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 🙂

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Juneathon 2015

Errr.

You remember Juneathon? I used to throw myself wholeheartedly into this (and its colder sister, Janathon), but in recent years I have decided I need to focus on my training and not knacker myself up by trying to run every day for a month. This June I’m sticking to that plan but still participating in Juneathon. ‘How so?’ you may ask, well I normally do something active every day anyway, so why not share it with everyone else and encourage others along the way? I will be doing my usual run/swim/ride combination, but making sure I log it (mostly via Twitter, but with a weekly round-up on here) and maybe pushing myself out of the door/into the water on days where I might normally have opted for the pyjamas/sofa combo.

If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have been trying to overcome my slight fear of the open-water and this has become especially pressing as I have now gone and entered an open-water triathlon in July. Eeek! Action stations! Juneathon will be about me getting my head and body around this challenge so, to really get myself closer to that goal, I have signed up for a couple of coached sessions in the Serpentine in Hyde Park (yup, where you watched those elites showing off their nerve at the weekend). If you’re one of those people who happily leaps off a tree branch into a river, cheering as you go, you might wonder what I’m so afraid of. It’s certainly not the swimming, remember I took on a 5k swim (and all the training leading up to it) in April? I’m now a strong swimmer, I can carve up and down the fast lane with my head held high (though not too high. You know). I guess I’m afraid of the unknown, the darkness of open-water, the creatures, the weeds that might curl around my ankles, the cold, not being able to breath and – in competition – the other swimmers thrashing around me. But I am going to overcome this.

I do need to get myself kitted out with a wetsuit though. My lovely friend Siggy has lent me her wetsuit, but I am yet to actually get it wet! I have taken it on tour, but it has stayed very neatly packed in its nifty bag…

Wetsuit on tour

Wetsuit on tour

If anyone has any tips on (budget) wetsuits, that would be great. I have been looking at the Wiggle DHB wetsuit, and if anyone has tried it and can recommend it, I’d love to know (though they are out of my size at the moment!).

Something else I am going to use Juneathon to focus on is my diet. I do eat healthily, I don’t drink alcohol and rarely succumb to the take-away leaflet, but my default lunch or snack seems to have become toast, which can’t be a good thing can it? I am a typical Mum: my child is well-hydrated and full of fruit and I’m parched and probably only reaching my one-a-day. I keep reading fellow bloggers experiences of the Whole30, so decided I’d try and stick to that for the month (and beyond?). It’s not about losing weight or going hungry, it’s a kind of re-boot towards a healthier diet. Since it means no bread for a month, I can see the toast-for-lunch thing getting smashed to crumbs (though this will be hard!). My book arrived today, so yesterday I just did a combination of guess-work and gleaning ideas from blogs. Now I’ve got the literature, I can try out some recipes and be a bit more informed. I shall update you on this when I write my round-up at the weekend…this will be way trickier than being active…mmmmm…toast.

Run It!

I became aware of the Join In campaign last summer when we looked for a parkrun local to our holiday in Devon and ended up meeting the lovely Chrissie Wellington in Barnstaple. Join In is all about encouraging people to volunteer at sports activities taking place in their local community and recognising the benefits for everyone, not just the people being supported by this generosity, but the boost to the general well-being of those who share their time to help others.

RunIt

RunIt

This is definitely something I can relate to, with my own experience through being Run Director at Hilly Fields parkrun (and now junior parkrun) and also coaching the girls’ group at my local running club. I will go as far as to say that volunteering in this way has changed my life – I can’t go far from my home now without stopping to talk to or being waved at by someone I have met through my involvement in local sport. On the few occasions where I have had to miss a session/event, I have realised how important it is for me to maintain this contact because it goes way beyond a functional organisational role and helps me to feel less isolated and to be a part of my community…we even have a book club as a result of getting together through running 😉

I was delighted, then, to attend an event in Hyde Park on Tuesday to launch Run It, a campaign to help existing clubs to get in touch with volunteers and to build on their success and to also encourage people to start running groups in their community, either through an event such as parkrun or even on a much smaller scale, like helping a friend go from couch to 5k over the summer months and sharing with them your own enthusiasm for being active and involved.

Grow your club

Grow your club

I arrived at the event with fellow runners Helen and Geraldine and we headed over to the Serpentine Lido to be greeted very casually by none other than former 5,000m world record holder David Moorcroft, I know! Looking around the room, I thought ‘I know that face too…’ when I spotted Mara Yamauchi chatting in the corner, what great company I keep!

Mara and Dave

Mara and Dave

Once Jo Pavey (yup!) had joined us around the table, Dave went on to outline what Join In and Run It are all about. We heard how running has grown and grown in the past few years and how research shows that joining in really does make us feel happier and boosts self-esteem. Sitting around talking about running is all very well, but it wouldn’t be a successful event without some *actual* running, so out we went into Hyde Park to warm up with a gentle jog, do some drills and attempt to keep up with Jo Pavey as she gave us a taste of her 5k and 10k race pace (my sprint)…

Speedy drills

Speedy drills

We then had a bit of fun with a 5k. Being committed run-geeks, we all had GPS bling on our wrists but, for once, we had to part with our digital crutches and go ‘on feel’, which is far harder than you might imagine. To add a bit of competitive spirit, we each had to give a predicted finish time, so the winner would not be the first to cross the line necessarily, but the runner who ran closest to their predicted time (this turned out to be Geraldine 🙂 ). And off we went. I felt good running through Hyde Park, keeping pace with another runner, trying to catch the runners ahead and enjoying a flat 5k for once. Around the course were marshals (of course!) who encouraged and directed but this wasn’t enough for me and a few others, who went off course and sprinted in ahead of Jo (!) in around 18 minutes. Well, that’s the only time I’ll clock a time like that! We mapped the route and worked out we’d covered 4 instead of 5k but, based on the pace we were running at, I was heading straight towards a PB. Oh well, it was fun, gave me a little boost and made me think I need to take the opportunity to run in different places more often. Once we had had a drink and got our breath back, we had a chance to chat with the athletes and take some star-struck photos (which I shared with the girls’ group later that day at the track). Join In and Run It are great initiatives that can help existing clubs and run groups, but also hopefully inspire people to share something they love.

Jo and me

Jo and me

Chasing a PB at the British 10k London Run

It would be amazing to get a good, solid night’s sleep before a race, but I doubt many people do. I didn’t, and kept waking at every noise, so was ever so slightly grumpy when my alarm went off at 6.30. I had checked the TFL website on Saturday night to find that trains from my station wouldn’t be running early enough so, once I’d sneaked out of the house as quietly as I possibly could (this didn’t stop a small sleepy-head appearing at the top of the stairs…), I cycled over to Lewisham to catch a train. I hadn’t checked my entire planned route, so found myself crowded on a tube train with a mixture of sporty people and still-drunk people, all being kicked off at Waterloo. I might have been on my way to the New Balance VIP area, but I’m sure ‘real’ VIPs don’t find themselves legging it sweatily through a city to get to the start with stress levels set at number 10!

Perfect shoes for the day

Perfect shoes for the day

When I did eventually reach The Cavalry and Guards Club on Picadilly, I was delighted to be directed upstairs by a very smiley and enthusiastic concierge, taking in the sumptuous surroundings as I climbed the wide staircase. The people at New Balance had very kindly laid on a delicious-looking breakfast, but most runners were politely sipping tea or topping up their water levels, having already had their pre-race breakfast before setting off (the big breakfast was just what I needed after the race!). At this point I was thinking less about eating and more about needing the loo, that annoying ‘I’m sure I need the loo AGAIN’ thing you do pre-race. Being in such lovely surroundings, the loo visit was actually rather nice and certainly beats a portaloo any day!

For Ladies

For Ladies

Ahead of the race starting, there were a few special moments when a procession of war horses made their way along Picadilly, accompanied by poems written by soldiers and some beautiful singing by the Military Wives Choir. From our vantage point on the balcony, we could see the crowds of colourful runners waiting patiently to start. I believe the start at last year’s race had been quite congested, but this year everything seemed to have been considered thoroughly, with each wave being slowly guided into place before setting off. I headed down to the start line and rather inelegantly clambered over a barrier (I was told to do this, I wasn’t gate-crashing, honest) and found myself right at the front, with the elites and a couple of thousand Help For Heroes runners. It was at this moment that I realised my Garmin had switched itself off and I had to try and get a signal in the 20 seconds left…I crossed the start line looking at my watch and waiting for it to get itself into gear, not a great start!

The start

The start

The crowds at this point were great, lots of really good cheering from the friends and family along one side and the runners still waiting to set off along the other. I pushed hard and tried – for a while at least – to stay near the front 🙂 In November I ran the Movember 10k in Greenwich Park and managed a PB of 53.14 (whilst wearing a knitted moustache), so really wanted to try and beat this time, with a little goal in my head of going sub-50. This would mean consistently running 5 minute kms, but my Garmin was having trouble giving me an accurate pace, so I was going by how I felt and allowing myself to be swept along with the runners and with the enthusiasm of the crowd.

I have found, through running parkrun as much as I can, that I enjoy a familiar course and knowing where I can push and where to hold back. I had looked briefly at the map of the route for this race, and I know the roads on the course pretty well, but I was surprised at how quickly I reached the next landmark. There was plenty of twisting and turning, with a long stretch along the Embankment and a slight low-point going through Blackfriars Tunnel (where my Garmin went all silly on me). I remembered this from the London Marathon, about three miles from the end…

Now we had the treat of seeing the faster runners heading back towards Big Ben and I gave a little cheer to the front runners. In no time at all I was in the same position with thousands of other runners across the barriers, still to enjoy that turning point ahead. One thing I would suggest improving on next year is the size of the KM markers, I missed a few (this is a good thing!) and it might be nice to be able to spot them ahead to give you a little push (especially as my Garmin wasn’t giving me an accurate reading). Now I was beginning to tire a little, and the run over Westminster Bridge felt longer than it had looked on the map. As I had visualised the course ahead of the race, I had seen myself take a right turn after Big Ben and sprint towards the finish, but oh no, it was through Parliament Square and a long slog out to Victoria before I could even think about finishing! What a relief to see the finish arch and to hear the crowds. I looked up at the clock and could see that, if I legged it, I might just make it under 50 minutes. This effort involved me making a lot of noise and pumping my arms possibly more than I needed to, but I just sneaked under as the clock ticked on.

At this point, walking up towards Trafalgar Square, I realised that, when you are running this sort of distance and running hard, scenery is largely irrelevant – I saw runners ahead of me, passing through the square and really couldn’t remember having done so myself! That’s how hard I was focussing! By now I had contacted the boys and it turned out they were at the finish line, looking really hard for me at the 50 minute point. Oops! I picked up my bag and medal, drank lots of water, and hoped that the official time would show what I wanted it to show…

Obligatory medal shot

Obligatory medal shot

…it did. 49.52, 43rd lady out of 8518, 453rd overall. Chuffed.

I would like to wish a huge congratulations to my friend Helen who, five months after giving birth, was back out there yesterday and run/walking the whole course with her friend Jo. What an inspiration!

Fitness First Home Run London

I’m really lucky that I am able to run during the daytime when Hector is at school (holidays present another challenge entirely), but it can be hard finding time to run when your day is spent mostly at a desk and this working day is wrapped up in a long commute. Many people decide to fit in some training by cycling to and from work, which is great because you can carry your change of clothes and paperwork in a set of panniers and not worry too much about travelling light. I often see runners though, plodding up our road in the morning, laden down by a rucksack bobbing up and down on their back and wonder just how good that can be for their poor old spine. I might just position myself outside sometime and tell them about a great service for London runners called ‘Fitness First Home Run London‘.

This is an excellent idea for runners who want to attempt a run-commute but would prefer to run with others and also not have to worry about carrying a heavy bag or working out complicated logistics around ‘travelling light’. Runners can run all or part of the way home and their bags will be carried for them. Commuters are offered a six season calendar, organised in six week intervals, with four routes available within inner London including Bank to Clapham Junction (via Waterloo); Tottenham Court Road to Highbury; Liverpool Street to Stratford; and Canary Wharf to Waterloo (via Bank). Each route takes runners on a cityscape journey covering iconic London locations such as the Houses of Parliament, South Bank and the Gherkin. The Fitness First Home Run London guided runs started last week and commuters can sign up for six weeks for only £15.00 (12 runs in total); which includes a complimentary t-shirt and the use of the bag carrying service for every run. As Home Run’s official fitness partner, each route will start or finish at a designated Fitness First gym, and Fitness First members can participate free of charge. If you visit the website here, you can check out the routes and decide which one works for you. If I worked in central London and wanted to make sure I fitted in a set number of runs each week, I would definitely give this a try, it looks like fun…

 

Adventures in Open-Water Swimming, Part 1: Charlton Lido

During my slightly panic-stricken pool swim at my first triathlon a few weeks ago, I thought to myself: ‘Well, my idea of participating in an open-water triathlon was a bit ambitious!’ and put it right to the back of my mind. Of course, once I’d regained my nerve, climbed out of the pool and flown my way through the other two disciplines, smiling throughout, I had forgotten all about my pool-fear and was looking to the next event, open-water or not. Realistically though, I think I need to be feeling super-confident before I dip my toes, wet-suit clad, into a lake/pond/the sea, so have decided to embark on a series of open-water adventures over the next few months, taking on a different (hopefully) venue each week. To ease myself into this malarkey with at least some level of enjoyment, I will take ‘open-water’ to mean ‘without a roof’, so this will include the lidos of London.

We’re lucky in London, with many lidos having been either lovingly cared for or lovingly restored and, from where I live in South East London, I’m just a bus or bike-ride away from two. This morning I put a moistened finger in the air, felt the warm sun on my skin and decided to bus it over to Charlton Lido. I have been to Charlton Lido before, but that was last summer and was in the company of small children during the school holidays: it was busy, bustling and noisy, a very different experience to my calm and quiet swim today. Since my last visit, there has also been some extensive building work, and there is now an excellent gym, indoor changing facilities and even a lovely sun terrace and cafe to warm up in after your swim. I would recommend registering online so you can book in advance: this saves you money and – I’m guessing – time during busy periods. I paid just £4 for my lovely 50m pool-with-a-sky swim today 🙂 The new changing facilities are great, clean and unfussy, with the option of a pool-side cubicle if you prefer. There are lockers alongside the pool (these take 20p, which is not returned, so make sure you’ve got everything you need before closing), but I would say more lockers might be welcome as it gets busier.

The Pool

The Pool

(this photo makes it look a bit grey, but it was gloriously sunny!)

Charlton Lido is heated, but don’t expect it to feel like an indoor pool…ease yourself in gently, take a few deep breaths and keep moving! Once I’d followed those rules, I found myself doing something I don’t normally do: lying on my back, wiggling my hands and feet and sighing, I couldn’t resist looking up at the sky from the water, bliss! As you can see from the photo, there were lanes, but I decided to just swim outside the lane as it was quiet enough, and off I headed, pulling myself into the 50m expanse. This always feels slightly daunting, but I’m sure it makes for faster swimming, not turning every 25m. Something that added to my sense of joy at the experience was the sunlight pouring through the surface and creating beautiful shadows on the bottom of the pool. I was mesmerised by the ripples, the blurred shadows of other swimmers, the dancing bunting and the little concentric circles created by droplets from my finger tips. Not wanting this feeling to end, I pushed a little further until I had swum a mile.

Climbing out, I found that as soon as you exit the water, you need to jump into a hot shower or quickly wrap yourself in a towel before heading up to the cafe for a bit of post-swim warmth and refuel…

Toasted

Toasted

As I gathered my things and headed to the bus stop, I noticed that the pool had become busier, with bikini-clad young things sprawling out on beach towels, topping up their tans. On a hot day this really is Charlton-by Sea.

 

To the Spitfire

School holidays are always tricky for someone who likes a bit of consistency in their training, but I seem to have managed to keep up my training over Easter (although the swimming took a bit of a back seat). I was starting to get a bit anxious about the lack of cycling going on, as the triathlon gets ever closer ( just over three weeks to go now!), so Edward suggested getting out on my bike on Easter Monday. I was a bit excited about this prospect and lay awake, twitching at the thought of whizzing along the roads on my lovely bike. My main worry has been getting lost…I know, I know, so Edward suggested using Google Maps, which can be set to give directions, so I got that going and, after way too much faffing, I set off on my merry way.

My solo ride gave me the opportunity to try out my new cycling shirt from Tribesports. I have found it hard to find a cycle top that is long enough, doesn’t ride up around my middle but is nice and close around the arms and shoulders, but this one does the trick and also looks rather lovely too.

Selfie with cheeky imposter

Selfie with cheeky imposter

The stay-in-place ability of the top is helped by these neat little rubber grippy nobbles on the seam around the bottom. Another nice detail is the little zip pocket in addition to some larger pockets, allowing you to secure a bit of money, or your phone (though I found the bigger pockets more easily accessible and deep enough to keep a phone safe).

2014-04-24 14.26.18

So, bedecked in lycra, I took to the roads of South East London, and was soon heading into unknown territory on a quiet Bank Holiday morning. In my state of general nervousness, I had to stop every time I came to a new junction and check my map…numerous cyclists passed me by, doing the nod and probably muttering ‘Amateur’ under their breath. Whenever I reached a quieter stretch of road, I went for it, picking up speed and noticing just how smiley cycling makes me…I can’t be the only person (adult person that is) who goes ‘Weeeeeeee’ as they cycle down hill.

Magnificent

Magnificent

In what seemed like no time at all, I was seeing signs for Biggin Hill and was soon speeding along the road that takes you to the Spitfire. Of course, I had to pull over and take a photo, I was pretty chuffed to have reached this point. As I looked at my map, I could see that I could keep on going towards Westerham, but decided I should turn here and head for home. The return leg was less consumed with map-studying – it always seems much easier to navigate home. My competitive streak kicked in as I tailed some fancy-schmancy riders and I felt fresh, with enough fuel in my limbs to go further. Next time.

So that’s 40k of solo riding.