Monday, 19 February 2018

On being a dedicated follower of fashion... but only in the world of swimwear!

Last week I was invited out on a girl’s night out. All very lovely up to the point when I realized that I had an early training session booked the following morning, and that meant an early departure from what promised to be an outstanding night out. Historically these nights are spontaneous, fun, alcoholic, noisy, busy and late… very late, and in a previous life, wild horses would not have seen me leave early.

Skip forward, and it’s dawned on me that my life was a far cry from my pre-swimming days, when leaving early never happened, in fact it was frowned upon (by myself no less), and getting ready for the night took days, if not weeks of military precision planning and executing, starting with a shopping trip to buy a new outfit (sometimes several), hair and nail appointments secured, chicken nuggets purchased (for the kids), and the day of the night out was given over to the prep work that goes along with the same said night out, including a ban on all small people, no matter the sudden and immediate urgency to use that particular toilet, despite there being several others in the house, entering the bathroom. Music was cranked up to prevent myself from hearing those small people informing me, by yelling under the door, of things like the happy news that the dog had been sick all over the carpet, having eaten the chocolate mousse they had spilt, and that they also felt sick having eaten 3 each, and that they ‘may’ have also spilt some on the sofa too (despite there being a rule that all food is eaten at the table…).

I’d already given the girls the heads up that I’d be leaving at 10pm at the latest and I wouldn’t be drinking. The response was to question whether I would actually be any fun (!?!), to which I pointed out that I may not be fun, but I was handy as I could actually drive them home (I negated to tell them there was a condition attached- that to benefit from this offer they too must leave at 10pm). And so, after feeding the kids (who are now old enough to cater for themselves…), walking the dog, washing the dog who suddenly felt compelled to roll in something sinister, putting on some laundry (my now wet through, and dirty clothes having bathed the feral looking dog), I calculated that I had all of 40 minutes to get ready, which was to include an extended period of time in the shower washing and re washing my hair to rid myself of the embedded smell of chlorine, however the need to wash the dog used up all of the hot water, which meant that it was a speedier shower than I was hoping for, meaning I was unable to do my legs (oh well), drying my hair before giving up on any style whatsoever and hastily putting it in a pony tail, putting on some make-up (I have forgotten how fiddly and time consuming it actually is), finding something to wear that wasn’t sports wear or swim wear, staring for a long period of time into my wardrobe, despairing at my lack of ‘going out’ clothes in it, and then despairing again at the lack of any clothes, last seasons or otherwise, trying on the lowest high heeled shoes I own, that held the least risk of me breaking my neck in. There was no time, or inclination to paint of manicure my nails although did manage to find the time to pack my swim kit ready for the next morning, and after dropping my second born off in town, in completely the opposite direction, I managed to arrive (I felt) fashionably not too late.

I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable and there was a distinct lack of any complements on my outfit choice (can you believe that?), unlike my friend Tinks, who had complements arriving thick and fast from everyone (me included) the second she glided in, about everything from her coordinated nail varnish to her carefully chosen complementary jewellery and perfume choice. She looked amazing I’ll admit, and when she casually asked my what the make of my ‘unusual’ smelling perfume, I realized that I’d even forgotten to put any on! I replied, “Eau du Chlorine”, a far cry from my pre-swimming self when the perfume of choice was Chanel (not to be confused with Channel!)! Tinks gave me one of those hugs that are difficult to interpret. It could have meant you poor, poor thing, or equally it could have meant you rock the chlorine look… Turns out it was the former, as she then offered to take me on a shopping trip to revamp my wardrobe. She could have added “to move you out of the ‘90’s” but she didn’t, even though we both know that’s what she meant…

The evening came swiftly to an end, and being honest, it couldn’t have happened soon enough. Once home I began reflecting on my evening. Had I actually let myself go? I mean, I didn’t bother with nail varnish anymore as it just never survived the pool, and I didn’t have the time to apply the several coats required to ensure it was still in place after even 1 swim, and it was disheartening having to constantly remove it. I didn’t change my earrings anymore. Gold studs are standard issue (base metal takes the longest to tarnish apparently, however if anyone of you wishes to disagree, feel free – I have no clue!). They also often come out when I take my cap off, so go through so many pairs. I leave the pool wearing gym attire, and as I work from home, generally remained in it for the rest of the day, without make-up (I say without, this isn’t completely true… always, and I mean always with mascara), without really bothering how I look.

There was nothing else for it; I arranged a coffee with my glam friend Tinks to seek some sartorial advice. She threatened to take me under her wing, by starting with a shopping trip, and whilst I love shopping, I explained that I really don’t have much free time at the moment (although this is true, it’s also true that I just don’t have the inclination either), at which point she waggled her perfectly manicured finger at me and told me that I must make the effort. She wasn’t actually saying I looked a bit shit, but there was no doubt she was implying it – very effectively!

Tinks said that fashion was fickle and that unless I was prepared to shop frequently, I would be out of fashion in one season. I’ve been out of season for the past erm… few years or so. Who’s actually counting? One season seemed not too bad to me. She instead suggested I go for a timeless and classic wardrobe that would stand the test of time (I’m taking from that that, as she looked disapprovingly, that she didn’t think the corduroy trousers I was wearing would…), and therefore less time shopping, and more time swimming (she had me at the mention of swimming – she knew this was a weak point and was prepared to go low to get her way). And so the (attempted) transformation began. We walked straight out of the café and straight into Boots, where she hotfooted it to the nail varnish aisle. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of colours stared back at me, I was completely lost, especially as I don’t do colour, in nail varnish or clothes. I do black, and to add a splash of colour I add grey, and if I’m pushing the boat out, perhaps some khaki. Bright coloured nail varnish is not for me -never was, except for my first GNS swim, where I made the mistake of thinking it would be great to match the splashes of blue on my wetsuit to some coordinated nail varnish. I wish now that I’d matched the main part of it (black) now, I felt so uncomfortable wearing it – nothing draws attention to your gigantic hands quite like a bright aqua blue! Fast forward and nail varnish had certainly moved on since I last bought some, back in the day when you chose your colour, paid for it and then left the shop, applied it, and waited an hour for each coat to dry, these days there’s shiny, not shiny, gel, accessories to put on your nails, literally all sorts. And then I saw it… the 60 seconds drying nail varnish. 60 seconds? Was that it? Only 60 seconds! And it came in lovely dull, lifeless colours too. Hooray!

Clever me bought some (in standard clear and a just off clear kind of skin colour called Nude) and felt quite pleased with myself, I mean, if it comes off or looks shabby, only a keen eye would notice, a great compromise I felt… that was until Tinks pointed out that my chosen colours were kind of missing the point, however I reminded her that I would need gently guiding into the new me. Rome was not built in a day.

Next stop, which meant walking past the window displaying a black sparkly swimming costume, and although clearly for a holiday, I was drawn like a magnet. Tinks reminded me that a swimming costume, sparkly of other, does not count towards a capsule wardrobe, and ushered me on. Trying to remain enthusiastic, I followed her row of clothes after row of clothes, until she had two arms full of colour… At this point she noticed my distress, and pointed to the one piece of black clothing – a t-shirt with ‘glamorous’ written in it in a silver cursive, sequined script, and said “these are all for me, that one’s for you.” I sagged in relief, as I feel that trades descriptions would be onto me like a shot if I bought it, however entering the spirit of the day, AND because I’d asked her, I went to try it on.

The t-shirt was not the success Tinks was hoping for. The cursive ‘glamorous,’ once on changed somewhat, and looked more like ‘amorous’ which is lots, lots worse than the former. The sparkly swimming costume that I’d snuck in to the changing room, on the other hand, was an absolute triumph, and then I was faced with the dilemma; do I come clean about the costume, or do I buy the t-shirt as well, using it as a red herring to buy the costume? I very suddenly had a brilliant idea, and after some conspiratorial whispering with the changing room attendant, I slip her the money and the label for the costume, and she returns with my receipt and my chance. The transaction was completed in next to no time, and I leave the shop dressed in my newly purchased costume, but rather than in a bag it was under my clothes. Genius!

3 hours, and 2 essential coffee breaks later (needed to regain my strength, and her sanity), and I have purchased the following:

2 x nail varnishes (assorted colours (ish)).
1 x sparkly swimming costume (shhh).
1 x flip-flops (also useful lakeside)

Not the most successful of trip, and Tinks is ready to throw in the metaphorical towel, when I spot a beautiful blue dress. Blue (I know!) and kind of swirly, and I think I love it. A very excited Tinks would have probably shoved it over my head to try on there and then in the middle of the shop, but instead frog marched me to the changing rooms. I laughed and told her I’d changed out of clothes in the open air, lakeside on many occasion. Tinks looks horrified at the thought of me walking round the shop in a state of undress, however little does she know that even if I were to strip off, I’d be in less of a state of undress than she knows!

And it was whilst I was trying it on that I began thinking. Had I actually let myself go? I may not wear nail varnish anymore, I may not have this seasons ‘must have’ dress, make-up is a minimum, I can’t walk in 7” (or 177.8mm) heels anymore (who am I kidding? I never really could) and my hair is styled (and I use this term very loosely indeed) for ease, but here’s the thing- I am fitter than I’ve been in years, I eat more carefully (the odd cake being the exception), I am focused, and determined and I feel great. So I suppose if you’re asking if I have let myself go, I would say it depends on who you’re asking. Is it the end of the world if I turn up to a night out wearing my corduroy from the ‘90’s or even wearing my gym gear? No it won’t. Having said that, I will buy the dress (which is lovely by the way) and I will wear it on our next night out, and I will make a conscious effort to block out 60 seconds beforehand to apply one of my new nail varnishes, I may also decide to team it up with the flip flops, which I’m sure is a big fat fashion no-no, but probably a huge improvement on last time’s outfit! And as I have our next girls night out outfit in the bag, I can spend my time and money instead on new swimwear; something that I will wear far more frequently. I may not rock the fashion world anymore, and I may not know whether orange or pink or green or blue is the new black, but what I do know is my Speedo from my Swimzi and my Deakin and Blue from my Dolfin... And so you see (as I have demonstrated here), in my own world, I am actually very much a dedicated follower of fashion!

I hope you've enjoyed reading my blog. If you have I also have a 'group' page on Facebook and am on Twitter and Instagram, where I post daily shenanigans and such like. If you'd like to join/follow you'd be very welcome. Here are the links. 😊

Open Water Woman

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Returning (after a brief sabbatical) ... to the open water!

As I'd not even so much as put a toe in the lake (actually in any lake, pond or body of water larger than 25x10m) for a month, I promised Leon and Ally at Swimyourswim that I would definitely be swimming the following Saturday, and put in my 'welcome back into the fold' cake request with Master Baker Chris, so it would be considered rude to not to turn up, however on Friday night as I was putting together all my kit, I found myself looking for excuses not to go, even resorting to making up imminent and terrible adverse weather conditions that would (if they were actually true) prevent me from getting there, and even posted on Facebook evidence (see exhibit 1 below) that Antarctica was indeed headed our way. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures!
It’s been several weeks since I last swam in the lake, and with it being Christmas, which was then followed by a nasty bug, I was able to come up with some quite plausible reasons/excuses not to go. My last open water swimming experience hadn’t been all that great, and so returning from my sabbatical I felt overwhelmed and scared. All my concerns were met by the reassuring words of the very lovely Ally, I'd gone through my whole repertoire of excuses before exhausted, I finally ran out and said I'd go (I was able to think of a thousand more reasons not to after I'd agreed I'd go). Chris had told me he'd already baked the brownies for me, and if nothing else, the thought of any chocolate not fulfilling its destiny (me eating it) does not sit all that comfortably with me. 

The adverse weather I’d been hoping for (wintry storms, blizzard, dust storm, tropical cyclone, Antarctica itself, anything really) didn’t materialize, and so having run out of any plausable excuses I had no choice other than to go. I have to admit, it was lovely to be reunited with my swim family again and I nearly shed a real tear when Chris showed me the large Tupperware box filled with chocolate brownies he’d made for my homecoming, and as I wasn’t sure whether the whole batch were just for me, I opted for just one for after the swim and one for the road, and after hugs all round (I couldn’t be sure really whether they were long hugs or whether I was clinging on to prolong getting in), it was time to get on with the job in hand.

Star Baker Chris's chocolate brownies.
The water was the coldest I’d swum in at 3.5oc.  I stood for a good few minutes on the shoreline along with Deb, a fellow swim family member, who was also feeling a little apprehensive. assessing the lake (for no reason whatsoever, although did note the absence of swans today). We decided we would get in together, and whilst Deb got straight in and swam off, it was with many encouraging words from Shark that I finally got in up to my knees, before doing an abrupt turn and getting straight back out again (my costume wasn’t even wet, and I seriously considered stopping at a lovely warm, inviting pool on the way home to have a swim instead). Shark always puts my coat on over hers as it adds an extra layer for her, and keeps it warm for me when I get out, however she had barely done the zip up before she reluctantly handed it back to me. 

I was ready to call it a day even before I started. I stood on the shoreline in two minds whether to get back in the water or to go back to the clubhouse where it was warm and there were chocolate brownies... It was during my indecision at the side of the lake that Izzy (lovely, and known for her blunt yet comical delivery) said to me “if I didn’t think you could do it I wouldn’t be saying this, but you can, and I am…. If you don’t stop being a Princess and get in, I am prepared to take my boot off and kick you in.” Now, I’d like to think that it was meant for the greater good and with a small level of affection, but it was that and something that Jane also said, “it’s all in your mind. You can do this” that made me fling off my coat (poor Shark didn’t see it coming), do an about turn and get back in. No messing, no faffing about, no backwards glance, straight in and straight off.

Once in, I was surprised at how good it felt (once the initial cold shock had subsided and I’d had a chat with myself to remind me that there were no fishes, monsters or lake snakes (only buoy ropes) in the water). All my earlier worries and anxieties disappeared, along with the feeling in my feet and hands and pretty much my whole body soon after that!

the original photo
I swam one lap of 300m, mostly with my face out of the water. I didn’t care that it wasn’t far, I didn’t care that it wasn’t at any great speed. I was back in the water and loving it, and so rather than carrying on to do another lap, and possibly push my luck, I decided to call it a day whilst I was still enjoying it. As it has been a while I’d forgotten that getting out when you are at best uncoordinated is challenging, let alone getting out without any feeling in any of your limbs…Suffice to say my exit from the lake was nothing like the flamboyant entry earlier and was Oscar worthy but for all the wrong reasons…

Once Shark had scooped me up and passed me a towel, I tried (really hard) to put my fur lined swim shoes on, however I just couldn’t manage it. Every time I attempted to put them on they also moved with my feet. I was too cold to be able to maneuver them in and so asked Shark, rather than watch me in amusement, help me put my wet, cold feet in them. Laughing she told me it was not because my feet were wet that they wouldn’t go in, it was in fact my feet objecting to being put into such nasty shoes! I couldn’t argue with her, they really are quite horrid, whilst at the same time functional!  

The original photo that Shark added graffiti to.
Back in the clubhouse I changed as quickly as my frozen self would allow, with the help of Shark passing me my clothes. I noticed I was lobster pink all bar one toe. Panicking I turned to Shark for reassurance. She reliably informed me it is something called Raynaud’s disease (to do with blood circulation and cold) rather than the beginnings of anything more sinister like galloping dry rot or trench foot, but just to be on the safe side, I decided to keep a close eye on it over the course of the day. My feet were so cold I’m not sure that I’d notice if it had actually fallen off. I would have to take her word for it as I’m not sure whether operating a phone and trying to dial the ambulance service with frozen, shaky hands could even be achieved anyway.

Recovering in the clubhouse café I reflected on my morning. I was so, so pleased that I’d got in, and although a brief dip, I was (still am) delighted. I really don’t know what it was that caused the light bulb moment just before I got in. It could have been a number of reasons - The fact that I’d got up before the crack of dawn, driven over an hour to get there, and had already forked out £5 to swim may have had something to do with it. It could have been knowing that Star Baker Chris only issues his wares to those that have actually had a swim, and I’m not all that convinced that wading up to my knee and then getting out actually qualifies me for even one of the chocolate brownies he's baked especially, that I'd already helped myself to. It could also have been down to sheer determination and bloody mindedness, however when I think about it, it was most likely to be the threat of Izzy’s foot making contact with my backside that really had me make my mind up. Bootless or not (although I hear she favours the steel toe capped variety), I don't rate my chances and suspect that I may well have found myself swiftly face planting the lake if executed! Whatever the reason, I did it! I finally got back in...Yay!

Friday, 19 January 2018

Bring on the Hurly Burley!

This time last year, all New Year’s resolutions, training plans and goals were (pending on surgery and recovery going well) all in the bag. This year, in contrast, we are 2 weeks into January already and all resolutions are yet to get off the ground.

There weren’t even that many:

1) Enter Hurly Burly Swim
2) Sort out an appropriate training plan and smart (er) goals
3) Get my nutrition in order (better informed, better choices – my cake days will be limited… I feel sick and bereft even just thinking about it already!)
4) Get back into the open water ASAP

NYR#1 – Enter the Hurly Burly - I actually entered this before NYE so technically you could argue that it’s not actually a resolution, as it was already in the bag, but hear me out first (not that I’ll be removing it…). The reason for my early entry? I missed out last year due to far too much faffing about deciding whether I should do it, before deciding that I would do it, by which time I couldn’t do it as I was too late, and so taking no chances this year, I had been eagerly awaiting news of the swim date, and so when the entry date (and time) by Outdoor Swimming Society was announced I was ready for it. The evening beforehand was busy with setting multiple alarms (I barely slept anyway), locating my credit card and having the link on the computer ready to go, and the following day, despite the computer deciding to be on go slow, and me having the mother of all meltdowns, I finally, after much panic, got a place! Shark will vouch it was ugly as she was on the other end of the phone smugly informing me hers had seamlessly gone through, whilst I was sitting in front of my computer wailing “why?” at it several times before the penny dropped and I realized that there was a very strong possibility that it was human error and not indeed the fault of the computer, or the credit card, or indeed all inanimate objects in reaching distance, that I was also blaming. A quick e-mail to OSS confirmed it was in fact me, and the cleverer people at that end had my heart rate back out of the danger zone in next to no time (at it’s worst I peaked at 114bpm my Garmin reliably informed me), and I was officially announced (via e-mail) in!

NYR#2 – Resolution 1 complete it was now time to sort out an appropriate training plan- I’ve swam this distance on a few occasions now, and have read several training plans, but before now opted to do my own. I’d like to think they had some degree of success on the back of the fact that a) I didn’t drown, b) I finished them all and c) it obviously hasn’t put me off.
And so I arranged to meet with Coach Morg, to discuss a new training plan, which he would continually review, monitor and adapt if necessary. This would be done via weekly phone calls, monthly meetings (to include a swim) and me sharing with him the data collected by my Garmin watch (via Garmin/Strava I think - all very new to me). Truth is I’m not sure how I feel about this as it allows Coach to track my progress for every swim. Very Big Brother (jeez there’ll be no way of hiding a bad swim will there? It’s literally there in black and white).  However it is a great way for him to offer me immediate feedback, and so need to get over myself (I can always delete any shoddy efforts and redo them. This could mean that I have to do several re-swims in order for it to look impressive, but needs must sometimes).

NYR#3 - Get my nutrition in order – I know how to do this, but with it just being Christmas and all I received 3 yards of Jaffa Cakes (this is an actual thing) along with several other gifts not known for their nutritional quality. Unfortunately my complete lack of willpower when it comes to Jaffa Cakes, the fact that I was overjoyed that there were 12 Jaffa Cakes per packet in these yard tubes, rather than the new 10 per packet (See… now I think I’m over thinking it – if Jaffa cakes became 10 per box in September, I’m now worried that the gift givers (you know who you are) bought them pre the much publicized “shrink” and possibly were out of date by Christmas. I confess I didn’t check that bit, and I couldn’t be sure whether they were being tight, or thoughtful… I’ll hope for the latter), added to that there’s my ‘not sharing’ policy (There is one exception to this rule however and that’s if it’s fallen on the floor first and/or I don’t want it), other than that it’s an absolute no (Not dis-similar to Smithy in Gavin &Stacey (series 3, episode 2)). This isn’t an apology by the way; I own my selfishness! And also as I don’t like wasting food, I was obligated to eat all of them before NYE!

NYR#4 - Get back into the open water ASAP – I confess, I haven’t swum in the open water since mid December. I could have gone and should have gone, however found it very easy, especially at this time of year, to find fairly convincing reasons not to go. I was not fooling Ally at Swimyourswim though, who sent me a lovely message, to which I found myself confessing I had been making excuses not to go as I felt I’d pushed myself to my limit last time. She politely told me I needed to get back on the metaphorical bike and suggested a dip the following week. Leon on the other hand took a different approach. His message went like this “if you don’t come back soon I shall start calling you Indoor Water Woman instead!” And so before he began threatening me with breaching any trades description acts I agreed to go that week.

So with New Year’s resolutions decided, and the Hurly Burly booked, all I needed to do was to get started with the other 3. Coach had arranged for me to complete a critical swim speed session that will establish my threshold pace, however on the morning of the swim I didn’t feel all that great. I set off to get to the swim, but thankfully changed my mind half way there, and turned round to go home. Just in the nick of time as it happens, and spent the next 3 days unable to remove myself from the sofa, and my kids to fend for themselves. All hope of NYR#2 happening sooner rather than later was gone, as I was forced to stay put whilst my grumpy self recovered. I’m not a great patient, and being ill was deeply unpleasant, however it did mean that my calorie intake was severely reduced on account of not being able to keep anything down, and so rather than any valiant effort on my part, it has actually kick started NYR#3, and there’s the silver lining right there!

I was keen to get the ball rolling, however decided to leave the open water swim for another week. I’ve swum in the cold before, whilst not feeling 100% and no good came out of it. I messaged Star Baker Chris to let him know I would be there at the weekend, and that if he was going, and also taking requests from AWOL swimmers, my favourite ‘welcome back’ cake of choice would be either his legendary brownies, or Guinness cake, and whilst I am very aware this contravenes NYR#2, eating energy food containing sugar is actually recommended by the NHS to help recovery from hypothermia. It’s a loose fit, I’ll grant you, but you have to eat what’s at hand, right? And Chris goes to so much trouble, and if medical practitioners say it’s a good thing, who am I to argue? Cake order sorted, and a quick catch up, Chris told me that in my absence he’d been helping the support team at Hatfield. “Not the getting dressed bit though?” I asked, and as I’m still awaiting a reply, I immediately called Shark to ask if she was up for a stint of towel holding. I’m very fortunate really that she readily agreed after I bribed her with the offer of (Chris’s) cake, but was actually prepared to stoop very low indeed, had she not been agreeable with cake, to get her to come (I’m talking possible kidnap).

Despite me being laid up, I have been making great use of those long, lazy days on the sofa by researching some rather lovely B&B’s in Wales to stay at the night before the swim (it’s an early one!), and as I am in good time I have managed to secure a rather lovely plush room, not even a stones throw from the beach where we will be setting off from. (Note to Shark- I’ve booked us a room. (Yay!) I know this will be a lovely surprise for you when you read this, and on the plus side, it’ll save me asking you directly for the 50 quid you now owe me, and you’re welcome!). So enforced rest may have prevented me from getting started with all but one of my New Year’s resolutions, but it sure bagged me a nice B&B ready for the swim that I’m not actually match fit for yet! Yet another (small) silver lining!👍

A few web addresses referenced in the blog. You’re welcome! 

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Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Christmas gift of a new watch - The Garmin Forerunner 735XT

Basically the need for a new swimming watch, in brief, goes like this; my old, and trustworthy Garmin broke. It was a swift death, brought about by someone (me) being a bit careless and dropping it on a concrete floor. I cried real tears and held a minute’s silence after which I spent the remainder of the day wearing a black armband mourning my loss. Not really, what actually happened was; I said lots of sweary words and felt miserable for the rest of the day, and at every watchless training session after that.

I’ve been lost without one, and had resorted to using my open water watch in the pool, which unfortunately doesn’t have the functions that I like, and so has been neither use nor ornament really, so it’s time for a new watch that is suitable for both the pool and the open water and has on it the functions that I like, and use, and how fortuitous, the timing couldn’t be better really, what with Christmas coming and all…

So, after tons of extensive research, well basically going on the website of various watches having sent a plea out on social media for advice on the best watches, followed by watching various YouTube clips (a couple were great, others less great) and reading some reviews, I decided that the best one for me would be the Garmin Forerunner 735XT.

In order that ‘Santa’ would get the correct present, subliminal messages were strategically placed around the house. And for these of you who didn’t get what you wished for, read and learn. The tried and well-tested strategy goes like this:

1.     Hint – relentless hinting works. These include: Leave magazines open on relevant pages in obvious places. Here are a few examples: the coffee table, kitchen counter, sock drawer, garage, anywhere really. Several relevant tabs left open on the computer (showing you’ve done your research always looks good). Change the screen saver on the computer to that of your gift choices (don’t do a montage – that’s too obvious). Leave barcodes and pictures of your gift of choice here, there and everywhere (saves time for them and ensures they get the right gift. Tell anyone that’ll listen that you are in dire need of said item and how your life would be enriched with it in it. I speak from bitter experience here - Please, please also include the colour you would like (if you happened to be that lucky)… And in my case, as it is well known universally that black is a slimming colour – black it is!
2.     There is no number 2.

Fast forward to Christmas day, and my winning strategy has paid off. I opened the gift, digging deep into my pretty limited, but impressive acting repertoire (I secured the leading role of Mary in the school nativity aged five, and sang Wiggly Woo on stage at the Pantomime with Charlie Williams aged eight) with what I felt was the right level of acting surprised. I rounded this off by doing some kind of jig around the room (If I said one word – Carlton- that’s the level). I wanted my kids to be satisfied that they had pulled the surprise of surprises out of the bag, and I think they were. I am aware that there’s a fine line between pulling something off and over acting, and I’m not entirely sure after that dance whether I crossed it! 

I unpacked the watch with great care (couldn’t bear another loss), and thank my lucky stars that Garmin had provided an idiots guide to using it. As a child of thne 70’s I am completely useless when it comes to technology, and without basic guidance the watch would have an unfulfilled  life living in the kitchen drawer – unused and unloved. 

So with beginners guide in hand, watch plugged in, I sat in front of the computer for the best part of 3 hours registering/looking/learning/playing around with it, which resulted in Christmas lunch being a little later than originally planned (3 hours later)! No one cared, they were far too busy eating selection boxes and counting their cash. No one ate any of the satsumas I had bought though. 

Once I was up and running, the first hour was spent looking through the downloadable watch faces (prioritizing), and after several changed minds later opted for the biggest clock I could find. I blame the winter darker days for this, but the bitter truth is actually that my middle-aged eyes struggle with anything less than huge close up.

As part of setting the watch up, it asks me all sorts of personal questions, including how much I weighed!?!?  And as I’m not entirely comfortable with this ask after eating my body weight in chocolate even before Christmas had arrived, I wonder whether I risk the watch being slightly less than accurate and consider inputting the weight I’d like to be, rather than the weight I actually am. I opted to compromise and decide on my pre-Christmas weight, and hope that it’s only a matter of a couple of weeks till I can be there again (fingers crossed, and probably will need my jaws wiring too).

The watch has several features, one is them is a wrist based heart monitor, and so on Christmas day afternoon ‘researching’ this feature was conducted doing some horizontal resting on the sofa, after all cooking Christmas lunch is exhausting, and I felt that a short Nanna Nap was a great way of checking the watches accuracy. It was working a treat for twenty minutes, before unexpectedly I was awoken from my research by the watch. It beeped (and vibrated on my wrist) at me, and when I looked at the display it just said ‘move.’ I think if it had a larger watch face it would have probably added ‘your lazy arse!’ or something similar! And so, even though it’s Christmas day, and I don’t have the luxury of my own pool to swim in as I see fit, I took my poor dog, who does not like being walked one bit (I do question the legitimacy or her Kennel Club certificate, who ever heard of a spaniel that doesn’t like a walk?) for a walk. It was the first of three we did that day (all prompted by the watch). The forth I did alone, as the dog went ‘missing’ and was found later fast asleep in her hiding spot behind the tree (she is still sulking, and avoiding me several days later).

By the end of the day I think I was familiar enough to risk a swim in it. I was all good to go, I’d even downloaded a pool workout (if this works it’ll save me remembering to take my laminated training sheets to the pool). I would have also liked to have used one of their training plans. I have a 10km swim at the end of the summer season, and although I’ve done a few now and have always followed my own plan, it would be nice to try something different. You never know, it may improve my time…but unfortunately it doesn’t have a scheduled training plan just for swimming (it does running, cycling and triathlon), which is a great shame, however not the end of the world… I’ll just have to carry on with my own! 

The watch also has a sleep rate monitor, and I was intrigued to see how well I was sleeping, and what my resting heart rate was, so went to bed wearing it. I woke earlier than normal the next day (before the dawn chorus in fact) that’s how keen I was to see what it said. Turns out I’d slept very well, which could have been helped by the enormous glass of Bailey’s that I had just before I went to bed, or could also have been the excessive walking I did in a bid to please my watch. And when I look at the data it told me that I’d pretty much not moved all night and that my resting heart rate was (I thought) very low indeed, and far too near the flat line for my liking. I spent the first fifteen minutes of my waking day on the Internet checking resting heart rate ranges to find that it is lower that average. I wasn’t sure whether to be delighted with this, so called Shark for some free medical advice, she was a little short with me on the phone, told me that I wasn’t going to die from it, and then put the phone down. It was at this point that I realized how very early it actually was, and sent her a ‘sorry, I’m an utterly shit and inconsiderate friend” text; probably waking her again!

With Christmas over with and training back on, when it came to my first pool swim, thankfully there were several other swimmers with the same watch. This was good news for me, I knew if I was unsure of which button to press I could ask one of them, but as it happens several of those swimmers watches were also on their maiden voyage, and they too were cautiously pressing buttons and asking for help too… from me! I informed them of my lack of technological ability, added to shoddy eye sight, I was by far the worst possible choice when it came to advice/guidance…a bit like the blind leading the blind frankly!

As far as the watch goes, it’s so far so good, I have done several swims in the pool, all of which have been accurate… well to be fair, we all know that I can lose count of how many lengths I’ve done in the early teens when doing a longer swim, so I only think that it’s accurate, but then that is one of the reasons I got it! The screen is great, I’ve set it up on the ‘huge’ typeface setting so I can read it (don’t want to do more lengths than is actually required because I saw the wrong number), which means that I no longer have to consider Shark’s impractical suggestion of taking a magnifying glass poolside to help!

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Open Water Woman