Sunday, 29 December 2013

Ooh, Crumbs, It's Janathon Time Again

Well, nearly. I need to seriously update this here blog (especially the stats, which are miles out of date!). Very briefly:
- I swam a 5km at Salford Quays in September (dead last in 2hrs 22mins but a great experience)
- Took up karate with my amazing daughter (she's now a yellow belt and coming up to grading again, I will take my first belt at the same time hopefully) and the awesome Red Tigers
- Started yoga with the sweet and lovely Jane at Radiant Heart
- Went back to winter training with USWIM.

We also supported five members of the family (including my dear husband) at Great North Run. It's no wonder I've had no time to blog - I now do some kind of sport five days a week, and that's not counting various body weight programs I've been doing via I'm still a big fan of Fitocracy and continue to meet lots of great people and be motivated that way. I've also signed up for the Cross-Coniston Chillswim in September '14, which is just over five miles. It's the same weekend as Great North Run, which my beloved other half has signed up to again, so we're going to be rather busy this year.

Anyway, the one thing I've found hard to commit to over the last year is running, and that's just annoying because it's only my own sheer laziness holding me back there. So here's hoping I don't get thwarted by snow like last year, and manage to go for a run on the days I'm not doing anything else. Or as well as. I live in hope!

Fancy signing up for Janathon too? Go here and go forth:

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Very Great Swims

First of all, huge congratulations to Ella The Mermaid who's completed her Channel Solo in the last hour or so - absolutely fantastic, I've been on pins watching the tracker all day. Amazing stuff.

So, no updates from me for a while, not for lack of swimming but because I've mostly switched to a tablet for day to day use and much as I like it, it's not great for typing on. It's time I did a bit of a round-up, though! No big swim this weekend as we were away in Whitby for a little family break. I was good and did a set of drills in the hotel pool, though, and the girls are doing great.

6th July - barely a cloud in the sky, 18oC in the water, clocked 4050m - my first Iron Fish of the season, and dropped the wetsuit for the last 500m. Ridiculously warm, caught the sun of course. Slow, and I bought a Finis Tempo Tracker this week, which I still haven't used because I've been too busy and fuddled to work out how to set the baseline. I really enjoyed the non-wetsuit lap, though.

A view from the bridge, 13th July - 20oC in. I forgot my prescription goggles, so stuck to four laps of the short course (1600m), one unsuited, and a lesson from Coach Jane, who sorted out my sinky legs with a single tip - stick your head down! I'd been so stressed about sighting since before Windermere that I'd got myself into the habit of swimming with my head much too high in the water, which caused my legs to drop and slowed me right down. It improved things a great deal; far less stress on my shoulders.

I went to Great Manchester Swim unsupported this year - since I know my way around now I wasn't too worried about getting back to the baggage drop without my glasses. I got there early, talked to Steph from ChillSwim and walked the course with Michael from USWIM (who was the first person to help get me into the water last year, so that was lovely - very much full-circle) and sussed out where everything was. I was well in time to send off Alex and Ben in the first wave, who I'd got to know through Fitocracy and taken round the Quays earlier in the year. I love chatting to people at these events, especially first-timers - there's nothing like sharing your enthusiasm for the sport and helping to calm someone's nerves at the same time. I met loads of lovely people and the atmosphere was fantastic. 

The swim itself was crazy-warm - 21oC - and though they'd made it wetsuit-optional I elected to keep mine on, knowing that I simply hadn't trained that distance without. Event day is not "try something new" day! I'd done around a mile in the pool (urgh - like swimming through grease) earlier that week and had to bail out with cramp so there was no way I was changing anything at that point. It was a good swim, for me - 39m 15s, a new PB over that distance for either pool or OW; didn't do too badly on the sighting and quite enjoyed the tussle and busyness of being in the middle of the pack. The water was pretty weedy, especially through the canal, but I didn't mind - it wasn't obnoxious. I am proud of that time and look forward to taking minutes off it next year!

Good use for a space hopper, no?

Back at Salford again the following week, 27th July - 22.5oC in the water and a full Iron Fish (3.8km) with no wetsuit. It is MUCH harder to do that distance without the suit and I was really quite sore in the upper arms the following day. But no joint pain, just DOMS, so I'm hoping that means my stroke is getting better technically.

Comparing my stats from last year, I managed 4km only once between April-September. So far this year I've done it (or 3.8km, which is near enough) three times already and there's still a fair bit of time to go. I'm seriously considering entering the USWIM 5km in a couple of weeks since there's no time limit on finishing - I want to see how close to 2hrs I can get before deciding to enter Great North 5km since you have to be under that. If I can get it within 10-15mins then I know I mostly have fitness to work on; more than that and I'll have to leave entry til later when I can get some one-to-one or at least regular technical training at Aquatics over winter as well.

In terms of upcoming plans beyond that I want to do at least one Chillswim - they're coming to Salford in December! That's an unsuited 25m-ish at about 5oC, which should be funny if nothing else. If it's fun I may do the Coniston one in Feb too. After that...well, we'll see, but cross-Coniston in Sept '14 (5.25mi/8.4km) is looking like a distinct possibility. I'm good for half that now - surely I can double it in a year? :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

One Great Swim, Two Good Swims

I did it! I've just been too lazy to write it up. And in some ways, still processing the swim at Windermere even now as it was such a different challenge.

So, some facts about the day:
  • It was well organised - busy, but we were able to park, get the ferry and bus to Low Wood and still have a bit of time to get oriented, arrange meeting points and so on. We did leave quite early in the morning, though, padding in enough time for getting lost, delayed and travel sickness.
  • The kids had a great time. There were things to do, faces to be painted, ice-cream to be had. It was an expensive day out once you'd factored in petrol, parking, ferry and bus for four, plus snacks (we'd taken a small picnic but you know, ice cream) and entertainment on top of the entrance fee and mandatory wetsuit.
  • The weather was settled and warm without being too hot, and the wind had dropped which was a relief after the pictures from the previous day! It wasn't quite mill-pond-still but close.
  • Water temp was 15.5oC, though I felt it was a little warmer in the shallows.
  • I completed the two miles in 1hr 29mins. This is 9mins slower than my average pool time, but I went badly off-course at one point in the second mile which probably explains at least some of that. My first mile was 42mins.
  • It was fantastic to have A and the girls waiting for me as I came up the exit ramp (and to get my glasses back straight away!). You feel so exhilarated after finishing and it was wonderful to be able to share that. I'm a little sad they won't be at Manchester in a couple of weeks since it clashes with karate.
  • Windermere isn't as clear water as Salford and it tastes different too. That made me more aware of being thirsty and I need to examine my attitude to hydration before I do anything longer.
  • I have a lot to learn about sighting. Foggy goggles were a big issue as I hadn't wanted to risk anything new, and I was grateful for the kayaker who got me back on course! I think something which would help at these events is to have different coloured buoys at each position because I sighted on the wrong yellow buoy at the end of the first mile - the 200m rather than the 100m - and cut a corner. For this event it was ok but in a race I'd have been disqualified. The major turns were big orange triangles which was a huge help.
  • I wish someone had told me drift was a problem. The return leg of the course was in the shallows (no more than 1.5m deep and less than that in most places) and I really found I was being pushed into the shore even with hardly any chop and a light breeze. That was frustrating and it was hard to make progress. There were many, many times I thought I wasn't making any progress at all but was actually overcompensating. Drift is not something I encounter at Salford Quays unless there's a really stiff wind, so it just goes to show what a different beastie lake swimming is. I wish I'd had a GPS as my course pattern would have been hilarious!
  • Everything worked fine together - suit, watch, timing chip and so on. My cap was starting to slip in the last 400m or so, which was annoying - there were a lot lost in the shallows so I guess I wasn't the only one having issues. There was plenty of room to change and a shower to rinse my suit, too.
  • Mentally, the first mile was as hard as ever, with the additional pressure of having to learn the course. The outbound leg of the second mile was the best bit, once I was back on course - I knew where to go, I'd settled into a rhythm, and the following wave caught up so I was able to draft a bit off the faster swimmers. I was also able to overtake the people from my own wave who'd started out too fast and got tired. That was a nice boost. The final half-mile was hard going with the drift but wow, what a feeling to finish under my target time of 1hr 30 (even if it was only just!).
  • The post-race goodie bag was mostly nice - good t-shirt and medal; I was saddened to find it included Nestle products, though, and I do wish sports event organisers would think very much harder about partnering with this company. Here's why.
  • Pancakes are excellent post-swim food.
  • It took me four days to feel like I'd recovered! Ridiculous. Shows how unfit I've got.
So that was my big swim of the season and I'm now contemplating Coniston end-to-end next year with Chill Swim, which is 5.25 miles. I can't do it this year as it's expensive, I'm undertrained and it clashes with Great North Run anyway (which could be an issue next year as well depending on how well A gets on with GNR as an event). I'd love to do it with a group, probably swimming for a small charity, and there are quite a few people from USWIM and Accrington Wild Swimmers talking about it at the moment. Fingers crossed.

The following weekend I was back at Salford, of course.

Great session on 22nd - it looks awful from that photo but it was beautifully warm, at least 17oC-18oC. There was a stiff wind with some really fun and interesting chop - you get some good cross-currents around the bridge - and it'd stirred up the weeds a bit, so not as clear as usual. It smelled like the sea (which is definitely weird in such an urban setting). I did three 750m laps, so 2.25km altogether. I was pleased with that and had more in the tank, so I really need to get my bum out of bed earlier to get more laps in. Averaging 22min/lap at the moment, so slow, but ok. It was mad busy with Great Manchester Swim just round the corner, and of course triathlon season is upon us as well.

A view of the set-up for the USWIM event this Saturday (29th June) - I wasn't able to stay for it this time but it looked very busy and sounded like it was a success! I need to check dates for the next one but looking at the finishing times I think I'd be ok to enter the 3.8km or 5km distances if I get a few good swims in over the next month or so. I did 3km this week (4 laps) but I was terribly slow, averaging 24mins/lap - awful. I haven't figured out why, either - again, sighting is poor and for some reason I seemed to be lurching towards the walls rather than keeping tightly to the course. Baffling. I think my technique has properly gone to pot and several of the folks I know from winter training were also lamenting not having that Masters-level group over the summer.

On the other hand I have a partial solution to the fogging goggles, using a watered-down squirt of baby shampoo. It's still a problem on the right, so I suspect I have a slow leak and will replace the lenses once I've had an eye test. Overall I'm pleased with the distance I did and will be looking to up that to 5-6 laps by the end of July once various events are over. Two more sessions before GMS and hopefully I'll get some pool laps and maybe a few runs in beforehand.

I was pleased to spot Ella as I left Salford on Saturday - she's a Channel-aspirant and was doing a 6hr charity swim that day (I left my GNS cap in her bucket for the bunting she's making). She was the only one in at that point and I stopped to admire her stroke - so calm and smooth even after all that time. I can only dream of such control. Maybe one day!

Last bit of news - Eldest Daughter got her 9th kyu this weekend, so she's now a white belt with yellow tip. She's very pleased and we're very proud, of course!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

First Visit To The Big Pool

How could you not want to swim there?

Today was Great North Swim Training Day at Windermere - biggest pool in the country! It was very good indeed, I'm glad I went. My training has been sabotaged by various things since January - snow, cold, viruses, dodgy hips and finally a visit to A&E last Saturday when I got an eyeful of either grit or anti-fog solution which pretty much made me blind in one eye for 24hrs. I was properly cheesed off because the weather was perfect and I'd planned to do two miles but I barely managed a 750m lap. So I'd been worrying that in booking the Intermediate class I'd been far too optimistic. It turned out to be the right level, though - I'm slow and obviously my fitness has taken a nosedive, but in terms of technique it was spot on.

Windermere itself is just breathtaking. I don't have enough superlatives to describe it. At 16.5oC it felt absolutely tropical - I know cold water swimmers say that at ridiculous temps like 5oC, but it really did feel extremely warm and didn't need any acclimitisation at all. Were it not for Great Swim regulations I wouldn't have bothered with the wetsuit at all. The sun was bright and there was no wind; other than the small chop from the ferry every so often it was as flat as a millpond. It's not as clear as Salford - the waters are greener and you can't see the bottom once you're in past shoulder-height. I found this a little difficult; Salford's so clear that I'd got used to sighting on the buoy-ropes underwater as I went round them, not the actual buoys above the surface! It smells and tastes different, too, and entry was via a rocky beach which was fairly painful to get in and out of! I was glad I'd taken my Crocs, ugly as they are.

Everything was well-organised - I wasn't really clear on where to go once I'd arrived at Brockholes but the Visitor Centre knew where to direct me and it was well-signposted after that. Sign-in was easy; changing facilities minimal (I recommend arriving with your swimsuit on under your clothes and having a big towel for afterwards because it's poky toilets or "find a handy bush to change behind"!). The coaches and kayakers were friendly, observant and encouraging - my group was taken by Emma from ActivBlu, who was great.

There were around 30-40 people there, all of us with some open water experience and around half had done a Great Swim before. Emma took us through breathing, sighting and drafting, with some practice on swimming in groups. Since Great Swim isn't really a race event there was some nice chat about camaraderie and cheering your fellow swimmers on, which I thought was really lovely. These events are pretty expensive, but the atmosphere at GMS last year was well worth the money. I'm not sure I'd feel as confident in a race situation. I fully intend to swim at my own pace, not worry about anyone else, and just enjoy the water as much as possible.

So today was a big success in terms of a) getting to know Windermere as a body of water, and b) learning about drafting (mostly that I'm not a fan because my fitness is poor and I can't keep up to take advantage of it!) and group swimming (important if I go to not-officially-organised swims). What wasn't so good was my goggles steaming up so much - I need a substitute for anti-fog that won't hurt my eye - which had a big impact on my sighting, particularly on the smaller buoys. If last year's GMS is anything to go by they'll have flipping huge buoys and loads of kayakers, so I shouldn't go too far off-course, but it is a worry. I'm intending to go to Salford next Saturday, hopefully sans wetsuit, to get some sighting practice in before Great North Swim on Sunday.

In other news, my big girl got her gi today. Doesn't she look great!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Sunny Day...

...Sweeping the clouds away 
On my way to where the water's sweet 
Can you tell me how to get 
How to get to Salford Quays... 

(with many apologies to Sesame Street) 


Above is the view from the ladies' changing tent at Salford this morning. This is post-swim - when I arrived there was a great big Canada Goose patrolling the waterline just outside, honking like mad! There was even a pair of ducks, and I'm sure I saw some fish way down deep. Quite a bit of leaf-litter, and some ordinary litter too, unfortunately, but not enough to be annoying and spoil the swim.

12.1oC in the water today, but a lovely 14oC on the land with no wind, and sun, sun, sun everywhere. It makes such a huge difference to your mindset. I suppose that's what makes open water dangerous, sometimes - I imagine it'd be easy to be fooled into thinking it was warmer than it is and get yourself into trouble if you weren't used to it. There were certainly a few novices who had no idea what 12oC really feels like, and having a bit of a surprise as they got further in (which just made me giggle after an hour of being used to it!).

I managed 2km today and it was lovely to be able to swim around the bridge on the 500m course - I miss the 750m course quite a bit. Overall I'm pleased with that given my state of health and fitness. I still have the chesty cough and had managed to twist my back up with it as well. The physio used some ultrasound on Thursday and the appointment helped a lot, I certainly feel very little pain when I'm in the water. Walking out is another issue, though. So I'm still barred from running, feeling deeply unfit and consequently fretting quite a lot about Windermere, since it took me over an hour to plod through that 2km. It suggests I'm on for maybe 1hr 30 if nothing changes in three weeks, which is disappointing. Fingers crossed the cough at least will have gone by then. A couple of extra degrees warmth and a sunny day would also help a great deal.

Til then, I guess I'll just be worrying...

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Three Little Ducks Went Swimming Today...

I had the great pleasure of introducing a couple of chaps from Fitocracy to the joys of open water today! They did really well and it was lovely to meet new people as well as catch up with some of my lane mates from winter training (and I am pleased with my cold adaption and calmness of breath, despite having picked up the kids' cough. My lungs feel nasty). In all honesty it was a pretty horrible day weather-wise - I think this is the second-coldest I've felt since the polar training last November. I'm grateful all over again that I was able to start my open water career in much warmer waters.

Today it was 12oC with a stiff breeze and a mildly annoying amount of chop (mostly from the safety boat, which seemed to be zooming about a lot for no good reason!). The first lap was necessarily slower since I was guiding someone around, but I managed another two before my feet and fingers just said "no more". Oddly, I don't seem to shiver like a lot of swimmers - maybe I get out before it gets to that point, or maybe this layer of bioprene is good for something after all. I shall enjoy my traditional Eurovision beer-and-curry without guilt tonight!

Pretty chilly today, 12oC 18/5/13

I am a bit disappointed, really, as I was hoping to get four laps done today and just keep building up before Windermere...1200m is Not Good Enough. Looks like I'm going to have to hit the pool more than I'd prefer, I suppose.

OM NOM NOM: the bacon buttie is becoming a standard post-swim fixture.
11.8oC on 11/5/13, but felt much warmer than today because there was less wind.

I did three laps last week as well but it seemed easier without the wind, and I left off my gloves and boots for both sessions. Same sort of times, though (about 11mins for the 400m circuit). I haven't been to the pool for a couple of weeks at all as I've been seeing a physio at Bolton Sports & Spinal Injury Clinic on the same day I'd normally swim, and I've felt pretty tired and mauled about after those sessions. I am improving rapidly, though. It turns out my right hip is not where it should be and is somehow rubbing against the sacro-iliac joint, giving me some really quite unpleasant back pain as well as the hip issues. Happily my range of motion has increased significantly over the two weeks after some massage, manipulation and sticking religiously to the exercises I was given. I'm still banned from running and lifting but I'm crossing my fingers that I can get out to run after the next appointment, even if it's only a little bit. I miss it and my fitness is frankly crap at the moment. I'm hoping to get over to Boundary Park at some point but it's a bit complicated in terms of juggling everyone else's training and committments.

Eldest daughter is on week 4 of karate and appears to be thoroughly enjoying herself. We've said she can have her gi if she's still having fun and wants to continue after a six-week taster. Watch this space :D

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Rough Winds Do Shake The Darling Buds Of May

I tried! I got up much earlier than usual and was at Salford for 8.30am this morning, hitting the water before nine (and was within the first 50 to go in!), but dear me, it was cold. Actually it was 11oC, so 2.5oC warmer than last time, but there was a really cold wind blasting down the docks and it was completely overcast for most of the time too. I can stand colder water when the sun is shining; the wind and cloud seem to sap me more than the chill. I managed two laps of the short course (800m in total), which is ok, not great, but I tried out a few things and I have a better idea of how to get over the cold-induced faceache now. So it was certainly more of an experimenting day than a work out. 14 and 12 mins respectively; I'd really like to aim for under 10mins when things warm up a bit. I found the drag from my gloves very tiring, too, but it was a case of "suit up or don't swim", and "don't swim" is unacceptable with Windermere just six weeks away.

I must admit I'm still a bit achy from the 5k last Sunday. I went and did a quick km on Tuesday just to keep everything loose, and I look forward to that again next week even though I get terrible lane rage at times. On the other hand - or leg, rather - my hip is still in trouble and I was stiff with cold when I got out today. The physio I'd intended to see suddenly cancelled all appointments for a fortnight, so I've booked in with the Sports & Spinal Injury Clinic at Bolton University instead. I'm very anxious to get this sorted out now; it's been at least two weeks of pain with every step and as the evenings get lighter I'm missing the chance to have a run. The lack of running is definitely showing in my overall fitness.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Swimathon 2013

Swimathon - London, United Kingdom

Well, that's that event down! Big thank you to everyone who sponsored me, much appreciated, and thumbs up to Darwen Leisure who were well-organised and made it all run smoothly. No report from Salford yesterday since it was cancelled due to cold weather (highly annoying - the dock owners were afraid of newbies getting into trouble, not that it was actually too cold for anyone to swim at all).On the bright side the cancellation meant I could take Eldest to a karate taster, which she loved and I secretly wanted to join in with. Maybe I'll get to do that over winter!

I completed the 5k in 2hrs, 4mins 2secs - drat! I was trying to get under two hours, but it's hardly surprising not to, given the amount of illness/busyness/general slacking that's been going on. However, the work I've put in over the winter - albeit patchy - has certainly paid off. When I did this distance at 18yo it took me 2hrs 20mins; admittedly in breaststroke. I really hadn't trained enough then either, and ended up with a horrible screw kick through tiredness which damaged my right knee. I didn't swim properly for many, many years after that.

The last time I was able to swim for a solid 2hrs was in September at Salford, and whilst I'm wary of comparing pool vs open water, I only completed 4k then (and got my Iron Fish, so "only 4km" is relative!). A whole km extra is enough to suggest I've sped up a fair bit. I didn't take proper split times, only looked at my watch when I could, but I also seem to have had a small negative split going on - my first couple of kilometres were slower than the last. At two miles I was at 1hr 21, which is 1min faster than the last time I made a note of it. So allowing for stoppages and so on, I seem to have maintained my speed since January. I'm presuming this is an effect of slightly better technique because I know my overall fitness has dipped significantly.

In terms of the swim itself, the first km was difficult, just getting to grips with being back in the water after so long (25oC was way too warm!). I didn't take my MP3 player, which I regretted at first but once I'd got into a rhythm I knew I'd just have knocked it out every time I pushed off (I made a lot of use of my long glide today to save energy!). I got lapped about six times by a very speedy young lad, but since he was only doing a mile and I knew he was a club swimmer, I was happy to let him go by. It was good to swim in a numpty-free zone - lane rage is something that's really put me off going lately.

I felt properly warmed up towards the first mile and the second was fairly fluid; I took the time to try to correct a nasty thumb-entry-first issue and that helped quite a bit. The third mile started well but I lost my focus a bit between 3.5-4.5km, when I had some neck pain on the right. I really must try to solve my over-turning problem - but thanks to all the winter training I was able to switch to breathing to the left or bilateral for a few laps to allow myself to rest. Completed the last half-km fairly quickly with much encouragement from the pool staff (who were probably just keen to get away, since I was the last in!), and now I have a shiny medal to show for it. Not sure what my ranking is yet, they don't all seem to be up.

All in all, it was a good experience - I've lost surprisingly little speed and hopefully got some oomph back to start working on dropping my two mile time down for Great North, which is seven weeks away. I have a training session booked at Windermere the weekend before, which I'm really excited about. On the other hand my hip is playing up no end, which isn't a problem for swimming but it does affect running, and to that end I have a session booked with Media City Physio this week to see if I can iron out some of my issues. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Back In The Big Pool

Crappy phone pic from Dock 9 this morning

Woohoo! We're back in season, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. Literally - I just don't have the words to describe how it felt to be back in the water again, and specifically this water. I mean, I had a great time at Tynemouth, but this is home, with familiar buildings all around, people I know, horrible coffee and the steps to slouch on in the sun afterwards.

So. It was 8oC in the water and 8oC on the land according to the car. The sun was shining, this week's vicious winds had dropped completely, and all in all it was the perfect start to the season. I had it easier than a lot of people because I came equipped with neoprene gloves and boots - I just don't have the acclimatisation to go without at that temp, and rubbish circulation as it is. I'd rather look silly and risk the odd sneer than not swim at all. Not run into any sneers yet, though! As soon as I can I'll be dropping the extras, anyway, because my socks have a tendancy to fill up with water and my gloves are rather thick. I am full of admiration for those who can go without.

Today we just had a short course laid out at 250m, which was more than enough for quite a few brave folks coming out for their first try. Goodness, that must be hard to have your first go at open water in such cold! I feel lucky that I was able to start in waters of 16oC or so and have the pleasure of 20oC last season. It meant I got over the face-in-the-water fears without having to deal with brain freeze as well. That was pretty much all I found difficult today - my limbs were fine, but getting my head down was hard. I did most of my first lap in breaststroke (more difficult than it sounds because my wetsuit seemed awfully buoyant!), with frequent pauses to let my face and ears get used to it. And to just stop in the water and stare around, delighted to be back!

One thing I learned very quickly, once I could swim properly, was a good reason to exhale through your nose and not your mouth. Water that cold really makes your teeth ache!

For the second lap I was able to do much of it in front crawl. I think I may have been ok going for a third lap, but my left foot was really quite cold for no reason I can work out, and I was worried about ear pain. My youngest daughter's just had the most awful ear infection and I'd rather not risk that, so having forgotten to put in ear plugs (again) I decided to quit whilst I was ahead at around 25mins in. I wasn't particularly cold or stiff when I got out and the water should be much warmer next week if the weather holds. That'll give me a nice warm-up for Swimathon 5k, which is next Sunday! I feel like I've done barely any training and Easter certainly took a toll in terms of poor food choices. I'm pretty sure I can do the distance, though I'll be very surprised if it's close to 2hrs. I just hope it's not too boring.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Tynemouth For Easter


How gorgeous is that! That's Tynemouth Beach, on the North-East coast. And I was swimming in there this morning!

I'd more or less planned a swim this weekend whilst we're visiting but I was nervous about going alone, even with a watcher, at temperatures like these. Thanks to joining the Outdoor Swimming Society, though, I came across the Tynemouth Outdoor Swimmers who'd posted an open invite to join them this morning. They very graciously let a total sea-novice tag along and looked after me very well. I had an amazing time!

Proof! That's me on the far right with the red cap and the big bum. 
Thanks to Tony Greener and Paddy Lavery for the pic.

Don't let the photo fool you. It looks beautiful; it's about 7oC air temp and quite warm if you're out of the wind - it's a bit cutting if you're in the breeze, though. Official sea temp was measured at 5.1oC just off those rocks to the right; they reckoned it was more like 3oC further out where we swam. So definitely a personal record for me in terms of temperature. I must say that it was nowhere near as cold as I was expecting and I haven't figured out why - when I swam at Salford in November it was incredibly painful at 10oC, and the pain in my hands made me get out after 15mins/400m. Possibly the dank air was a factor then - the sunshine makes a big difference! This time I did have gloves, admittedly, but I'd forgotten earplugs and so was expecting sinus pain at the very least. I think I had done more mental prep for the cold - I could probably recite Lone Swimmer's Golden Rules of Cold Water Swimming in my sleep now - and so it wasn't a shock beyond the first three minutes. By six minutes I was quite comfortable with the temperature.

What I wasn't prepared for was the waves. It looks pretty calm from that picture, but further out the swell was more than I was expecting and I didn't learn the trick of diving through the waves until I'd been thoroughly ducked a few times (and thank you to the person who taught me to do that!). I did find it frightening and am thoroughly grateful Dave put us through so much hypoxic training this winter. After my first couple of scary waves I was able to have faith that my lungs wouldn't explode and I would surface, but it's a lot to deal with all at once and the back of my nose is a bit raw! The taste, too, was something I hadn't considered - it is such a huge difference from freshwater, although the local swimmers say you get used to that and don't notice after a while.

In terms of swimming I didn't really manage a great deal of distance - this was all about learning to deal with cold and waves and I don't think I got far enough out to have a proper go. By the time I was getting to grips with the waves quite a few people were turning back so I thought it wise to join them, and even the hard-core swimmers were coming up the beach before I'd got more than half my wetsuit off.

All in all, I'm pleased, though - I did fine with the cold, didn't panic (much), and managed 13mins in. My kit all works fine (and I found a new red cap that fits!), so I'm more than ready to hit the Quays in a few weeks even if it's not warmed up that much. And as ever, the people I met were awesome and I'm looking forward to more sea-swimming in the future.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Swimming With The Black Dog


The above goes to a really nice article about physical exercise and writing; the writers in it exercised because they are writers; a sedentary profession if ever there was one. I'm coming at it from the other direction; I got into endurance first at a young age and it does give me the perspective I need to not worry too much about how long it takes to write. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running has been on my to-read list for ages and I'm looking forward to diving in later this week.

Anyway. Sadly I have not been healthy over the last few weeks, again - I think I've had a permanent cold or throat infection since the end of January and the kids just keep bringing them home from school, joy. Because I've needed my voice so much for work I've had to let sport go for the time being - I'd already lost enough money due to snow cancellations. I ran my last classes this weekend, though, so bar the financial tie-up I'm a free agent now and no doubt the children will be delighted if I lose my voice again.

Not going swimming (or anything else) for a few weeks has, as ever, lead to a bunch of Bad Head Stuff - I'm sure you can imagine the way the black dog chases it's own tail. You're stuffed up and exhausted so you don't go, and the more you don't go the more your fitness falls off; you reach for the comfort food (ah, my old nemesis, the Chocolate Digestive); you feel more tired and well...why would you bother going? You won't be able to keep up and it'll really hurt the next day. The duvet's siren song gets louder than the call of the water even though you can't damn well sleep anyway. Oh, god, don't step on the scales. And then it snows so you can't get out at all.

Despite all that I hauled my carcass to USWIM Masters tonight and was pleasantly surprised to pull off 3.3km, including sprints (which I am rubbish at). My hypoxic breathing has improved, I didn't get cramp and I don't feel like toast. I do feel mentally muddled and could do with some external appraisal - I've learned so much about the technicalities this winter that I can't really feel what I'm doing any more. I noticed a horrible crossover in my stroke tonight, for example, and that's never been a problem before. I was getting quite down about it all the way through the session, and then coach Katie got us to do an open water simulation 600m at the end (that means you turn before the wall). She compared it to a big lap at Salford and suddenly everyone was very cheered up to realise that it's only 27 days to the beginning of the season. That was a huge lift and I came out feeling a lot better. I'm far less worried about Swimathon 5k at the end of April now. I don't think I'll have an issue completing it, though my time might not be as good as I'd hoped.

My rental wetsuit arrived last week and I have gloves and boots also. If the weather picks up a bit and it doesn't look too rough, I'm aiming for a quick dip in the North Sea next weekend. It looks about 6oC at the moment. I might only be in for ten minutes but I'm excited to give it a try!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

March "Madness"

I get a fair bit of flak about my swimming, mostly about the cold but sometimes about the distance as well. I don't really care. You won't understand how amazing the water is - or the sense of achievement - unless you try it in the first place and even then it might not be the thing that turns you on to sport. Everyone's different, and I can't wait to get back in the Big Pool in eight weeks or so. I was gutted not to be able to get to the last polar session today (4.4oC!), particularly since it was so beautiful. But no more; I will be finished with Saturday work in three weeks' time and able to go whenever possible.

I've had around three weeks off sports over February, sadly - between the snow and ice, and the whole family catching a horrible head cold (which is still lingering for me, causing lots of headaches, poor sleep and general grottiness) I've missed a few Masters sessions at Aquatics. Not been for a run for ages, either. In the last week I've managed to go back, and also joined a Swimfit group locally so now I have two Masters level sessions a week for a total of 3hrs and around 5.5km if I work hard! I'm hoping to carry on going to the public session on a Tuesday for a straight distance swim as well. I'm plagued with cramp, though, which is doing my head in because I can't see a reason for it and I'm pretty worried it's going to dog me into the new season. I also tore the Mind swimming cap I'd been using since Great Manchester last year and haven't found a replacement - I've bought two now and they're too small, which in turn yanks my goggles off. Still, I've been working on bilateral breathing for the last few sessions and that is definitely improving; I need someone to check it though as I'm sure my turn to the left is pretty rubbish.

Distance for Feb: A pathetic 7.8km of pool swimming and nothing else, but let's hope that's the last of the rotten bugs for this year. If I can stay healthy I'd like to be pulling that distance on a weekly basis, if not more; I'm very aware Swimathon is practically on the doorstep and I still haven't managed to get enough time in to do a 4km, let alone 5km.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Janathon Round-Up

And done. Not well because of the snow, laziness and a big project that needed to be finished, but completed anyway. It was a good challenge - I think if I'm going to do it again I need to commit to indoor activity a bit more, and make sure I don't arrange or sign up to anything else! I probably won't do Junathon, much as I'd like to, because it would be daft to overdo it with multiple swimming events coming up. But you never know! Big thanks to the organisers, it was fun following people on Twitter and reading blogs.

This month I've covered 13km in the pool (B+, not bad, could do better), 0km in open water (trying hard not to think about it because it makes me overly sad), and 18.35km running (C-, must try harder). It's not a bad start to the year and I'm pretty confident I can top that at least most months over 2013. It'll be a whole lot easier as the weather picks up, of course.

Nipped out for a slow 2.75km run this evening - not particularly enjoyable, unfortunately, my hips (never the most reliable part of my body) are playing up and I'm almost certainly going to pay for it tomorrow. I think a week of wearing YakTrax on hiking boots over ice, and then switching to brand new small-heeled boots today probably has something to do with it. I walk like a constipated duck in the snow which makes me ache all over. But I saw a badger! Blimey, those things are big. Also this one appeared to have nicked a slice of pizza from someone's bin...

Finally, I will now be working on Mistressing The Pull-Up - we finally managed to fit a bar in this shonky old house!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Downs and Ups

Just about sneaking a couple more Janathon sessions in!

I must admit, it's been a bit difficult over the last week or so. Snow-inflicted inactivity has stalled me in all sorts of directions. The desire to lose some weight leads to misery more often than not - sometimes I think weighing and measuring is the road to madness for me. It certainly leads to what I now recognise as "bad head stuff", anyway, which used to express itself as both low mood and a tendency to defiantly over-eat (as in "well, I'm never going to shift it, I may as well snarf down the entire bar of chocolate right now SO THERE!"). Since I more or less have the defiance under control, I'm left with low mood, which isn't a great mindset before a Masters session.

Sunday was a big pile of epic failbeans, then - I woke up fluey, poor progress with weight/measurement loss led to low mood and I wasn't hungry at lunchtime so didn't eat very much; certainly under 500cal all day. There were loads of new starters at Masters, which usually I welcome - there's nothing like sharing your enthusiasm with new people! - but it did lead to some fairly congested and cluttered lanes as everyone tried to sort out their speeds. Katie moved me up to Lane 3 (Lane 4 is the super-speedy types!) along with a few of the other folks I'd been lanemates with last year, but my attention was shot. I could barely wrap my head around what we were doing, let alone keep up. After a trying hour I bailed - it was obvious I wasn't in a good place mentally or physically. The coaches were both very sweet, though - I am dubious as to whether I'm ready for Lane 3 but it was nice of them to acknowledge I was still making progress no matter how crappy I felt that night. It's pretty much what got me out of the door tonight.

Dave had left extra training plans out "in case we got chance to swim in a public session during the week" and it was exactly what I needed tonight; I'm so glad I picked them up. I had a much better session - numpty-free! Actually it was amazing how quickly the lane cleared of, erm, head-up swimmers once me and my friend Mr RedShorts (I have no idea of his name, he's an older chap who swims a good fast breaststroke and is very good at lane ettiquette!) arrived. 300m warm up, 300m IM - which I switched to just freestyle/breaststroke alternates as it's NOT safe to do backstroke/butterfly with people who aren't good at sharing lanes! and then a 1950m endurance build, working up in 25m increments from 25m-300m. I was supposed to alternate easy and hard sets but I lost track of which were which and more or less did everything at medium pace. But it felt like flying anyway! Everything came together (yes, after the first predictable) and I was quite sad to find I'd completed the set and needed to do my 200m warm down.

Again, my tactic of "where would I be at this distance if I were at Salford?" worked tremendously well to get me through the tedium of a pool session. I just wish I could get my new cap to stretch a bit. It's bloody annoying. But I'm looking forward to getting out for a run on Thursday!

Monday, 21 January 2013


Because occasionally I do other things than sport

So that's my girls and our tiny Snowthing. It's been thick ice or snow here since 17th, so I guess that's me failing at Janathon - couldn't get out to run or go to Masters (boo!), had to cancel my classes on Saturday, and in all honesty just too knackered and busy with other stuff to find the energy to do anything indoors. I did make a point of getting some pre-midnight bedtimes and feel a bit better for it, even though I'm still sneezing my head off. We have been out to throw snowballs and build snowthings, though, and there's been extra walking involved as it's been too risky to take the car up the hill to school. Today school texted to say they were short on staff, so whilst they were open, we could keep the kids home if we wanted to. I only need the flimsiest pretext not to walk up that hill in bad weather, so impromptu snow day it was.

It looks like we're stuck with it til at least the end of the week so I doubt I'll get much more done in the name of Janathon - it was certainly fun whilst it lasted, though, and kicked off my fitness mindset very well. I am actually looking forward to being able to get out for a run.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Very lazy night - a 1min plank with good form (I'll feel that tomorrow!) and a wall sit, just to do something. I'm not sleeping well as I'm full of a cold still, and really really hoping this ice doesn't get any worse so that I can run tomorrow. I might have to find a new route around the back streets and town, which I'm not at all happy about - I like the lonely, dark moor route the best. I have an inkling I might enjoy trail or fell running when I'm fitter.

Spent the evening doing random bits of work, writing, and reading, and actually I feel good about that; my brain has needed a workout too. Watched the first Skillshare: Get Fit In the New Year... class video and wrote up my "project" for that - so far there's nothing I didn't already know, but I think it's a great intro if you're new to fitness. Here's my Goals Project, anyway, by way of some meaningful content for Janathon.

Swimming In The Big Pond

I've always been a swimmer. A knee injury at 18 stopped me; from there I went to university and discovered beer, got a desk job, and had children. Exercise just didn't figure until I realised I couldn't actually pick the baby up without pain, let alone the 6yo.

I managed to get hold of a Beta invite for Fitocracy and together with support from family, friends and the Fito crew I've never looked back. I started to swim again just over a year ago; cried and complained my way through the first few months of lifting and then startled myself by not only starting to run but discovering an all-consuming passion for open water endurance swimming. Last season I swam Great Manchester Mile and ran City of Salford 5k. I find running helps my breath control and lifting is giving me the all-round awesome (my arms and legs are looking great, though I can't seem to shake it off my belly).

I now train with a Masters group and a fantastic Channel coach, and after some time off for illness I'm back to running 5km. In 2013 I'll be swimming a pool 5k, the Manchester mile again, and I'm off up to the Big Pond - Lake Windermere - to swim 2 miles in open water. I also want to take part in my Masters group events and run a 10k by the end of the year. I want to do it all faster than last year and be ready to swim 5-10k events the following year, perhaps with a running half-marathon too. By then I'm hoping to be fit enough to get over my fear of the hilly area I live in, get my bike out and complete a triathlon before I turn 40.

My problems are:

a) sticking to an effective training schedule consistently whilst managing a family and freelance work 

b) managing the nutritional needs of 1 endurance nut, 1 runner/lifter, and two small, rapidly growing, incredibly active little girls. We all need different things. I've built up a lot of fat over 20-odd years of inactivity and I know it's slowing me down - but I don't really understand how to get rid of it and how to balance my needs with everyone else's. That's what I'm hoping to get out of this course.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Don't Bore, Drill

The CBA Fairy nearly got me again tonight. It's down to -3oC here and pretty slippy underfoot. Smallest girl went for her taster session at preschool today so it's been top-full of mummy-angst - I stayed with her and she had a whale of a time (headed straight for the water trough: born a waterbaby, can't keep her away from it). Straight from there to school through the ice and back down the hill to Eldest's swimming lesson. Smallest was having lots of fun in the main pool with me until some other kid vomited. That meant everybody out, and the floor had to be raised and cleaned. It takes about 15mins to do, but we gave up waiting when Eldest finished her lesson. We were all pretty cold by then and even after tea I hadn't warmed up properly. I know how to take care of myself coming out of cold open water and never really get chilled afterwards, but when you've two little ones they (and the mediation of their inevitable arguments) come first. By the time I'm dressed I'm often frozen. Roll on Smallest being able to dress herself!

Nagging and Janathon got me to the pool tonight, late, but present and correct. Two laps in I was bored silly. I'm not getting on well with this new cap - can't hear my MP3 player properly, and it ran out of charge halfway through anyway - and the numpty-creep was starting. In desperation I decided I was just bored because I'd done a few endurance swims lately and what I needed was to drill until I was grateful for the boredom of a long swim. And it worked! Four warm-up plus six drill laps and I was ready to start an endurance-build mile. This is something Dave has us do sometimes (I have no idea if it has a proper name, that's just what I call it) and it is tough, but I feel like I maintain a better speed. You start by swimming 25m, then rest 15s, then swim 50m/rest 15s, and keep adding 25m each time til you hit 1650m. The last set is 275m. By that point I'd swum 1900m and the numpties were absolutely swarming, so I finished with a 100m cool-down and gave up in disgust at just under an hour. It's ok; as work-outs go it was short and not too boring; I know I worked my core and my mental arithmetic to boot, so it'll do til Sunday. Please, please let Masters run properly this Sunday!

Monday, 14 January 2013

No Time

Plank (45s with very good form!) and a wall-sit are all I have time for today - ran a workshop this evening for a local nursery, forgot to eat til after nine, scrabbling around doing the post-workshop paperwork til now. Ready to collapse and get an early night as it's double swimming tomorrow!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Can't Be Arsed Fairy

Have you met this evil little creature? It's the thing that grabs you at maybe 1-2km of a run or 20 laps, something like that, and you think "oh, I just can't be bothered with this". It often starts before you've even got your trainers on or hit the water - all the little things are wrong and you're fidgety with everything. Maybe you can't find a parking space at the pool or you've forgotten to charge your MP3 player. It's a bit brisker, or warmer, than you'd thought and you're under or overdressed. Perhaps you could do with a lip balm, or there's someone with a horrific screw kick splashing everyone as they go by. You start thinking about your homework, or a piece of writing, or planning a meal. Every little distraction builds and builds to the point where your energy and love of your sport is just sucked out of you. Heaven help you if you're already tired or achy from the previous day.

Well, the little swine got me at 14 laps today, probably a new record for running out of arsedness. Overtired from last night's run, I didn't want to get up in the first place. Didn't get on with the new swimming cap I'd bought. Not too bad for numpties, but I was well off my usual pace and not keeping up. I don't mind being lapped and giving way at Masters, where I know I'm not exactly top of the class (and besides, the beginner lane group have been together for three or four weeks now and we roughly know our speed order and who runs out of steam after an hour!), but it is disheartening and irritating in the public pool when you already feel rubbish. And yes, the lady with the terrible screw kick was there - she's not particularly slow for a breaststroker but one foot comes out of the water each time, so if you're behind her it makes a loud BOOM noise I can hear even over my MP3 player. Swimming in the opposite direction you get a gobful of water every time you go past. Add her to Mr Fast and Mr Thinks-He's-Fast and it was another set of niggles for the CBA Fairy to prod me with. Oh, and I forgot to eat anything before I started - having not had a snack after running last night. So a long, slow, boring mile it was.

I'm going to need to change my training schedule around a bit next weekend to allow for Masters...better try for the 5k again on Thursday and just a maintenance run on Saturday. Not sure what I'll swim on Tuesday - 2.5km would seem a sensible minimum.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Props Me Before I Expire

Twelve days ago I said:
"No specific plans for February and March as yet but I'd like to be getting close to 5k in both swimming and running."
 On my way to work this morning I used the car to measure a mile from my usual start-running-place. It was another half a km or so into the unlit section with an evil little hill right at the end - I run a hairpin out-and-back so if I go up, I have to come back down it and vice versa. When I got back I added it to my usual route, inserted a slightly longer loop at the end, et voila, a 5km. Thought I'd give it a try. It took me 38m 44s: slow to any experienced runner, sure, but within seconds of my time for last year's Salford 5km (which was a PB despite all the walking and awfully hot weather), and the first time I've hit 5km since September last year. I think that just goes to show how much fitter the Masters sessions have got me - if I can do this hilly route in the freezing cold (it must be -2oC again, lots of frost) in the same time as last year's flat then this year's flats ought to be faster.

A few weeks before Christmas I came out of Masters and said it felt like I'd left my lungs at the bottom of the pool; that's how I feel tonight. But I noticed a big jump in what I could cope with the following week, so let's hope it's a good sign and I can get a bit more confident at this extension to my route. I had a lot of nasty head stuff to deal with tonight, along with a stitch and protesting ankles. Much chuntering about fat lasses running badly. My shadow is not my friend on nights like this and I had to spend a lot of time debunking the lies. Hopefully it will soon pass. Guess I need a new target now...

I am sore, stiff and still slightly out of breath 30mins later (!), but I'll be in the pool in nine hours. That'll fix me!

Friday, 11 January 2013


Brrr. Five layers on today and I still felt cold - indoors! Also croaky and sore; gee, thanks fog. I have to work in the morning - for which my voice is essential - so I'm taking it easy with just some yoga and stretching. I'm terribly inflexible, always have been, so I want to make it part of my routine somewhere. Somehow.

I feel I've stuck to the spirit of Janathon even though I'm now pretty much kissing good bye to one of my duels. I'd probably have been more competitive if I'd been a bit further along with running, and knocking out a solid 5km each time. Masters is cancelled on Sunday since the pools are booked out to other groups (cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth, DAMNIT I was really looking forward to that!) so I'm going to have to try and make it up with another long swim on Sunday morning. If I can get a fairly numpty-free session I can probably turn out two miles in the 1hr 30 available. Fifteen weeks to the new outdoor season...yes, I'm counting down the days. There's an app for that. :P

In other news my OH has a little green tick next to his Great North Run entry so I guess that means he's in! First ballot, too. Very lucky. We missed seeing him come over the line at Great Manchester last year so fingers crossed we'll get to cheer this time. It's definitely going to be a big sporting year for us.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Things I Learned In The Fog

Oh my god, I am freezing now. That was one of the weirdest runs I've ever been on; I think it even outranks the time I had to hurdle a dead goat. Turned out of the house at about 10pm, knowing it was pretty cold, so I'd put my long-sleeved top on under my high-vis and my gloves on as well. Having swum at 10oC I tend to think I'm well 'ard when it comes to cold (I'm not, I'm just even more rubbish in the warm!), so I wasn't too worried about the temperature when I set out. And actually, I was fine by the time I got to the top of the hill. It was fairly heavy fog all the way up, but evened out after a mile and once into the dark it was almost clear from maybe 50-100ft up. The stars put on an amazing display; all the ambient housing light was covered by the fog down in the valley and the fields and trees were settling into a hard, bristling frost. I know from previous experience it must be at least -2oC up there now; I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's more like -4oC.

Cars coming into the unlit section are often quite dazzling, and I discovered tonight that if a car has full beams on coming up behind you, the fog in front of you is lit in a perfect halo. It's like running down a swirling white tunnel - but the stars are fiercely bright up above. That is very eerie indeed.

The other thing I learned was that I may be alright walking in thick fog, but running in it is a very different matter - especially when it's got even thicker in your absence - and it was only sheer stubborness that made me complete 30mins/3.5km dead tonight. I would have liked to have got further, but whilst I may be competitive I'm not stupid. I know what the next section of my route is like, and I know that pushing myself any more in those conditions could easily lead to injury. Although I did almost turn around and run back into the dark so I could get more time running in the clear!

My hair was absolutely soaked with condensation when I got in. I'm now going to take a very sweet cup of mint tea to bed and try to warm up a bit!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Week 1 of Janathon Done

Maybe not, but I'm working on it...

Well, that's a week down and I'm knackered - how about you? In the last seven days I've done two runs of 2-3.5km each, swum 2km and 3.5km (and outperformed my last times at those distances significantly), and lifted a whole lot of heavy things, both for the sheer awesomeness of lifting heavy and as a specialist swimmer's routine. I've tracked my food every day even though I HATE doing so, and tried to keep it mostly on target - I've gone well over on two days, but they were my swimming days so there was at least some compensation for snaffling up the Christmas chocolates. I've lost a pound - I guess it would be more if it wasn't for that! I've gone up to Level 29 on Fitocracy, am ahead on both duels (though only just on one and that'll plummet tomorrow because running points are rubbish - it's all dependant on how hard I work at Masters on Sunday!), and ranking reasonably well in all the challenges I joined. Can't say fairer than that, really! So Janathon is doing great things for me. Whether I can stick to it when the duels are over, I don't know - a girl needs a night off! We'll see.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Tea & Toast

Feeling entirely justified in my inhaling of two rounds of toast when I got in from my swim this evening, because, ladies and gents, I have just pulled off 3.5km in 1hr 29mins and still had more in the tank even after not training pure distance properly in at least a couple of months. So there. It was a great swim, I'd say 95% numpty-free - just a few slower people who had the courtesy to either wait or switch lanes and one dude who just couldn't get the lane rhythm right. I had to wait around a fair bit for him or I'd have been up his shorts, yuck. I can really, really feel the difference the Masters sessions have made; I'm paying a great deal more attention to the technicalities and correcting where I can rather than trying to brute-force the distance. For example, my left arm has a tendancy to drop into the same pattern as a ripple drill when I get tired, so that was nice and easy to deal with. I do still need to get a coach to look at my rotation and breathing as I think I'm over-extending my head to the right and not turning enough to the left in the hip.

So where does that leave me in terms of events...I took tonight's swim as a single set so I don't have the exact times, but my 3km (120 lengths) was 1hr 17mins, and 2 miles (128 lengths or 3.2km) was 1hr 22mins. That includes a few minutes stoppage time for drinks, numpties and the splitting of my favourite swimming cap. Boo hiss. I still have some work to do to get to my target of 2 miles in 1hr 15min before Windermere, but I would like to note here that this is an improvement from the last time I did 2 miles, in September, of eight minutes. I think I can safely say that's all due to the incredible coaching and encouragement I've had from all the folks at USWIM. Speaking of, their new events listing has just gone up - this is going to be an expensive but very enjoyable season.

Onwards! I still want to get that 5k under two hours...

Monday, 7 January 2013

Getting Heavy

Oh noooooes, Fito is down in the middle of logging a fairly epic workout. Damnit. That'll teach me to depend on the internet.

Had a ton of work to do (uuuuuuuuurgh, January and being self-employed sucks), so neatly talked myself out of the run I didn't really want to go on anyway. I got enough drizzle on the school run to put me off, yadda yadda, excuses excuses. I know. I'm not sure of the merits of running three times a week versus twice a week for a swimmer, and my OH only runs twice a week - it was C25K that had the 3x week set-up and I do find that harder to stick to. I'd left myself enough time to lift weights and the Fito points are a heck of a lot better, anyway. So I'm competitive, shoot me. I'm so pleased to see my dumbell bench press back up to 14kg already; last time I was lifting heavy I got as far as 16.5kg. I'd really like to hit 20kg.

Here's hoping for a clear swim tomorrow...numpties stay home, please!

Sunday, 6 January 2013


It is, of course, a matter of perspective, but I do feel lazy for "just" swimming 2km this morning when I'm capable of far more. And it was lazy, nowhere near a decent pace (2m15/100m or 2.4kph - I'm aiming for 2.6kph or more by Summer) and all done in 51mins. I didn't push it at all and had enough in the tank to do another km, but it was getting busier (I felt very lucky to be sharing with just 1-2 sensible people for the hour - a numpty-free swim!) and I didn't want to cut into OH's run time too much. As with running, the first mile is the hardest - I do wonder if that's what puts people off endurance swimming, actually. It really is easier once you get that first 1500m down.

It was definitely shorter than my usual swim - Masters is 3km or more - though I don't think you notice the distance as much in a longer pool or outdoors. Just as I've found my local pool too warm at 27oC, it's now seeming even more boring at 25m. After 1km or so I flipped my watch to show total distance rather than laps and imagined where I'd be on the Quays course at that distance. It was a lot more interesting to picture the BBC buildings and The Lowry in front of me and fish below than the wall! I was glad I had my MP3 player, too - whilst I prefer a quiet pool it does mean the local radio they play seems much louder and harder to ignore. Anything is better than being stuck with Kylie Minogue's 80s hits for an hour.

I can't wait to get back to Masters next week - and April can't come soon enough.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Double Time (ish)

Aaah, I'm such a cliche today...been ouching around the house suffering with DOMS and wondering if I'd even get out of the door tonight. Of course some gentle nagging and my towering pride sent me out and I became that person who didn't want to go but comes back being glad I did.

It was lovely out there, actually - two runs in a row with no rain! It's a miracle. Bit chilly on the hands to start with but a strong warm breeze coming back. I find it hard to keep remembering it's January, actually - when I first started running last April you could see your breath at 9pm and I went out in much heavier shirts. Couldn't see my breath at all til I'd got well out into the dark - I've swum at colder temperatures than this! Not that I'm complaining; it'd be much tougher to get out there if it was snowing.

Anyway, I was going to do the same run as Thursday - I can't really do C25K exactly because of the long hill (it's a 10% gradient and I ain't running up that when I'm just starting back!) but I was going to stick to warm-up sets/rests and try to just add a few minutes to the return leg. Yeah...I did my 1 mile warm-up walk, then 1min, 2mins, and then I was going into the dark section and thought "What the hell, I'll just run til I feel like I need a break, it's too much faff to check my watch". So I ran all the way down to the cottage on the corner (about 5mins), turned around and ran back to the light, saw it was 10mins and figured I may as well just run home at that point. So it was 27mins with no pauses, 3.5km for that section. Pretty good - I'll never be fast, don't care, point is that I'm not all that far off my previous pace and I can only improve, right? Add in a couple of lovely "ooh, this is really me running!" moments and feeling my breathing settle right down to something that matches my swimming breath, and it just felt very nice indeed.

Course, I'll be dead on my feet tomorrow's swim day, yay! Not Masters, sadly, but I'm going to try to get to the pool as soon as it opens and get some maintenance km in then head home asap so OH can go for his run too. Then park for the kids if it's dry!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Dry Land

Friday has traditionally been a rest day, which is a nice way of saying "I'm so full of Chinese food I can't move and anyway, don't I get just one night a week to slob out and watch telly?". But, you know, Janathon and duels and all that. I'm pretty stiff from running (can't wait for that to be a thing of the past again) and I try to alternate body parts anyhow, given that I'm supposedly an all-round wannabe athlete.

For Christmas my lovely husband bought me a copy of Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System For Swimmers And Triathletes, which is something I've been after for a while. I usually buy everything for my Kindle these days but this is one of those few books you really need the good colour photos for. I can't wait to get stuck into it properly, particularly the open water section; for tonight I just looked up the "dry land training" chapter and did that, saving the routine on Fitocracy (if you are a Hero I think you can take this from my account). It's pretty much stretching, core work and shoulders; and probably light enough to do daily should you feel so inclined. The book doesn't say how often, actually, but I think I'll probably see a fairly rapid core improvement if I keep it up. Doesn't get me a lot of points, though! And neither does running. Pffft. Despite my being pretty competitive, I'm not too worried at the moment - I have some swims planned, which will help. We'll see!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Run For The Joy

We're back, baby. The perfect night to start running again - damp but not raining, cloudy but not completely overcast (Orion was lovely), quiet, and a good strong breeze. It's actually pretty warm out there - I only wore my jacket and cap for high-vis and in case it started raining. Part of my route is completely unlit so fluro-yellow it is.

I couldn't decide what to do tonight at first, but it occured to me that I could use the same tactic Dave had us doing at USWIM Masters last session - a good long warm up followed by ever-increasing distance with short breaks. Obviously it's harder to gauge distance when running outdoors than in a pool, so I decided I'd walk the mile up to the Chinese at the top of the hill (that place always smells amazing and has the added bonus of reminding me that the more I run the less guilty I have to feel about Friday's take-away!), then run 1min/2min/3min/4min with 15-30s rests in between and see how I felt.

Well, I did the first three sets ok then took a 30s walk after 3mins to get past a junction (it's very dark and I wear headphones, so I take extra care). Then I ran for 4min 25s without noticing. 1 min rest again to get past a junction, and by then I was on my downhill home so I just kept running until I noticed my shoe was rubbing a bit - I think I'd laced it too tight, but I could do with some decent socks. 12mins! So utterly chuffed with that after - jeez - 15 weeks off. Five minute cooldown walk and there we go, that'll do nicely thank you! It works out at something like 3.2k total running out of a total 6k distance, with 2.2k of that being the 12min set.

Do you know what was best, though? No crappy head stuff. No "I can't do this", but just a calm "I am doing this". No crazy runner's high, but a simple acceptance that yes, this is me, and I can run a bit. Now that is a joyous thing.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

I Got 999 Problems But A Wall Sit Ain't One


Yeah, yeah, I'm aware that's a rubbish title. But hurray, I got started! Ok, yes, should have started yesterday but between the hangover and the rotten headcold I've had for a week the drizzle wasn't appealing at all. Wednesday is OH's run night so I lifted a whole bunch of heavy things over my head, did a few planks and a 2.5min wall sit (woo!) and by the time he got back from his six mile run (aaaaargh, I am never going to catch up) I'd scored 999 points for my workout on Fito, which is too funny a number to do any more to.

I'm ahead on the first day of Duel 1 (which sure as hell won't last!) and all geared up to head out for a run tomorrow. Can't decide whether to just restart C25K from week 1 and treat it as HIIT up the hill out onto the daaaaaaaaaaaaark moor road - since I now have the flashy thing for the back of my Ron Hill jacket, thanks mum! or walk the mile up it and then run back home downhill. Might be a bit risky on the knee, that tactic. We'll see!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


I love this picture, it makes me laugh every time. Snagged from this article on willpower at Sohee Lee Fitness. It is a great post and what I'm about to tell you about will seem to fly in the face of it at first glance, but it's all part of a Master Plan, honest.

I haven't blogged for a month or so - just way too much busyness going on - but I have kept going to USWIM Masters every Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's hard, hard work, swimming between 2-3.5km of drills and time trials/endurance work per session but I'm making obvious progress both on the clock (my 750m time is down to 16min from 20mins at the end of September - you can't sniff at a 4min improvement!) and in terms of the effect you can actually see. Definitely getting swimmer's arms and legs! Pity the Christmas excess has settled around the middle, but it'll go again. I also got my "Growing Gills" Fitocracy badge in December. That means I've swum 100km in my lifetime on the site, which actually tallies pretty accurately with 100km swum in this year.

Here are the challenges I've set myself for 2013 so far:



Participate in Janathon, which means daily exercise (though not today as I am somewhat hungover!) with an emphasis on running, and blog posts about it. This will help me both restart Couch to 5k....

...and hopefully win the two Fitocracy Duels I'm in, which run from 2nd-16th January. I plan to start tracking on My Fitness Pal again as well, so the first two weeks of this month are about shaking myself up and getting moving in the right direction. I haaaaaate tracking food but Christmas always makes my portion sizes (and sweet consumption) go haywire. But it can be fixed. USWIM Masters is back in session from 13th Jan so plenty of points to be gained there!

From 15th-24th I'll be taking part in Get Fit In The New Year... And For Life class, which is being taught by the founders of Fitocracy, to get a better grip on where I need to go with my training.

February & March

No specific plans as yet but I'd like to be getting close to 5k in both swimming and running.


 April is Swimathon month and I've entered the 5k Individual this time. I did the 2.5km last year and the 5k in 1992. I don't have an official record of that time but I'm pretty sure it was 2hrs 20mins or so, so that's the time I want to beat this year. I'm fairly confident I can get there as my 3km time is just over an hour now, so I should be pushing 5km at around 2hrs by April. My main issue at this distance is just getting enough clear water - not a problem on the day itself, but in open public sessions it's hard to get 2hrs without interruption. USWIM Summer season reopens on 20th April, though, so I should get a couple of nice long open water sessions in just before it.


No plans for May yet other than continuing to train for....


...the two-mile wave at Great North Swim. I finally made a decision! Well, it was made for me really because I don't have a two-mile event time and therefore couldn't be sure of completing the 5km in the right time-frame. Completing this one will give me a time for 2014, though, and after conversations with friends who live down that way, there's a good possibility I may do the 5k at Great East in 2014 as well. It starts to get really quite expensive at this point in both entry fees and transport/accomodation costs but it's just possible I may enter all five Great Swims in 2014.


July brings me back full-circle to Great Manchester Swim. I've completely changed my stroke and training regime since July 2012, with stacks more confidence and experience under my belt too - and it's my home ground. I'm hoping to shred at least 15-20mins off my 2012 breaststroke time (50m 59s) - sub 30mins would be ideal but we'll see on the day.


I plan to be properly prepared (ie, remember my goggles) and swim in the North Sea, no wetsuit, at least a few times!


Assuming it runs again in 2013 I'm keen to do the 3.8km distance of the Media City UK challenge, in my home waters at Dock 9. I finished last season at just over 2hrs to do 4km, and I'm sure all my training will pay off - so a sub 1hr 45 would be lovely for this one. And then...maybe the 10km in 2014? We'll also be heading up to Newcastle for the Great North Run, where at least one, probably two and maybe more of the Wood family will be taking part. But not me. Not this year...

After that, who knows? I'd love to get a few 5km runs in there, and a 10km would be amazing. There's also the Edinburgh 2k and Bala 3 mile swims to consider, if I can find the money and the transport. And I know of at least two other places within reach where I can swim open water, it's just a matter of getting there. And that bike's going to see the sunshine at some point, honest. But then, there's Tri-fle Ambitious and Far Too Ambitious....:)