Chillswim Coniston End to End 5.25 miles

The 31st of August 2019 may go down as a day that I decided never to swim again.

Temporarily anyway. I’m waiting for sleep and time to dull the painful memories.

It’s already fading as it is and I am beginning to think that I actually might have enjoyed it – in a type 2 kinda way!

So the decision to do the End to End was made nearly a year ago. A year ago when I went to watch and support friends. I walked up a hill to watch from afar – little spots in the water in the far distance swimming beautiful calm water in a beautiful calm part of the world. I was wishing I was in the water – not watching!

I decided that I would have to give it ago, and low and behold, Saturday morning came round and I found myself stood next to a lake wondering what I had let myself in for.

This weekends adventure started as we left York – I say we, as there was one of my mates, his gorgeous pooch and myself, all packed and loaded into the car and on our way – and already planning/researching an epic trip for next year! We stopped en-route at a fish and chip shop in Kirby Stephen that has not seen any modernisation in about 30 years (except maybe the till). They weren’t bad for all I mock. The second stop was Kendal before arriving quite late into Coniston. By this time we had already learnt that the swim had been put back five hours due to the weather forecast which meant we had time for a drink and chance of a lie in. Winning!

Morning came round and breakfast consumed – we wandered down to register and investigate the water (walk the dog and attempt some geocaching – we even bumped into Sean Conway!) and waste some time. Milling about waiting is actually harder than it looks. Our complacency though backfired as we realised the time – quickly scoffing some lunch before getting changed (I have NEVER put a wetsuit on as fast in my life) and heading to get the bus to the start line.

For once I didn’t feel nervous. I knew I could do the distance but that it might be uncomfortable – my kit was all ok, ear plugs in, hats on – even booties – which was a good call! Checked in, scoffed a snickers, stuffed one up my sleeve and finally got in to the water and off. And a water temp of 17 – I knew I could swim in that happily!

So far so good. Managed to keep up with one of my mates to the second food station. Was struggling a bit with sighting and a bit off initially but the first half was quite uneventful – I cant say easy – it wasn’t and some of the food stations meant getting so close to shore you had to walk out of the water. The real fun came between miles 3 and 4 – the sun had been out for the first half and considering the rain and wind of the morning – the afternoon was looking promising. Then the wind got up and the rain started. One the plus side I saw a rainbow and didnt notice the rain so much! Mile 4 or rather at the 6km mark, my shoulder started to give me issues and I debated getting out and DNF-ing. I am a bit stubborn though and I could not have worn the hoodie if I had so I carried on and the last mile was the worst!

After the fourth feed station pain, boredom and negative self talk started. My shoulder was making me miserable, I was struggling to see the five mile buoy and I misjudged the finish – like a few others. I also needed the loo – anyone who knows me, knows how hard I find it!

It seemed to take forever. All hopes of coming in in under three and a half hours were shot and I just wanted to finish. I have never been so happy to see a finish line!

The photos of me exiting the water say it all!

My mate was waiting for me as I wandered out of the water, down the finishing shoot and to the exit – first two things to sort were my need to go to the loo and food. Both satisfied – we got the buses back to the registration point. Lots of people around me mentioned that they had found it harder than last year and the conversations since suggest that a lot of people were about 20 minutes slower than they expected – which makes me feel somewhat better about the the 3:50 when I know I can do it in under 3:30!

Achy and sore, both my friend and I wandered back to our cottage and got showered before heading out for a drink and then eating tea. Wetsuits in the drying room, fed and watered, bed called. I have never been more happy to go to bed!

Still woke up tired though, but less painful memories of the swim!

As for the event itself – considering the delays – communication was excellent, organisation was excellent, the volunteers and safety crew were excellent and the whole set up fab. It really was worth doing and is worth doing – just because!

And yes, I was glad I wore booties and had snickers up my sleeve!

Will I do it again?

Ask me in a week or two!

Coniston Epic Swim 3.8km

Well what a lot of random fun was had!

This weekend just gone, I spent in the Lake District with a friend and a group from a mountaineering association in a bunkhouse in Coniston. I only knew my mate but had such a lovely time meeting everyone as well as eating lots and swimming lots!

I travelled up with my friend on Friday, in the rain, expecting a wet miserable weekend, only for the weather to improve greatly. The main purpose of the visit being swimming!

Saturday I did attempt to run – badly – my knee is giving me some serious issues – walked over to Hawkshead and then later swam in the still waters of Coniston, before a mini epic BBQ.

This was the Saturday – more important was SUNDAY!

Alongside my friend, we had booked on to the 3.8km Epic Swim. All well and good. A good training swim for Coniston end to end apparently (I swam 4km in my local lake earlier in the week remind myself I could actually swim!). We walked down to the start line – flip flops are the most annoying footwear ever = to the point that I am almost persuaded that crocs might be a good idea.

We were probably cutting it fine to be honest – but having already got my registration pack (advantage of mate having a pooch that needed walking – he went and got them!) it was literally a case of listen to the race briefing, dumping my bag and getting in the water.

Well, compared to the night before, the water was just a wee bit choppy. The night before, despite the amount of rain, was fairly warm and very still! We were (reliably) informed that the water temperature was about 17 – and in all honesty, it wasn’t really cold. I had taken my booties and gloves just in case but didn’t feel I needed them.

The route had changed – but that made life easier – just three laps rather than one short and two long. Only issue was that the wind meant that the chop was against us for the first half of the lap, but then with us for the second – I haven’t ever swum in conditions like it so wasn’t sure what to expect. Swimming into waves above your head and trying to sight was certainly interesting but no where near as bad/hard as I was expecting!

I found the first lap quite hard – and had to keep reminding myself that I could actually swim and the time didnt really matter, it just seemed to take a while for me to find my rhythm and mojo. I did though and by the second lap felt more relax and in the flow of it. By the third lap I was desperate for a wee and very happy to be swimming towards the exit point. I cannot pee in my wetsuit – which has now become my more pressing concern about the End to End swim!

I got out thinking my mate had beaten me – he hadn’t – he was 50s behind me! I couldn’t decide whether I have enjoyed it or not but I rather liked the medal! I was, however, very ready to go to the loo!

It was worth it though as I indulged in three breakfasts – including a communal fry up.

I also really enjoyed just swimming. Its the first time I have done just a swimming event and I really enjoyed it – it made a change from just running or cycling events – maybe thats the way to keep the love of triathlon alive – by doing the various disciplines in stand alone events?

Who knows?

What I do know though is that water fleas are actually a thing, and possibly the cause of the nasty bites/bruises I am now sporting on my legs!

The Weekend That Was Supposed To Be

Holkham Half Iron was today.

I was supposed to be racing it.

I didn’t.

Anyone that has been following this blog (hahahahaha) knows that I transferred my place to Outlaw X in September. A most wise and excellent choice. To the point that although the weather looked perfect – I didnt feel bad about not doing it. Although I did remind myself that I need to run.

So what did I do instead?

I surprised myself.

It is becoming a bit of a bad habit to say yes to the random things my mates suggest. About a week ago one mate sent me a link to race he had signed up for – up near Consett on Derwent Reservoir. Asked if I fancied it – and camping (with my new tent). Well bit of a daft question. I read through and debated it – but then it dawned on me I could use this to my advantage.

I decided I would use this as the perfect opportunity to head north (what a surprise!) and go cycle in my favourite part of the world – Northumberland.

I decided not to race but still go and camp and support my mate racing, while also riding my bike.

It was actually quite hard getting myself up and out on the Saturday morning to be honest – there was a little voice in my head wondering whether it was worth the money (fuel) and time going all the way north just to ride for a few hours when I could do a 40 mile ride at home. I had already printed off some OS maps just to keep in my pocket as I don’t have a cycle computer, and my bike was in the car – sod it. I overrode the little voice of doubt and thought it would do me good to go.

It was. Road trip central. I set off at half 7, donned in lycra from the start. I stopped at Scotch Corner as per normal and got some funny looks – which considering the lycra was unsurprising. I made Beadnell for 10.45. Driving North makes me so happy!

The weather was absolutely lovely but as I sorted out my bike and got ready to go (this is quite a quick process when you are on your own!) I realised that my route meant that I was going to be cycling back with a headwind!

Ah well.

My route was taking me towards Boulmer via the coast and then back round towards Lesbury and up to Rennington before heading over North Sunderland and into Bamburgh – this was a long tough slog actually – headwind and up hill – but the view was worth it (see the picture!). The other thing that made it worth the slog was the tail wind from Bamburgh through to Beadnell and some amazing speeds and top 10s on Strava!

It was bliss! I stopped eventually at the harbour in Beadnell for an ice cream before cycling back round to the car and heading back to Derwent Reservoir. It was mixed feelings though – it was an epic ride in terms of scenery and just sheer enjoyment – I was over the moon with myself at cycling so far away from home (without the usual back up) on my own! But equally – I really would have liked to have had someone to share it with. The joy of a good bike ride is like nothing else!

However I was feeling – it definitely helped reset the happiness/wellbeing button in my own head.

So looking forward to riding up there again and planning my next trip up there!

Emotional Recovery

This blog post has been written and re-written a few times over the last week or two It is also rather long! The original draft I blurted out after a week of being very tired (and suffering DOMS) and emotionally a bit out of sorts – not helped by watching Rocketman at the cinema.

But seeing as tonight is the year anniversary of the official beginning of the end so to speak, it does feel fitting and somewhat cathartic to sit and reflect.

This post is very much about emotional recovery as opposed to physical¬†(although I’m catching up on rest now and realise I need 7 hours of sleep a night to really function!).

Brief background

Today is the Summer Solstice – this time last year I was swimming in a lovely little lido in North Yorkshire – knowing full well something wasn’t right. I knew things hadn’t been right for a while but I’d put it down to stress. This particular night though he was mega distance – more so than normal and driving home I just knew.

I texted him ‘You don’t want to be with me any more do you?’ and the response?

‘I didnt want to do this over text’

So essentially – he didn’t want to be with me. His behaviour highlighting his cowardice more than anything. I had to pull him up. I had to hit the nail on the end. Eight years. Just like that. All for another woman essentially. Far from repeat myself – take a look here for the full story.

So one year on….

I am still single.

But emotionally I am in a far better place. Don’t get me wrong, there is some lingering bitterness – understandably but it’s fading. Rising above it all and in the words of a mate ‘remaining classy’ has, at times, being very difficult – but same said mate is my voice of reason and go to when I need reminding of this!

Things that I have realised:

I have had a lucky escape – so many people have mentioned how boring the ex is/was. Family and friends. Even now ‘he seems a bit 2D’ – this made me laugh. I’ve thought about this and actually theres some truth, though I wonder how much of this is related to him falling out of love with me and falling in love with someone else – but I don’t know so much – when he left old job, I hoped that we would do more spontaneous things – and we never did. In 8 years we never even lived together. Clearly he wasn’t the one, and thank the heavens we never got married. His loss will be someone else gain. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and two failed marriages which didn’t last as long as our relationship, and then our eight year relationship – he has some serious issues to sort out (as soon as any woman demands commitment out of him he bolts/behaviour changes). My dad always said he’d never marry me!

Being single and independent – is A LOT OF FUN! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s quite hard and I’ve had to make myself go out and do things. Quite often though I have managed to rope others in! I can suit myself without considering someone else – which has been an amazing feeling – after being in a relationship for 12 years and never being single as an adult…. anyway – lesson learnt – retain some independence. Be my own person. I do miss having that person who always has your back, if that makes sense. I was talking to the girls at work and they got what I meant!

Friends (and family) – I’ve found out who my mates really are and what they are made of – this includes virtual friends I have made over Twitter! I am in a far better place because of their love, support and enduring patience. As well as a lot of ribbing and piss taking. They keep me grounded. There are no words to explain/convey my love and gratitude for everything over the last year and in general. Someone mentioned that I am pretty strong emotionally – and I had to explain that most of this is because I have this amazing set of people around me – that I have surrounded myself with, that I draw my strength from. I have accepted the support, leaned on them and moaned a bucketful and all they have shown me is love, care and support. Without them, I would not be where I am now.¬†I’m also one of the youngest out of the lot of them and I trust their usual wisdom. Normally anyway. Apparently I am the bad influence. I don’t think I am. If any of my mates read this – some know about my blog/Twitter – massive thanks and love – you really are awesome!

I am more capable than I believed – I’ve done more random things in the last year than I think I ever have – honestly – buying a business, racing on my own, travelling about, on my own, fixing things, being self-reliant. Finding my own two feet and what makes me tick! Finding out who I am in relation to me, and not in terms of ‘a couple’.

Good sex is out there. Just saying.

Being selfish – first time single as an adult and I have been able to be completely selfish – and I’ve enjoyed it. Doing things/races I want to do. Sometimes you need to be selfish and be true to yourself – this links quite nicely back to the bit about being independent!

I also need to take less crap from blokes and probably be a bit less laid back in relationships – I hung around and waited 8 years for nothing – never demanded anything, had low expectations.

Making up for lost time – I have filled the last year with adventure – with saying ‘yes’ to as many things as possible, to living life to the fullest and doing stuff that I never dreamt I would. My bank balance isn’t happy but – I have no commitments and ties – and to be fair, I’ve done some serious adulating and sorted out my credit card. For all my little emotional wobbles – being single at 30/31 – has been be best adventure I have had for a long time but this does lead to some worries/concerns which are probably only natural.

General worries:

Starting again – will I ever trust anyone so completely again? Head is weary, heart says yes. I use one of the girls at work as living proof that things will come good.

Children – I don’t know if I want them. Part of me screams yes. Part of me is enjoying life too much to want them – no-one ever sells the joys of motherhood. This really worries me. I am worried about being an older mum. About settling down.

My expectations – My mum thinks I am being too picky – well I don’t want to waste another eight years on someone that isn’t right. I was talking to my boss about this just this afternoon and she doesn’t think its a case of me being picky but more a case of me having higher expectations, less willing to settle for second best and having a better idea of what I want in life/a partner.

Being lonely – sometimes I am, which is unusual. I miss having a partner-in-crime, a go-to person, someone to spoon/watch dodgy telly with. To spend time adventuring with – its always better with someone else.

Getting ‘stuck’ with the wrong person again. Goes without saying.

Not knowing what I want – I don’t plan ahead anymore – I don’t think, oh in x amount of years I want to have done/achieved/be… in the words of Graeme Obree – ‘be more seagull’. I am very much a believer that things happen for a reason – and always when I try and plan too far ahead – it never pans out like that.

The person I am now if very different to the one I was a year/eighteen months ago. Far more outgoing, no longer in someone else’s shadow, more confident and outgoing, braver and stronger. I’m a older, improved version of the 17 year old me I think. And for all her spunk – I rather like her!

The heartbreak, the split, life experience shapes you, but more importantly, life is what you make of it, and its there for the taking!

Enduring Inspiration

I am never going to be particularly fast – I know that – not the fastest swimmer, not the fastest cyclist, not the fastest runner. Seeing gains and improvements is always satisfying but the ‘fastest’ at anything isn’t my style. I could go for endurance though – and I suppose this is why I find endurance athletes the most interesting and most fascinating.

I follow quite a few endurance athletes via social media such as Nicky Spinks and Sean Conway. I’ve also met both of them. I’ve also recently been reading Mark Beaumont’s books, so when I saw he was on a book tour – there was no way I wasn’t going to go.

For those of you who might not of have heard of him, Mark Beaumont is a well known adventurer – most famous for his cycling exploits – included racing Africa as well as two around the world cycling trips – most recent one being Around the World in 80 Days – an amazing feat (go read his books!).

I am not a fan of driving into Leeds to be quite honest but this was worth it. Parking up at the Light and walking across the Carriageworks Theatre I arrived in good time. Which always amazes me as I usually cut these things quite fine.

Either way, what followed was broken down in to two parts – the first half gave background to how Mark Beaumont got to the point where cycling the world in 80 days became a possibility. Everything that had gone before leading up to it. Working out what was possible – what the intention was. Not just breaking the previous record but setting a goal and working out what was possible – like he said, good project management. It was genuinely fascinating – I am currently half way through the book but it won’t spoil it I don’t think!

Then the second half focused solely on the 80 days – the difficulties and how it was actually possible – I could have sat and listened for hours – how it seemed actually possible to develop and create your own trip on your own terms was what really stood out to me. Considering how much I love a good road trip made me think about how much I missed having a tent! I’ve been moaning for a month or two about how I left a perfectly good tent at the ex’s! Not amused.

This nicely leads on to the fact that I actually won a tent last night. Vango currently sponsor Mark Beaumont so there was a competition to win a tent – tweet or Instagram a picture from the evening with the hast tag #forwhereveryougo and you stood a chance of winning.

Possibly the best tweet I have ever written – though from my other twitter account!

So come the end of the show I went off to claim it and actually met him. I am rarely shy but I was last night. Ooops.

I also got talking to Ed Pratt who has cycled the world on a unicycle – honestly – that to me is mega crazy – over three years. My biggest question was along the lines of – whats your cadence like on a unicycle?! I am genuinely intrigued – and I would love to go see him talk. That might be my next trip….

Anyway – if you haven’t read Mark Beaumont’s books – I would really recommend you do! I’m off to plan my next adventure!

Beryl Burton – Cycling Legend

The chances are you have never heard of Beryl Burton – arguably one of the greatest female cyclists ever. Her achievements were phenomenal and, despite having died in 1996, her 12 hour distance record still stands.

On Friday night, a few friends and I went to see the play, ‘Beryl’ – a play written by Maxine Peak, originally for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It tells the story of her life and her achievements – not only on the road or time trialling but also on the track in pursuit.

She is still relatively unknown by so many people – yet even with today’s modern technology and bike, knowledge of training and nutrition, she still holds the record, as I mentioned, for distance travelled in 12 hours (277.7 miles if I remember rightly!). At the time, she even took the men’s record – which took another two years to be beaten.

The play itself was fantastic and I thoroughly recommend going to see it if you ever get the chance. Having read the screenplay while away on holiday, I knew the play but to see if performed live was really special. I also had a bit of a heads up on my friends so it was a pleasure from my point of view to see their reactions to her, and introduce them to the wonder that was Beryl Burton. A wee bit of a cycling heroine in my eyes – with an absolute compulsion to compete and win!

She wouldn’t believe it!

This post has been flitting through my mind without even realising it until today. I’ve partly categorised this under ‘Matters of the heart’ because it is a subject that is close to my heart – education…

Random thoughts this morning while heading to the gym to swim included the thought that one day I would like to write a book. I’m not sure if I ever will but if I do it will probably be related in some way shape or form to triathlon. I say random thought but I think it was triggered after seeing that Sean Conway’s new book is available for pre-order. This then got me thinking about who I would dedicate it to – which links in with a random tweet from someone the other day about school PE and former PE teachers.

To put this into a bit more context. The tweet in question was something along the lines of how being a chubby (fat) child, people presume you would be bad at sports – yet there she was having running an ultra as an adult. I was a chubby child, more academic than sporty. Sorry. Academic and non-sporty. I was rubbish at sports and dreaded PE. I had this the other day with some lad over on POF when I announced my dislike of team sports, he presumed that it was because I was rubbish at sport – not an uncommon assumption. He carried on to say that it didn’t matter if I was the slowest etc – I could still train and play – or words to that effect. I clearly put him in his place (don’t get me wrong, I’m not the fastest but I’m definitely a competent swimmer and reasonable cyclist). I just don’t like team sports such as netball (or football etc).

So all these thoughts and things coming together – if I wrote a book that was sports related – I would dedicate it to Mrs Houlston – one of my PE teachers from secondary school.

As you’ve probably guessed, I really did despise the majority of PE in school. Most of all team sports. Netball topping the list. Being picked last is demoralising. I hated most of it. Although ironically, considering my love hate relationship with running, I never minded XC and I loved badminton (the only sport I ever played as extra curricula at school – we were just allowed to play, it was run by the male DT teacher and with hindsight was probably rather dodgy!). That’s about it. You may have already noted – these are usually solo events. Even now I hate team sports or anything like that – although relays are fine. I put it down to school mostly but when its a solo sport, you’ve only yourself to upset/let down really, anyway this is going off point a little.

Where does Mrs H come in in all of this? Why would I dedicate a book to her?

By the time I was in Y11, I was walking a lot more, being generally more active and I’d started to lose the puppy fat that had plagued me for as long as I remember. No-one ever said I was fat or anything like that but I wasn’t slim and my mum always just called it puppy fat. There was a complete transformation in my appearance – when I show people my Y7/9/11 school pics they don’t believe its the same person.

There is one PE lesson, or rather snippet at the end of a lesson, that really stuck in my head. It was summer, we were playing rounders. Yes I’d been picked last again but as I wasn’t carrying the weight any more suddenly I was managing to run and get half/full rounders. We were walking back to the changing rooms and Mrs Houlston was walking beside me and just happened to say something along the lines of how well I’d played or compliment me on how much faster I was/fitter I seemed. I told her about the walking, she seemed impressed. I don’t quite remember the words, but I remember the feeling. I’d had a compliment/praise from a PE teacher! I was secretly proud as punch – praise was less meaningful in other subjects as I was pretty good academically. The other thing to note about Mrs H, especially compared to my other PE teacher, Mrs P, Mrs H was always more understanding of us less sporty girls – encouraging yes but never berating us for thinking we weren’t putting the effort in or make us feel awful. It’s like she knew how much we despised it and tried to make it tolerable (she did know, I’m sure of it!). Mrs P always seemed full of over-enthusiasm and had obvious favourites – the sporty ones. We always copped it.

That feeling that I got from the quiet praise and the fact she had noticed, means that Mrs H will always be a bit of a hero when I look back. Its been the comment thats stuck with me more than anything at school. It’s probably inspired me more than I realise too as I often wonder what she would make of what I get up to now! I’d like to think that she would be a little bit proud. She will have no idea just how much of a lasting impression her words have had and I would love to just bump into her one day and tell her. My inner teacher is reminded that teachers hold more sway than they realise sometimes and sometimes its the littlest things than make the biggest impact.

So if and when I do write that book… I will dedicate it to Mrs Houlston, with a massive thank you for recognising that I maybe wasn’t quite as rubbish as I thought and for just making my last term of school PE ok.

 

(I’m starting a triathlon coaching course this weekend. I don’t think she’d believe it!)