Tag Archives: Chestnut Appeal

St. Michael’s Mount Swim

19 Jul

Back in January, Stuart and I signed up for a 2.5km swim around St. Michael’s Mount in aid of the Chestnut Appeal, a local cancer charity. We thought it would be a good step towards the Scilly Swim Challenge and also an opportunity to go home to Cornwall for the weekend. We chose this event because the Chestnut Appeal is a men’s cancer charity that supports men in the south-west – Stu’s dad is a cancer survivor and my dad died of cancer.


The day of the swim finally arrived and after a morning in St. Ives, we headed into Penzance for a bit of shopping before travelling back to Marazion. We registered for the swim and got our numbers written on our hands: 26 for me and 27 for Stuart. We then had an hour or so to wait before the event, so we went to the Godolphin Arms, a nearby pub, to have a (non-alcoholic) drink.

The race briefing was at 5:30pm. It was relatively informal and we were asked to be considerate of swimmers of other abilities. Fast/competitive swimmers were asked to line up at the water’s edge, with slower swimmers a couple of steps back and the slowest swimmers a bit further back on the beach.


Last week there has been some concern about how rough the sea was, but it looked very calm and still as we were waiting, which helped to calm my nerves a little.

St Michael's Mount

St. Michael’s Mount is a tiny Cornish version of France’s famous Mont St. Michel. On the island there is a historic property that used to be a monastery and is no home to the St. Aubyn family. It’s managed by the National Trust and is a beautiful place to visit. At low tide, it’s possible to walk across a stone causeway to the mount, but it is cut off when the tide comes in.

tams and stu2

Stuart and I at the water's edge

Stuart and I at the water’s edge

There was a bit of time to acclimatise to the water and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite warm. Most swimmers had wetsuits on, but there were a few brave skins swimmers, including one lady who was sporting a fetching red polka dot number with matching lipstick!

tams and stu3

Stu and I got chatting to another swimmer whilst acclimatising

At 6pm, we went and lined up – Stu at the water’s edge and me a bit further back. The horn sounded and we were off. Marazion looks deceptively flat, but I was only able to wade about 5-10m before I had to start swimming. It wasn’t the usual rough triathlon start, but quite a few people ahead of me were doing breast stroke, so I had to watch out for feet, which is tough when you are also watching out for stray clumps of seaweed. Farmers regularly gather seaweed from the beach here to fertilise their fields – there are large beds of bladder wrack and my enemy, oar wrack, which seems determined to strangle me.

SMM swim

After the group had thinned out a bit, I really started to enjoy my swim. The water was calm and clear and there was a lot to look at underwater, including the cobbled causeway that can be used to walk to the Mount at low tide. I found that I was swimming a group with quite a few others, which was reassuring.

As we got towards the rear of the mount, the water started getting really choppy, and it was hard to see which way to go. We had been warned not to go too close as there are a lot of dangerous rocks, but I couldn’t see any of the safety kayakers who were meant to be guiding us away from the rocks.

choppy at the back

Choppy sea behind the Mount © Karen Wolff

I did a couple of strokes of breaststroke to get my bearings and felt a stinging sensation in my foot. I put my face back in the water and realised that I had swum into a smack of moon jellyfish 😦 They were quite small (7-8cm diameter) and very pretty, but I didn’t want to touch any more of them.

the view from the rear

It was a beautiful evening and we got to see the rear of the Mount © Karen Wolff

swim in

© Karen Wolff

There were some very large waves, which made sighting hard and my stroke became quite erratic. I was really glad when we finally rounded the corner and I could see the long harbour wall along the side of the Mount. I managed to catch up with a group of three local swimmers and although I thought I could pass them, I decided to save some energy and draft them for a bit. The sea is much deeper on this side of the mount, and although there was still quite a lot of seaweed it wasn’t possible to see the bottom. There was a schooner anchored just off the mount, which was interesting to see.

We had been told to head back to the slipway to finish the swim, but high tide was at 7pm and so it was really hard to see the slipway, so I decided to follow the others… But then I realised that their sighting was worse than mine, so I struck out on my own. After a few minutes, a kayaker pointed out to the others that they were going in the wrong direction, so they started following me.

Soon we could hear the cheers of the supporters on the slipway and beach wall. I got out of the water in 57 minutes and was handed a medal by a young lad, before collecting a bottle of water and a delicious Philps pasty – why aren’t pasties given out at the end of every race?!

Made it!

Made it!

tams SMM swim2

just finishing

The end of my swim © Karen Wolff


I really enjoyed this event and would strongly recommend it to others.


Food, friends and supraspinatus problems

22 Feb

I need to get back to being organised as I’m not blogging very consistently these days. To try to catch up, I thought I’d share a few photos that illustrate what I’ve been up to.

Stu and I went for a Valentine’s Date to a new coffee shop that has opened up. GL has a lovely range of home-made cakes (although they seemed a little pricy) and the decor was cute and quirky.

Valentine's date with Stu

Valentine’s date with Stu

I’ve also been trying to eat more healthily – sometimes it works, but I’m not winning often enough as I seem to be addicted to sugar at the moment.

Scrambled egg on toast with cheese

Scrambled egg on toast with cheese

Vegan chipotle chilli with ‪quinoa‬ and ‪amaranth‬

Vegan chipotle chilli with ‪quinoa‬ and ‪amaranth‬

I’d love to share a recipe for my vegan chipotle chilli with quinoa and amaranth, but it was mainly throwing in what I could find in my kitchen and hoping that it turned out OK! A very simple recipe that I made this week and can share with you is for a delicious, healthy, paleo, vegan chocolate mousse:

Avocado chocolate mousse

I’ve read several variants of this recipe that call for the addition of almond/coconut milk and something as a sweetener (agave nectar/dates/sugar/honey – yes, I know that’s not vegan), but I didn’t feel the need to make it sweeter.

Have you ever tried this dessert? What ingredients do you use?

As you may know, Stuart and I are fundraising for the Chestnut Appeal this year, via justgiving. The charity kindly sent us some running vests this week. Stuart wore his out for a training run, so I made him pose for a photo. I’ve also worn mine for a training run with some work colleagues, but I didn’t take a selfie… maybe next time!

Stuart in his Chestnut Appeal vest

Stuart in his Chestnut Appeal vest

Despite a hailstorm yesterday, spring finally seems to be on its way. Buds can be seen in gardens and I’ve left work in daylight a few times recently, which is fantastic. I’m looking forward to being able to go out for bike rides after work.  Another advantage of arriving home before it’s dark is that I get to see my neighbour’s pug. I have no idea what his or her name is, but they’re s/he’s adorable!

Neighbour's pug

Neighbour’s pug

There are also likely to be some big changes at work soon with some colleagues leaving and new staff being recruited. The first person to leave is my friend Kerry who is going to work in Australia. I’m so jealous of her! My colleague Anna and I took a quick selfie to bid farewell to Kerry.

Farewell to Kerry

I admire Kerry for being brave enough to change her life in such a dramatic way. A lot of people talk about how they want to change their situation, but never do anything about it.

On Monday, I went to swimming as usual and ended up being observed by not one, but two coaches for almost 45 minutes. Everyone else was carrying on with the planned swim set (I think it was 400m reps), whilst I swam up and down, 50m at a time, with fins on whilst being given a whole stream of adjustments to make. Coach Peter has been trying for over a year to make me a good swimmer and I think he’s starting to run out of ideas. He regularly tells me: ‘You’d be a good swimmer, if you didn’t have to breathe”… of course, the problem is that I do need to breathe. I try so hard to do exactly what I’m told, but I always seem to end up lifting my head out of the water. This week, Peter go Coach Jo to come over and observe me as well. Jo told me that I needed to lift my head higher in the water. This felt more comfortable, but very different as I’ve never tried swimming with my head in this position before. I’m hoping that it will create a bow wave so that I can breathe without choking. Peter also identified that there seems to be a timing problem with my breathing, but I’m not aware of it myself. It would make sense for me to be filmed soon so that I can see the problem – I find that this makes it easier for me to work out what I need to change.

At the very end of the session, Peter got me to stand against the wall with my arms stretched out against the wall (palms outwards) at shoulder height. I then bent my elbows at 90 degrees, so that my hands were at head height. I then had to rotate my arms at the elbow, until my palms touched the wall. I found this very difficult and told coach peter that I have tight shoulders. It turns out that was what he was looking for… I could have told him that a year ago! I now have to do exercises twice a day every day in the hope that increasing the range of movement in my shoulders will improve my swimming.

On Friday, I had a fantastic shoulder massage from my running friend Becky, which has helped to loosen up my shoulders a bit. Becky thinks the problem is probably located in the supraspinatus muscle – as it was gristly when she massaged it there, I reckon she’s right!

Saturday morning’s swimming session turned out to be a session that focussed on legs and kicking drills, so I didn’t really get to feel the benefit of Becky’s massage. Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll be able to see whether there has been any improvement!

If anyone can recommend any shoulder exercises that will benefit me as a swimmer, I’d love to hear them 🙂

Sinking not swimming…

7 Feb

This year I need to focus on my swimming. A month of 2015 has gone by and I’ve really not achieved very much yet. If I’m going to complete the Scilly Swim Challenge, I’m going to need to start pushing myself soon.

I have to be able to swim a mile in 40 mins (consistently), which is just under 25 mins per km. My average for January was 26:32/km which isn’t good enough. I also only swam 2.8km in the whole month*. That’s the least I’ve swum in a month since I got my Garmin 910XT at Christmas in 2013. I’ve already swum 2km so far this month, so I should be able to surpass my January achievements.

*Maybe I should cut myself a little slack as I wasn’t allowed to swim for most of January as a consequence of having laser eye surgery in December.

cyanide and happiness laser eye surgery

I’m trying to work out what I should do as training for the Scilly Swim Challenge – I’ve got 30 weeks (7 months), but in that time, I need to train for: my cycling trip to Japan, Southampton Half Marathon and Ironman Dublin 70.3.

I’ve had a look at various training plans online:

The recommendation seems to be that I need to swim at least 15-20km a week. As a minimum, I want to be able to swim 6km in one go, so I’m going to need to get myself to the lake for a lot of open water swimming. However, the lake doesn’t open until April and I know that my lungs really dislike me being in cold water.

If anyone can recommend a training schedule (either online or a book), I’d love to hear from you. I’ve read plenty of training plans for iron distance swimming (3.8km) and for 5km swims, but there’s not a lot out there for the distance I want to do.

Several of the sites that I’ve read whilst looking for information have said that cycling and running won’t really help with swimming, but that Pilates or yoga will. I’ve not been able to go to yoga for a year now, but I’d love to go back. One of my yoga teachers has shared some short practices online. This one, yoga for neck and shoulder tension, is a nice five-minute practice:

If you enjoyed that, Laura has a YouTube channel, so you might want to subscribe.

I’m also on the look out for a new wetsuit. My 2XU wetsuit has done me well for the last couple of years, but it’s now too big for me, so I’m searching for something that fits me better, to get me through the 2015 season (and hopefully beyond!) I know that it will come down to what is available in my size, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on different brands and models.

If nothing else works, I’m hoping that this TED Talk by the completely awesome long distance swimmer Diana Nyad will inspire me to get back in teh water more frequently. It’s called ‘Never, ever give up’:

Stuart is doing the Scilly Swim Challenge with me. This event will take both of us out of our comfort zone, so we’re hoping to raise some money for an important charity (Chestnut Appeal for Prostate Cancer) along the way. If you’d like to sponsor us, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/TamsynandStuswim/

Fundraising for the Chestnut Appeal

25 Jan

Chestnut Appeal logoThis year, Stuart and I are raising money for the Chestnut Appeal, which supports men with prostate cancer in the south-west. It is an important charity that has funded six nurses and a variety of treatments and equipment.



The events that we are doing:

I only started learning to swim in 2013 and neither of us has ever swum more than 2.8k before, so this is going to take a lot of training. Stuart and I are hoping that you’ll support us on our way to completing this tough year… and that you’ll also sponsor us to help our chosen charity. To make this easy, we have set up a JustGiving account:


Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

We are hoping to raise £200 (about US$300), and are very grateful to everyone who has already sponsored us, as we’re already a third of the way there. It is possible to donate in a variety of currencies, including GB£, US$ and €. Every donation, no matter how small, will make a difference to someone’s life.

Massive THANK YOU to Rob, Neil, Henry, Di, Clare, Ellie, Gary, Chris and Adrian – your generous donations are much appreciated 🙂

Good Fri Tri finishers

Stuart and I at the end of the Good Fri Tri