Monday, 26 September 2011

It's Been A While... and Happy Blog Anniversary!

Where shall I start?!

I decided to have a break from swimming following the Great North Swim in June. I have probably only been in the pool a couple times since (with the exception of family swims!) and I needed the break to save my own sanity from the monotonous up and down of the local pool!

There has been a lot going on since then. Most noticeably my husband competed in the Leeds Triathlon again and shaved a fantastic 15 minutes off his time last year, thanks to his new tri-bike and a sub-30 minute swim leg. I have continued to cycle though it has to be said my enthusiasm has been waning recently as the evenings start to get darker and the temperature is cooler. I have a new interest in swimming again and I want to get back to training over the next few weeks. I have a few plans to help my training go smoothly and I also have plans to enter quite a few more races in 2012.

Three of my friends have also been bitten by the open water swimming bug and I am looking forward to swimming with them in 2012. It seems the high that is felt following an open water event is unrivalled and people are in danger of becoming addicted......!

I set myself a challenge for September to do the '30 Day Shred' DVD which is an intense workout you do at home. It only takes 20 minutes but it's hard work and as we have moved through the month it has been hard to stay motivated and make myself do it as it gets quite monotonous with no changes in the narrative etc. I am doing it with a group of hardcore friends via a Facebook group and we are now on the 26th day with only 4 more to go. It has opened my eyes to resistance training and it is something I now want to build into my fitness, as I think this will help me become a stronger swimmer.

I have also been reading about 'Total Immersion' which is an approach to improving your swimming which seems to shun more conventional methods and from what I can understand, claims to improve your stroke with minimal effort. This is taught in weekend workshops, DVD and a book. Prices are high and workshops are not local to me, but I am curious enough to watch the DVD, though I am still mulling it over. I want to be able to swim at least half of the swims I enter next year using front crawl (as in half the 1 mile distance), so I am looking at ways to improve my stroke and fitness to be able to do this. I will add a link to the 'Total Immersion' website and will let you know how I get on if I decide to buy one of their DVDs/books.

So, Sunday marks the 12 month anniversary of my blog, and it also marks my 35th birthday; so after eating lots of cake and consuming a fair bit of wine at the weekend, I shall be back in the water to put my training back into motion and setting myself goals for 2012.

So far this is what I hope to achieve in 2012:

  • To complete the Great Salford Swim
  • To complete the Great North Swim
  • To complete the Monster Swim at Loch Ness
  • To complete the Great Scottish Swim
  • To finish all of the above in a time of 45 minutes or less.
  • To swim all of the above events using front crawl/freestyle for at least half of the distances.
  • Enter the 2.5k Swimathon in April.

To help me reach these goals I intend to read more into 'Total Immersion', consider the purchase of a water-proof MP3 player and write training plans with set drills. I may use a pull buoy to help stregthen my arms and I intend to continue some of the muscle building exercises I have learnt through the '30 Day Shred'.

I also intend to continue cycling and may enter a 50k road sportive in May, although my bike is about to be put away for the darker months until March/April.

Monday, 20 June 2011

I did it! The Great North Swim 18th June 2011

When I woke up on the morning of the Great North Swim, I realised I had to make a decision about whether or not to swim based on my health. I was feeling pretty rough from a hacking cough which had been hanging round for a few days; and although I didn't feel *that* bad, I realised that having a coughing fit in the middle of a lake isn't ideal, plus my lung capacity felt smaller than usual as a result and with the worry about hyperventilating due to the cold water, this too was adding to my fear. I was also pretty exhausted from spending several days coughing and had many aching muscles. Generally, I wasn't feeling in great shape for a Big Swim.

As we packed to get ready and headed off for the Lake District, I put it out of my mind and I think the excitement and adrenalin took over and I stopped worrying and got hold of some perspective (in that I could simply ask to be hauled out by the lovely kayakers/rescue boats if I couldn't do it. )

We (my husband, our four children and my parents) arrived in Bowness at about 9am and there was already a fabulous atmosphere there as it was full of swimmers and their families. The children were very excited to catch a 'road-train' to Bowness Pier so the day was already a success for them! We then boarded a launch ferry which took us to Brockhole, then we caught a bus to the event site. Cue more excitement from the children (car, train, boat, bus... all in the space of a couple of hours!) and we were very lucky with timings and didn't have to hang around at all.

We arrived at the event site which by 11am was extremely busy and muddy. The weather was typical of a June day in the North West, warm, humid, cloudy though luckily for us no rain. The clouds sat low on the Old Man of Coniston and the scenery and atmosphere was pretty spectacular.

We had a quick look around the event village and there seemed to be a fair amount of things to do, though I was later informed by my parents, who were looking after our children while we swam, that there were long queues for most things and it was a struggle to entertain them due to the crowds. In retrospect, it might have been an idea to have walked a little bit further round the lake where there was space for the children to run around and see the swimmers from the edge as it was pretty impossible to see the course from the event village (unless you were in the grandstand) as I suspect they felt a little disconnected from the events of the day and did get a little bored.

We got changed and entered the starting area. We were thrilled to find that Duncan Goodhew was swimming in our wave (British Gas Staff: Purple Hats: 1pm!) and we had a little warm up on land, wiggling and jiggling away with the other British Gas staff who chose to swim, and of course Mr Goodhew himself!

We were then invited to acclimatise before we swam in a small area of the lake. I knew this was important for me after having the bad experience with 'cold water shock' and hyperventilating as a result at the Salford Swim. As I entered the water, I could feel my breath quicken and I lowered myself into the water and splashed my face. I could feel my lungs constricting straight away and wondered if I would be able to swim. But we had a decent amount of time to acclimatise and this really was key for me. I gradually splashed my face more and then got to a point where I could swim a stroke while half submerging my face and exhaling. The breathlessness left me and we climbed out, ready for the start.

As we started, Dylan and I hung back to the end as I didn't want to feel pressured into swimming too fast straight away. The cold water gave me that now-familiar feeling of anxiety as it hit my lips but I exhaled steadily and counted slowly as I breathed in and then out. Dylan kept a close eye on me but I didn't need to his reassurances this time, I had it under control and used the breathing techniques I had learnt while using hypnosis for relaxation in childbirth! Dylan stayed by my side which was hugely reassuring but I am very pleased to say that I do now feel I could swim in an open water event without having to hold him back (next time!). By the time we reached the 400m metre marker I realised I had overcome my anxieties and had successfully stifled the involuntary reactions of the cold water on my face which had made a large part of the Salford Swim less enjoyable.

The views were amazing. From eyes-on-water level, the Old Man of Coniston glowered in front of us, beyond the lake, with jagged cloud spilling over it. There were various boats, yachts and ferries in view and gaggles of geese not too far away. I had the sense that I was in open water. I didn't feel this at Salford, perhaps as I was surrounded by building and urban structures, and the course there very much followed the line of the Quays; you were never truly 'out there' in the water. I was grinning because I was out in the middle of the lake, the crowds on the shore were far away behind me and I was swimming in the Great North Swim!

Mr Goodhew powered up behind us and chatted with our group of swimmers about the views and the swim and then powered off in front of us - wow - amazing to see him swim for real, he looks as powerful and graceful as he did when I used to watch him swim on the television!

I decided I was feeling confident enough to swim a bit of crawl, so I switched strokes. I haven't trained much in front crawl and my fitness levels at the moment aren't brilliant so I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain it for long, but I know I have a good technical stroke and can be quite fast in short bursts. I have read that crawl can be fairly fast due to the wetsuit helping because of buoyancy (the opposite is often said about swimming breaststroke in a wetsuit) and I certainly felt that. It was like changing up four gears in one go and I felt myself leaving Dylan and powering off up the lake! It was quite addictive, but as suspected I tired very quickly and found myself veering off course quite easily. I have pledged to train myself to a good level of fitness for next year so I can swim 70% of the course in front crawl and aim to have a time of less than 40 minutes....

A perhaps unfortunate side effect of swimming crawl is that one looks down into the depths of the water which was surprisingly clear and I rather alarmingly saw a black mass swim underneath me! I didn't catch a good enough view to see what it was but I suspect it was an eel as it looked like it slithered, like a snake, rather than swim like a fish? I have no idea if eels even live in Windermere or even if they are black, but the sight of it made me hurry on my way rather quickly!

The half way marker was met with mixed feelings. I got to turn around and swim back towards the crowds which was actually rather nice and but I also thought 'am I *only* half way?!' That thought soon dispersed though and the last half of the swim was enjoyable and I swam breaststroke as well as I could given the buoyancy issues.

There was some sort of percussion band on the shores on way back to the event site which added a nice feeling of atmosphere and although I was really starting to tire after 3/4 distance I savoured the feeling of swimming in the lake. There were some quite large, but gentle waves which made us bob about as we swam (possibly a passing ferry?) and it was very easy to lose sight of the next marker and swim slightly off the fastest/straightest line. The kayakers put us right though if we strayed too far.

The feeling of elation was pretty immense as we crossed the finish. I had to be helped out of the lake because the ramp they put in is pretty impossible to walk up when you are wearing swim socks! (Though the swim socks act as a very good guard against pebbles etc while you linger about the start!)

After hooking up with my family again, I searched out my friend Sarah, who was swimming in the 2:30pm green wave. I managed to just catch her before she started and meet her lovely fourth addition to the family who is just 3 months old. She decided to enter the GNS only four weeks prior to the start and she clearly showed immense courage and determination to enter such an event with four children to run around after, including a demanding newborn and she had no training. She did herself proud and raised in the region of £500 in that short time for Mind.

We went back to Ambleside and then onwards to our hostel for the night in Hawkshead. As an aside, I have to say I was pretty impressed with the Youth Hostel we stayed in at Hawkshead. It was the first time we had stayed in a hostel as a family and it was a very positive experience and very good value for money. We really hope to repeat the experience and I suspect they will become our accommodation of choice when we attend various triathlons and swims next year!

Very happy, very elated. I decided in October last year that I would train myself to be able to swim far enough to finish the Great North Swim and I did it, eight months later. I overcame and controlled the anxieties which unexpectedly took hold at the Salford Swim and I now have plans to enter the Great North Swim in 2012. More than likely we will also do Salford again and we also have plans to enter the Monster Swim at Loch Ness in 2012! I aim to swim front crawl for at least 70% of the distance and to complete in a time less than 40 minutes.

My time for the Great North Swim was 57 minutes. I'd be fibbing if I said I wasn't disappointed that it took me longer than the Salford Swim (54 minutes) but I *know* it was a better, more efficient, stronger and faster swim. Swimming in Windermere meant swimming amongst waves and currents and scope to go off course was far greater.. so I take comfort from the thought that I probably swam slightly further than one mile!

I swam in the Great North Swim and it was absolutely fabulous. Can't wait to do it again!

**We later learnt that one of the participants died at the event. I don't really know any further details, but offer condolences as I am sure any of you who are reading, do also, to his family.**

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Nerves (again)!

Well, I decided I WOULD enter the Great North Swim and it is now two days until we swim again. We are swimming the 1 mile distance on Saturday 18th June at 1pm.

To say I am nervous is an understatement. Until now I have been remembering the euphoria I felt post-Salford but I am now remembering the difficult bits. My confidence is not helped by the fact that I haven't been swimming much recently and due to a holiday and now a cough I can't quite shake off, I haven't been cycling either. It's only been one month since Salford, so if I could do it then, I am sure I can do it again now, but it had been my intention to swim twice every week in the time in between the two events so I could hopefully do a better time.

On a more positive note, I have changed my wetsuit for a smaller one, so I hope this will mean I have less problems with buoyancy. I have also been educating myself in 'cold water shock' AKA the Dive Reflex. I am prepared for it to happen again and have been practising deep breathing techniques to ensure I cope with the involuntary hyperventilating which occurred last time. (Techniques learnt from Hypnobirthing, written by Marie Mongan, which worked successfully when I had my fourth child, three years ago!) I intend to get my face wet in the cold water as soon as I can and hopefully I can acclimatise quicker this time. I am happy to hear that Windermere is currently 16.7 degrees which is more than 2 degrees warmer than Salford.

There are a few articles below which I bookmarked and found useful:

Dylan is swimming with me and although I am hoping I will be OK this time, to allow him to go at his own pace and try to get a good time, I know he'll stay by my side if I need him to be.

Should be a great weekend though. It's the babysitter's (AKA Grandparents!!) birthday (My Mum) and Father's Day, and we are all (my husband, four kids, and my parents) are spending it in the Lake District at a hugely exciting event, then we have a night in Hawkshead with them all where we can celebrate the occasions and enjoy the post-swim euphoria.

I also have a good friend swimming later in the day and she and her family will be staying nearby, so hoping to have time to catch up with her too.

So I have packed my swim bag (wetsuit, goggles, two hats, swim socks, timing chip, towel and park and sail voucher).. now just need to figure out what the six of us need for an overnight stay (everything but the kitchen sink!)

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Salford Swim

Well, I did it! 1 mile in open water around Salford Quays. Wow, what an experience. It is now more than 24 hours since I completed the swim and I am still reeling from the experience! I couldn't blog about it last night as I couldn't easily put it into words and I felt elated, overwhelmed, dumbstruck and exhausted. Anyway, here is my account of the Great Salford Swim....

At 11:20 on Sunday 15th May, the Great Swim Series, sponsored by British Gas (!), started at Salford Quays. We arrived early and watched a mother duck swimming in the Quays with her brand new tiny ducklings and thought about the fact that we would be shortly swimming about in there with them....!

I was lucky enough to be swimming in the first wave of the first race of the year and it was a truly amazing experience. It was to be the first time I had swum in open water , in a wetsuit and I had been warned that is it different to a pool and I should try my wetsuit out first to ensure a good fit and to get a feel of it. Unfortunately I didn’t have an opportunity to do this before the event, and I felt confident in my ability to swim a mile as I have done a lot of training, so I made my open water début at the event.

As I plunged into the 14c water with 200 other people, I soon regretted this. I felt as though I had forgotten how to swim; my ankles felt really buoyant and floated up behind me. When I tried to put my face into the water to swim properly, the shock of the cold water made me involuntarily take a breath in (the rest of me was quite warm thanks to my wetsuit!). So I was swimming a very strange stroke because I had my head out and my ankles floating up behind me and it was pretty difficult and inefficient. At that point I really didn’t think I would make the distance. My husband, Dylan was swimming next to me and he is a seasoned tri-athlete and he talked me through the difficult parts, swimming just ahead of me, keeping me going. It was a very long 20 minutes, where I felt I was swimming slowly and with difficulty and struggling to breathe. The course allowed for spectators to walk alongside and there were helicopters buzzing overhead as the event was being televised. We had a lot of support from the crowds and from the crew. I passed the corner where we had spotted the ducklings earlier, I thought of my own children and kept going....

When we got to the half way buoy, I suddenly found my stroke and felt as though my body had warmed up (and I had calmed down) and I could swim again. Dylan stayed by my side and we finished in about 54 minutes which I was very pleased with. My aim had been to do the distance in less than an hour (I have previously swum just under 1 mile in 44 minutes in a pool). My legs were like jelly when I tried to get out and I was helped out by the lifeguards. One of my work colleagues was at the finish and he made sure the commentator gave me a mention as I finished (thanks Kev!) and it was a pretty good feeling to have made it!

We rubbed shoulders with famous swimmers on the day, including Duncan Goodhew who swam as part of a team of celebrities competing against each other in a charity contest; Olympic medallist Kerri-Ann Payne, who was the favourite elite woman to win, and who did not disappoint, by swimming it in just over 17 minutes. Also, the German, Thomas Lurz who won the men’s elite race in just over 16 minutes. Five times Olympic gold medallist, Ian Thorpe was there co-presenting the BBC coverage with Olympic silver medallist Steve Parry and the BBC's Matt Baker.

This morning I have woken up stiff in muscles that I wouldn't normally use to swim which I guess is a testament to my unusual stroke as I tried to cope with the buoyancy. I also have friction grazes on my neck from my wetsuit rubbing - I was offered some Bodyglide but I declined. Another thing I know for next time. And I have rosy cheeks! Most puzzling as it drizzled for most of the day, but they definitely feel lightly sunned, so I suppose the reflection of the water may have carried some UV rays to my face; just waiting for an eruption of freckles now!

I have entered the Great North Swim at Lake Windermere on 19th June. At this point I am feeling a little unsure about whether to do it all again as it was a pretty overwhelming experience wasn’t at all how I was expecting it to be. But I made the distance in the time I wanted to do it in, and the atmosphere at such events is quite addictive, so I suspect I will decide to take the plunge again in June…..

(Nb, I have since read a little about how common it is to hyperventilate when you (or your face!) enter cold water without acclimatising and about how badly fitting wetsuits can hinder your stroke. I will blog a separate entry about this shortly, after a little more research and some references. Won't be making the same mistake again....)

**I can be seen, entering the water on the BBC's iPlayer coverage of the Great Manchester Bupa Run, which was happening at the same time, just down the road. They broke off from the run to show the start of the Salford Swim, which can be viewed from 1 hour 19 minutes 30 seconds in. I can be seen waving at the camera in the left hand corner as I go in, at 1 hour 20 minutes and 54 seconds !**

Monday, 9 May 2011

Triathlons and Marathons!

We've had a busy couple of Sundays here as Dylan (my husband) was competing in the Tadcaster Triathlon and then the Leeds Half Marathon.

The triathlon was a sprint distance triathlon so the swimming part was indoors which made it simpler as there was no wetsuit to negotiate and this was a distance of 500 metres in the Tadcaster Swimming Pool. After that there was a half mile sprint up the road to the Molson Coors Brewery which housed the transition area. The bike leg was a 14 km ride on road around the surrounding villages, then back to transition and a run for 7km.

It was a lovely day to be spectating at a triathlon, with my camera and without the children and Dylan did a really great time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, which was 15 minutes faster than the time he did the Leeds Sprint Triathlon last year, which is a testament to the hard training schedule he has completed in the last 12 months.

There were 207 triathletes who took part and finished, including the elite. Dylan finished:

  • 90 overall out of 207
  • 39 out of the 108 his category (age 18 to 40 - not bad considering he is in the upper age limit!)
  • Swim: 96 out of 207
  • Cycle: 43 out of 207 (WOW!)
  • Run: 110 out of 207
Highlight of the day was when he ran he half mile from the pool to transition across the town, barefoot! He is interested in barefoot running and decided to do this after making an informed choice and it gave him an advantage over other swimmers exiting the pool who stopped to get socks and footwear on. Many of the spectators thought this was amusing, shocking or downright weird... everyone was pointing and whispering as he ran past with a grin on his face and his goggles in his hand! I heard one woman say "He must be really hard, or completely insane"! Made me chuckle!

Here are a few photo's I took:

The Leeds Half Marathon took place the week after in the city centre. It was the first running event that Dylan has taken part in and at just over 13 miles, it would be the furthest distance he has ever run, including training sessions.

The atmosphere was very different to that of a triathlon. It was a huge event with 1000's of runners of all abilities, shapes and ages taking part. It was very well organised and very official-feeling compared to a triathlon and I have to say it wasn't as enjoyable as far as spectator sports go! Still we had a lovely day and Dylan did really well.

He completed the course in 1 hour and 51 minutes which is an amazing time for his half marathon début. This placed him 1195 out of an approximate 5000 runners. I am not sure how this places him in his category (he ran as a 35-39 yr old male) but to finish in under 2 hours at his first attempt is just amazing!

Here are a few photo's, including one of a friend's husband; A, who we met up with and who made his début half marathon too. A also ran a fabulous time of 1 hour 54, so very similar to Dylan and he is planning on running in his first full distance marathon later this year:

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Swimathon, Wetsuits and Bikes

I completed the 1.5k Swimathon on Sunday 17 April at the Aquatics Centre in Leeds. I decided to swim the shorter distance than originally planned as my enthusiasm for training for more than 60 minutes at a time had waned and 1.5k is 60 lengths, which I easily swim in an hour.

The event was swum in a 50m length pool, which was quite daunting as I am used to 25m lengths and it made me really think about how it will feel swimming outdoors at Salford, with a mile stretched out in front of me. It was quite a sobering thought, however I swam the distance without stopping and in 44 minutes which was a fast time for me and the first time I had swam more than 10 lengths without pausing.

My husband swam the 2.5k in 1 hour and 4 minutes which was a great time for him too.

So wetsuits ... given that I work for the major sponsor of British Swimming (British Gas!), I did expect it would be easy to obtain a wetsuit for a good price as has been the case in previous years. With 4 weeks to go, I had read about no deals at all and got a few colleagues searching for me with no real luck. Last week, I received an email to say staff who were entering the Great Swim Series could apply for a limited number of FREE wetsuits, so I immediately responded. Only to receive an email a few days later to say they were overwhelmed by the response and had run out! This was very disappointing because I knew NO ONE else at work who was entering any of the swims and because I had responded immediately. Oh and because I had limited funds!

I enlisted the help of my husband and his triathlon knowledge/links and hired a wetsuit made by Foor by a company who help triathletes get the gear they need at a good price. It cost £100 including deposit and posting and I have it from March- September so it can be used for both swims. If I decide to keep it in September it is mine for the money I already paid which is still a good price.

Given that I am short (4'11") and, um... curvy, finding a suit to fit is no easy task.. but it arrived today and it was easier than I thought it would be to squeeze myself into. The sight of it though set my stomach churning... I am really going to swim in a place which is cold and deep and outside!

I don't think there will be opportunity to give my wetsuit a go before the Salford Swim so I am just hoping I can manage to swim in it. It does feel quite restrictive and it will no doubt still feel cold, but given the time I have left to work with, it's going to just have to do!

I have been out on my road bike a few times this month too and I am finally feeling at home with it and learning to adapt to the differences between it and a mountain bike. It feels fast and fluent in comparison (now I no longer wobble every time I change gear!) and I can feel myself getting stronger much quicker. It was clearly designed to be ridden!

My husband has finished building his triathlon-road bike. His first triathlon of the season is on Monday so I will be keeping everything crossed than his new sleek, carbon fiber road bike pays off.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring is here!

It's been a while since I updated and my enthusiasm for swimming has waned somewhat over the last 4-5 weeks, meaning I am now considering swimming a reduced distance in the Swimathon event in 3 weeks time (eeek!) I think I will now be entering the 1.5k distance which is 60 lengths. Quite simply, if I do distances further than this, it is likely I am in the pool for more than 45 minutes and I am finding my boredom threshold being challenged. So instead of getting bored swimming up and down, I am concentrating on shorter distances.

I am certain now that I will quit swimming once the Great North Swim event in June, I need a break from it; though I do expect I will start again in the Autumn and I have plans to swim with a Masters Group next year.

I have maintained enthusiasm for Zumba though and have been twice every single week since it started in January!

And now Spring is here, and the lighter nights start happening from TONIGHT.. it was time to get back in the saddle properly! I took my road bike out today for it's first proper run and I did about 6 miles. I could feel the adrenalin pumping through me as I was pretty nervous about riding this fast, skinny-tyred, bumpy little bike which allowed me to experience very fast speeds with very little effort! The slightest movement from my hands (braking/changing gear) meant I was wobbling out on the front wheel. The gears were a dream compared to my mountain bike, if not a little odd to change because of the shape of the handlebars. Overall, it was fun, I AM BACK ON MY BIKE and this year I will be faster!

My husband has now completed his build-a-tri-bike project and he is the proud owner of a self-built carbon fiber road bike. I will post a photo as soon as I get my camera back from the insurance people who are trying to decide whether it can be fixed or needs replacing..... He has entered 4 triathlons this year and I will hopefully be attending them all with him and capturing the days on camera (once it is repaired... I feel lost without it!) He has already calculated how much faster he is this compared to his first year in triathlons last year, so expecting great things :-)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Salford Swim..

The Great Salford Swim was announced yesterday and will take place on 15 May. This is much earlier than we had hoped and clashes with two other major sporting events in Manchester that day, which means the BBC has decided to televise it live...exciting! But means it may be a logistical nightmare getting there, getting about considering we have children and grandparents tagging along.... however the end result is we decided to enter.

The website is down tonight, maybe they are overwhelmed by response? Hoping to register tomorrow for the 12:50 wave.. woohoo!

So I have the 2.5k Swimathon in April, the Great Salford Swim in May and the Great North Swim in June :-)

I gave myself a target of 60 lengths tonight which is 1.5k and I did this in approximately 50 minutes. I swam about 8 lengths in freestyle. All in all, feeling good, progress is happening!

Miles on bike so far in 2011: 29 Miles
Swimming lengths (25m): 310 lengths.
Zumba (hours spent dancing): 7 hours.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

End of January

I have been swimming twice per week throughout the month of January and have just completed my longest distance since I started swimming again in October; 56 lengths, which is 1.4k and this was in 40 minutes, doing mostly breaststroke. It felt good actually, I was really 'feeling' the water and feeling strong and stream-lined. I have been working on my breaststroke and really reaching into it and stream-lining myself during the underwater pull.

I have also entered Swimathon, after a nudge from an on-line friend. It is a national event, taking place in April, where you pledge to swim either 1.5k, 2.5k or 5k for charity. I have entered the 2.5k which is 100 lengths, and I am feeling a little nervous about the distance at the moment, although there IS 10 weeks until it takes place. No wetsuits required for this so if I can do this, I can definitely do the lesser distance needed to complete the Great North Swim (even if taking into account currents, going off-course and wetsuit buoyancy!)

So, I have a goal for the Spring!

It has meant NOT entering the Ride It cycling event taking place in Leeds because the dates clash, but I think this is the right decision.... 30 miles on a bike by mid-April seems very daunting because I simply am no putting in the miles on my bike yet. Plenty of time for bike riding in the warmer months, though I managed 10 miles on my MTB last Sunday.

Miles on bike so far in 2011: 16 miles
Swimming lengths (25m): 250 lengths.
Zumba (hours spent dancing): 5 hours.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Great North Swim (and the Aquatics Centre. Oh and Zumba too....)

What an exciting week!

Oh Tuesday I went to a new exercise class called Zumba, which in case you hadn't heard, given it's 'latest craze' status.. is a dance/aerobics class inspired by Latin dance moves with a modern/street dance twist. Or something. Anyway, it was full of energy, great fun and a really good workout. I enjoyed it so much I have been twice this week, and I intend to keep going frequently until the weather/daylight hours allow me to cycle more....

On Wednesday, I decided to try a new venue for swimming (and miss my Pilates class.. I am started to feel irritated by the instructor!) so I went to the John Charles Centre for Sport, AKA the Aquatics Centre in the city centre. I was absolutely over-awed by it. In fact I was rather put off from my goal of 40 lengths, because I was so fascinated by everything else going on.

The pool is Olympic size and then has a separate diving area and shallow pool. The pool can be separated off by a moving wall and a false floor, to make it shorter, shallower et al, so different people and clubs can use the pool at the same time. The Leeds Swimming Club were training that night and that in itself was exciting for me, being a former junior club swimmer... brought back happy memories! At the other end there was a diving club doing some spectacular diving. The section I was in was divided into lanes for swimmers to swim 25m lengths, and in fact this was pretty interesting as you were swimming the width of the pool which happened to be 25m across which gives you an idea of the scale of the place. It was also full of club swimmers, coaches, and the occasional gob-smacked person (ie me!) and the atmosphere was absolutely fabulous - nothing like the local leisure centre pool! I plan to make regular trips there from now on, it truly was an inspiring place, full of inspirational swimmers.

And then... I got an email to say the registration process has opened for the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere! I ummed and aaaahed all day about whether I will be ready as it is earlier than I thought and will take place on the 18th June. There is the option to swim half a mile, rather than the mile, but I was brave and entered the 1 mile wave at 11am on Sunday 18th June. Eeek! Feeling a bit scared now in fact. Been planning to do this since last October, and now it will become a reality. Dylan has also entered today so at least he will be there jumping in with me and support me (then no doubt leave me behind!). So I WILL BE SWIMMING IN THE GREAT NORTH SWIM THIS YEAR!!!

On the bike front, I am considering entering a 'Ride It!' event as organised by Evans Cycles, which is similar to the Lake District ride I did last year. There is one held locally, in Leeds in the middle of April and there is again the option of a 30 mile distance. Hoping to make a decision on this in the next few weeks.....

And Dylan's Build a Tri-Bike project is coming along nicely, I will update with some pictures soon.

Miles on bike so far in 2011: 6
Swimming lengths (25m): 106

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Hello my old friend....

1st January 2011. I have reunited myself with my MTB after a two month absence. I shunned the new shiny road bike for my old friend, as it was wet and muddy outside. And it felt NICE!

I only did 6 miles, but after a big but short term weight gain, and no exercise for a while, I was pleased with my fitness level. My legs struggled with the up hills, but my lungs felt fit and healthy and I think my cardiovascular fitness levels are actually OK and haven't diminished too much. So just a matter of getting strong again.

My toes were very very cold though. It was about 6 degrees out, so not freezing, yet my toes really felt it. I also didn't feel the benefit of the water in my bottle as that felt really cold.. not used to chilled water, didn't like it much!

So now I think the plan is to go out on my MTB until I feel a little stronger, and then switch to the road bike once the weather is warmer and I am ready to tackle avoiding the potholes (and hell there is a lot of them after the snow!) and getting used to the different riding position.

While I was out today I vaguely thought about giving myself a '100 mile' goal. For example, ride 100 miles by end February, end March? Think I need to think about it a little harder before I commit! Back at work on Tuesday so I have very little time to go out in daylight hours... need to be realistic.

I am starting 'Twelve Diets for Twelve Months' on Monday (made up by yours truly!)... where I will follow a particular diet discipline for the month, in an aim to focus on what I eat, hopefully helping me get fitter and stronger. This month, I will be kickstarting the New Year by calorie counting, so anything goes but no more than 1200-1400 calories per day.

I will blog more about this as I unravel the idea a bit more in my head.....

Miles on bike so far in 2011: 6
Swimming lengths (25m): 0