So 5 years and it’s over.
Done and dusted. Over and out (at least temporarily).
Yup, I’ve passed my viva, done a few minor corrections and as I write this my thesis is being printed up and bound in preparation for its final destination – namely to collect dust on the shelves of Cambridge University Library and probably somewhere in my parents’ house. Boom!
My viva actually wasn’t as traumatic as I had anticipated. I wouldn’t say it was ‘fun’ as such but in a weird kind of way it was strangely enjoyable to be able to discuss my work with experts and find out how much I actually know about my field. I’m still trying to get the final chapter published formally and will probably have a few loose ends to tie up over the next 6 months but fundamentally it’s done. And officially I guess I’m now Doctor Doctor Gossage, though that title sounds somewhat superfluous so I think I’ll stick with Lucy (or Goss).
In the meantime I’ve had a few practice races. The first was just a fairly local time trial but was a good lesson in remembering how to make myself hurt. Nothing had changed – it still hurts. Though I did get £125 for my efforts, unheard of in time trialling!
The second was the legendary (and aptly named) Ballbuster Duathlon around Box Hill in Surrey.
I decided to race this as it’s the longest race around at this time of year and I wanted at least some kind of test before South Africa. It’s certainly a tough old course – 8 mile hilly run, 24 mile hilly bike, 8 mile hilly run. All I really wanted from it was a good blow out and to check I remembered how to race.
I couldn’t work out why everyone was getting so excited as I started my final lap on the bike yelling, “You can catch him” and “Do it for the girls”. It turns out that at that stage I was in second overall in the race, though I only realised that half way round the final run. As I got to the bottom of the final climb up Box Hill I could see the leading man and then realised I was going to catch him.
Blimey – that wasn’t what I’d expected when I’d entered. Probably wasn’t what the boys had expected either! Certainly twitter and the triathlon press went a bit mental – I guess it’s not that often a woman wins a race outright, though realistically I just got a bit lucky that the usual fast boys who race didn’t turn up. But a win’s a win and I guess at least on that day the boys got their balls well and truly busted! A couple of friends of mine seemed genuinely offended on behalf of the male sex that a girl had been allowed to win a tough duathlon!
The final test was Cambridge half marathon, an event on my doorstep which I love, particularly in the sun.
Tempting though it was to race it properly I decided it was too close to Ironman to factor in a taper and recovery and I think I’m fit enough to do myself proper damage by running it hard, so I decided to run it tempo at the end of a long run. This decision turned it into one of the most fun half marathons I’ve ever run, particularly since it meant I could run round with a gang from Cambridge Tri Club. In terms of IM prep it was a good confidence boost and has also meant I’ve not been completely broken this week. It was great to see my flatmate Tom Vickery knock out a 1.13 on the back of a 100 miler 2 days before. If he could combine his natural talent with my work ethic he’d be a world beater!
So what do I do now my PhD is done? Lounge around and eat cake with the odd training session scattered inbetween?
In truth I guess that is pretty much my life for the next couple of years. It’s going to take a while to get used to it. Silly though it sounds learning to view sitting on the sofa with a book or dvd as work will probably be harder than it seems to most. Having said that I think I’ve set myself up for a pretty amazing couple of months.
I’m currently out in Majorca for a couple of weeks staying at Tri Camp Mallorca (http://www.tricamp.co.uk/) which is run by Nick Dunn, a friend from Nottingham. I’ve never seen a triathlon training camp run by someone with so much selfless energy, passion and enthusiasm – he’s got an incredible knack for making anyone he’s coaching feel special and is managing to juggle a large group of athletes with vastly differing abilities so that everyone is having a great week and getting the best out of themselves.
For me it’s time really to put a few finishing touches to my Ironman preparation. Ironman South Africa is now just 3 weeks away and I’m already starting to get shivers down my spine as I think about it. I’m honestly not sure how it will go – I’ve never raced an Ironman this early in the season before so to some extent it’s unknown territory.
But I do know I absolutely can’t wait to get out there and give it my best.
Bring on the racing!