Toyko Olympics – Mixed Relays

I’ve not watched much of the Olympics, but what I have watched has been brilliant. I watched the mixed relays. The 4 x 400 athletics relay was a mess with a few teams not taking it seriously, which made the win by unfancied Poland even more amazing.

The triathlon relay was absolutely nail biting stuff with only seconds separating the top few teams. Great Britain were favourites but it was by no means assured, although it was great to see Jonny Brownlee pick up a gold medal to go with his silver and bronze from previous Olympics.

In the pool the 4 x 100 Medley was one of the most incredible races that I have ever watched, made all the more exciting because the women and men were racing together. In the triathlon and track relays the men race the men and the women race the women, but in the pool each team can utilise their strongest swimmers, no matter what leg they do. This lead to the amazing spectacle of seeing four men and four women lining up on the starting blocks. The triathlon relay is definitely missing a trick here, and should let each team race in whatever order they like. A female triathlete with a strong cycling discipline might be able to keep up with the men as the races are draft legal. I will suggest it.

I’ve also liked the fact that for the first time ever there have been more female athletes than male, and that there are no male only or female only events. It isn’t complete parity yet. In gymnastics on the floor routines the women are judged on how their moves are in tune with the music, but the men don’t have music for their routines. Maybe the men should also have to do their routines to music.

I was disappointed to see Novak Djokovic criticise Simone Biles for pulling out for mental health reasons, and then two days later he smashes his rackets on court, storms off and pulls out of the doubles in a hissy fit. I’ve not seen him apologise yet.

Anyway, I would like to see more mixed events.

Races 2021

With lockdown slowly easing and more people being vaccinated, there is a certain amount of optimism regarding races in 2021. Pretty much every race last year was either cancelled or postponed, although both me and Helen are being cautious with what we enter.

Ullswater Trail Race

In two weeks time we will be racing around Ullswater. I’m doing the full race, 20 hilly miles, while Helen is doing the 10 mile version which includes a ferry ride to Pooley Bridge. Way before anyone had heard of Covid we did something similar with Nelly (read about it here).

Backyard Ultra

When I first stumbled upon the concept of the Backyard Ultra I knew that at some point I would have to have a go. The idea is simple, every hour you run just over 4 miles, and you keep going until only one person is left standing. The one I’m doing is in North Wales, but there are hundreds all over the world. Unlike Ironman, the original organisers are happy to support anyone who wants to put on their own version.

Coniston Swim

This was one of my cancelled races from last year, and it is the full length of Coniston Water, just over 5 miles. I’ve only managed two swims this year, however, this race isn’t until September so I should have opportunity to get a few longer swims in before the event.

Cancelled/Postponed Races

The Oldham Way Ultra has been postponed for the second year running, so possibly I will manage this hilly 40 mile race in 2022.

My amazing wife had entered us into the Castle to Coast Triathlon, which was cancelled last year, but we’ve deferred our entry until 2022. Neither of us had done enough cycling to enjoy what could be one of the best races we’ve ever done. The swim is in Windsor, the bike ride heads towards Brighton, and the run is 13 miles into Brighton, hence the name – Castle to Coast.

Hopefully we’ll enter a few more races as the year progresses, and we’re also looking forward to parkruns starting up again. It does appear that there are some issues and that they are looking to commence towards the end of June. Fingers crossed.

That’s us for official races. Helen will also be doing the Bay Limestone Round in a team once again, with me and Nelly supporting, and we’d also like to have a go at the George Fisher Tea or Espresso Rounds.

What races have you entered?

Back to the Pool – 2021

Last August I wrote about how good it was to be able to swim in a pool again (read about it here). A couple of weeks ago swimming pools were once again allowed to open, albeit with plenty of restrictions. Generally I would swim a couple of times a week before work at the pool in Horwich, but as I don’t have to be back in the office yet I thought I would give Lancaster University pool a try. I’ve swam there a lot in the past and it is an excellent pool; temperature nice and cool, 25m with 8 lanes.

The restrictions mean that you can only book for an hour, there are only four double wide lanes, with a maximum of five people, with different speeds for each lane. To minimise the number of people milling about in the changing area, the lanes are staggered. The slow and fast lanes are allowed in at a specific time, with the two medium lanes fifteen minutes later. Each lane is given a full hour and then the whole pool closes for 45 minutes to allow it all to be cleaned.

I booked myself a one hour slot in a medium lane, knowing that as this is the Uni the fast lane will probably be full of incredibly fast people. I jumped into lane 3 and immediately a young lad in the fast lane overtook me doing kick. There were three other people in the medium lane and although I was the quickest, two of the others were only marginally slower than me. The remaining man looked like he was going to drown at any moment as he would walk as far as he could and then swim very very slowly to the end. The restrictions mean that you are not allowed to overtake and have to wait at the end to allow people to pass. I resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to be patient every now and then.

Overall the whole swimming experience was excellent with friendly staff and plenty of room to swim. Much better than the chaos at Horwich. Another good thing was that most people don’t want to swim for the full hour, so I had the lane to myself for the last 15 minutes. My arms and neck were a bit sore and it did feel like I was swimming through treacle at times, but I went a second time this week. My pace was fairly slow, but hopefully I’ll soon get back into it, especially as I have entered the Coniston One Way swim in September which is just over five miles.

Not to be out done, my lovely wife Helen went for an open water swim in Capernwray. Much too cold for me at this time of year, but maybe next month I’ll join her.

Lockdown Weight

I’ve put on a bit of weight during lockdown. Mentally I have struggle with not being able to go on adventures with my lovely wife Helen and our silly pooch. Last summer when the lockdown eased we went on loads of mini-adventures and even had a brilliant week staying at Helen’s brother’s caravan in the south Lakes.

Since Christmas I’ve got myself into a bit of a habit of buying biscuits and chocolate. Helen doesn’t start work until 1pm and then works late, so I would walk with her on her way to work and buy myself some diet coke or pepsi, and sometimes a small bar of chocolate. This soon became biscuits as well. This didn’t help me mentally and I started to spiral downwards, feeling worse and then eating even more rubbish. However, getting my first vaccine jab seems to have helped. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lockdown restrictions are due to ease in a few weeks with swimming pools opening again, and hopefully we’ll be able to go for run/walks in different counties as well.

Anyway I weighed myself for the first time in a couple of years and I was 83kg (13 stone 3 lbs). I would like to drop down to 75kg. I have eased off the biscuits and chocolate, and I plan to alternate Fridays with a long run or a long bike ride. The long run being at least 2 hours and the bike ride at least 100km, with the aim of completing a couple of 100 milers later this summer. I also want to do another ultra run, although exactly where and when is yet to be decided, possibly Panther takes the hindmost in October again.

We do have some adventures planned, with Helen and her friends having another go at the Bay Limestone Round, with each of them taking a different leg. We’ll have to recce the route a few times which I’m looking forward to. We also have the Castle to Coast Triathlon in July to look forward to, and I have a 5 mile swim in Coniston in September as well. That’s all though. Like most people we’ve not entered anything as we’re waiting to see what the summer brings, but with over 40% of the UK population already having one jab the future is looking brighter.

Back in the Pool

Yesterday was my first swim in a pool for 149 days. Me and my lovely wife have been for a few outdoor swims, but my last swim in a pool was back in March. When the pools and gyms closed, like most people, I honestly thought that it would only be for a few weeks, maybe a month at the most, not almost half a year.

Anyway, things have changed. The pool I usually swim at is in Horwich, close to where I work, when I’m not working from home. There is a strict booking system, and only half hour slots for swimming, so I booked my place in 7.30am – 8.00am slot, although you can stay in the pool until 8.15, which gives enough time to clear and clean the changing area before the next slot arrives. You also have to turn up ‘beach’ ready, i.e. wearing your swimming gear under your clothes. I arrived at the sports centre a little early to find a small queue. One woman was very beach ready as she was wearing a dry robe with her swimming cap and goggles already on her head.

Bang on 7.30 we were allowed in, swiping our membership cards and following the one-way system to the changing rooms. Lockers were all closed so you have to leave your bag poolside. Horwich pool is 6 lanes wide, and would usually have 3 lanes roped off; fast, medium and slow, with the other half of the pool open. Yesterday there were 3 double-wide lanes, again one fast, one medium and one slow. The idea being that swimmers would be further apart, especially as you were not allowed to overtake down the middle.

I jumped in the fast lane, although I don’t really think of myself as ‘fast’, and set off. Because there more people my swim became a bit of a fartlek session, swimming slow for a bit behind someone and then faster when the lane was clear. After about 30 minutes the pool slowly emptied, allowing me to swim at my pace a bit more.

Once out of the pool it was a quick change, without a shower, and then following the one way system out of the sports centre along corridors that I never knew existed. Overall the experience was good. I would like to be able to swim for longer, but 40 minutes is much better than nothing. The staff were all very friendly and helpful. The swim was also quite relaxed, as really fast swimmers or people wanting to do ‘sets’ were absent. I have already booked a slot for next week, and hopefully before the end of the month the Uni pool in Lancaster will also re-open. It’s good to be back in the pool.

Capernwray Mid Week Aquathlon

The Dive Centre in Capernwray is open once again for diving and more importantly, safe open water swimming. It is limited to 10 swimmers per two hour session and by the time we got round to booking there were only a couple of slots left. However, yesterday me and my lovely wife went there for a swim. We were also surprised by how many divers there were, but I suppose there isn’t much chance of catching a pandemic under water. For me this was my first ‘real’ swim for 3 and a half months, if you don’t include the very short swims we’ve done in the Lune (read about them here and here). I remember back in March reading that the Uni pool was going to close temporarily, with one last swim on a Thursday morning. I didn’t go because like most people I thought everything would be back to normal within a few weeks. Anyway, Helen managed 3 laps at Capernwray and I did one extra. We were both very slow and very tired by the end. Neither of us did much for the rest of the day. We’re booked in for another swim next Saturday and hopefully we’ll have found our swimming muscles by then.

This is all a roundabout way of saying how much we enjoy Capernwray for swimming. The local T2 Events also put on mid week triathlons once a month during the summer, as well as a few other events. They also organised the Kendal triathlon that I did last year on my 50th birthday (read about it here). Last August I entered a mid-week aquathlon, which was run in tandem with the triathlon. After a full day at work and driving home from Horwich I knew that even a sprintĀ  triathlon would be hard going which was why I had entered the aquathlon. I also really enjoy aquathlons. Additionally it would give me chance to chat with loads of friends who would also be there.

There were almost 200 entrants for the sprint triathlon with about a dozen lined up for the aquathlon. The triathlon people went off first and then we followed five minutes later. As it was a gloriously hot evening, the water was nice and warm, and the swim was only 500m, I went without a wetsuit.

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You forget how much extra buoyancy there is with a wetsuit until you have to tread water without one, waiting for the race to begin. I didn’t expect to be out of the water first, although I hadn’t expected a young lad in the 10-14 age group to swim over two minutes quicker than me, at least I didn’t have to struggle out of my wetsuit in transition. All I had to do was drop my goggles and pull on my running shoes, although there were still a few people doing the sprint triathlon with wetsuits who managed to get through transition quicker than me.

The run headed out of the dive centre, onto the road for a short distance before an out and back section along the canal. I soon overtook the young lad and was very pleased with my sub 20 minute 5km run leg.

Unfortunately the race was somewhat marred by a very angry competitor who had gone the wrong way on the run and was shouting at a couple of race marshals. I don’t know how he went wrong as there was a very big arrow pointing towards the canal. I tried to placate him but he wasn’t having any of it, storming off to rant at anyone else who would listen. A complete nob!

Anyway, T2 Events always put on a good race and they are hopeful about starting a few very small mid week races again in the near future.

 

More Lune Swimming

Last week I blogged about our attempt at open water swimming in the Lune, which was very cold, too shallow in places as well as there being an angler (read about it here). Over the past week a number of people from the local tri club, City of Lancaster Triathlon or COLT for short, have also been for a swim there.

This Friday, my lovely wife Helen, suggested we park up at Woodies and try swimming at the Crook of Lune. There is a small ‘beach’ area which should be easier to get in and out. The car park was packed, but just as we about to give up and leave, a couple climbed into their car and left. We quickly nipped into the space. Helen also noticed that the pay and display machine had been absolutely trashed. We grabbed our gear and walked over the Lune and down to the beach, past a couple of otter sculptures.

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Helen was also trying out her new swim buoy and I was trying out my flash new goggles. Unfortunately, once we’d managed to get into our wetsuits, we found that the entry was covered in very slippery rocks, and then once in the water it was too shallow to swim. We swam up and down a bit and found a small area that was deep enough, but there wasn’t enough of it. On the plus side, the water was warmer, my goggles were fantastic and Helen really liked her swim buoy.

The next day I tried further downstream at Halton, while Helen and Nelly very kindly agreed to ‘spot’ for me. Parking was great, seconds from the water and there was a concrete slip way to use to get in.

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It was also deep enough for a proper swim. At one point I stopped to check on Helen and found that I couldn’t put my feet down. I swam back towards Helen, and Nelly jumped in to ‘save’ me, but was distracted by a stick. We think that she had forgotten she knows how to swim.

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I only stayed in for 15 minutes, but it wasn’t too cold and would like to swim further next time. However, there are some serious drawbacks. The river Lune can be very fast flowing, especially at Halton which is a bottleneck. If you’re going to swim there, don’t go in on your own unless you have a spotter, and if it has been raining, don’t even think about going in. Additionally, this is the section of the Lune used by rowers, so again, be carefull and stay safe. If you’re not too sure, then go to the area near to the Bullbeck car park.

Below, in red, you can see the three places that we tried swimming, with various degrees of success. (Image courtesy of Veloviewer).

Lune swim

We went for a swim

It’s been two months since either me or my amazing wife had been for a swim. Too long, but Boris’ easing of the lock down allows people to drive places to exercise, play golf, go fishing, or go swimming in rivers or lakes. The dive centre at Capernwray where we would normally swim will not be opening for the forseable future, so we headed to the Lune.

Helen had had a couple of open water swimming lessons in the Lune a while ago, so she knew the perfect spot. Parking up at the Bullbeck carpark near Caton gave us a five minute walk to a relatively secluded spot on the river bank. We squeezed into our wetsuits and tip-toed into the murky water. For my birthday last year, among my many presents, was a Zone 3 orange swimming buoy, designed not as a floatation aid, but to make swimmers more visible. Additionally you can put keys, money, phone, etc, safely inside when you go for a swim. We didn’t have phones with us, but the car keys were safe and dry. I can say that it is one of the best pieces of kit that I’ve ever used, and I would say essential if you’re wild swimming. So good in fact that I’ve ordered one for Helen.

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Back in the Lune and by god it was cold. It also wasn’t very deep. We set off slowly with goggle issues. Helen’s were leaking a bit and mine were still on the top of my head. Top swimming tip, goggles work better over your eyes. We both were suffering from brain freeze as we tentatively ducked our heads under.

We swam up next to the bank, clambered over a shallow section and then continued upstream a bit further towards an angler. We turned around and headed back. As we climbed out a woman walking her dog chatted to us. We confirmed to her that the water was damn cold.

Back home to a couple of slices of homemade banana loaf cake.

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Uploading our swim to Strava showed that we’d not gone very far, but considering how cold it was and that we’d not been swimming for two months, it was more than enough.

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Next time we might try a bit further downstream where the river is deeper, if we don’t have any rain. The Lune can be an unpredictable river, as can any river or open body of water, so be careful, especially if you start getting cold.

Mighty exhilarating it was though. Can’t wait to go again.

Book Review: Swell by Jenny Landreth

This book is part autobiography and part history, both equally interesting to read. Women haven’t always been allowed to go swimming for a whole load of rubbish reasons. I’ve seen the unbridled joy on my beautiful wife’s face when she completed her longest open water swim a couple of years ago. Neither of us can imagine a world where one or other of us wasn’t allowed to go swimming. Currently, neither of us can go swimming, but the lock down won’t last for ever, and then we’ll be back in the pool or at our regular open water venue. Helen had also entered the great Bala swim, which would have involved a ride on a miniature steam railway to get to the start. Unfortunately this has been postponed until next year, but it doesn’t half sound brilliant.

The funny thing is, is that women are often much better swimmers than men, especially when the distance is longer or the water is colder. Just take a look at Sarah Thomas, who was the first person, male or female, to swim the English Channel four times non stop. Or look at Alison Streeter who holds the record for the highest number of successful Channel swims with 43, nine more than the male record.

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Sarah Thomas doesn’t get a mention in this book, but Alison does, as do numerous other exceptional female swimmers. For example, in 1875, three weeks after Captain Webb made the first Channel crossing, Agnes Beckwith, aged 14, dived off a boat near London Bridge and swam five miles to Greenwich.

On the back of the book there is a quote from Jo Brand, “If you love swimming, you’ll love this. If you hate swimming, you’ll still love this.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Double Training Days

There’s something special about training twice on the same day. I’m not talking about brick sessions, or going for a swim in the morning with a run in the evening. I mean training twice with the same discipline. Recently I have been increasing my running in preparation for the Oldham Way Ultra (now cancelled, obviously), and a few times I’ve been for a run on my own in the morning, and then been for a run with my amazing wife later the same day. Running twice on the same day is hard on the legs, but it also feels great.

In the summer we like to go open water swimming, but a few times I’ve been for a swim in the pool before work, and then been for an open water swim that evening. The shoulders and arms always feel a bit tired, and afterwards I want to eat the whole contents of the fridge.

Commuting by bicycle is one way of training twice in one day, but why don’t you smash it up on your best bike in the morning, and then amble around later the same day on a slower bike (if you own more than one bike).

I would recommend taking it a bit easier than normal, but every once in a while, twice a day training will give you a definite buzz.

However, you might have to wait a couple of months as current government guidance states that you should only go out for one form of exercise per day.