Posted by: fitartist | July 16, 2015

Lidl Bananaman Triathlon Race Report

Who wouldn’t enjoy a race that involves this journey to the venue?

Happy cyclists!

Happy cyclists!

As we don’t have a car and I needed to transport my bike (and Hector was super keen to try out his new bike), we took all of our bikes on the train to Windsor and rode the two or so miles to Eton Dorney along the Thames Path. At the station we saw people dismantling their bikes to put into taxis…no need, just ride! And look at what greeted us on arrival!

The lake.

The lake.

I was a little taken aback at the vastness of the lake – with it being a purpose-built rowing lake, it’s loooooong. I took it all in, clocking the inflatable buoys and breaking it down into the little chunk that I would actually be tackling later on in the Lidl Bananaman Triathon. Phew. It is a stunning venue and the party was already in full swing, with little ones tearing around wearing medals picked up in the Scootathlon and older athletes already exiting the water for one of the earlier waves of the triathlon. Feeling relaxed and a little bit excited, I got myself a cuppa and headed over to registration where I was given everything I needed, promptly and with a big smile.

Registration

Registration

As the event was sponsored by Lidl, there were mountains of bananas, as much water/juice/crisps/cereal bars as you could ever need and a barbeque for competitiors and spectators, now how many events boast such hospitality?! With it being about 10.15, my support crew needed a pre-lunch lunch.

Hungry boys

Hungry boys

I paced up and down, checking out the swimmers, making sure the entry into the water wasn’t too scary and making sure I could see the bike out/run out points – not sure why, but the signs for these are often placed at ground level and, once transition is full of bikes and people darting about, it’s difficult to see where they are. Any chance these could be identified by a flag or something? After numerous nervous loo-visits (oh, how the tri-suit is the enemy of such pre-race nervousness!), I decided I should just get on with it and set up in transition. At this point I switched my Garmin on to get a signal and found that the battery was flat. After a minor hissy fit, I decided that it didn’t matter and I would embrace ‘going naked’, could be interesting!

Still relaxed!

Still relaxed!

Before long I was pulling on my wetsuit and heading to the water. Eek! Now, I’ve been very carefully preparing for my first open-water triathlon, with wetsuit-specific coached sessions and solo swims to build confidence, so I was totally thrown when given the option to go without a wetsuit – if the water reaches a certain temperature you have a choice. After much umming and ahhing I decided to stick with what I had planned – Edward pointed out that I had taken on this particular race as a practice/test event for future races and should use it to try out the wetsuit in the swim and transition. I’m so glad I did, the water didn’t feel that warm! I was in a women’s wave (complete with bright pink hats, oh yes) and we all bobbed about, acclimatising while the race organiser gave us a briefing then quickly sent us on our way with a loud parp of the horn. Cue lots of ‘Ooh, sorry!’ and ‘Oops!’ comments from my fellow swimmers, really! And I had heard horror stories about being kicked, ducked and having your goggles removed. How very civilised!

That's me, there!

That’s me, there!

Interestingly, I found this open-water swim easier in terms of managing panic than the pool tri in May, as there was nobody tapping at my heels, I could take some deep breaths, compose myself and do as much breast-stroke as I liked :) And I did. Even after swimming front-crawl up and down the Serpentine Lido, I found myself bobbing along, head in the air. I did a few stretches of front-crawl as I grew more confident and off I went. I did it! I climbed up the ramp towards transition, whipped off my wetsuit like a pro and legged it to bike out. Yesssss!

The bike course was 21.2km, so four laps of a perfectly flat and lovely smooth road (it was pretty twisty and turny in places though and quite windy). The bike is always my favourite bit of a triathlon and I flew around, smiling all the way. Each time I reached the start area I was given a huge cheer by my crew and sent off into the next lap. After all my training sessions at the Olympic Velopark, I was swiftly pulling out my drinks bottle and taking a swig, unlike previous races where I’ve ended up dehydrated and turning green. Oh, what a difference a few swigs of electrolyte replacement makes.

Time to hang up my bike and pull on my running shoes, but not without banging my head on the bike rack first and shouting ‘B*ll*cks!’. Sorry. By this point it was hot and the run route was an out and back stretch fully exposed to the sun. I kept giving myself little pep talks: ‘Relax your shoulders. Light on your toes. Head tall. Arms lower.’ – this all really helped, especially at the point where I realised it wasn’t just an out and back, it was an out and back and out and back again. This is also where I appreciated my on-bike hydration and enjoyed a tri-run without crippling cramp. Carrying on the pep-talk, I soon turned to face the finish and picked up the pace towards the barbecue smoke and the giant Erdinger glass to give a little sprint through the arch and a very happy ending.

Thank you Hector for the photo!

Thank you Hector for the photo!

A few sweaty high-fives, a hug from a giant banana and I found myself holding a pint of ice-cold beer and a burger. Result! (I must point out that this was alcohol-free beer and bloody good it was too!). Hector punched in my race number to the machine that pumps out results and I could see how I had faired, competing somewhat blindly without the Garmin feedback…

The numbers

The numbers

I can’t really compare directly with my last triathlon because the swim distance is shorter and the bike slightly longer, but it’s a tri-PB for the bike and run (and check those transitions!), so I’m very pleased. Best of all was the fact that I could see that my training is paying off, I didn’t have cramp and I felt amazing afterwards as we cycled back towards Windsor. Thank you to Human Race for giving me a place – I’m already looking up future events at Eton Dorney and will be back next year to see if I can smash those times.

Posted by: fitartist | July 8, 2015

I AM RUNBOX (BIKEBOX?) Review

When I first read about the new I AM RUNBOX, I thought: ‘That would be perfect for a bike commute’, so decided to base my trying and testing not on running but riding. This is where Edward, my guest tester, comes in :) Edward cycles to work every day (really, rain or shine – and even snow – he’d much rather cycle than stand on a stuffy train). To carry his clothes at the moment, he neatly irons and folds them, puts them in a plastic carrier bag and slides them into his pannier bag, where they promptly slip downwards and, over the course of his commute, get a bit crumpled and crushed by his butty box. Neat. It’s a good job he works in quite a relaxed environment ;)

The I AM RUNBOX arrived nicely packaged:

Shiny and new

Shiny and new

…and I quickly had a good look at the lovely instructional diagrams and information card:

Lines

Lines

Those of you who know me well know that I *love* a line drawing and actually collect (yes, really) instructional diagrams, so this kept me entertained for some time. Drool. As you can see here the RUNBOX includes a handy Folding Assistant:

Folding Facts

Folding Facts

If you’ve ever hung about in Gap for long enough, you might have seen staff members constructing those lovely angular stacks of clothing, using a similar rectangle of plastic, so I promptly indulged my inner Gap worker and got busy folding an already ironed shirt.

Following instructions

Following instructions

This means you fold your clothing to exactly the right size for the box, minimising crumpling and making it easier to pack.

Folding

Folding

Like so:

Ta-Daaaah!

Ta-Daaaah!

Wanting to make this test as close to normal as possible, Edward also managed to fit in his jeans (with bulky belt) and his iPad and they were all popped into the pannier bag ready for the ride:

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

So, did Edward look all neat and fancy when he got into his work clothes? Well yes, as neat and fancy as he can – the RUNBOX had kept his clothes in exactly the same position. They were protected from sandwich crush and any potential drink leakages by the water-resistant material. His iPad was given an extra layer of protection from any knocks and he has somewhere to put things that he doesn’t want going anywhere near his sweaty footie kit on the return journey home. I might be borrowing the RUNBOX for my swim sessions – sometimes I’ll go for a swim before travelling on somewhere else and it would be great to have somewhere to put my books, notes and stationery that will protect them from towel dampness. If you want to know more or have any questions, have a look at the I AM RUNBOX here.

Posted by: fitartist | July 7, 2015

Urban Fruit…more…and moreish

Mmmmm, how lip-smackingly happy was I to receive this little box of treats in the post?!

Chewy

Chewy

The lovely people at Urban Fruit sent me this box of tasty snacks to try out, but I must come clean and admit that I was already an addict and this was just fuelling my addiction! I love dried fruit and probably spend a big chunk of the weekly shopping budget on chewy treats to keep me going throughout the day. I pile everything in a tub, mix with nuts and take little servings out with me to scoff post-run/swim – they are also great to stuff in your jersey pocket for a long bike ride.

The great thing about the Urban Fruit range (apart from the funky packaging design) is that there is no added sugar or sulphates so you are just eating dried fruit and no nasties. They also produce a fantastic range of fruits, some of which it’s hard to find elsewhere. My two personal faves are the strawberries (like little jelly sweets!) and – one I hadn’t tried before – tropical…the coconut pieces were yum. Oh man, I’m drooling writing this and IT’S ALL GONE!

You can find the Urban Fruit range in supermarkets and smaller independent shops and you can keep up with new products and news by following on social media: facebook,com/urbanfruit, @urbanfruit and on instagram @urbanfruituk.

I need to stock up on some more…I’ve got it bad.

Posted by: fitartist | July 6, 2015

Juneathon Week 4, A Round-Up

Oops, sorry, it was a busy week last week (an eighth birthday to plan and enjoy), so my Juneathon round-up is ever-so-slightly late! I’ve kept at it, I’ve been consistent throughout the month and really enjoyed having that little push on days where I might have given it a miss. My final week was a very wet one, trying to keep cool in the water. I swam a total of 6.5km over the week, not bad! Starting at my local pool, heading over here for Olympic Day:

50m of loveliness

50m of loveliness

and heading back to the Aquatics Centre for some birthday-boy fun at Extreme Aquasplash:

Extreme!

Extreme!

I must admit, I slightly wussied out on this one: I managed one circuit and quickly realised I’m not a natural faller-inner, preferring to cling on tightly with a fearful look in my eyes. I left the boys to their wildness and opted for a lovely swim in the 50m lane, pausing every so often to enjoy watching Hector’s antics. My Juneathon came to a slightly abrupt halt on Hector’s birthday, when I simply couldn’t fit in a formal activity (I was running around like a loon) so made up for it the next day with two activities (I’ve doubled up on quite a few days actually, something I hadn’t really realised I was doing!).

Wow!

Wow!

On the last day of June I ran hard in the heat, tackling some local hills, then found myself stuck on a hot train on my way to the Serpentine Lido, where I should have been carving through some refreshing water. I got there in time for the second half of the session and realised that I might just have got over my fear of the open water.

Lovely lido

Lovely lido

…which is perfect timing since I have my first open-water triathlon this Saturday!

Monday: A lovely swim
Tuesday: For Olympic Day, a swim in the Aquatics Centre then a tough hilly club run in the evening
Wednesday: A hot and sticky run with a friend
Thursday: An errand-running bike ride
Friday: Friday road date at the Velopark and a swim during H’s lesson
Saturday: Some fast and furious setting out of cones for parkrun and lots of mobile cheering :)
Sunday: An awesome birthday Extreme Aquasplash session at the Aquatics Centre

Monday: Just a lot of running around after the birthday boy and friends!
Tuesday: Hot hill session (to make up for Monday) and a swim in the Serpentine

Again, another varied and fun week!

Running: 12.9km (oops!)
Swimming: 6.5km
Cycling: 51.7km

So, my total for the month is:

Running: 70.8
Swimming: 11.55km
Cycling: 116.2

…all across 35 activities :)

Posted by: fitartist | June 22, 2015

Juneathon Week 3, A Round-Up

Are we really into the last full week of Juneathon?! It’s flown by! I always find June flies and start to feel particularly pressured at this stage, as Hector’s birthday approaches. Looking back over last week, it was another varied and fun week of activities, with a good mix of run/ride and swim.

Some highlights of the week were the fun club session on Tuesday evening, where coach Adrian had us sprinting around the park, doing step-ups in the playground, running fast hill repeats over the spirally footbridge, doing *ten* planks in a row and some relays in pairs :) On Thursday I ventured out with my wetsuit to see if I could get into the Serpentine without getting right back out again. I did – my coached session the week before had given me so much confidence – and found myself really enjoying it and pushing myself to swim 2k of the 100m lido (with the occasional flip over to bob around and enjoy the view).

Lido

Lido

As always I loved my ride around the road circuit at the Olympic Velopark, I pretty much smile all the way…Saturday saw me jumping on my bike and heading over to Burgess parkrun as Hilly Fields was cancelled because of the fayre. A whole load of HF runners were there, so a great atmosphere and lots of chatter at the start. It’s very different from Hilly Fields that’s for sure…flat as a pancake! As a result, I found myself pushing hard and running my fastest time this year (not a PB, but so lovely to see I’ve ‘still got it’).

Hilly Fields on tour

Hilly Fields on tour

The most fun of the week probably happened yesterday, with a trip up to the Olympic Park (again, I certainly make use of its ‘legacy’!) with our bikes for a Father’s Day present of a ride on the mountain bike circuit. Edward hired a mountain bike because his hybrid road wheels wouldn’t have withstood such a bashing and off we went.

Happy Father

Happy Father

I think Hector was pleased that it was less ‘mountain’ and more ‘bumps’ – he told me he hadn’t been sure about coming, good for him for going for it anyway! So, we bobbed up and down with lots of whoops and joyous sounds and found a nice little spot to enjoy our picnic in the sun. As we rode around, Hector kept looking over to the road circuit and asked if we could go on there. Of course, I was overjoyed to be able to share this with him, so we left Edward to enjoy the rough and tumble of the mountain course and headed onto the smooth road for a quick three miles. I did feel a bit odd on my mountain bike and wearing jeans, but so lovely to show Hector around.

Smooth

Smooth

We even decided to go there together over the summer holidays and do some road riding :)

Monday: A quick lunchtime swim, not a good idea (lane hoggers and ladies-bouncing-up-and-down class)
Tuesday: My favourite summer time club session, with planks, bridge repeats and relays, fun
Wednesday: Lovely evening run with a friend
Thursday: My first solo swim in the Serpentine :)
Friday: My weekly date with the Velopark
Saturday: parkrun tourism with friends
Sunday: Super family Father’s Day fun on bikes

All in all, a lovely active week :)

Running: 19.2km
Swimming: 3km
Cycling: 56.5km

Posted by: fitartist | June 19, 2015

Summer Breeze 10k Race Report

(Almost a week after the event, whoops!)

I was intrigued by the idea of running a race that starts at 4pm and it was a good job too, it took me ages to get to Wimbledon Common from SE London! The Summer Breeze Running Festival consists of a 10k, half-marathon and a crazy 12-hour, through-the-night relay (or solo, really!). As we arrived I glanced at the hardcore few who were sitting relaxing around their tents.

Sleep-run-relayers

Sleep-run-relayers

I had imagined, with it being such a long series of events, there might be more to it and had dragged Edward and Hector along for the ride. There were a couple of stalls, a yoga tent and some live music, but it was quite low-key – this was ok because Hector soon found a piece of cordon tape to jump over for about an hour, before he and Edward moved around the course to offer some support.

Hi-five!

Hi-five!

It was great getting a (low) hi-five early on, it really made me smile and pushed me to go a little faster…

Wimbledon Wombling

Wimbledon Wombling

The course is lovely, all trail and through the woods. It had been an overcast day, but the sun had come out good and proper just as the race started, but the trees offered shade, although it was humid and this made it hard work. The course was very well sign-posted, with arrows, km markers and little hi-viz markers on the ground every-so-often. The marshals were all very friendly and encouraging, with smiles and kind comments all round. I loved the variety on the course, with lots of tree roots to negotiate and some really tough hills. One hill was long, up and up and up and another seemed to loom out of nowhere as I turned a corner. It looked like a sand dune (and felt like it in the heat) so I gritted my teeth, part grin, part grimace and went for it. Puffing and panting for air, I scrambled down the other side and enjoyed the pull of gravity back into the shade of the trees. I soon started to see the front-runners from the half-marathon passing by in the opposite direction, looking strong, so gave a few nods and well dones. At this point, the humidity was getting to me so I grabbed a cup of water and took a little slurp – not something I normally do in a 10k. As the race neared the last few kilometres, it took some interesting twists and turns – at one point I wondered where everyone had gone, only to find they had taken a sharp left and then right! We were now in the field with the finish in sight :) I saw the boys, Hector with his hand out for one last hi-five: “You’ll have to run with me! I’m not stopping!”. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and, out of nowhere, found it in me to give a sprint finish (no way!).

Bling shot

Bling shot

I was given a lovely medal, a t-shirt (hmmm, not sure about the colour though – men had blue, women had pink, but the *wrong* shade of pink, maybe something less pastel would be more suitable…please ;) ), water, coconut water, a banana and a copy of Women’s Running magazine. Lovely! Once the results were out I had a look through and found that a small field leads to some pleasing stats: tenth woman (!) and third in age group. All the more reason to run smaller, challenging races!

Posted by: fitartist | June 16, 2015

Juneathon, Week 2, A Round-Up

We’re half-way through, already?! What a week! A varied, hot and sticky, cold and wet, fast and furious sort of a week. I continued in my quest to overcome my open-water fears by jumping into the Serpentine Lido in my lovely new wetsuit:

Suited up

Suited up

I took part in a beginners’ session with RG Active, which saw me putting my face in the – slightly green – water and even managing to swim in a straight line! (I will write more about this in another post).

On Friday I got myself back into my date-with-the-velopark, which I missed for two weeks due to a certain Sir Bradley smashing the hour record and half-term getting in the way. I love my little trips up to Stratford with my bike. A quiet spin around the road circuit is just what I need at the end of the week, I always feel invigorated and floaty afterwards.

Post-ride feet up

Post-ride feet up

After a wet and wheely week, my weekend was all about the running. On Saturday I volunteered up at Hilly Fields parkrun then headed over to Wimbledon in the afternoon for a lovely 10k trail race (more about this in another post).

Blingy

Blingy

Sunday was all about Hector, the boy who ‘doesn’t like running’. A little while ago, if you asked Hector if he enjoyed running, he would say: ‘I like cycling and swimming, but not running’. Quite firmly. Since he started junior parkrun, he seems to have caught the bug! I had signed us all up to run the City of London Mile and, when I told Hector he would miss junior parkrun on Sunday, he left the dinner table to have a little cry. So we did both!

junior parkrunner

junior parkrunner

After some running (and volunteering from the parents), we rushed over to St Paul’s where I quickly took part in the women’s mile, then a quick number change and Edward, Hector and I ran our first race together. I was so very proud of Hector, he ran all the way, steadily keeping pace and, when I asked him in the last stretch if he wanted to hold our hands or go through by himself, he picked up the pace and said ‘By myself!’.

First race number

First race number

Monday: Last-minute before bed run, oops!
Tuesday: School run run, swim session in the Serpentine
Wednesday: Local pool swim
Thursday: Slightly feeble cycle to the station and back, too busy for anything else :(
Friday: Ride around the Velopark circuit (sigh) and a quick swim during H’s lesson
Saturday: 10k Summer Breeze race in Wimbledon (tenth lady!!)
Sunday: Women’s Mile and Family Mile at the City of London Mile.

All in all, a lovely active week :)

Running: 24.4km
Swimming: 3km 300m
Cycling: 43.7km

The Fit Family

The Fit Family

Posted by: fitartist | June 11, 2015

Aldi Camping Gear

Yes, camping gear! Aldi never fail to amaze me with their range of random items nestling between the freezers and fresh fruit. We’re not usually so organised, but this year we have been prompted by some friends to get our summer holiday sorted early and have our little square of Dorset camp-site already cordoned off and some fine weather requested. You may remember our camping exploits of a couple of years ago, when our – not that very old – tent decided to leak. A lot. We had many a night spent holding tea-towels to the roof in an attempt to stop our bedding getting wet and spent a small fortune on waterproofing spray which did bugger all. Last year we’d had enough and went for a bit of ‘glamping’. It’s all very nice turning up to a ready-made bed and home-comforts such as a log-burner and a…kitchen and bathroom (yes!), but we do like to camp ‘proper’, so took receipt of a new and heavily waterproof tent the other week. It was perfect timing, then, to receive some camping gear to review and give our trip a little more comfort.

*For the sake of taking photos, I have used a small assistant, but the items are all adult size and generously proportioned ;)*

First of all is the self-inflating ground mat. We normally use our now quite old roll-up mats that are little more than a yoga mat, but this is really rather good. As it was new, it took a little while longer to inflate, but once it had, it went from this:

Flat

Flat

To this:

Comfy

Comfy

It’s pretty comfy and will certainly give you plenty of distance between you and the cold ground, so contributing to some night-time warmth.

My glamorous assistant also had a go in the sleeping bag (I say ‘had a go’, he did a great impression of a caterpillar up and down the hall and played a making-objects-disappear-then-reappear-through-the-hole-at-the-bottom game…). I also had a lie in the sleeping bag, because I stopped using a ‘mummy’ type sleeping bag a few years ago, finding them a little restrictive, but this one if very roomy and I felt quite able to spread out a bit in it.

Fake sleeping

Fake sleeping

There are some useful details that make it better than the mummy bags I’ve used previously: it’s big and the ‘hood’ area is wide and doesn’t pull your head down, there is a draw-string around your shoulders to pull it tighter for warmth, there is a little internal zip pocket for valuables and this nifty little foot-zip is great if you’re tall, or just want some space/air around your feet.

Toesies

Toesies

We also tried out a little light:

Bulbous

Bulbous

It’s just the right size to hang in the bedroom space, using the handy little clip and has different settings, including flashing. I did wonder for a while when this might come in useful and arrived at the verdict that it could be handy to find your tent when you pop to the loo in the dark :) All of the items in the Aldi range are perfect for a family camping adventure and a great budget option for festival-goers, with tents costing as little as £19.99 for a hiking tent and £29.99 for a dome tent. A few of my friends are throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the 12/24 hour endurance relay events that are happening during the summer, so the items such as sleeping bags (£17.99), lights (£3.49) and inflatable mats (£13.99) are perfect for a one-off weekend away (in fact I’ve lent the sleeping bag to one such friend for this coming weekend!).

The next date for the camping range at Aldi is June 25th, so get down there with all your rugged, outdoorsy needs and stock up while you can. And they have nice chocolate too, for a campfire treat ;)

Posted by: fitartist | June 8, 2015

Juneathon, Week 1, A Round-up

Yay! Seven days done, it wasn’t that hard was it?!

My Juneathon week was a good old mix of activities:

Monday: A back-to-school run and a little swim
Tuesday: Tough track session with my running club
Wednesday: A late one! A quick swim before the pool closed…nice and quiet
Thursday: (my favourite) a swim in a pond then Assembly League race with my club
Friday: Seeing how far I could swim with one eye on Hector’s lesson (54 lengths, it turns out)
Saturday: A wheezy Hilly Fields parkrun
Sunday: Warming-up the little legs at junior parkrun then a 16km family bike ride

It’s been a wheezy sort of week. I have had asthma for years and it’s never really been a problem when I run, but recently it’s been stopping me in my tracks. After three visits to the GP, I have a pretty new purple/pink inhaler, but still find myself slowing down and sensing the heavy-legged feeling that comes with a lack of air. This spoilt all of my runs during the week and it’s getting me down. I’m hoping it’s down to this stuff, that is currently floating in the air where I live, a cotton-woolly substance scattered by the trees in the nearby park…

Fluff stuff

Fluff stuff

A highlight of my week was the swim on Thursday, a dip in the amazing King’s Cross Pond Club, a naturally filtered swimming pond just a short walk from the train stations. I also had a wonderful time yesterday with Edward and Hector when we set off on our bikes with the Thames Barrier as our goal. We weaved and pedalled our way along the Thames Path, pausing to enjoy the sights along the way and to eat our picnic at the Ecology Park, then we took a well-earned rest when we reached the Thames Barrier. This was Hector’s longest ride ever (16km) and he felt quite proud of himself after a slightly reluctant (and possibly intimidated?) start (all this after achieving a PB at the Hilly Fields junior parkrun in the morning ;) ).

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Totals for Week 1

Running: 22.1km
Swimming: 4km 650m
Cycling: 16km (I do actually cycle every day, but don’t keep track of all the little to-and-fro rides, so this is the only ‘timed’ ride I did).

We made it!

We made it!

And the Whole30 challenge? Well, for lunch today I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and watercress with cherry tomatoes…so let’s just say that’s going really well!

Yesterday I had one of the most delightful mornings…riding the commuter train, reading my lovely book-of-the-moment (Caitlin Davies’ ‘Down Stream’) and alighting at King’s Cross Station to wander in the sunshine to the King’s Cross Pond Club. I had been hearing rumblings about this swimming pond opening in the heart of King’s Cross so had kept my ear firmly to the ground, feeding on little titbits of information on Twitter and the like. Opening just over a week ago, it couldn’t be better timed for me and my open-water swim challenges, so I was booked in by Fusion Lifestyle, who run the site, and hoped for a fine day (I really am lucky!). I felt a little rush of excitement as I departed the station and heavy-faced commuters and skipped my way up to the pond, big arrows pointing the way (it’s an interesting walk, with so much going on in the area, you could get distracted). As you approach, you pass a small park area and really wouldn’t know there was a pond nearby until you spot one of those tall lifeguard seats, cue jump for joy from me :)

Urban Oasis

Urban Oasis

The staff were super friendly, but I’m guessing it would be hard not to smile when everyone who wanders in is full of curiosity, enthusiasm and eager to dip their toes. I was given a padlock for one of the metal cage lockers and directed towards the changing cubicles (which are very seasidey) and informed I would need to shower before climbing in, this is to wash off body lotions and so on, so the plants can do their work and to prepare you for the water…the showers are cold!

All change

All change

The area around the pond is full of life, covered in beautiful wild flowers and concealing the treat ahead…

Colourful landscaping

Colourful landscaping

At this point I was a bit giddy and wanted to photograph everything, so got one of the lifeguards to take my photo before I locked my phone away…

I do have feet, somewhere.

I do have feet, somewhere.

As I had arrived quite early (you could arrive even earlier and take a dip before work or travel as the pond opens at 6.30am), I had the pond to myself briefly, which was bliss! Taking it slowly, I chatted to the lifeguard as I sat at the edge and dipped my toes. Yes, it’s cold.

Ah, there they are!

Ah, there they are!

I wanted to savour everything: the sounds of the building works going on around me, trains rumbling by, aeroplanes cutting across the bright blue sky, the subtle smells of grasses and colourful flowers…Eventually I decided to go for it and abandoned my towel on one of the pond-side sunbeds and gingerly descended the steps into the deeper end (it reaches a depth of 2.8m at one end). Pausing while my body adjusted to the cold, I looked around to see a crowd of suited people surveying the scene from the viewing platform. Oh dear, an audience! The lifeguard chuckled and said I couldn’t chicken out now, as if! So down I went with a gasp as the water reached my chest and shoulders. It felt amazing as I swam a wide-reaching breaststroke, hugging the water all to myself and taking in my surroundings. I had asked how long the pond was, and told it was around 20m, depending on whereabouts you swam, so I carved up and down, keeping warm and smiling as a couple more people gently brushed their fingers across the surface of the water, wondering if they had the nerve to dip fully. It took some time, but I worked slowly towards submerging my face and trying a ‘proper’ breaststroke, which allowed me to look under towards the clear bottom and to take in the plants that naturally filter the water so there’s no need for chlorine. At the shallow end there are wooden booms keeping swimmers away from the filtration area and these are perfect if you want to lean back and float, looking at the clouds and birds go by. A couple of women joined me on the shallow platform with a baby, who quietly expressed her distaste at the temperature and was quickly wrapped up in a towel. Children can swim here with an adult, but I’m guessing they would have to be hardy types!

A brisk 15.7 degrees

A brisk 15.7 degrees

I now tried some front crawl and was confronted with the fact that I am heavily dependent on the line at the bottom of the pool and have a *lot* to learn about sighting…I managed two zig-zaggy lengths before some more sky-gazing. As I floated, a fellow pond-goer chatted to me and I realised my chin and lower jaw were set hard and I had trouble speaking, maybe time to get out! The ground at the edge had been warmed up in the sunshine, so I sat, with towel wrapped around me and absorbed some of this heat. It wasn’t long though before I started to shiver and shake and knew this was definitely time to get my dry clothes on. I could really have done with a hot drink at this point and there are signs of a little cafe opening at the entrance, so this could be a possibility soon, until then I advise a flask of tea to hand when you get out! The whole feel of the Kings Cross Pond Club is very laid back and I handed back my padlock so I could sit on the grass and watch as other people repeated my process (one man told me he was in London from Leeds for a meeting and decided to pop in before catching a taxi). The pond is due to stay in place for two summers, but it would be incredible if the planners decide to keep it instead of flattening the area and covering it with grass as I heard when I mingled with the suits on the viewing platform later.

Overview

Overview

The thing that is really special about this project, and is quite understated on visiting, is that it’s an art project, commissioned as part of the ongoing King’s Cross Public Arts Programme. ‘Of Soil and Water’ is a collaboration between artist Marjetica Potrc and architects Ooze of which the artist says: “We have to rethink how we live with the city and with nature. Here, we are collaborating with nature, and the artwork encourages the viewer to participate in that experience. Water is a source of life but it is also a metaphor for regeneration. We want to understand people’s influence upon nature but also our balance with nature.” If you want to read more about the project and to book a slot (the number of swimmers each day is restricted, to allow the plants to work efficiently), visit the website here.

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