Are The Times A Changin?

To borrow a title from Bob Dylan is brave on my part as there is no way my writing stacks up against Bob’s and I am unlikely to write anything that is remembered and celebrated like him, but irrespective of this I will continue to share my exploits.

Back to the main reason for writing, as anyone who has read these before will know over the years I have had some challenges with a certain sport, and that sport is one third of a triathlon and has led me to not have carried on with the challenge of triathlon for the last few years.

For anyone who hasn’t guessed so far, the sport in question is swimming, a sport that those who do it don’t understand anyone who can’t and those who can’t or struggle wonder how anyone can possibly enjoy it.

I am firmly in the camp of how can anyone enjoy it, it takes place in artificially lit plastic boxes with cold chemical filled water, which as if to make it harder gets deeper at one end.

For those of us that struggle with swimming the act of getting from the shallow end to the deep end gets more fraught as you go on as once you get past a certain point you can’t stand up and so the chance of drowning becomes a realistic possibility. The return journey is not as bad as the water gets shallower but I get more tired so drowning remains possible as you can drown in a few inches of water!

Now, it turns out swimming has two major components firstly technique, very important and secondly the mental side which is probably more important as if you can’t relax in the water than swimming is almost impossilbe.

I have struggled with both of these components and frankly thought the idea of ever swimming in a relaxed enjoyable way was not for me, it was something other people did.

Recently I have been thinking about future challenges and triathlon kept coming to mind as I obviously felt I had unfinished business and so it became a simple question of either of overcoming the struggle of swimming or forget triathlon for good, and find other areas to go at.

Unfortunately there is never an easy way to overcome a struggle, and so my approach was simple, go to the pool and try swimming again with no pressure and then find some lessons to sort out the technical side and hopefully the mental one as well.

The few times I went to the pool, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, I did some lengths and tried hard to be as relaxed as possible, it seemed that perhaps there was a chance swimming was possible. The outcome of these trips was that I decided to search out some lessons

Finding appropriate swim lessons is tricky, you need to find someone who you can trust, someone who is able to help you and break the technique down into chunks you can understand. Luckily for me via social media I saw an advert for a course run by someone I met years ago when trying triathlon who I knew was a good swimmer and was now coaching full time.

The lessons were over a 5 week period, and to summarise the course it basically broke the technique down and each week a different element was worked on, culminating in the last week of reassembling it and swimming!

I quite enjoyed the course and whilst it certainly wasn’t easy I did learn a lot and had my first experience of swimming where it felt I was on top of the water rather than dragging myself through it.

Since the course I have been swimming at an open air pool, which is heated and is so much more enjoyable than the normal leisure centre one, it also has the advantage of being open on my way home from work.

This week I had the new experience of a whole swimming session feeling “easy” or rather moving through water and the amount of speed reflecting the amount of effort rather than the effort out weighing the movement.

Perhaps the most important part of this is that I have been enjoying swimming, and actually looking forward going which is making it easier mentally.

The final part of the puzzle is that I have decided to enter a sprint triathlon in July and that is going to be the acid test, where this will take me in the end is unknown but this is a start, and a good one at that.

If you want some swim lessons then look up Bex Tri Fit there are various courses and I am sure you will learn.

Who knew that I would finally find swimming enjoyable and believe that I could again try triathlon.

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Exciting Times

This time of the year, or the time after your A race is a great time, you have time to reflect on what you achieved, but more importantly you can consider what is next.

In my last post I hinted that I had given it some thought, and that was true. However, now I find myself looking at all types of different events thinking, could I do that?

I like looking at different events, perhaps I sometimes enjoy the looking more than the taking part, actually no I don’t I just like to think that! The sheer variety of events available both in the UK and beyond is simply mind blowing.

I have a bucket list of things I would like to do, and as a cyclist those include riding up a mountain or two, running round or up a mountain. There are events that satisfy all those criteria, for example the L’Alpe D’Huez duathlon and triathlon, then there is a run round the Matterhorn that looks simply spectacular. For pure cycling there are various sportives that do mountains, and also cobbled Flemish roads, I love the cycling spring classics.

Then there is the simple challenge of pushing yourself into doing something you simply didn’t think possible, a half ironman perhaps or even a full, nah not a full that looks like a properly tough day.

Lands End to John O’Groats, the Coast To Coast and The Highland Way, three more things I would like to try, different challenges again.

I think this means that to me the world is currently so full of opportunity to test myself and have fun that I am a little unsure exactly what I want to do.

Yes there are constraints, time, money, work and consideration for my wife are all among them but how can you not be excited my the chance to enter and plan the races that will form the basis of your athletic life for the next 12’ish months? I am and I will obviously write about it and if anyone wants to join me on anything or has ideas let me know, there is a world of fun to be had out there.

Bring it on!

One Excuse After Another?

Whilst listening to the Watford game this veining I was trying to calm my nerves by searching the web for advice on how to enjoy swimming, when I came across this interesting piece

Now, the interesting thing about this, was not just the reasons given for not enjoying swimming but more for the comments posted on it. On reading the comments it became clear that many people think that the reasons given were nothing more than excuses.

For me this was interesting as I have always thought of those reasons as reasons not excuses, so it seems one persons reason is another excuse.

So if I think it is a valid reason not to go swimming because I would rather watch football on the TV it seems others view this as an excuse, especially if you are not a regular swimmer or struggle to find motivation to go.

What does this mean to me then as someone who isn’t a happy swimmer? Well, it has made me think that perhaps I need a new approach to swimming, I need to find a way to doing it that I find enjoyable. It might be I need to a couple of coached one to one sessions to set me up, it might be I need to go to the pool with a plan of what I want to do and then stick to it. Don’t turn up, get in and then think what now?

I know that I can swim, I have proved it by completing two triathlons with pen water swims, I shouldn’t need to have to justify it to myself, but, once more I do and perhaps until I just get on with it, it won’t change.

What I do know is that, if I am going to crack it, I am going to have to do it my way and probably starting with something small and building up whatever.

Watch this space to see if I manage it or I succumb to the mind over matter with swimming.

Physical or Mental?

This week I have enjoyed a good weeks training, I have been regaining the feeling of making good progress and generally the numbers have been reflecting this.

Also this week, I got back in the pool after an absence of several weeks, and funnily enough I quite enjoyed it.

But, and it is still the same but as before, I am still struggling with the mental side of swimming, no matter how hard I try and tell myself it’s not so bad, when I get in the pool I seem to be staying safe rather than pushing myself on and actually fulfilling any potential I may have.

What I find the most ridiculous part of it, is that last year I swam 750m in open water, and yet in a pool with no swim toys I have never done more than 100m in one go.

Give me some fins or a pull buoy and I will happily swim up and down until I become too tired to do any more, take them away and suddenly all my confidence disappears and I want to stop pretty much every time I reach the end of the pool.

There must be a simple answer to this, but as yet I haven’t found it and if I am honest I don’t really know where to find it. it sounds a bit like a song, I still haven’t found what I am looking for!

If anyone out there knows the answer to my problem please tell me as I feel it is the last step to enabling me to crack swimming.

Are You Doing It For Charity?

The most frequently asked question whenever you tell someone you are doing an event, any event, seems to be “Are you doing it for charity?”

To me I don’t understand this, should you only do an event for charity, can you not do something for any other reason?

When I was running every day for a year, I lost count of how many times I was asked the charity question, people couldn’t seem to grasp thecae that you don’t have to promise money to an organisation to want to do an event.

Let me make it clear, I have no problem with charity events, I have done a very occasional one myself but as of yet I haven’t found one I really want to et behind and commit a lot of money to. If you are interested, I am a regular contributor to several charities so it’s not that I am tight!

For people who are reading this, I imagine that you understand that you can enter an event of many reasons, and like I have said before for me generally it is for the personal challenge or the fact I simply fancy doing it.

So what would I do for charity? A very good question and one to which I do not have the answer, certainly not the London Marathon or the Ride London Sportive.

To me I look at events and firstly see if it has something that appeals to me, it doesn’t have to be the longest or the hardest or the toughest etc, for example last year I entered an off rod 10k, simply because the course looked scenic as it followed the river Thames.

Yes, this year I have entered a tough main event, but equally I have entered several others for the fun of doing them.

So, go on enter an event because you want to do it, don’t feel obliged to raise money, do it because you want the challenge or think the course looks great or even that you simply fancy it.

A Novelty

This week I finally got through an entire weeks worth of training, and it felt like the first time for ages.

Following on from my knee injury, just to be training regularly again feels good and add to that training without pain or stiffness and then you have a real plus.

This weeks training was by no means a tough week, 3 runs, 2 of which were in zone 1 and the other at lowish pace, but they all felt good. The swim was enjoyable, especially as the water in the pool was warmer than it has been for ages. It is no real surprise that swimming seems easier when you aren’t feeling like you are freezing to death!

The one downside this week was the turbo session, it was a power test and the result was the same as the last one, in fact whilst the numbers were the same I felt worse doing it and actually struggled to hold a good pace, it felt as though I couldn’t find the right gear. I guess that having had the injury it should not come as a big surprise that the numbers were not brilliant, but even so I thought I had retained more power than I did.

So, all in all this week I hope marks a bit of a breakthrough as it should be the start of a return to normality and this means proper training and the start of the build towards next years races.

Just When I Thought Everything Was Back To Normal

Just when I thought I was getting back to normal post the knee injury, it turns out that the knee has decided it isn’t as fixed as I thought.

Over the last week I have been doing some steady runs, a turbo session and I even went swimming and I thought apart from some stiffness the knee was ok as there was no pain.

However, this morning I wake up and realise that in addition to the slight stiffness there is another sensation in my knee, and it is not pleasant. A short sharp pain exists and though I am not a doctor even I know that is not right.

That led me to the first of my decisions today, do I go out cycling in the sunshine and hope the pain goes away or do the more sensible thing and don’t do it? Well for once in my life I took the sensible route and decided not to go out. I tun considered a short turbo session might be ok, but again it is still pedalling and so if I do that I may as well go out, so I decided not to do anything.

I hate not taking advantage of sunny days, it seems to me such a waste especially as we approach autumn and the onset of miserable weather, but sometimes you have to be sensible (or so my wife tells me)

So what next then, well I am thinking that I will now go and get the knee looked at, as I don’t want to be treading a fine line between being able to train and not able to and also who knows if I am making it worse by carrying on.

Hopefully, it will turn out to be nothing serious, whatever that means, and I will soon be back not to normal, in the meantime be warned I might be a little grumpy if I have to take a long break from training.

Rat Race London River Run

Today I took part in the Rat Race London River Run, basically a 10k run with obstacles thrown in which mainly involved water.

I have done a few Rat Race events in the past, and they are always well organised and reasonably priced, this was no different.

The event was set up and around the Excel in London, and took full advantage of the docks to make some interesting obstacles.

This was the first time this event has been held in London, previously it was up North and actually often shown on Channel 4. So, how did the event go for me, well on arrival, slightly later than planned due to issues on the tube, it was off to registration.

Registration was the usual simple, quick and easy affair and then it was off to change. The changing tent was a bit dark at one end as it only had lights at one end, bit odd but there you go.

The bag drop was well organised, and they had a system of looking after your valuables, which was a good and well received idea.

Onto, the start after the usual enthusiastic warm up from the gym teachers on the stage. The first 600-700m was inside the hall, but it still had a few hurdles, a tyre run and a couple of things to climb over.

Once outside, it was quickly into the paddling pool and off to the beach to go under a couple of inflatables, the advice of don’t drink the water was probably very wise as it seemed salty and whilst not obviously filthy, not the best!

A bit of a run next, up some steps, over a bridge and then onwards. To be honest I can’t remember the exact order of the obstacles, but there was a swim, followed by clambering over some inflatable rings. I fell off the rings into the water, typical. Then there was a couple of floating platforms which you had to jump onto, I jumped but the platform was a long way away and whilst i sort of caught it, fell again. You will see a theme here!

Next up was the big test, the jump into the water from a 3m high platform, it was a case of walk to the edge wait for the countdown and jump. I have to say it was an odd feeling jumping, it seemed to take a long time to hit the water, maybe I was flying!

Once out, it was more soggy running and off to the kayaking, luckily I jumped in with two other people who turned out to be decent paddlers, so I was carried along really.

After this came the strangest one, a water slide, the slide was steep and I was certainly travelling at sped when I hit the water. Climb out and off again.

There were on the course a few non-water obstacles, a small inflatable, some monkey bars, a couple of things to climb over and then something to go under. Most of these you got to do twice!

The final water obstacle was an inflatable tunnel you went through and dropped out into the water, swam round a buoy and then climbed out.

In true Rat Race style there were a couple of walls to climb over in the finishing straight, just to keep you honest, and then it was over.

I have to say I was really looking forward to this event, and if I am honest it wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped, but it was still fun.

On finishing I realised I had picked up the usual assortment of Rat Race bruises and scars, most of which will be sore for a few days, that is just traditional.

If you have never done one the Rat Race Obstacles races, I would recommend doing one, they are a good laugh and well worth doing with someone or a group for more fun factor.

How Far Can You Take It?

The question we all ask ourselves when we get into endurance sports, how far can I take it? Whether it be from running your first 10k to dreaming of that marathon or your first sprint triathlon and thinking of the full ironman.

When I was out running tonight I was giving this question some serious thought, when I first started out working with Mike he asked me what my targets were, I answered in year one a sprint triathlon, year 2 an olympic distance and year 3 a half ironman. His response was surprising, he said do you want to do the half ironman in a year? I answered no, but as I am now in year 2 I am seriously considering pushing on and having a go at the half ironman.

The question is though, if I do that what next? I have never run a marathon, so maybe a marathon, I never never done a long distance swim, maybe one of those who knows.

Having spoken to a few people who do endurance sports, they all say they started with something small and now are doing full ironamns or ultra marathons, but the common theme is that they now love the longer distance events and find that they want to challenge themselves more.

So do all people who take on endurance challenges become hooked by the challenge? I honestly don’t know the answer but I can say I know a few people who previously didn’t run and are now looking at doing marathons and perhaps that is the answer, once you start you can’t stop until you do find out how far you can take it.

RG Active Open Water Seminar

Following on from last weeks first triathlon, I decided that I needed some help with my open water swimming, well intact I need help with all my swimming but that is another point! I was looking on the Human Race website and came across an open water seminar run by RG Active to be held at Dorney Lake.

The session was 90 minutes long, and promised a 50/50 split between classroom and in the water. Booking was easy, and it was all set for a 9:00am start on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, Saturday morning bought rain, rain and more rain, but as I was going in the water it didn’t really matter.

The session was run by John Brame, an ex-pro triathlete and obviously a really good swimmer. His presentation style in the classroom was very relaxed and was certainly aimed at making us all feel more relaxed.

The topics covered included, wetsuits, googles, lubrication and some useful advice on starting. For someone as inexperienced as me, this was all useful stuff, especially about how to treat your googles, yes I leave them in their bag, but I spit on them and rub the inside of the lens, therefore removing the anti-fog!

Once the classroom bit was over, we had a session on how to put on our wetsuits correctly, I have to admit mine looks a bit like a battlefield and is in need of some repair, a job for a sunny day in the garden I think.

Wetsuit on, and it was into the lake, the water was a little chilly but following the feet, hands and face steps it soon seemed ok.

We started off exploring the buoyancy of the suit by floating around on our backs, and then it was off for the first swim, this was to give him a chance to see what our swim strokes looked like.

John then shared a simple tip to both lengthen our stroke that utilised the buoyancy of the suit and was simple to put to use.

We enacted a mock start to get us used to the washing machine effect and what it felt like to be hit and battered a bit.

For me, unfortunately on the last swim I got a touch of cramp in my hamstring, it meant a tow back with the canoe, a combination of the cold water and the fact I was a bit tight in the hamstring before I started.

I really enjoyed the session and thought it was good value for money, personally I could have done with more time in the water, and being a slower swimmer I was aware that I didn’t want to hold up the faster swimmers and possibly I should have been more selfish and worried about it. The coach gave excellent information and after the session the other coach (sorry can’t remember his name) was more than happy to talk to me and offer some advice on a few aspects.

You will have noticed I have not really given too many of the actual details of the session and this is deliberate as I think if you attend such things, you should try and give an honest opinion of them so people can decide if they want to attend themselves, not give all the details so people can read them and use them, after all these coaching businesses won’t last if people don’t use them.

In summary, a good session and one from which I leant a lot, and has given me a little more confidence in the water. Would I recommend it? Simple answer yes, if you are a beginner like me then it is ideal.