When I started this blog I was 36. I'd been horribly unfit through sheer laziness and fear of injury for far too long - pretty much ever since I duffed up my knees with a horrible breaststroke screw kick at 18 and then discovered beer. In Autumn 2011 I couldn't pick up my little girls without pain and that was my crunch time. My lovely husband goaded me into lifting weights; a friend introduced me to Fitocracy, and then husband was himself goaded into running by his dad, a frequent Great North runner. He entered Great Manchester Run with a team from work running for The Christie Hospital, and I made him a champagne-fuelled bet on New Year's Eve 2011 that I could get back to my 18-year-old swimming fitness and be able to swim 5km by the time he'd worked up to 10km. I duly entered the 2012 Swimathon for 2.5km as a half-way target. I completed it in a fairly reasonable time for a lazy person (and raised over £150 for Marie Curie Cancer Care in the process) but I could see there was a lot of room for improvement - and I was starting to appreciate my new-found fitness.
It turned out to be a stupid bet because when his race pack from Great Manchester Run '12 arrived, I saw an advert for Great Manchester Swim. Oh boy. "A mile? I can do that. That's easy. In open water, you say? Hmm....well, ok." Lots of people said they'd sponsor me if I did it for Mind, so I said "What the hell, let's do it" and signed up. With just one practice session at Salford Quays beforehand, I completed the swim in 50mins - rubbish compared to the rest of the field but I was just pleased I'd got round! It was an absolutely amazing day (I raised £275 and would highly recommend Mind as a charity to swim for, their support was super) and I've been addicted to open water swimming ever since. All Summer I hung out at the Uswim Open Water sessions every Saturday and bored everyone on my Facebook feed to death with how much I loved it. Since I swam so slowly in breaststroke I decided to switch to crawl, retrain and do it faster next year.
On a high from GMS, I decided that since I couldn't make it to any other of the Great Swims this year I'd try my hand at running (I have a terrible "anything you can do I can do better" complex), and I ran City of Salford 5km in September. I talked husband into doing the 10km and it was horribly hot, but we both finished and learned a lot. I trained with USWIM all winter.
In 2013 I completed the 5km Swimathon, 2 miles at Great North Swim and back to Manchester Great Swim for the sense of completion, and finished the season out with the last 5km open water swim of the Media City Series (dead last but I did it!), and have continued to train with USWIM over the Winter. The family has gone sport nuts - husband completed Great North Run together with his dad and brothers, and promptly signed up again. I signed up to the Chillswim Cross-Coniston 5.2mile swim in September '14. Eldest daughter started karate and I followed her as soon as the open water season was finished.
In 2014 I took my 8th, 7th and 6th kyu karate gradings and silvers for both Individual Kata and Kumite in the club tournament; Eldest also took her 7th kyu (before I did!) and 6th kyu and competed in the tournament too. Youngest offically became a Red Tiger on her fourth birthday, taking her 9th kyu less than six months later, and both girls are progressing well through the ASA Learn To Swim awards syllabus. I've kept up a regular yoga practice through most of the year. In September I crossed Coniston in 4hrs 14mins, and in the same weekend husband successfully finished Great North Run again with the family team. I then immediately started the Aspire Challenge. And I was adopted into Team Bear Tri!
In 2015 I hope to complete a 6 mile/10km marathon swim, try running (again), and take my purple belt.
When I first started all this, friends teased me about swimming the Channel or getting into triathlon. I don't think either of those are routes for me. I've seen the sheer amount of time, money and strength of character needed to get through the training. I definitely don't have the first two and I'm not convinced on the third, but I love where I am right now and all the places sport is taking me, not to mention the lovely people I meet all the time. So I will poddle on in my own way and maybe...just maybe...there's a Windermere crossing and a black belt in my future. Who knows!