The inaugural Marathon Swims, 2017

After my Swim Serpentine experience back in September, I was keen to find something to keep me motivated to get to the pool over the autumn/winter. I received an email about a new event, called ‘Marathon Swims’ and my finger was very soon hovering over the ‘enter’ button. How could I not?! It was to be held at my favourite pool, the London Aquatics Centre and I would have the chance to try a brand new event, whilst pushing myself over 5k (there was also the option to swim the full marathon of 10k. No thank you!).

I used my usual Swimathon training schedule, as I find it builds up the distance nicely and the instructions are easy to follow. A break over the October half-term disrupted my training a little (though we did go to a super water park whilst on holiday, but I mostly sat in the sauna or jacuzzi. Whaaatt?!), but I got back on it in the week or so before the event. I feel I trained well, but could possibly have done a bit more…I’m still not getting any faster.

Alongside my training, I was reading a fantastic book called ‘Leap In’, by Alexandra Heminsley. It’s a beautifully written journey, following someone who has such incredible drive to swim strong(er) and describes all of those wonderful feelings that we have when we overcome a fear or challenge and the joy that comes with immersing yourself, in particular, in open water. I couldn’t put it down and had a great urge to dip into the icy depths, though sadly haven’t managed that yet.

To the pool!

On arrival at the Aquatics Centre, I was given my timing chip and wristband and went over to look down on the pool. This event was different in that you didn’t just swim up and down your allotted lane for the duration of your swim, depending on a volunteer to count your laps. The pool was set out with a timing mat at each end of the width, with swimmers stepping over this at one end and swimming up and down each lane, ducking under the divider between and using each lane (thus covering 1km) before climbing out and passing through transition. I wasn’t sure how this would work out, but actually I found it really helped not having to keep count and being able to grab a drink and have a quick stretch before getting back in, with the start of each new kilometre acting as a kind of ‘refresh’.

The swim

Before getting changed, we had a quick briefing (which I missed part of due to being mesmerised by the swimmers) and were told how to apply our triathlon-style tattoo number (these are a bugger to get off afterwards, I ended up using nail polish remover!). Each wave of people was lined up along the edge and introduced into the water over the loud speakers, nice touch! Some people took this as a chance to give their supporters a wave and dive in confidently, I stepped over gingerly and then ducked down the steps (maybe 2018 will be the year where I overcome my ‘I’m not a jumper inner’ nonsense…). There had been much talk of pool etiquette and penalties being given to those who overtake in the flagged area and so on, but my first kilometre was spent dealing with a few lane grumps, who clearly hadn’t listened to any of it. A suggestion for next year is to have a sign at the end of each lane, saying ‘If someone taps your heel, let them pass’. Please.

I had a few frustrating moments due to not managing to overtake, or being stuck behind people who refused to let me overtake, so there were stretches of time where I might have gone faster, but equally, I had stretches where I had nobody in front or behind me and felt free to go for it and really enjoy the water, bliss! Towards the end of my third kilometre and for the rest of the swim, I was plagued by hideous cramp, with my toes curling and my calf muscles seizing up. I took a ‘kick it out’ tactic, which must have looked pretty odd to any swimmers behind me! In transition, I would give it a good stretch, hoping it might go away (it didn’t).

Throughout the whole event, there was a running commentary, with the finishers of various events being congratulated and interviewed and new swimmers being welcomed into the water, which made it feel celebratory and inclusive. Alongside this was a soundtrack of upbeat tunes (though I only really heard these in transition), keeping everyone entertained. I found the whole set-up made the swim seem to go quite quickly. Of course, I had moments of tiredness, as my shoulders started to really burn, but each kilometre ticked off nicely and I was soon heading down the last lane towards the finish and my medal!

At this point, I spotted my friends Siggy and Stephen, here for Stephen to also take on the 5k swim as training towards an Ironman next year. It was nice to see some friendly faces and share the experience. Will I do it again next year? Yes, absolutely! Where do I sign up?

A big thank you to Zoggs, who sent me this rather fun package as a prize for sharing my post-swim selfie on Twitter. Lots of fun for Hector in here too πŸ™‚


Swimathon 2017

When I took on Swimathon in 2015 and 2016, I made sure my time slot was nice and early. I do like to tackle my activities first thing, finding my energy levels are good and I can then float around in a fuzz of endorphins for the rest of the day. This year my Swimathon wasn’t until 3pm, so I was up on Hilly Fields, Run Directing junior parkrun and cheering on eager 4-14 year-olds around our 2k course. Once we had cajoled, hi-fived, timed and applauded our runners, I was free to head up to the Olympic Park with Edward and Hector, to enjoy a pre-swim lunch in the sunshine and to soak up the Swimathon atmosphere.

Like last year, I was swimming at the Aquatics Centre, my favourite pool and, when I arrived, it was tantalisingly empty!


I was signed in, handed a swimming cap (bright yellow) and wristband and asked to get changed and be ready at the poolside for the 3pm start. I had my usual numerous visits to the loo (totally unnecessary, but nerve-induced) and gathered at the edge with the rest of the swimmers. I was in lane 8, so made my way over to meet my lap-counter. Not all pools provide a lap-counter, so it’s best to check before you head over (in my first year, I was very lucky to have my friends Emma and Susan counting my 5k swim). I met the other swimmers in my lane, a mixture of 5k and relay groups, with my 2.5k seeming a little cheeky! As I mentioned previously, I had decided to ease back to the 2.5k this year due to the commitments of training for the London Marathon, which I think was a good decision, given that so much of time has been spent on the road, pounding the pavements!

As we chatted, Duncan Goodhew appeared and made his way round, shaking hands, being in selfies and giving people last-minute pep-talks. He wished me luck and we were soon gearing up to jump in. Yes, JUMP IN. Those of you who read my blog regularly will probably have gathered that I’m not a natural jumper-inner and certainly not a diver. My lap-counting assistant told me I was first in and, no, you’re not allowed to climb down the steps and duck under the lane divider. Oh dear. I surveyed the drop and considered the depth of the pool, stepped from one foot to the other and, at the last minute announced ‘I can’t jump in!’ He wasn’t impressed, but didn’t have much choice, as I skipped over to the steps, climbed in and ducked under. I know, I know, what a rebel! So, maybe there’s my next challenge, right there, get over my fear of the jump! Any advice/help/encouragement most welcome.

One good sign is that I wasn’t too flapped by my unconventional and slightly stressful start and quickly got into it, finding a nice rhythm, as my fellow swimmers caught up and overtook. The great thing about doing your Swimathon in a 50m pool is the space, you very quickly make your own path and everyone has enough room to stretch out and enjoy the water. I was definitely the slowest in my lane, with the others swimming at a very similar pace – this resulted in them bunching up and, every so often, catching up and overtaking me en masse! In previous years, I have been very methodical about my swim, breaking it up into manageable chunks, pausing every twenty lengths to take a sip of water. This time I just got on with it, reasoning that ‘it’s only 2.5k’. It certainly felt easier, swimming half the distance, but I still had to focus, readjust my form and think about my breathing.

At one point I lost count a bit, so it was great to know that my lap-counter (I’m sorry, I didn’t get his name) would be giving me a ‘two lap warning’. As I neared this point, I sensed a slick swimmer gliding through the water and up popped Duncan, giving me a few words of encouragement – there’s nothing like an Olympic swimmer easing up alongside you to make you kick your legs a little harder! One more length and I had finished! As my fellow swimmers continued, I felt a bit ‘lightweight’ climbing out at what was their halfway point! I think I will go back to the 5k distance next year, a real challenge for me. I picked up my lovely medal, gave others a cheer and got dressed, before meeting the boys, who were swimming in the training pool. I will definitely be back next year, with Swimathon now a big part of my training calendar, motivating me to get in the pool through the winter and try and beat my time. Don’t forget to read about the experiences of the other #blogsquad members too and maybe sign up next year…:)


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:



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!).



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 πŸ™‚
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 πŸ™‚

A mile in my, er, cossie

I have been thinking I need to swim in a 50m pool ahead of my triathlon in just over a week (!!). I could have jumped on my bike – or the bus – and headed over to the actual pool I will be swimming in at Crystal Palace, but I decided to take the chance to try out the London 2012 Olympic Aquatics Centre. Once I’d made the decision I was ridiculously excited and twitched as the DLR snaked slowly towards Stratford, and there it was, Zaha Hadid’s ‘pringle’ in all it’s watery glory.

Temptingly close

Temptingly close

As I approached the building, I mingled with a group of school children, who were going there for their lesson – imagine that! The woman on the desk was friendly and directed me towards the ‘Competition Pool’, and my excitement levels rose a little bit more. The changing rooms were big, with lots of space to change and plenty of lockers (take a pound coin) and a row of hair-dryers for people who don’t have hair that goes into a frizz when meeting with direct heat. I quickly changed into my swimming gear and sauntered out to the pool, where I was told to put my towel in my locker, which filled me with slight horror because I like to minimise the time spent exposing flesh between the changing room and the water.

Competition Pool

Competition Pool

The (lovely) 50m pool was divided into slow, medium and fast lanes and swimmers quietly carved up and down, respectfully allowing faster swimmers to over-take and finding a nice space to do their own thing (none of that hanging about at the end, chatting lark here, thank goodness). I assessed the pace and opted for a ‘slow’ lane for my breast-stroke warm-up, then ducked under to the ‘medium’ lane for my faster lengths (I really should accept that I am a ‘fast’ lane swimmer and stand my watery ground there). I was worried about getting into the 50m pool at my triathlon and feeling overwhelmed by the size and depth of it all (no shallow end), but this felt great, no problem. I had to get my head round the counting lengths thing – two ‘normal’ lengths for each 50m length…it went quicker. Before I knew it, I had swum 60 ‘normal’ lengths, so did four more to make it a mile. I didn’t want to get out, it felt so good to be in such an amazing space, the pool where all those medals were won two years ago. I looked up at the diving boards as I swam, marvelling at how anyone could throw themselves off. I think I might just make this a regular trip – all that loveliness for just Β£3.50!

Splashy selfie

Splashy selfie