Swimming, cycling and running in Cornwall
September 6, 2013
Are you sitting comfortably? This could be a long post! I booked two weeks off work to go home to Cornwall and see my sister and her boyfriend who are over from Australia. The weather was gorgeous so I managed to get some swim bike run love in although I probably should have done some more running. I also caught up with some sleep, fitting in an amazing nine hours a night! (I think I’ve also probably put on weight as I indulged in some regional delicacies including clotted cream and, my favourite, pasties.)
The time off started with the third day of my coaching course in Watford. Stu and I were originally scheduled to do this in Winchester at the end of July, but the date clashed with Thunder Run, so we had to travel further afield. Fortunately, it was a more relaxed day than the first two. The weather was horrendous, with torrential rain, but we were able to do the practical part in a sports hall. Now, I just need to plan my next set of sessions.
When we were in Southampton, Stuart suggested that we should do the Jubilee Pool Aquathlon in Penzance. I looked up the distances: a 200m swim followed by a 2 mile run along the promenade. I knew I could swim that far, but had no idea how long it would take me, so I decided to time myself in the pool at work. My first attempt took 7:30, which seemed quite slow, even for me, so I timed myself again.
I think I must have miscounted the first time, as my second effort was much better: 5:30. That sounded awesome to me, so I went home telling myself how amazing I was… only to be confronted by reality. I looked up the results of the last aquathlon and saw that the slowest swimmer completed the distance in 4:40. Oh dear – almost a minute faster than me; the consolation was that I was confident that I could beat their two-mile run time (even including the transition).
When we got to Cornwall, I was still feeling nervous about the aquathlon, so Stu and I decided to do a practice swim in the lido the day before the event. We went down to Penzance and parked up before walking to the lido. It looked beautiful in the sunshine and there was even a German camera crew filming it.
We went to pay and the chap behind the counter asked if I was local. I thought he was making polite conversation, so I replied that I was from Hayle. I hadn’t realised that local people get discounted entry. He then asked for proof of my address, but I didn’t have any, so he just asked what my address was. I told him mum’s address and as I knew it instantly, including the postcode, he said that was fine. I felt a bit guilty, but I hadn’t intended to deceive and didn’t know how to backtrack!
Once I got into the pool, I tried to take some photos and a video, but the lifeguard pointed out that filming was prohibited. It was a beautifully hot day, so the pool felt really cold when we got in, although actually, it was about 20 degrees. It was also far saltier than I had expected it to be… We could almost sit up and read newspapers! It’s painted turquoise and the water is much clearer than the lake, which meant that it was quite a different experience, although there was the odd clump of seaweed to avoid. After a warm-up lap, I thought I’d get Stu to time me, in the hope that I’d magically break the 4:40 barrier.
I did my lap, without having to avoid too many children and without going off course. I even managed to put in a sprint finish, and the result was…. 5:45 🙁 Even without having to turn at the end of the pool. I felt so disappointed, so after having a little break, I asked Stu to time me again. This time I had a strategy. I knew where the turns were, I had worked out where the troublesome bathers were and I knew how to pace it.
I started out strong, but didn’t want to go too fast and tire myself out, I rounded the first end and sighted an elderly lady in a floral bathing hat doing backstroke, so I amended my course to avoid her. The next time I sighted her, she was still in my path, so changed tack again, but in the end, she seemed destined to collide with me. I hurried on determined to make up the wasted time, and after swimming along the end of the pool I decided to go for broke in a final sprint with lots of leg kicks.
Exhausted, I asked Stu for my time… 5:45. Damn! I realised that I would have to accept that I would be last out of the pool, and that would need to play catch up on the run.
Having brought our bikes down to Cornwall on Stu’s new rack, we decided to make the most of the good weather with a little bike ride. We headed out from my mum’s house in the direction towards Camborne. I quickly realised that we would need to negotiate the big roundabout on the A30 at Loggans Moor, which was a touch nerve-wracking, but we made it. We kept cycling towards Camborne via Connor Downs and Roseworthy Dip, which is the Cornish equivalent of Alp D’Huez. On reaching Camborne we then went to Tuckingmill and Pool before cycling out towards Tehidy and then back via Trevaskis farm for some mint aero cheesecake. Yum! We then cycled to Hayle Cycles, where I bought two lovely shiny silver aluminium water bottles, which match my bike 🙂
On the evening of the aquathlon, I thought that we had arrived quite early, but it was soon obvious that everyone else had got there far earlier. We paid our entry fees and had our numbers written on both hands – I was 71. We then spoke to one of the marshals who explained the route: a lap of the pool before running up the steps into the transition area then up another flight of steps before heading for a mile down the promenade. He was going to be at the turnaround point, and then it would be a one-mile run back to the lido.
Stu and I headed down to the transition area, which was already quite full, so we found some space to lay out our towels etc. People had started to line up on one side of the pool, so I decided to join them. It was only after I had been waiting for a while that I realised that the format of the aquathlon was quite different from what I had been expecting. There would be no mass start; instead, each swimmer would start at 30-second intervals. The size of the crowd meant that I would have to wait at least 15 minutes before starting.
Some people were choosing to dive off the stone steps, whereas others were starting in the water. The most talented athletes knew the format of the event and had positioned themselves at the front of the queue, so the first people to swim past were all doing incredibly fast freestyle. Fortunately, there were also a few people who were doing breaststroke and even a couple of people without goggles who were swimming with their heads out of the water. This, coupled with the complete disinterest of most of the waiting athletes, went some way to reassuring me. I might be the slowest swimmer there and I might be passed by other swimmers, but it would not be apparent to others until the results were out!
Finally, I got in the water. I had some time to get accustomed to it. After standing in the bright sunshine for so long, it felt very cold. To calm myself down, I floated on my front and blew some bubbles. Then it was time for me to go. The marshal counted down: 5… 4…. 3… And then I was off. (I think I may have left the step a little prematurely).
I managed to negotiate the first turn before Stu passed me, and not long afterwards a super speedy teenage boy came past. After turning the next corner another swimmer passed me. The exit steps were in sight, so I started kicking as hard as I could to try to get the blood back into my legs. I clambered up my steps to the transition area, which is where I think I lost most time.
I had to remove my goggles and swimming hat and replace them with a cap and a pair of glasses. We were running towards the west and the sun was bright, but as I rarely wear my glasses, I don’t own prescription sunglasses, so a cap seemed like the best option.
I had carefully laced my Brooks cadence shoes with xtenex laces, so I knew I just had to pull them on. I wore the shoes for the Eastleigh aquathlon (2.5k run), so I knew that they were seam free and would not rub without socks for a short run. However, I had no idea that the chamois in my tri suit would absorb such a huge amount of water, which seemed to be streaming endlessly down my legs. I found it very distracting. After a bit more faffing around (and a couple more competitors running past) I finally ran up the steps and out of the lido.
About 20m in, I saw my sister Bryony sitting on a low wall. I knew that my family had been to the local meadery, but I hadn’t expected them to have finished eating and come out to watch us. I continued on down the promenade, gradually catching my breath back from the swim. It was a very strange run for me as I didn’t have my Garmin on and I had no idea what pace I was moving at.
I was a little surprised to find that there was a flight of stone steps about 1200m into the run. This was followed by a short run across some shingle. This all had to be repeated on the way back. I had hoped that my running might be strong enough for me to overtake some people. However, the interval starts meant that there wasn’t anyone for me to pass (although I was passed by a couple of runners). I also got to cheer Stu on as he ran past.
It wasn’t long before I was back on the main promenade, where I could see Uncle Roger sitting on a low wall, which made me realise that it was time to sprint. I ran past the rest of my relatives and through the finish line, where I received a glass of water and a neoprene goggle case.
The next day the results were posted. I was 110/120, which wasn’t too bad for a novice! My swim time was under 4:40 (by 1 second), but I am annoyed that I spent so long in transition.
As I knew that I would miss two Run Camp sessions whilst away, I asked Coach Ant to send me the details of the session, so that I could do it on my own at home. I roped Stu in to help me and headed out onto the towans to try to find an appropriate location.
Ant said the group had used a hill on the common with regularly spaced trees, so I knew I need to find a path on a hill. That may sound easy, but there are very few smooth paths on the towans. Finally, I found a bowl without too many rabbit holes, which seemed ok. We did a warm-up and then did the activity session that Ant had planned. Despite not chatting as much as usual, the entire session took an hour to complete!
We did a heels session this morning:
- heel lifts (uphill) 3x 50m
- bounding (heels up high and uphill) 3x 50m
- Scooter (heel lift and up hill) 3x 50m
all of them with a jog recovery
3×15 Reverse Lunge into calf raise (the calf raise is on the front leg as you step up)
3×15 Single leg deadlift with rotation (if you balance on your left leg, turn your head to the left as you lower your torso)
3×10 Single leg high hops!
Tree hopping to finish:
- right leg to first tree and jog back
- left leg to first tree, right leg to second tree and jog back
- right leg to first tree, left to second, right to third and jog back
- left leg to first tree, right to second, left to third, right to fourth and jog back… Repeat until you have got to 6.
You get the pattern. The trees we used were the ones north of the cross roads so I’ll leave it up to you where you want to do these!
Preferably find somewhere slightly uphill to take the impact out of the hop.
The next day we decided to go for a 35ish mile bike ride through St Ives on the coast path and out towards Zennor before heading back to Hayle. Stu had received a new Garmin for his bike, so I found an appropriate route on Garmin Connect and we set off.
Part way through Lelant, Stu said he thought we might have taken a wrong turn. We headed through Carbis Bay. The Garmin indicated we should turn off to the left. We looped back and were directed across the main road. This meant we reached Lelant again on a figure of eight route. We then retraced our steps to where the Garmin said that we had gone wrong. Suddenly, we took a sharp left-hand turn, which took us to the foot of a very steep hill. I did the best I could but was so unprepared for it that I struggled to climb it. It seemed sensible to dismount before falling off. Stuart got further than I did before the Garmin decided that it wasn’t the right direction anyway.
We then headed back into Lelant where I heard someone calling to us from a car window… It was Aunty Anthea and John. We had a quick chat with them before heading out towards Nancledra via Trink, then Cripplesease. When we got to Gulval we turned east and cycled towards Long Rock and Marazion, before heading back to Hayle via St Erth.
Fowey Harbour Swim was perhaps the biggest challenge of the holiday. It’s a 1200m sea swim from Fowey to Polruan and back. It takes place at slack tide (when the sea is least choppy) but was still a daunting prospect. I’d been following the event on Facebook, but was filled with nerves before the event. We arrived in Fowey at about 1pm but decided not to eat anything ahead of the swim. We walked around a bit and managed to establish that we were in the right place, so we bought some drinks and sat outside the pub, watching the gazebo being set up for the event.
At 2pm, Stuart went and registered us for the swim. I was number 53. We then had a while to wait, so we just watched for a while. At 3pm, we went into the legion to get changed into our wetsuits. It was very hot on the quay, so we didn’t zip our suits up immediately.
At 3:15pm there was a briefing, where the route was explained. There were quite a few people who had done the swim before, and also people who had on triathlon swimming hats. There were also quite a few children and a few brave/hardy/crazy souls who had bikinis! We were told to ignore any stories that the fishermen had been telling about shoals of jellyfish, as we were unlikely to see any. This helped to reassure me.
Whilst waiting, the lady next to me said that people were diving in, which made me panic. I’ve never dived in anywhere and didn’t think it was a good time to try! Fortunately, we found that not everyone was diving in.
The next challenge was to climb down the harbour wall on a narrow metal ladder. This posed two problems for me – firstly, I’m scared of heights and secondly, I’d had to take off my glasses. I put on my goggles and the. Gripped the ladder firmly as I inched down the wall. Once onto the platform, I chose not to dive or jump into the unknown water, choosing to opt for sliding in off the edge.
Instantly, the cold water made my hands and feet feel cold and there was an uncomfortable sensation down my spine as the water seeped in by the zip. Brrr – chilly! I started swimming and after a few minutes, Stu went past. I then managed to find my rhythm and was doing quite well. Although the water was salty, it was nowhere near as concentrated as the lido and the slow release of swimmers meant that I knew I wouldn’t be last… And I also managed to overtake a couple of people.
Then… I saw it… A brown jellyfish just up ahead of me. I had no idea what kind of sting it could deliver and didn’t want to find out, so I quickly changed from a smooth front crawl to a panicky sideways breaststroke… Straight into the path of two serious triathletes. Oops.
I calmed myself down again and got back into front crawl. The first marker buoy/oil drum that we had to pass was visible. I swam close to it and was surprised how far down the chain I could see. The water seemed so clean and clear in comparison with the lake at Eastleigh. I kept swimming and was soon turning around the ship that marked the halfway point.
On the return swim, I saw a couple more jellyfish but managed to stay calm.
It wasn’t long before I reached the slipway where I received my first ever swimming medal. I have no idea how long the swim took as I don’t know what the time was when I started or finished. Whatever it was, I felt immensely proud of myself. Stu was waiting for me at the top of the slipway, having finished sometime earlier. We quickly changed and were then able to enjoy some of the lovely refreshments that were provided.
As the school term has now started, my cousin, Kirsty, who is a classroom assistant has got back into her usual fitness routine. This includes doing swimfit every Tuesday evening at Helston pool. Stuart has started doing swimfit in Southampton, so I thought it might be fun if we tagged along with Kirsty. There were six lanes, with lane 1 being the slowest swimmers and lane 6 being the fastest. Stu put himself in lane 3, but then he realised lane 4 was empty, so he moved up… However, he realised that he was actually swimming faster than the people in lane 5!
I spoke to the instructor and explained that I was a beginner before I got into lane 1 with Kirsty and an old man with white trunks on. We did a warm-up before starting with the lengths listed on the board. Usually, I find it difficult to keep count of my lengths in the pool and I find it a bit boring, so this really helped me to stay on track. I think it also appealed to my competitive instinct. I wasn’t trying to beat anyone else, but it gave me a goal to aim for. That made it more interesting than just doing a certain number of lengths.
After doing a few lengths, it suddenly struck me that the instructor looked familiar. I asked Kirsty her name, but she wasn’t sure what it was. When I reached the end, I asked the instructor if she was called Ceri. It turned out that she was Ceri Drew who was in my class at Truro High School. She hasn’t changed much in 20 years… And was always an excellent swimmer.
I carried on swimming and was just about able to keep up with Kirsty. I managed to stay ahead of the old man with the white trunks. By the end of the session, we had managed to do 1400m/ 54 lengths. I felt so pleased with myself. I am now much more confident about signing up for swimfit when my current set of lessons finishes.