Category Archives: swimming

Face Your Fears And Good Things Might Happen.

It seems that my eldest son and I have been learning a valuable lesson alongside each other over the past few months.

I faced my fear of swimming in open water.

wpid-img-20150805-wa0010.jpgAnd then eleven days ago I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon which included my first open water 1500m swim in the Royal Victoria Docks.

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A few months ago my 7 year old auditoned to be a mascot in the Rugby World Cup.

wpid-20150704_121108.jpgThis weekend we were able to surprise him with some awesome news from his rugby idol Leigh Halfpenny. Finlay is to be mascot for Wales at Wales’ first game against Uruguay.

wpid-20150815_125732.jpgI am so unbelievably thrilled for him. I’m still thrilled for myself that I completed my first standard distance triathlon at the biggest triathlon event in the UK.

Finlay and I both nearly walked away from these opportunities. Both of us turned back round and faced our fears and we’ve both discovered that sometimes you have to do that to make the good stuff happen. Go and do something that scares you. You never know what might happen.

A Hot, Sweaty Triathlete – A Tricurious Post

You can also see this post over at http://www.tricurious.co.uk. And while you’re there check out the other great blogs from the Tricurious team, who are tricurious no more!

I am like sooo organised. I’ve packed my stuff. I’ve packed the kids’ stuff. I’ve taken an instagram picture of my kit. I’ve tweeted it. I’ve blogged about it. I have found baby oil. I have researched tube trains that allow bikes. I’ve even put my numbers on my bike and helmet so I don’t have to fiddle around in the morning. I am just tooo organised for my own good. 

Yes I indeed had thought about all the little details that I might need. Until I got to my parents house and realised that when I had put my number stickers on my bike and helmet I had left the envelope containing my bib number and security bracelet in my hallway back in South Wales.

Sweat poured over me as I read the competitor information.

‘YOU MUST BE WEARING YOUR SECURITY BRACELET ON ENTRY TO THE EXCEL’.

The cold sweat poured down my back as I silently panicked while trying to sort the kids out for bed. What a stupid rookie error. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They were bound to turn me away at the DLR for such an idiotic mistake.

Turns out I wasn’t getting out of it that easily.

On arrival at the ExCel after the sweatiest of tube rides I spoke to a very nice lady at the Help Centre who wrote out a spare number and gave me a spare security number. The sweat that had been pouring off me in panic at forgetting my number now started to drip off me in the realisation that this, my first Olympic Distance triathlon, was about to happen.

Meeting Laura, Katie, Anita and Cathy in the Media Room at the ExCel really put me at ease. The sweat receded from a skin tsunami to a gentle creek. The balcony leading out from the Media Room gave us a great view. The sun was high in the sky, the Royal Victoria Docks were still and glistening and the occasional roar of the planes flying into London City Airport right over the top of the swim waves made me realise that my first open water triathlon was happening in a very special place.
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I was incredibly lucky to be here and I started to get the first pangs of ‘bring it on’ rather than ‘help, get me out of here’. From our elevated position on the balcony we were able to cheer and we were able to cheer Becca, the first Tricurious athlete, off in her swim wave.

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Before I knew it, the time was 11.30. My race was due to start at 12.20 and there was still the job of getting a wet suit on in a humid room surrounded by other people who seemed to have assistants doing that for them. It was brilliant to laugh about baby oil, chat trisuits with Cathy and Laura and hear about the amazing cake that Katie had made for afterwards. I realised that this is what I often miss about the races that I do. I usually go to the start on my own, all up in my head with my own thoughts feeling like I want to vomit. But on Saturday there were no vomitous feelings. The presence of like minded souls, chatting and laughing helped keep me at ease. The sweat though continued to pour off me so I sipped more water before heading down to the swim assembly.

The Swim – Keep Your Eyes On The Pig

Last week I was terrified about open water swimming. But out of no where on Saturday came a new determination. I even jumped into the docks instead of inching myself in gradually. The ‘bring it on’ attitude had really come to the surface probably accompanied by a bit of ‘get this bit out the way’.

The swim course was well marked out with plenty of buoys. I made sure I kept my eyes on the larger read ones at either end. I also decided to keep my eye out for the giant floating pig. If I was going past the pig on either side then I knew I was well round on either lap.

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I had made myself stay back and over to the sides of the wave but not long after the hooter went off I found myself almost swimming over people doing breast stroke. Oh shit, I’ve gone off too fast I thought, but my arms felt good and my chest didn’t feel too strained. So I went with that rhythm, chanting the drum beat in my head. As I rounded the final buoy I realised that people were veering off to the left. I was about to swim past the pontoon! So I changed course and managed to swim between some ladies (sorry) and staggered up the red, floating carpet to get ready for wet suit removal.

Part of me wanted to scream at everyone ‘DO YOU KNOW WHAT I’VE JUST DONE? I DIDN’T THINK I WAS GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT. THIS IS MASSIVE’.

But I didn’t and once a nice man helped me with my wet suit bag I trotted as best I could to my bike. Can I add that carrying a water logged wet suit in tired swimming arms for about 150 odd meters is not easy!

The Bike – Fecking Hilly Bridge

I love my bike, I’m good at riding. I’m from Wales, we have really big hills so I’m like awesome at climbs.

Well if I thought that before I have basically had my arse handed to me by 4 laps of London slip roads and dual carriageways. I found the bike course hard. It was really, really hot. I had stuffed a Welsh cake in my mouth which immediately dried up my entire face and also made me feel like I was covered in sticky crumbs.

Once I was out on the course I regretted putting on my cycling tee over my tri suit as the heat just felt like it was ready to melt me. My legs felt a bit slow and heavy but as I hadn’t been on my bike since my crash a few weeks ago I reasoned that my legs just weren’t in bike mode.

On the first lap I really hit the bridge with all my effort. Only the bridge had one hill, shortly followed by another hill, followed by a sharp turn which put you back on the bridge with the hill. There was then a fairly flat out and back section. And then it was back to the hilly bridge. Looking back I went out far too hard on the first lap and really paid for it for the following three laps. I did not enjoy the bike section but I knew it was a means to an end. Head down and keep going.

Into transition and someone told me to zip my cycle tee up. And then tried to tell me the reasons why I needed to zip my top up. I zipped up my top, they continued talking at me but after realising I was looking at them a bit blankly they waved me on into the transition zone.

As I came off my bike I thought my legs felt okay. This was my body giving me false information. I’ve decided the human body sometimes lies to you to make you keep going.

The Run – Hot. So so hot.

When I ran out of the transition area I saw my parents standing with my two boys. My heart lifted and I ran over to give the boys a kiss.

‘Keep going, don’t stop’, bellowed my Dad. Ooh flashback to about 20 years ago at a club cross country I thought to myself as I ran down the ramp.

A ramp. A fairly steep ramp that we would have to run back up four times. Lovely.

The run was a funny one. It was hideous but also a bit wonderful. Agony and ecstasy all at the same time. Every lap ticked off was a lap closer to achieving my goal. But I really suffered in the heat. My golden visor did a good job of shielding my face but I couldn’t keep the sweat out of my eyes. My legs felt like they were dragging along the floor so I’m not entirely surprised that I tripped, fell and barrel rolled in a section which seemed to be the most dense with spectators.

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What really keep me going during the laps was that from time to time I would see Cathy, Laura and Katie. We’d wave to each other and high five each other. In fact I don’t think I would have finished the run without their support.

When I looked around I noticed how everyone seemed to be struggling in the heat but everyone was taking the time to cheer someone else or give someone a supportive hug. By the end of this run we would all be triathletes, a title that some of us thought impossible even this morning.

Laura caught up with me and gave me an incentive to power myself up the ramp for the last time. As we ran into the lane towards the finish Laura nodded to a girl in front and said ‘you think we can take her?’. That was all the encouragement I needed and from somewhere the legs found a final sprint. As the announcer called our names we raised my arms into the air. I had done it. I was a triathlete. I real life one.

And After….

I found my family just outside the finishing area. The kids went to hug me and then sprang back. I was a triathlete but apparently far too smelly, hot and sweaty for them to hug. My parents took pictures but decided to take the kids home out of the hustle and bustle. Spectating is a bit boring for kids.

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Once I’d found my fellow Tricurious team members again we made our way out to the run course to cheer on Will and all the other runners. This part of the day really filled me with warm and fuzzy feelings. We screamed out for people with names on their vests. We cheered those with distinctive running outfits or just generally supported those who looked like they might be struggling. It really felt like we were part of the bigger picture by helping other competitors on to their triathlon goal (even though some might have looked like they wanted to punch us).

As I boarded the District Line to go home I realised that I probably looked a mess, stank of dock water and at risk of nodding off. My medal hung around my neck and I sat on the stuffy, airless train focussing on all the good that had happened that day. Laura and Katie did an amazing thing with Team Tricurious and I’m a little sad that it’s over. They have been nothing but encouraging and the support from the other Team Tricurious members has been immense. It was so good to be able to meet them and hug them. We can now say that we are triathletes, whether we leave it at Saturday’s event or choose to go on and do more triathlons at whatever distance.

As some people rose to get off the train at Embankment a woman, speaking loud enough for me to hear nodded towards me and then said to her friend ‘Always has to be one show off hasn’t there’.

I could have got narked off and given her a filthy look. But instead I thought to myself, yes, yes I am showing off and I have every right to show off. And I am not alone. If you go East you’ll find plenty more of us show offs, because today we are all triathletes.

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Conquering The Panic At Bristol Open Water

On Tuesday we returned from our family holiday in France. I hadn’t been able to take my bike with me so cycling was out but I had managed to run almost daily. I had taken my wet suit in the hope that we might be near a water sports lake but this was not to be. Instead we went to the beach and while the boys played I had a very tentative go at sea swimming. The little old French ladies who were in their swimming cossies must have wondered what on earth I was up to as I swam in the shallows along side them, cloaked in my wet suit.

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Swimming French style at Coudeville sur mer in Normandy.

That swim in the sea though just didn’t feel like enough. And the swim in the quarry felt like such a long time ago. Before we had gone away I had planned to visit Bristol Open Water Training Centre but a bike crash and a tummy bug had put the kibosh on that. Illness and the crash had taken away a few training opportunities and I couldn’t get them back. I think my husband sensed me being all fidgety about swimming and he suggested running me down to Bristol yesterday.

I had no idea what to expect but on arrival the lake looked fantastic. Still water and plenty of buoys. I had read a little bit about the lake and knew that it was a 600m course. I also knew that many people came here from South Wales so it had to be good for people to travel that distance. As I looked out over the lake I could make out the heads and arms of figures swimming around the perimeter.

We made our way in to pay and register and met Mike, the owner of the lake. If you have a minute you have to read the history of the lake and what he did to get it up and running. But briefly ‘Mad Mike’ (now aged 76) was a wind surfer who was always on the look out for a place for his wind surfing school. In 2012 he found a farmer’s field in the village of Almondsbury and transformed it into what is now the training lake. Mike is a great person and I think he is what makes the training centre so good. He is knowledgeable about water sorts and triathlon and has a brilliantly dry sense of humour.

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Support crew were a bit eager.

After paying £6 for my swim Mike directed me to the ladies changing room. And it is just that. A room to change in. There are no showers but who needs them when you’re going swimming in an incredibly clean lake (filled with carp)? Mike gave me a bit of background about the lake, the water quality and a little advice to get me started.

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Do I have to fill my wet suit up?

The lake water is chest height so Mike said I would be able to put my feet down if I needed to. He watched me get in and made sure I filled my wet suit with water. He guided me as to which buoy I should aim for initially and then the order to sight them in order to make the 600m lap. My aim was to do 2 and a bit laps to make it up to roughly 1400-1500m.

My husband and the boys had watched me get in. The boys thought it was hilarious and my youngest kept laughing about how cold and murky the water looked and how daft mum looked in her wet suit. Mike sent them off round the path to visit the goats and I headed out for red buoy number one.

As per the quarry and the sea, the cold on my face was a shock and I gasped and shivered. I brought my head up and swam breaststroke for a bit to get my bearings, then put my head down and was off. I opted for breathing every two strokes as this seems to be what I’m happiest with right now. But as I made my way round a buoy on the furthest side of the lake I felt panic kick in again. My pulse went up and my breathing rate increased. All the negative thoughts about swimming poured into my head again and I had to go back to breaststroke for a quarter of a lap. I stood up briefly and looked around. Maybe I should just do one lap. Maybe I should pull out of Saturday. But then as quickly as the panic had set in it suddenly started to ebb.

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That’s not a seal, that’s me!

I put my head down and got going again. Eventually I found a rhythm I was comfortable with and I mentally added a drum beat to my stroke. I just repeated the drum beat over and over ‘da da daa, da da daaa’. And with the drum beat came songs which I sang along to in my head. Before I knew it I was well into my second lap and I was feeling comfortable. When I felt that moment of comfort wash over me I knew I was going to be okay. If I just kept moving to the beat of my own drum I would be okay.

At times my sighting was way off and I would very briefly have to swap to breaststroke to adjust my course. But there was no repeat of the panic earlier in the swim and I started to enjoy it. I know that you can’t see anything in the lake beyond the murk but I reasoned that if I were in a pool without goggles I would likely close my eyes with my head in. It’s a tiny bit like that.

Towards the end I felt like I was gliding through the water and even wondered if I could do a third lap. But then I reasoned that with the London Triathlon on Saturday two and a bit would be enough. What struck me was how little I had thought about the swimming pool’s black line or stopping every 50-100m or so like I do indoors. Without it being there you just don’t think about it and you literally just keep swimming because that’s all you can do.

By the end of the swim I started to feel like Saturday was on for me and now I am half looking forward to getting in the docks and swimming my little heart out. I was glad that I went along to Bristol. I felt like it was a little gremlin that I just needed to squish in order to feel that bit more prepared for Saturday.

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Feeding the carp so they don’t eat the swimmers!

When I climbed out Mike wandered over to ask how I got on and gave me a well done when I told him what I had managed. I was feeling more and more pleased with what I had done and when Mike said hope to see you again I said that he would, and I don’t think I was lying!

If you’re in the South West or South Wales and you’re looking for a clean training lake then I would highly recommend a visit to Almondsbury. Have a look at http://www.bristolopenwater.co.uk. You can also look at the Facebook page here. There is a summer swimming race series at the lake and there is also a running path around the lake and cycling routes mapped out around the area.

Panic At The Quarry

It had been weighing heavily on my mind that I had yet to take the plunge with open water swimming. With under a month to go until the London Triathlon I didn’t want to wait until the day itself to have my first experience of swimming in open water. My wet suit had been hanging on the back of the bedroom door for a few weeks so lack of kit was not an excuse. I had researched open water swimming locations in South Wales and it turns out there aren’t many lakes or rivers you can just go and dip into. But following a chat with a colleague who is a triathlete herself, she suggested Chepstow Quarry or the National Diving and Activity Centre. And after a lot of bargaining and trying to tell myself I didn’t have time to do it my husband virtually shoved me out the door this morning so I had no choice but to go.

After a bit of detour following a wrong turn through Monmouthshire I finally found the centre which is in the English side of Chepstow. I looked over the barrier and my breath was taken away by the beautiful blue pool beneath me. I started to feel more excited about jumping in and swimming. I imagined how liberating and amazing it would be.

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At the site shop I paid my £2.50 (half price this weekend!) and signed the visitor declaration.

‘It’s so if you drown you don’t sue us’, joked the very pleasant man behind the desk.

And I smiled and laughed. A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha……er what?

The changing area was basic but had everything you needed apart from maybe a few lockers to stash bags so after changing into my costume and wet suit I headed over to the path down to the quarry taking my bag with me. I stopped to ask a chap if I was going the right way and he kindly offered to drive me down to the pontoon in one of the mini buses used to ferry divers and their equipment back and forth.

A couple of divers were packing up and one asked me how far I was planning on swimming, ‘2.8 miles, 3 miles, how many laps?’. I explained I was a total novice and this was my first time in open water. ‘Well you’re doing the right thing’ he replied. They jumped into the bus and I waited until they were out of sight so I could take an obligatory selfie.

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And for a while the happy, excited me was left right there on the ramp leading back to the centre.

I walked down a little ramp into the water and was pleasantly surprised by the fact I didn’t jump with cold as I entered. I presumed my wet suit was doing its job.  I walked further in and allowed the water to flow over my neck and shoulders. I took a sharp intake of breath as I felt a little colder. I jumped forward, threw my face in and immediately pulled myself back out. There had been nothing. I could see nothing. There was only blue. Just a wall of blue right in front of me.I don’t know what I had expected but it was a shock. My pulse soared and my respiratory rate went up. I tried again.

Same thing. Shock and panic. I tried breast stroke and felt like I was gasping. I tried putting my face in for front crawl and turned round and headed back. What was wrong with me? I could feel panic crawling all over me. I started to judge myself. It was a disaster, I had driven all this way for nothing, I feel stupid, I can’t do the London Triathlon.

And so I sat in the shallow area contemplating getting out and giving up.

But I didn’t. I had a stern talk to myself. I know I’m an okay swimmer. I’m not going to drown. I can do breast stroke if I struggle. Nothing is going to get me. There is nothing in there.

I tentatively swam away from the shallow area, breast stroke first and then front crawl. I had gone half way to the first buoy. I swam back in. The next time I swam mostly front crawl three quarters of the way to the first buoy and swam back in. Gradually I got closer and closer to the first buoy and further and further away from my ‘safe zone’. I’m not sure on what attempt but I was soon swimming front crawl around the buoys, close to the perimeter of the quarry. I stuck with breathing every two strokes as I seemed to find my rhythm and I still didn’t like seeing the wall of blue and nothingness in front of me. I have been brainwashed by the black line of the swimming pool.

I practiced sighting and would occasionally swim breast stroke to get myself back on course. At times I would feel like I was getting somewhere but then I would look up and would find that I hadn’t gone that far, possibly due to the wind across the quarry. I tried my best to get to the other end of the quarry but conscious of time and not wanting to feel too far away from my ‘safe zone’ I found a rocky ledge on the edge of the quarry ‘to sort out my goggles’.

I took in the turquoise expanse in front of me. It was truly beautiful but I was also aware how alone and a little unnerved I still felt. I was almost three quarters along the far wall of the quarry. I had no idea what distance that was but I felt an urge to swim back rather than push my luck. I headed straight out across to a larger grey buoy that was straight across from me and then turned to swim back to the pontoons.

On the way back I found that I started to relax a little. I started to breath every three or every four strokes and I didn’t feel ‘as’ panicked. My sighting was all over the place but the wind helped to push me closer to where I needed to be. I thought I was on course until I realised I was almost past my turning for getting out. I scrambled in the water to change direction and found myself almost on top of a diver. Whoops!

As I walked up the ramp my legs felt like they might buckle and my arms were numb and tingly. My hands shook as I stripped the top half of my wet suit down. I had done it. My first open water swim. It hadn’t been pretty and it had been a shock to the system but it was done. It was no longer unknown.

Sitting in the cafe above the quarry I wondered if I could have done more. Probably yes and I was annoyed with myself. But on the way back in the car I started to feel emotional. This was something that really frightened me and even though I had managed to swim in open water for the first time, a lot of mental energy had gone into fighting away my fear.

There have been lots of milestones for me in exercise: the first road ride, the first time I was clipped in on my bike, the first 3 hour long run, the marathon start line and even though I have faced them with nerves and trepidation nothing has ever made me feel like I did today. I’m hoping though that by facing it head on it will be less scary the next time I do it. And let’s face it, there has to be a next time.

‘Do one thing everyday that scares you’, that famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote popped into my head as I traveled home from Chepstow. I had certainly done that today, in fact I felt like I had rolled a weeks full of scariness into one hour. But then while looking up that quote to make sure I was attributing it to the right person I came across something else she had said:

‘We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.’

I think I gained some strength and confidence from what I did today. I didn’t think I could do it but I did. Next time I’m sure it will be easier. I’m ready to go back and try again.

If you are looking for an open water swimming venue in and around South Wales then it might be worth heading over to the National Diving and Activity Centre in Chepstow, Gloucestershire. The people were friendly and putting my own fears to one side, it is great for swimming. 

Triathlon Dreams and Anxiety Sharks.

With the Velothon out of the way I have focused my efforts back on triathlon training. Cycling wise, after riding 140km one day, I think I’m okay with the bike element. Running I feel generally at peace with. What I feel I have neglected is swimming. So in efforts to try and make my weakest discipline a little bit more bearable I have been hitting the pool as often as I can.

I won’t lie, I am a little bit anxious about swimming and with my first novice triathlon coming up this Sunday I find myself getting a bit jittery. So much so that I have had odd dreams. One such dream involved the cycle stint of the 17km course on Sunday. In this dream I finish the out and back course to be told that I need to do it again. And again. And again. Now I know nerves are usually helpful but this dream was a bit unsettling and made me feel unprepared.

It’s weird that my dream was about the cycle section because it’s swimming that I get most worried about. And I think I’ve now made it ‘a thing’. Whenever I start swimming my arms feel like lead weights. It takes me ages to warm up into it. Then I get cross with myself because I find myself needing to stop at the end of the length. The swim at the weekend is 16 lengths and in the pool I’ve been trying to make myself swim for 16 lengths at a time without the need to break occasionally. I haven’t fared so well and so my anxiousness about it gets worse. I am my own anxiety shark.

I’ve been reading a little bit more about anxiety lately and in a weird way I’ve started to understand and accept elements of my personality. On social media you often see these articles ’10 things you didn’t know about ‘insert subject here’ and I happened to come across one about anxiety. As I share the feelings that I’ve had about swimming I recognise them as being irrational and maybe a bit daft but that is an anxiety trait. Many of my anxiety triggers are irrational and right now swimming seems to be one. I think the reason is that I feel out of control with swimming whereas with running, and to some extent cycling now, I feel very much in control. When that control goes I start to panic and the irrational thoughts begin along with a lot of sentences beginning with ‘I can’t’.

But when I beat off those irrational feelings with practical thoughts: ‘it’s okay to break, it’s okay to breath every stroke, it’s okay to not be brilliant at this’, I start to enjoy swimming, my body relaxes into it and I begin to enjoy it again.

The article I link to above does mention many negative aspects about anxiety but it also mentions aspects that may in fact be positive. Could anxiety make me more productive? And is it a survival mechanism that makes me more empathetic, more driven and aware of everything around me? Do my anxiety traits make me more determined to achieve my training goals? And is it my anxiety traits that push me and drive me forward? I have no idea if that could be true but if it puts a positive spin on the hyperventilating, the nausea, tingling hands and the crushing feeling in my chest then I’m all for that. It actually makes me feel better that there could be a positive outcome to those feelings.

After sharing so many largely negative thoughts about swimming I have to say I am looking forward to my first novice triathlon this weekend. I’m curious to see how I get on with transitions and to see how a triathlon event works. I’m also excited to be supporting a local event with the triathlon being held at a local swimming pool by Aim 2 Tri events.

I’m aware that the distances this weekend are way off what I need to achieve for London Triathlon for Team Tricurious but it will give me a small taster of what triathlon is all about. And maybe after this weekend those traits that I mentioned above will give me a little bit more drive to complete my first Olympic Distance triathlon in August.

Training and Contentment

Yesterday evening I went for a slow half hour run. I had no watch on and the idea behind going for this run was to perk me up. There was no training agenda or pressure behind it. As I ran alongside the river I pondered over my week of exercise:

Exactly one week earlier I had made a 70 mile round trip to the Mumbles on my bike with some friends.

Tuesday I had gone swimming for an hour. It was surprisingly tough but I think that was because I was still recovering from Sunday’s mammoth effort.

Wednesday I ran for roughly 50 minutes and just under six miles. This was the longest and furthest I have run for many months. I had expected my legs to feel like lead after Sunday’s ride but they carried me with no real problems.

Friday I went out for a 36 mile bike ride with my local club, the Pontyclun Flyers. This was the fastest ride I had ever been on and even though I was usually found bringing up the rear I managed to maintain contact and didn’t find myself adrift.

Saturday I did a fast 3 and a bit miles. I hadn’t intended for it to be quick but I felt so good that I just let myself fall into a natural rhythm.

And then yesterday’s run. A run to get rid of a hangover to be truthful.

I haven’t managed to train like this for nearly two years and I can’t quite believe I managed it. What has struck me about the past week is that none of it has felt like a chore. Each session I have done has been because I wanted to, not because I felt compelled to or under pressure. The weekend has also seen me run on consecutive days. I haven’t achieved that for a long, long time.

I definitely credit the bike for keeping my fitness up and swimming is giving me the opportunity to work on different muscle groups. Running continues to be my default ‘favourite’ activity and I think it always will be but thanks to the other activities I have been doing, I find myself far more content with running and in a way that I haven’t been for ages. It feels like it has been a long time coming but it feels worth all the pain and angst of not running to finally feel like I’m back ‘there’ again.

I’m not going to rush into anything race wise for running. I’m enjoying the lack of pressure and right now I think it would be more sensible for me to ‘train to train’ again. I don’t even feel myself inclined yet to go to a Parkrun, because I know I can just walk outside my front door and run 5km around my locality.

I think that the other reason I feel more content with running right now is because I’m enjoying it and the other modes of training I am doing. I am enjoying getting out on the bike for long stints with friends and I am getting a satisfaction from getting my head down in the pool for length upon length of front crawl. I am also enjoying the lack of pressure from a PB point of view. Triathlon is new ground for me so I have no idea what to expect. I’m just hoping to have a great experience at a great event. I’m not bothered about how fast I go and that is a great thing to feel. I get to enjoy all of it: swimming, cycling and running.

Next month sees me attempt Velothon Wales on a course that includes the infamous Tumble climb, which I’m nervous about but also excited to take on. I hope to get in a couple more long, hilly rides before then. I thought this would be the end of cycling sportives for me but the Pontyclun Flyers are joining in with the Women’s Rapha 100 on the 26th July and I’m quite tempted to sign up. I also have my eye on a local novice pool triathlon in July as a way to ease me in to the world of multi sports and transitions.

I can honestly say that right now I feel excited about my upcoming challenges and that I look forward to my time on the bike, in the pool or pounding the pavements. I’m not looking to break records or PB’s and I don’t even feel I’m doing all these things for the medal I might get at the end. I’m doing it all for me and I am content with that. And right now that feels like a really nice place to be.

In At The Deep End

I am not a regular swimmer. For a long time my main swimming activity has involved getting the boys confident in the water: diving for toys, blowing bubbles and jumping in. We have two types of swimming in this house. There is fun swimming where we go for a splash around and a laugh and there is sensible swimming, where the boys swim nicely for their brilliant teacher Hanna. Once I signed up for Team Tricurious though I realised that I had to start doing some sensible swimming of my own.

I am lucky in a way that from a very young age I was involved with a swimming club. I even used to compete. I was usually disqualified for my appalling breaststroke leg technique, but up until the age of eleven I was a regular gala swimmer. So if I’m asked to swim I don’t feel too panicked. However that is where leisure centre pools are concerned. I have no idea how I feel yet about swimming in open water. Water where I won’t be able to see the floor beneath me genuinely scares me.

When I was nine or ten our swimming club used a local centre that had two pools. It had a 25m standard pool and it had an old fashioned diving pool. Because there were so many of us at club we used to be divided into groups. I used to stand around looking at the tiles on poolside, trying to avoid the gaze of the coach that would indicate that I was going into the diving pool. I wanted to stay in the 25m pool that was light and blue. I did not want to jump into the murky, dark diving pool but my fate was usually sealed.

For the next hour I would be mostly face down in the water, staring towards a floor that I couldn’t quite make out. I would imagine sharks and crocodiles and monsters swimming up at me from the depths. There was a boom that separated the diving pool from the main pool and I used to imagine that I would get sucked under it. Other kids in the pool used to talk about a man who tried to swim under the boom to get from the main pool, to the diving pool, got stuck and drowned. My sessions in this pool would see me scrambling through my widths to get to the side. Back stroke would give me a respite from staring into the chlorine abyss but then what if something came up at me when I wasn’t looking? My imagination knew no bounds. But guess what? I’m still here. Jaws didn’t carry me off and eat me and the club moved to another leisure center that had more room. A couple of years later I discovered athletics and I haven’t trained in a swimming pool since, unless it’s to aqua jog.

The only open water swimming I have experienced has been in the Outer Hebrides (very cold, you’re never really in long enough for imaginary sharks to get you) and Malta. In Malta I went swimming with my brother and we were a fair way off shore in beautiful crystal clear water when he started humming the Jaws theme. I didn’t go back in the water for the rest of the holiday. So you can see there are some deeply entrenched feelings regarding water, swimming and films by Steven Spielberg. I am aware that I am bordering on ridiculous and I would no doubt tell me children not to be so daft if they told me this was how they felt about swimming. The only thing to do was to face swimming head on.

Last Wednesday night I went to the public swimming session at my pool. There were no lanes so it was probably great practice for a triathlon swim. I had to veer from side to side to avoid people swimming widths or dodge out the way at the end for people looking like they wanted to jump on my head. I swam for a mile, breaking it up into 8 x 200m chunks to make the distance seem more achievable. I almost punched the air like Rebecca Adlington at the end of a race when I had finished. Swimming that mile, even though I split it up, made the London Triathlon swim seem more likely. My stroke technique definitely needs work and I would like some different types of sessions to try so I don’t get bored. But I got in that pool and no imaginary sharks or monsters ate me. I think I can go back in the water for more. Next goal will be to find an open water venue so I can really shake those sharks off.

Thank you to Team Bear Tri on Twitter for this great picture.

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