Mental Toughness.

The Sufferfest has some brilliant advice on mental toughness. It starts with a 3 point plan.

1 Taking the positive path.

2 Creating the excitement.

3 Fostering a strong will.

Taking the positive path is a mental decision. They give the example of a group bike ride, going up a hill, and you start to struggle. As soon as you think “I can’t keep up”, you are thinking you are going to drop off the pack, you think you’re not good enough, it was stupid to come out for the ride, you start beating yourself up and making it worse. That’s all before you’ve dropped off another inch.

Instead, as soon as the negative thought occurs, they say imagine a STOP! sign. Then picture two paths behind it. One leads to defeat and disappointment, the other leads to your ultimate goal, your Mount Sufferlandria. You have to STOP! the negative thought chain, choose the right path, then determine what the very first goal is past that STOP! sign on the path to Mt S, and don’t stop until you’ve achieved it.

Creating the excitement is about controlling stress. You think it’s your race in the morning and you aren’t ready, you can’t do it, it’s too much. Instead, STOP! and visualise yourself at the start line, pumped and ready to go. Review all the training you’ve done to get here, you are prepared. Do some deep breathing to calm yourself then picture yourself on the finish line, victorious. Turn worry and stress into positivity and excitement.

Fostering a strong will. Now this is where it all goes pear shaped. When you know what you want, and why you want it, nothing can stop you.

Why. You. Want. It.

My first thought is to say “I don’t know/ absolutely no idea” but that smacks of negativity.

So here we are.

Why do I want it?

Bolton (one of the hardest) Ironman

Lands End – John O’Groats

Sub 3 hour marathon.

First observation: those are all events that other people consider benchmarks. Is it a need for recognition and approval? Certainly not on any conscious level. The thought of it being that makes me despise myself just a little bit more.

I started all this fitness lark just to pass the army run test. Then found I quite enjoyed it. And thought I could do better next time. Then someone on twitter said about a half marathon and that was a massive challenge, did that and suddenly it wasn’t a big challenge, it was something even I could do, so 9 months later I did an Iron distance tri.

Perhaps it’s to do with me not being able to feel pride in my accomplishments, so always looking for the one big enough that I’ll be happy and proud of myself? Again, not consciously. I never expect to achieve that and I’m not sure it’s even possible for me, though I’m sure it would be nice.

I read a book in which people had 7 lives and then the bits of them that were interesting and unusual enough to distinguish them from the humdrum of the herd were kept alive in the virtual reality afterlife. That appeals on some level. A life less ordinary. I want my life to be a catalogue of extraordinary events.

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. It’s not other people’s recognition, or contentment and fulfillment I’m looking for, it’s just a narcissistic, vainglorious, futile attempt to give my life meaning.

Well, that wasn’t so hard.


Crack on.

Week 1

Goals (month):

Get to 10st 6lb.

Move 4DP profile to a harder setting.

Swimming: get floaty.

Goals (Week):

Lose 5lb – done.

Raise 4DP (hardness of turbo trainer on The Sufferfest) – too ambitious, not done.

Start swimming, 1 swim – done.

Reflect: Good week. I’ve never managed a diet before. I have serious issues about going swimming, so that was a major success. Due to me not being able to do an accurate 4DP fitness test with my trainer on the Sufferfest I can’t just try harder on the test and move my settings up a little bit, I have to use previously established results. The lowest one above where I am is a third tougher. I’ve been back training seriously for a fortnight, with a few weeks of commute riding before that. I’m just not able to raise my power by a third in one go, yet. I did manage to ride up Frodsham hill without going into the Ring of Shame today, so, progress.

Reward: My chippy tea last night. Guilt free.

Revise: Next week: lose 2lb, and do 2 swims.

Goal Setting.

The Sufferfest training plan I’m doing has a mental toughness course. It’s not (just) about enduring the pain without quitting, it’s (also) about focusing your mind on your goal, planning how you’re going to get there, and trying to instil habits that will keep you going when you lose interest, or find it too hard.

The Sufferfest is very good at what it does. The goal setting thing was “What are your goals?”

Bolton Ironman (IM)

Sub 3 hour marathon

Lose the weight I’ve put on since I stopped running

Land’s End- John O’ Groates pushbike ride? (LEJOG)

“Not good enough!Be specific!”

OK, 15 hour Bolton IM. Get to 10 stone. 2 hours 59 marathon. Still LEJOG.


OK, 13 hour IM Bolton. Still 10 stone. 2 hours 45 marathon (Berlin marathon qualifying time), LEJOG in 7 days.

Once they’ve got you a bit scared and panicked about the scale of the challenge they move on to whittling it down to your primary goal. Bolton IM. As they rightly say, the other goals can be stepping stones for your primary goal. Your personal Mount Sufferlandria.

Then, and here’s the science bit, instead of just leaving me to shove chocolate bars in my face and wait to get slim, they ask what you’re going to do to get there? What is your goal for this month? And to get to that, what is your goal for this week?

They had me so focused I put as my weekly goal for this week (I only had 3 days left when I did the module) to lose 5lb, (I’d already lost 2), to go for a swim, and to up the resistance on my turbo trainer.

I did a 2 hours 10 minutes session on the turbo on The Sufferfest today, and it’s just not feasible to up the power yet. My legs are in bits, I could barely hold on for the beasting sessions. Upping the power by a third is just too much for now. But that’s OK, it says to review, reflect and revise for the next week. I’ll see in the morning, but I’ve lost 4 pounds already. I had a chippy tea (we’re going into lockdown, no more chippy for a month or so) but I’m hoping the long session on the bike will have neutralised the calories.

The main thing though is the swim. I got swept up in the training plan and said I was going for a swim! I hate swimming. The first thing I did when I gave up on triathlon last time was to bin my trunks. Which felt great! It’s not the physical activity of swimming, I get a huge resistance to going, and a mild panic at the thought. I was trying to work out why, but I can’t. OK, I don’t want to meet people, but it’s not like a club where you have to interact with them. Odd.

Anyway, the night of great enthusiasm gave way to the cold dread of morning. I googled, and both Decathlon (for some new trunks) and the local baths were still open, even with the plague. I can’t catch a break. There is a new system for swimming, you have to book, and only so many people are allowed, and you have to wear your trunks under your civvies and take your kit off poolside and put it in a bucket. Whatever.

The point is, I booked a swim, got my trunks, and went! I’m still terrible, but I’ve broken my duck. I hadn’t swam in 15 months.

My month goal is to get floaty. I’ve been reading up (seeing as I just can’t get improver lessons) and have found a series of articles on how to get a great front crawl. The 6 principles are easy. The first 3 don’t even involve stroke technique. The biggest impediment to speed is the water drag. So first off you need your body to be flat on the surface (floaty), with your feet doing shallow kicks. Then pivot to the sides as you swim. Then reach out, making yourself as long and thin as you can get.

I want to master the form, that way there is hope I can actually improve. I’ve done 3 (or 4?) 2.4 miles swims and my times just don’t get better.

So, I’ve got in the pool. A huge first step. I’ve found a training plan to teach myself to swim properly. Annnnd….we’re going into lockdown and the swimming pools are being closed again. Obviously.

Next day…

Yay! I lost the pound, in spite of the chippy tea! So that’s two out of three of my objectives for this week smashed. This means I get the reward. Apparently if you set goals, and instead of just moving on to the next one, you pause and reward yourself, you reinforce the goal setting habit. For this week I’ll take yesterday’s chippy tea, guilt free, as my reward.

After that beasting on the Sufferfest yesterday (2 hours 10 minutes, but with 3x 11 minute torture blocks in it. 30 seconds above your sustainable power, then 2½ minutes slightly below it, 30 seconds, 2½ minutes. It sounds easy, but your legs are burning from the 30 seconds, then you have to recover at very nearly threshold, then do it again. 4 times per block)

Anyway, after that beasting, I had a 2½ hour outdoor ride on my training plan for today. Obviously I headed for Frodsham hill. I took mostly the road route (avoiding town) on the way there for extra hills. It was blowing a gale so Walton drag was really hard work. I kept pushing as much as I could. Then Frodsham hill itself. The Sufferfest has re-introduced me to the ‘joy’ of standing in the saddle for hill climbs. It seemed slightly easier this time, and although it hurt a lot I was able to stand for the tough bits. I was halfway up and I still hadn’t dropped down into the Ring of Shame (the tiny, low gear, front cog) so I decided my challenge would be to get to the top staying out of it. I just couldn’t have done it last time.

I got to the 16% section, stood up, doing about 5mph, in a world of pain, just focusing on not quitting for one more pedal. I must have been wearing my pain visibly because a random woman walking her sprog said “You can do it!” Which was actually quite welcome as it took me out of myself for a minute. I made it to the top, however slowly, without dropping into the Ring of Shame! Progress.

On the way back I was flying with the wind at my back.

I was only out for 2 hours, but I figured as I’d raised the bar on performance and pain endured, that was as good as 2½. I went to mark it off as completed on the Sufferfest, which meant I had to open up the page on the plan. “2½ hour ride, not exceeding 55- 70% of sustainable effort.”


I passed the man test (didn’t read the instructions) but failed epically on the purpose of the workout session. Ah well, lesson learned. Read. The. Damned. Instructions!

At least I’m spending my suspended time wisely.

The other thing is: I’ve stripped the donor engine down and have started rebuilding my engine. I’ve got the crank and, oil pump and gearbox fitted,

put the crankcases back together, fitted the cam chain, the starter motor gearing and the rotor. I have to clean a gasket off of one surface so I can apply a new one, then that’s the left hand side of the bottom end done.

To be honest, when you get it right stripped down, it’s not as overwhelmingly terrifying as you think. Of course, the proof of the pudding is if the damn thing runs when I’ve rebuilt it. Here’s hoping. I’m expecting to be sacked, so if I can get this one running I’ll use it as my wheels, then, (after a few months trial period) I can sell the other one to raise funds, if need be.

I’ve only just blogged so not much to report on Twitter, this is mainly me feeling good about the system and seeing results.

The Plague got a mention

As did Hallowe’en (from the faux Korean news agency)

And random



PS, You forget until it wastes you again, but all of the above shows that I’ve not had the plague weakness for two weeks. That in itself is great news. I’m feeling a bit weak now, but that’s possibly two hard days on the bike whilst cutting back on calories. And even if it is a mild bout, it’s not stopped me. So, hoorah!