Category Archives: Active kids

Planning

Last December, while planning my 2017 race calendar, I came across the Deva Divas Quadrathlon. This was a new addition to the famous Deva Divas triathlon run by Chester Tri Club. When I hit the enter button, I have no doubt it was one of those windy and rainy days where you are grateful to be tucked up inside and you are dreaming of the gloriously long summer days where running and multi-sport glory is yours for the taking.

Photo of the River Dee

Tranquil view from the steps of Chester Canoe Club

You might remember that Adventurous Dad is a keen canoeist, having built his own sea kayak, so I maintain that it is mainly his fault that that I signed up for this. I cannot deny I was intrigued at making history with the world’s first woman only quadrathlon. I really wasn’t sure about my canoe skills having struggled with the beginner’s pool course. So thankfully the wonderful Jean Ashley arranged a temporary membership of Chester Canoe Club for all quadrathletes with coached sessions on Saturday mornings (we were also able to go to the club nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays) for the three months leading up to the race.

Training

Photo of AM at canoe club

All gear, no idea!

A group of very warm and friendly ladies turned up for the first session on 22 April, which was a gloriously sunny day. For me it really was the case of “all gear and no idea” because Adventurous Husband lent me his kit so I really looked the part  in his canoeing top and buoyancy aid. I even managed to get in the canoe without falling in the water but then it became apparent that I was rubbish at going in a straight line. I became the plucky straggler at the back of the group.

Like my first attempt at open water swimming, (in freezing cold Windermere) I did my usual thought process after that session: I am so rubbish at this, why did I think I could do this? Then I got a grip and told myself that I had 3 months to practice. I wasn’t keen to come last but, if I had to, I kept telling myself it wasn’t the end of the world if I did. I was trying something new and getting out of my comfort zone.

Eventually we progressed to racing canoes. I missed a few sessions due to family commitments and the marathon training but when I went back everyone had moved on to sleek racing canoes and they were all raving about the boat called Bertha! I had to have a go.  Bertha is a racing canoe but slightly more stable than some of the other boats. It was a revelation for me as there was a skeg which helped to make the canoe go straight. Turning in it took forever but I didn’t care, I could finally go a lot straighter!

We had coaching also from John and Carol from the Canoe club who were very patient with us. We practiced our transitions on the banks of the Dee and, as race day got closer, I began to think that I might just be able to do this without looking like a complete idiot in the canoe leg (and perhaps not finish last?)

Photo of AM at Chester bridge

Glorious day for the recce of the bike course .

I also managed to head out with Hannah and Hilary for a recce of the bike course. Hilary is a keen cyclist and her idea of a gentle cycle (the day before doing the Chris Hoy 100 miler) was a bit of an all out cycle for me! I had swum in West Kirby marine lake that morning, drove straight to Chester for the canoe training and then we headed out onto the bike. I planned to go for a quick run when I got home but I was exhausted and did not move much off the sofa that night.

The best bit of having signed up for this race was no doubt meeting, and training with, all the amazing women. We all remained really supportive of each other. There was a real excitement in the air the day before the race when we all gathered to sort out our canoes and paddles for the race and to get them to the transition area. Plans were made for a picnic following the race the next day.

The Race

At the beginning of July, 2 weeks away from the race, I had my doubts as to whether I was going to make the start line. I had just gone off sick from work with stress and anxiety. Should I really put myself under further pressure? Would work consider that I wasn’t really ill if I took part? My GP had advised me to keep exercising throughout so that’s what I did.

Photo of transition

Transition is slightly more complicated than usual!

I decided to go ahead because it seemed a waste of 3 months of canoe training. Triathlon is my “happy place” and I thought I would feel even more of a failure if I didn’t do the race. The sense of achievement of completing the race would hopefully give me a boost.

The morning of the race was grey and drizzly. I didn’t have the family with me as Adventurous Daughter was grading for her judo belt which is probably just as well for them as the weather was so miserable. The camper van was all loaded up with kit and picnic items and I was ready to go at the crack of dawn.

Jean had provided us all with a checklist for transition; useful because there was even more to think about. Our paddles, buoyancy aids (we all had a giggle that we had to wear buoyancy aids on the canoe leg, given that we had swum in the water prior to that!) and canoe shoes all had to be there with the usual bike and run gear.

The race started with a walk across the Meadows in Chester to the start of the swim. It was the first time I have ever been in the first wave of the swim as we quadrathletes were set off first before the triathlon waves. I felt like royalty as the announcer kept saying that we were making history with the world’s first women only quadrathlon.

Photo of AM in canoe

Canoe leg, poised to overtake…

I managed to make a good start on the 750 metre swim for a change and I came out of the water in 17 minutes and 20 seconds. Members of the canoe club were on hand to help us with carrying our canoes down to the water.  So off I went, noting that I wasn’t last out of the water for the swim so I had a good chance of not being last on the canoe leg which was now my number one goal for the race!  I even managed to overtake another woman (sorry Helen!) in the canoe.

Buoyed up (no pun intended!) by not being last in the canoe leg, I was off onto the bike. The drizzle was quite heavy by now if that is not a contradiction in terms. I was really glad of the recce of the course as I knew when to power on and when I had to ease back. I had to stop for roadworks but there were marshals making a note of anyone stopped and my time was adjusted by 30 seconds later to take account of the stoppage. It was a nice relatively flat out and back course so I actually enjoyed the bike leg for once!

Photo of AM running

Digging in for a great run time, only 24 secs off my PB

And then finally onto my favourite discipline, the run. Two laps of the Meadows stood between me and my Quadrathlon bling so I dug in and got it done in 24 minutes 54 seconds; the 6th best run time in the quadrathlon.

As I crossed the line, Jean was there with a special quadrathlon medal to place around my neck. As she hugged me, I burst into tears. The relief of not being last out of the canoe nor indeed last overall was too great. Combined with the stress I had been suffering, it was just a bit too overwhelming for me.  Eating the yummy cake given out at the end soon put me right. In fact, I finished 17th out of 27 quadrathletes in a time of 2 hours 28 and 34 seconds. I was very pleased with that in the end.

I was feeling torn about getting home to see Adventurous Daughter who passed her judo grading and staying for the picnic but in the end the sun came out quite suddenly and who would not want to stay and celebrate such an amazing event?

So if you are looking to add literally another dimension to your multi-sport endeavours, I cannot recommend quadrathlon enough. Deva Divas do have another quadrathlon next year but be quick as I understand that all 50 places are nearly taken. I am looking for different challenges next year so I won’t be doing it again (and, let’s face it, I’m not that good at canoeing!) but I may be there cheering on or marshaling.

Jean Ashley

Jean, aka the Fairy Quadmother, presenting the prizes at the end of the Quadrathlon.

So what have Adventurous Kids been up to? I did promise some ideas about how to get kids more active and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of them! They have been active, I assure you. Here’s a little round up of their activities.

January

We went to the Big House near Barmouth which I mentioned in my post about Helsby Half Marathon. For 4 years we have been going to an activity weekend. We call it indoor camping as we go with a group of friends who we camp with in the summer. We get to do all sorts of fun activities such as archery, team building games, ropes courses and zip wire.

I think the best thing to do is to show you some photos of the kids having a great time. Just look at the enjoyment on their faces. Even when we retreat to the house, they have a fantastic time playing Nerf gun wars and hide and seek in the house with no-one to tell them to be quiet!

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Bullseye!

Whoo- hoo! That was fun

Whoo- hoo! That was fun

 

 

 

AD on zip wire

Adventurous Daughter loves the zip wire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February

AD with bronze medal

One happy cub with her bronze medal

 

Both my twins took part in a Cubs swimming gala. Adventurous Son had done this two years ago when he had just moved up to cubs. I didn’t make it along to watch him that time but apparently he got a round of applause for being the plucky finisher as he took a long time to finish his length. This time he is one of the older cubs in the pack and, although he did not qualify for the finals, he swam well.

Swimming is Adventurous Daughter’s favourite sport so she elected to swim in the Backstroke heat. It was initially unclear if she had qualified for the final but eventually we learned that she had. She went onto win the bronze medal! One very happy girl.

 

AD with mile swim cert

Still smiling after swimming a mile!

Adventurous Daughter had also decided that she wanted to swim a mile for Sport Relief. Like a lot of people, we watched the Sport Relief Bake Off. She was very moved by the plight of the two young boys living on the street in Kenya and decided she wanted to help. Her swimming school agreed that she could use a lane to do the challenge along with 3 other children. I really wasn’t sure how long it would take her to complete the challenge, so she surprised me in doing it in just over an hour. She was so fast that the swimming school instructor missed her and some of the other children finishing!

To date, she has raised £192.00 so she has raised enough money to help get some African children off the street and into school. One even happier girl.

March

AD at TKD grading

Nice walking stance from Adventurous Daughter…

Both Adventurous Kids do Tae Kwon Do. It’s been a while since they graded for a new belt so the time was looming where they would have to bite the bullet and take the test. Some intensive schooling at home from yours truly meant they performed well on the day. Adventurous Daughter was pleasantly surprised to get a pass plus.

AS at TKD grading

Adventurous Son demonstrating his best pattern moves

 

 

 

 

Go ape photo

Adventurous Mum pretending that she’s all cool with this…

We also ventured to Go Ape in Delamere Forest. We had agreed to team up with our friends Pam and Isaac for this particular adventure. Adventurous Son was not well so I had to take his place. Despite my adventurous moniker, I am not fantastic with heights. So the children were busy completing the course (about 3 metres off the ground!), I was gingerly making my way round. I loved the zip wire though and my only complaint was that it was too short. I did the course twice and it was definitely easier the second time. Adventurous Daughter loved it and wants to go back. Maybe I will be brave enough to try the adult course next time!

 

 

What have your kids been up to over the winter months? It should be easier to get them out more now that the clocks have gone forward. We are looking forward to warmer days and more time outside.

Not just parkrun tourists…

We went away to Edinburgh last weekend to meet up with our niece, Meagan. She is on an adventure of her own as she is having a gap year before college and working as an intern at the Scottish Association of Marine Science near Oban. She is a keen swimmer and runner so I was very happy to have a partner in crime for the weekend activities.

Photo of Cramond

Windswept and interesting – Cramond Prom

First stop: Edinburgh parkrun. The weather forecast was not promising but the course is nice and flat along the prom at Cramond.  There were about 350 people there all ready to brave the best the Scottish weather could throw at us. Strong headwind, rain, icy darts of sleet on our faces and temperature not really getting above 3 degrees Celsius. The course is an out and back along the prom so was grateful again to turn round and have the wind behind us on the home straight (see my post on the Mad Dog 10K). The Forth Road and Rail Bridge could just be seen in the distance, spurring me on to the finish. Not a PB according to my parkrun stats as this is a full 5 km unlike my home parkrun in Birkenhead but my Garmin trumpeted a new PB of 26:36 so I had to be happy with that.

AM and Meagan

Smiling before parkrun..if only we had known how strong the wind was going to be…

This was Meagan’s first experience of parkrun and I think she was impressed that so many people would get together on this basis and arrange a free event. With weather like that, she admitted she may not have got out for a run otherwise! I didn’t disagree with her.

Sunday now means long run day to me. The last time I was in Edinburgh I ran out to Portobello beach as this follows the marathon route. I had only been to Portobello once before in my life with my Dad when we came to Edinburgh to watch the World Pipe Band championships so there was some nostalgia involved in going there. So I went there again. It’s a great place, nice prom with cafes, vans selling coffees and a wide range of human experience on display from families playing in the park, dog walkers, runners like me, and in this case, open water swimmers in the sea! In February!! I was very much in awe of their adventurous spirit.

AM at Portobello

Portobello beach – swimmers behind me!

Meagan came with me for part of the run and then had a mini adventure of her own as she took a wrong turn on the way back. She successfully navigated her way back thankfully. Neglectful aunt!

We then continued our Edinburgh adventure with a hike up Arthurs Seat, the impressive volcanic hill behind Edinburgh. I was concerned for my leg muscles after running 10 miles out to Portobello and back. But climb it we did and the views were worth it. All of Edinburgh was laid out before us and right out to sea along the Firth of Forth. Adventurous Twins were more interested in playing in the thin layer of snow than the view. Maybe one day they will learn to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around them; meanwhile who could begrudge them some snow fun seeing as we have had some atrocious weather but precious little snow.

Arthur's seat

Are we really going to climb this?

Tamsin on Arthur's Seat

Can it be? Is it really…snow?

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, like fitness tourists, we made a trip to the Commonwealth pool. I went last summer so that I could experience swimming in a 50 metre pool. Sadly, the pool was divided up into two 25 metre pools on Monday so the kids didn’t get that experience. It is a beautiful pool; clean and because it is so big, not crowded at all even through it was half term. There were diving lessons going on in the diving pool which Adventurous daughter wanted to try. The rest of us looked in awe at how high the 5 metre board is.

The moral of this post is that running and fitness can take you to places you may not have visited. I would never have gone to Cramond had it not been for parkrun. Running to Portobello brought back happy memories of my Dad. Climbing Arthur’s Seat was a great shared experience that I hope my kids will say “Do you remember that time we went up Arthur’s Seat with Meagan?” I now love running as a great way to explore places and see a bit more of them than I would otherwise have done. Google maps built into phones make the process a whole lot easier too, especially if it is a place with which you are not too familiar.

Do you run when you are away from home? Are you a parkrun tourist? Any stories to share?

 

Canoe photo Oban

Do my feet look big in these?

Canoeing with Children

Part of our mission to be more adventurous was to learn to canoe properly. My husband learned to canoe at school and is pretty proficient. He and I dabbled in day trips in canoeing when on holiday, once in New Hampshire, USA, down a fairly slow moving river in an open Canadian style canoe and once in sea kayak in a sea loch near Oban in Scotland.

Fast forward to 2015 and husband decided that for his special birthday (one with a zero in it but I’m not allowed to tell you any more) he wanted to build his own wooden sea kayak. He has therefore spent most of the year building his boat.

Nige in canoe

All I need now is some water…and a paddle…

Mostly at his insistence, my twins and I signed up for canoeing lessons in our local pool. I was a little reluctant to start with I must confess. Not at all adventurous mum! The first session was not much fun as the pool was very crowded with all us newbies bumping into each other. I was the only one who fell in the pool trying to get into the canoe for the first time. Hmmm…cue a very red face and children shouting: “I can’t believe you fell in, Mum!”

As the weeks went on, I began to relax and enjoy it a tiny bit. However, one night, I was pulled over by the instructor and asked why I was looking so stressed. I didn’t think that I was obviously stressed but it did bring it home to me that it is extremely difficult to try to learn something new with your children. In my case, I always feel that I am looking out for them to see how they are getting on. I am not even too worried about them falling in or otherwise hurting themselves because they are both pretty confident in the water and have enjoyed it from the word go. But…but…there is always that parent hat to be worn to make sure that they are enjoying it, learning, paying attention, not being a nuisance to anyone else and yes, not drowning!

So the lesson learned that for me, if I am learning anything new in tandem with my kids that it might be better for me to have separate sessions. Hopefully then we can go on to new things together and enjoy that time together without the pressure of learning new things and listening to coaches.

Adventurous children have now progressed to the intermediate class and are having a whale of a time. They are almost able to roll! I decided that, with a new job (and a new blog!), I needed to focus on what I am already trying to shoehorn into my already-packed-to-the-hilt life. I am looking forward to the spring when we can get out on the open water together in some adventures. We will keep you posted on our progress.

What are your experiences of learning with your kids? Did you enjoy it?

 

 

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!

Welcome to my blog!

When I was thinking about starting a blog, I initially thought that I would write about my adventures in triathlon and running. I love both of those activities but I realised there is more to me than that. I love camping, hillwalking and have started learning to canoe. I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and fenced at university. I haven’t done it for a while but I also love scuba diving and have more than 100 dives under my belt. More than all of that, I love spending time with my kids and trying to encourage them to be more active. So, on giving it some more thought, Adventurous Mum was born.

Now before I get started, I need to set the record straight. I haven’t trekked to Himalayas base camp, done an Iron Man or an ultramarathon. I haven’t even done a regular marathon of the 26.2 miles variety (although I think I have one in me and may do one next year) or walked the West Highland Way (although would love to do that too). So if you are looking for really adventurous people, this is not the blog for you. I am looking to scratch a creative urge that isn’t often satisfied by my job as a lawyer and perhaps encourage a few of you along the way to be more adventurous for both yourself and your children if you have them. I am hoping that in blogging I would open myself up to more adventure too.

Now that my children are older, I find myself yearning to be outdoors, running, cycling or walking. Open water swimming adds another dimension to being in the great outdoors which I now love (after a shaky start, it has to be said – more on that in another post). There is something particularly liberating about looking up from the water and not seeing a swimming pool roof but a beautiful blue sky (well, I live in hope with the Great British weather).

I also came to most of these activities in my adult years as my family didn’t really do any of these things when I was growing up. So I guess I am making up for lost time at this stage. I also want to give my children that love of being active and being outdoors. It all helps to get them away from their screens! I also try to find adventure in everyday activities, looking for wildlife when we are out for walks or exploring places we haven’t been before.

So join me and my family on our adventures and let’s share our stories, tips and adventures along the way.