Category Archives: Swimming

Crystal Palace Triathlon

I definitely have an M.O. when it comes to triathlons: Once a year, London based, sprint distance, friends to do it with, sunny weather.

ITU World Triathlon London 2014: (Entered but DNS due to injury)

London Triathlon 2015

Yesterday: Crystal Palace Triathlon 2016!

IMG_20160515_115025258

I had heard of the Crystal Palace Triathletes Triathlon for a few years now, gaining a reputation in the Serpentine running club as one of the best events to do in London. It sells out quickly every year and for good reason. Great venue, well organised, and the some of the friendliest volunteers on the course. It’s a good mix of beginners, returning regulars, and speedy AG’ers all mixed together to make the perfect triathlon soup.

IMG_20160514_175530309 - Copy

In the chaos of moving I didn’t have all the time in the world to get ready for this triathlon, but found some time on Saturday to throw my things in a pile and pack the basics.

IMG_20160515_081243984 - Copy

I took the Overground all the way from North London easy enough and arrived at the recommended hour before my start time and picked up my stickers and race pack by the beach volleyball court and had everything stuck on the right place before I got into transition to rack my bike and get ready.

IMG_20160515_084407470

Everything laid out on my towel I headed into the Sports Centre to the pool to pick up my timing chip and line up for the swim start. I was pretty nervous as haven’t been swimming in a few (many many few) weeks and even though feel better in a pool than OW, was still a bit apprehensive of racing the swim.  We were seeded according to predicted 750m time but two people still passed me in the first 50m. A few more in the first 300m and then I passed 2 people and I think 1 passed me in the last 100. It was all very civilized though compared to a mass OW start.

*waves*

*waves*

As I was walking to T1 out of the sports centre and down some slippery stairs I took my time so much an official mentioned I could run if I wanted too. Oops, it was time to turn on some competitive spirit. Vest, helmet, shoes, race belt on and I was out of the transition and straight towards the hill. The bike & run courses at Crystal Palace are hilly and there is one sharp/steep hill that you do each lap and gets everyone. I was going right down in my gears to spin up it from the first lap. But as the amazing volutneer marshall half way up the hill kept saying, just spin it out, don’t fight the bike and save your big gears for the downhill. And wheeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I sure did. Flying down across the top of the lap and down the hill was so much fun that you’d almost forget about that hill coming up again, and again, and again.

hi-tec lap counting system

hi-tec lap counting system

I knew 9 laps was going to be hard to count, and my watch was in miles so couldn’t’ do the maths to = 20km. I ended up tying 9 hair ties (in Serpie colours obvs) on my handle bars to count the laps and tossed one each lap. I saw Laura F on the hill each lap and she was a great cheerleader and photographer, along with all the other amazing supporters on the course. A short aside: there are a million reasons to join a running club (ahem Serpentine) but a huge one is the amount of support you get at any race you enter. There were at least 10 people cheering me on each lap AND 3-4 of the marshals were Serpies so they were giving us extra cheers and motivation along the course. Even if it wasn’t Serpies, the other tri clubs that had their supporter tents set up were cheering everyone else in clubs on with “Come on Serpie!” and it just makes for such a great racing experience. I’ve noticed it at almost every race (even the Rome Marathon!) but it was just extra pronounced on Sunday.

photo by @lazygirlrunning

photo by @lazygirlrunning

After the final climb and final wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee downhill I turned into transition and took 3 minutes to do my hair apparently. The drama of hair not long enough for plaits but too long to leave loose. Pony tail sorted I set off on the run absolutely f*cking loving it. Nothing makes you love running more than swimming and cycling before it. I pranced up the hill (photos show more of a slog, but I felt like I was prancing!) and around the not-very-scenic out-and-back parking lot section and back down the hill and then did the same for my second lap. You don’t really know who is in front of you due to the way triathlons start, but I passed a few guys on the hills and felt like I was keeping a decent pace with wobbly legs.

Which brunette Serpentine am I?

Which brunette Serpentine am I?

It was starting to get quite warm as I ducked onto the track for the last 600m and finished with a smile on my face and headed straight for the water table. After a quick walk-by the cake and kit stalls I grabbed my stuff from transition, did a quick change, and met Alex, Laura, Phil, Helen, and friends for a much needed picnic. I was starving.

IMG_20160515_121825462

I could write a whole other review of the picnic (it was delicious) but back to the triathlon. I can’t say enough good things about the Crystal Palace Triathletes for putting on such a great event that was both welcoming to beginners and a favourite of returning speedy triathletes who return year after year. We were given a travel coffee mug and a musette with our registration and I can see both coming in handy for carrying post-race picnics to my next event.

If you like friendly and fun triathlons make sure to get on the Crystal Palace Triathletes mailing list if you want to enter next year’s race. Sign up is usually a Sunday night so get it in your calender and before you order your takeaway, enter a triathlon.

Advertisements

swimathon againathon

Right now I love swimming.

IMG_20160110_141905473-ANIMATION

I love swimming in the middle of the day at the London Fields Lido with the cold air on my arms and the sun in my eyes every other breath.

IMG_20151229_123254934

I love swimming at the London Olympic Aquatic Centre on Friday nights after work with Alex and then hot footing it to Wahaca with our goggle marks and wet hair to devour burritos & coronas.

I love chasing goals with my friends, like trying to swim the channel in January, and looking ahead to big open water challenges this summer.

Last year, I was an ambassador for the Swimathon and blogged about my training to swim 2.5k. This year, I saw that Swimathon 2016 is a part of Sport Relief AND registration was half price before Christmas. I signed up again for 2.5k and looked forward to another fun winter of training.

14/01/16 Sports Relief Swimathon with Olympic Gold Medal winner Duncan Goodhew, Journalist and bloggers visited the Ironmonger Gym, London, to learn new swimming techniques and encourage others to swim

Sports Relief Swimathon with Olympic Gold Medal winner Duncan Goodhew, Journalist and bloggers visited the Ironmonger Gym, London, to learn new swimming techniques and encourage others to swim

Last week I got an email asking if I wanted to join Duncan Goodhew & the Swimathon/Sport Relief team at a London pool for a training session and of course I said yes. I did a session with Duncan last year and still use the simple and easy techniques he taught us. When I arrived at the session Duncan remembered me from last year, which put a bit of pressure on to show that I’ve improved (or not!).

14/01/16 Sports Relief Swimathon with Olympic Gold Medal winner Duncan Goodhew, Journalist and bloggers visited the Ironmonger Gym, London, to learn new swimming techniques and encourage others to swim

We spent about an hour in the pool working on drills to improve our individual technique, some beginner butterfly drills (which didn’t do much except prove I’m best at sticking to freestyle!) and even some synchronized swimming.  Duncan’s passion for swimming, water, and getting more people active is contagious. The world needs more Duncans!

14/01/16 Sports Relief Swimathon with Olympic Gold Medal winner Duncan Goodhew, Journalist and bloggers visited the Ironmonger Gym, London, to learn new swimming techniques and encourage others to swim

I’ll be doing Swimathon 2016 on Sunday 20th March at London Fields Lido if you want to join me. It is on Alex’s birthday so there will be cake post-swim if you promise to sing Happy Birthday with me!

Duncan Goodhew is encouraging everyone to get behind Sport Relief by signing up to swim themselves proud at the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon on 18th-20th March. To find out more visit www.sportrelief.com

Being part of a team

My friend Laura wrote this great post on Being part of a team. I don’t have much else to add about how great it is to be a part of this team of supportive, friendly and encouraging women (and their partners).  Just that it’s not often you wake up on a Saturday and check your Whatsapp group messages to see that most of the group have already jumped in a lake, ran some of miles, had a run in with a friendly cow on their morning walk, or have just signed up for a(nother) long distance triathlon.

lazygirlrunning

When I ran my first marathon with them in Dublin last year they gave me this card after which is still on my bedside table as a reminder of what I’ve achieved and what’s next.  With Team Rainbow’ers as inspiration there is always another adventure around the corner.

IMG-20141027-WA0018

swimming in the docklands

Swimming around the first London dock built to accommodate large steamships in 1855 wasn’t on my list of things to do this week, until I noticed that NOWCA had opened a new Open Water Swimming area in the docklands East of London.

PANO_20150722_180930

I caught the first post-5pm DLR out of the city to get to the Royal Victoria station with lots of time to swim with my friends Charlie & Emily until 8pm. It’s also really easy to cycle to along the superhighway from Tower Bridge. We joked that one car of the DLR should be reserved for swimmers and act as a changing room so we can dive right in when we get there.

IMG_20150722_185347

You need to buy a NOWCA membership (£10) online before you go and it’s £8 per session to swim. You can also rent wetsuits (unless you are a M or L woman but we found out that the small man sizes fit well too) for £10 a session. Once you get there you pick up your NOWCA bracelet to wear while you’re swimming. It’s checks you in/out of the water and tracks your time/distance if you want.

The spacious and clean change rooms are on a nearby boat (with a bar on top!) and have hot showers. You leave your bags in the registration tent and then head down to the dock to get in. When you tell people you are swimming in the Docklands the obvious reaction is slightly disgusted face that British people are so good at. Traditionally it’s not known for its fresh clean and flowing waters, but the water is obviously at a safe level for swimming. Also, according to my “jump in and get all the water in my mouth no matter how hard I try” official study. It’s fine. I’d put it up there with Stoke Newington’s West Reservoir in terms of freshness & clearness, and there are no weeds!

IMG_20150722_192519

There are currently 400m & 750m laps set up, very helpfully with different sized buoys so sighting is easier. There will be a 1500m lap eventually when they have a few more in-water support staff. As we did our laps the planes from London City Airport were taking off right over above our heads. You can’t hear much while swimming, but a jet above you is pretty cool. I only did a 400m lap due to an already exhausting day, but Charlie & Emily stayed in and got a few more kicks in.

IMG_20150722_192736

Everyone at the Docks were super friendly, from the staff to the other swimmers.  I highly recommend it as a great place to go in and get wet during the week. It’s open Sunday & Thursday mornings and Wednesday & Friday evenings.

It’s the summer and it doesn’t get dark until 9pm. Why not take advantage of all the things to do outside?

an Olympic (host city) Triathlon

On Sunday I completed my first Olympic (host city) Triathlon. Why the parenthesis? Well an olympic triathlon is a 1500m swim, a 40k cycle, and a 10k run. An Olympic (host city) Triathlon is one that I just made up, takes place in a city that has hosted the Olympics, and roughly includes the same distances and events.

olympiccitytriathlon

On Sunday, due to some calendar mismanagement I had entered myself into a 1.5k Open Water swim and a 10k run. Wanting to do both I worked closely with the space-time continuum to work out a way to compete in both. I’d like to thank my unofficial sponsors TfL journey planner & pret’s £1 filter coffee.

Most Olympic triathlons are held in one location. This makes the logistics of arriving, storing your kit, and toilet facilities easy. This wasn’t the case in my Olympic (host city) Triathlon so I had to trust my own logistics and go for it.

The morning started at 6:45am with a 1 mile cycle to the West Reservoir at Stoke Newington. Quickly becoming one of my favourite places in London, I arrived all smiles to check in to Capital Tri’s Splash Race #2. I have signed up for the improver series of races doing the 750m splash #1, the 1.5k splash #2 and in September the 3k splash #3. Stepping up to the 1.5k distance was a 10/10 on indimidation scale but I was excited to try and knew it would be easier than last week’s sea swim!

IMG_20150712_072650

I said hi to Cørinne, who was also doing her first 1.5k swim and found myself out on the docks in wave #2 jumping into the balmy 20* water. As we started swimming I took my place in the back of the pack and felt pretty good breathing & sighting my way around. Not feeling totally comfortable I took a few treading water breaks, but was getting around.  The second half of the reservoir is pretty weedy at this time of the year. Every stroke yielded a new arm decoration or sometimes the pieces of weeds stuck to my goggles making sighting a whole new adventure.

On the second lap something magical happened. I forgot I was swimming and when I remembered I was just cruising along in a perfect rythym loving life. Not sure why it took me 1000m to get there, and I need to figure out how to start a race in that mindset, but it made the last 500m so much fun I even enjoyed climbing out of the reservoir looking like a swamp monster.

IMG_20150712_082309

The weeds didn’t matter and it was nice to see my watch say 38:40 minutes. I had hoped for anything in the 40s (based on my 750m time – and to make it to the 10k race on time) and was pleasantly surprised to see such a quick (for me) time.

splash2

Swim: 38:40 minutes
T1: 27 minutes (NO SHOWER)

IMG_20150712_083922

No time to lounge around on the cafe terrace though as I had a transition to complete. Straight to the change rooms to get out of my wetsuit and into my running kit. As I was rushing out one of the race sponsors asked if I had tried their new shower gel. I had to admit I didn’t shower (don’t look at me like that!) and rushed off bashfully. The goodybag from the Splash included a banana, water, a Mars bar & haribo. Perfect transition fuel. A quick walk to Manor House to catch the tube to Piccadilly Circus for the British 10k London Run. 18 minutes is a new Piccadilly Line PB.

transition time

Cycle Tube: 18 minutes
T2: 37 minutes 

Having run the British 10k before I knew not to rush for the 9:35am start as with tens of thousands of runners it takes a while for everyone to get over the line.  I arrived in the start area around 9:40 and ended up in the last wave of starters. As we inched our way towards the start past Green Park I ignored the last toilet stop and continued to sip my coffee. As our wave was called up to start I realised I should have taken advantage of the previous transition’s toilets. As I jogged over the line I saw the start pen toilets being packed up – the fear of being lifted into a truck while in a portaloo flashed through my head, but the the thought of 10k needing a wee was stronger. So I ran off course for a bit to relieve myself.

IMG-20150712-WA0003

This detour caused me to end up behind the sweeper truck of the race before I had even reached the first 500m. No problem, time to work on my interval training. I passed the sweepers with a wave, dodged in out and all about the walkers and found myself in the midst of some runners around the 1km mark. The British 10k is an interesting race, and I went into it with a very open mind. I ran it in 2011 as one of my first races in London ever, and loved it (even wearing a giant pink cotton tshirt!) Other than the super speedy, this race doesn’t have you seeded so the whole course is filled with people walking, running, slowing down, speeding up, and *sometimes* even smiling. It can be annoying to dodge slower runners, and have speedy runners push past you, but such is this race so you just have to accept it.

IMG_20150712_094443

The route was new this year and 100% almost all out and back sections. I really liked that as you could always see new people and with the diversity of the racers there was always something interesting to look at (horse & chicken kissing I was mostly looking at you).

IMG-20150712-WA0010

My watch tracked me as running 6.5 miles (with my pee detour & general course weaving) and I enjoyed every inch of it.  At the finish there were loads of people absolutely chuffed to finish and it reminded me that this race was a new challenge for a lot of people, and to finish was such a big accomplishment. My only complaint comes here, at the finish you had to walk another 1km to the baggage tents (even if you didn’t check a bag) to collect your medal. Which was handed to you still wrapped up by someone with the enthusiasm more commonly found from the people giving out free sample bags of popcorn at Waterloo station. If it was your first 10k you want that medal around your neck as you finish.  Receiving my London Marathon medal around my neck from a fabulous volunteer is still one of my best memories of running ever. Vitality now organise a lot of running events around the UK, they have no excuse not to put on a good race.

british10ktime

Run: 59:19 minutes

After getting my medal I continued on to catch the tube back to the reservoir to retrieve my bike and finish the Olympic (host city) Triathlon back at home all before 1pm.

Thank you to New Balance UK who asked me to run the British 10k London Run with their team and gifted me the entry & a pair of Fresh Foam shoes for the race.

swim round the pier

When I told people I was going to Brighton to do the 1.25km Swim Round the Pier race, most people were like, “Wow, that’s awesome, I’m not a good enough swimmer to do that.”

Neither was I.

Post swim fish faces does not = pre-swim confidence

Post swim fish face does not = pre-swim confidence

I do a lot of things. I am not good at a lot of things. I like trying a lot of things. It may not look like this on my blog or instagram, but I like to share about the experiences. Not how I came dead last at track last night and didn’t have anyone to run with because everyone else was running at least :30/mile faster than me. I still went. I still enjoyed it. None of these things change when I’m last or finding it difficult.

IMG_20150704_114944

Just the regular commuters on the 11:28 Seaford to Brighton service

I arrived in Brighton at about noon on Saturday full of optimism. The sun was out, I had remembered all the kit I needed to swim in the sea (extra flip flops to walk on the pebbly beach!), and had successfully stopped an upset stomach that was bothering me that morning. All signs were pointing towards fun.

IMG_20150704_130559

As I arrived at the registration tent a very nice man from Swimtrek asked me if I was OK with the conditions of the sea this morning. I was honest with him. I’d never swam in the sea before, but was confident(ish) in open water so was happy to give it a try even though it was the choppiest sea in which the race could actually be held (it was almost cancelled a few times that day). After getting my swim cap I found an empty-ish patch of grass and got changed into my wetsuit and packed up my dry bag for the finish. The nerves really kicked in here. Ignorance is usually a beautiful thing for me when it comes to adventure, but sea swimming was a big unknown for me with pretty big consequences if it went wrong.

There is the old pier. Just have to swim around it!

There is the old pier. Just have to swim around it!

I looked around at the hundred or so other swimmers, all in varying degrees of swimsuit and wetsuits. All ages and body types too. It was one of the friendliest groups of people I’ve ever hung out with before an event. Sitting on a sunny beach while our rescue team got set up wasn’t so bad either. I was getting so hot I was actually looking forward to cooling off in the sea.

After a safety briefing and a horn to start us off we waded in and immediately were hit with high surf waves. I did my usual flailing wildly trying to both front crawl & breast stroke somehow with my head above water while waves smacked me in the face (not taught in any formal swimming lessons I may add) and mostly let the current carry me out.

strava map

Determined to at least give it ago I struggled for the first few minutes. Not going anywhere quickly and unable to get a rhythm in my stroke things were not looking good. I looked back at the beach a few times and all the spectators were still there cheering us on and no one had turned back. A few more flailing arms and an attempt to aim towards the first big orange buoy so I didn’t get sucked under the pier with the current, and I was exhausted. I turned around and must have said something about going back because the woman next to me said, “Don’t turn back, just float a bit and enjoy it.” Well I couldn’t turn back now. So I kept aiming towards the buoy and floated. I wasn’t totally last, but at this point the first people had already finished.  I tried to stay in the general area of other swimmers but with the 1m swells it was hard to see the orange hats as you went up and down the waves.

When I made it to the first buoy I was pretty chuffed. Now it was just a swim back to the beach, heading back to dry land was the mental boost I need (no quicker way out of this mess at least) and just kept plugging along with mostly breast stroke, a few bits of front crawl (when I wasn’t busy swallowing the sea) and a lot of backstroke trying to calm my breath and re-group.

IMG_20150704_151948

The finish flags

Time moves at a different speed when swimming. I was in the water for 33 minutes but I swear it took me an hour to get from that first buoy to the shore. When I finally made it close enough to shore to stand up I did my  normal Frankenstein walk out of the water (who can do this gracefully?) and was so happy to be vertical. I was still really warm so I sat at the water’s edge for a bit and scanned the crowds for Alex who was due to come over after his triathlon in Seaford finished.

IMG_20150704_152022

As I sat there to take it all in I was obviously chuffed to have finished at all. It wasn’t my best swimming but I did float through it and for that I was happy that I tried. I’m not suggesting everyone sign up for super challenging events or jump in the deep end and put themselves in danger, but think everyone could take a few more risks and try things you might fail at more often.

After the race Alex, Cathy, Mark and I sat on the beach for a few hours and the 3/4 of us who had braved the sea that day at various events discussed in intricate detail the choppiness of the water and near impossibility of doing anything that looked like a proper swim stroke. Cathy promised me that the sea isn’t usually that bad, and I should come back for a dip later in the summer.

IMG_20150704_173828

Another weekend, another plate of fish & chips!

I had fun, I did something I wasn’t at all confident I could do, and I hung out with friends & good food. Isn’t that what the summer is all about?

kings cross pond club

This morning I met up with Laura at 7:30am to swim in the middle of a Kings Cross construction site. We finally got a chance to try out the Kings Cross Pond Club!

IMG_20150617_072245

There are large changing rooms and the staff set you up with a padlock for the lockers, and lots of outdoor showers to get you “acclimatized” to the water temperature.

IMG_20150617_071859

There’s a little shallow ledge for families (and those who want to test their toes in the water) but to get in you have to just go for it. Laura & I eased ourselves in with the ladder, until someone wanted to get out, and then it was sink or swim time.

IMG_20150617_073838 (1)

The water was 17* so not that bad at all and  comfortable once you got swimming around. The atmosphere was lovely in the pool, with about 30 people in/around it didn’t feel too busy. There were a few people doing laps but most were moseying around and enjoying the morning sun. Everyone was talking to each other and it had a really nice social feel that is sometimes missing in other lidos.

IMG_20150617_073851

We had to get to work (via a hot cup of coffee) but there was loads of space in the sun on the grass to lie out and enjoy the sun.

IMG_20150617_075214

There is lots of bike parking outside the pool and I’m told that Caravan is nearby for your post-swim hunger needs. All that is missing is a kiosk selling KXPC swim caps. I’d totally have bought one.

Totally recommend getting yourself a ticket before they sell out.  Prices depend on when you want to attend, and I can totally recommend the early morning! Numbers are capped so if it’s a warm day you’ll defo have to pre-book.