Like a pig to water

Water is not my natural habitat, I’m confident enough in the water, happy to be there, but I’m distinctly lacking in any real skill or grace. I lack the coordination needed to move 4 limbs at the same time in a way that is conducive to efficient forward movement. I’m so right side orientated that my left arm just flops over in an awkward ark before splashing into the water and attempting to perform a good pull.

all-ready-at-the-pool

There is so much to think about when you’re swimming, which is probably why I enjoy running so much. With running you can switch your brain off and just enjoy your surroundings while your body moves your legs and arms perfectly in motion. In fact you run better when you do this rather than trying to think about what you’re doing. ¬†Which is the complete opposite of swimming where you have to focus almost 100% of the time on your stroke to stop it falling apart. Or at least I do, maybe one day it’ll become second nature but for now the conversation going on in my brain while swimming goes something like this:

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Cotswold Classic race review

It’s official, I’m a triathlete! Cotswold Classic middle distance triathlon – done. Another bucket list race ticked off, although as ever when you complete a challenge you’ve been building towards for a while it feels a little anti climatic. I probably spent more time getting my kit prepped for the race than actually doing the race, not to mention the many many hours of training. However (and I’ll whisper this quietly) despite saying after the race I’m not doing another one again I think I might add this race to my calendar for next year also.

I thought just doing the race would scratch the triathlon itch, but having done it I think I have a real chance to go quicker by making a few simple changes. I generally come away from races happy that I’ve done the best I can but this time it’s really nagging at me to have another crack. My plan was to try to improve my marathon time next year so we’ll have to see how it fits in.

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Maximising your training budget

Chrissie Wellington wrote a great blog post a few months ago called Juggling Balls all about how to fit training for a triathlon around your work and personal lives. We all know that we have to manage around the other priorities in our lives and as much as we’d like to train whenever we want few of us have that luxury, but hearing a former pro triathlete talk through the decisions she’d had to make really resonated with me (incidentally it’s rare to find someone who is both a top athlete and a good writer so do recommend you have a read of her blog).

Being mentally committed to your training is so important and reading her blog made me face up to the realities of my training and what realistic goals I should be setting myself for my half Ironman in August. When a challenge feels too big it’s easy to avoid facing up to the reality of the training you need to do and not set good goals.

Chinese philosophers came up with Yin and Yang to symbolise the 2 opposite forces in our lives but when it comes to training there are (quite aptly) 3 competing forces you have to balance; work, family and training. All 3 pull you in different directions and you need to find a way to balance them if you are to be successful and I generally find it’s hard to achieve what you want in one area without also achieving in the others.

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What lies beneath

On the long and bumpy journey towards being a triathlete I have officially passed a major milestone; my first open water swim. Incidentally I did consider calling this post Free Willy, making a somewhat tenuous connection between me swimming free and the movie where the whale famously was set free, but decided that might give the impression I’d joined a naturist open water swimming club. Let’s be honest the lake is cold enough without exposing that part of your anatomy to it also.

But discussions about willy’s aside I have to say open water swimming is bloody awesome. I’ve always loved being around water, I think it’s where I’m most at peace and I spent a good chunk of my teenage years fishing on various lakes and rivers. I hoped it would feel like trail running does; free and natural which is why I run on trails and not roads, but I was a little nervous that I would hate it and it would put a big dent into my triathlon aspirations.

We got down to the lake at 6.30am, the sun was just coming up and it was peaceful apart from the other 6 swimmers who were already out splashing around the lake. Wetsuits and swimming hats were pulled on (it’s really not a glamorous sport is it?!) and we gingerly waded out into the lake. It was cold enough to take your breath away a little and make your face ache for the first few minutes but actually once you’re moving it was fine.

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It’s speedo time

That’s it, first swim of triathlon training done and amazingly I didn’t ache too much, just a little bit of stiffness in my neck. I managed to swim a whole 30 lengths (not in one go clearly) without needing lifeguard assistance or weaving across my lane. Personally I’d call that a success.

I’ve always swum, in fact in my early teens we used to go every Friday for a swim and then we’d eat chips in the car on the way home (reverse carbo loading). But I’d never really call myself a swimmer, competent enough but not fast or particularly talented. But given that the only swimming I’ve done in the last 2 years is splashing around in the pool with the children I was actually pleasantly surprised with my technique and strength.

I’m sure if I saw a video of my swimming it probably wouldn’t be very pretty, but in my head at least I was living the mantra of ‘think long and smooth’. I just need to train my left arm to work properly, it seems to just swing over and land in the water with a very ungainly splash.

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