Tag Archives: Cornwall


2 Sep

Well, the adventure has a started 🙂

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. I’ve been busy trying to get everything ready for work as it’s the start of the academic year, whilst also preparing for two conferences, and also getting stressed about the Big Swim. Disaster has also struck… I first bought a MacBook Pro in 2006 and was very happy with it, but in 2011, the battery overheated and warped the laptop, so I got it replaced. Sadly, my newer laptop has befallen a similar fate. It has overheated and has damaged the graphics card, so it has gone away to the Apple Store to be repaired. This is hugely inconvenient for many reasons, but it also means that I’ve been struggling to blog (I am in awe of anyone who regularly manages to blog on a phone).

Since getting back from Dublin, I’ve done nothing but swim. There have been no running sessions, and my cycling has been limited to my daily commute. Unfortunately, I was more fatigued from Dublin than I realised and I’ve had some awful swims, which has dented my confidence a little. I also went to a tri club swimming session with a coach I hadn’t met before. I knew I wasn’t swimming well. At the end of the session, the coach asked me how long I had been swimming for and I replied, “Two years”. His response, “Hmmm. I just don’t know where to start.” which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

I sat down with my coach, Olly, and worked out what training I would do in the fortnight leading up to the swim. I decided to go for more pool sessions, rather than lake swimming as I’m more concerned about my speed than my endurance and I know I’ll be OK in the sea. Olly reassured me that I would be fine, but I know how slow I am.

Sunday was Lymington Sprint Triathlon, which was my club’s championship race. I really wanted to do it, but Olly firmly advised against it (“No!” Was his exact guidance), so I was sensible and just spectated. It looked like a lot of fun, with a 500m swim in the saltwater baths.

Monday was a Bank Holiday, which was great as it gave me an extra day at home, but it also meant that there was no Tri Club swim in the evening. As a consequence, Roelie, Stuart and I decided to go to Boscombe (where I recently did a 3.8km swim) for an hour of swimming.

I thought Boscombe should be relatively safe as it’s where sea swim events are held. There is a long promenade with some brightly coloured beach huts, and also a shower area. On Monday, there was a beach volleyball tournament taking place… However, it was raining, so most participants were wearing more than skimpy bikinis!

There were quite a few jellyfish in the sea when I last swam here, but the sea was a little colder and it was overcast, so I didn’t see any. Another positive, was that it was not at all breezy, so the sea as beautifully calm and still and it was easy to see the bottom. As we walked down the cliff path, we could see a couple of open water swimmers in the sea.

We arrived on the promenade by the lifeguard hut, which had red and yellow flags outside, however, the area marked out for bathing is only about 25m wide, so we decided to ignore it. As there were no waves, we knew that we did not have to go very far out to swim. We chose to swim parallel to the shore, so that if anyone had a problem, it would be easy to get back to the beach. I also agreed with Stuart that he would loop back to keep an eye on me as he’s a much stronger swimmer than I am. (Although I’m a terrible swimmer, I’ve always felt reasonably confident about my ability to float or do backstroke. However, the tragedy of Paul Gallihawk – a novice triathlete who drowned during the swim of his first race – has struck a chord and has reminded me of just how dangerous open water swimming can be). The positive of swimming close to shore is that there were no boats or jet skis around, so I wasn’t afraid that I would be run over and die like Kirsty MacColl (one of my greatest swimming fears).

I had realised in the car that I had forgotten my Garmin, but Stuart kindly agreed that I could borrow his, as I wanted to see what my pace was like.

We started by the pier and swam 500m down to the lifeguard hut. I had a quick look at my watch and was pleased to see that I had swum the 500m faster than in 2:29/100m (40 minute/mile). I wasn’t sure which way the current was going – this had also been the easy section during my last swim here. I turned around and saw that Stuart had joined me. He decided to do some lazy backstroke and I followed him. I didn’t think I was drafting particularly, but was amazed to find that my pace for the second 500m was 2:01/100m – that’s faster than I do in the pool!!! I did 500m in 10:04 🙂

I turned around and did another 500m, pausing briefly to smile and wave at another open water swimmer. At the lifeguard hut, I turned around and swam back, keeping an eye on Roelie who was swimming to my left. Roelie and Stuart stopped, but I kept swimming around in circles to get the final 10m that I needed to finish at 2000m. My final time was 45:23. I really enjoyed this swim as a I had felt calm and had not pushed too hard, but had swum at the necessary pace. Bizarrely, when Stu uploaded the data onto his computer, it said I had only swum 1999m, and we he exported the file and sent it to me, the data was different again. How can that happen?!

Yesterday evening, we drove down to Cornwall. There were some very slow drivers on the road (30mph in a 60 zone!) so we didn’t arrive until nearly 11pm. This meant we had enough time for a quick cuppa before going to bed. This morning we had an early start and were quayside in Penzance by 7:40am.


In the queue for the Scillonian, we met another swimmer. He said that he has swum 5km in a pool, but his longest open water swim is 1 mile, which has made me feel a bit better.

The weather was relatively good and the sea wasn’t too rough, but I felt really queasy, so I spent quite a lot of the voyage up on deck in the fresh air.

It was such a relief when land came into view!


There were also a few sailing boats.





After we disembarked, we walked across the island to our apartment. We spent a little while unpacking and then headed out to find some lunch. Fortunately, there was a cafe not far away, with beautiful sea views.



Then we went for a walk into town. We intended to go for a practice swim, but it had turned a bit cold and we were feeling tired, so we decided just to go to Co-op to buy some food for our evening meal and for breakfast. After walking a short distance, e found we had some followers!


So, we’ve had our first day on St Mary’s. Tomorrow, we’ll probably go for a short swim and then on Friday there is an acclimatisation swim where we will be put into groups. I know I’ll be in the slowest group, but hopefully there will be others who swim at my pace.


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.


Penrose parkrun

18 Apr

Penrose parkrun #4 on 18th April was my first run since we got back from Japan and I was confident that I was feeling fit and healthy, even though I was fighting jet lag.

I had looked at previous results and thought that I could do well… however, I was entirely unaware of just how tough the course would be.

We arrived early at the car park, but had to jog 2.5km to the start. Fortunately, a chap who was in training for London marathon met us, so we started talking to him whilst running – well, I say ‘we’, but actually meant Stuart, the pace was a bit quick for me and I was doing my best just to keep up!

There were various people milling around near the start.

Penrose parkrun1

After a brief briefing, we headed to the start point. I was aware that the first part of the course had a bit of an uphill, but was pleased to find that there was also a downhill, where I managed to pass a couple of runners.

Then it was onto a long drag uphill. It was along the cliffs so there was a gale-force wind refreshing breeze. At the start, several runners wearing long-sleeved tops and tights had commented on my shorts and t-shirt, but I was glad that I wasn’t wearing more. I saw a chap start to remove an extra layer and called out to him about how warm it was. we then started chatting. Like me, he was a parkrun tourist. He commented that his wife hates it that he is able to run faster than him; I explained that with a husband as quick as mine, I also have the same problem.

We turned a corner and found ourselves on a steeper incline. At this point, we both agreed that some speed walking might be more successful than our slow jog. I can’t remember the last time I walked during a parkrun, but I was grateful of a rest at this point. Surely there must be a downhill soon?

We carried on uphill and finally saw a downhill and the finish.

Penrose parkrun 2

Having originally aimed for a sub 27 minute parkrun, I was relieved that I had finished in under 30 minutes!

Penrose parkrun

Penrose parkrun

This is a picturesque course that definitely suits people who like cross-country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start and finish in the same place, so there isn’t the fantastic downhill finish that I had been hoping for, although it did mean that the walk back to the start wasn’t too bad.

What goes down…

8 Feb

Stuart and I decided that as we were in Cornwall today and a parkrun has finally started, we ought to go and try it out. It’s at Lanhydrock, a lovely National Trust property that is about 40 miles away from where my mum lives and not very far at all from Eden Project.

We had to get up early and the weather here has been horrendous, so I wasn’t really looking forward to the run, but at 7:30am, there wasn’t much traffic on the road, so it was an easy drive. We arrived just after 8am, so there weren’t many people around. Initially, I had thought that I might be able to do a few kms before the run and a few kms after the run and magically it would turn into 13 miles of marathon training (or I would manage to do about 10km and could do the other 10-12km later on today), but we realised on arrival that we wanted to find the toilets!

It was quite a long walk from the car park to Lanhydrock House and it was quite chilly. We passed the Run Director on the way down and said hello.


Lanhydrock is a beautiful house, although somewhat compact in comparison with some of the grander National Trust properties. I was proud to see the Cornish flag flying:


We then headed back up towards the start where a few people had started to gather. We’ve been to fairly small parkruns before and enjoy the local atmosphere, but as this was only the 4th event, there hasn’t really been enough time for the community atmosphere to form. Lanhydrock parkrun isn’t associated with any particular running club (no club has had more than 16 runners there so far) and a lot of the runners were unaffiliated.

On our back to the start, we passed the finish funnel, and I started to wonder about what the route would be like. Would we have to run back up the hill to the finish? …and would we then have to walk even further up the hill to the start where I was going to leave my bag with money for refreshments?


Stuart and I decided to do a little warm up jog as it was still quite cold and breezy and there wasn’t a lot of shelter. We ran a few hundred metres down a path and then back. The Run Director then started her briefing, but it was difficult to hear as some people were enjoying a raucous conversation just behind us. We were warned that the only signs on the course were 3-2-1 Run England marker posts and I assumed that it was a one lap course. There was also mention of a fallen tree and a part of the course where we would get our feet wet… and then it started to rain a little…

We headed off down the path towards the manor house and then turned left through a gateway, where we encountered a cobbled path. It turned uphill and I couldn’t see how far up we had to run, so I decided not to push too hard. Stu had decided to run with me. We hadn’t gone far when the path started sloping downwards again. Although the rain had stopped, it was very slippery with a lot of mud and loose stones, as well as there being quite a few turns. I enjoy running downhill, but as the title of this post alludes, I kept reminding myself that in a circular run route, what goes down, must come back up!

After about 1.5km we came across a fallen tree that we skirted around. It wasn’t very large, but I assumed that it was what we had been warned about. We continued on and saw the first runner go past, at great speed. Then at 2km, we reached an enormous tree that had been felled by the horrendous weather. It makes me so sad to see something like that as I wonder how many trees that are saplings now will live to such a great age. At this point, I was feeling rather warm, so I removed my gloves and jacket whilst running.

At about 2.5km, Stu and I arrived at the ‘water feature’. I was expecting a rather large puddle, but was totally unprepared for having to run in a river for about 500m. It was quite cold, but my feet were feeling warm, thanks to my lovely Salomon Speedcross shoes.

We came out of the water and onto the path where we had seen the first placed runner earlier. I knew that as we were nearly 3km into the run then it was going to be a couple of kilometres of uphill running. Ahead, I could see some people were walking and I did wonder whether it would be faster, but I didn’t want to let myself down, so I pushed on. We passed a cheery marshal by another fallen tree and then crossed a field. At times, there are sheep and cows on the course, but we were fortunate enough not to encounter any today. Finally, Stu pointed out that we were on the path where we had done a warm up earlier – yes – we were going to have a downhill finish.

The final 200m was downhill all the way. Stu ran ahead to pick up my shoebag and then we charged down the hill to the finish. I finished in 32:45, which is one of my slowest runs ever, but I really enjoyed it. I was 37th out of 56 runners and was 12th out of 22 female runners. I was also first in my age category (out of two!) The first finisher managed to complete it in 17:52, which is a new course record.

After we finished running, Stu and I stopped to cheer on some of the other runners, as well as chatting to some of the volunteers, before heading back down to the house for some refreshments.


Part of me was tempted to look around the house, as it’s about 20 years since I was last here, but I also wanted to warm up and have a drink.


I had thought about offering to help with the kit, but looking back, I could see the team had it covered…


As I walked into the courtyard, the sun came out, which helped to show off the beautifully manicured garden. Then the parkrun volunteer team arrived. I am so jealous of the little truck to carry their kit about – it would be fab if we could have one in Southampton!


I think that if I had seen the course profile before we did the run, then I may not have been brave enough to get out of bed. It definitely felt as challenging as any of the cross country races that I’ve done, even if it was shorter than most of them.

Lanhydrock parkrun course profile

In short, I would describe it as 2.5km of steep, twisty, turny, slippery, rocky downhill trails, followed by 500m of running IN a river and then 1.98m of uphill slog, with the last 2oom being a lovely downhill run. It is the toughest parkrun that I have ever done, even when compared with Alice Holt!