Thursday, 22 December 2016

Part 11

The end of the open water season was nearing and so when Shark suggested that we combine a girls weekend in London and one more swim, The Serpentine, then of course it was a yes.

I hadn't realised that Shark had wanted a quiet weekend away. I boarded the train to find she had booked us in the quiet carriage. It's safe to say I (we) was doomed to fail before we'd left the railway station. Unfortunately for our fellow passengers we had brought with us some Fat Rascals which happen to be the noisiest thing to eat ever. In addition they are not a small snack and are best washed down with prosecco, half a bottle to be exact (we discovered). The unfortunate side effect of this combination was that we started giggling. I apologised using a whispered voice, but I must have appeared very insincere as I immediately stifled my laughter. I am far worse at this than Shark, and added to the stupid texts that went between us, our only way of communicating, it just made me worse.

The journey was a very long 2.5 hours. I don't think I've ever gone so long without talking before. I was shocked that I even succeeded. I felt very smug. A friend of Shark's had offered us use of his flat for the weekend which happened to be not 5 minutes from The Serpentine and to help us settle in, instead of having an early night, to ready ourselves for the race the following day we opened a bottle of champagne. We had nothing to celebrate  and it certainly wasn't the best idea we've had. We limped to bed far later than originally planned. Safe to say it was a struggle to wake up the following day. Our wave was the first one at 10am, and so thankfully didn't need to leave until 8.30 in the morning.

Sussing out the start line prior to the swim.
We were very lucky, it was a beautiful, warm day. we were early so took the time to have a wander about and familiarise ourselves. Friends had joked that I may need some jabs prior to getting in, but I felt that armed with the bottle of Cola that Shark had provided for afterwards, I'd got it covered. We got changed and wandered to the holding pen, where, after we were checked in spotted a (small) dead fish floating near the start line. We tried and failed to make some light hearted quip about it, so after a deep discussion about the possible causes of its death, we move on to talk about the possibility that we would be able to swim without swallowing any water at all after deciding that must have been how the fish died. The sad reality was that it was very unlikely however it wouldn't be without our very best efforts not to. I suggested we nip back to our bags so I could make one last phone call home to tell my family that I loved them, but the theatrical eye roll from Shark suggested I had just overstepped the being overly dramatic line.

The race started and we were off. There was no need to swim with eyes closed which is my usual 'go to' when I'm scared because even with eyes open I couldn't see further than my elbow. A bad thing? Yes, but kept repeating myself "what the eyes can't see..." over and over until the end. I could have swum next to a giant man eating halibut and I'd have been none the wiser. I managed to keep my mouth well and truly clamped shut until I called to check Shark was ok... I only checked once!!!

It was actually a great swim, nasty mouthful of water aside, it was really well organised and well supported. We were rewarded for our efforts with a huge medal, and another swim crossed off the list and also brings everything right up to date.

Swim done and now off into the Big Smoke
 to celebrate with cake

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Part 10

On the back of an amazing swim in Coniston, I began looking to see if there were any other events nearby that I could enter. If I'm being honest I also wanted to have another bash at a 10k, and it would be a shame to not have a go whilst I was fit enough. Sure enough there was at the Blue Lagooners. We had been training there all through the season, and so it was a familiar venue. It's a great place with no nasty fish - it was my first question... so if I was going to have a good swim, it was going to be here.

My son had volunteered to be part of the safety crew and was part way round on one of the kayaks. It was lovely to have him there. It was a hot day, and the water temperature was 18 degrees. Perfect. The course was 10 laps of the full lake with a 100 metre sprint from the end back round to the beginning. There was going to be trouble. Diving in at the start of each lap was my first problem, you see I don't do diving in. My most previous attempt at a dive was actually a non-dive off the jetty at Hatfield in May. The jetty there is just so high that you could practically class it as tombstoning! And I'm not great with heights for a start. Despite the best efforts of the guys at Hatfield and the words of encouragement and bribery from Shark, I did attempt to dive in. Let's just say that it didn't go well and the red/ slightly purple, sore mark on my stomach afterwards was quite something. I'm not convinced that the looks on their faces afterwards was sympathy, shock or amusement. The time before that, and the reason that I don't/can't do it, was when I dived into water 35 years previously when I face planted the bottom of the shallow end at my local swimming pool. Now every time I attempt to overcome my fear I just see blue mosaic tiles, whether it's pool or a lake where I am assured that the bottom is 4 metres away, it doesn't matter. Still the dive did bag me a certificate at the Swimyourswim Christmas bash. I'm both delighted and offended at the same time!

The second problem was the 10 exits. From previous posts you'll know that I am rather unstable exiting the water. This is much improved by ear plugs, but there is still a good chance that I will make a complete idiot of myself, and possibly injure myself, or worse a spectator... still, I was prepared to risk it if they were. I actually did ok. The first two exits were less than perfect as expected, and I swear I ran double the distance I was meant to trying to right myself, but I worked out that if I came out like the March of Man I was ok. I wasn't the fastest, but it was most definitely the safest, give or take one collision (no man or beast was injured but there is a piece of blue carpet with an edge missing, and one toe (mine) with a blue nail.

The whole day was brilliant. I really enjoyed it, despite the less than professional entry, and the drunken stagger out (a huge thank you to the team for extracting me safely. They must possess some strength that's for sure), I was really pleased, and very relieved. And am the proud owner of a huge medal capable of causing serious neck injury if worn for too long. Worth it though!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Part 9

The weekend of Coniston has finally arrived!!!

We had driven up to The Lakes the night before, otherwise it would have been a very early start, but as we got nearer the darker the sky became. The forecast for the day of the swim was cloudy, and already it wasn't looking good. We went to where we would finish the swim to dip a toe in, literally testing the water, and decided that cold and choppy was the prognosis for the following day's swim.

Coniston the night before the swim.
The day of the swim arrived. I forced myself to eat some scrambled egg on toast, but didn't really taste it. The weather had brightened, and the wind had dropped; it was looking really nice - between the clouds. The temperature of the lake was warmer than the day before so it wasn't too bad. I knew it would take me a good mile to warm through, with the exception of my toes that are almost always cold regardless. 

The view from the Bluebird Cafe, Coniston
The swim was amazing, and we wouldn't have been in better hands. The support crew were constantly monitoring us, and our canoeist went above and beyond to help Shark with her foot cramp. I just wish I had a photo of it to share. I had no idea she was so flexible (and in a wetsuit too, who knew?)! The motorised support boat provided us with water and Jelly Babies and Jaffa Cakes (delighted). I took one, but it ended up in the lake before I had even attempted a bite. Ever tried treading water whilst holding one above the water line? No, thought not. It's like dunking it in tea, which professional Jaffa Cake eaters know doesn't bode well for the cake, and also shouldn't even be attempted. Ever. Developing a technique is something worth working on though for future swims, and was the focus of my thoughts for the next mile or so. 

The swim was going really well, and it was only in the last mile or so did I have a meerkat moment (you know those ones where something unexpected touched you? Or not, as is sometimes the case... When you stop dead in your tracks and look around like a meerkat with a worried/terrified look on your face - of which I have many!!!). I wasn't the only one, Shark had felt it too. There was no need to look under the water to see the cause for concern, you could see it. Weeds! Huge weeds and lots of them. Aside from the obvious problem of getting tangled up in them, my other, more pressing concern, was aquatic livestock! It lives/hides/hunts in this stuff. There was no way I was even attempting a food stop in this predatory environment. My strategy to survive the last mile? Eyes closed, stay close to Shark and kick like hell!

The time went so quickly I couldn't believe we were at the end, and despite a ropey exit worthy of an Oscar, where I banged my knee (I still need to work on this), we had survived in one piece!

Celebratory champagne, certificates and of course cake followed along with an amazing sense of achievement. 

That's me collecting my certificate whilst clutching some champagne.
It's a small bottle, I don't have enormous hands!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Part 8

I literally hit the floor running after Windermere. It was only a few weeks until Coniston. I didn't want to over train, but equally didn't want it to be a struggle. I relaxed a bit after Windermere and swimming became enjoyable again except for one thing. Following Shark's recent asthma attack the trainers at Hatfield issued me with a whistle to put up the leg of my wetsuit in case of an emergency. The irony is that Shark is actually a nurse and I am actually useless - as demonstrated at Windermere. They are really vigilant there, but felt better knowing that I could call them if I needed. I didn't need to use it once, but the problem I did have was not knowing what the protocol was with regards to needing a wee mid swim with a whistle up your leg. I'm pretty sure that Google would be of no help on this occasion. There's only 2 exits to my wetsuit (I am definitely not even considering the neck as an option for the purposes of this- way too grim), and unfortunately I can't guarantee it exiting down the non whistle leg. I'll never tell them whether I did or didn't though...

Now the weather was warmer, the water was just lovely to swim in, and we were enjoying the longer swims even more. On one of the swims we decided that we would try and push ourselves for a faster time. I had on my watch so knew that it would be fairly accurate. The course at Hatfield is 800 metres and on our 3rd lap round one of the coached appeared out of nowhere in a boat, using a klaxon to get our attention. Made us jump! He told us that there had been lightning seen and that we had to exit the water immediately and that he would warn all the swimmers and then come and collect us from the side. Unfortunately for my asthma suffering swim buddy I am terrified of thunder, and swam like the clappers to the side, leaving her mid lap. I didn't even look back to check on her... I do feel bad about it now, but would still do the same again. It's every man (swimmer) for himself on such occasions. They came round and picked us up, which would have been thrilling except for the fact that I know that lightening will hit the tallest part, and being taller than Shark, well that would just be Karma and serve me right, so keeping the snippet of information to myself I sat in the boat rather than stand like my fellow swimmers. I still don't feel bad about it, and my watch tells me that it was (and always will be) the fastest lap I've ever done, so thanks to lightning we got our fast time! It wasn't after all an official race, and so can't really be disallowed, can it?

The lake at Hatfield

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Part 7

The Great North Swim weekend arrived, and with it the nerves. I'd been really calm and focussed until the day of the 10k, which was the Friday. Unfortunately the race didn't start till 3pm and so I had the best part of a day to worry and stew over whether I had done enough. It's got to be a really bad case of nerves when your friend is trying to force feed you cake.

The evening view of Lake Windermere near the start/finish lines, from my room, prior to the swim and prior to the nerves.

At the start line- also the night before.
The water was a balmy 21 degrees Celsius and completely calm. Perfect conditions. I was very lucky. There were only 100 of us swimming the 10k, all of which looked like well seasoned athletes. I hung at the back waiting for them all to go first rather than risk another elbow injury. I suspect I was the only swimmer in this pod over 40!  I soon got into my rhythm with the help of the tempo trainer in my cap and so was able to keep to the stroke I'd been training at. Swimming in Windermere made for a lovely change view wise, however as it was 6 laps of the mile course by the time I was on my 3rd time round I realise that I would need to start thinking of something to occupy myself with. Lapping swimmers would have been a great one, but that wasn't happening, so it was back to thinking of ways to get those elusive concert tickets and my outfit choice for it should I be so lucky!

I'd just stopped at the pontoon at the end of lap 3 for some Jelly Babies, my only stop during the swim (I had a gel pack up my leg in case I needed it, but planned not to stop again), and getting into the rhythm again when someone tapped my toes. I'd read on some forums that in some pools this was etiquette if you wanted to overtake a slower swimmer. It let them know that you were there. I joked with Shark that if someone toe tapped me they were likely to get a (n accidental) swift kick in return, and yet here I was in a lake that is approximately 10 miles long by a mile wide getting toe tapped! I couldn't believe it, someone wanted me out of the way and were practically swimming over me rather than using the width of the lake to go round. The thing is in reality you can't actually swiftly kick anyone doing front crawl, I know, I tried (I tried really hard) and also there was a risk that I may injure myself. What to do? The next best thing - do a carefully timed wee...!!!

The swim went so well. I was determined that I would maintain a 30 minute mile throughout, but as the thing about open water is that there're no ropes to guide you, or tell you the exact distance you've swum, which means that you're never bang on the mark, and your time will be affected. I wore a watch with a GPS in it to be sure, and I was right, this swim was no exception to the rule. I swam 6.31 miles in total, despite the buoys!

I was exhausted when I got out, I'd put so much pressure on myself to swim it in 3 hours that I hadn't enjoyed it as much as I should have. The watch was great though as once I have taken the time I'd completed it, and taken off the stop time for Jelly Babies (at 3 miles) and taken into account the extra third of a mile, I'd done it.

This should have been one of those moments in your life where you really feel you've achieved something, and I had, but I was just so annoyed with myself for not taking a moment during the swim to realise it. This only meant one thing...enter another!!!

The 1 mile race that my son, Shark and I have entered together was on the Sunday. We arrived in good spirits and on the 2.5 hour drive there we had discussed our entry strategy, which was to get to the front and that way for the first few seconds we would be in first place!!! A great morale boost...And literally it really was for the first few seconds. My son went first and Shark and I followed. The plan for Shark and I was to swim together and enjoy the experience, however nothing about the start went to plan. We entered and I breathed to my right, and then to my left, and Shark was gone... It was such a scrabble that I'd lost her! After a frantic look round I gave up and thought perhaps that I might see her further along. Turns out she'd had an asthma attack, and had slowed down to do breast stroke to regulate her breathing. In the meantime I had also assumed that Jake had ploughed on ahead as usual, but he had been sick mid swim thanks to the Jelly Babies he had eaten before we swam. They do say that you shouldn't change anything you would normally do on the day of the swim. Never was that truer than today. When I got out, sub 30 minutes (get the bunting up and order a marching band!!) he wasn't there... Despite him now being 17 the mother mode kicked in, and after a worryingly long minute he emerged, shortly followed by Shark.

It was such a great day. We had so much support from family, friends, swim coaches (who came to watch us), colleagues (one of which swam with us in the same pod and deserves a mention), some of the staff at my son's school, including the head teacher joined him (us) for a swim when he was training at Hatfield and people we didn't know so well wishing us well, and also telling us we were completely mad (won't disagree). It's one of those teary moments when you realise you're surrounded by such a great and caring bunch. My son raised over £1,000 for the children's cancer charity Candlelighters fulfilling his promise to raise some money.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Part 6

As the distance swimming lengthened the amount of Jaffa Cakes and Jelly Babies I put in my supermarket trolley increased. Poolside they were discretely, along with gel packs, put in a plastic tub next to my water bottle, and by the lake were unceremoniously shoved in one of my shoes for safe keeping! Coffee and cake became the staple post swim food of choice, regardless of what any expert said. Any new venues were vetted and given a mark out of 10 for cake choices and for taste. If it was a low score for any subsequent swims there Shark would bake something for us and bring it. This had to be discretely done in order to have 2 slices because as soon as any fellow swimmers cottoned on to us we (Shark) were obliged to share.

Training was going well, and yet it wasn't until the delivery of my swim cap and race details from Great Swim that the reality of what in idiot I am set in. I decided that I should swim a longer distance (as near to a 10k as I could manage) prior to the swim in order to make sure that I was 'eating' enough during the swim. They had told me that they would provide water (hope they didn't provide it especially for me 'cause I usually swallow a few gallons of lake water per swim, and it really isn't necessary for me) and Jelly Babies from a pontoon. This meant that I would have to do the swim without my beloved Jaffa Cakes (very sad emoji should go here), although I shouldn't have worried, Shark gave me the gift of a new bucket (for my wetsuit), some Radox, some medicated muscle rub, ibuprofen and a packet of Jaffa Cakes for my swim, all of which I took with me.

My trial swim was a triumph. It really boosted my confidence and at that point I knew I would be fine. At the shorter lake swims now I was swimming with my son, I say swimming with, what I mean is that we set off at the same time, and he was out and partially dressed by the time I had finished! In the meantime H2Open Magazine (now known as Outdoor Swimmer) allowed me to write an article about my swim, which enabled the charity to have some much needed publicity.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Part 5

Unfortunately the winter saw us doing all of our training back in the pool. At first when we were still swimming relactively short distances it was fine, however as I began to gradually swim further (once a week as per training schedule) I realised the importance of keeping my mind active to avoid boredom. The things I organised/thought about/changed during these times ranged from meal plans, organising birthday parties, holiday trips, career choices, wardrobe choices, working out how to get myself a ticket to the sold out Maroon 5 concert (nope, still working on it). I spent one such swim purely focussing on the bacon sandwich I would have once I got out. Whatever gets you through, right?

Over the winter I received an e-mail from Great Swim informing me that there was a 10k swim in Windermere, and there was also availability on it. I thought about it, after all I was already training for Coniston, but decided against it. The places filled up by the time I had changed my mind back, but was shocked then Mother's Day came around as my kids had entered me for it having listened to my indecision, they entered me anyway!

The spring training training couldn't come soon enough for me. Swimming up to 500 lengths in a pool one swim meant that I was fitter, but I wasn't enjoying it. It was a means to an end, so to keep the momentum going Shark and I booked an open water 4 week training course at the beginning of the season in May, however when May arrived, spring did not!

The first swim of the 2016 season was the coldest I'd swum in at 10.1 degrees Celsius. Getting in took my breath away, but despite this I managed to not swear, although turns out I was in the minority on this occasion. I wasn't the only one feeling it. They put us through our paces, which I was truly grateful for. Keeping moving meant that I was able to stay in the water for an hour. I was bone cold when I got out, and despite advice not to have a shower straight away, ignored it and had one anyway. Should have listened, and won't be doing it again!

As the weather, and the water, warmed I was able to move to swimming open water twice a week. Once for the longer swim, and another shorter and more relaxed one, saving the indoor session for my stroke improvement lesson and sets.

One thing that I had to come to grips with for the longer swim was nutrition. I read various professional points of view, as well as asking people I knew that had some experience. All very useful, however was gutted to discover that none of them mentioned Jaffa Cakes. The only thing I took from that was that if it wasn't mentioned then it wasn't a no... I've since worked out, through bitter experience, that the consumption of Jaffa Cakes lakeside should be done with the utmost of care and involve more packaging than the original stuff it comes in to avoid disappointment, possible despair and a ruined swim!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Part 4

I am most definitely my own worst enemy. I had practiced diligently for the swim, listened to some good advice regarding exercise and nutrition, and felt ready on the day. It took up a lot of time and energy (emotional and physical) and sure it was gruelling at times, bloody cold, I'd more than once exposed parts of my body to fellow swimmers that would usually be covered, thanks to inadequate changing facilities and/or a stupidly too small towel (I still need to get myself a Dryrobe) and had many a spectacular loss of dignity trying to exit the water- still not quite achieved that one, but is much improved by the use of ear plugs, but on the flip side I'd met the most amazing bunch of people, eaten delicious cake in cafes and swam in the most breathtakingly beautiful places that you just don't get to see any other way. The reality is that I'd loved every single second of it (this does not include the fish et al).

So with another 3-4 months of the season ahead of me, and Shark recovering well, we began gradually swimming further. By the end of October, and our last swim, a night swim (a lot like swimming in ink), we were swimming 2 miles.

My son and I pre-dip.

In November 2015 we entered the Great North Swim again for the following June. My son, Shark and I all doing the 1 mile swim. At the same time a colleague asked me if I (and several others, including Shark) would consider swimming the length of Coniston (5.25 miles). She wowed me with a pre prepared video of some swimmers at Coniston on a sunny day, in a calm lake, with dynamic music playing in the background. I was completely drawn in and without too much thought I said yes. Looking back I should have asked for thinking time, and have no excuse for my impulsive decision. Looking into it further there were several organised swims, including one with Swimyourswim. After several discussions with Shark and the guys at Swimyourswim we felt that this was something, with a proper training plan, we could do.

I'm really not sure what we were thinking, I mean last year swimmimg a mile in open water was challenge enough, and suddenly I'm entering 5? I seriously considered mid life crisis as being the culprit because I simply don't have the excuse of youth to be that stupid.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Part 3

For the run up to the Great North Swim we swam at a couple of lakes, gaining in confidence and experience. Unfortunately as the date neared it became obvious that Shark wouldn't be able to swim with me as she needed surgery for a non skiing skiing accident (happened whilst on a skiing holiday but not from actually skiing. She is adamant that no alcohol was involved, but I'm yet to be convinced). Shark managed some training with me by using a pull buoy, however I realised that the majority of my open water training would be by myself from then on in. I have to confess, and this won't be news to Shark, is that my concern should have been for her, and a speedy recovery, however it wasn't, you see the thing about swimming with someone else is that if there are any hungry livestock in the water, by having two of you in the water at the same time you've halved your odds of it being you already! Or that was my theory.

With a month to go I could swim a mile in a pool with relative ease, but had yet to do it in a lake. So one sunny Sunday afternoon I took my family to a lake that I'd swim at once before and asked them to watch me from the side. Whilst I was busy concentrating on an encounter free swim (although how I would know would be a mystery as I swam the whole way with my eyes closed when I was under the water), turns out that my kids had been fending off the advances of one angry mother of a swan. They had retreated to the safety of the car (don't blame them) with their phones, and left me to it. If I had been eaten alive I'm not sure how long they would have left it before raising the alarm, although I suspect it would have been when one of three things occurred: they grew hungry, it got dark or their batteries ran out. I'll wager it would be the latter... I so wanted the photographic evidence for Shark and for my JustGiving page but when we looked back at the two photos they did take one was of my son's leg and the other a gravel path as they made a hasty retreat, and there was no way I was getting back in to recapture the moment,

Before the swim I heard a lot from all the non swimmers. Some offering good wishes, some words of wisdom, my favourite from the guys at swimyourswim, which was exactly that- swim your swim, and others a few horror stories. It was the stuff of myth and legend. One friend advised me to be careful of The Mallard. I'd been so distracted worrying about the stuff under me that I'd not considered there'd be angry ducks too. After realising the it was singular rather than mallards I made further enquiries. As it happens The Mallard is the ferry that goes from the east to the west shores and would be nowhere near the swim. My mind once again had been running away with me. I needed to get a grip.

The before...
The day of the swim arrived, and was amazing. I swam in the knowledge that there were 299 other swimmers in the lake with me, and that many limbs meant for sure that my odds were the best they'd ever been for getting out in tact, and the only thing I needed to worry about was a nasty elbow nudge, that didn't even bruise me (it waranted a massive one by the way).

I felt amazing having done it, and most importantly I had raised almost £2,200 for The Teenage Cancer Trust. It took me over 30 minutes to swim that mile, and as I had committed to swim again the following year with my son and Shark, I set me stall out to be sub 30 minutes the following year and at the time having no idea what lie ahead the following year...

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Part 2

Shark had been on the look out for something, and that something became the Great North Swim. We entered it straight away not giving ourselves chance to change our minds. My son was too young to swim at the time we entered, but promised to train with us and enter himself the following year - provided we survived this one!

We entered the mile swim with no open water experience whatsoever and began our training over the winter in the pool. I asked for a wetsuit for Christmas, and with limited knowledge (I scowered the internet for advice) I ordered half a dozen to try on before deciding on one. In hindsight I may have been a little previous as the swim wasn't until June the following year. I'd need to keep my weight stable for the next 6 months otherwise it wouldn't fit. Easy enough to say, but when you've a sweet tooth and loved Jaffa Cakes (which will feature heavily in this blog) this may prove to be more challenging than the actual swim itself!

We spent the winter training indoors and in the meantime researched, over countless coffees and cakes, local open water places to train. As the weather warmed up the reality of what we had done sunk in. We would be swimming in water that was home to various aquatic livestock, and once friends and family heard what we were doing were very forthcoming with stories of giant migrating halibut (impossible in a land locked lake I know, but I believed everything at the time) and enormous resident pike. Despite my fears I needed to get training in open water and getting some much needed experience.

It was recommended that we went in an introduction to open water swimming course, from stuff I'd read it would be very different from pool swimming (it is in so many ways) so as the weather warmed we enrolled on a course at Swimyourswim in Hatfield, promising ourselves the biggest slice of cake ever afterwards by way of reward. The course covered so many things from the dangers for cold water, including recognising the signs your body showed of the cold, how to enter the water safely, safety procedures and stroke techniques (and so much more) including the confidence to get in and have a go. I enquired at this stage as the the marine life that lived in the lake, which included pike, and asked them if they had bitten anyone. There was a lot of exaggerated eye rolling and the promise that I wouldn't be bitten by anything. I was apeased for the time being. 

Dressed in my new wetsuit I entered the cold water slowly, it was 14 degrees, I hadn't factored in how cold it would be. How could I have? Following all of the instructions, something strange and terrible happened. As soon as I was waist deep in the water an involuntary string of profanities spilled out of my mouth. It took me completely by surprise. I was assured that this was quite usual when people entered the water for the first time. Mortified I apologised again and again and got in. We swam 800 metres with one of the instructors, who half way round told us that his other job was as a vicar!!! I had said, amongst other swear words, the f-word in front of a vicar...You just couldn't write it could you?!?!? 

Part 3 to follow.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Bringing you right up to date...Part 1

To bring you up to date, here's how it began...

Up to the age of 39 my exercise of choice was running. My average weekly distance was 20 miles, and I loved every one of them. Then, unexpectedly after one of my runs, my left hip collapsed and I  unceremoniously dropped to the floor. Nothing elegant about it, and the struggle to get upright again was nothing short of undignified. After resting up for a couple of weeks and a visit to the physiotherapist there was still no improvement so I visited my G.P who couldn't immediately identify anything and sent me for an x-ray. After 4 years of trying (and failing) to run again combined with various painkillers, seeing a consultant, physio appointments and scans I was still in pain every time I ran and no nearer knowing the cause. It was with much regret that I had no choice but to find an alternative form of exercise, and Yoga being a big no-no after a previous attempt at 'downward dog' in 1999 resulted in a sprained wrist and bruised ego.

One of my best friends suggested that I try swimming with her and although my parents had insisted that my sister, brother and I had swimming lessons as children, horrific memories come to mind of a particular dive incident which included a nasty face plant, I hadn't swum since I left primary school, except for a few lengths on holiday each year. I found a tired and worn out costume at the back of a drawer circa 1995 and pre children (need I say more?) and a beach towel that had 'reserved' written on it, (I am nothing if not cool!) and off we went. The first time I swam 30 lengths of a 20 metre pool doing breast stroke. I was really chuffed AND I didn't even get my hair wet!
The second time I borrowed some goggles from my friend, and managed another 30 lengths. I also discovered that breast stroke was as painful to my hips as running was, however I'd really been enjoying it, and so the next time I tried front crawl, but only managed 20 lengths. It was exhausting but not painful. Hooray!

I made the decision to join the gym and booked myself to have some stroke improvement lessons. The first one was like the scene from there film Elf, where he is sitting on a chair amongst the other smaller elves. That was me - swimming alongside groups of children! It didn't put me off, in fact it made determined to crack it regardless of how ridiculous I looked, and I did look ridiculous. The sympathetic/amused looks from the parents told me all I needed to know.

At the same time I was talking with a colleague, a keen swimmer, who has since become a very good friend, partner in crime and swim buddy who invited me to join her. We swam for half an hour, and had a two hour visit to the cafe for coffee and cake afterwards which sealed our fate.

In the September of 2014 my son, who was 15 at the time, unexpectedly lost all of his hair. Following many tests the specialists at the hospital were unable to identify the cause, and suggested various treatments that may help. We tried them all, bar one, including steroids being injected into his head. My poor boy, it broke my heart to see his crying, and it was after this treatment and long discussions with him that we decided to stop. You may be wondering what the point is of me telling you this, and here it is...

Shark (swim buddy) and I enjoyed our swimming so much that we began looking for a challenge. Something to train and push ourselves for the following year. It just so happened that one evening my son and I were watching Stand Up To Cancer, hosted by Davina McCall, and a young boy was on who had cancer, and no hair due to the treatment he was receiving. We were both very moved by his story, and as we say there my son said "see mum, mine's not that bad is it?" I realised at that moment what a brave and resilient young man he was. This is the point when a swimming challenge also became a fundraising opportunity, and that in order to raise a decent amount we'd really need to pull something out of the bag!

More later...

Sunday, 11 December 2016

More about me:

In a previous life I was able to go for a run most days and eat what I wanted without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately I'm no longer that youthful gazelle that used to run for 10 miles without breaking a sweat and then attend a keep fit class at the gym, no, at 45 I am ever so slightly over middle aged with the daily battle of fighting the middle aged middle bit and avalanche leg, with no help from two teenage kids that eat like locusts and demand that I keep a house full of food all the time (in fact my son sees a full fridge as a challenge!), I am continually at the supermarket topping it up, and as a caring mother I am duty bound to test the biscuits and cakes for edability, flavour and dunkability before I let my babies anywhere near them. I'd never forgive myself if they had substandard biscuits and cake. It's the very least I can do...

I also bought a dog thinking that the long, brisk walks around the lovely woods near where I live would do me the world of good, however I have a dog who has me questioning her DNA for no spaniel that ever lived is as lazy as she is. She would rather not leave her bed and tries to make herself invisible, hide, or pretend to be deep in sleep in order to avoid a walk. She has also been known to make her own way home mid walk once she's had enough, in fact I say mid walk, it's usually when we get down the road or around the corner, or she just lays down and refuse to go any further putting an abrupt end to any exercise I thought I was getting.

See, bone idle!
Love that dog!
Exercising is still very important to me, and swimming is now the only exercise I am able to do thanks to dicky hips, an unstable knee (damn thing dislocates a lot), hypermobility, unhelpful children and dog, and it pays to be kind to your body at my age right?

I know I only started swimming a couple of years ago, due to curtain circumstances rather than as a first choice for exercise, but I can't believe how much I love it. I know that the training for Windermere is my toughest challenge to date, and I have my work cut out, bearing in mind the distance and the time frame I have but I'm lucky enough to have a supportive family who are already willing me on, a fantastic support group at Swimyourswim, Hollie who puts me through my paces at the pool, and of course I have Shark with me. And with all that I think I have it covered!

On a final, and very important, note, we will also be hoping to raise some money for a couple of small, local charities, which is the other reason why I (we) are doing it this year. I also hope that we are able to raise awareness of these charities and the vital support that they provide.


Dear All,

The reason for me writing this blog, I've told people, is to log the ups and downs, warts and all (sorry already. I'll do a blanket apology now for what may follow), I've made from having surgery on both of my feet at the beginning of January to swimming the length of Lake Windermere (10.1 miles) in August, when in reality the real reason is so that I can't chicken out!

Don't get me wrong, I love swimming and last year completed two 10k swims and swam the length of Coniston (also one of the lakes in the Lake District), which was 5.25 miles. Before I swam these distances I had worked on my stroke technique with a swim trainer and trained diligently with my swim bud (Shark), and at times with my son, and whilst there were a few ups and downs on the way, which included a couple of dramatic speed boat rescues, one health related (Shark, not me- she's fine now) and the other because of a nasty thunder storm, I was more than ready for the challenges.

This time last year I had already begun my training, starting off at shorter distances, and building up to longer distances nearer to the swims. This year I won't even be putting a toe in the water until the beginning of March, and won't have swum for 8 weeks!

Ordinarily I would have made the decision to swim Windermere after I'd been back in the water for a few months, test the water as it were, but this is a swim that I am doing with Shark (my swim buddy) for charity. The reason for it having to be this year I will explain later, and so without delay, as soon as the bandages come off, I need to be back in the pool... Not in the open water? I hear you asking. In march? That would be just Maverick!

I hope you enjoy reading my blog and sharing my experiences by offering me your support, Kudos and words of encouragement along the way.

Best Wishes