Monthly Archives: December 2015

Baby, it’s cold outside…and in the water!

With Boxing Day and New Year dips on the radar, it’s time to explore the wonderful world of open water swimming.

I seem to be a fairly rare beast among triathletes because I love swimming. For me it is one of life’s little pleasures when you first get in the water and feel the power of the push off from the pool wall and start to swim.

I mentioned in my last post that I had a back injury in my mid-twenties. I tore a muscle while shifting furniture during one of our house moves. So I had to work my way back to fitness and swimming was part of that. We lived near a swimming pool so I used to head down there 3 times a week and eventually built up to swimming a mile (64 lengths) in around 30 minutes.

I never had any swimming lessons as a child apart from the few lessons at school but I seemed to take to it like a, er, fish to water. I remember, though, that going swimming was my favourite thing to do and I used to pester my sisters to take me and then when I was old enough to go on my own, pester my friends to come with me!

As we all do these days, I took to the internet to research how I could best prepare for my first open water swim as part of Wirral Tri. One of the first companies to appear on my search was called Head to the Hills (now called Swim the Lakes) who organised a half day event training aimed at triathletes and those taking part in open water races. They also offered to do a wetsuit fitting if I signed up to the course. As it was in Ambleside and my sister has a caravan there, my fate was sealed and they soon had my credit card details.

The course itself was excellent and Pete and Andrea’s enthusiasm for their sport was infectious. I was keen to get out to Lake Windermere for the practical part of the course. However, I was in for a nasty shock just as to how cold it was! Although it was mid-May, the air temperature was about 14 degrees and the water temperature was later judged to be about 12 degrees. I later found out that the triathlon rule book states that wetsuits are compulsory when the water temperature is less than 14 degrees and that open water swimming should not take place if it is 11 degrees or less. So far, so cold!

I was fine wading in and even getting the water up to my neck. The problem started when I tried to put my face in the water and found that it was just too cold. All the other swimmers on the course seemed to be fine while I was at the back, hyperventilating, all confidence gone and wondering where my swimming mojo had gone. When I finally got out of the water, I was absolutely freezing. I couldn’t move my hands and that meant I couldn’t open my camper van. I had to put the key fob in my mouth and press the button with my teeth.

It was safe to say that I was now in shock and was seriously wondering how I was going to do this triathlon. I had already set up the Just Giving page; I couldn’t back out now.  The only way to do this was to get back in the saddle as soon as possible. So I did some more research and discovered that Mersey Tri did open water sessions at the Marine Lake in West Kirby, near my home. With a deep breath, I joined and turned up to the sessions. By now it was June and the water was marginally warmer. The first session was still scary and I had salt water to contend with but I emerged thinking that it was going to be OK. I reached a point that I was actually enjoying the open water and genuinely looked forward to getting up at 6am on a Saturday for the 7am swimming sessions, I kid you not!

Liverpool Dock Swim photo

At the finish of the Liverpool Dock Swim. Relieved to have survived the jelly fish!

I also entered a stand alone open water swim in Liverpool docks which took place about 3 weeks before the triathlon. I thought that it would be a good idea to get some experience of open water racing without the complications of transitions, bike and run. It turned out to be a great boost to my confidence, not least because I swam through a load of jellyfish without freaking out!

My top tips will follow in another post but here’s my first tip, it is perfectly natural to freak out in cold water! 

 

Addicted to Tri-ing

If there was such a thing as Triathletes Anonymous, I would have to say the following: I am Ann Currie, I am 45 years old and I am addicted to triathlon and running. I started triathlon in my early 30’s as this photo of me shows. (As one of my friends commented when I posted it on Facebook, triathlon has come a long way since then!).

Photo of transition at Chester Tri

This is me at Chester Triathlon – not sure when to be honest!

It felt like a great achievement because I had suffered from a back injury in my mid-twenties and had been gradually working my way back to fitness through walking, aerobics classes and then progressing to running (very slowly!).

I really enjoyed it even though I was competing on my mountain bike (with road tyres). I did a mini triathlon organised by Chester Tri club to start and progressed onto sprint distance pool triathlons, mainly in North Wales. Adventurous husband even bought me a Bianchi bike to try to further my triathlon dreams.

Bianchi Bike

Testing out the Bianchi Bike on Christmas Day

It was at this point my twins came along and pressed the pause button on my tri activities. I tried to keep going and was determined to do so, even buying a three wheeled off road double buggy – a fairly rare beast nearly 10 years ago. However, I underestimated just how much hard work it was looking after twins and how exhausted I would be. I did not bank on Adventurous daughter being a poor sleeper and the kind of baby who also was up at 5am every morning, awake and ready to go. Try combining that with working 4 days a week – not much time left over for any kind of training.

I then found Tae Kwon Do. I had wanted to try a martial art for ages. Having my twins also seemed to awaken a “tiger mum” instinct, not only protect them, but to protect me so that I will be around to see them grow up. I spent an enjoyable 6 years training and getting to black belt, an achievement I am still justly proud of and which ranks as probably my finest sporting moment in life.

Black belt photo

Receiving my black belt from Master Towndrow

The drive to get back to running and triathlon was getting stronger as my twins were getting older so when I was asked to do the Wirral Sprint Triathlon in August 2014, I didn’t take too much persuasion. I did have a rare hangover when I had that discussion but it is not a decision I have regretted. I also did it in memory of a friend who died from a brain tumour. He was the same age as me so it was a real wake up call to grab life by the horns and live it to the full. So here’s a photo of me finishing the Wirral Tri.

Wirral Tri

Finishing the Wirral Tri – what a relief!

My hair is a mess and it doesn’t look like I am actually running but it is one of my favourite photos of me, ever. It encapsulates some of the things I love about triathlon: joy, happiness, relief at finishing and knowing that the training paid off. It helped to be cheered on by family and friends and new friends gained from joining Mersey Tri, another aspect of the Tri world that is so great – that everyone is so helpful and wants to see you do your best.
So if you are secretly mulling over whether you want to make 2016 the year of your first triathlon, then my advice is to grab the opportunity and go for it! You will find a very welcoming community keen to help out. I’ll post some of my tips in future blog posts. Or suggest some topics I should cover in future…

What are your plans for 2016? Any triathlons planned?

Life Lessons from Mr Incredible…

We watched The Incredibles a lot when my twins were little. I mean A LOT. I think that the plot was so complex that they had to keep watching it to try to figure it out. I quite often felt empathy with Mr Incredible when he says in the opening sequence that he feels like the maid who had just cleaned up when he sees the world getting into trouble: “Hey, I just cleaned up here.” (Not that I am out to save the world but I do often look at our house in despair!)

I had planned this week’s blog post to be about my open water swimming adventures as we had just the usual Christmas stuff planned this weekend (parties, buying the tree). Mr Incredible and any kind of adventure were not on the radar. However my daughter came home from school on Friday night with tummy pains and said she didn’t want to eat anything. This followed a previous episode of tummy pain in earlier in the week. We decided to see if the pains would settle down with a good night’s sleep and she woke up the next morning feeling OK. Not for long. After she tried some cereal, she was in agony again and off we went to the out of hours’ doctors. The doctor was puzzled by her symptoms and referred us to Children’s A & E to rule out appendicitis.

At this point, I didn’t know what to think about my daughter’s illness; whether she was seriously ill or not, whether it was appendicitis or not and my brain was racing away with me if she had to have surgery just before Christmas. My gut feeling was that she was not seriously sick and that it wasn’t appendicitis but once it had been raised, I had to wait to see to the doctor for that reassurance. She was still in quite a bit of pain.

I had her twin brother with us because, of all weekends for this to happen, Adventurous Dad had gone away for the weekend! We ended up waiting for 4 hours to see the doctor as there were a lot of seriously ill children in the hospital that day.

I had to leave the twins at one point to get some food. I know rationally they are 9 years old now, actually quite sensible and that I can leave them. However, I have spent so long watching out for them as babies and toddlers, that it still feels weird to leave them alone. It was at this point, with my brain still racing as to the possibilities as to whether Tamsin was really ill or not, I metaphorically looked round for another adult, as the memes says, someone more “adult-er” than me! I am usually quite happy with my role as the adult in the family but just sometimes it feels a little overwhelming when it is just you bearing the responsibility.

Still a bit wobbly (metaphorically speaking), I phoned my sister and her re-assurance was all I needed to step back into my adult role. The doctor finally appeared and the diagnosis was that basically meant the cold she was suffering from was causing her glands in her tummy to be swollen and painful. She has now made a good recovery and is back at school today.

If Adventurous Mum is all about pushing yourself to discover your limits, actually children do that too in an emotional sense as I found out on Saturday. I take my hat off to single parents everywhere and to parents with seriously ill children.  Trying to stay calm when faced with a sick child, entertaining a healthy child, while waiting  a long time for the doctor and watching your  plans for the day slip away was a bit of test for me. So why did I think of Mr Incredible this weekend? I was reminded of his pearl of wisdom which he learned almost too late, is that our children are our greatest adventure.

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas…with Liverpool Santa Dash!

Adventurous Mum at the start

Adventurous Mum and daughter at the start

The only thing that I have been super organised for this Christmas was the BTR Liverpool Santa Dash – I entered in July! I think that says a lot about my mindset for running events and how much I enjoy them. I entered my 9 year old daughter Tamsin as she had not long done her first junior triathlon and she too was riding on the crest of a wave.

Fast forward to Sunday 6th December 2015, the enthusiasm with which we entered had faded just a little bit, faced with the aftermath of Storm Desmond and a forecast that kept changing but was essentially wet and still quite windy.

Still, we got dressed up in our Santa suits, coaxed the support crew (Adventurous Dad and Tamsin’s twin brother) into coming with us with the promise of hot chocolate and croissants after the race and joined what was hoped to be around 8,500 Santas in Liverpool City Centre. We had a lot of fun watching all the different Santas at the start line. People had really gone to town modifying their costumes and Tamsin was particularly taken with the man who wore a costume so that it looked as if he was being carried by Rudolph.

We had managed to stay dry until this point but just as the start gun went off, the rain started. It wasn’t too heavy so we were still in good spirits at this point.

Selfie of Adventurous Mum

Selfie while waiting for the start gun

With so many Santas it took a while to get over the start line and start running. Even then, we couldn’t get a speed any higher than jogging which was probably just as well as Tamsin was getting over a cold and didn’t feel particularly like running.
The best bit was the atmosphere. It was as if everyone was out for a bit of Sunday stroll, really! There were no timing chips so it really wasn’t competitive and a genuine fun run. We bumped into some people we knew on the course which always gives a lift no matter what the race. It was just a shame the rain didn’t ease off at all until after the race. I reached the point where the water was dripping off my Santa hat and down my neck. Not only that, the trousers were dragging on the ground and getting wetter by the minute.

Photo of Tamsin

Tamsin sprinting away from me

However, the finish getting closer and we could hear a drumming band (I later found out they were Katumba band and there were 50 of them) which really spurred us on, so much so that Tamsin said “Let’s run!” and took off without me! Luckily I caught her up and we high fived the bears and fairies at the finish.

Photo of medals

Nice bit of race bling

The medal is truly awesome. I think it might look quite nice on the tree although it is very heavy. It was the first time I have had to dry out the medal ribbon after a race though!

All in all, a well organised race as usual from BTR – they just need to have a word with Santa (or the Met office) to arrange better weather for next year. Yep, we’ll be doing it again. I wonder what we will have to bribe the support crew with next year!

Have you done any Christmas themed races this year? They seem to be growing in popularity. Would be great to see your photos!