Monday, 30 July 2012

Long swimming

Something I've got into over the past year and a half is long swimming.  Well, actually the second event I did was described as a "Long swim" but that was a mere 3.8k.  What I mean is swims of 10k (and plus), popularised since their introduction into the Olympics in 2008 and Britain's poster-girl Keri-Anne Payne who is currently favourite to win in a week or so's time in London.  In 2011 I completed my first 10k swim in a very long 3h32 minutes (it felt like a long time that I was swimming for), and back in May I absolutely smashed that time with a 2:46 finish on the same distance.

Last year I saw a 14k swim advertised, and hot on the heels of my first 10k completion I wondered about taking part.  But it clashed with my wedding.  #priorities.  But on a miserable day back in March I think, I saw it advertised again and decided to enter to cheer myself up.  It's the "Bridge to Bridge Swim" from Henley to Marlow, so a river swim, hopefully aided a little bit by the current!  With this year's 10k in the bag I was on track with my training, but shorter distance events in June and July changed my focus and it's only in the last couple of weeks that I've started focussing on longer endurance swims again.

Anyway, with three weeks to go, it was time to tank out a double session weekend.  My pool of choice is currently Uxbridge lido for a number of reasons.  It's unheated, so that means that it's less busy, and I can train in my wetsuit which is what I'll be wearing for the event.  It's 50m so twice as few turns as a 25m pool.  It's outside so I can get attractive tan lines based on my swimming hat and wetsuit legs (hmm).  As it's a pool it's open at more sociable times than a lake, and it's chlorinated so I'm less likely to get ill from it.  Oh and it has a cafe for a cup of tea afterwards.  All good reasons why I'm prepared to drive 44 miles for a swim; the swimming venues in Oxford just don't compare (too short, too hot, too busy, too dirty).

So I drove down to Uxbridge on Saturday morning, aiming to do 7k or 8k, getting the majority of the swim under my belt.  I read that Channel swimmers do double sessions so I hoped that applying this technique would help me too.  I swam right through to 6k before having a quick 45s breather, doing another k, similar breather and then final k.  I was super pleased with my times which were really consistent (16.26; 16.35; 16.45; 16.46; 16.32; 16.27; 16.40; 16.31) and not too slow, obviously wearing the wetsuit helps!

After a rest on Saturday afternoon and a good dinner, it was back to the lido on Sunday morning for some more swimming.  5k this time as Mr W had driven me and I didn't want to keep him waiting.  Apart from a frustrating heavy rain storm where I was forced to exit the pool for 5 minutes in the middle of my 4th kilometre (lifeguards couldn't see the bottom of the pool), again I managed to tank out some consistent times (16.24; 16.38; 16.38; 16.39; 16.32), on average faster than the day before even though I was tired and my shoulders were sore.

Very pleased with myself; too bad that this double session seems to have wiped me out for the rest of the week!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Cycling #1

When I completed my first triathlon, just under two months ago, I realised two things very quickly.  Firstly, I wanted to do another one.  Secondly, I did not want to do another one on my step through commuter bike.  Cue some research, and some advice and the purchase of a road bike, in the end based more on its colour than on the results of the research and the advice.  (It had to be pink or I just wasn't going to ride it...).
I've just taken up the challenge of trying to learn to ride it.  A road bike is really completely different to the sort of bikes that I have been riding for the last 8 years (and as a child); it's a different position, it's a lot lighter and it's much more difficult to grab the brakes!  So it's been back to learning how to ride it; I don't really remember learning to ride a bike as a child (and there are no stabilisers around to help me get the hang of it this time), but it is somewhat reminiscent of learning to drive (which I do just about remember).
The last ten days have seen me stuttering around our estate, but I realised after half an hour of pottering earlier in the week that I just needed to get on and do it.  I persuaded Mr W that we should try to cycle to the garden centre at the nearby town, 12 miles away, where there is a reasonable cafe.*  And Saturday was our day.  Perfect weather.  It was both harder and easier than I'd imagined.  I've plenty of cycling fitness from my 45 miles a week of commuting, and my weekly spinning class, and to be honest the road bike barely needs pedalling except up hills.  But there were lots of pot holes to avoid, drivers cutting me up at roundabouts, and worst of all downhill bits which just felt terrifying.  I am happy pedalling along fastish as it feels like I am in control, but I can't bear going downhill at the moment, even slight slopes.  Maybe once I get a bit more comfortable on the drops, I'll be able to grab the brakes better and then it'll be less of an issue.
Anyway, we got to the garden centre, I got stuck on my bike because my back at seized up and had to lie down in the carpark for a bit.  We had a little  rest and then we came back again (after Mr W had refused to let me buy some hanging baskets - if I'd been on my commuter bike I'd have balanced one on each handlebar). It had taken about 75 minutes to get there, so I was hopeful that we'd get back a bit quicker, maybe under an hour.  It was all going so well until 4 miles from the end, after a steepish bit of hill, everything started hurting and faced with a steepish bit of downhill, I just lost my nerve, and had to sit down on a grass verge for a bit.  It was hard to get back on, and the next mile was a struggle but by the last mile I was going ok again, and even got onto the drops for the last 200m back to our house.
So a success I think.  Next time I'll try to manage to eat a bit more at the rest stop, and I think that plenty of practise is mainly what I need to get more confident and then up my speed.
* Actually when we got there it didn't have any terribly interesting gluten free options, so somewhere else next time.

Friday, 20 July 2012

From tuna to triathlon

Having spent two seasons tackling openwater swimming, and hugely improving my swimming abilities, I'm now having a go at triathlon for a bit of a change.  My swimming friend Fiona reliably informs me that tunas are extremely fast-swimming fish; I wouldn't say I'm an extremely fast-swimming-Verity, but I do reasonably well these days.  So this is the story of a swimmer taking on triathlon, the story of always facing a transition full of bikes (because you're fast on the swim and slow on everything else), and trying to get it right.

In this blog I'll write about some of my training, share my goals and races and results, write about the vast amounts of kit that I seem to be accumulating, and maybe talk about nutrition (and seek advice - this fourth discipline is easily as hard as the cycling and running for me to get right!)