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A fortnight of exercising

19 Jan Running track

After the Reading Half Marathon workshop, I was determined to start my training for this year’s races. I still need to sort out a proper half marathon training schedule, but at least I’m making a move in the right direction.

I’ve been out running with Sarah for the past two Wednesdays. We did just over 5km the first week and 6.5km this week. I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable again, but I definitely need to start doing some speedwork.

Running track

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

I’ve also been out running with Rachel and Felix, then on Saturday I took part in Southampton parkrun, so I ran three times in a week for the first time in a long time. I found parkrun really challenging, partly because of my fitness levels, but also because it was so busy. I had M in her buggy, so it was really hard for me to pass slower runners. I started off with Inez who was doing her 100th parkrun, but I couldn’t run alongside her, so I slowed down a bit. Then Linda and her baby caught up with me, so we had a lovely chatty run. There are a lot of stressful things going on for me at the moment, so I’m really enjoying the chance to clear my head either by running on my own or by chatting to friends whilst running. I also loved seeing Tuba Libres at parkrun, there to celebrate Laura’s 250th parkrun.

Southampton parkrun Jan 13 2018

Of course the other big challenge that I’m training for is Swimathon. I’m so excited to be an ambassador again this year – check out my profile. Last week I swam with Stuart on Monday. My arms were aching in the first few hundred metres, but  kept going and managed 1000m. I would have swum more, but I didn’t have enough time. Then this week, I swam on Tuesday and did 1200m. I’m determined to keep building up my strength, speed and distance until I’m back to comfortably doing 2km in an hour… by which  stage I should be ready to start my proper training programme.

Swimmers doing front crawl during Swimathon

Swimmers doing front crawl during Swimathon

I’ve been cycling to work (as usual), but I don’t have any cycling challenges at the moment, which is probably just as well as I’m still getting to grips with balancing work, training and family life.

I’ve also been doing a lot of gardening as it’s finally a bit drier. I spent 2.5 hours raking my garden two weeks ago and last week I spent another 2.5 hours raking. I would have continued with the theme, but there’s no room left in my garden waste bin and it’s wet and cold here. Hopefully, I’ll manage to do some more gardening next week.

Have you got a detailed training schedule for this year?

 

 

Bubble, bubble, breathe – Swimathon 2018

12 Jan Swimathon 2018 logo

I’m so excited to be an ambassador for Swimathon 2018. I had a great time last year and it really pushed me to get back in the pool after having M. I had big plans for swimming more when I went back to work, but as M has been ill for most of the last 4 months, that didn’t really work out. She’s now seeming better, so I’m hoping to take her to the pool with me this weekend. She’s not really swimming yet, but who knows, maybe she’ll be ready to take part in the 400m challenge next year!

Last year I entered the 5km challenge, but that was a lot to take on, so I’ve entered the 2.5km Swimathon challenge this year. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to improve my speed this year. I want to do a 2.5km time trial as soon as possible, so that I know what time I’ve got to beat. 2.5km is 100 lengths, so it will still be hard work! By concentrating on a shorter distance than last year, I’ll be able to focus a bit more on my technique rather than just focusing on getting the distance in.

There are venues all over the country that are taking part in Swimathon. I’ve decided to swim at David Lloyd at Ringwood because I can do my swim there on a Friday morning. I no longer work on Fridays, so it will help to keep my weekend free so that I can spend more time with M.

If you’d like to join me, there’s a 50% discount until 21st January, so what are you waiting for?!

Did you know that Swimathon is the world’s biggest annual fundraising swim? So far it has raised £48 million which has benefitted 36 charities. It really doesn’t matter what your age or swimming ability is, there’s a challenge for everyone, including a new 400m event this year.

My motivation for taking part in this event is two-fold. Firstly, I need an event that will push me to get in the pool and train. I enjoy swimming, but as I’m so time-pressed that unless I have a reason to be in the pool, it is sometimes squeezed out of my schedule. Secondly, the charities associated with Swimathon (Marie Curie and Cancer Research) are ones that are meaningful for me as my father died of oesophageal cancer nearly 16 years ago.

 

I got in my first swim of 2018 yesterday. I could only fit in half an hour, which was a bit frustrating. I had hoped that I would be able to swim for an hour and that I would be able to see how far I could swim in that time. I managed to swim 1000m. I could tell that I haven’t swum for a while as it felt like so much hard work. My speed has definitely dropped and my arms were tired by 200m. If I can maintain yesterday’s pace then 2.5km will take me 90 minutes; if I were at my best, I know that I could do it in an hour, so that is my goal.

First swim of 2018

Have you entered Swimathon? Which distance?

Monday Morning Motivation: Schuyler Bailar

11 Dec Schuyler Bailar

Schuyler Bailar’s story is inspirational – he gave up the opportunity to be an Olympic medalist to be true to himself. He was recruited to Harvard as a female, but has found peace after transitioning to male. I hope that over the next few years he achieves success in all areas of his life.

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee ruled that transgender athletes could compete without undergoing surgery. This policy made history in the sports world, welcoming a new generation of athletes into the Olympic family.

Schuyler Bailar is an athlete on the men’s swimming and diving team at Harvard University. This is his story.

Schuyler: I’ve just always loved being underwater.

Schuyler: When I jump in, the water’s always cold, and it kind of shocks my system into, like, being quiet for a second. Sometimes I just kind of stay underwater for like a second too long, and it’s always that kind of moment of, “This is the only thing I’m supposed to be doing right now. This is the only place I need to be.” That brings me a lot of peace, I think, that I don’t have in my daily life.

Baltimore, Maryland

Terry Hong, Schuyler’s mother: OK, who wants tea?

Schuler and Gregor Bailar, Schuyler’s father: Tea, I want tea. I’ll have some, please.

Terry: OK.

Gregor: What kind of tea?

Terry: It’s green tea.

Schuyler: That’s when you took my braids out, right?

Terry: That was in West Virginia.

Gregor: Schuyler’s swimming started in the bathtub.

Terry: He was just always so comfortable in the water, and before he learned to walk he was swimming on his own.

Video footage: Go Schuyler!

Schuyler: I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of myself as a talented swimmer. When I was younger, I wasn’t very good. There were a lot of people who were bigger and stronger than me, but I’ve always worked hard.

Schuyler on video, age 12: This is my bird Chico. I’m Schuyler, this is Jinwon…

Gregor: Schuyler was a tomboy. He was much more comfortable in cargo pants and a T-shirt than anything else.

Schuyler: People handed me skirts, and I would throw on basketball shorts. Or, like, people handed me the word “girl”, and I would hand them back “tomboy”. It wasn’t like I thought about it a whole lot, until it became a thing that people said, “Oh, like Schuyler’s different,” or, “Schuyler doesn’t do other things other girls do,” and then it became conscious to me because I was like, “If I do these things, people are going to see me as a boy. OK, I’m going to keep doing them.”

Schuyler: When I was younger and my coach told me I could be good, and my mom and I were watching the Olympics that same year, I watched all of the women swimmers at that point, and their chests were really flat, and this was the point where my breasts had started growing, and I remember being like, “Mom, how come they don’t have any boobs?” and Mom was like, “Well, when you exercise that hard, like a lot of female Olympians don’t have boobs, because they don’t have enough fat in their body,” and I was like, “Oh, my God. This is incredible!”

Schuyler: At that point, that was a huge fear of mine because I knew that my body was about to be kind of taken from me in a way that I didn’t want it to, and so there was definitely a huge point in my thought process where I was like, “OK, I’m going to be good at swimming.”

Gregor: Schuyler’s swimming career kind of took off in high school… and he started breaking records both in the local area as well as at the national level on a relay team.

Schuyler: I think when I was younger I was intent on doing things because I liked them, but I got lost in high school, and started just doing things because I wanted to do well in them.

Gregor: Schuyler broke his back the summer before his junior year, and junior year is recruiting year for swimming, and so it was actually quite emotional.

Schuyler: Up until that point, I had used swimming as my everything. It was my release. It was my pleasure. It was my social life. It was my motivation. It was my… my day. It was definitely a way to block everything else out. Breaking my back broke me. I fell so far into depression, eventually an eating disorder, um, and a lot of it was because I didn’t have another way to release anything, and I didn’t know how to deal with my own feelings. I had never had to sit down and really think about who I was or what I wanted out of the world. I didn’t have any words to explain why I felt so uncomfortable with my body, and the biggest thing was that I did have everything I needed. I was doing really well in school. I had just gotten recruited to swim at Harvard, and I had gotten accepted into Harvard. I had made the National Age Group record. I was swimming fast, and I was like, “What is wrong with me?”

Gregor: There was no gender discussion, by the way, at that time. It was just all about, um, getting to know who he was and getting to fix some of these issues, and we found a facility that seemed to be a match with that.

Terry: He graduated, and then the day after, we went to Florida where we took Schuyler into the facility where he would spend 131 days, and he did a lot of really difficult work there and… started the process of becoming whole.

Schuyler: At treatment you’re not allowed to do any behaviours. They keep a very close watch on you, so I literally had zero ways to cope, and had to talk about my feelings, and had to talk about how I felt and my identity, and that was the first place that I was finally able to say that I was transgender.

Schuyler on video, aged 18: Hey, guys. Um, so I’m Schuyler. I’m about to start my physical transition. Um, FTM, female to male. Er, and I thought that it would be good to document it.

Schuyler: It took me another year until I told most of my friends, and asked them to call me male pronouns, and refer to me as a boy, and kind of solidify the idea of like, “Oh, this has actually always been me, and I’m not actually, you know, changing myself. I’m just presenting the truest part of myself.”

Schuyler on video, aged 18: I’m going to be swimming next year in college. Um, so that makes it complicated because I want to transition as soon as possible, but you can’t swim competitively and take hormones. So what I’m gonna do… ..er, is get top surgery. So I…

Schuyler: When I was allowed to have top surgery, it was probably one of the best days of my life.

Schuyler on video, aged 18: You kind of see that, you know, they’re there. I hate that.

Surgeon: Let’s take a look in the mirror, OK? So, big difference.

Schuyler: Yeah.

Surgeon: You can see…

Schuyler: I thought that it was going to be me transitioning, and being true to being trans, or me being true to me being a swimmer, and that was really hard because I thought, you know, “Both of these are me.”

Terry: It was an agonising decision for Schuyler to consider giving up everything he had worked for his whole life, in terms of his swimming. It was really hard to realise, “Oh, I’m not maybe going to be this champion swimmer that I thought I was going to be, that everyone told me I was going to be.”

Coach Kevin, Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving: I first heard of Schuyler through Stephanie Morawski. She’s our women’s head coach of swimming and diving. Stephanie and I had been talking about Schuyler, and some of the issues that Schuyler had outside of swimming. Once we got to a point where Schuyler was thinking of transitioning from female to male, Steph kept me in the loop as far as that was concerned. I did work to educate myself as far as NCAA rules. We found out that it was perfectly acceptable for Schuyler to compete for Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving. I had conversations with the young men on the team, and everybody was open to the idea.

Schuyler: The men’s coach was like, “Well, if Schuyler identifies as male, and I have a men’s team, and he wants to swim, why doesn’t he swim for me?” But I almost said no because I was so scared of the possibility of losing everything, because, yeah, I’d be able to swim, but I would transition, and my body would be different, and I would lose all of my accolades as a female athlete, and all the potential I had as a female athlete. That was really scary to me because I had worked really hard to be successful at swimming. At that point, I decided, “OK, I’ve got to take this risk. I’ve got to try to be myself because maybe that will make me happy.”

Coach: On your mark, go!

Coach: You’re doing a better job not slowing down in your turns, but let’s get a bit wider in the foot placement for both you guys.

Coach: Schuyler is one of the most determined athletes I’ve ever met in my life.

Schuyler: Hey, Matt, will you start me?

Coach: Not only as a swimmer but, more importantly, he’s an exceptional human being and a really good team-mate. The grit and determination that he’s shown is remarkable, and it’s helped me not only become a better coach, but a better parent and hopefully a better educator at Harvard.

Coach: Your best swimmers have that feeling that this is something they can’t live without, and I think Schuyler can’t live without being in the water.

Schuyler: Five years ago, swimming meant 100%, unequivocally, everything to me. I think over time, I’ve learned to have a bit more balance than that. My family has never shown me a lack of love, and that has been what’s kind of kept me alive. When I ended up biting the bullet and telling my very conservative Korean grandma, she said, “Schuyler, you can be a son. You can be a brother. You can be a husband. You can be a boy, a man, but Korean daughters take care of their mothers, and now your mom doesn’t have any daughters so you have to take care of your mother and your parents,” and I was like, “OK. I can definitely do that.” I have those words – take care of your parents – tattooed on my side, under my scar, next to my heart in my grandmother’s handwriting. She wrote it for me for the tattoo, and she was very excited about it. “Thank you for taking this eternal vow for your parents.”

Terry: I don’t remember the Baltimore harbour like this.

Gregor: Let’s get a picture over here.

Schuyler: Picture?

Gregor: Of us three.

Schuyler: Got it.

Gregor: OK, let’s keep walking.

Terry: Let’s keep walking.

Gregor: Keep walking before we freeze.

Schuyler: When I came out as trans, and when I decided to swim for the men’s team, I told people around me, my coaches, my parents, my friends, that I was going to be open about it. When I was younger, I had no role models or people to look up to and say, “Oh, I can do this.”

National Association of Independent Schools Congress

Schuyler: I love motivational speaking because I’m really invested in sharing my story, and sharing the possibility for this kind of happiness and this kind of peace with yourself, especially with something so complicated as being transgender, but also so simple as just wanting to be happy.

Administrator: Hello.

Host: Yeah, um, Schuyler Bailar. He’s a speaker.

Host: In so many ways, Schuyler’s story represents the stories of the remarkable young people whom we all teach on our campuses, but his story has a unique distinction. As the first openly transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA division one team, he has been willing to share his story globally. His willingness to share his insights are why we are so pleased he is with us today, and I ask you to join me in welcoming Schuyler Bailar.

Schuyler: Thank you so much, everybody. I’m so happy to be here. I’ve spoken at high schools and middle schools, elementary schools, and colleges, but I’ve never actually spoken with just administrators before so this is really cool. Allowing me to be myself at every step of the way from my coaches, my teachers, my parents, has saved my life, and it’s why I’m here today. I want to just take you back to when I was a kid. I was always a water baby. I’ve swum since the time I could walk.

Schuyler: Swimming has been the hugest part of my life since before I can remember, and being true to myself as a trans person is also hugely important to me. When I used to interact with somebody, it was always, “Who are they going to think I am?” And now I just walk into the room, and I’m just myself. If I can be naked in a Speedo and expose my trans-ness to everybody, you can do your thing too.

The Guardian: Schuyler Bailar, Harvard’s transgender swim star: ‘I’m really proud of who I am’

 

I managed a sprint tri in the space of a week

13 Nov Fitness instructor course materials

I really thought that I was going to get back into a routine of work, training and blogging with M starting nursery… but three weeks in and her attendance is 25% 😦 The poor thing has picked up every illness going and shared it with the household, so I’ve not had a lot of free time.

One thing I have been doing is getting out on my bike. I’m really enjoying my cycle commute – I had forgotten how much I love my quick trip to work, although it’s definitely more challenging with a trailer – and the logistics of adding it on and removing it have taken a bit of getting used to.

I’ve got back to doing a bit of swimming, starting off with a lunchtime swimming session with Liz and then a week later, I did a 1 hour swim set on my own. I really need to plan my swimming sessions more carefully (and ideally swim more than once a week). Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to swim at the weekend as Stu and I are planning to take M to the pool on Sundays. It would be good to also schedule a midweek swim session.

Last week we went to Southampton parkrun, where I had a steady run. I spoke to a few people on the way around and was pleased that my time wasn’t terrible.

parkrun 04 Nov 2017

This week it was my turn to run with the buggy, so I joined Rachel, Phil and Felix. We started off at a slow pace because of the congestion, but definitely picked it up by the end of the run. I’m not as fit as I was, so it felt really difficult.

parkrun results 11 Nov 2017

I love the chance to talk to so many friends at parkrun. I had a quick catch up with my friend, Teri, and we agreed that we need to schedule in some social runs. We discussed perhaps going for a run on Sunday morning, but I decided to have a lie in instead. It was the right decision as I felt shattered.

On Saturday afternoon, we drove down to Bournemouth to go to the Primera Cycle Expo at the BIC. I’ve been a couple of times before and have picked up some real bargains. This time, there was a lot of Sugoi kit for sale at bargain prices (£5 per cycle jersey and £10 for shorts!)… but everything was in enormous sizes, which was disappointing. Maybe we needed to go earlier in the day. After checking out the reduced kit, Stu, M and I walked around and had a look at the bikes. I still really like the look of Kuota bikes and the paintwork on some of the Specialized bikes was gorgeous… but what really caught my eye were the adorable Cannondale Lefty balance bikes. A sales assistant kindly got out an Allen key and put the saddle down so that M could have a go. She is still a tiny bit short, but I think by Easter, it may be possible for her to have a balance bike. (However, I can’t afford to fork out £200, so it’s more likely to be a bike from Decathlon than a new Cannondale!)

Cannondale Lefty balance bike

One of the most exciting parts of my weekend was visiting Bournemouth University to pick up some course materials. Next weekend, I  take the first step on a new career path (although I love my job as a learning designer and can’t see me quitting that any time soon!) I’m going to be doing a course to become a Fitness Instructor, so I’ve been busy studying anatomy and physiology in preparation for the course. It’s a bit challenging as I haven’t studied any biology since the age of 13, but I’m really motivated and excited to be learning.

Fitness instructor course materials

On Sunday afternoon, Reena and Mike came over to collect the Mountain Buggy running buggy that we took to Australia. I hope they enjoy running with it as much as we did. Like me, Reena has a place in London Landmarks Half.

Afterwards, we went and watched some of the cyclocross at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre. I had planned to watch the event a year ago, but ended up back in hospital that afternoon instead, so I was pleased that I got to see some of the action as well as meeting friends.

In the evening, I read that there will be a new route for Southampton 10k, half marathon and marathon in 2018, which sounds exciting. I loved running the marathon this year, but I think I’ll drop back to the half in 2018 as I’ll be running a marathon in July and don’t want to have to sustain the training for that long.

Hopefully, things will settle down a bit for me in the new few weeks and I’ll be able to get into the swing of regular swimming, cycling and running with a yoga class thrown in for good measure. It’s not going to be easy fitting in blogging and studying, but I’m sure I’ll find a way!


Because of baby M’s illness, I’ve not been online much this week, so I was late to visit Rafflecopter to draw the winners of Haseeb Ahmad’s book From Blind Man to Ironman – apologies! The lucky winners who will each receive a copy of the book are:

Sarah Wakely

Michelle Dorrington

Congratulations, ladies! The books will be in the post to you very soon 🙂

 

First run after returning to work

21 Oct Southampton parkrun 21 Oct 17

It’s hard to believe that my maternity leave is over and that I’m back at work. I’m now working a compressed week (8-6pm, Monday-Thursday), which means that I’ll still have some free time during daylight hours when I’ll be able to cycle/run. I’m also intending to make use of my lunch breaks to do some training – especially as my colleague, Sarah, will be training for London marathon.

We kick-started our training by going for a lunchtime run on Thursday. I can’t say it was a speedy run as we’re both a bit out of practice, but it was good to have a run and a chat.

Today, despite the dire weather warnings about Storm Brian, Southampton parkrun went ahead, so I was able to take a step closer to my 250th parkrun.

Southampton parkrun 21 Oct 17

I’m feeling so unfit at the moment that my result wasn’t too bad, but I hope that I can get myself back to a 25:XX time in the near future.

Tomorrow, a lot of my friends will be taking part in the Great South Run. Today’s events relating to GSR have been cancelled, so I hope the weather is kinder tomorrow. I’ll be getting wet whatever the weather as Stu and I are going to take Baby M swimming!

Are you racing this weekend?

 


Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

parkrunning Down Under

18 Oct

As soon as we had booked our flights to Australia, I got online to check out where the nearest parkruns were. I found that there was a parkrun at Gosling Creek in Orange, just a couple of miles away from where my brother lives and that just two weeks before we were due to arrive a new parkrun was starting in North Wollongong, which is near to where my sister lives. Sadly, there are no parkruns in Hong Kong (yet – see this page where someone is trying to set one up), so we knew we’d have to miss one run whilst away.

The first parkrun that Stuart and I did was run #3 at North Wollongong parkrun. It seems as though there has been some disagreement with the local council about parking, so the start of this run has changed from being in Wollongong to being at Fairy Meadow, which is a shame as there are no facilities there, whereas there are lots of cafes and coffee shops in Wollongong.

It is an out and back course, starting in a small park before heading off on a sandy path. It’s an interesting route with a little uphill, a board walk section and a section on grass. It is picturesque and not too busy. Also, it starts at 8am, which is earlier in the UK, but not as early as parkruns in Queensland which usually start at 7am!

Near the start of North Wollongong parkrun

The original plan had been for Stuart to run with M in her ‘new’ running buggy, but my sister and her husband decided not to run, so M was able to wait with them whilst Stu and I ran.

Nearing the turnaround point

I always perceive Australia to be a very sporty country, so I was surprised at how few competitive runners were taking part – more people were jog/walking with quite a few children. I think it’s great that it’s such an inclusive event. It might be because the weather was quite warm, which made the conditions challenging – maybe the speedier runners are out earlier?

North Wollongong parkrun

The lack of lots of super speedy people meant that I came 11/121 females and was 3/15 in my age group.

My next Australian parkrun was Orange parkrun. This is a much more established event that takes place at a nature reserve called Gosling Creek.

The Run Director did a nice briefing and there were quite a few tourists at the event – I’m guessing that some of them were in Orange because of the mine, rather than just as sight-seers. We got a huge round of applause for having come from the UK, possibly because Orange is off the tourist trail, although there are some lovely wineries in the region.

This time, M was joining us in her running buggy, so Stu agreed to push M and to run with me. Neither of us is on form, but even with a running buggy, Stuart is much faster than I am, so it was quite a challenge.

Again, this parkrun was a nice mix of surfaces. It is a looping course with some reasonably steep inclines that are fairly short. There are sections on grass, trail and board walk and the scenery is lovely.

The Run Director welcomed each runner back individually and then took a photo of the three of us. As you can see, M was exhausted by her early morning exertions!

Orange parkrun

My time was relatively slow for me, so I was pleased to find that I was 7/76 females and 1/5 in my age group!

Our final parkrun was again at North Wollongong on our final morning in Australia. M had not slept well, (she’d spent a lot of the night screaming) so I really appreciated Bryony and Jonno getting up early to take us.

M stayed at the beach with her Uncle and Aunt and Stu had a foot niggle, so he agreed to run with me. I realised at the start that I had failed to bring my inhaler with me. That was a bad move as the path was very dusty and it made breathing extra hard. I also didn’t have a drink with me.

Second parkrun at North Wollongong

I couldn’t remember how long my previous run had taken me, so I decided that I would aim to finish in the top 20 females. I set off towards the start and when we got towards the turning point, we saw the fastest runners on their way back. I started counting the female runners and could see that I was in the top 20, but that I would need to keep pushing to retain that position.

2nd parkrun at North Wollongong

I was really pleased to finish 15/107 females and 2/17 in my age group. I also achieved a PB for this course.

Overall, I really enjoyed being a parkrun tourist in Australia. There are so many interesting courses and I’ve never been to a parkrun event that wasn’t friendly. I’ve now done 3 international parkruns, but am still stuck on 19 different UK events, so maybe that’s something I need to do more of next year.

Which is your favourite parkrun and why?


Fat Girl to Ironman has been nominated for the 2018 Running Awards. I would be really grateful if you would vote for me. Thank you 🙂

 

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

What now?

7 Aug

So, although I’m not feeling like things have been going well this year, I’ve now done my ‘A’ races. This year has not been the year for me to do an Ironman (not least for financial reasons), but I have managed to do a 5km (3.1 miles) swim, a 100 mile (160km) bike ride and a marathon (42.2km/26.2 miles).

Since RideLondon, I’ve been trying to get my life back in order. On Tuesday, I did a Tai Chi class; on Wednesday and Thursday, I did Buggy Mums and on Saturday, I did parkrun.

Southampton parkrun 5 Aug 17

On Sunday, I met up with my lovely friend, Inez. We went out for a really long walk around Testwood Lakes and then Inez picked me lots of fresh produce from her garden.

I’ve never tried callaloo (amaranth leaves) before, so I was interested to cook them at home. Inez showed me how to prepare them and then I cooked them with garlic, chillies, paprika and tomatoes and served them with rice and peas – delicious!

In the evening we had minted new potatoes and runner beans for dinner, followed by rhubarb crumble – all from Inez’s garden.

I don’t have much else planned for this year, so I’m planning my events for 2018. I’d like to do the Long Course Weekend and am still dreaming of doing an Ironman… but it will depend on whether M ever decides to sleep through the night. I’ll also be going back to college and will be sharing more info about that soon!

What’s your next big challenge?

Monday Morning Motivation: Why not now?

17 Jul
Vivian Stancil

©Jeff Lewis

I love this video about an amazing woman who took up swimming as an adult – please do spend 3 minutes watching it.

Why Not Now: Vivian Stancil from Riley Hooper on Vimeo.

If you’d like to read more, have a look at this article: Doctor’s weight-loss order pushed her into the pool; now she’s a champ.

HOWL aquathlon 2017

14 Jul Finish of HOWL aquathlon

This evening Stu and I took part in HOWL aquathlon. It’s the second year that the event has taken place and it was my second time taking part. Last year, I was pregnant when I took part, so I was grateful just to be able to do so. This year I was hoping that I would make it through the swim and would put in a good run leg.

Our lovely friend, Jez, has offered to babysit for us several times, so we decided to take his up on his kind offer. We figured that we shouldn’t be away from M for too long and if she was having a bad night then several of our other friends would be around to help out… plus Jez is a sporty guy (and amazing runner), so we thought he might like watching the aquathlon.

Tamsyn and M

We registered at 6:30pm and the event wasn’t due to start until 7:30pm, so there was

Waiting at the start of HOWL aquathlon

As well as the individual competition, there were also team prizes up for grabs. We had assumed that the first two men and two women from each club would count as a team, but were told that we had to pre-register as specific teams. This proved to be a little challenging as no-one was sure of their rank within the club – especially as many people are significantly better at one of the disciplines. In the end, Stu and I were registered in STC’s team 2.

STC at HOWL aquathlon

© Darryl Marcus-Hanks

STC at HOWL aquathlon

© Darryl Marcus-Hanks

Most of my clubmates were representing Southampton Tri Club in their club lit, but I only own an STC gilet and I wanted to wear my lovely kit from The Athlete’s Palate.

I set up my stuff in transition and then had some more time to chat with friends. Before long it was time for the race briefing. I should have been fully focused, but I suddenly realised that my swimming hat was missing. Panic! Panic! Jez kindly ran over to registration and picked up another hat for me, so I was able to start thinking about the race. [As an aside, it was great that women were given blue hats and men had the red hats – such a refreshing change!]

After the briefing, we were straight into the lake for a deep water start, so there was a bit of a warm up. To my dismay, wetsuits had been banned. I really feel the cold when swimming (because I am sooooo slow) and I also appreciate the extra buoyancy, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I just got in.

Getting in the water at HOWL aquathlon

Getting in the lake HOWL aquathlon start

I positioned myself towards the back, but was almost in line with the buoy as I didn’t want to swim any further than was necessary.

Start of HOWL aquathlon

I found the swim challenging, although I managed to get into a rhythm. I had forgotten how much I enjoy open water swimming as it’s so peaceful. I didn’t see anything strange out of the corner of my eye – usually, I spy my hand a lake monster and get freaked out, but not today.

I knew I wasn’t going quickly and this was confirmed when I got clopped in the head by one of the leading ladies heading towards the end of their swim.

I acclimatised to the water temperature fairly quickly, but was disarmed by some of the extremely cold patches that we had to traverse. I had thought that the water would get stirred up a bit by all of us swimming, but that didn’t happen.

I didn’t have a very quick transition. I tried not to faff, but I did exchange a few words with spectators.

My running is significantly better than my swimming, so I was pleased to see some other runners up ahead who I was able to hunt down. I haven’t seen the splits yet, but I think my run was quite good.

Running at HOWL aquathlon

© Darryl Marcus-Hanks

On the second lap, there was a lady in a yellow top up ahead. I chased her for a significant portion of the second lap. In the end, she beat me by about 6 seconds and was 3rd V40 lady. Maybe next year, my swimming will be back on track and I’ll be able to chase her down!

Finish of HOWL aquathlon

Last year, I managed:

Swim time: 21:47

Transition time: 1:16

Run time: 30:06

Overall: 53:09

Here are my (provisional) results for this year (based on my Garmin):

Swim time:  21:12

Transition time: 01:05

Run time: 24:30

Overall: 00:46:44.274

So, it was a PB 😀

I was 16/21 senior ladies and 19/35 women.

It was also great to learn that Stuart was first V40 finisher – well done, Stu!

Stuart finishing HOWL aquathlon

Swim the triangle, run the prom

24 Jun Jubilee aquathlon medal

This week I’ve been down in Cornwall visiting my mum for her birthday. There are loads of events on this weekend (including Lordshill 10k and Southampton City Ride), but I had intended to do St Ives Biathlon. This is a race that involves running and swimming, not skiing and shooting. It’s a 2km run then a 1500m sea swim. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years, but in the end I didn’t pack my wetsuit as I thought a mile in the sea off the back of no open water swimming would be silly. I’m now feeling a bit of regret 😞

I looked up local races and found there was a 7 mile cross country race in Truro on Wednesday, so I planned to enter that… and then Stu struck gold. One of the Jubilee aquathlon races would be on on Wednesday night. Hurray!

Stu and I last did a Jubilee aquathlon back in 2013 before the beautiful lido was storm damaged. (It’s been repaired now). You can read my blogpost about it here: Swimming, cycling and running in Cornwall

I’ve not been training as much as I’d have liked this year, but I hoped that I could beat my times from 2013:

  • Swim: 4:39
  • Run: 17:30
  • Total: 22:09

Jubilee Pool

We arrived at the pool fairly early as it is on the day entry only and is limited to 200 places. We had printed out forms in advance and completed our details. We’re both BTF members, so entry was only £7. We were allocated number 25 and 26.

Lido 2

After a long wait, Stu and I decide to set up in transition. I chose a spot fairly near to the steps from the pool and Stu went next to me. Last time, I was not set up in a convenient location, so I was hoping this would save me some time. Some teenage girls came and set up their kit next to me and had a long discussion about how ‘no-one wears socks’, which made me dither a bit… however, I decided that I would wear socks as I’ve not worn my shoes without them before and couldn’t cope with blisters at the moment.

Lido 1

The organisers have decided to try a new tactic this year by asking participants to self-seed (according to some times on the wall). I figured that I might take around 25 minutes because of my lack of training, so positioned myself reasonably near to the start. Stu was towards the back of the group.

waiting for the start of JA 1 waiting for the start of JA 2

The weather had been lovely all day, but by the time we were lined up on the side of the pool, it was overcast and getting a bit chilly. Fortunately, the water in the pool was thought to be over 20C.

Swimmers were set off at 30 second intervals, so there was a bit of a wait before it was my turn. Finally, I was off. The temperature in the pool was perfect and the visibility was good. It was hard not to get distracted by the lovely surroundings.

The Lido is triangular in shape and the race follows the sides of the pool, with some buoys to ensure that no-one cuts the corners. I was unable to catch up with the swimmer in front of me, but on the plus side, no-one passed me.

I climbed up the steps and had to shout my number to the marshals waiting by transition. I barely had enough breath to call out 26!

I removed my hat, goggles and earplugs, put on my socks and shoes, messed up mu Garmin (pause instead of transition – oops!) and was off.

There are a few flights of steps out of the lido and as it’s Golowan Festival (Cornish midsummer) this weekend, there were a few fairground rides to be dodged.

It was then out onto the promenade, which was made famous by the Newlyn School artist Norman Garstin in his 1889 painting ‘The rain it raineth every day’.

The rain it raineth every day

Jubilee aquathlon 1

Although my swimming isn’t good, I knew that I ought to be able to catch up with some of the other participants on the run. It was a muggy evening and my breathing wasn’t great, but I soon got into my stride. I managed to pass the lady who had started immediately ahead of me, but then had to work hard.

I should have re-read my blogpost about the last time I did this event as yet again I was taken by surprise by the steps and shingle on the run!

I passed a few other female runners, before I was passed by a fast male runner. I then managed to catch up with and overtake the chap in the photo below.

Jubilee aquathlon 2

Finally, the end was in sight and I put on a sprint finish.

I was delighted to find that my time compared favourably with my last attempt at this event

  • Swim: (4:39) 4:26 – 13 seconds quicker
  • Run: (17:30) 16:28 – 62 seconds quicker
  • Total: (22:09) 20:54 – 75 seconds quicker

I finished 75/120. 7/15 in my category (30-39) and 28/60 female.

Jubilee aquathlon medal

After finishing, I went and watched Stuart do his swim and start his run. I then met up with my mum (who was walking my baby) and we watched Stu finish the race. He finished in 14th place in 16:16.

Jubilee aquathlon selfie
There are three other races in this series – I hope that I can at least do one more of them!