Triathlon X Half Relay Antics

‘Empathy is about finding echos of another person in yourself’ Mohsin Hamid

I’ve rewritten this post more times than I care to remember before publishing. For various reasons – including being too wordy! September was a very busy month – three out of five weekends saw me travelling to the Lake District, all because of some link to the Tri Club, so not all bad.

So, why was I back in the Lakes?

The last Bank Holiday in August, a group of us went open water swimming. Not an usual event considering we’re triathletes, but this time, one of my friends – who doesn’t like swimming at the best of times, had a mini panic attack in the water. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had signed up to Triathlon X half and how she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. Two of us offered to do it for her if she could do it in relay. That turned out to be me. I had planned to come up anyway to cheer her on as I had nothing else on. So a couple of emails back and forth later and I was entered into Triathlon X half to do the swim! Now, TriX has a reputation. It is possibly the hardest triathlon (half and full) in the world. I definitely had the easy part. To put it in perspective, I was done with the swim by 8.44 – she was only finishing at 5pm – and she is an Age-group standard athlete for duathlon. If you want to see the elevation involved, I would just go search it if I were you.

Back to the race planning  – after a few conversations back and forth, I booked my own accommodation. It’s the first time I’ve stayed in a YHA on my own in a dorm room. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually ok. It is nicer having your own room but for £27 and to be located right next to the start line, I wasn’t going to complain. I hadn’t booked breakfast knowing that I would be swimming and up early (6am to be precise). I also didn’t check out when I left for the swim. Knowing I’d be finished before 9am, I decided to wait so after swimming I could go get a shower. This turned out to be the best plan ever – who doesn’t want a warm shower after swimming in a cold lake?!

Drinking coffee and eating some oaty breakfast bar I heading over to transition and met my friends. Dressing in neoprene – literally head to toe – hat, gloves, booties as well as wetsuit was more than novel compared to normal. I had been feeling ok about the swim until the night before. Then nerves started to kick in. Although I’ve been swimming again more regularly, this was going to be my longest continuous swim since Leeds Tri in June (1500m) and the water was a lot colder than I normally like to swim in.

The actual Swim 

I can now say I have a far better understanding of what my mate feels about OW swimming.

Not that I am not empathetic – just that I have a better understanding and wish there was more I could do to help her.

Water temperature was 13.3 degrees. Coldest I’ve been swimming in for a long time, especially any distance! It was definitely warmer than it was in April though. It was a deep water start and there was about 135 of us but there wasn’t too much of a washing machine effect as normal – although I started near the back. I spent the first 3/400m wondering what on earth I was doing? Debated getting out, decided I hated OW swimming, wondered how I was going to make it all the way round etc etc. It was awful. I’m not usually negative when I’m swimming but the first part was just awful. If this is even a fraction of how those who dislike/hate swimming feel – wow. This was bad enough and I am a fairly confident swimmer and love being in the water normally.

I finally found some sort of rhythm after I got past the first triangular buoy at about 800m and started to enjoy it. I was surprisingly warm (thank you neoprene!) and took it steady – to try and save my shoulder. The last 200m were cold and long but I was apparently smiling when I got out. Was a bit annoyed with myself as my time was 44.17 and I know full well I could have done a sub 40. My mini stress at the beginning and have to physically stop a couple of times to sight properly and get my bearings definitely didn’t help. My shoulder still isn’t perfect either but it’s only twinging a bit at the moment. I really need to rest it up I think and make sure I keep stretching it out.

I will point out though, that I was smiling when I got out – and dare I say it, I finally managed to enjoy it!

Racing in relay

Racing in relay was new, but the nature of the race (see comments about about elevation), meant I was actually quite glad I’d finished. I definitely feel I had the easiest part of the race. There was a picture of my friends stood watching the swim looking so worried. It turns out they actually were. A few got out during the swim and DNF’d – that worried them. The temperature worried them. My mates nerves got to her. The picture in question is worthy of a caption competition to be fair!

I got out of the water and hung around long enough to see my friend disappear up the road on her bike and I went and got a shower and changed. It was going to be quite a long day. I wasn’t completely on my own though. My day consisted of eating and drinking and generally wandering about until about 5pm when my friend finished. I do not know how she did it, and I am in genuine awe of her achievements. She is so unassuming, quiet and quite shy – I don’t think she realises her own strength, stubbornness and determination. I suppose that’s why I love her, and was more than happy to jump in a cold lake for her. I’d do it again too!

Ellerton Park – Swim little fishes swim!

Swimming has its educational value – mental, moral, and physical – in giving you a sense of mastery over an element, and of power of saving life, and in the development of wind and limb.’ Robert Baden-Powell

Swimming, over the last few months, has been a blessing and a heart saver. A lot of my friends swear by running as cheap therapy but for me, it’s always swimming. My swim set, how much I swim, where I swim, how much effort I put in – the ability to actually swim ‘mastery over an element’ is my therapy. I really can switch off when I swim and focus on the moment and what I am doing. It has helped my mental wellbeing after everything that’s happened and it has helped my physical body get physically fitter. Not so sure about the moral benefits, other than being able to take the moral high ground after an early morning set before work!

As such, I always feel the need to share my love of swimming and finding little gems. Today, myself and seven other club members headed over to Ellerton Park to go and swim. My friend wanted to so we opened it up to the club and in the end eight of us rocked up to swim.

For those who haven”t heard or been to Ellerton Park, it is not far from Scorton, Richmond in North Yorkshire. It really is a hidden little gem! Clean, quiet and open all day – what is not to love?

I really should have asked everyone how far they swam in order to get a grand total – I know that I did four laps (my longest OW swim of the year at 2.3km) and that one mate did 11 laps, and another 5, so theres 20 between three of us. I also heard later on that another club member had gone across in the afternoon and enjoyed it.

It was a bit of a trek to Ellerton Park from home, however, as I think I’ve mentioned before – I think it will become important in next year as I train for my planned A race of the season. Apart from been clean and quiet – it has, as stated above, long opening hours. It is definitely worth a trip.

Quick run down….

Location – Ellerton Park, Scorton, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 6AP

Cost – £5, cash only.

Facilities – Changing/shower room, steps into the water, burger van (varied opening hours – so don’t count on it!), not far from local cafe though, with Tri-ology located above it.

Spotters/lifeguards – no. Definitely worth taking a tow float/mates to spot.

Swim loop – 530m loop around 3 buoys, clockwise, can get a bit choppy.

Opening times – If I remember rightly, the season is usually March to September, and opening hours at rough 9 to 6, give or take an hour. I’ll try to double check next time I’m up there – but regardless – you can swim all day if you want!

Water quality – really highly rated – and you can tell when you get in! No pool/lake fever for me at all. Definitely a major selling point.

Parking – yep – and a decent amount of it too.

Other important info – Can be weedy, going off past experience, spring water fed so although warm when sun has been on it, can be cooler quite quickly. Usually pretty clear. Quite deep – you cannot stand up unless you swim right to the side, and even then it is only a small ledge. You may find yourself swimming over divers and occasionally some boats may be in there. They only accept cash! This is also a venue for a local midweek sprint triathlon too.

Trying new things!

So in the theme of travelling, training and triathlon, my trip out yesterday saw a mixture of these things come together. Having been at Ellerton Park on Saturday and seeing just how glorious the lake was, I headed back there yesterday with a friend to actually swim. I might as well make most of having a week off work.

It is only £5 to swim and the beauty of this spot is that it is open all day nearly, every day. Perfect for the likes of me who don’t work all day every day! The water is so clean and clear (and really quite warm at the moment too) and it’s deep too. The course is marked out with three buoys, which you swim around clockwise. That’s it. There are no spotters or life guides so I bought a new tow float (I used to borrow his but, obviously this isn’t an option now). I felt better for knowing I had it, and that one of my friends was keeping an eye out. It was bliss! I’m lucky that I have a lake very close by to swim in, but for my plans for next year, I really think, despite the distance, this may be my lake of choice! I need to go check out Blue Lagoon though too. It was so nice being in the wetsuit again and out swimming rather than being in the pool. Even my friend managed to get in, despite doing no OW Swimming in nearly a year. There are showers and toilets, as well as a cafe near by. What else could you want or need? Having not eaten very much, I only did 2 laps (still struggling with eating) around the lake before swapping with my friend, but it was just nice to be out!

Later on though, there was a second appointment with a track session. I always said I wouldn’t do track, but I am conscious I am not a particularly speedy runner and I need to work on it. But boy – what a shock to the system that was. I knew it would be hard but I really need to up my running. I nearly hurled a few times but then I pushed myself harder than I would have done if I’d been on my own. I’m suffering today though as well. One of the coaches did say you need to be averaging 15 miles running a week to make most of track sessions. Best start upping my running and find some better trainers. I have sore calves and blisters this morning and I’m supposed to be running tonight.

I really hope that in a few months time I can report some more success in my running in general.