Wetsuit or no wetsuit?

With all of the hot weather that we’ve been having, there has been some talk that IMUK might be a non wetsuit swim. This won’t happen. The organisers will take the temperature early in the morning and probably from a boat near the middle of Pennington Flash, just to make sure that the temperature is below the upper limit. In over 20 years of triathlons I have never done one where wetsuits were banned.

I’ve done some long swims, including Ironman, double ironman (here), triple ironman (here) and a 10k swim in Salford Quays where I ripped my wetsuit minutes before starting. The swim in Salford was on a very hot day, and I didn’t overheat in my wetsuit, although my drinks bottle almost melted.

But, if wetsuits are optional, should you go without?

Hell No!

I’m not the strongest swimmer or the most efficient, so for me it’s a no brainer. A couple of weeks ago at Isoman (read about it here), because I was only doing the swim I went without a wetsuit. I didn’t get cold, but I was seriously tired at the end of the 7+ mile swim and would have been much quicker if I’d been wearing my wetsuit.

I have raced once without a wetsuit. I did the Cockerham Triathlon in 2007, my first race after moving to Lancaster, and because the swim was less than 400m, the time I would have saved from wearing a wetsuit I would make up with not having to remove it. For me, if the swim is 500m and the water isn’t too cold, then I would possibly go without a wetsuit, but for all other races, I will be wearing one, no exceptions for me from now on.

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Isoman Race Report

or to be more exact, Isoman swim only race report.

Why only the swim? Why not the whole triathlon? Me and my beautiful wife had both entered the triathlon. I was doing the full race and my wife just the quarter distance, although the quarter still had a 1.75 mile swim, so not an easy race. We arrived at the race venue on the Friday and had a look around the lake. All good. We had a look at some of the run route. Again all good. We still had an hour before registration opened so we decided the drive one lap of the bike course. The lap was approx 15 miles, I would have to do it four times and my wife just the once.

We set off in the car and the bike route immediately took us onto a dual carriageway, and turned left onto another dual carriageway. Worrying, but not too bad. The next few miles were kind of industrial until we popped out onto another dual carriageway, uphill, busy, with a left filter lane to negotiate. The photos below were from the race the following day.

The route turned off the dual carriageway and headed into the countryside along some very pleasant roads, before once again throwing you straight out onto the dual carriageway. Back at the venue neither of us were happy about the cycle route, so after a chat with the race director we dropped down to swim only entrants. Back in the 90’s the Bournemouth Olympic Distance Triathlon used to be mainly on dual carriageways, but one lane was coned off and the race was early on a Sunday morning. I would have been on the bike at Isoman from 11 to 1-ish, on a Saturday. Far too busy to be safe.

The race director apologised but said that there wasn’t a lot they could do in Redditch, as there was so many busy roads. Maybe don’t hold the race in Redditch!

The morning of the race was far more relaxed as we didn’t need to rack bikes or set up transition. Instead we ambled to the swim start and waited for the off. The full race/swim was off at 7am and Helen would be off at 10.30. As I was only doing the swim I decided the make it a bit tougher by going without my wetsuit.

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There were only three of us without wetsuits. As we waited in the water for the gun to go off I spotted TC, the numpty, arriving late and rushing into the water after the start. At least I wouldn’t be last out of the water I thought with a smile. The water temperature was fine without my wetsuit and I was soon into a nice rhythm. The long swim involved eight laps and I planned to stop for a drink at the end of laps two and four. It was a lot harder than I expected and was glad that I had a couple of gels with my water bottle.

At the end of lap five I was feeling tired, but I spotted Helen next to the feed station which gave me a boost. Lap seven was really tough and I seriously considered stopping, especially when faster swimmers from the half or quarter overtook me like I wasn’t moving. Half a banana and a drink and I knew that I could manage one last lap.

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I dragged myself out of the water in a time of 4 hours and 34 minutes. Not last. My longest swim both time and distance, and my longest swim by a very long way without a wetsuit. It also appeared that each lap was a bit long, as most people took longer than expected and recorded more, so it was probably nearer to 7 and a half miles instead of the advertised 7.

Originally I had planned to head back to the car, get changed and faff about for a bit before seeing Helen finish her swim, but I had taken so long she finished only a few minutes after I did. My beautiful wife was well pleased, it had also been her longest open water swim and she had enjoyed every minute of it, except for losing sight of a buoy one time and having to swim a bit extra.

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In the heat I was very pleased not to be doing the whole triathlon. In previous years the winner has taken just over nine hours, this year only the winner went under 12 hours. We were finished and back at Helen’s brother’s house by 1pm and Helen had enough energy to go for a short bike ride while I had a sleep. The swim only event meant that we could enjoy the weekend and go out with the outlaws for a posh pub meal, so it all worked out in the end.

 

Veloviewer Leaderboard

My regular readers will know that I’m a fan of Veloviewer and all of it’s extra stats. Read about all of my Veloviewer posts here. A few years ago Veloviewer introduced leaderboards, but only the top 20, and I was amazed to find that for overall Eddington score (miles) I was in 19th place. Recently Veloviewer has introduced placing for everyone, although only the top 20 make it to the list. I’m now down to 87th for my Eddington score.

My good friend The Prof has made it up to 18th for the maximum cluster score, while I’m still languishing in 50th place, but I have made the top ten on one list.

Swimming distance so far in 2018.

swimThat’s me in 8th place, having swam 32km so far this year. I’ve entered a 10km swim later in the year, and in June I’m doing Isoman which is a triathlon with a 7 mile swim (read about my races for this year here). I have therefore increased my swimming, helped with the terrible weather, and this morning I managed my second 5km swim of the year. I couldn’t stop eating all morning.

Let’s be fair though, this leaderboard isn’t too impressive after just one month, and I have no doubt whatsoever that I will soon drop down the list, but it’s nice while it lasts.

200 Strava Swims

Yesterday evening I notched up my 200th Strava swim. I’ve been on Strava for five and a half years, but it wasn’t until February 2014 that I got myself a Garmin swim-watch. Before then I would only manually upload swims if they were ‘epic’. The first swim that I uploaded was in January 2013 and it was 6km. My longest swim was 11.4km and was part of a continuous triple ironman (you can read about it here). Below are a couple of photos of that swim.

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This year my target has been to swim 100miles, and with three weeks to go I only need a couple more swims, which will be the furthest I’ve ever swam in one year.

My 200 Strava swims total 478km, making each swim on average 2389m. I also manage to collect on average over 20 kudos per swim. My Eddington scores (explanation here and here) are only 4 miles and 6km, although for time it is 53 minutes. It will be a long while before the distance markers increase, but I only need to swim at least 53 minutes two more occasions for my score to reach 54 minutes.

I don’t yet have any big targets for 2018, although my wife seems to think that I should have a go at the Frog Graham! Windermere one way could well be another challenge, but we’ll see what develops.

Not much more to say really, except that I love swimming and even after all these years of triathlons and open water swims, I still get incredibly nervous at the start of every open water swim.

Fireworks 500

Fancy an open water swim, in November, in an old quarry, at night, with a glow stick and hundreds of other lunatics. Definitely!

It sounds crazy, but it was the second time that me and my wife had done it. More people and more queues for the car park meant that the start was delayed, which also meant that many of the people in the first wave didn’t have working glow sticks, as they had already turned them on.

The water was cold, as expected, and it took until I had rounded the first buoy for my head to stop hurting. I lost my nose clip and glow stick, and could hardly see a thing, but it was great fun, especially get out at the end.

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As usual with Epic Events there are free photos to download, which is always a nice touch. The medal was also fantastic.

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To end the evening there was a big firework display, although we didn’t stay as our car was stuck in a muddy field and needed to be rescued by a farmer and his tractor.

We’ll definitely be back next year.

Salford Triathlon – The Swim

Yesterday I blogged about my first triathlon of the year. You can read about it here. A few weeks earlier I completed the swim as part of a work relay.

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I work at Wardell-Armstrong, who have been one of the sponsors of the Salford Triathlon since it’s inception. Because of the sponsorship, the firm is given four free places, and so that as many people as possible can take part all four places are used in the relay event. Knowing that there would be a lack of swimmers I put my name down, even though it is my slowest discipline. It was also only the second time this year that I’ve put on my wetsuit. They shrink in the winter.

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The swim was in Salford Quay, which is probably one of the cleanest places I’ve swam in. The last time I swam there was a 10km, which was definitely a bit long. This time the bouys had been put out in the right places, and with there wasn’t too much agro with the start, which was nice.

I was hoping for about 30 minutes, which was almost exactly what I did, although it was a long run into transition for the handover to my colleague on the bike.

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Once I’d handed over I got myself changed and walked around much of the bike course to cheer on my work colleagues. The problem was that I really wanted to be doing the whole thing, even though I’m a long way off full fitness, which was why later that weekend I entered the Sedbergh Triathlon, and I might even manage another race in September.

My team mates also did really well, as we came in fifth team overall, and fourth men’s team. Next year though, I will definitely do the whole race.

#Bemoredoug

This is a difficult blog entry to write. A few days ago Doug Waymark died while swimming the channel. Last year another swimmer, Nick Thomas, also died. Both men were part of the ultra-distance triathlon community, which isn’t very large, so you see many of the same faces at every race.

In 2014 I successfully completed a double ironman, after a DNF in 2013. I finished 12th. Doug was 13th, although all we both wanted was to finish relatively unscathed. He was 4 years younger than me, which is no age to die. His family and friends set up the hashtag #bemoredoug, hence the title of my blog entry, to make it easier for people to discover what a great bloke he was and to share stories.

In 2016 I completed a triple ironman. Over the three days of racing there were various other races and distances, including what was called a 3-2-1 swim. This involved a triple ironman swim on the Friday, a double on the Saturday and a single on the Sunday. A total of 14.4 miles of swimming. One competitor in this event, seen in the photo below without a wetsuit, was Nick.

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Nick was training for a cross channel swim later in the year, and when not doing the 3-2-1 swim he helped out with the other races over the weekend. When I crossed the finish line he handed me my medal and I could see the pleasure on his face that I’d completed what for me was a huge challenge.

“He died doing what he loved” was one of the tributes to Nick last year. I don’t want to die doing what I love, I want to live doing what I love. I want to die in my own bed when I’m in my 100’s, having lead a full life.

I’ll soon be 50, and there is so much out there that I want to do. The untimely deaths of these great and wonderful men has hit me hard. I need to make things happen before it’s too late. I don’t have a bucket list, it’s too cliched, but here are a few of the adventures I am going to start planning.

  • Big adventure – spend a couple of years cycling round the world.
  • Medium adventure – complete 50 and then 100 parkruns across the whole of the UK.
  • Small adventure – drink quality rum from Guyana, snuggling on the sofa with my beautiful wife while watching Game of Thrones series 7.

Rest in Piece Doug and Nick, you’ll both be missed by so many people.