Category Archives: Triathlon

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.

I have tried to write this blog post several times.  I went on holiday to Scotland shortly after Liverpool Tri and I had every good intention of writing a post. However, the technical problems of uploading photos to the blog continued to plague me and the lure of the outdoor life in Bonnie Scotland scuppered all my plans.

I then started to write this post several times in the last week or so and have been wondering if anyone wants to read about the ancient history that is Liverpool Tri on 14th August? Heck,  can I even remember the details of the day?  But because it was a great race , I can remember. So here we are, a quick recap of Liverpool Tri.

Despite being my local Tri, this was my first time in the race. I was super excited about the transition being right inside the Echo Arena (I am always seeking the elite treatment), less excited about the swim in the docks and relieved to know that the bike and runs courses were pretty flat.

Echo Arena

Liverpool Echo Arena as you’ve never seen it before

Events kicked off on Saturday 13 August as we had to rack our bikes the day before in the Echo Arena. Although it can be stressful leaving your bike behind, having done the majority of the preparation the night before does take the stress out of race morning. I wasn’t sure how much to leave and ended up leaving most of my kit there with a view to just bringing my water bottles in the morning with fresh electrolytes. Some of my friends just left their bikes.

On race morning, the weather was looking good in Triathlon terms: cool, dry, not much wind (always a bonus on the bike, especially near the coast) with the prospect of sun towards the end. I took our trusty camper van over to Liverpool early and had breakfast in the van. Then I made my way up to the Echo Arena to finish off the transition preparations and meet some Mersey Tri Friends. We had quite a walk from the arena to where the swim would start so I was glad of my flip flops. Sadly that was the last I saw of them because I forgot to go back and retrieve them at the end of the race!

When I went in the water, I took a moment to lie on my back and look up at the sky and, corny as it sounds, I was grateful for being in the position to be able to do this triathlon. I was healthy, financially secure enough to afford it and free to do it, not something to take for granted when so many women across the world don’t have the basic freedoms we have here in Britain.

Stepping off my metaphorical soap box, and back in the race, the swim was fairly uneventful; it just seemed to go on forever! When I got out, I realised why, it had taken me 37 minutes and 3 seconds! I had managed 32 minutes in the Midsummer Dock Swim so must confess to being a little disappointed with that time after the race. At the time, I was too busy trying to get my wetsuit off over my Garmin and failing miserably to be worried about a slow swim. You were not allowed to run into the Echo Arena with your wetsuit on; it had to be in a plastic bag provided by the marshals. The concrete floor was slippy enough!

Liverpool Tri - bike

Support from Adventurous Daughter (on the right)

Be prepared for a long transition they said. Well, it was long, but not as long as Leeds so it was a piece of cake for me. We had to run in one side of the Echo Arena and out the other. Out on the bike, this was the most fun I had ever had on a bike in a triathlon! Nice flat fast course along the front. The 4 laps meant that there was always someone around and support from fellow Mersey Tri buddies was great.  I have always said that the bike is sadly one of my weakest areas so I was pleased to come in at 1 hour 32 minutes 47 seconds.

Photo of AM at Liverpool Tri

Definitely a grimace, not a smile…

The downside to giving a good effort on the bike was that my quads were burning as I set off on the 10km run. Triathletes are all familiar with that feeling and I am reasonably experienced to know that it usually subsides after 3-4 km. On this occasion, it never really went away. I spent most of the run cursing and swearing that I was never doing triathlon again! I was even berating myself for daring to think that I could do a half Ironman! Luckily the run was also 2 flat loops of the Albert Dock and finally I got over the line after 55 minutes 51 seconds for the run and 3 hours 15 minutes 54 seconds in total. Not a fast time, but a whole 9 minutes off my previous PB over Olympic distance. Of course, the minute that I was over the line and someone put a medal round my neck, the pain subsided and I was wondering why I had made such a fuss (although I found it difficult to walk for the next few days!).

Photo of AM at Liverpool tri

My quads beg me never ever to do that again!

My verdict on the race is that it is definitely a good one for PB hunters even with the long transitions in and out of the Echo Arena. The support from the people on the course was great. I especially enjoyed the support from my Mersey Tri buddies. I am not sure if I will do the race again simply because I am thinking about different challenges next year. But, unlike Leeds Tri, I would not rule it out because it is a well organised race on a great course in a fabulous city.

Did you take part in Liverpool Tri?  What did you think of the race?

My blog is feeling a little neglected these days.  It’s been a busy old time with Adventurous Twins’ birthday, some overtime at work, a few more visits to the doctors for the rest of the family and I have been stepping up my training again.  Although becoming a distant memory, it’s time to go back to Leeds Tri on 12 June and share that experience with you.

You may remember that I had a chest infection and sinusitis and had to pull out of Edinburgh Half Marathon. Leeds Tri was 2 weeks after that and, while I had managed a few runs and swims, I hadn’t really trained as much as I had planned or would have liked. I still felt a bit tired and under par. Thankfully I was “only” doing the sprint distance as I had calculated previously that it would be too tricky to train for a triathlon after a Half marathon.

I had entered this race last August though and I was determined to share the stage (well, the same race route with the elites!) I was promised a pontoon start for the swim, a blue carpet finish and the chance to watch the elites in action. I suppose 2 out of 3 isn’t bad but the chance to watch the elites was denied to many for reasons you will see later in this post.

Adventurous twins were not keen to come so my sister said she would look after them. Adventurous Dad came with me and I was glad of his support. The arrangements for setting up were complicated! We arrived in Leeds at 4pm on the Saturday before the race and had to register in one of the University buildings. No quibbles there; some very nice volunteers trying hard to find out for me if there was a goody bag and a race T shirt (the answer was a disappointing no). Then, as this was a split transition, we headed first to Transition 2 (T2) in the city centre. This was on some rough waste ground not far from the law courts. I was fortunate enough to be allocated a spot near the entrance so didn’t have far to run in my bike shoes. I didn’t envy anyone who was going to leave their bike shoes attached and try to run in bare feet…

Photo of T1 at leeds

The world’s largest transition area ever?

Then off to Roundhay Park to the north of Leeds where Transition 1 (T1) was. By this time it was nearly 6pm so parking was relatively easy. This transition was huge! Easily the largest I have ever seen (not all that surprising as this is the largest triathlon I have ever taken part in). I felt nervous about leaving my bike overnight but then I realised thieves would be more interested in the shiny carbon fibre bikes than my trusty steel bike!
Finally, I got all set up by 7pm, 3 hours after arriving in Leeds. I was a bit late for dinner with friends who were not best pleased. (Yummy food though so I am eternally grateful!) I felt a bit drained just setting up. The nerves were beginning to kick in so I struggled to get to sleep; tired but wired describes it best.

Swim Start Leeds Tri

Pontoon Swim start – I am the one waving!

On race day, the weather was pretty good for a triathlon. Overcast, not too cold, not too warm. I had a later start at 10.04am. I was really looking forward to the swim on the pontoon. We were not allowed to dive in but it did mean that we were all spaced out nicely and there was none of the usual scrum at the beginning of the race. One of the problems with being hard of hearing was not being able to hear the klaxon on this occasion (not normally a problem for me) and losing a few seconds relying on watching for others setting off.  The lake was beautifully clear. I had a reasonable swim but my time was much the same as previous swims over this distance. I also felt dizzy when I got out so had to take a minute to recover.

Then I had to face the world’s longest ever transition! The run from the lake to entrance of T1 was 400 metres. I then had to retrieve my bike, make sure my wetsuit kit was in the special T1 bag and run out of transition with my bike and the kit bag. The kit bag was to be handed to the marshals at the mount line. By this time, I had run nearly a kilometre. I am almost embarrassed to publish my transition time of 10 minutes and 18 seconds but I really didn’t hang around; it was the sheer size of the transition, honest! I must have run a fair distance in my bike shoes because my cleats were wrecked at the end of the race.

Photo of AM on bike

This lady is for turning…

The mount line was at the bottom of a hill but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it looked and I was soon away on one of my fastest ever bike legs at 52 minutes 38 seconds. I will admit that a lot of it was downhill but it was also a test of my bike skills to embrace the speed! I like some of the photos from this leg especially this one as I performed the U turn.

Thankfully my run shoes were still were I left them in the wasteland that was T2.  There were a lot of crowds gathering by this time ready for the elite race so the support was great as we ran round Leeds City Centre. The pre race info suggested that it was 2 laps for my 5km run but when I got to the blue carpet, this was the start of my first lap and then it said I had to pass through 2 more times. It was a bit confusing and I couldn’t get it straight in my head so I relied on my Garmin to tell me I had done 5km when approaching the finish. I believe it was even more confusing if you were running 10km and a lot of competitors didn’t do the correct distance and ended up with the dreaded DNF…

I was finally over the line and got my blue carpet finish 1 hour 51 minutes 38 seconds after starting. I felt a mixture of relief that it was over and that, although I hadn’t put in my best time, I seemed to be over the worst of my illness. I choked back some tears of relief, smiled for the camera and soon had some shiny race bling round my neck.

AM at finish of Leeds

Blue carpet finish… at last!

If I had thought that the pre race set up was a palaver, it was nothing as to what was to come next. I queued to pick up my T1 bag but as the queue was quite long we decided to go and get lunch and retrieve my bike from T2. Luckily I had Adventurous Dad with me as he had my warm clothes, money and phone. Suitably refuelled, we returned to get my bag to find the bag drop in chaos. There were lots of angry people who had been in the earlier waves who still hadn’t got their bags. Some had been racing alone so were relying on their kit being transported to the finish. I read later on Twitter, that some people reported waiting for up to 7 hours for their bags. Some people had no phone to contact loved ones to say why they were going to be late and someone said their ticket for the grandstand to watch the elites was in their bag and they missed it all. We had planned not to stay for the elites race as we had to get back to our twins.
In the end, we probably only waited about 30 mins to be told that we had best get to Roundhay Park and get our stuff from there. As our van was there, it was not a disaster, merely an inconvenience. We jumped on our bikes (Adventurous Dad had brought his Brompton which drew a few stares!) and made it to the park. It was a bit chaotic there too but I found my bag and all’s well that ended well for me anyway.

I thought my assessment of the race might have changed with the passage of time but it remains the same, the race itself was great with the swim pontoon and nice swim, exciting bike ride and a city centre run was quite special. The organisation let it all down. The split transition was maybe too challenging for an open race of this size or maybe there was too much emphasis on the elites race.

This race going ahead again next year in Leeds but I won’t be back. I felt I earned my medal more for dealing with the problems with the race! I hope the race directors learn from their mistakes and put on a truly magnificent race next year. They have a lot of triathletes to win over.

Chirk Triathlon – A Tale of the Unexpected

Chirk Triathlon is a favourite race among the North West triathlon community. It’s an early season pool triathlon in picturesque North Wales.

I did this triathlon waaay back. The exact year is lost in the mists of time (and probably my race number with the finishing time scrawled on the back is lost in our attic – imagine the last scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the box containing the Ark is stored away- that’s our attic) but it was probably 2003 or 2004. I did the race on my mountain bike fitted with road tyres and a swimsuit with a T shirt over it. Not so much as a sniff of a high tech watch in those days!

Photo of Chirk Buff and race belt

The answer to my transition prayers (and a useful buff!)

I also did the race last year and had so much fun with my Mersey Tri buddies that we all entered again. I always like to try and improve but my main aims were better transitions and a better bike time. For some reason I didn’t use my Tri race belt last year and pinned my number to my top. Big mistake!  I forgot that you have to display the number on the back during the cycle leg and turn it round to the front during the run. I wasted valuable minutes in transition unpinning the numbers.

Not this year. Although I took my race belt with me, Wrecsam Tri gave out race belts and a buff as part of the goody bag in registration. Theirs was much easier to use than my existing one so it was the race belt of choice.

There was a change to the registration process this year too. We were given a time to register and once you had done that and put your bike in transition, you had to be at the pool side within 30 min ready to start.

I had an early ish start time of 9.57 by the time I joined the queue at the poolside.  I managed a nice solid swim of 9 minutes and 13 seconds (includes running out to the timing mat) and into T1 to collect my bike. All went smoothly so I was feeling good as I headed out.

Photo of AM on bike at Chirk Tri

A genuine smile – relieved to be finished the bike leg!

From last year’s experience, I knew that the bike leg is an out and back run of 23km. It is a little deceptive because it looks as if you are going downhill when in fact it is an slight uphill all the way out to Glyn Ceiriog and then a nice solid downhill ride back apart from the final hill back into Chirk. I was a bit disappointed to get held up by some cars at the roundabout at the top of said hill. However, worse was to come because I noticed an air ambulance in the field as I approached the town and then lots of blue lights from about 3 ambulances and 2 police cars. I had to slow right down and, further down the road, avoid a tanker that was parked part of the way across the road. I later learned that one of the competitors, who was said to be 72, had had a cardiac arrest and was airlifted to hospital. While he was being treated, the race was stopped.

I didn’t know this at the time though and I was therefore confused when I got back to transition and my friend Lisa came over to talk to me. She should have been out on her bike leg but as the race had stopped, she had to hang around (wet and cold) until it re-started. I was lucky enough that I could carry on the run leg as it was away from the accident scene.

Photo of AM finishing

Grimacing this time…

It’s a really hilly run to test your mettle. I managed not to stop running last year but this year, I just couldn’t make it up the really steep hill towards the end of the run and resorted to walking.

Despite that, I was convinced that I was about to shave a few seconds off my time from last year but, in fact, I was 17 seconds slower. My bike time was 1 minute slower than last year although much of that would have been down to the accident. I was happy with my transitions though, 2 mins 13 sec for T1 and 1 min 40 secs for T2.  Got to take the positives where you find them!

With hindsight, I wasn’t really all that well either. I had been suffering from a mildly sore throat and headache for the 3 days before the race but I had felt better that morning so decided to go for it. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t improved if I am being honest but it was tempered with a sense of relief that my race went smoothly and that I was alive and well and healthy enough to complete a triathlon, unlike the competitor who had the accident on his bike leg.

The accident caused the race to stop for an hour and half in the end. No doubt, this was a bit frustrating for those waiting to start but safety first. The marshals did a good job in difficult circumstances.  I haven’t heard how the triathlete is but I hope he makes a good recovery. He was described as being in a serious condition.

Although there was an unexpected twist to this year’s race, it’s still a race that we all enjoy doing: well organised, nice scenic bike course, nice race goodies and great camaraderie between the competitors. I will be back next year to challenge my time yet again!

Confession time

Here’s a big confession – if you are reading this and don’t know me in person, I haven’t yet told you about something that makes me uniquely me. If you do know me, then thanks for being kind enough to repeat a few things you say because you already know that I wear two hearing aids and have about half my natural hearing. I was unfortunate enough to contract the measles about ten days before my first birthday and this is the most likely cause of my subsequent hearing loss.

I am always open about my hearing (or lack of it) but I also would rather get to know someone before I disclose the fact to them. I have had some experiences where I have mentioned it to someone and then they start to talk as if I am a bit dim rather than hard of hearing. With my hearing aids, theoretically, I should be able to hear just as well as the next person.

The problem is that when it comes to being active near water, I cannot wear my hearing aids. This has proved a bit tricky while swimming and learning to canoe. I recently found out Siemens has developed a waterproof hearing aid but at the cost of £1,495 each, this is a bit beyond my means. On the plus side, it is good to see hearing aid technology moving on as it is my impression that it hasn’t really changed much during my lifetime and  it doesn’t receive much funding on the NHS.

AM on bike at Wirral Tri

Not wired for sound…during the Wirral Sprint Triathlon

Although it costs me time in transition 1, putting the hearing aids back in after swimming has not proved to be a major problem at triathlons. The only hiccup I had was during the Wirral sprint triathlon – my first triathlon after 10 years or so – and with the excitement and lots of noisy and enthusiastic supporters during the first transition, I forgot to put them back in for the bike leg! I didn’t realise until I was about 500 metres along the road that something felt different. Although it was risky, I made a conscious decision that I would be relatively safe in a crowd of competitors and thankfully, that was the case. The hearing aids went straight back in my ears for the run leg and all’s well that ended well.

I was curious to know if I am the only person to wear hearing aids for triathlon so I posted in 220 Magazine Triathlon’s forum asking that question. There were no replies. I assume that there must be other hard of hearing triathletes?

As for canoeing, during my training, I couldn’t wear them as we practised capsizing at every lesson. As I have posted elsewhere, this does make it difficult to follow the instructor. Again they have been incredibly patient when aware of the problem.

So, the moral of this post perhaps, is don’t let anything minor stand in your way of what you want to do. I didn’t hesitate to get back into triathlon in 2014, even though the logistics of competing with hearing aids can be a bit tricky. Also remember to put your hearing aids back in after transition 1!

I would love to hear from you if you have a hearing problem or maybe other disability that makes it slightly harder for you to take part in active or water sports. Perhaps we can share stories to encourage others to get started if they wanted to do something but felt that their disability was holding them back?

 

 

Top 10 tips for open water swimming

  1. Get a good fit on your wetsuit.

This can make or break your swim. I got mine fitted in person at Swim the Lakes in Ambleside. I recommend that you get some specialised advice on fitting especially if it is your first time open water swimming or doing a triathlon.  It needs to be snug enough to form that nice layer of water next to your skin to keep you warm. Too much and you will feel like you have the lake in your wetsuit! I have had a great experience with mine. Which leads me onto tip number…

  1. Buy the best that you can afford.

    Bala open water swim

    At the end of the open water swim at Bala

I went for a mid range suit (blueseventy Fusion) which cost around £230. You don’t necessarily need the top of the range (some of which can cost several hundred pounds) although don’t let me stop you if you fancy it! I am assuming that most people reading this will be thinking about open water swimming for the first time and will be on a relatively tight budget so buying the best you can afford means that you feel happy with the suit but haven’t spent a fortune if open water swimming is not for you. Look for features such as thinner neoprene in the arms to allow room for your arms to move while swimming.  Mine are 1.5 mm, while the body is 3 mm.  It does feel quite restricting to start with but as you break the suit in, it soon eases up.

3. Invest in good goggles

I don’t have particularly fancy goggles (Aqua Sphere Kaiman Exo) but they do have larger than average lens and side vision which is useful in the open water. I have a plain and tinted pair depending on the weather. Sadly the tinted pair don’t see as much use but they are good for those rare sunny days. I realise that this is extra expense but it does mean you have a spare pair if anything goes wrong with your main pair. Anything that takes the stress out of race day is a good idea.

4. Ear plugs and nose clip are a must (for me anyway!)

I always swim with ear plugs as do most of my tri buddies. The first few times I swam without them, the cold really got into my ears and made the swim a bit unpleasant. When you try to get out of the water, the cold can really affect your balance. It’s a bit embarrassing staggering around like a drunk at 8am in the morning! I use the Zoggs silicone ear plugs which mould to your ears although there are lots of different types so experiment to see what suits you best. I always swim with a nose clip as the chlorine in most pools irritate the lining of my nose. I tried swimming without it a few times as the irritation wasn’t going to be a problem with fresh or sea water. I found it best to have it on mainly because I was used to swimming with it. Again, experiment with what is best for you.

5. Don’t forget the lubrication…

I learned the hard way with friction burns on my neck the first few swims. After that, I have always used Run Glide (same thing as Body Glide which you can get on Wiggle) and have never had a problem since.

  1. Take off your jewellry

It is a good idea to swim without any precious jewellry. When you are cold, your fingers will be slimmer, and you don’t really want to lose your rings at the bottom of the lake. A friend of mine lost his wedding ring on a night swim!

  1. Bring a hot drink

This is really crucial for your well-being at the end of the swim. Obviously you can’t do this in a triathlon! I take an insulated cup (the type you take camping) and leave it in the car. It is absolute heaven to have a hot coffee to warm you up when you come out of the water.

  1. Swim in the open water as much as possible

    Aberdaron

    Contemplating a dip at Aberdaron

Find out about any tri club sessions near you. I went to as many organised sessions as I could before the Wirral Tri. I took my wetsuit on holiday with me wherever we went and got in the water as much as possible.  Here’s me at a bay near Aberdaron, much to the amusement of my family…

  1. Remember that it is natural to be scared

You are likely to have it ingrained in you from dire warnings as a child that swimming in lakes and rivers is unsafe. I was always told as a child not to go anywhere near the river across the road from us.  Try to recapture some of your childlike sense of adventure if the prospect of getting in the water is nerve wracking. Or remember that organised sessions have good safety cover. At Mersey Tri, we have 3 spotters on the shore and a safety canoe. Or remember that when you have completed a session, the adrenaline hit is huge!

  1. Relax and enjoy!

    West Kirby marine lake

    Sunset at West Kirby Marine Lake where I swim

Remember to look up at the sky and take a moment to appreciate the wonder of nature around you. This is my favourite part of swimming in West Kirby marine lake on a sunny day. I can look over to the hills of Wales and look up to the blue sky above. John Lennon’s quote – above us only sky – always comes into my mind.

I hope this helps if you are new to open water swimming. If you are an experienced swimmer, perhaps you could share your thoughts, other tips and experience?

As a newbie blogger, I don’t have any arrangements with any of the brands named and these are all my honest recommendations.

 

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?

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.