I am not a lover of rollercoasters. I’m so prone to travel sickness that most fairground rides leave me regretting I got on them in the first place. Some great exciting things happened this week. One really awful thing happened this week. I’m not quite over the disorientation yet, but I think it’s time to write about this week.
It was always going to be a tricky week in training terms, hence why I started my 18 week training plan 19 weeks before the event, and why this is the limbo week between 12 and 13. As the final week of my favourite sporting event – Wimbledon – the first week of July is always a bit of a low-productivity week work-wise (sorry boss if you’re reading this), so I treated myself by taking the whole week off. I’d been lucky enough to get Centre Court tickets for Monday 1st July, and planned to do some queue-camping to get onto Henman Hill/Murray Mound for the men’s semi-finals and final later in the week (the final happened to happily coincide with my birthday). In training terms the week was better than expected, as I managed three runs and a spin class.
Great exciting thing #1: As I made the train journey down to London a good friend of mine was coming to the end of a 100-mile ultra marathon in California: the Western States Endurance Run. Caroline McKay is a fantastic dedicated ultra-runner whom I met in 2009 when we both joined Edinburgh Triathletes. She soon decided that running was her thing, and since then has gone from strength to strength. She had trained so hard for this race – even having treadmill sessions in a heat box to simulate Californian temperatures – and had been an inspiration to me, helping me stretch my expectations of my own capabilities. Even so I was still anxious that the conditions might be too much: the forecast was for one of the hottest events on record, in addition to the mountains and canyons and the mind-boggling 100 mile distance! Plus she didn’t have any friends or family around to cheer her on (though she made plenty of friends, who supported her greatly), which mentally can’t have helped. With each checkpoint she reached I could view her progress online from the train (gotta love technology!), and got more excited and emotional as she neared the end whilst moving steadily up the rankings. I cried when she finished in 23 hours and 39 minutes, as 17th female (of 277 male and female finishers in total), resulting in some strange looks from my fellow passengers. I was simply overwhelmed with what she’d achieved. You can read about her race here: http://chaptersinrunning.blogspot.co.uk/
The awful thing: A few days later I was checking Facebook and saw that an Edinburgh Triathletes clubmate had posted about the tragic death of her friend. I didn’t realise the significance until I opened my emails and found out that our clubmate Andrew McMenigall had been killed in an accident on July 2nd whilst cycling the length of the UK, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. He and his colleague Toby Wallace had not long left Land’s End when they were hit from behind by a lorry and both killed. They had challenged themselves to cycle the 960 miles unsupported in a mere 7 days, to raise money for the Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust and It’s Good to Give, two charities with which they had very personal connections. (please contribute to these fundraising pages if you can)
Andrew has been described as ‘a giant of the club’, which is true in so many ways. Yes he was a big guy, but he also was big in terms of his generosity, his sense of humour, his friendly welcoming nature. I’m always asking for lifts to races or training weekends as I don’t have a car, and Andrew would always offer if he was going that way. He was more than happy to take me out cycling even though I’m much slower than he was, and his advice on smoother pedalling still sticks with me. And his advice – when I was getting a new bike after my accident – to spend as much as I could on new wheels as possible as these would make all the difference (advice which I’ve not yet taken). He also gave up his time to coach before and after work, and always added an element of humour into each session, particularly with his mystery acronyms. His MTMS on April 8th – or Margaret Thatcher Memorial Swim as we later worked out – was a particularly brutal set as I recall, and even got a mention and a laugh at his funeral. At one of our club’s skittles nights he assisted me by putting a skittle in each gutter so that I couldn’t fail to hit something (I was that bad). And the week before his death, in the midst of all his preparations, he emailed to ask how my training was going. Those are just some of the things that I will remember about Andrew. From speaking to others in the club I realise we all have our own rich collections of personal memories… Andrew will not be forgotten.
His funeral was on July 24th in Edinburgh, and the immense respect and admiration that Andrew had been held in was obvious. About 50(?) of us from the club donned our purple lycra club kit and cycled to the funeral together – an incredibly moving tribute that I can’t think about without welling up. It was a terribly sad and emotional day, but it was uplifting in a way too. We have all lost a great guy, but we are all lucky to have known him.
Great exciting thing #2? Since July 2012 I had been planning to camp in the queue at Wimbledon in 2013 and celebrate my birthday there on Henman Hill/Murray Mound. I was going alone, but had heard that the atmosphere in the queue was friendly and festival-like, so didn’t think that would be a problem. But actually, given the sadness of the previous days, the festival atmosphere was the problem. I couldn’t think of anywhere I wanted to be less. In the end I opted to grin and bear it – politely declining invites to play volleyball, etc., and keeping myself to myself. Seeing some great tennis brought me round eventually: Djokovic vs. Del Potro and Murray vs. Janowicz on the Friday and Murray vs. Djokovic on the Sunday. The rollercoaster finished on a high with Murray winning Wimbledon on my birthday (a nice present), but it did not make up for the tragic low of earlier in the week.
After this week I was immensely relieved to get back to Edinburgh and normality, hoping for a really boring ride for a while. It had been a stark reminder that life is fragile, that some people are taken way too soon, and a note-to-self to make sure people know how much I appreciate them. These thoughts coupled with the amazing human endeavours that occurred this week also stirred me on to seize the day with full commitment. 12 days to go? Let’s do this thing.