The view from the injury bench

That’s right, I’m still sidelined by injury and no closer to knowing what my injury is and how to deal with it. The appointment I had with a consultant back in April was cancelled during the clinic, I got as far as going for an x-ray, then was told the clinic was cancelled on my return to the department. Yes, this was incredibly disappointing, having waited a long time to get to this point. I am currently waiting (impatiently) for my next appointment in June.

So how am I dealing with this? As a coach, I always say to people that they need to take care, rest, respect their body and, if they are injured, a good way to keep in touch is through volunteering. I have continued to volunteer at parkrun, I have been at the edge of the road (or pool) for many races, I volunteered on the baggage trucks at London Marathon and I continue to clap, cheer and holler for my friends as they fly by, smiles wide and hands in the air.

One of the good things about this approach is staying in touch with your community. I enjoy the post-run coffee and catch-up and this is as important to me as the running itself. I have been findingΒ  myself feeling a little sad recently though, as the injury blues kick in and I miss that incredible endorphin rush that comes from pushing yourself hard and hi-fiving your fellow athletes, knowing you have given it everything.

I am keeping it all ticking over, but I can feel my run-fitness seeping away, as I huff and puff, trying to hold a conversation. I am running twice a week, leading my GoodGym group runs, which are a stop-start sort of run, that I just about get away with, hobbling and wincing along the way. I am continuing to enjoy pushing my limbs to be a little more willing at More Yoga and I am, of course, dipping in and out of the water when I can.

A couple of weeks back I went along to London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming. I have been here before, a couple of years ago, when I had a little panic because the ladder, used to lower yourself into the water, was broken and we had to jump in. I did eventually overcome my panic and schlumphed in with some encouragement from the lifeguard, who was incredibly patient! This time I decided to join a coached session, to ease myself (literally) into the open water season.

Cable Cars

The open water swim area is pretty easy to get to, just a short walk away from Royal Victoria DLR station. If you want to make an entrance, you could opt for the cable cars, which land just next to the water.

Watery expanse

This view is what greets you as you approach the area, pretty huge isn’t it?! Having been before, I knew that I would only be touching the tip of this vast waterway, so felt reassured rather than intimidated. The coached session was great, with a few of the people having entered events such as triathlons or open water swims, feeling the need to try out wetsuits and get used to the cold (which actually it wasn’t really, my toes were still pink when I got out!). First of all, we paddled about in the water, acclimatising, allowing a trickle of water to enter the neckline of our wetsuits, before turning onto our backs to float and onto our fronts to blow bubbles.

As our confidence grew, we swam out to the first buoy, where we were shown some techniques for going around a buoy, which was a lot of fun. We also attempted a group start, clustering together to see how it feels to swim so close to others and get a sense of how a race start might feel. By the end of the session I had found my feet, as it were, knowing I can now go on and enjoy the open water by myself. I do think my panic will only really subside if I keep on going, spending time in the water, getting to know my ability and building confidence to do my upcoming events justice (I’m entered into the two-mile Swim Serpentine again in September).

With my wetsuit warmed up and ready to go, I’m looking forward to dipping into the Serpentine Lido, more of the Royal Docks, some sea swimming and I would really love to try out the ponds at Hampstead Heath. Here I go on another open water adventure!

 

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I am a Half-Ironman!

(or rather woman)

Yes, I did it! Like last year, when I requested an Olympic Distance Triathlon for my birthday, I found myself in Norfolk last weekend, ‘enjoying’ my half-iron birthday treat. We picked up Hector from school on the Friday afternoon, filled a hire car with camping gear and my bike and headed off towards Holkham. It was very exciting as we drove through the area, spotting arrows and signs – we were on the bike course! Driving up into Holkham Estate, we were directed towards our patch of land and set to putting up our tent…we were very lucky at this point, getting the thing up just before there was a very sudden downpour…followed by beautiful double rainbows.

Our spot

Our spot

We had thought of staying in a cottage, but it seemed to make perfect sense to be right there on site, with just a stroll down to registration, transition and the briefing on the Saturday. Hector enjoyed the lovely playground with Edward while I picked up my number and stickers, racked my bike and listened very carefully to the quite entertaining pre-race briefing. It was interesting – and reassuring – to hear how much care is taken in testing the water before committing to holding an event. Apparently the lake we were to swim in was very clean and, due to be under-fished, we might see some very big fish on our swim. Eek! At this point, Edward had to nip off to take part in the 10k that had been organised (alongside a 2.5k race) in addition to the triathlon, so Hector joined me at the briefing, ‘Boring!’ Edward did really well in his first 10k in years, finishing just outside the top ten and getting himself a PB on a tough course.

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

The rest of our day was spent on the beach, enjoying the dunes, trekking to the water, dodging incredible thunder storms (by huddling under our picnic blanket) and burying a child. Of course.

Has to be done.

Has to be done.

We were also trying to keep in touch with our friends Siggy and Stephen, who had persuaded me to do this thing in the first place. Staying in a tent in a rural area leads to flat batteries and no signal, so slightly snatched conversations! We explored the tiny little shopping street at Wells-Next-the-Sea, picking up a new bucket and spade and marvelling at the superbly stocked sweetie shop.

If you have followed my blog regularly, you know that I try hard to find the right fuel in the run up to a race and also during the event itself, trying my best to avoid cramping and stomach issues. I hadn’t really thought ahead to my pre-race dinner and, as we were travelling light, we decided to go out to eat. Following the snaking line of thriathletes, we were led to the most wonderful fish and chip shop, where I shared this with Hector:

Top fuel.

Top fuel.

Ahem.

A relaxed evening was spent lounging around in our pyjamas, the boys drawing and me frantically rereading Chrissie Wellington’s excellent autobiography for inspiration (it never fails to inspire). I was anxious to get to sleep early as I had an early start. Hmmm, I did get to sleep fairly early, but found myself awake at 1am, then pretty much every hour after until I decided to just get up at 5am and traipse to the loo. Amazingly, I managed to get dressed, faff about, make porridge and tea on the stove, faff some more and leave without disturbing the boys. I was very nervous.

I had had difficulty finding my transition spot the day before and still took some time working out where my stuff was (and it was obviously now full of gear and people!). I laid out my belongings, doing a little run-through in my head, making sure everything was in order. I then spotted Siggy and Stephen, so had a little nervous hug and excited chat about what they’d got us into. Time ticked away quite quickly, so I decided to put my wetsuit on and put my very stylish Orla Kiely Tesco shopping bag in the baggage area with all the posh tri-bags. Time to leave transition and wait by the water.

Big nerves.

This is the point where I really start to panic. The water looked calm and I knew it wasn’t terribly deep (in fact we were able to stand at first), so this reassured me, but I looked around nervously at the other women in my wave (about 250 of them) and listened carefully as we were given some last-minute instructions. More hugs and we were heading down the ramp. The water was pleasant, but I still had that seeping-in-through-the-zip moment and wasn’t sure if I liked the feeling of my toes – and then my legs – sinking into the deep, blancmange-like silt! I kept back and to the side, allowing other, more confident women to move forward. A countdown and some cheering and we were off! I had given myself a good talking to in the previous days, telling myself to stop being such an utter wuss and not doing breaststroke for the whole thing. I did breaststroke. I looked to the side, where people were walking along the river bank, calling encouragement to their athletes. I smiled at marshals, who asked if I was OK. I noticed another woman turning around and going back after just a few hundred meters and I watched as pretty much everyone else peeled away in a surge of strong, front-crawling arms and legs.

Gradually, I put my chin in the water, gently blowing bubbles to regulate my breathing. I looked ahead and wondered where the island was. I chatted to some more marshals (a sure sign that your swim isn’t going as planned) and I avoided the fallen tree that bent over the water (and apparently looks like a crocodile if you have your face in the water, which I didn’t). I approached the island and swum round it, head up. I turned and looked hard to see how many buoys were left. I kicked my legs a little harder as I saw the last wave (of men) coming though now and hoped they didn’t catch me up and push me under. This, for some reason, gave me enough incentive to try front crawl. Here, I glided easily, overtaking, reaching buoys quickly. I ticked swimmers off then had another brief panic, going back to breaststroke and getting overtaken again. Men caught up but didn’t duck me. I tried again, thinking I could see the finish, where we were due to climb out – surely not?! I saw Siggy, I had caught her up! Overtaking, I shouted ‘Go Siggy!’ and made my way towards the last buoy, where we would make a sharp turn left. Me and all the other swimmers now crowding the area. The water became unsteady, a wave hitting me in the face and going down my throat. I choked and tried hard to breathe, a kind woman ahead calling out to see if I was OK. I was, I was just freaking out.

What a relief to be pulled out and to make my way up the ramp, undoing my zip and peeling off my wetsuit. Transition. Time to put on my cycle kit. Off I went, happy now. In the briefing we were told to have our bikes in the right gear for a hill start, I pedalled on. We rode up a long, straight road, a beautiful start to a bike leg and out through the gates of the estate. These were open roads, so we had to ride carefully, looking out for other road users. Junctions were marshalled and some had cones to guide us away from busy traffic. I had put two drinks bottles on my bike and had also invested in a little bento bag for my cross bar. Once I had settled in to the ride, I took a few gulps and a salt tablet (I wasn’t going to be beaten by cramp this time). The organisation of this event was excellent, the attention to detail impressive. I really appreciated the bright orange spray that had marked any potholes and drains, making it so much easier to just ride! We soon encountered our first hill, where I overtook a fair few people. One man, who I went on to meet at every hill, commented that these hills were hard work – he should try the North Downs sometime! Here I realised that all the hours spent on the turbo trainer had made up for any lack of actual road riding and I felt comfortable, strong and happy. I nibbled on chunks of bars that I had carefully wrapped in foil, guzzling drinks to wash them down (I need to work on this skill).

The first part of the ride was gorgeous, through quiet villages, on more or less empty roads and with little to challenge us. Later though, we were directed towards an A-road, where I put my head down and pedalled hard; I didn’t like this bit. The road was busy and fast and I had a little scream as two motorbikes sped past at top speed. Feeling a bit shaken by this and the bit of a traffic jam that we met at a junction, I pulled over at the next aid station to compose myself and have a chat with the lovely marshals. On your race number is your name so, as I pulled away, the team of people shouted ‘Go Adele!’, giving me a little boost to pick up the pace and catch up with anyone who had overtaken me on my break. This last bit went quickly and we were very soon turning the incredibly sharp bend that would take us back towards the hall. I was pedalling fast, feeling that I might make good time on the bike, but suddenly felt something hit my leg, ‘What’s that?!’ My bottle cage had come loose (I had been wondering what that rattling noise was!) and was falling off. Quickly, I jumped off and decided to just tighten it enough with my finger to get back to transition, fiddly! Back on I jumped and tried to catch up again. Along the long, long road and down the hill to transition where I attempted to find my space again. Off with the helmet, on with the running shoes and off in the wrong direction towards bike out. Doh. Eventually I found the way out and was greeted by a great big cheer of ‘Go Adele/Mum!’ and got myself a lovely big hug from the boys.

By now it was getting hotter. The hill that I had ridden with ease and enthusiasm was steep and long on the run, with tired legs and numb toes. The half-marathon was a three-lap run, taking on this hill three times. I ran the first lap, slow and steady, determined not to walk. I took some liquids at the feed station, feeling boosted for the lovely section under the shade of the trees, towards our campsite. At the lap marker, we were given wristbands to wear, signifying how many laps we had done (what a great idea!). I ignored the finish funnel to my right and kept going towards the feed station, where I sucked on a gel, urgh! The long road stretched ahead and I found myself slowing down to a walk. I wish I hadn’t, I wish I had kept a steady but slower pace, but I had done it now and felt like I had given myself permission to stroll and chat! I ran chunks of it ‘To the drinks’, ‘To the gate’, ‘To that marshal’, but walked great chunks too. Lap three and I saw numerous athletes pushing their bikes out of transition, medals around their necks. Keep going! Another gloopy gel, yuck and a loo stop!

Only one more lap to go and I would be a half-ironman! The long road stretched out in front and I walked again, but heard a familiar foot-fall behind me, it was Siggy! ‘Come on Adele’, she said, ‘We’re going to do this!’ ‘I’ve had enough Siggy’, ‘Come on!’ On we went, jogging steadily to the next drinks station, the last. Siggy chatted constantly, keeping me going, distracting me. My knee hurt, but I didn’t want to moan because she was so upbeat! We made it through the trees and out to where the tents were, people sitting in deckchairs, cheering, encouraging. Only a few hundred meters to go! We saw Stephen, who had finished a while before us and turned to run up the red carpet! The tape was out, like we were the winners and we held hands to cross the line, hands in the air! We had talked about doing this, but didn’t really imagine we would finish at the same time. Medals were put around our necks and Stephen was there to meet us. I had a little cry, then pulled myself together to hug Siggy and thank her for getting me round the run. It turned out Edward and Hector were at the beach (!) so we went into the food tent and tried to force down some of the delicious food on offer, along with a couple of pints of alcohol-free Erdinger (I love that stuff!). We debriefed, sharing our highs and lows and were soon joined by the boys, who gave us lots of cheers and high-fives πŸ™‚

Half-Ironman

Half-Ironman

I’m not sure if I will do this race again next year, but only because I like to try different events. It was brilliantly organised, one of the best I’ve been to, with great attention to detail, incredibly friendly marshals, who seemed to appear just as you needed them to point you in the right direction. The venue and course were beautiful, the on-site camping was spot-on and I would heartily recommend this race the anyone thinking of giving it a go. What next? I’m not sure yet, but not an Ironman, stop asking me that question, people!

CapitalTri Splash and Dash 2016

I have a *little* race coming round very, very quickly and I am starting to panic slightly. I have only been on one big bike ride (though I have done lots of turbo training in the stuffy confines comfort of my own room), lots of swimming, but not the open-water variety and plenty of running, but nowhere near half-marathon distance. Eek! Regular readers will know that I am a strong swimmer, not especially fast, but strong but, when I venture into the open-water environment, all that work on technique flies out of the window and I become a jibbering (ship) wreck. I definitely need to get more cold water practice in before my half-ironman in just under three weeks’ time, so I decided to enter my first aquathlon at the weekend.

I’ve done triathlon (sprint and olympic) and duathlon, but never an aquathlon. I had a little ponder beforehand about what I should wear: the reservoir swim would need a wetsuit, but then I would be running and, as I didn’t really need the padded trisuit, what would be the best outfit for this event? I then looked at Sunday morning transport and realised that the only way I could get there for the 7:55 start was to cycle, so padded trisuit it was. I looked at my Citymapper app, I looked at GoogleMaps and they both had me cycling in to town from South East London, over Tower Bridge and up Kingsland Road. So I totally ignored this and went towards the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and up through the Isle of Dogs. I know a bit of this area (mostly from running/supporting at the London Marathon), but I get a little lost beyond the, erm, top bit of the river. Mr GoogleMaps was shouting from my pocket every so often: ‘Take a right turn towards the Blackwall Tunnel Approach!’ ‘Bugger off!’ I shouted back as I pedalled really fast along a horribly busy road.

After a while, I decided to step away from the main road and wend my way towards Mile End Park and work it out from there. Time was ticking away. The sky was turning grey. I was getting a bit stressed. When you are someone who experiences panic in a water-based race, a calm journey is vital, so this was not the best preparation for jumping into a dark pool. Through Hackney I whizzed, down Dalston I dashed and up towards Stoke Newington I rushed. I knew I wasn’t going to make it on time though, so wasn’t entirely sure I’d be taking part! At 7:53 I skidded up to the entrance to West Reservoir and asked a man in hi-viz if I was too late, he very kindly said: ‘Don’t worry, we can probably put you in the next wave’. What a lovely man! I calmed down, took a deep breath and locked my bike up, before heading in to register.

West Reservoir

West Reservoir

After I had picked up my number, swimming cap and timing chip I went outside to have a look at what I’d got myself into. My (original) wave was about to start and I looked on as people jumped in, yes, jumped in. I’m not a jumper inner. I hate jumping in. First pang of nerves. I decided to find the loo and get myself ready. The facilities here are great, there’s a cafe (though I didn’t make use of this, so can’t vouch for its niceness), plenty of loos and there are even hot showers (none of this ‘You’re swimming in cold water, toughen up!’ nonsense here). In the changing room, I got chatting to another swim/runner, who was also a bit nervous and it turned out she had been here before and had lots of good things to say about the experience. Now to find somewhere to store my stuff. Most lockers were locked, but some were open, but with stuff in them, so I ended up just leaving my bag in the changing room, reasoning that these were nice people who wouldn’t be interested in nicking my purse, my phone, my warm clothing and my bike lock key. Gulp. More lockers or a bag store please!

Time to go! There was a very relaxed pre-race briefing by the nice man I had met when I arrived, then it was down to the jump-in jetty. At the end of the jetty was a very jolly woman with a big camera, saying ‘Now, do your most dramatic jump in for me, go on!’ Nope. I’ll just sit here and dangle my feet in thanks, then slowly schlumph in in my own time. Thank you very much. The water was lovely, really pleasant and I didn’t gasp once – this didn’t mean I had any plans to put my face in just yet though. The sky was getting greyer and the water stretching out in front of me seemed even darker. Aaaaahnd, off we went! As always, I let the big men get over themselves and splash off into the distance, before I did a little timid breaststroke towards the first buoy. The lap at West Reservoir is 750m, so I would be swimming two laps, for now though, I would just get to the first buoy.

Not long ago I did the 5km Swimathon at the London Aquatics Centre, I trained hard, working on my technique and really powered along with a strong front crawl. Here I was doing a feeble breaststroke as others peeled away confidently. I really do need to sort my head out about this 😦 ‘OK’, I thought ‘I’ll try a little front crawl now’. ‘Oooh, no! It’s dark and cold!’, back to breaststroke. Jeez, I make it into a big old ordeal for myself, I even got a bit bored at one point. Lap one done and another to go. ‘Right, I’ll definitely do front crawl now!’ and yes, I did for a bit, overtaking people, sighting really well, reaching the buoy quickly and efficiently, then back to breaststroke and slowly pootling along again.

As I neared the end of my second lap, I saw something dark splashing about in the water, a leg or arm reaching upwards. I wondered why the marshal wasn’t acting on this and going to this person’s aid. As I got nearer I could see clearly that this was not a wetsuit-clad limb, but a bloody great big black fish leaping in and out of the water! You should have seen me move! Woo-hoo! Sharks! I watched with interest as those ahead of me negotiated the water exit and wondered what the score was, would there be a shallow bit to stand up in, would there be a grippy mat thing? No, there was a wooden ramp with green slime on it, so I oh so elegantly schlumphed back out and attempted to stand up as cramp set in. There’s probably a photo.

Into transition, which was soggy and grey, it had been raining while I was in the water and I hadn’t noticed. I peeled off my wetsuit and wrestled with my damp socks and running shoes, not really managing to adjust my elasticated laces properly, which made for some really uncomfortable numb-toe running as time went on. Finger on my Garmin, I looked around for the run-start timing mat, but there wasn’t one, the mat was in the entrance to transition, so all that faffing about had counted towards my run! Damn it! The 10k run was an eight lap course around the reservoir. This was on grass, with a narrow groove carved out by earlier runners. It skirted a river to one side and was overlooked by new developments and a path frequented by dog walkers and runners, what a lovely place to live! The field was small in this race and, as I had started in one of the last waves (and made such a pig’s ear of the swim), I often felt like I was on my own. Now, I like this, I enjoy being able to concentrate and just focus on my form, so this suited me. Even though there were eight laps to keep track of, I managed to do so – though I was doubtful after a friendly chap spoke to me on the fourth lap and I briefly lost concentration! A few more laps – each one with a little smile and nod to the photographer – and it was time to head to the finish and a banana, a bottle of water and a Topic, yes a Topic, nice!

I gathered my wet things from transition, chatted to a man who was training for an Ironman in Bolton, thanked the marshal who gave me encouragement every time I passed him and went to grab my stuff to go home. I’d quite like to do one of these events again, now I know how to get there πŸ˜‰ I might enter a shorter distance though and see if I can speed up a bit. Now to look forward and build myself up for Holkham Half-Ironman, it’s not going to be easy, but it will be so much nicer if I can get on with the swim and do front crawl!

Aquathlete!

Aquathlete!

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™‚

A Round-Up and a Look Ahead

Well, that flew by, didn’t it?! I really can’t believe it’s 2016 tomorrow. It’s been another great year, in my own running and multi-sports, but most excitingly in helping others reach their goals. 2015 has been another busy year, with lots of races and times smashed, starting with a new half-marathon PB in February.

Big Medal

Big Medal

In April, I went beyond my own expectations by swimming my furthest distance yet, in the 5k Swimathon. Having only swum a mile at most, I trained steadily and reached my goal with a little help and support from my friends.

Happy Hug

Happy Hug

Watch this space to hear more about my Swimathon plans for 2016, it’s going to be another exciting swimming year.

After months of training and dipping my toes – tentatively – in open water, I went for it and had a brilliant time in my first open-water triathlon at the Lidl Bananaman Triathlon. It makes me smile so much when I re-read this race report and look at the happy photos, what a brilliant day we had.

Easy Riders

Easy Riders

September saw me taking on the London Duathlon again, under less than perfect conditions (I was full of cold and should probably have stayed in bed, but…).

Will run for roasties

Will run for roasties

One of my proudest race moments of the year was the Hever Castle Triathlon, my first go at the Olympic Distance. I was so nervous about the swim in a lake and river, it felt amazing to exit the water with a smile on my face.

Cold, but happy

Cold, but happy

So, what have I got planned for 2016? It’s going to be a big year! I will be taking my running coaching to another level, in my new role as trainer with GoodGym Lewisham πŸ™‚ We will be running to do good, from January 18th, making a difference all over the borough and getting fit in the process. My own goals are to continue on my triathlon and duathlon journey, with the next level being tackled in July at the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman. Yes. Bugger. I blame my friend Siggy, who twisted my arm, at least I know she will train as hard as me and we’ll smash it together. FitArtist is ten in 2016! I will be working out a celebratory plan-of-action, so keep an eye out for any special events. And, of course, I will be spending lots of time running and cheering at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun.

It was my birthday yesterday. I always run on my birthday and thought it might be nice to see if any of my friends wanted to join me. This is what happened:

Lovely friends

Lovely friends

Two more friends joined us en route and they were all very well-behaved when they came home for tea and cake…

House-trained

House-trained

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Have a brilliant 2016 and I look forward to your support, encouragement and ideas throughout the year x

Summer Round-Up

Arrrghhgh! Where has the summer gone?! I’m braving it and trying to keep the toes out for as long as I possibly can, but I felt decidedly chilly on this morning’s first-school-run-of-year-four (I know, year four!!). It really does seem like yesterday that I was picking Hector up from school with the whole, long, warm (?!) summer holidays ahead of us, and here we are in September. It was a lovely summer holiday, with lots of fun activities, many active…

Body Boarding in Dorset

Body Boarding in Dorset

Some less active…

Crumble-bound

Crumble-bound

Some that involved getting muddy…

In Deptford Creek

In Deptford Creek

And some that involved getting wet…

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

This last image shows the Royal Victoria Docks in East London. Some readers might know this from the London Triathlon – this is the same body of water that thousands of tri-hopefuls leap into each year. You can now go swimming here on a regular basis, so I thought I’d give it a try. The opening times are limited obviously, so I found myself setting my alarm for silly o’clock one Sunday morning, in an attempt to cycle over there, swim and get back in time to volunteer at Hilly Fields junior parkrun. Phew! It was, incidentally, the same weekend as the London Triathlon and some of the roads were closed and already being sped along by eager athletes, so I sort of got lost-ish on my way. It was ok though, because I found an equally bemused cyclist heading in the same direction. We chatted open-water as we pedalled and it turned out this chap was training to swim the channel. Yes, the channel. I bowed as much as you can bow whilst riding a bike. Needless to say, he was off in his speedos as soon as we got there, whereas I, in my usual nervous-numpty mode sat sadly on the side, unable to get in. You see, the steps that are usually there were not there, they had been removed because they were not safe. I was told it was ok though “…because it’s about twenty feet deep, so you can dive in”. To many swimmers this would be an invitation to splash, but I instantly froze at the thought of:

a) twenty feet deep

and

b) dive in

and gently swished my toes in the perfectly still, calm, golden sunrise water while others jumped in and swam off into the distance. A very kind coach came over and chatted to me, giving me some tips about what to do when I got in (roll onto my back, allow some water into my wetsuit). I knew I would be fine once I got in, but I was stuck. Eventually I gave myself a good old talking to and reminded myself that there was a kayaker lifeguard there to call out to if I really couldn’t do it. And shalumph, I plopped in and rolled onto my back. It was fine. I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful morning for it and set off towards a big red buoy at a steady heads-out breaststroke. Numpty. I had decided that I would swim the 400 or so meters around and back to the pontoon and maybe go around again if I felt good. I did and I did. Maybe trying to do this kind of thing on a tight schedule is not a good idea and I should give myself more time. To get in.

Lots more open-water swimming was done on our camping trip to Dorset, some lovely sea swims after sandy runs along the beach at Studland. I am ok once I’m in the water, I just need to be able to ease myself in slowly. Maybe diving is the next challenge, but I’ll need to be pushed…anyone?

So, what’s next?

In three weeks I will be taking on the London Duathlon again. Remember last year when I pushed so hard (and neglected hydration and fuelling so much) that I threw up at the end? Well, this year I will be finishing with a smile on my face and hopefully not needing to lie down in a crumpled heap. The following week I will be stepping up to the Olympic distance triathlon at Hever Castle. I am properly nervous about this. Every time I read about it, it’s billed as being tough, with a ‘technical’ bike course and challenging trail run. But hey, the swim is in a beautiful lake (and river!) in the grounds of a stunner of a castle! Eek! There are events following these, but I’ll just get these two out of the way first shall I?! πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚ 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.