Light at the end of the Tunnel of Pain?
Another trip to Wales (council meeting for events) found us at the gorgeous Llyn Gwynant campsite again, this time we knew that the weather was going to be pretty bad and had decided to change our training plans accordingly. We wanted to complete 2 long training days and didn't want any excuses to get in the way! So after the meeting (and another night of gales in a tent) we headed back to Geoff's place near Tewkesbury. The plan was to swim 2 miles in the local Lido, cycle 80 miles then run 5k off the bike, both days.
Day 1 started well with the swim. Having never swam in a 50m open air pool before, I was very excited! (I know... I need to get a life). My local pool is hot and heavily chlorinated (and full of old ladies perfume!) and after an hour or so, my asthma kicks in which makes hard work of things. The Cheltenham Lido though was amazing, the water was chilled and fresh and the lengths felt easy.
After breakfast no.2, we started the bike. We planned to break the 80 miles into 20 mile sections to help with refuelling and my ever present back pain. The first 40 miles went well, but after starting the second 40 miles, I was feeling the normal crapness and wishing it was done already. The course we were on was great, quiet country lanes, rolling hills and nice views but to be honest once I am in pain, I could be anywhere!
It was, however, a good chance for Geoff, who is my support at the Mexico Deca (after he finishes his own double) to see how I am once the pain starts. Initially he was concerned that I hadn't spoken for 20 minutes, but after I explained that that was normal and that small talk was not an option (or any talk for that matter...) he was reassured and enjoyed the peace and quiet!
Once off the bike, we started the ultra shuffle that was the run, and (a slow) 5k later collapsed back at base. After stuffing ourselves with Thai take away we sorted our kit out to prepare to do it all again the next day.
Thursday went pretty much as the day before had (the swim was after the bike due to opening hours). The bike hurt, blah blah etc etc.... and we sacked the run due to me carrying a slight groin pull after my 24hr race a few weeks ago. But all in all, we felt pretty pleased with the 2 days of decent training we had done and celebrated with a dirty KFC (I am aware my 'athlete's diet' needs work) and chilled with a film.
Whilst driving home the next day, I was reflecting on the bike training and recalled one of my thoughts about how similar the pain is to labour and that lead on to 'maybe a TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) might work'. Once home, I did a little research (3 minutes on Amazon) and ordered a 'wireless' TENS for £16. A few days later, it appeared and after 15 minutes of figuring out how it worked (which involved a bit of jumping about and shrieking I admit) I prepared for a 35 mile bike.
After about 20 miles or so, the usual ache kicked in and I pulled over the side of the road to switch on the TENS and stick it to my back. It was a hot evening and I had been pushing myself, so I was sweating quite a bit. I guess I should have thought about how that might increase the sensation... but I didn't! So after frightening the local livestock with loud swearing, I turned it down from the highest level to medium and started cycling again.
Since I had ordered the TENS I had been trying not to get my hopes up too much, I have tried so many different ways to sort this and have really resigned myself to accepting that long distance cycling was always going to be a miserable experience BUT the next 15 miles of my bike that night was... PAIN FREE!!! The machine had actually switched off after 20 minutes (lose battery tray) but the pain only just started to return a couple of minutes from my house.
Could this be the answer I have been looking for? I know that it's masking the problem, but it could get me through the 3 big triathlon challenges I have planned over the next few years. This weekend I have the Midnight Man iron distance triathlon and we will see if it works over 112 miles...