Tag Archives: open water swimming

Hitting new swimming targets

10 Jul

Last night I cycled straight to the lake after work. When I got there Stu was waiting with my swimming kit, so I got changed as quickly as possible.

We headed down to the lake and I zipped up my wetsuit. Unfortunately, the rip in it is getting worse and every time I bent over, I could feel it rip further :’-(

I decided to try out the ear plugs that Stu bought me a while ago (Love is… some ear plugs from your partner!)

The water felt a bit chilly as I got in, but I think that’s because it was very warm outside and I had been standing around with my wetsuit on for too long. After a minute or two of floating, I decided to start swimming. My last long swim was 10 laps of the lake, but I’ve got a 5km swim in just over a week, so I wanted to push myself and go for 12 laps, which would be about 4.2km. I decided to aim for a more continuous swim than last time as I need to get used swimming non-stop. My plan was to swim 4 x 3 laps.

I quickly got into a rhythm and decided not to look at my watch. After three laps, I was feeling strong, so I decided to do four laps. By the time I had done four laps, I was feeling good, so I changed my challenge and went for six laps.

After six laps, I was still feeling good, so I decided to push on for as long as I could. I could feel that my wetsuit was rubbing my neck (I had failed to put any bodyglide on), but decided to push on as there was nothing I could do.

Although I had been sceptical about using ear plugs, I found that I was enjoying my swim much more when using them… and I couldn’t feel them, which is what I had been concerned about. (I never wear earphones as I hate having things in my ears!)

By lap 9, I was starting to get tired, but I realised that my longest ever continuous swim was in my sights, so I pushed on. At the end of lap 10, I saw Stu getting ready to get out of the lake. I thought about speaking to him, but didn’t want to stop, so I gave him a smile and carried on.

Finally, nearly 2 hours after I started swimming, I had done my 12 laps. I staggered out of the lake and looked down at my watch: 1:54:09. I was a little disappointed that it had only recorded 3789m, but that’s still a PB for me. My previous longest continuous swim was 3111m at Eton Dorney and my longest ever swim was 3750m during a double tri club session, so I beat both of those. It was also nearly 30 minutes longer than any other continuous swim that I’ve done 😀

4km swim

4km swim

This weekend, I’ve got my first sea swim of the year at the BustinSkin Gu Weymouth Triathlon (1500m) – I hope I can beat my time from last year. Next weekend, I’ve got a 2.5km sea swim and a 5km lake swim. I might be slow, but I think I can do this!

Swimming in June

30 Jun

Swim stats 4th June Swim stats 16th June

I managed to get in some good swims in June and was pleased to reach a monthly total of 15.5km… but it’s still a scary thought that I need to swim at least that far in one day!

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My longest ever (continuous) swim

25 May

I’ve been stepping up my swimming recently as it’s only 3 months until Scilly Swim Challenge, which is a bit terrifying. 10k is often described as the ‘marathon’ of swimming events, so I guess that makes the Scilly Swim Challenge an ultra… and I’m someone who hasn’t even managed a half marathon swim (5km). As analogies go, this makes it even more terrifying as I feel like someone who has only completed a parkrun (5km)  but is now being expected to complete Marathon des Sables.

Anyway, onto more positive things…

I’ve been doing a lot of lake swimming recently, which is fun when it’s warm and less fun when it’s not! There’s also a new system in place at the lake – we’ve had to register with NOWCA (National Open Water Coaching Association) and have been provided with wristbands to register when people are in the lake. In theory, it’s a good system as it should flag up whether anyone has sunk to the bottom (!) as well as giving each swimmer some data… however, each swimmer has to count their own laps and the time includes however long it takes you to walk to and from the lake (which can be quite long if I see someone and stop to chat!)

Some time after the swim, an email arrives with the data:

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I’ve also received reminders from RunKeeper about how well my swimming is going:

Swimming statistics from runkeeper

swimming PB

I failed to record some lengths on my Garmin, so my total recorded activity was over 24.5km, however, I’m quite confident that I recorded over 25km of swimming this month, which is a record for me!

So… onto the big event of the month: my 3km swimming race at Eton Dorney 3km swim race.

The view of the lake

The lake looked beautiful when we arrived

The boat house at Dorney lake

The boat house at Dorney lake

Unlike Stuart and Katherine, I didn’t feel ready to tackle a 5km swim… and unlike Katherine, I’m certainly not hardy enough to swim for very long without a wetsuit, so I signed up for the 3km Human race event.

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My group photo

Eton group

Selfie@ ©Liz Carter

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Liz was our amazing support crew, which was great, as my wave wasn’t scheduled to start until 11:15am. This meant that I had someone to chat to for a couple of hours.

Stu and Katherine

Stu and Katherine

We cheered Stu and Katherine off and then wandered over a bridge to watch the swimmers. Fortunately, Stu has quite a distinctive wetsuit with red stripes around the arms, so we managed to spot him quite easily and Katherine was one of only a few non-wetsuit swimmers wearing a blue hat.

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A smile from Stu before the start of his race

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Thumbs up!

Liz 'Super-spectator-with-field-glasses' Carter

Liz ‘Super-spectator-with-field-glasses’ Carter

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A shot of Katherine from on the bridge.

We were able to see Stu and Katherine a couple of times before we headed back down to the Start/Finish. Stuart came in well ahead of his predicted 2 hour swim time (in 1:26, I think), so I was able to have a chat with him, before heading off to my pen.

My hat and timing chip

My hat and timing chip

My race started at 11:15am, and was the last race of the day. It took place on a different course from the 5 and 10k races – I had to do 4x750m loops.

I’m not a fan of mass starts, so I positioned myself towards the back, which is where I remained for the event. The water was lovely and clear and wasn’t as cold as I was worried that it might be. We had been told that it was 18.2C and I can believe it was at least 17C.

I quickly spotted the orange rope and followed it for the entire race. This meant that I didn’t have to worry too much about sighting, although I did have to contend with being lapped by many of the faster swimmers.

The wind had been picking up throughout the morning, so the water felt very choppy on the swim away from the start, however, it was much easier on the return leg.

By the time I had done a couple of laps, a lot of swimmers had finished and the number of swimmers on the course thinned out, which I preferred. It also meant that the water was less churned up and I was able to watch the shoals of tiny fish (*I’m not sure this is recommended – it distracted me and I think I spent a lot of time day dreaming and not putting in maximum effort!)

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By the time I was on my 4th lap, I had got into a rhythm and was enjoying myself, however, I was terribly slow, which doesn’t bode too well for my crazy 17km sea swim in September. I finished in 1:20 – not quite last, but definitely back of pack.

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Eton Dorney 3km swim

Eton Dorney 3km swim

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This was a really enjoyable event that I would recommend to anyone.

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Everyone loves a montage!

Everyone loves a montage!

I also had a reminder about the St Michael’s Mount swim that Stuart and I are doing in about 7 weeks time. It’s quite exciting and I think I’ll enjoy being in the sea, even if there are no ropes to follow and I’m sure I’ll get paranoid about jellyfish, sharks and other crazy things!

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The start of the St. Michael’s Mount swim in 2014.

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A photograph taken at last year’s St. Michael’s Mount swim. The diagonal line that you can see on this picture is the causeway to St. Michael’s Mount. To the left of the rock, you can see the swimmers.

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An aerial view of St. Michael’s Mount.

If you’d like to sponsor us (or just make a donation), please visit our justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/TamsynandStuswim/

My longest ever swim (and a cold dip in the lake)

30 Apr

It has been such a busy week, so far, so I think tomorrow may be a rest day.

On Monday morning, I had a cross fit session with SUTRI for the first time in a few weeks. There were only 4 of us there and Olly made it quite a relaxed session, with a lot of stretching. I was amazed by how flexible I felt, but I think it may have been down to the super-painful sports massage that I had on Saturday. We did 40 dead lifts (in 10 minutes). I started out with a relatively easy weight and finished at 55kg as I didn’t want to over-exert myself. We also did a lot of wall ball, which I’m terrible at – I think I’ve got a lot of muscle imbalances and throw in a wonky way, which makes me feel self-conscious, which makes me even worse.

I went to STC swimming at 7pm and decided to stay for a double session. A problem with my parking permit meant that I started a bit late, so I was really pleased to be able to swim 3750m. It is by far the furthest I have ever swum (I’ve only swum 2000m or more 12 times, with my longest ever pool swim being 2250m and my longest open water swim being 2.6k. I would have liked to have swum 3800m (as an iron distance swim is 3.8k), but at least I have a goal for another week.

On Tuesday evening, I went to the STC track session, but there was no coach and the others who had turned up decided that it should be a hills session. We did just over 6km with much of it up and down golf course hill, which is a particularly tough hill at the best of times. By the end of the session, I was feeling better, but my legs were tight to start off with. Thanks, Donna for choosing the session!

Lakeside

Lakeside © Try Tri

After coaching yesterday evening, tonight’s session was my first swim in the lake. Unfortunately, a series of accidents and football traffic meant that what can be a 20 minute drive at the right time turned into over an hour and three-quarters 😦 A;though I had been told that the lake was a balmy 17C, I decided to start off wearing my new bootees and orca vest. I have to say that they both worked brilliantly, but my fingers were very cold and my face was freezing. Fortunately, my breathing took much less time to calm down than last year. I did one rubbish lap (mainly doggy paddle!) and then a full lap of front crawl, but the sun was going down and I didn’t want to get colder, so decided that that would be enough for today. Hopefully, the lake will be warmer next time and it won’t take me as long to get there. Stu arrived earlier than me and managed to swim 2 miles!

One good thing about the lake is that the old changing rooms have been demolished, so there are new portacabins, which are really cosy (although the shower temperature still fluctuated between very hot and icy cold). I also felt a bit safer as my NOWCA wristband was scanned in before I started swimming and scanned again when I finished, so hopefully there won’t be any bodies drifting around in the lake!

It’s also been a week when a lot of my friends have been signing up for marathons – Paris, Bournemouth, New Forest and Brighton have been particularly popular choices. I’ll enter the ballot for London next week, but if I don’t get a place, I’m OK with that. I’ve not received any emails about my mysterious free place at Lisbon Rock’n’Roll marathon, but I don’t think it would be sensible for me to add it to my training schedule. It’s really hard being picky about what I will/won’t do. I’m really tempted to do a 5km swim at Stithians Lake in Cornwall on 19th July – it’s the day after I swim around St. Michael’s Mount, so I’ll be in Cornwall, and that seems like a good enough reason to enter!

My first triathlon of the season is on Monday: May Day Tri. Stuart is in the first wave of the day at 8am and I’m in the 4th wave at 8:30am. I’m in a lane with 3 blokes aged 30-45, which seems to be a competitive age, so I’m hoping that I’ll be OK. Some of my friends are much faster than me and they’re in later waves, so I’m not sure how the waves were allocated. In the afternoon, my niece is taking part in her first triathlon, so we’ll stay to cheer her on, which will be fun. She’s a brilliant swimmer and is in her school cross-country team, so I’m sure she’ll be able to hold her own.

What I’ve been reading this week:

Finally, following the perpetuation of unattainable physiques by Protein World, it was refreshing to see this fantastic video by my favourite female endurance sportswear brand SOAS:

We Are SOAS from SOAS_RACING on Vimeo.

If you watch closely, you might see a familiar face at 1:20!

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/

Embrace Sports 13/10/14 – A swim in the ocean and a woodland trail run

13 Oct

Monday 13th October

The day started early with an ocean swim. I love sea swimming, so this was a great treat.

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We then had a bike maintenance course over breakfast. I’ve heard Neil explain the basics of bike maintenance before and have also been on a basic bike maintenance course, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I know very much. I keep hoping that each time I’ll understand and remember a little bit more. I’ve watched people replace an innertube many times, but the one time I had to do it myself, I found that my tyre was stuck on the wheel so tightly that I couldn’t get it off.

During Neil and Andy’s talk, they explained how to replace an innertube and also explained the importance of tightening up handlebars and seatposts. When I first put my bike together, I thought I had tightened everything up, but then Neil pushed hard on the handlebars and they slipped – oops! They also explained how to clean a bike – it turns out that baby wipes are a cyclist’s best friend. I also now know how to take apart a back wheel to clean all of the chain rings. This infomration will come in handy when I start on one of my next projects.

After breakfast, we headed off in the minibuses for the woodland trail run. I knew that the run would be tough as I was much more fatigued than I was last week, but I was determined that I would do my best.

I started the first lap at a faster pace than I was able to maintain. I tried not to go out unfeasibly quickly, but I couldn’t get my breathing sorted. I could see Paul up ahead – he kept turning around and looking back at us – and I felt reasonably confident that I would eventually catch up with him if I went steadily. Tietsia wasn’t far behind and I could hear Odette, hot on my heels. About 2km in, I managed to catch up with Paul, who started chatting. I had managed to get my breathing back under control and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to beat my time from last week, so I decided to stick with Paul and enjoy the run. It was a lot cooler than the previous week, and as a consequence of the rain, it was a lot tougher underfoot.

When we got to a downhill, Paul had to take it steady as he didn’t want to aggravate an old knee injury, but I love running downhill, so I went ahead, knowing that Paul would catch me on the next uphill.

Between 4 and 5km, Odette fell behind and was unable to catch up again. Paul and I continued chatting and pushing each other on. Eventually, we could see the finish. It took some effort for me to keep up with Paul, who had made his decision to complete one 5 mile lap.

When I got back, I decided that I wanted to complete another lap, so Jen agreed to come out and do a conversational lap. It was slower than my first lap and I had to stop and stretch a couple of times, but I was pleased that it wasn’t a terrible pace. I’ve not done very much running training over the last few months, so I it was a relief that I was still able to do the distance. Hopefully, it will help me to do well at Gosport Half Marathon.

The evening’s meal was a barbeque with some of Graeme’s home-made mashed potato – it was delicious!

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Embrace Sports 12/10/14 Ocean swim and coastal ride with TT finish

12 Oct

The day started with open water swimming. It was an early start, but it’s always worth it to see the sunrise over the sea.

We got ready at the top of the cliff overlooking the beach.

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When we’d all got our wetsuits on, it was time to head down the steps to the beach.

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We were put into groups of swimmers who were of roughly similar ability and then headed out for a swim.

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I completed two loops of shark fin rock and wanted to do a third, but my partners didn’t want to, so a kind Dutch man (Rene) agreed that he would do another loop with me. He was a very considerate swimmer – of I strted to swim off course then he would tap me on the feet! It felt good to do three loops.

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It was then time to head back to base camp for breakfast before going out cycling.

Last minute preparations.

Last minute preparations.

We were quite a large group, which was nice. The guys were mainly very experienced cyclists who were coming back to the sport after some time off, whereas the women tended to be less experienced.

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It was a route that I was already familiar with that went out along the coast road. The views were lovely and it was the perfect temperature.

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As usual, the day finished with a time trial back from Aljezur. I was confident that I would do better than I had previously, although I was surprised to see Jen on one of the roundabouts. I slowed down, but she shouted at me to continue. Later, I learnt that Andy had had a serious accident and had gone over the crash barriers. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured, but he spent the rest of the day at the hospital and his bike wasn’t fixed before he went home. What a sad end to the day

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Final aquathlon of the season

25 Sep

This week has been so busy:

Saturday: Lake swim followed by a run (and then a bit of cheering the junior triathletes at Lakeside)

Sunday: 40k bike ride followed by a 30 minute run

Monday: 1 hour of swimming with some challenging drills

Tuesday: 1:06 on the turbo trainer

Wednesday: 70 minutes of intervals… on my own… in the dark – autumn is definitely here 😦

Thursday: Aquathlon time!

I also signed up for the Uni tri club (SUTri) yesterday and met the president. I’m hoping to join in with quite a few of their training sessions in the next few months and am particularly looking forward to spinning as I’ve not been to a spin class since I left my old job in September 2012.

It is so sad that we’re at the end of the open water swimming season. I know that some people swim outdoors all year around, but I struggle with the cold, so I don’t think I’ll become one of those people any time soon… unless I emigrate to somewhere warmer. (Apparently the water is 26 degrees C in Mallorca at the moment!)

Stu and I headed to Lakeside for the final aquathlon on the season. I wasn’t feeling well and was struggling to breathe this afternoon, so I was feeling a bit nervous and started wondering whether I should drop down to doing the short distance. In the end I decided that I would do the long swim and see how I felt on the run. It’s a two lap run course, so I figured that I could stop after 1 lap if I were struggling (although everyone who knows me know that I would be more likely to crawl 2.5km than drop out of a race).

Sept aqua start

Swimmers entering the water © TryTri

As usual, I didn’t get in the water early enough to acclimatise. Fortunately, it didn’t feel as cold as it did on Saturday, and parts of the lake were surprisingly warm.

Sept aqua start 2

Lining up for the start © TryTri

We all lined up for the customary wave before the start. My partner, Stu, is in the foreground looking directly at the camera (with red bands on the sleeves of his wetsuit). I’m just a tiny head in the background!

As soon as we started, it seemed as though only the really good swimmers had turned up as within seconds, I could see swimmers way out in front. My breathing was ragged, but I decided to focus on having a good time and try not to wear myself out too much before Sunday’s triathlon.

I realised that there were some other swimmers near me, but that they mostly had on white hats indicating that they were doing the short distance.

My goggles steamed up, but I didn’t have any problems with leaks and I maintained front crawl throughout the swim. There were a few other swimmers who were fairly close to me who ended up doing a medley of crawl and breaststroke. It was a bit of a battle between another lady and I, but as we completed our second lap (out of 2.5), I managed to surge ahead.

It’s become apparent to me over the last couple of months that my wetsuit no longer fits. I’m not sure whether that’s because I’ve lost weight or changed shape or because the wetsuit has stretched. Anyway, whatever the cause, it now tends to fold up on me and fill with water, which isn’t much fun and I can’t imagine it does a lot for my streamlining. As I’ve only one triathlon and a triathlon holiday left this year, I’ll live with it, but definitely need a new wetsuit before I do more open water swimming.

Finally, I got to the exit, where I could hear Ben shouting encouragement. I couldn’t see much, but assumed that he was pointing his camera at me, so I thought I’d better look cheerful.

Sept aqua swim 1

A quick thumbs up and smile that the swim was over © TryTri

Sept aqua swim 2

Look at all of those fantastic wrinkles in my wetsuit… at least that’s what I hope they are and not rolls of my flesh 😦 © TryTri

Stu was doing the race as a relay (with Jez running for him) as he has a leg injury, so he was in transition when I arrived. I asked him to pick up my belongings when I’d finished, stripped off my wetsuit, put on socks and trainers, put in my contact lenses and was off. It definitely wasn’t the fastest transition – laser surgery had better save me at least a minute!!!

My breathing had calmed down a bit, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit on my run, but my Garmin decided to give me crazy data that kept fluctuating, so I couldn’t rely on it to tell me how fast I was going. I saw Jez go flying by on his second lap, followed by two men and a female runner. I felt great on the first lap, but I think I slowed on the second lap as I was starting to tire. I heard another running catching up with me, but I just couldn’t pick up the pace enough to stay with her and didn’t want to over-exert myself.

My final thoughts were that I needed to ensure that I finished well. My finish photos from Weymouth look truly dreadful – I don’t look happy that I’ve finished, I just look saggy. I sprint for teh line and tried to keep my head up whilst waving my hands in the air. Unfortunately, Ben didn’t quite capture my moment of triumph and it’s a bit blurry, but I’ll take it 🙂

Sept aquathlon

Sept aqua results

In the final results, Stu is placed first, but he was in a relay team (although he reckons that he could have run a similar time). I still need to work on my swimming (and hope that a new wetsuit has a magic effect), but I don’t think my run was too awful.

I’m a bit sad that it’s the last aquathlon of the season, so I’ll have to console myself by entering some of the TryTri duathlons over winter.

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Weymouth Half – the swim (and T1)

16 Sep

We got up stupidly early as triathlons always start before sane people are awake. Stu made an instant porridge, whereas I ate some cold blueberry protein porridge that I had made the day before. It didn’t taste especially delicious as it was so cold, but I thought it was safer to stick to tried and tested. I then had a shower as I wanted to be able to do my hair in a French plait. I’ve tried lots of hairstyles and this seems to be the best way to tie my hair up for the swim and the bike, but I can also fit a bike helmet over it quite easily.

We picked up all of our bags and drove to a car park near to Lodmore Country park where the transition area was set up. It was a short walk, and I managed to locate the right places for my bags. I took my bottles over to my bike and had a chat with the woman whose bike was racked next to mine. her friend came over to ask for some water as there was none available in the transition area. I had a full bottle for before the race and another for one for afterwards (750ml), so I offered him one of mine. That’s one of the things that I like about triathlons – most people are friendly and willing to help others, no matter what their ability is.

It was very windy, so we were told that the race start had been delayed for half an hour whilst the officials decided whether it would be safe for the swim to go ahead. After I had finished sorting out all of my stuff, I headed over to the nearby pub where I heard that James and Ellie had a table. We were soon joined by Liz and Suzanne who had been to have a closer look at the conditions.

Rough sea

Liz captured an image of the rough sea that greeted us in Weymouth © Liz Carter

After a while, we learned that the course had been adjusted and cut in half for the iron distance competitors. I was uncertain whether I would feel reassured if I went to look at the conditions for myself, so I stayed in the warmth and comfort of the pub.

Soon the whole gang had assembled for some pre-race chat/pep talks/hot drinks.

Group photo in the pub

(L-R: Roelie, Gary, James N., Suzanne, Liz, Stu, Clare, Tamsyn & James S.) © Eleanore Coulthard

Ellie was being fantastic in her role as chief supporter. She had even made a banner to wave.

Ellie's banner

Ellie had made a lovely banner to wave © Eleanore Coulthard

No-one was sure when to get ready as sitting around in a wetsuit isn’t pleasant, but eventually we saw the pros start running past the window, so we thought we’d better get ready. It’s very odd stripping off in a pub and putting other clothes on, especially when there were some ordinary people there just having their breakfast with no idea what was going on.

Group photo

Final preparations before heading outside © Eleanore Coulthard

We also made sure that we had our race number tattoos on, which led to a very bizarre conversation.

Someone: Stu, did you need to shave your arm to put your tattoo on?

Stu: No. I just stuck it on top.

Ellie: I did Roelie’s for her this morning.

All: You shaved Roelie’s arm?!!!

Ellie: NO, I put her tattoo on!!!

James getting ready

James enjoyed the opportunity to show off his guns © Eleanore Coulthard

I had one last quick look at my phone and a couple of puff of my inhaler, before handing these items to Ellie for safe keeping. I know that external assistance is not allowed during triathlons, but it comforted me a bit to know that a friend would have one of my inhalers with her if I had an emergency situation. (Also, Ellie is the best friend to have in this kind of situation as she’s a medical student!)

Roelie

Roelie looking ready for action © Eleanore Coulthard

We headed outside and despite the strong wind, the air temperature felt quite warm. The sea looked cold, but the local weather guru said it was 16°C.

A table showing the sea temperature in Weymouth between 6th and 14th September

A week earlier and the swimming conditions would have been perfect!

The last triathlon that I did in Weymouth was the fantastic Weymouth Classic run by the super local triclub Bustinskin. The sea was perfect then… and we were able to wade out quite a long way before starting to swim. This time people were trying to wade out in the hope of making it through the breakers, but this didn’t seem to be making it any easier than diving into the giant waves.

People starting the sea swim

The sea was so rough that the iron distance competitors only swam 1900m © James Nicolas

We all posed together for one last photo before Stu and James had to hurry off and join the rest of the pink wave competitors.

Pre Weymouth swim group photo

Getting on our game faces before the swim © Eleanore Coulthard

I then stuck with Liz as we’re both near blind without our glasses, which were in our green bags. We handed in our bags, but people tend to give you funny looks if you walk around with your goggles on, even if you’re wearing a wetsuit and swimming hat and are within 200m of the sea!

We headed off to a pre-swim briefing, but there were so many of us that it was difficult to hear. We were told that the course had been changed completely and that we just had to head out towards one yellow buoy, swim west across the bay to another yellow buoy and then head back to the shore for a quick run before heading out and doing the loop again. There was some mention of an Erdinger arch, but I had no idea what was being said and was starting to feel a little nervous. I’ve never done a triathlon with an ‘Australian exit’ before and I was a little concerned – if I stop swimming then I can get cold quite quickly, so leaving the water and then returning might be a problem. I was also worried that it would mess my breathing up as I don’t run well straight after swimming.

Tweet about the Australian exit

Fortunately, this Australian exit did not involve diving back in off a pontoon… but we did have to be pulled in from the sea!

My original aim for the swim was to finish in under an hour with an aspirational goal of getting as close to 50 minutes as possible, but the extreme conditions meant that my goal was revised to surviving the swim. I was really grateful that Liz was there waiting with me. She really is the most amazingly positive person. Instead of seeing it as a nightmarish situation, she kept saying how ‘exciting’ it was.

Finally, we were off. I started wading in and was pleasantly surprised by how warm the sea was, which was good. It was difficult to know whether to start swimming or to dive in, but the waves made that decision for me as I’m too short to wade out very deep with waves the size and power that they were.

I quickly realised that sighting would be my main problem. I’ve been trying really hard to improve my sighting, but it does rely on you having a fixed point to aim for. I was trying to time my breathing with the waves, and also needed to look. I prefer to breathe every 3 or 5 strokes, but that simply wasn’t possible, so I ended up breathing every two, which does tend to make me hyperventilate. The were lots of swimmers around me, but because of the spread of people, I didn’t feel like I was too close to others… and they weren’t the ones creating the washing machine effect. Every time I could feel that I was on the crest of a wave, I tried to sight the large yellow buoy, but quite often they couldn’t be seen, so I just had to follow the swimmers ahead of me and hope that they were generally going in the right direction. I don’t think that this is a recommended technique, and if anyone has any advice on how to deal with these kinds fo conditions, I’d love to hear from them.

I was aware that I wasn’t making much progress and was surprised at how calm I felt. I just kept moving and felt slightly smug that I was at least managing some front crawl, although in hindsight, maybe the breaststrokers were sighting better (not sure their breathing would have been easier).

As I came towards the first yellow buoy, I saw a reassuring sight: a wetsuit with a blue top poking out of the neckline and a visible bit of a white swimming hat sticking out from under the purple hat. A quick glimpse at the wetsuit let me know it was Liz. Yay! a friendly face. I’d love to be able to say that I was able to draft Liz, but in reality, I was vaguely following in her direction and I’m not sure that drafting would work in such rough conditions.

After passing the buoy, there was a brief respite of swimming across the bay. I knew that I could only breathe to my right (towards the beach) and it felt a little easier. Before too long, I was rounding the second yellow buoy and then I turned again to head towards the shore.

This was when my swim started to go wrong. I hadn’t really understood the comments about the Erdinger arch and was just aiming for the beach. I didn’t know which way the current was going and could see a couple of swimmers up ahead. After a couple of minutes, I realised that the couple of swimmers up ahead really was just a couple of people and that we were heading towards some rocks. This meant that I had to start heading east in the hope that I would not be dragged onto the rocks.

At this point I noticed that there were some swimmers near me who had on green and pink hats. I know I’m not a strong swimmer, but I guessed that these people were even less prepared for the sea swim than I was.

Finally, I was nearly back at the beach. It was impossible to put my feet down as the waves had a strong undercurrent and I kept being sucked back out, so I had to swim into quite shallow water. Fortunately, there were some lovely marshalls who were giving a helping hand.

There was then a short run along the beach. I noticed that some people were walking, but I tried to maintain a swift pace.

I turned back towards the breakers and headed out for a second lap. It didn’t feel as scary this time and I think my sighting was slightly better. As soon as I got to the second buoy, I made sure that I saw where the Erdinger arch was and kept heading towards it, so that I did not end up veering towards the rocks.

Finally, I was being pulled out of the waves again and a kind volunteer unziped my wetsuit.

The Erdinger arch

We were told to use the Erdinger arch for sighting ©StuWeb timing

I ran along the carpet and crossed the timing mat in 58:56. My initial goal had been to complete the swim in under an hour and I had achieved that, even with the severe weather conditions.

Just before I passed the timing mat

Just before I passed the timing mat © Marathon-Photos

Smiling for the camera

Smiling for the camera © Marathon-Photos

I had to keep my goggles (and hat) on as I ran towards the transition bags as my eyesight is too poor for me to run without some sort of visual aid. This made me feel a bit self-conscious, but there wasn’t time to worry about that. I managed to find my bag and headed into the changing tent. I had decided not to change or put on any additional layers of clothing as the air temperature felt quite warm. I put on socks and my cycling shoes as well as a head band and my bike helmet. I also put in my contact lenses and used my inhaler before stuffing my wetsuit, hat and goggles into my bag. It didn’t feel like I was going really slowly, but the clock doesn’t lie: 9:35 – oops. I shouted goodbye to Liz and headed out to find my bike.

 

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Fowey Harbour Swim 2014

31 Aug

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Today, Stuart and I travelled to Fowey for the annual Fowey Harbour Swim. This is a non-competitive charity event that was raising money for the RNLI. We took part last year and really enjoyed it, so decided to enter again this year. Last year’s course was cross the harbour and was fairly short (advertised as 1200m, it was probably not much over 800m last year). This year, the route had changed, with the swim being down the harbour from Fowey slipway to Readymoney and back, which was thought to be 1400m. There was also a shore route on offer of 800m. Unfortunately, the swim was held on the same day as the Inn-to-Inn swim near to Falmouth, which may have affected some people’s decision about whether or not to take part.

Before the event, there were quite a few people milling around and it was difficult to work out who was swimming and who was there to watch. There was also a cruise ship moored in the harbour so I imagine that quite a few of the smartly dressed older people were passengers. The event attracts a wide variety of people from young children through to seasoned wild swimmers, many of whom decided to forgo wetsuits in favour of frilly swimming costumes and novelty hats.

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Last year, I was terrified before the swim as I had never swum that far before, but after my recent sea-swimming exploits at Weymouth, I was feeling much more confident… although the lithe physiques of most of the women under the age of forty meant that I was under no illusion that I would compare particularly favourably with others.

There was a short briefing where the new course was explained and then we lined up to go down the steps. Stu and I were near the front of the queue. There was a little bit of sand at the bottom of the steps and several people were lingering there, uncertain as to whether they should just get in and start swimming, or whether there were would be a more official start. I knew the water would feel cool as the sun had been beating down on us, but I didn’t expect it to feel as chilly as it was.

I waded in a few steps and then set off. The water felt cold on my face, and I was grateful that I had used my inhaler before the start. I could feel the icy water gradually seeping down the zip of my wetsuit, but forced myself to ignore it and continue swimming. I felt quite relaxing, possibly for three reasons: I knew that I should be able to swim 1400m without any problems; the sea was beautifully calm (the swim is timed to coincide with slack water, so it starts half an hour before the tide turns); there had been no mention of jellyfish in the briefing, unlike last year.

I wasn’t exactly sure which point we were swimming to (other than the fact that it would be marked with a yacht called ‘Ratty’ – I’m assuming that it was named in homage to Kenneth Grahame who was married in the local church), so I thought that as long as I was following other people, I must be going in the right direction.

A few people passed me in the first two or three minutes and then after that, only the odd person went past. We had to navigate through a few small boats that were moored in the harbour and then we swam over some kelp beds. The dark coloured seaweed and the relatively low tide meant that in places the water was much warmer. I saw quite a large fish swimming in amongst the seaweed – I’m not sure what kind of fish it was – it looked like a pilchard to me, but I’m no ichthyologist!

Quite a large chap swam past with a fluorescent buoy attached to him. He was moving at an amazing pace for someone doing breaststroke – I was very impressed. For most of the swim out, I kept pace with a chap who had on a light blue swimming hat. Every now and again, he would veer off course and ten do some breaststroke, so it wasn’t too difficult to keep up with him.

I was trying to think about swimming with good technique (or at least to think about using my legs every now and again), but the surroundings kept distracting me. We were swimming along the coast and every time I breathed to my right, I could see steps in the cliffs, secret doorways and the remains of old buildings. It is easy to see how the coastline could have inspired writers such as Daphne Du Maurier.

Finally, the man in the blue hat started to turn. As I got closer to the small boat, I could read the name, ‘Ratty’ on its prow, so I started to swim around it. Unfortunately, the boat didn’t seem to want to let me pass – the more I swam across the harbour, the further out the boat drifted. I must have swum at least a dozen strokes before deciding to give up and swim back the way I came around the boat. I could hear the kayakers laughing, but I felt a little frustrated. By the time I finally got past the yacht, the man in the blue had had a definite lead.

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I was a bit tempted to look at my watch to see how far I’d swum and what pace I was swimming at, but I didn’t want to break my rhythm. As I hadn’t been passed by many swimmers, I expected to see quite a few people as I was on my return journey, but there were not many people in the water. I saw a couple of men breaststroking on their outward journey – they could have only done a few hundred metres when I passed them. The lack of swimmers makes me wonder whether most people opted to do the shorter swim.

I think I was swimming closer to the cliffs on my return journey. The water looked very shallow – as if I could stand up – but I’ve learned that it is often much deeper than it looks. I was also having a few problems with my goggles. They weren’t letting in water, but my right eye felt like it was full of salt-water and I was struggling to open it, which wasn’t comfortable, so I decided to tread water for a bit to try to adjust my goggles.

I had to negotiate my way amongst lots of small boats on the way back and I also saw another fish. A kayaker spoke to me, but I didn’t understand what he said. I thought it might be a warning about the ferry or one of the other boats, so I stopped and asked him to repeat what he’d said. It turned out to be: “Well done! You’re nearly there – not far now!”

I could see children on the sand at the water’s edge and think I was swimming in very shallow water, but I didn’t want to stop swimming. Eventually, I could see people standing on the beach, so I stood up and waded over. I was congratulated on my swim and given a medal, before I walked back up the steps.

I glanced at my watch – 1822m… so quite a bit longer than the suggested 1400m and not far off the 1900m that I have to swim in two weeks time. I wondered whether it was because of my dodgy sighting, but everyone I spoke to who had measured it made it over 1800m. I completed the swim in 45 minutes, which I was quite pleased with. I could have gone faster, but I was not treating it as a race. Stu was one of the first two people to finish – he did it in about 29 minutes.

There was some lovely tomato and butterbean soup on offer with a large freshly baked roll. I ate the roll and some of the soup before going to get changed. After putting on some warm clothes, I finished off the soup and had a lovely sticky toffee muffin whilst watching some of the last swimmers finishing.

Overall, I really enjoyed the event and hope that Stu and I can take part again next year. The organisation is excellent, and the number of boats and kayakers out on the water meant that swimmers of all ability feel safe at all times. The medal at the end and the fantastic catering mean that this event is great value for money… and it’s even better knowing that the money raised is going to support Fowey’s lifeboat.

Crazy swimming PB!