Monday Morning Motivation – Way to go!

21 Jul

Steve Way is  hugely inspirational man, who was an unhealthy and overweight smoker just 7 years ago, but who is now going to represent England in the Commonwealth Games. You can read his amazing story here: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/may/31/great-britain-commonwealth-games-marathon-steve-way

Steve Way

© The Mirror

Amazingly, not only does Steve hold down a full-time job whilst running over 100 miles every week, but he also finds the time to blog: http://www.steveway.co.uk/

Six ferries, 100km, seven mad people and a few kilos of cheese…

15 Jul

Exactly a year ago today, I went on a brilliant adventure with a group of friends (aka Bike Gang). I part wrote a blog post and by the time I got around to finishing it, the spontaneity was lost, so I decided that I’d schedule it for a year on from the event, so here it is…

Ferry 1: Southampton to Hythe

Our days started fairly early, when we met at Town Quay to catch our first ferry to Hythe.

Piers at ferry terminal

Piers buying his ticket to Hythe at the ferry terminal

We had to buy our tickets from machines and had just enough time to buy some drinks before the ferry arrived.

Caffeine starter

Caffeine starter… Liz (the photographer) hadn’t had hers yet and hence was rather shaky!

It wasn’t long before the ferry arrived. I was surprised by how small it was and was glad that there weren’t many other passengers as our bikes took up quite a lot of room!

Boarding the Hythe ferry

Boarding the Hythe ferry

Hythe ferry

As you can see, it was my last big adventure on my work/commuting bike. The others all had road bikes (although Liz had a pannier, because she needed somewhere to store her sandwiches!) My double panniers and hybrid bike meant that I had the heaviest bike to ride.

Ferry to Hythe

Ferry to Hythe

Ferry to Hythe

Ferry to Hythe

It was a short and smooth crossing, and we were pleased that the sun was shining brightly.

Once we got off the ferry, we had a short ride from Hythe to Lymington. It wasn’t long before there was a split in the group – Stu, Suzanne, Emily and Piers were at the front of the group, whereas Katherine, Liz and I were lagging behind slightly. We came to a fork in the road and weren’t sure where to go. Unfortunately, we realised that the speedy cyclists had gone the wrong way and were on the other side of a level crossing where the barriers were down. Katherine set off to track down the others, giving Liz and I enough time to pose for some selfies!

Brief stoppage to retrieve the speedy cyclists who went the wrong way
Brief stoppage to retrieve the speedy cyclists who went the wrong way

Ferry 2: Lymington to Yarmouth

Ferry number 2 - Lymington to Yarmouth

We regrouped at the ferry terminal and had a quick snack after we bought our tickets. Some kind German tourists took a group photo for us.

Setting sail from Lymington

Setting sail from Lymington

It was a beautifully warm day, so we enjoyed sitting out on deck and enjoying the sun. Liz finished off her luncheon and we all looked longingly at Lymington lido, which looked glorious in the sunshine.

Lymington sea baths (taken from the ferry)

sailing to yarmouth

Sailing to Yarmouth

When we arrived in Yarmouth, we had the main bike ride of the day ahead of us (about 20k). It was getting hot and I realised that I definitely had a disadvantage with my heavy bike as there seemed to be lots of hills and we never seemed to go down any of them!

Quick rest stop before a giant hill

Quick rest stop before a giant hill

In Cowes, we decided that it was time to refuel for lunch. I decided to go for a light salad and was relieved when I saw the size of everyone else’s portions. Emily had a cheese ploughmans with two pieces of bread and enough cheese to feed a whole family for a week!!!

Emily had a little cheese sandwich in Cowes

Emily had a little cheese sandwich in Cowes

It took a while for us to finish our food and digest it enough to get going again.

The gang

The gang

Ferry 3: West Cowes to East Cowes

It was then a short cycle to the chain ferry, so that we could get to the other side of Cowes. It took a while for the ferry to arrive and even I thought I might be able to swim to the other side faster than it took the ferry to get there… but the water was dirty and I can’t swim with my bike!

Cowes chain ferry

Cowes chain ferry

When the ferry arrived, we had to sit inside, which was a little stinky and warm, but we knew we’d only be on the ferry for a few minutes.

Bike Gang on Cowes chain ferry

Bike Gang on Cowes chain ferry

When we left the ferry, it was a short (8-10k) ride to Fishbourne, where we had a short wait for the ferry to Portsmouth, so we decided to relax in the shade for a while. (A ferry was just leaving as we got there, but we weren’t quite fast enough to get on it and didn’t feel that we were in a hurry as we were having such a fun time).

A little rest before teh ferry from Cowes to Portsmouth

Ferry 4: Fishbourne to Portsmouth

Finally, we were on the fourth ferry of our adventure.

Looking down on our bikes on the Cowes to Portsmouth ferry

Looking down on our bikes on the Cowes to Portsmouth ferry

We enjoyed sitting on the top deck of the ferry and feeling the breeze.

Ferry 5: Portsmouth to Gosport

After we left Gosport, we had another 20k ride to get to Warsash. It was a beautifully warm day and the sea looked so inviting that most people went in for a swim… I didn’t want to have to ride my bike with wet shorts on, so I just paddled. Katherine loved it and didn’t want to leave the water… you can only see her feet in the picture below.

A quick dip

A quick dip

Ferry 6: Warsash to Hamble

We realised that we were cutting it rather fine to make it to the last ferry at Hamble as it was scheduled to leave at 6pm. We sent the fastest cyclists ahead, whilst Liz and I did our best at the back. Fortunately, Suzanne and Piers made it on time and we found that there were a few other people who also wanted to catch a ferry, so the boatman agreed that he would make an extra journey to be able to transport all of us across. This gave us some time to be able to take some photos of the cute waiting room.

Waiting for the ferry in Warsash

It was difficult to squeeze all of us and our bikes onto the ferry, but the boatman managed it.

Warsash ferry

Warsash ferry

The Warsash ferry

The Warsash ferry

All aboard the Warsash ferry

All aboard the Warsash ferry

It felt quite sad when we finally got off the ferry in Hamble as it seemed as though our adventure was over.

Leaving the final ferry in Hamble

Leaving the final ferry in Hamble

Fortunately, we had one last opportunity for a group photo, with Dani King’s gold post box. (Dani King is a cyclist who won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics).

Dani King's gold postbox in Hamble

Dani King’s gold postbox in Hamble

If you’re ever in this area and have a day that you can spend with your bike, I’d strongly recommend trying this route. It was great fun and even with all of the ferries it only cost about £25.

Monday Morning Motivation – Weightloss

14 Jul

I’ve blogged a lot about my progress with swimming, cycling and running in the 18 months since I started this blog, but I don’t blog as often about my weight-loss as it’s the hardest area of my life for me to tackle.

Weight loss motivation advice

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
Weight Loss Motivation

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
What can you say to me to help me lose weight?

Monday Morning Motivation – Heather Dorniden

7 Jul

Now married and a professional middle distance runner known as Heather Rae Kampf, Heather Dorniden is well-known on the internet for a 600m race back in 2008, where she fell, but got back up and went on to win the race. Many people in Heather’s position would have given up, but she was determined to finish the race and says that the sound of the crowd and the adrenaline that was pumping around her body were enough to help her to win the race.

What would it take to get you to finish a race if you had fallen?

Monday Morning Motivation – 20 Tiny thoughts crushing your biggest dreams

30 Jun

20 Tiny thoughts crushing your biggest dreams is one of the most inspirational blogposts that I’ve read recently. When I was at an Embrace Sports triathlon training camp last year, one of the thoughts that Graeme shared with me was not to allow my races be dominated by my own self-limiting beliefs. In the aforementioned blog post, March Chernoff emphasises the importance of changing your thinking to achieve the results that you want. I urge you to read the whole blogpost, but if you haven’t got time, some of the highlights include the following 10 bulletpoints (the comments are my own):

  1. “My dreams and goals can wait.”
    Why postpone your happiness until tomorrow? Will you ever achieve your goals, if you postpone them?
  2. “I don’t have time.”
    It is almost always possible to make time for the things that really matter for you, so the real question is whether you actually want to have time for something.
  3. “I’m not talented enough.”
    At some stage, I’m going to write a post about ‘Bounce’ – a book that suggests talent does not exist and that success is actually down to hard work and practise. You need to be persistent to achieve your goals.
  4.  “This problem is too big to solve.”
    Chernoff argues that you need to avoid over-thinking problems. I agree that that may be true in some circumstances; however, on other occasions, I think it may just be important to break a problem down into smaller parts.
  5. “I’m not ready yet.”
    Seize the moment as you may never get a second chance!
  6. “I knew I wasn’t good enough.”
    There may be a reason why some things don’t work. Sometimes, it is necessary to reassess your goals and decide whether you want to continue with them.
  7. “I’m a failure.”
    The more times you fail, the closer you are to success – everything takes practice.
  8.  “They have it so much easier than me.”
    Chernoff points out that everyone has battles to contend with, it’s just that some people deal with them privately.
  9. “I have nothing to be thankful for.”
    It’s important to remain positive. Be thankful for what you have and consider how much worse your situation could be.
  10. “They don’t have what it takes either.”
    Chernoff points out that it is important to encourage and support others, rather than criticising them. Cheer for people and help to empower them, as one day you may be grateful of their support.

Spirit of the Triathlon?

29 Jun

Would you like to see a feature-length documentary on the inspiring journeys of six athletes preparing for Challenge Roth?

Challenge Roth Triathlon Documentary Indiegogo from triathlonfilm on Vimeo.

I know I would, as I loved Spirit of the Marathon, which is made by the team behind this venture. They’re attempting to crowd-source funding for it, and released some information within the last fortnight. This website gives more details: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/challenge-roth-triathlon-documentary

triathlete magazine interviewed the film’s producer Gwendolen Twist: http://triathlon.competitor.com/2014/06/news/dispatch-triathlon-heads-big-screen_101010

I don’t know how much funding is really required to make this a reality, but I hope it takes place.

I wasn’t last, even though there was some swimming involved!

26 Jun

Although I’m still tired from last Sunday’s swim, I had already entered tonight’s aquathlon (hosted by the lovely TryTri chaps), so I figured that I’d better just get on with it. We left home a bit late, and I didn’t do a great job of getting myself organised. I thought that I had picked up everything necessary for transition, but realised that I had left my inhaler and contact lenses in my bag, so I missed the briefing (and hat distribution) to go and get them. Fortunately, Stu was there to get a hat for me. I didn’t really have enough time to worry and just went straight into the water, which actually felt like a pleasant temperature.

After a quick wave at the camera, we were off. I had carefully positioned myself near the back of the pack, so I wasn’t squished in the initial brawl. We soon spread out and I was pleased to realise that I was breathing quite well. Unfortunately, my goggles were not doing as well, as I had to stop and empty them three times, which broke my rhythm.

My terrible breathing! © Paul A. Hammond

My terrible breathing! © Paul A. Hammond

I'm still not sure why my head is in this position © Paul A. Hammond

I’m still not sure why my head is in this position © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

The route was meant to be 750m, but my sighting wasn’t great, so I swam 980m… I really must work on that as I wasted quite a lot of time.

The course is 2.5 laps, so by the time I had swum 1.5 laps, it was starting to thin out a bit and I was pleased to realise that I wasn’t the very last person. Unfortunately, I was also aware that my arms were very tired from Sunday’s exertions, so I wasn’t able to pick the pace up. I pushed as hard as I could, but I know I was passed by at least 3 people in the final lap.

Eventually, I was at the end of the swim. Maybe I should have swum a little bit closer to the exit, but I was ready to stand up, and was relieved that I didn’t feel as dizzy as I normally do. Result! :-)

Some people might blame the wetsuit for being unflattering; I blame my love of food! © Paul A. Hammond

Some people might blame the wetsuit for being unflattering; I blame my love of food! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

This shows just how close the next competitor was © Paul A. Hammond

This shows just how close the next competitor was © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I should pin this horrible photo of my double chins up in the kitchen! © Paul A. Hammond

I should pin this horrible photo of my double chins up in the kitchen! © Paul A. Hammond

I finished the swim in 20:01.8 (35/37)

It was then onto transition, which I know is a terrible discipline for me. If I could just strip off my wetsuit/hat/goggles, throw on some shoes and run, I’d be fine, but I’ve had blisters when I tried running without socks before, and so close to a triathlon, I didn’t want to risk it, so I put socks on. Then came the real time-wasting part: contact lenses. I hate running with my glasses on as they make me feel ill. This is partly because they’re not quite the right prescription, but at nearly £300 a pair, I can’t afford to waste money on something that I rarely wear. I put in my contact lenses as fast as possible and was off.

Heading into transition © Paul A. Hammond

Heading into transition © Paul A. Hammond

An entire sequence of me stripping! © Paul A. Hammond

An entire sequence of me stripping! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I’m amused by this shot, which looks like I’m weeing myself – I’m not, honest! © Paul A. Hammond

I managed not to battle my watch this time – I took the face of it off, removed my wetsuit and then clipped it back on again :-)

T1 2:00.20 (36/37)

At this point, I was unaware that I was not the last person. I thought someone had exited the lake just after me (which they did) and I assumed that he was the very last person in the event… and I knew he would have left transition before me.

I always find the breathing hard when I first start running after swimming, but I just told myself to relax and enjoy it, which seemed to work. I’ve mumbled recently about feeling like I’ve only got one speed – slow – as a consequence of doing some long, slow runs, but I surprised myself by being able to move at a reasonable pace. I think the intervals with Coach Ant (Run Camp) and Huw/Steve (Southampton Tri Club) are finally starting to pay off.

I could hear a speedy runner coming up behind me, but I thought that there was no point in looking around as they would pass me soon enough. I was quite surprised when they spoke to me, and then realised that it was Stuart, who was clearly running very well. I had decided to wear my SOAS pink peacock tri kit as I’ve got a busy couple of days ahead of me and I want to wear my team SOAS kit on Sunday. It’s really comfortable to wear and has the added advantage of standing out really well. Stuart said that he recognised me from quite a long way off as my kit is so distinctive!

I like the run route for Eastleigh aquathlon as it’s essentially the same as the first parkrun that I used to attend, which is where I found my love for running. It’s a two lap course that I know inside out. A third of the way around is a slight incline, before a shady tree-lined section, followed by a (miniature) railway crossing and then an open path. There’s then a grassy section around a ‘bowl’ followed by a sharp down and up, before a gentler slope leading back across the railway line. There’s then one more steep up and over the railway line, before heading to the second lap/finish.

By the time I got to the first incline, I could see a runner ahead of me in distinctive green calf guards. It looked like he was slowing down, so I thought there might be a chance that I could catch him. This, and the enthusiastic encouragement from Becky who was marshalling, encouraged me to push on. I took a while for me to catch up with the chap, but I finally managed it at the bowl. I then headed back towards the start/finish, where the lovely Paul was waiting

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

This shot shows just how great I was feeling! © Paul A. Hammond

This shot shows just how great I was feeling! © Paul A. Hammond

Still smiling and both feet off the ground! © Paul A. Hammond

Still smiling and both feet off the ground! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Getting ready... © Paul A. Hammond

Getting ready… © Paul A. Hammond

...to blow a kiss at Paul! © Paul A. Hammond

…to blow a kiss at Paul! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I kept pushing on the second lap as I didn’t want to be overtaken. As I crossed the railway line, I realised that there were some competitors ahead. I started to push on, but realised that I probably wasn’t going to catch up with them, which frustrated me, but I didn’t want to push too hard as I want to save some energy for Sunday’s triathlon.

Towards the end of the race, I heard someone running behind me. It was a man with a fluorescent yellow shirt on. I didn’t think he was part of the aquathlon, so I wondered whether he was just someone out enjoying a run… but just in case, I started to pick up the pace a little more. This was a lucky guess, as it turned out that he was in the event!

Feeling determined as I could see the finish line! © Paul A. Hammond

Feeling determined as I could see the finish line! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Look at that heel lift! I hope Coach Ant feels proud! © Paul A. Hammond

Look at that heel lift! I hope Coach Ant feels proud! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Action shot! © Paul A. Hammond

Action shot! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Although I look tired in these photos, I was actually feeling really good and would have been happy to carry on and run another 5k. It turns out that my run was the best part of the event for me as I beat 4 people!

Run: 26:38.75 (33/37)

Total: 48:40.75 (34/37)

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I really enjoyed tonight’s event. My super husband did brilliantly, finishing in 3rd place in a time of 31:11.10! Awesome result, Stu! The TryTri lads work well to make each event a success and they also put in a lot of effort to make ech competitor feel valued. The aquathlons are reasonably priced, with chip timing for each event meaning that the results were online by the time that I arrived home, and there was also a bottle of water for each entrant.

I now feel as well prepared as possible for Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon on Sunday. As usual, my aim is to finish, but I’m also hoping not to be last. My T2 is likely to be significantly faster than T1, and I’m hoping that my bike segment will compare favourably with others (probably more because of my fab Kuota Kharma than for my ability).

Have you got any races coming up? Which discipline do you think you need to practise the most?

Some extra recovery followed by two days of intervals

25 Jun

After my long swim on Sunday, I was meant to go swimming with the Tri Club on Monday night… however, I had a fun night out planned with some former work colleagues. I tried to find a way to fit a swim in, but I would have had to get up very early to do it before work, and my lunch break was sandwiched between meetings on different campuses, so in the end it just wasn’t feasible. I know that people will say that if you want to find a way, it’s always possible to make things work, but I was feeling absolutely exhausted and thought that a little bit of extra time in bed and a chance for my arms to recover wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Yesterday, I had to spend the day in London for a work event. Luckily, the meeting didn’t finish too late, so I was able to get home in time to be able to do some of my training. I was meant to do a 45 minute bike ride, but I only had time to fit in 25 minutes before my track session. If I’d been better organised, I might have found a bit more time, but I’m not too worried about it (I cycle to and from work every day, so missing out on 20 minutes on my bike isn’t as bad as it might seem).

After cycling, it was time for my weekly track session with the local tri club. Huw was away, so the session was led by Steve, who’s also a really good coach. We were told to do the usual warm up (a one mile lap of the sports centre), but I still had to change from my bike shoes into trainers and lock my bike up, so I took a short cut. I’d assumed that I wouldn’t be able to catch the group, but I think that with a bit of effort, I would have made it.

After the warm up, we were told to do a deceptively simple pyramid session:

  • 1 minute run; 1 minute recovery
  • 2 minute run; 2 minute recovery
  • 3 minute run; 3 minute recovery
  • 4 minute run; 4 minute recovery
  • 4 minute run; 4 minute recovery
  • 3 minute run; 3 minute recovery
  • 2 minute run; 2 minute recovery
  • 1 minute run; 1 minute recovery

We were told the runs should be done at ‘steady’ pace, which was then modified to 5k pace. My best parkrun (5k) time in 2014 is 27:40, but I’m still aspiring to get a PB, so I tend to think of 5k pace as being 5:00/km. I managed an average of 4:53/km (moving pace), which means that I managed to achieved what I wanted to.

This evening, I had a choice between doing an RR10 (local off-road race) or doing a specific run as set by my coach. I didn’t finish work until after 6pm, so I decided that it would be best just to do the work out set by Coach Ant. However, I also combined it with a run with my friend, Teri. I ran to her house, and then we did a 10 minute warm up before alternating between 90 seconds at ‘race pace’ (5:00-6:00/km) with 2 minutes of jog recovery after each one. It was hard to run quickly as I’m very tired, but I managed all of the intervals at the appropriate pace.

I think I would have found it a difficult run, if I hadn’t had Teri for company. We would start discussing a topic, and then my Garmin would beep to warn me that it was almost time to run hard again, so we’d agree to pick up the narrative in our next jog break. Teri’s a much faster runner than me, so she went ahead on the intervals, but we regrouped for the jogs.

Tomorrow, I’ve got an aquathlon. Last time, I was still struggling with my arm, so I did the novice distance. This time, I think I need to tackle the sprint distance, but I’ll try to hold back a little as I’ve a triathlon on Sunday. On Friday, I’m cycling and swimming and then I’ll finally have a rest day on Saturday.

This evening, I watched an interesting video from CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club). It’s part of a campaign to make cycling safer in the UK. I fully support it, but I’m not sure that all of the proposals will be practical:

If you’re in the UK and could like to support this campaign, please visit the website.

31 minutes a km!!!

24 Jun

On Sunday morning, I went down to Bowleaze Cove with Stu, Suzanne and Roelie for the first of this year’s Big Cove sea swims. There are two distances on offer: 1.5 miles and 3 miles. I’d looked up information about previous events online and in the past couple of years the number of entrants has fluctuated between about 24 and 40, which had advantages and disadvantages. I knew that it meant I would be less likely to be crushed in a melee at the start of the race, but it also meant that I would quite likely be out on the course on my own for long stretches.

As it was only a swim and not an aquathlon or triathlon, there was no need for the event to start really early, so we didn’t need to leave Southampton until 8am. We arrived in Weymouth quite early, but then we had to work out where we needed to get to. Stu’s satnav was determined to take us down a route that was inaccessible and then we ended dup driving around a caravan park before we looked at some online maps and found an alternative route.

It was a beautifully warm and sunny day (20°C by 9am), so there were already quite a few people on the beach and eating full English breakfasts in the nearby café when we arrived. We parked the car and I was surprised by how cheap the parking was for a lovely tourist destination (£2.50 for 4 hours).

We had a bit of time to waste, but none of us wanted to out our wetsuits on and stand around in the sun for too long. We went and registered, which was a very simple process. We were all given green hats to indicate that we were doing the shorter distance; the 3-mile swimmers were given orange hats. We also had our numbers written on our hands. It’s a trivial detail, but I was pleased that the woman who was doing it has neat handwriting – I hate having a number scrawled badly on my limbs!!!

IMG_3111

We thought that we had seen the course marked in the bay, but as we were waiting, we realised that more buoys were being towed out into position. In terms of running, I can conceptualise how far a mile is, but seeing it marked out in the sea, made it look like a huge distance, and was more than a little terrifying.

IMG_3112

The email that we had been sent before the event had stated that all entrants should be strong swimmers who are experienced at open water swimming. I’m not really sure that I fit either of those categories. I’m definitely not a strong swimmer as I’m most definitely in lane 1 at Tri Club (although I can hold my own in the middle lane when I go to public lane swimming sessions). I’m not sure that I’m an experienced open water swimmer either – I’ve swum at Lakeside and HOWSC as well as a lake in France, but the only ‘sea swim’ that I’ve done was Fowey Harbour swim last summer, which wasn’t too long and was in a very safe environment. We had also been asked to state how long we thought it would take us – I had written down 90 minutes.

IMG_3113

At last it was time to put our wetsuits on. Foolishly, I ran and cycled on Saturday with a vest and shorts on, so I had burnt my shoulders, which was not the best preparation. I liberally applied bodyglide to my neck and just hoped that nothing else would chafe during the swim. I meant to put on lip-gloss, but I forgot. I also had to use my inhaler as I was finding breathing difficult and was wheezing a bit.

I’ve got really poor eyesight, so I still had my glasses on. Without them, I can see nothing, so if I took them off, I would have to walk around with my goggles on, which is not a great look. I had been undecided about which goggles to wear. I prefer my tinted goggles as they were more comfortable and have slightly larger lenses than my clear goggles, however, the replacement strap that I’ve been using since my last one broke just doesn’t seem to work well and I ended up stopping frequently at the pool to empty them out, so I decided that the clear goggles would be the sensible option.

I also dislike getting water in my ears. I’ve never tried earplugs, but find that if I wear a good swimming hat, my ears are well enough protected. The temperature meant that I thought a neoprene hat would be excessive, but I decided to go for two swimming hats. I put on my favourite shark motif hat, then my goggles before finishing off with the green Bustinskin hat.

We had time for a quick dip in the sea before the event. In hindsight, I should have spent a bit more time acclimatising to the water. My hands felt cold, but the rest of me was OK. The sea temperature was actually quite pleasant at 17.3°C, although the wind speed was 8 knots – according to local weatherman Bob Poots.

Just before the event started, we were called over to the blue start mat for a briefing and roll call. I’m guessing that the event’s proximity to the Challenge Weymouth course accounted for the surge in popularity, as there were 36 people in the 1.5-mile event. We were given some instructions about staying with 5m of the buoys and to pass them on our right hand side in both directions. The 3-mile swimmers were told where the turning point was, and then there were some other comments. I gathered that the gist of them was about jellyfish and bumping into things, but my hearing is not great, so I wasn’t really sure what had been said. After the event, I read a news item that said there has been a huge influx of jellyfish in the area because of the warm seas encouraging plankton growth. I was so glad that I was unaware of that when the event started.

I positioned myself at the back of the pack and to the side, as I knew I would be one of the weakest swimmers there and I didn’t want to have anyone swim over me at the start.

The start of the race was in very shallow water, which started to deepen as we reached the end of the pier. At this point, other swimmers were still in sight, but it was already clear that I was going to be last. I was doing my best to relax and swim with smooth strokes, but my breathing was all over the place and I did wonder whether I would make it around.

For the first quarter of the race, I was accompanied by a stand up paddle boarder, who kept saying reassuring things to me and checking whether I was OK. I did wonder whether I should just turn around, but I didn’t want to fail. I was grateful to have someone beside me, but I also felt guilty that I was so far behind everyone else and that so much attention was having to be focused on me.

I started to get into some sort of rhythm and was really surprised by just how much I could see. Suddenly, I saw something ahead of me… Oh My God! It was a dead baby! I have no idea what must have been on my mind for that to be my first thought! I put my head back into the water and realised that I was mistaken. It was only a jellyfish… hold on… a jellyfish?! Aarrgghh! I panicked and started swimming sideways as quickly as I could.

When we did the Fowey Harbour Swim, there were list of jellyfish and some people got stung. They said it wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t want to find out what it would feel like. The only parts of my body that were exposed were my hands, feet and arts of my face, but I was still frightened.

Unfortunately, the jellyfish were part of the event. I would get into a rhythm, only for it to be interrupted by me freaking out about the appearance of something in the water beside me (mainly jellyfish, but occasionally, faster swimmers who were lapping me).

I also realised that there was a mark on my goggles that looked like a huge black jellyfish whenever I looked out of the corner of my eye. (On inspection after the event, I’ve realised that it is the prescription label on the lens – these will definitely be picked off before I do a similar event in future!)

The course was well marked out with enormous yellow buoys that were clearly visible even for someone with eyesight as bad as mine. I think the buoys were about 250m apart, but I don’t know, as I didn’t check my watch.

It took me a long time to feel like I could breathe comfortably. I also realised that my legs weren’t doing anything useful and my shoulder still isn’t quite right after my accident.

By the time I was halfway out, I could see the lead swimmers coming back on the other side of the buoys. At this point, the stand up paddle boarder swapped roles with a chap in a kayak. There were quite large distances between some of the buoys, and not everyone is very good at sighting. I realised that unless I moved, then a large group of swimmers would swim straight into me, so I started heading further out to sea. The kayaker shouted at me, so I had to explain what my manoeuvre was.

I decided that I needed to start pushing myself harder, so I tried to get into a better rhythm. Unfortunately, I somehow ended up swimming very close to the kayak and its shadow. For some reason, this made me think about Jaws. The thought of sharks in the water did no help my mental state as I became aware that if there were to be anything in the water, I would not be able to get out in a hurry.

I carried on and eventually reached the final buoy. I glanced back towards the beach and realised just how far I had to go. Part of me was tempted to look at my watch, but I knew that wouldn’t help me and that I just had to keep going.

My breathing had finally settled down, so I thought I could swim in a good rhythm, but the swim back was much harder. Some of the others reckon that it had become breezier and the number of ribs, jet skis, and motorboats out in the cove had created some waves. I hadn’t particularly noticed any swell on the way out, but it was definitely there on the way back. I had been swimming bilaterally, but breathing to my right wasn’t really an option on the way back, so I settled into a four-breath rhythm.

The return leg seemed to take forever. I was passed by a number of the 3-mile swimmers, some of whom swam extremely close to me.

Towards the turn, I could see lots of people on jet skis riding about. Although the logical part of me knew that I had on a striking coloured hat and that there were marshals around, I became a bit paranoid that I might meet an untimely end being hit by some sort of craft.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the beach. I was feeling exhausted and was ready to divorce Stuart for convincing me to join in with this madness. Two three-mile swimmers passed me, but I had no energy to try to keep up with them even for 5 seconds.

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The water was very clear and it looked like I could touch the bottom with my hands. I wasn’t sure how soon I could stand up or whether I was expected to swim as close to the beach as possible. With about 15m to go, I stood up and waded to the beach. I’d done it!

One of the marshals put a medal around my neck, but I felt so shattered and numb that I was unable to do or say anything. I barely spoke for 10 minutes. My legs and arms were not as tired as after running a marathon, but the adrenaline caused by my fear throughout the event meant that I found it mentally exhausting.

Stuart, Roelie and Suzanne were waiting for me on the beach, having finished quite a long way ahead of me. They had all changed and were starting to get cold and hungry, whereas I wasn’t particularly interested in eating.

Stuart finished in 11th place in 43:12.

Roelie came 22nd in 50:36

Suzanne was 26th in 55:59.

The winner was a woman who completed the course in just 36:38!

As expected, I finished last, with 9 of the people doing the 3-mile swim finishing ahead of me. This was not unexpected – as I’ve never swum further than 2000 metres before, and have only ever spent an hour swimming in the pool. It took me 1:22:32, which is a few minutes ahead of my estimated time of 1:30, but really not good enough. If anyone wants to see the full results, they are available here: http://www.bustinskin.com/download/big_cove_swims_2014/big%20cove%20swim%20race%201%20.pdf

New swimming PB for distance, time and calories

New swimming PB for distance, time and calories

My Garmin data for the course is here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/526034617 Zooming in on it, you can see just how wonky my swim was!

Stuart and Suzanne have already signed up for the next two events in the series, and if I’m going to make the start line of Challenge Weymouth, I guess I’d better give it another crack! Hopefully, next time, some more people that we know will be able to make the event.

I decided not to swim yesterday, as I was feeling exhausted. My poor technique combined with the duration and length of the swim and wearing a wetsuit mean that I have got some very stiff muscles in my back. Also, although we all applied plenty of body glide, all four of us have been left with burns on our necks.

Overall, it was a very difficult experience for me. However, it does now mean that I should feel more confident about Challenge Weymouth. I have now swum the distance in similar conditions; cycled for about the right distance with the Wiggle Spring Sportive and run the distance (plus more) at Brighton Marathon.

What’s the toughest event you’ve done?

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