Friday, 21 April 2017

A nostalgic visit to the lake at Hatfield.


Cold day but glad to be here, and look at that lake...!

As I began my (pool) swim today I was hit by a bout of nostalgia. It was brought on by a visit to one of my swimming haunts at the weekend, and whilst I didn't even put so much as a toe in the water (far too cold yet), just being by the water, with the regular crowd (some of who didn't give it up for the winter) had me wishing for the warmer weather to arrive as soon as possible so I could be swimming outside rather than in.

As we (shark and I) were visiting it only seemed right to go along armed with cake. The bar was really high last year. Our fellow swimmers there really know how to bake, and I felt the pressure to pull something great out of the bag (unlikely). We had told Leon and Al (Swimyourswim) that we were coming, and would be bringing cake, so there was no getting out of it. I am relying heavily on Shark as our baking efforts up to date have been 80% hers and a measly 20% mine (she is such a pro, whereas I am not).

I committed to making a sugar free Jaffa Cake cake. I'd not made one before but Shark had (she gave me one to aid my recovery), and armed with the recipe I started. I am actually not too bad at baking, and can usually rustle something edible and I've had no complaints at home. Having said that I have also taught my children great manners and whilst usually knowing they are polite gives me a warm feeling, I'm all of a sudden not confident they have always been completely honest with me.

FaceTime with Shark.
Hers and mine.
It actually went really well, despite the pressure, and although my first attempt was less than presentable (even there dog wouldn't eat the bit that fell on the floor), the second one was actually ok. I was feeling quietly confident until Shark FaceTimed me to ask how I was getting on and showed me her amazing looking cake. As a face saving exercise, whilst mine was cooling, I hot footed it to Betty's Tea Rooms to purchase one of their lemon and lime cakes. I am at this stage prepared to pass it off as my own (making sure I had removed all evidence of fraud). Fast forward two hours and surprisingly it's not looking too bad. It's not burnt and it hasn't sunk. I have put on the topping - not the original chocolate topping though, as in the time it took me to go out to get the reserve cake and back it has been eaten. I made do with an orange glaze that looks ok. No-one has owned up to eating the chocolate, and I have threatened to not bake until the culprit owns up. Funnily enough no-one so far has...

I am not fastidious about presentation. I don't need to be for I have secret ingredients and real unicorn tears in my cake that promise cake Nirvana. Shark on the other hand pulls it off and sends me a photo of her seasonally decorated cake worthy of a WI rosette. It doesn't really matter though as I shall be turning up at Hatfield and claiming it as a joint effort.

This is the after shot of Shark's cake.
My before and after aren't all that different. 
It was great to see everyone and to be lakeside again. I was surprises at how many swimmers there were, and not one of them swore when they were getting in. I must ask them how they do it as I'm yet to manage that one! It was a lovely sunny day, but chilly. The lake looked inviting however 11.2oc is still too cold for me, and so we stood on the side drinking coffee, eating cake and putting the world right, oh, along with Al pointing out the new buoys on the lake, with large numbers on (he told me he chose large so my middle aged eyes could see them - they're also bright orange, I'm unlikely to miss them, but thank him for thinking of me all the same...), and some new signs.

Al pointing...

All very smart, but this sends me into a bit of a panic. The lake is ready, but I'm not! I've yet to order myself a Dryrobe and a wetsuit and even need some polarised goggles, and whilst I have been extolling all of my wonderful virtues in the baking world (there are literally hundreds you might be able to tell), I've proved that I'm not a ringing endorsement for the organised person I claim to be. Being at Hatfield has made me realise that I hadn't considered that if there was a freaky bout of early warm weather and the water warmed up a few degrees I'd want to be in the lake rather than in the pool. I need to galvanise myself into action if I'm to be ready. No more baking for the time being (some will be relieved), only essential shopping!!



Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Importance of Rest Days.


It's 7:24 on a Sunday morning and I'm still in bed having a lie in. Not much of one since I'm wide awake and forcing myself to stay put. My slightly competitive self is tortured. I am already tetchy thinking about to the lack of progress when it comes to the speed of my recovery and the fact that Windermere is only 4 months away. It's only been just over a month since I ventured back into the pool and I would say that during this time there have been very many lows with a scattering of highs, so having a rest day does not sit that comfortably with me. I mean, rest days? I'd been pretty much bed ridden for 7 weeks. I don't need another rest day!

As I eat my breakfast I mull over the possibility of bending the rules, after all a rest day doesn't mean sitting on the sofa with a box of Jaffa Cakes watching the Sunday matinee does it? I have a lazy dog that needs walking (although I can't rely on her to cheat the system), and my kids have asked if I will play badminton in the garden with them (I'm not that keen on this, as I am yet to win any game - they too are competitive, but I am tempted, after all it's not the winning...). Suddenly I'm thinking Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid might be onto something, and although I'm not all that enthused by a game of badminton, my car does need a polish and I do have a fence that could do with a lick of paint (I think I actually need staff!). Definitely drawing the line at balancing on a log on one foot, not with my dicky hips and feet. It'd be carnage. It's an accident waiting to happen. I confess, playing badminton and painting fences is not all that appealing if I'm honest, but my kit bag is. This rest day doesn't feel beneficial, it feels lazy and I'm all out of sorts with myself. I need convincing that it's going to benefit me. Once again I resort to the internet to find the information I need, and if necessary prove a point that will enable me to go for a guilt free swim.

As I (re)search it becomes clear very quickly that rest days are very much considered an important part of any training plan, and there's heaps of evidence to back this up. There are different opinions about how many you should have each week, and when, however it's the reasons why you should have them that has surprised me. I've never given any thought about what my body would be doing whilst I'm not swimming. I just assumed it was about resting sore muscles and a free pass to have a lie in, but it's so much more than that.

I have so far actually been completely missing the point. Why didn't I do this sooner? Whilst I've been thinking that my body hasn't been doing anything other than taking it easy, in actual fact it's being anything but lazy. This rest day isn't a rest day at all. My body is working hard, and time off provides it the opportunity to strengthen, recuperate, rebuild and recover. It's about giving my immune system time to repair, which if not given the opportunity could leave me susceptible to injury, (this should be incentive enough - If I'm injured I'm on bed rest again and back to square one). There's plenty of research, but it's Dr Vern Neville at Loughborough University who really struck a chord for me. He says "recovery isn't just important, it's a biochemical necessity." A rest day allows my body the opportunity, and time for all of these essential biochemical processes to take place. And in return? I will be stronger, I will have more resistance, I will be less prone to injury and I will have more energy. In brief, I will see an improvement. Yey!

Up until now I had always thought that the more I trained, the bigger the gain, but now I understand the importance of a rest from swimming and I shall use the remainder of my day wisely by continuing to improve my understanding, oh and also may spend some time researching spa days for next time. And as I am now following it to the letter, when my kids come to me and ask if I'd like to go and play some badminton in the garden with them... I shall decline, after all I am on a necessary rest day!



Saturday, 8 April 2017

In search of the perfect swim bag...


I'm not entirely sure if it's the ethos of being a Girl Guide that is so embedded in me that I just can't help myself. I feel the need to carry absolutely everything I may need for any emergency around with me everywhere in an overly large handbag. This includes: hair grips, pen and paper, plasters, a bandage, a safety pin, tape measure, string, torch, peg, cotton and thread, face cloth, Tiger Balm, buttons and so on. It's the fear of never knowing when an emergency will happen and the need to "be prepared." I've not actually ever had a real emergency situation thank goodness, but I do worry because although I have pretty much have everything I think I might need, that age old statement 'all the gear, no idea!' would truly be appropriate when it comes to me. I really wouldn't have a clue what to do if faced with one.

I have decided this year to purchase a swim bag and after an exhaustive research I've opted for a rucksack. What I love are pockets, lots and lots of them, and this one fits the bill. My decision to replace the garden bucket that I used last year to transport my wetsuit etc. from home to venue and back again was based on the fact that there was nowhere to put my stuff and with limited space there's nothing more embarrassing than getting your towel or wetsuit out to find that an item of underwear has also vacated the bucket, sometimes when you weren't even aware, and you have to deny the escapee is yours, forcing you to go home commando.

Now my bag has arrived my Girl Guide self is already filling it like a master packer with 'what if' items: What if I cut my finger? (plasters) What if there are no washing facilities? (wipes, tissues, liquid soap). What if I get cold? (silver blanket). What if Shark needs saving mid swim? (whistle), and so on and such forth till all pockets are allocated. In fact I've covered pretty much every eventuality almost to the detriment of the stuff I actually need to swim with, however manage to compress the essentials, namely wetsuit, goggles, spare goggles, towel, anti chafing balm (not that I chafe you understand), ear plugs, spare ear plugs, drink, swim cap, flip flops, clothing, contact lenses, snacks, Jaffa Cakes, money and finally my lucky mascot into the remaining pockets, and after a long hour of careful packing I was feeling decidedly chuffed with myself and decide a dry run is in order.

This is the moment that I realise there are two things that I haven't considered. Firstly how on Earth am I going to successfully and swiftly deal with an emergency when all of my 'what if' items are squirrelled away in the bag that's teeming with pockets? I would have to perform a scavenger hunt around my bag looking for it, thus wasting valuable time. Secondly, how heavy the bag is. Even with my beefy arms that would even impress the likes of Geoff Capes, I am struggling to pick it up, let alone put it on my back. The solution? Empty the bag, remove the less essential items (that'd be possibly the silver blanket and the liquid soap), produce a spreadsheet/inventory of its contents and their location, and repack in a more orderly fashion.

So with a plan in place I begin, and immediately discover another flaw. If you put your wetsuit and your clothing (namely spare underwear) in the same bit, your 'clothing' is very likely to leave the bag at the same time as the wetsuit, sometimes quite spectacularly and sometimes unbeknown to you, leaving you possibly compromised (depending on your point of view) similarly to the bucket, and so now the penny has dropped and I realise the the underwear absconding isn't because of the bucket, or the rucksack, it's because of me - let's call it human error... Wetsuits and underwear should always be packed separately at all costs! See, always learning...Perhaps if I'd worked this our sooner I wouldn't have had to go home without as it were, or had to fork out for a new bag after all, but then again I have to ask, can a girl have too many bag- swimming or other?