A round-up and look forward

I know, I know, it’s the middle of January and I’m only now rounding up my year, tsk! It’s been a busy time, but in a good way, with numerous volunteering opportunities, coaching and leading runs. I guess another delay to writing this post is the sheer scale of what I have to round up from 2016! It was a fantastic year, with big changes and big challenges.

Family volunteers

Family volunteers

I started my year by qualifying as a UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness and starting my role as trainer for GoodGym Lewisham, running to do good in our community, making a difference and growing our friendships and fitness at the same time. With my birthday present at the end of 2015 being a place in the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman, my goal for the year was pretty clear, leading to many sessions on the turbo, hours of laps at the pool and a continuation of the consistent running that happens anyway. My ongoing goal to improve my swim speed and to overcome my open-water and race panic saw me proudly swimming my 5k Swimathon at the Aquatics Centre, my favourite pool.

Medal moment

Medal moment

In September I dived straight in (or rather schlumphed heavily into the Serpentine with hundreds of other people) and went for it with the first ever Swim Serpentine. I can’t say I’ve particularly progressed much with the open water swimming, having pootled, heads-up all the way round, chatting to each and every marshal en route! There’s a lot of work to be done, so I’ll be back this year and swimming it with my head down and with determination (my favourite bits were the hot tub and sauna at the end. Ahem).

Mega medal

Mega medal

As always, my favourite sporting moments have been those shared with others and, in June, we took Hilly Fields parkrun on tour to Paris, enjoying the beautiful course, cheering on friends to super finish times and, best of all, encouraging and cajoling Hector around his first ever full 5k! What a wonderful weekend, running, eating, socialising and sightseeing!

On tour

On tour

Other highlights have been supporting and facilitating others to push themselves and reach their goals. Our wonderful parkrun and junior parkrun are growing all the time and, with the introduction of a tail-walker, we welcome runners, joggers and walkers every week, with nobody finishing last. Once again, we put together a massive team, to take charge of the baggage trucks in Greenwich Park, taking care of the belongings of the many nervous runners, about to embark on the Virgin London Marathon. One of my favourite days of the year (more on that later…).

Top team

Top team

In July I gritted my teeth and tackled my first half-ironman in the beautiful surrounds of Holkham Hall. We had an incredible family and friends weekend, enjoying camping in the grounds, playing on the beach, fuelling up with fish and chips (yup, I’m such a pro) and slipping in a couple of little sporting events for good measure.

Knackered

Knackered

The summer was an active one, with coastal runs and sea swims in beautiful Cornwall and a real family treat, a trip to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. What a dream! Massive swimming pools (often all to myself), classes on tap and group runs and rides to keep us happy…I think we’ll be going back (Hector hasn’t stopped talking about it!).

Representing

Representing

In September I returned to the excellent London Duathlon, where I had my best experience in my three years of this race (though not a PB, so close, next time!). My race report was featured in 220 Triathlon magazine, which caused my Mum to squeal in W.H.Smith πŸ˜‰

Spread

Spread

My last post was all about getting out, whatever the weather and volunteering certainly encourages that! As a family, we always try to embrace whatever the weather throws our way and our Christmas holiday involved getting out, being active and making the most of what’s on our doorstep, with a brilliant day in the Olympic Park.

Family fun

Family fun

To round off what was a great year, I realised that, if ran as much as I could at Hilly Fields parkrun in the run up to Christmas, I could reach my 100th run on New Year’s Day. With some incredible support and juggling from my fellow run directors and a few slow-paced, flu-ridden strolls, I made it – Peckham Rye parkrun AND Hilly Fields on New Year’s Day, making it to 100!

The double

The double

An epic start to 2017! In the run up to Christmas, I was in bed, totally knocked out by ‘proper’ flu, none of this ‘man’ flu, proper, can’t move a muscle flu. As I lay there, I scanned twitter to see that the London Marathon were running a competition to win a place in the 2017 race. Typing in the answer to the question, along with probably hundreds of others, I thought ‘That would be nice, but I doubt it will happen’. Weeeeeellll, I won! There’s nothing like a marathon on the horizon to focus your training! It will be my fourth marathon, but it’s been a while. When I ran previously, I wasn’t part of a running club, or part of an amazing running community, so this time will be very different. Not sure I’ll be able to work on the baggage trucks this year, but hey!

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Swimathon 2016

*tick*

It was a bit weird – but nice – having a leisurely breakfast then strolling over to the DLR in my civvies, to head to Stratford for my Swimathon at the Aquatics Centre. Usually a Sunday morning ‘race’ involves anxious breakfast timing, laid out kit and a stupidly early start – I even got there early enough to have a coffee and chat to a woman who was running three miles for Sport Relief around the Olympic Park πŸ™‚ The atmosphere in the park was fantastic, very reminiscent of London 2012, with people in umpire’s seats, waving big foam hands around.

2012-esque

2012-esque

As I approached the Aquatics Centre, I got a rush of butterflies, as we entered through the big front entrance (you normally go down some side steps and through a less impressive-looking door) and saw the sweeping vista, while our bags were checked for offensive snacks.

Here it is!

Here it is!

I stood for a while and watched the previous swimmers completing their last few lengths and chatted to a family, who had popped in before going off to run a mile/three miles/six miles. I realised now, that I had better get my kit on and go down to the water’s edge! I was nervous, daunted and a little concerned that I wouldn’t cope well with how busy it might be. The changing rooms were buzzing, all of the volunteers and staff I encountered were lovely, really reassuring and I decided to stop being so daft and get my cap on ready. My *tiny* cap. We had been put into coloured teams, to help lap-counters and to encourage a sense of camaraderie – I was swimming for Team Blue and had to squeeze my head into the teeniest swimming cap ever, I didn’t hold out much hope for it staying put!

Once I was poolside, I located my lap counter and she ticked me off her extensive list – there were to be fifteen swimmers in each lane! Fifteen! As we were in lane three, there was also talk of jumping/diving in to start, no way! So I managed to convince my lovely lap-counter that, as I was second to set off, it would be OK for me to edge over from the steps, promising not to get in anyone’s way. Wuss. At this point I was pleased to bump into fellow #blogsquad member, Lucy. I hadn’t realised she was also swimming at the Aquatics Centre, so it was great to see a friendly face before we all dipped into the diving pool for a warm-up.

I usually avoid warm-ups at ‘races’, finding them a bit pointless, all that weaving from side to side when you’re about to run, but this warm-up was just what I needed. Of course, the bottom of the pool had been raised (which meant there was a pleasant bounce to it) and I had the chance to do a few widths, put my face in, steady my breathing and really get ready to swim. And yes, I did join in some of the side-to-side weaving stuff πŸ˜‰

The first swimmer in our lane hadn’t turned up, so I was told to pause and go on the second horn, so I waited patiently while Duncan Goodhew gave us some words of encouragement and sounded the horn after a countdown. At this point, I realised that the warm-up had really done the trick and I pushed off easily and confidently, starting as I meant to go on. The good thing about a 50m pool is the space you can make for yourself, so it took a while for the faster swimmers in my lane to need to overtake and we all managed to find a space throughout the time we were swimming together. There were moments though, where I had a little inward moan, there was one swimmer who was clearly much faster than everyone else and should have been in another lane. I know people are sometimes a bit inaccurate or overambitious when they put down a predicted time, but he was super speedy. Another man was all over the place, doing backstroke, weaving across the lane, not letting people pass at the end of the lane, so I was constantly having to stop and start. By now I had accepted that my time wasn’t going to be much faster than last year, so settled in to enjoy (endure?) the experience. This kind of distance really is endurance. I was constantly correcting my posture, telling myself ‘relax’ and ‘long neck’ and easing into a meditative state as I counted laps.

The atmosphere at the Aquatics Centre was brilliant, but it’s kind of lost on swimmers, who only hear the swooshing and wooshing around their ears! I would pop up at each lane end and catch a little bit of music, with David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ really giving me a little lift. Gradually, the faster swimmers and those swimming a shorter distance had got out and I was sharing the lane with two other swimmers. A big smile as I realised I only had ten lengths to go (this would be twenty in my usual pool!) and picked up the pace a tiny bit. Now only four and now two. I looked up and my lap-counter was now a man, who was shouting encouragement (I think it was encouragement, he might have been shouting ‘Stop! You’ve already finished!’), but I kept going, just in case. What a wonderful feeling to reach the end, little victory fist-in-the-air and a moment to find out how much time I had taken. Apparently I’d been in there for 2 hours and 8 minutes, surely not?! I queried this, reminding him that I had had to wait at the beginning (he had me down as first swimmer), which he said he would check. Anyway, I had swum 5k and I was happy. I climbed out somewhat creakily and went to collect my medal from a very jolly lady, who seemed to genuinely enjoy celebrating with people. I then had my photo taken and enjoyed a hot shower immensely.

Official photo

Official photo

While I was doing all this, Edward and Hector had been at junior parkrun, volunteering and running, then had leapt into the training pool, after checking how I was doing of course. I got a big wave and thumbs up, then they got dressed and joined me for a family hug.

Did it!

Did it!

We were now in the danger zone…food must be eaten! I was well and truly swammished and quickly ushered everyone out of the building so we could eat ASAP. All around us were people with various medals, all looking very hungry, but mostly very happy. We ate lots and, while we did, Hector made me a little napkin certificate…perfect πŸ™‚

Awsome

Awsome

Social Swimming

Just over a week to go until Swimathon 2016! Oh, my!

Last week, I decided I should get some practice in at the Aquatics Centre, since that’s where I’ll be taking on my 5k. I armed myself with my instructions, written down from the excellent training plans and a bottle of water, found a lane that looked nice and quiet and set about swimming 4km, the furthest I’ve swum since last year’s Swimathon. It was hard work. I do like the training plans, because they include breaks (of only twenty seconds or so, but still) and these kind of ‘refresh’ your stroke and your determination each time and break up what can be quite a tedious chunk of time. Yes, I said it, tedious! It’s not like there’s much to look at, though the Olympic pool is simply awesome and I catch my breath when I remember where I am, but the constant up and down can get a bit boring.

Awesome

Awesome

I do try to find ways of breaking the boredom, but it’s hard to daydream or drift off when you’ve got to keep count, so it becomes a kind of meditation, listening to the counting in my head, the swooshing sounds around my swimming cap and looking into the tiny bubbles that flutter towards me as my fingers pass through the water. I notice the roll of my body, readjusting as my shoulders start to tense, reminding myself that I should see the surface of the water, the lane divider and not the ceiling. I enjoy the deep, deep inhalation and the hard exhalation, the flutter of my legs and the power through my torso. I look down to the bottom of the pool, noticing lost hair bands, scrunched up plasters (urgh) and the depth that kind of hangs underneath me. I catch up with the swimmer in front and widen my stroke outwards into a slow breaststroke, secretly enjoying the little break and new view, but plotting my overtake at the lane end. All of this passes through my head during the up and down of eighty lengths of a fifty meter pool.

Today’s distraction tactic was to swim with friends. I say ‘swim with friends’, a social swim is an odd thing, with the swim itself involving us finding our own lanes and carving our solo paths, but the meeting up, travelling together and the post-swim lunch makes it all so much more fun.

Swim friends

Swim friends

…though the lunch that we inhaled at speed didn’t really ease the level of swamishness that we had reached πŸ˜‰

I love swimming

Really, I do. This is me trying to remind myself, with Swimathon now just four weeks away, that I do, in fact, love swimming. As the training for the 5k distance increases, so does the time spent in the pool and, of course, this gets harder to squeeze into an already busy week. Last week was half-term and I didn’t make it into the pool once 😦 so this week is all about rekindling my love of the water. As part of the Swimathon blogsquad, I was lucky to be invited along to a swim training session with none other than Olympian, Duncan Goodhew! Yes, I was very, very excited to be meeting a childhood hero – I used to watch him on TV in total awe. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet and learn from a swimming legend and also to meet some of the other blogsquad team: Lucy, Emma and Victoria. Sadly, Tess wasn’t able to come, but I hope to meet her some time in the future. First of all, I met Duncan and got to hold the gold medal he won at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. It is very heavy!

Image credit: Swimathon

Image credit: Swimathon

Once in the water, we got stuck straight in, with Duncan first of all taking a look at where we are currently at. I was pleased to be told I ‘have a lovely stroke’ (phew) and was given some drills to work on, with the goal of lengthening my reach a little and for me to think about bilateral breathing (oh yes, that one). I loved the drills, being someone who normally just carves up and down the pool, you can really feel the difference when you focus on one aspect of your stroke. After focussing on freestyle for a while (a few of us are working towards triathlons, with the aim of swimming freestyle throughout), Duncan showed us how breaststroke should really look. At this point we all went very quiet, with a little gasp hanging above the water. Disappearing under the surface, Duncan only reappeared after he had covered about half of the pool, when we had the pleasure of witnessing that gold-medal-winning style. Wow! Then we had a go…

Image credit: Swimathon

Image credit: Swimathon

I could have continued all night, hanging on his every word, soaking up the tips and eagerly trying to put it all into practice but, of course, it was over in no time and we were saying our thank yous and goodbyes, wishing each other luck in our various challenges. But not before doing a daft pose in the water…

Image credit: Swimathon

Image credit: Swimathon

Yesterday, I had a bit of time where I was going to be near a pool, so took the opportunity to get back in the water. I had my notes in a little waterproof bag, my pull-buoy and a bottle of water (well, half a bottle of water, since it decided to turn upside-down in my bag and pour itself down my back), so eased into the water with a goal. But it wasn’t to be. The first few lengths were great, I had lots of space, the sun was pouring through the windows and I was gliding. Then two men got in and took over, the lane Mafia I called them in my head. Overtaking, cutting up, glaring, pushing in. It was too much for my sensitive little soul, so I climbed out after 1km. Defeated. Today was a different matter though, I wasn’t going to let my head take over and I did reach my goal. The schedule said 3,400m and I swam 3,400m. I had the lane to myself for some time, then shared with a faster, smoother woman. When a school class came in, we shuffled across to the ‘middle’ lane , but this didn’t stop me, I was set on that goal and I did it!

Lane Love (or Hate)!

When you’re training hard for Swimathon, you get to spend many an hour carving up and down a lane. You also develop a very strong sense of the rights and wrongs of lane etiquette. I really do think there’s a place for everyone in the pool: back-strokers, side-gliders, freestylers, dry-hair-crews and duck and divers. This will only work though, if the pool has enough lanes to cater for everyone and if people think about those around them.

Yesterday we headed over to the London Aquatics Centre in Stratford for some mega Extreme Aquasplash fun. While Edward and Hector threw themselves and each other off this:

Extreme Fun

Extreme Fun

I got a long swim in, with the odd pause to smile as they flipped each other into the air. As the majority of the pool was given over to inflatable craziness, there was just the one lane for swimming. At first it was crowded, with all sorts of paces and styles vying for space. Over the course of the one-and-a-half hours, people came and went and things thinned out a bit. I do find that, over a fifty-meter pool, it is easier to spread yourself out and not encounter too much jostling, as long as people are in the ‘right’ lane. This was different, of course, but a little bit of patience and a bit of understanding and everyone can enjoy their swim.

Once a week, I pop into the pool while Hector has his lesson and encounter the same ‘challenge’, with lanes being used for teaching and everyone else piling into one mixed-up channel of grumpiness. It also happens when I visit on a weekday morning, as schools pile in for lessons. So basically, this kind of thing happens a lot, so why can’t people get the hang of negotiating a bit of space through a polite nod and the odd bit of overtaking? Sometimes everything clicks into place: you find yourself in the lane with someone who will happily pause at one end, allowing enough space between you to avoid slipstreaming or water-treading. At other times, you are huffing and puffing at the end of the lane, as a ‘lane knob’, as I call them under my breath, squeezes past impatiently, tumble-turning so close to your face that you fear for the safety of your teeth and then slows down in front of you, causing a tailback of tutting swimmers. If someone is constantly catching up with me, fine, I will pause for them to pass every so often. If I find myself constantly catching up with someone, I might politely overtake where space allows. It doesn’t take much for everyone to have an enjoyable swim!

Adele’s Lane ‘Rules’

– look at the sign at the end, slow, medium, fast, but also look at the people in those lanes, are they your sort of slow, medium or fast?
– look at the arrows on the sign, clockwise or anti-clockwise, swim in that direction (really)!
– if you constantly catch up with someone, gently tap them on the foot, so they know to let you pass at the end of the lane. Bear in mind they might not know this signal and could kick you in the teeth for stroking their ankle
– if you start off in the fast lane, then decide to do a slow back-stroke, move lanes, it is allowed!
– if you’re going to tumble turn (go you!) be nice about it and don’t plant your feet anywhere near me, thanks
– just because you’re the fastest person in the lane one day, it might not be the case on another day. It’s OK to be overtaken by a woman, get over it (some) men!

Minor rant over. I love swimming and I love seeing all sorts of people taking to the pool and, when you get chatting, it can be a wonderful part of your day. Let’s share the space and let everyone do their thing.

It’s that time again! Swimathon 2016 is happening!

Do you remember last year, when I swam 5k for Swimathon? Well, I’m doing it all over again and this time, I’m part of the Swimathon 16 BlogSquad πŸ™‚ Expect lots of swim-related blog-posts, lots of attempts to overcome my open-water ‘thing’ and lots of pictures like this:

Swim stuff

Swim stuff

That’s only a bit of my swim stuff, there’s also the fins and the drink (which I stupidly left on the side in the kitchen, instead of stashing for yesterday’s 2,300m swim, doh). I have been given a lovely new swimming costume and goggles by Zoggs, so feel quite the pro, carving up and down the lanes. I’ve been wearing my Zoggs Predator goggles for the past year, so these little tiny ones feel a bit odd, but don’t leave as much of a mark when I exit the pool, yay!

I started my training in earnest last week, realising I had about ten weeks to go until the big day. You might remember I followed the training plans on the Swimathon website last year and found them really useful. I liked the way I was able to build up my distance steadily and take breaks, not something I was used to doing previously. I’ve still got my slightly tatty print-out and will be following it closely again – yesterday was 2300m and I will do another swim of 3000m later in the week, so I’m already surprising myself at how far I can go!

Being part of the Blog Squad is great. I feel like I’m part of a team and know that I can count on the other swimmers for support. You can check out the other Blog Squad members here (I didn’t recognise myself in that photo!) and follow their progress on their blogs over the next couple of months. If you feel inspired to join in yourself (remember, I hadn’t swum further than a mile last year and went on to swim 5k!), you can sign up here. You don’t have to swim 5k, there are other distances: 1.5k, 2.5k, 5k and the Simply Swim option, which allows you to pick your pool and distance and complete your swim between March 9 and 20. I found entering Swimathon has been very motivating and following the training plan has kept me on track to have an enjoyable and fun swim on the day.

Keep reading to watch my progress πŸ™‚