or susceptible to illnesses. Often, girls can struggle to leave their beds with pains never mind train, but sometimes, the body reacts in an obscure way and chucks out some of its best sessions for the month… how do you know what to do? Where do you draw the line?

For the last 2 years, in an effort to err on the side of caution, I have always taken it very easy during these days. I never wanted to put strain on my body that might push it over the edge into illness.

I have been training for 4 weeks now since the end of season break and I have been loving every moment of it. I have been seeing facts and stats that I didn’t see at all last season at any stage and I have loved this, as you would expect. But, then comes along the first girl stress of the month, and how does my mind react? Well, the answer is poorly. I know I should back off, but I also know I have a camp coming up soon that I am very excited about. I know my body is firing at the moment and I like that feeling – so I pushed through last week.

Tuesday – I nailed a swim session, and flew on a run session. That evening, felt a bit groggy.

Wednesday – woke up feeling a sore throat on its way. I rode as planned but never saw the front of the group – thinking, I still get the miles in but with little effort.

Thursday – woke up and knew I wasn’t right but had a fun testing swim set to do – I ploughed on through. Swam relatively ok for someone who couldn’t quite breathe through her nose before getting in and then all hell broke loose.

Straight after the swim my right eye was blood shot. That evening it had swollen. And by Friday morning, I knew enough was enough and I had well and truly picked up the nasty bug that is going around.

So where do you draw the line? How do you know when too much is too much?

How to race well? Train consistently. How to train well? Be clever consistently. How to be consistent? Listen to your body regularly and know the signs and symptoms.

If you have a little gremlin sitting on your shoulder, without even listening to what he has to say, its probably time to step back a little. Gremlins don’t every bring with them good news, so err on the side of caution during times of bodily stresses or even work/uni stresses and get the work done, but at a lower intensity. Box still ticked, just with a different colour paint brush. Peace of mind still achieved, progress still made.

Be consistent. Be clever. Be cautious. Best of all, be courageous. Know when to say no. Don’t chase the hare because he is running. There will many more hares to chase down when the time is right.

Stock up on things that we don’t get through natural causes in these winter months. Sunshine provides Vitamin D – if you can’t get away to the real thing, get a supplement. Have a stock of things ready to use if you feel something brewing. Clamp down on symptoms before they brew to full blown illnesses. Have your lemsips on the ready, and your first defence bottle ready to use.

But,

Before you do any of those things, make sure and check they are all on the permitted drugs list. Its all well and good stocking up and being prepared, but being prepared with the wrong stuff…not ideal!

On that note, happy winter training everyone!

Ailbhe