Breca SwimRun 2016 

SwimRun is relatively new to the UK and since I signed up for it so many people have shown an interest in what I was doing, I thought I’d do a write up to share my experience. It was a long day, so this is not a short write up! 

Google SwimRun and you’ll see it originated in Sweden around the Islands. An endurance event of multiple swims and runs  to circumnavigate across wilderness. Breca SwimRun had their inaugural race last year and I can only see this sport growing in popularity year on year as word spreads about its awesomeness. After reading a magazine article about SwimRun something about it really appealed to me and before I knew it I was on the start line yesterday! 

As SwimRun is completed in teams of two, the first challenge was finding someone who wanted to take on the challenge with me and was of a reasonably similar speed in swimming and running, a hurdle in itself. Luckily for me Simon Young answered my text request with a Yes. I knew Simon and I where of similar swim pace but he is a quicker runner and would have to slow down for me, but as he was using this as Ironman training he didn’t seem to mind. As we live too far away from one another to train together we had to do a lot of our planning over messages but managed to get two training sessions in together, including the Jubilee River Swim, which seemed enough for planning how we were going to partner together for the event. 

The next challenge was working out what kit to use. I started off cutting up an old wetsuit but in the end we both opted for the Orca SwimRun wetsuit as when having to run 38k in your wetsuit  you don’t really want to be getting too uncomfortable. During the event you can use pretty much any swim aides you wish but you have to carry them. We tried paddles but the gains where negligible so the faffing of carrying them didn’t seem worth it. As you have to swim in your trainers most people use a swim bouy and then strap it to their leg for the run sections and we both chose this method as we didn’t know how tired we were going to be at the end of the event. Other than that we used a waist pack to carry nutrition, water, glide, spare goggles and mandatory kit (bandage, compass, map). 

The next challenge was training for the event, working out how to train for an event which is pretty much unknown is fun as you never know if you’re doing enough. Add into that the fact that my knees can’t sustain long distances in running and hate downhills. Luckily Adam from GreenlightPT (who was also doing the event) managed to pull a plan together for me which included multiple SwimRun sessions over a day. My longest run was around 12k and 18k over a day with multiple runs thankfully this was enough with my fitness to cover the 38k of running required for the event. 

The Breca SwimRun took place in Buttermere, an absolutely stunning landscape in the Lake District. The good old English weather didn’t let us down by throwing in some torrential rain, hail, winds and the odd bit of sunshine (yes it was in July!) only adding to the toughness of the event. In total the event was advertised as 44k, made up of 38k of running and 6k of swimming, however my Garmin measured a total distance of 50.3k. 

The start was so relaxed that I didn’t even realised we’d started until everyone started moving forward. We’d decided to start off slow to ensure we made it to the end but in hindsight could have done with being nearer the front as due to the bottle neck taking us to the lake for our first swim we ended up being one of the last teams to enter the water and some teams had already exited the other side before we got in! 

The first swim was 0.6k and it was so slow, something was not right and I soon realised I was carrying too much kit which was weighing me down, we exited the water as second to last team which wasn’t the best way to start. I quickly off loaded a water bottle and some of my food and we set off for the next run leg of 1.9k followed by a 1k swim where we overtook a team on the swim – yay, no longer last! The next run leg took us up a really steep hill climb and here we seemed to be passing more teams, the hill training was paying off, the sun was out and the scenery was just out of this world. We were having a really good run on the decent and looking forward to reaching Check Point 1 when we realised we’d gone the wrong way as we’d lost sight of any markers and could see other teams on the other side of the stream – whoops. Luckily Simon had worked out that if we got down to the road we could follow it back up to the CP, adding on about an extra 10mins. The marshals and our support crew were a bit surprised to see us coming from a different direction to everyone else. 

We were then onto the 1k swim and what I would say was the most amazing swim I’ve ever done. The scenery was unbelievable and as we swam away from shore we were faced with a big swell and choppy conditions which was so challenging. I felt so alive knowing that if I didn’t swim strong and keep moving forward I could possibly drown and I exited the swim on such a high. The marshal said we were the happiest team they’d seen so we’d won something. 

We then set off on the longest run section of 13k and we really enjoyed this section, making sure we navigated well, we pushed on and got to run most of it even though it was very hilly. During this section we picked off another few teams and some seemed to be really struggling, we also ticked off the half way point which was a big boost. This section took us in a loop around the top of the route and back to the lake for a short 0.8k shore swim, this time fighting the current which wanted to take us into land. We then had a short succession of 3 runs and 2 swims which was really boggy, seeing me dispeappear into a puddle up to my knees and Simon ending up thigh deep in bog, it’s a good job he had his pull bouy on! It was towards the end of this section that I started to struggle and recognised I needed to take on more fuel but didn’t have anything left. Luckily we saw our support team and Mark threw mini mars bars to us, a much needed boost. We then had a panic on as we had a 1k swim to do to reach CP4 which was a cut off for the race and we were 15mins from the cut off time of 6hrs for this point. However, as we were getting into the water the marshals were informed over the radio that the cut off had been extended to the original 7hrs, luckily for us as we reached CP4 in 6hrs 2mins!! 

The 1k swim was the toughest of the day as the current was pulling us off to the right and as we got to the middle of the lake we were met with dark clouds and really heavy rain which was lashing us and causing really choppy conditions. It also made us really cold and we couldn’t hang around at the CP as we were freezing. However, this turned out to be the just the start of the toughest part of the race so far. We crossed the road and were faced with a vertical climb up Honiston. We started off strong and overtook another team but the climb was relentless and we could do nothing but scramble up on hands and feet, sometimes using a fence to hold onto for support and our pace soon slowed to a crawl. 

This was a cruel climb with four false peaks and took us around 1.5hrs to reach Dales Head at the summit. It was impossible to run and we were freezing cold as it had started with horizontal rain, a bit of hail and 40mph winds. To try and get a bit warmer we put our swim caps back on – can you imagine how we looked up a mountain wearing a cut off wetsuit, pull bouy attached to leg and a swim cap on – certainly not your usual hill walking gear! The decent was no easier, we were tired, cold and my knees were really sore meaning I could manage nothing more than a quick walk. Nearing the bottom and approaching CP5 we came across Mark and Oakley who had decided to run up the hill to meet us but unfortunately I was in a real low place at this point and I couldn’t appreciate the gesture as I should have. Finally after 2hrs we reached the checkpoint and got to refuel, have a joke with Maz and Mark,  I got a hug from a Marshall and we set off on the home straight which was a 4K jog down the road back to Buttermere. Under normal circumstances this would have been a quick downhill road section but the pain in the legs really slowed me down. 

We reached the final swim and what was supposed to be a straightforward 0.6k across the lake, that was until Simon slipped on the rocks and tumbled down the rocky slope into the water, but he brushed it off as nothing and we set off (later I found out he cut his arm and was in real pain swimming). We stopped for a cheesy photo at swim exit and a quick check with the marshals, who recognised us as the happiest team, to check we weren’t last. We had overtaken 10 teams, 6 of which had now pulled out and 4 others who were behind us. 

We then set off on the final run section of 1.8k to the finish on very sore and tired legs, crossing the finish line in 9hrs 24mins; just 36mins inside the final cut off time. 

So, there you have it, that’s what SwimRun is all about. A real back to basics event taking in some amazing yet tough landscapes and environment. A test of endurance, team work, physical and mental stamina and sense of humour………so Simon, same again next year?!

Big thanks to our support crew Mark, Maz and Oakley who where there at every checkpoint cheering and encouraging us on for the full 9hrs in the cold and rain and to Adam who managed to work out a way for me to train for the event given my knee issues (and congratulations on finishing the event too, bagging a top 10 spot). And most of all thank you to Simon for being daft enough to take on the challenge with me and pushing me on all the way round. 

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World Champs – Chicago 2015 

The goal has been achieved – I competed in the World Triathlon Championships – wow! Really does go to show that if you work hard towards your goals they are achievable. I’ve put a lot into making this happen through consistently training, working on improving my skills and my nutrition.  
We flew to Chicago on the Sunday as my first race was on Wednesday and I wanted to ensure that I’d acclimatised. We were allowed to swim in part of the swim course on Tuesday and jumping into Lake Michigan was a delight, it was fresh water, clear and a lovely temperature of around 17 degs and with the air temperature around 27 degs it was lovely and refreshing. The water was a lot choppier than I’d anticipated and it left me feeling a bit dizzy. 

The Aquathlon was Weds morning with my wave going off at 11:50am. With a deep water mass start, I chose the ‘racing line’ after making the mistake at Bala the previous week of starting too wide and adding on minutes to my swim. The start was fast and I decided to go with everyone knowing that it would calm down and I was also determined to give this my all. I tried to draft but just couldn’t find anyone suitable so settled into my own thing, I think I ended up leading the middle pack as my feet kept getting tapped (I didn’t mind, it meant I wasn’t last!) and a group of 4 ladies came past me with about 200 meters to go. I wasn’t going to let them get away though so worked hard to hang onto them. The swim exit was hard as we had to make a 90 deg turn and I got swept back by the current and missed the exit steps and had to work hard to swim around the correct side of the bouy. 

The run to transition was about 300 meters plus another 100 to my spot but it seemed to go without a hitch and 4 mins(!) later I was out on the run. By this point it was 30 degs but it didn’t bother me too much as I was still wet from the swim, it was only when I poured water from the aid station over my head that I realised how hot it was as the cold from the water took my breath away. I could see I was slowly catching the runners ahead but I just couldn’t close them down enough to overtake, the finish was great, on the blue carpet around Buckingham Fountain and past the grandstand. I felt like I’d had a good race! 

My times were slower than I expected but according to those with GPS the swim and run were both longer than expected. I placed 24th out of 34 in my Age Group and only 30 secs between me and 20th. This was my best placing in a Worlds or European Aquathlon so far. 

It was then a case of recovering for Saturdays race, fitting in some gentle training, attending the opening ceremony and race briefings and a bit of sight seeing. 

We were due to take our bikes to transition on Friday evening but Chicago was hit by a thunderstorm so the park was evacuated, watching the local news and seeing the tornado warning was interesting but I just had a feeling that everything would be ok for the race the next day. My race started at 11:11am and I felt relatively calm all morning until I was getting into my wetsuit when I suddenly wondered what on earth I was doing there!! I started off too far back in the swim but only because the race started just as I got to the start line. Like in the Aquathlon the start was fast but I held back a bit this time as it was twice the distance. My plan was to swim steady and strong until I got back to the pontoon at half way and then to go fast to the end. This seemed to work and I passed a number of swimmers in the 2nd half but wow it was hard work! The lake was choppy and full of debris from the storm and the last 200m seemed to take forever. 

Run to transition was the same as weds and I was soon out on my bike. The bike route was flat and fast with most of it being in underpasses in the dark. A 2 lap course, I loved it and even survived the 180deg turns without de cleating!! T2 was smooth and I hit the run and this is where I didn’t do so well. My plan was to take the first 2 laps steady then pick it up for the last 5k but I really struggled with stitch and every time I tried to up my pace it got worse and I had to ease back. I also took the decision to stop and drink water at each aid station as I had witnessed lots of athletes collapsing from the heat and didn’t want to join them. I put everything I had into the last 1k but my legs didn’t want to go any quicker – I crossed the finish line knowing I had given it my all on the day so no regrets. 

I finished 61st out of 82 in my Age Group, convinced that I’d come last I was really pleased to see I didn’t embarrass myself – phew! This was my first time racing triathlon at this level and given that it was my 4th race at this distance, a distance which I wasn’t even training for, I am proud of what I achieved and know that it’s just the start and I’ll get better. 

So, that’s it. Job done. Time to have a rest from racing and look forward to some winter training. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing this achievement with me and thanks to everyone for your kind wishes and support. 

Massive thanks to all those people who’ve helped me out. Mark for supporting me with my training, driving me across the UK to races and coming to Chicago with me – it’s a good job he loves me!! 

Adam at GreenlightPT for the coaching, answering my endless questions and believing in me when I announced that I wanted to qualify for the Worlds. 

I’ve also had support with gear from David at Tri Crazy, Jamie and Max at Multisport distribution. Mike at Velomotion for the bike fit and lending me his bike box. Alex at Insight Nutrition for the advice and supporting my sudden change in racing distance. 

And finally thank you to by brother Jason and my new sister in law Kathy for their understanding when I missed their wedding last weekend as I was in Chicago- congratulations x       

   

 

4 weeks to the Worlds

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imageimage imageTime always seems to fly by in the summer and I am only four weeks away from competing in the World Championships which will also mark the end of this year’s triathlon season. So, what have I been up to over the last two months since competing in Cologne – training, training and more training and a few ‘fun’ races thrown in.

The first of these was the inaugural ‘Isoman Triathlon’ – a different format of triathlon where all three disciplines are equalized, so in theory you spend an equal amount of time swimming, cycling and running. I entered this race at the beginning of the year as I thought it would play to my strengths of consistency and being relatively ‘average’ in the three areas. Turns out the format worked and all of my splits were within 1one minute of each other which earnt me the title of ‘most equal’ athlete over my race distance and I also gained the fastest bike split (female) – there were awards for the fastest on each split at this event as opposed to overall as you could choose any combination of the sports, so I was also competing against people doing just one discipline. I finished in a healthy fourth position and second female vet. It was an interesting and quite relaxed event which I enjoyed as a training race but I don’t think I’ll be back next year as the course wasn’t very inspiring and I’ve done more enjoyable races.

At the end of July we ventured over to Snowdon, this time for Mark to compete. He took place in the inaugural Snowdon Trail Marathon (a thoughtful Christmas gift from his wife!), which turned out to be a 29 mile run – a really tough event in horrible wet weather and the ascent to Snowdon Peak didn’t even begin until mile 21! I saw Mark off at the start and then walked up Snowdon with Oakley with every intention of getting the train back down as it was a bit too far for a 12 month old puppy and my bad knees. Unfortunately the train wasn’t actually running to the top as the weather was so bad, so we ended up having to walk back down too. Needless to say we had one very tired puppy afterwards. Mark did so well completing this marathon and even set his own record of only falling over once (in the last mile!), I was so proud to see him finish.

Earlier this month I went along to a bike race training session for beginners at the MK Bowl with the intention of developing some bike skills, especially as I am rubbish at cornering and group riding. It was a great morning and my objectives were achieved, I also found out how far I still have to go with my cycling if I compare myself to cyclists rather than triathletes – we had a mock race at the end of the session and I got dropped so quickly it was embarrassing, coming in a very lonely last place. Oh well, I can only improve from there!

This year seems to be a year of ‘firsts’ – I have also ticked off my first cycling Time Trial event this month, something that I have been meaning to do all year but just never got round to it with all my race focus. This was a 10 mile course and I loved every minute of it, I will definitely be back to do more next year and this year if I can squeeze them in before the end of the season.

Two weeks ago I competed in the Regional Team Triathlon Relay at Box End. A fun event for the Club, which saw GreenlightPT enter an impressive eight teams. I was a part of the Green Goddesses (we all had to have the word ‘Green’ in our team names) with Nicole and Jo, on paper a strong team of ‘veteran’ ladies!  The format was that we each took turns to swim, bike and run, so unlike other triathlons we had a break between each split. We were blessed with great weather and it was a great team event. To top it off the Green Goddesses won the Bronze medal at the event – not bad for a team of oldies! Adam and his team also got a silver medal, with all the other GLPT teams doing brilliantly too. I think we will all be back next year.

Then finally last Sunday I took part in the ‘Monster Olympic Triathlon’ in Ely. I decided that I needed a bit more practice at racing this distance before Chicago so looked for a race which would fall within the right timeframes. It turned out to be longer than a traditional Olympic distance triathlon with a longer bike of 44k and longer run of 12k. I did some rough calculations as to how long it should take me to complete the distance and guessed around three hours based on recent results. I had a quick look at last year’s results to see how this faired and saw that it would place me in the top three females last year so then thought maybe that time was a tad ambitious, especially given that I would be racing tired after no taper for the event. An early start of 7:30am and we were off for a 1.5k swim up and down the river. I was racing with the men in the same wave too so I decided to hang back a bit at the start with the aim to start off steady and then build, as from previous experience the men have a tendency to go off like rockets at the start and take no prisoners. This tactic seemed to work and I was able to spend half the race drafting and the other half over taking people. I could see I wasn’t far off the race leaders at the turn around point and put in an extra spurt, however I found myself constantly drifting across the river with the current and had to work hard to stay in a straight line to head for swim exit. The bike was flat and fast apart from a few sections which were described as ‘rural’ roads, bone shakers more like! The run was almost three laps of the city taking in the grounds of the Cathedral and the cobbled High Street. I really struggled to begin with and just focused on keeping going, trying to not let too many people overtake me – why do other runners always make it look so effortless? Suddenly with one lap to go (about 3k), I found my running form, I’ve no idea where it came from or why it took so long to find me but I suddenly felt very spritely and almost sprinted from then on, I was about 1k from the finish when I looked at my watch and saw it said 2hrs 54mins ish and quickly calculated that if I gave it my all I had a chance to reach the 3hr target, I sprinted like mad (luckily it was mainly downhill then!) and was delighted to cross the finish line in 2:59:32. Unfortunately not a winning time this year but I did finish 7th female and was 2nd in the 35-44 age category for the race.

I had been managing my training with very sore knees the last few weeks and unfortunately this race finished off my left knee so I’ve now to rest for a few days whilst it heals itself, fingers crossed it’s not too long as typically I am actually feeling really well after the race and ready to hit my last block of training before Chicago – everyone keep their fingers crossed for me that my body can hold itself together until then!

ETU Aquathlon Championships 

Last weekend I took a trip to Cologne for the European Aquathlon Champs, the last of my scheduled races in what has been a busy two months of competing. I had done this race last year and it happened to be at the same venue which was a real help in race (and holiday) prep and this year my friend Jo also came to race (her first outing in a GB kit!) so we made it into a girls weekend away too. 

We flew out early Friday morning and it soon became apparent that we were in for a fun weekend when firstly Jo realised her generous hubby Paresh had provided her with Australian Dollars instead of Euros, I got my bag searched after denying all knowledge of the iPad I had in it and Jo was frisked at security twice. Due to all of this and the long queue at booking we didn’t have an opportunity to go shopping in the airport – at least we didn’t miss the flight! We managed to get to our hotel unscathed, took a wander around town and went to race registration, race briefing and had a run along the race course. 

The race was on Saturday but we weren’t racing until 3pm so had a morning to wait around, heading down to the race venue at 12:00. As last year, there were loads of GB athletes racing and a smattering of other Countries, which made for a great team atmosphere. I went into Transition to set up my spot with my shoes and number belt and got chatting to a lady next to me who upon finding out my name declared to me that she was so pleased that I was there as she had looked at my finishing time from last year and pleased to see not everyone was fast! Well thank you very much, glad to have been useful!! She was so nervous I think it was one of those moments when you say out load what you are thinking without realising it, she was so embarrassed after! Luckily I beat her so I guess she was only telling the truth ha ha! 

The race format was a 1k swim in the river Rhein (out and back) followed by a 5k run along the river wall. My overwhelming memory from the race last year was being dropped on the swim after about 50mts and having a very lonely swim and run, finishing 2nd from bottom overall – why was I back?! This year was much better, my experience from last year and my recent races meant I chose my starting position well and managed to draft for about 800mts on the swim before I overtook a couple of ladies and then got dropped by the group I was hanging on to. I exited well and was really pleased when I entered transition to find other competitors trainers still there, a sign that I wasn’t last! I focused on running strong, loosing a few places but also gaining some too and on the last loop, counted about 7 ladies behind me. I really enjoyed the race and finished feeling like I’d performed well, although I was disappointed to find out that I had actually recorded exactly the same time as last year, although the other ladies who had raced last year and this year had finished 1-2 mins slower this year so Adam reckons I did have a better race. Jo also had a great race and I’m sure that she will be racing in her GB kit again soon. 

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the sights that Cologne has to offer and dodging the many stag do’s – a fantastic weekend all round. 

I now have a break from any serious races, with just a few fun ones over the coming months. Time to train now for the World Champs in Chicago in September (did I mentioned I had qualified?!) 

Deva Standard Tri 

I’ve always been better at endurance rather than speed in sport, I don’t seem to be able to find a ‘fast’ setting but I can maintain a quick pace for a long time. I’ve been doing Sprint Triathlon because I don’t want to and can’t really put undue pressure on my joints due to my arthritis and felt that the training required for the longer distances would do this, so for the last year I’ve been working really hard to find my inner Usain Bolt and try to conquer speed. I have managed to take time off my 5k run time over the year and must admit that the interval sessions that used to feel so alien to me are starting to feel normal, yet although I work really hard in a Sprint Tri, I always finish feeling like I could keep going. 

Having achieved a 22nd place ranking in the World Qualifiers for the Sprint, my aim of going to Chicago is in doubt unless 2 people withdraw, as a team of 20 from each age group get to compete. I therefore decided to look at the Standard Distance results out of curiosity to see how I would compare, then a quick message to coach Adam to check my thinking, a discussion with Mark and a few message exchanges with team mate Nicole I took the plunge and entered the Deva Standard Triathlon on the 14th June which was the National Championships and a World and European Championship Qualification event – yikes, what had I done!! 

We travelled to Chester on Saturday to register and check out the routes and after a night of little sleep due to hotel room neighbours coming back from partying and messing about, we headed to the race early Sunday morning. Transition was big but I was really lucky to have my spot on the end of the row next to ‘swim in’ and close to ‘bike in’ so little chance of getting lost. I felt relatively relaxed about the race until about 20mins before the start when panic took over. I had only ever completed this distance twice before and both of those races were in 2013 when I’d just started doing triathlons so I had no idea how I was going to pace my race and even if I could complete the distance. So I gave myself a talking to and remembered there was no pressure to achieve anything but do my best and see how I get on. 

I chose to start my swim on the right hand side of the river as I breath to the left and could then see where the other swimmers were. It was an uneventful swim start with only a few swerves to avoid others and the odd bit of contact, if I’d known that it would be like that then I would have chosen to start closer to the bouys in the middle. I felt like I was having a good swim and as it progressed was able to dig in and overtake a few people. I was a bit worried about swim to bike transition as the run was up a steep hill, up some steps and through the park but it was ok in real life and was long enough to get my wetsuit half off before I hit my transition spot. T1 was quick and I was out on the bike course in a flash. 

The bike route took us through the centre of Chester on closed roads then on a circular route on mainly country lanes, into Wales (does that now make me an international triathlete?!), climbing gently to half way then a fast down back into Chester with a cheeky little climb towards the end (the same climb that I faced at mile 23 in the Chester marathon that made me giggle to myself). Again, I had no idea how to pace the 40k bike so tried to strike a balance between working hard but not flat out as I would need something in my legs for the 10k run. Another unknown to me for the increased distance was nutrition, in a sprint I just have a few sips of water on the bike, but for this distance I had to think about taking on more fluid and gels. 

I had a good T2 and hit the run leg with no feeling in my feet so just concentrated on running strong and at a steady pace. The run was 3 laps of a park and the river which broke the distance down and meant there were supporters out most of the way. Our race numbers had our names on and the spectators were great at encouraging us all. I was running behind Louise Minchin, the breakfast TV presenter, at one point and had heard her being interviewed about her triathlon debut a few weeks ago so I decided to chase her down and overtook her. A bit of the dreaded stitch came to visit (well it wouldn’t be a proper race without it!) and it was feeling really tough by the third lap but I just kept going as the end was in sight. 

I crossed the line feeling like I had worked really hard and this time didn’t feel like I had more to give. I was handed my race times and was absolutely delighted with my performance, I had taken 10mins off my best time at this distance and had done great splits in all 3 disciplines. Funnily enough, each split was pretty much double the time I do in a sprint, so I am right about being able to maintain that pace for longer. 

Deva was a great race, really well organised, great marshals and support and a good route. I would recommend it as a race to do. 

AND to top it all off – I only went and qualified for the World Championships, achieving the 4th qualification spot allocated at the race!! So, I now get to race in my GB kit, in triathlon at the World Champs this year and have achieved my aim that I’ve been working on since November. The only problem is that it’s at the Standard distance, so I guess I’ll need to relook at my training, but I’ll leave that problem for Adam to sort out! 

Also, well done to GreenlightPT team mate Nicole who will be also racing at the Worlds after winning in the previous qualifier. She is an imposter in my Age Group, pretending to be 40 when she’s a young 39!! And of course thank you Mark in giving up your weekend to drive me to Chester and encourage me around the race, it makes the whole experience much more special when you get to share it with those who you love.   

     

10k river swim 

Hurrah, no more mind numbing long swims! After 3 months of swimming endlessly up and down a pool and round a cold lake, I completed the Jubilee 10k river swim on the 7th June (not really selling it to you am I!) My friend Jo and I decided to take on this challenge after taking part in the event as a relay team with GreenlightPT last year as we’d really enjoyed it. I also missed doing endurance events after not being able to do long runs anymore so thought this would be a good alternative. We hadn’t been able to get as many open water long swims in as we had hoped for leading up to the event as the water temperatures never really got high enough, starting with training swims at 13 degs up to a balmy 16 degs in the end. This meant that most of our training swims took place in the pool, luckily I managed to do mine in the 50m pool which was somewhat easier than the 25m pool. 2.5hrs of continuous swimming in a pool on your own is certainly character building! However, come event day we were both confident that we would be able to complete the distance if the cold didn’t get us. 

The swim is split into 4 sections of 1.9k, 3.5k, 2.6k and 1.5k as you have to get out to walk around the 3 weirs along the route, this helped to break up the distance and enabled us to refuel. We had roped our husbands in to be our support crew so that we knew we would have food, drink and encouragement at each pit stop, which they dully supplied (thank you boys). Our strategy was to take it in turns to lead and draft off one another, swapping over every 20mins, to give us a break from sighting and hard swimming and it worked really well. The start of the race was a bit more chaotic than anticipated, as I suppose the relay team swimmers in ‘compete’ mode, rather than the ‘complete’ mode we had adopted. We had decided that I would lead out the first 20mins as I seem to be a bit better at pacing than Jo on long distances and to be honest I was worried that she would go speeding off into the distance! I’m really not sure how she managed it but she found my feet and stuck with me through the mahem – it’s very difficult to make out who is who when you are all wearing black wetsuits and the same coloured hats! 

Leg 1 flew by and we started leg 2 with smiles on our faces. I’m not sure how it happened as I had fuelled well beforehand but I ‘bonked’ at about 5k in and really lost the will to continue, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the fast swimmers who started behind us where now overtaking us at such a speed it made me feel as though I was swimming on the spot. A quick chat with Jo and I swam on her feet until we reached the end of the 2nd leg. I took on some food, water and a gel and immediately started to feel better, together with knowing that the longest leg was over I was now determined to finish. Oddly enough, I actually felt stronger as the swim progressed and could have continued swimming all day. 

So, what do you think about when you are swimming for over 3hours? Not a lot really! You can’t see much going on around you so a lot of what you take in is from sounds. I remember a plane flying over and thinking how noisey it was, low flying birds overhead that I thought where there to wait for me to be their lunch and just trying to work out where to swim. Very different to doing a long run, bike or walk where you can chat to others and have a varied terrain and scenery to pass the time. We finished the swim in about 3hrs 45mins but when I took off the pit stops we actually swam the 10k in 3hrs 11mins, which was well under our 3.5hr target time – well done us! Will I do it again? Probably not, but then I did say never again after running my first marathon! 

  

 

Final two sprint qualification races 

2 qualification races in 2 weeks which couldn’t have been much more different from one another in terms of my performance; Eton Dorney and Nottingham sprint Triathlons. Eton was always planned as my ‘A’ race and what I had been working towards all year as I had raced really well on this course last year and did a duathlon there in February to reccie the course, however due to a catalogue of errors it was my worse performance so far. Leading up to the race I had been feeling very tired and my arthritis had flared up which always saps my energy, I also missed what I now know to be a crucial bike session that week due to work commitments. I just wasn’t really ‘with it’ on race day and with no thought to planning I ran out of time to do a warm up pre race and also didn’t pay enough attention to my bike set up in transition which I later paid for by my shoe being in the wrong place and the elastic band dropping out of position and my brake rubbing on my front wheel. My swim and run where actually ok but I felt awful on the bike and just couldn’t push it and finished with personal worst on my bike split which meant I finished 2nd from last in my age group and behind quite a few ladies whom I’d finished ahead of at St Neots.

Looking to take the positives from a bad day, the sun was shining, the race photos were good and I learnt what not to do moving forward.

So, moving forward to my next race, which was Saturday in Nottingham, I ensured I did everything on my training schedule leading up to the race, wrote down my pre race plan, practiced the route and reminded myself that I actually do this for fun!

Holme Pierpont was a great location to race in terms of atmosphere as the multiple lap race meant there was lots of going past the spectators. Some of my fellow GreenlightPT team mates stayed to support as they had come up to race in the Outlaw Half the following day plus Mark and Oakley. I was in the last wave which didn’t start until mid afternoon and had 300 ladies (and 1 man!) in it. With such big numbers and given my beating at St Neots I decided to start the swim on the outside which meant that I had to swim slightly further but I did have a relatively incident free swim. T1 was slow as I struggled to get out of my wetsuit due to cold hands and it getting stuck over my timing chip and a near miss on bike exit as the lady in front of me fell over, then it was onto 4 laps of the lake and I rode my hardest and the headwind on the back straight played to my strengths, enabling me to gain places. I felt strong on the run but unfortunately the dreaded stitch that I seem to get raised it’s ugly head again and I had to slow until it had passed. The finish was great, down a gantry past the grandstand – a great way to finish the race. I was delighted with my time, a PB of 3mins, and finished with a smile on my face.

Unfortunately I chose the wrong race to do well at as the winner of my age group was 4th lady home with a great finishing time meaning that I didn’t get within the % qualification time to improve my placing after St Neots. So, it’s now a case of wait and see if I get a place for the World Champs. 20 people in each age group get to compete, I finished 17th at St Neots and 18th in Nottingham but my 25th at Eton Dorney had knocked me down the rankings, making qualification unlikely.

Of course I am disappointed and secretly hoping that I’ll squeeze in the team but it’s unlikely unless a couple of ladies withdraw as I think I am currently sitting in about 22nd place. When I set out in October to work towards qualification it was always going to be for a roll down place and at the time I was off the times I would have needed, so I’m not disappointed with my progress. I worked hard over the winter and have done my best within the limitations I have of time, resources and physical ability so I can’t ask for any more than that – there are some very fast ladies out there!

So what now? Next weekend I will be tackling the Jubilee 10k river swim (let’s hope it warms up as planned), I then have an Olympic distance triathlon as I’m interested to see how I perform at the longer distance, even though I haven’t trained for that, followed by the European Aquathlon Champs in Cologne, so time to refocus and keep motivated.