great scottish swim

At The Risk of Boring You……

Posted on August 29, 2017. Filed under: 10k, great scottish swim, marathon swimming, swimming |

This could be repetitive.  For two reasons.

Firstly, this is the only race that I have done consistently since it launched. The Great Scottish Swim has taken place seven times and I have done it eight of those times.

“Eh?”, you might say. Rightly. Back in it’s old hell swamp of a location it was cancelled twice because of blue-green algae. One of those times, though, I refused to take no for an answer and headed to the hills and did it anyway (gosh, don’t we look so young?) and still got a medal.

So, it is safe to say I am a big fan. And I have blogged about the Great Scottish Swim many, many times and, in a moment of swim tourism, I’ve even blogged about it’s English cousin the Great North Swim.

And secondly, open water swimming doesn’t make for riveting bloggage. If there isn’t a wetsuit malfunction or a federal penitentiary involved there usually isn’t that much to banter about. Even more dully I had entered the 10k, so that is a whole lot of swimming to not have many stories!

Fresh from his bionic upgrade my Thames Marathon swim buddy, Jan, entered the GSS and Team Rasmussen duly arrived on Friday evening. Sharon, who takes physical endeavours considerably more seriously than me as evidenced by her outrageously speedy marathon time, looked as visibly shocked by my acceptance of a first beer as she did by my acceptance of my nth beer several hours later. What can I say? I like a beer the night before I swim. Or wine. Or gin.

Swim time was kinda awkward. 8am at Loch Lomond, an hour and a half away. So we went for a two course breakfast. Porridge on waking up. Coffee for the road. Porridge on arrival. In addition I took a banana to the start.

As we walked down to the Loch to check out the course we bumped into another swim buddy, Bean, who was steadying herself for her first 10k. Some brief nervous chatting and then the three of us went to get changed.

Which turned out to be very disorientating. They only went and moved the change tent this year which confused the bejesus out of me.

When we had finally discovered the errant marquee we chose a spot in the pretty much empty tent. Within seconds I was sweating. Then I noticed my swim cap on the floor was shrivelling up and then I thought my feet had actually melted off. Apparently I had chosen the space where the solar flare of the sun was being pumped in and I was about to spontaneously combust.

We wandered down to the registration area picking Bean back up on the way and then bumping into Andy, my swim run partner. We were like rubber clad pied pipers.

Andy feels the cold and in an effort to combat this he had come dressed as Daffyd in a very tight rubber tank top. If the neoprene didn’t work he’d surely get himself a big ole man cuddle out there.

Robert Hamilton, the race director of the Forth Crossing, came over for a chat and told us the temperature was 15.7c, and tried to encourage the last stragglers to sign up to swim the Forth.

And just as Robert left we had final bants. My shiny new neck protector which was much coveted by strangers was the subject of substantial mockery from my friends. In a tactical change of subject from my rubberised garrotte, I noted that I had gone for a very light tint on my goggles as it was quite dull. Jan and Andy had gone darker. Bean, well Bean was running towards the change marquee. Evidently she had forgotten one of the three things that were required. Bless her when she sees the packing list for Lakesman next year.

And then it was time to acclimatise. I got into the tiny swim area and swam one lap at super slow speed. Then a second pausing at the end to, ahem, heat up the Loch..

As is standard we had some aerobics before the start, trying to do squats and lunges in a wetsuit with all the dexterity of a wrecking ball.  The 10k wave were called forward – Bean and I gave Andy and Jan hugs and well wishes – Keri-Anne Payne gave us some wise words that I forget and honked the horn. WE WERE OFF.

I high 5’d Bean on the slipway and waded to my belly button and then started to swim. Ever so gently. Avoiding the crowd. Avoiding the coldshock.

I went so far to the right that I swam right alongside the Maid of the Loch.

I had a long way to go but a couple of hundred metres in everything felt uncharacteristically perfect. This wasn’t intended to be my “A” race, just a long training session in readiness for Loch Earn. I know my body responds well to high volume just before a long swim and this was perfectly timed to peak at Loch Earn.

Because I was so far right it took me a while to get back on the race line for the anti-clockwise course. At the end of the first straight the turn was congested. Someone on my left hand side kept swimming into me. I enjoy the rough and tumble of open water swimming but some courtesy is required. Twice I moved right and twice the swimmer started hitting into me again. On the third time they got a clear and unequivocal message to swim straight; I didn’t see them again.

Around the top buoy I couldn’t find anything to sight. Only when I was on top of it did I realise that there was an almost totally black Suunto buoy.  I could spot it on subsequent laps but new waves that were introduced had similar buoy blindness.

The remainder of the first lap and the second lap were without incident. At the end of the second lap I tucked behind the buoy, took the gel from under my goggles, swallowed it and shoved the empty wrapper in my wetsuit. A 20 second pitstop. Watch check: 51 minutes for 2 miles.

At this time the next wave was released into the wild. I was swamped by a swarm of 5k and 2 mile swimmers. The next half lap was hard work passing through a thick soup of slower swimmers and breastroke kicks to the face.

After lap 4 (I am saving you a lot of underwater dullness in this summary) I followed the same pit stop routine. Watch check: 1:41 for 4 miles. Holy shit – a faster split than the first one and on track for an outrageous PB.

At the half way buoy on lap 5 the 10k leaders came past me as if I was standing still.

I have a social crisis on lap 5. I haven’t spoken to anyone for 2 hours. I think about dropping into the aid station for a gel. But really just a chat. I immediately HTFU.

Lap 6 feels heavy. I feel heavy. The waves feel heavier. At the turn I start a gentle kick readying my legs for returning to land use.

I exit the course and into the bay with the sun in my eyes. I pause to work out where the hell I am supposed to go.

With so much experience of finish line cramp, I put my feet down as soon as I can and walk in. I feel relatively fresh but under the pressure of gravity I am done.

Jan gets my attention. Or what attention I can summon up. I stumble onwards down the chute.

An man with a camera around his neck and what looks like a pot noodle in his hand approaches me.

“Do you want your picture taken?”

“Eh naaww. I just need to eat”

“The noodles are braw”

A very chirpy lady thrusts steaming noodles into my hand. She was literally my heroine in that moment. A proper super hero.

The kabuto noodles were an amazing addition to the event this year. A burger would make it perfect.  Just sayin.

I lost time in the last two miles taking 55 minutes. Definitely an issue with long endurance.

My final time was 2:36, 5 minutes better than last year’s 2:41. I came 26th (36th last year) overall and 3rd (yaaaaay) in age group (6th last year).

Jan and I then horsed down a giant burger at the Champany Inn.  All in all a good day.

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Swimming The Big One

Posted on August 27, 2016. Filed under: great scottish swim, marathon swimming, open water swimming, swimming, Uncategorized |

From the second I saw it announced I knew this was the race that I really wanted to do in 2016.

I had stuff I wanted to do – run an ultra, run a barking mad hill race, swim the Bridge to Bridge, swim the Forth again, and run the Berlin Marathon – but the Great Scottish Swim 10k would take me back to where it all started. Me, in water. One of my favourite bits of water. A race that I have competed in every single time it has taken place.

I did it in 2009, before I started to blog. I did it in 2010, when it didn’t really happen. I did it in 2011, with my bessie about 10 minutes after I finished an Ironman. I didn’t do it in 2012, no one did because of flesh eating swan shit in Strathclyde Park or some other nonsense. I did it in 2013, when I was mauled by a wasp and ended up hanging out with the medical professionals. I did it in 2014, I must have done because I have a medal, but I inexplicably wrote nothing about it.

And then I did it in 2015, with a raging hangover, had my first ever good Great Scottish Swim and  laid some pretty ugly swim demons to bed.

I wanted to swim longer. Why not do a swim marathon? Anything is possible.

Sure, I did the Thames Marathon, of which I am immensely proud. But two things niggle me about that achievement that don’t allow me to put it on the top shelf of achievements – there was a current and the water was warm. Like running a 100k ultra on a gentle downhill in mild spring weather – it’s a feat, but it’s not super mental. It was a great fun day out but as a bone grinding endurance event, it wasn’t the toughest.

So, the Loch Lomond 10k was always going to be a special event for 2016.

Preparation, as ever, was imperfect. I am still being dry needled and pummelled by a physio twice a week as I seek to regain feeling in my left hand. But, no excuses, it might stop me picking up a coffee cup but it’s not affected my swimming.

Race Day. A 4pm start for a swim is a weird ass thing. So I spend a couple of hours moseying across the M8, stopping occasionally to purchase forgotten lube or pausing for caramel shortbread, or ice cream or other decadent treats.

Just after Dumbarton, at the drive through Costa, I get an Americano, a cup of hot water and a spoon. Each ordered infuriatingly separately for the increasingly infuriated drive through lady.  Yup, I am going to eat a porridge pot at three in the afternoon.

At Loch Lomond shores it is T-60 minutes. Time to shake and bake.

I make up the porridge while I tape up my neck. I look like a mummy yet, I can assure you, this attracts less attention than the alternative look – garrotted auto-erotic asphyxiation. I pop on a down jacket for later and head down to the race area.

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Wetsuit on to waist, lubed and baggage away. I wander for a while just letting my body temperature drop. And then it’s time to check in. There is the usual process of being zipped up and helping others zip up. Thankfully there was no repeat of zipgate.

I do three laps of the acclimatisation area and hang around, floating, in the deep end for a bit until we are told to get out. All I have is an awareness I am going to be in the water for a very long time. At 16.5c that is no mean feat.

The usual race briefing – don’t drown, don’t be shit, don’t shit yourself etc. I may have paraphrased that. And then Olympian Keri-anne gives us some last minute tips. Keri-anne started my first GSS in 2009 so it was lovely symmetry for her to start my longest one 7 years later.

And we’re off.

It’s always choppy and a bit kick-in-the-facey down the first channel until we are clear of the Maid of Loch. But unless you’re a diddy you just keep your face out of the feet and fist zone. It’s a long swim, there’s absolutely no point fighting for space in the first 50m.

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My race plan is Take it Easy. The miles are banked there is no need for daft swimming.

Lap one is straightforward. A bit congested but no drama. Towards the end I decide I will stick with the two feed strategy at 2 miles and 4 miles.

Lap two is equally straightforward. I find some feet going straight and at the same pace as me and I stick to them.

At the end of Lap two I take on 3 jelly babies and half a bottle of water. 50 minutes.

I start Lap three. I can’t see the buoys. Must be a canoeist in the way. Sight. Nope, no buoys. Sight. Holy shit. All I can see is The Weather. The Weather obscures the hills, the buoys and The Weather is appearing in the form of raindrops the size of cannonballs. At that moment I really appreciate the volunteers. And I really hope they have great waterproofs.

I start lap four and I start to feel cramp in my foot. I stretch and my calf cramps violently. I try to stretch my calf and my quad goes.  Under the water there is a noise like a wounded animal. I roll onto my back. I realise I am cold and it’s got into my muscles. I try to use my left leg to stretch the right. It cramps. I am literally floating on my back with all the dexterity of a log. Two canoeists make their way towards me. I wave them off. Sod this – no one is retiring me. I roll over and drag my legs cramping like a wizened claw behind me. I have to roll onto my back a couple more times just to get enough oxygen in. I have a canoeist shadowing me. No way. No fucking way am I stopping until I decide I’m done.

I get a rhythm going again. I settle my breathing. The cramp eases. It’s still cramp it just doesn’t feel like Guantanamo torture any more. Every now and then I am gripped with panic as I feel the rising creep of tightness, just waiting for it to kick off.

At 4 miles I get to the feed station.

“What do you need?”

“I’ve got cramp real bad, give me everything!”

Three jelly babies, a glucose tablet and half a litre of water and I’m on my way.

About half way the pace line is in disarray. A buoy has lost it’s mooring. We are directed onwards.

I amuse myself with the Next Time game. Next time I pass here it will be the last time. Every. Single. Buoy. gets Next Timed.

I start the last lap. Now I can play Last Time.

This is the Last Time I’ll pass here. Last Time. Last Time.

I felt tired but fresh. I’d lost pace but I could swim it all again. Easily.

I pass the last turn buoy. Last Time. I get to enter the finish straight.

I walk out. I’m done. 10 actual kilometres of swimming with no tail wind. As big an achievement as anything I’ve done but I felt well within myself the whole way.

Unexpectedly my sister and Kelly shout on me. The 10k doesn’t attract the crowds of the Saturday at GSS, so my supporters were most of the crowd.

I change. I inhale McDonalds. I drive.

I stop at Harthill for McCoys and Coke. I have tape on my neck, I’m shivering, I have an exceptionally odd cramp influenced walk and I have a number sharpied on my hand. That, it seems, is what it takes for a Harthiller to look at you like you are an oddball.

I get home. Relax. I finished in 2:41, 36th overall and 6th in age group. I’ll take that.

Two weeks until I cross the Forth again. Maybe I’ll have a fully functional hand by then.

 

 

 

 

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Love of the Lakes (featuring Great North Swim)

Posted on July 14, 2016. Filed under: 5k, great north swim, great scottish swim, swimming |

I am a Highlander at heart.

I may have been born on the Clyde but I am as much a Weegie as I am a Chinaman.

Growing up on the edge of the Highlands, every time I watch Rory on a never-ending, silver, windswept, arctic beach wearing nothing but a streak of sand encrusted snot I am reminded of photos of me as a child. My happiest days as I grew up were battling the increasing corporate indolence by retreating to a tent at the weekends and bagging Munros.

But the Highlands are spikey.

They are bare and barren and dangerous to the foolhardy, and fools. Their majesty is their devastating desolation. Every journey is a life changing adventure, an eternal trek somewhere over the horizon. A trek in which you’ll likely see no humans, no things built by humans and have no contact with humans on the other side of reality.

I Highland whenever I can. But every June, without fail, we have packed the tent in the car and gone North. Out with wifi and comfy beds and your own shower and in with massive sand dunes and mountain passes and big sky. So much sky.

And that was the plan this year again. But for the Keswick Mountain Festival trip.

Three nights in the Lakes was not enough. We had to go back, for more adventuring.

All wild places are wild. And dangerous. But. But the Lakes feel different. If Disney did wild country it would be like the Lakes.

Where the deep Highlands can feel like a post-apocalyptic dystopia, the Lakes are pretty bloody jolly. Folks in active wear, with walking poles EVERYWHERE. Folks in active wear, with walking poles drinking warm beer and eating ploughmans in sunny beer gardens. It’s warm and jolly and smiley.

When you meet a stranger on the hills in the Highlands they have the thousand yard stare. You look into their eyes and you see the horrors that they have seen on their latest traverse. In the lakes you smile at their rosy cheeks and beer burps and their warm welcome as you meet them on the trail.

In the Highlands every drive leaves you corralled between jaggy, grey, dry-stane dykes or precipitous drops to peaty bogs. In the Lakes the roads are padded with hedgerows of ferns and nettles and soft foliage, like those helmets for toddlers to stop them bumping their head on a table edge.

As you dip your toes in a Highland loch for a swim you take a deep breath ready for the blackness, and the chill and whatever weather the swim gods will rain down upon you with great vengeance and furious anger. In the Lakes a swim is warm, and clear and the winds bring benign waves that are fun rather than life threatening.

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The Highlands are a special kind of grey, a crazy, mad darkness that Dulux could not replicate on it’s colour chart while The Lakes are the most vibrant green. A glowing verdant countryside that would provide the perfect green belt to The Emerald City.

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We had so much fun. Marching up to the top of a hill to a cave or a quarry or a waterfall. Schlepping along to the lake for a swim or some pebble throwing or just getting wet. Rory and Ted both finding their favourite sticks and then arguing over them. BBQing under Wansfel and then jogging up Loughrigg before breakfast the next morning. Getting gingerbread in Grasmere and fish and chips in Bowness and ice cream in Ambleside. Visiting Brockhole and Wray Castle during the day and reading Beatrix Potter at bedtime.

And thank you to Ambleside legend, Norseman, Celtman and practically every other kind of man, Chris Stirling for being so generous with his time and knowledge and even selling me the one OS map that I didn’t already own.

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The Lakes are almost perfect. Almost. But we need to talk about the beer. The beer spoils it. Bloody awful stuff. The Highlands are brewing the most amazing craft beers at Black Isle and Cromarty and Skye and Cairngorm – modern, hoppy, fizzy, chilled. The Lakes have loads of modern, craft breweries but they are brewing the same old stuff – warm, flat and just a bit blah. It’s not often I choose Generic Lager over anything else but the Lakes kinda makes me do that.

Anyway. I digress.

The Great North Swim.

Once the cottage was booked I had a dawning realisation the GNS was on when I was there. But it would probably be miles away and it’s always full booked any way.  Except it wasn’t. It was on our doorstep and there was space in the 5k.

I hadn’t planned to swim a 5k. I wasn’t ready for a 5k. But I desperately needed open water time before the Thames Marathon and the Great Scottish 10k.

What the hell? I was in.

First thing to say about the Great North Swim is that it is like all the other Great Swims on steroids. It is huge. It starts on Friday and finishes on Sunday and thousands of swimmers drift through the waters over the weekend. The location is great but also not so great. The scenery is stunning and it allows for close up spectating from the shore but there is a LOT of walking.

It is a long walk to the site. The site is vast. And it’s a long walk home. Apparently there were hot tubs. Never saw them. Apparently there were segways.  Never saw them. Sooooo big compared to our nice compact Loch Lomond venue.

Anyway. I haven’t swum a 5k since I finally got over myself and my fear of long distance by Slaying Demons last August. I was in better swim shape back then but also hungover and full of McDonalds so I reckoned if I could get a similar time I’d be happy.

We hiked up to the venue. Had a look around and then I got suited up ready to go at 0930.

Warm up was a perfunctory walk through an area not unlike a human sheep dip. I got my suit wet, my head under and managed to steal a few strokes amongst the human soup. Bizarrely one fella, presumably warming up for the 5k was having a panic attack in waist deep water and holding up our conga. No idea how he’d have coped in deep water.

Things then proceeded as all Great Events do. A dry land warm up. Race brief.  General motivational merriment. Self seeding by speed that has all the human bricks seeding themselves as great whites. A countdown. The horn.

My approach to a mass start swim is very particular. It has been honed over the years from too many unexplained bad swims. What I know now is that if I start off too fast, even marginally, by about 200m in I am gasping for air and certain that a boa constrictor is squeezing the life out of me. In my first open water swim start I became irrationally convinced that the TV helicopter was sucking the air from my lungs.

So now I start as slow as I can. Literally at the stall point where I can’t maintain forward momentum. And then, as I am reassured that I am settled into my stroke, and as the human stramash eases, I start to pick the pace up to a more comfortable race pace.

I must have picked up the pace too early. I felt the rising panic as I approached the first buoy. But I know what it is now so I took the pace right down until I recovered and carried on.

There really isn’t much to write about the actual proceedings of an open water swim. Bubble, bubble, breathe. The odd boot in the face. A low flying swan. A squint, but VERY ENTHUSIASTIC swimmer.  Bubble, bubble, breathe. Repeat. Repeatedly.

I had no expectations of time. It was just about relaxed, open water time. As I neared the ramp I couldn’t focus on the big clock but I imagined it would be somewhere near the 1:37 at Loch Lomond last year.

On to my feet. Goggs and cap off. Cross the timing mat. 1:21.

WTF.

Probably a mistake. Must be the time for another race. I scan the crowd for Pam, Roar and Ted. No sign. I wander the length of the site. Noooope.

I had told them just over 1:30. Maybe the 1:21 was legit.

It is.  I do my shocked face and I’m not even faking it. Keswick had been a wake up that I could do a decent pace in open water but I knew I faded there. Perhaps it was the 10k run that caused the fade rather than general swim sloth.

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We all meet up and I take Roar off to the change tent to get a wetsuit on to get into the Lido. Talk about a duck to water! Aquasphere loaned him some goggles and a cap and he spent his time in the water trying to dive to the bottom to get stones. A natural!

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The countdown is now on for the Henley Bridge to Bridge, and almost immediately after the Great Scottish Swim 10k and then a reprisal of the Forth Crossing.

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I am doing plenty of swimming and looking forward to the challenges ahead. If only my wetsuit would stop garroting me……..

 

 

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A Very, Very Long Way

Posted on November 2, 2015. Filed under: forth crossing race, great scottish swim, henley bridge to bridge, marathon swimming, swimming, ultra running |

I’m not sure how it happened.  I’m not sure how an innocent couple of days thinking about things to do in 2016 could turn out like this.  Perhaps it just proves I am a dumbass.

The reason that I am definitely indefinitely retired from iron distance is because it’s so far and the training takes up so much time.  So obviously the conclusion of my deliberations would be no Ironman in 2016; because it’s a long way and it takes so much time to train.  And there is no Ironman planned in 2016.  And for that I am pleased, very pleased indeed.

However, and I shall type this very quickly for it is indeed very silly, I shall instead be doing an ultra and two marathon swims.  Like a TIT.

Yes, I decided not to “race” a very long way and spend hours training and instead “race” a very long way and spend hours training.  Duh.  The difference is so subtle it is practically invisible.  In fact it is, indeed, invisible.  See?  IDIOT.

How did I get here?  To be honest I’ve thought a lot about this and I don’t really know.  A bit like a child is often accused of being “over tired” I seem to be over inspired.  There are so many fun things to do and I want to do them ALL.  (Not really).

Anyway. Long swims.  Until August they terrified me and now they don’t.  And now I want to swim a very, very long way. And often so it seems.  I have two flavours of long swim for 2016.  First up is the Henley Bridge to Bridge – 14km in a stretch of the Thames between Henley and Marlow where all the poshes live.  It is apparently downstream but no-one will tell you what impact the flow has.  I guess it’s like an inside secret.  I’ll blab when I find out.  It’s probably bugger all.  The second very, very long swim is the 10k Great Scottish Swim.  A wholly different challenge presented by a serious stretch of open water that can boil up without a moment’s notice.  It will probably be my soberest Friday night at Loch Lomond ever.  Two very different swims – one in crystal clear loch water surrounded by the hills and one floating downstream fighting for water space with posh people’s jobbies. Bring. It. On.

IMG_20140130_124048Very different though they both are, even from a long history of swimming, the training is intimidating.  Peak week in July will be a minimum of 24k with 6 days of swimming and an 8k long swim.  The grumpy auld wifies will be loving me down the pool.  I will hopefully be tapping up proper long distance crazies like Donal Buckley, the Lone Swimmer for much needed help along the way.  These two swims definitely don’t feel like light undertakings right now.  In fact they feel as big as running a marathon but with even more anti-social training.  And hopefully all that swim fitness will carry me on for a late season PB in a repeat assault on the Forth Crossing Race.  These three events have all been booked and paid for to encourage me to start training NOW.  I’ve even planned it.

But before all that, proving that I have taken complete leave of my senses I am going to run further than a marathon.  What a walloper.

Having sherpa’d at Glencoe I rekindled my love of the hills.  Mainly looking at the hills as I am not built for going up hills.  Then I read blogs and got over inspired – Sarah’s Autumn 100 (miles yes 100 MILES), any of Susie’s ridiculously numerous very, very long runs, Glenn’s maiden ultra around Tiree and mostly, definitely mostly, Rhona’s epic West Highland Way race.  I was lost for hours in Rhona’s blogs of the amazing Scottish ultras and if you read the WHW race report do it on a day when you don’t have to work the next day.

D33 looked a perfect race for me but having only fannied about with my trainers without actually running for months it was going to come around too soon.  Everything else was either too long or too far away.  So I have my heart set on a race that is just a holding page just now.  But the Glen Lyon Ultra is in one of my favourite areas and it is calling.  I will be ready.

I’ve been running.  All off road and I’m enjoying it.  Maybe ultras aren’t such a stupid idea after all.

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Temporary Leave of My Senses

Posted on October 10, 2015. Filed under: bridge to bridge swim, great scottish swim, speyside way race, the wall ultra |

I’ve been thinking.

Usually I think with clarity; sometimes it’s just a stramash inside my head. At the moment it’s a bugger’s muddle but as I am thinking about what I’m going to do in 2016 it’s also kinda fun.  A bit like diving into a paddling pool of jelly, I imagine.

So, where to start?  2015 may be a good place.

My plan was always for 2015 to be a fallow year. I find that I just lose the love for a bit after I’ve done an Ironman and just doing stuff for fun is, well, more fun.  Even in a fallow year, however, there was stuff I wanted to do.  By and large, after a fashion, I have plodded my way through the year.  I did London Marathon; underprepared and full of manflu I probably shouldn’t have.  I nailed my bete noir, the 5k swim, at the Great Scottish Swim and I am hungry for more.  As a bonus I also got to swim across the Firth of Forth.  And Nessie and I did the Edinburgh Half Marathon in a very leisurely pace followed by a burger and beer binge for The Hen Weekend. I haven’t done the Coast to Coast cycle in a day and it never looked a likelihood – basically, I just didn’t want to do it enough.  And the Seven Hills of Edinburgh is still on the cards as soon as Nessie and I coordinate diaries (and I can run more than 5k without coughing up a lung).  A quiet year but not a bad year.

2016 is going to be about swimming. And running. And maybe a triathlon.

Firstly, the swimming.  Having sunk the mental block I had swimming 5k in open water I am now hungry for more.  Having held a respectable pace with no training for 5k I am also hungry to see what I can do if I train.  Two events are going in the diary in pen, proper fountain pen ink.  No pencil based equivocation here.  The Great Scottish Swim are doing a 10k in Loch Lomond this year – as I have never missed a GSS I will be there.  And then coincidentally, as I was googling the 14k Bridge to Bridge, a friend from Oxford emailed to say “have you ever thought about doing the Bridge to Bridge, I fancy it too?”.  HELL YEAH.  So, the second event in pen is the Henley Bridge to Bridge Swim.  (Incidentally, Jan and I are veterans of Thames swimming having taken a short cut home from the pub previously……..).  In pencil I will add some of the events on the Vigour Events calendar that I can make including a repeat of the Forth swim.

So far so good.  But now the water gets more choppy.  What will I do on dry land this year, I found myself thinking?

I don’t know what happened next.  Perhaps a small aneurysm.  But with one roll of the mouse I started googling ultras.  WTAF??  I’m not designed for hardass, mentalist ultra running.  The googling started innocently enough.  Then I started reading blogs.  Like an idiot.

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And then, to make matters worse, I left the internet to head to the Highlands to sherpa Pam and Sandi at the Mamores Half Marathon, part of the Glencoe Marathon Festival.  It looked great on the trails, the atmosphere was lovely.  I wanted to do it.  I mentioned ultras to Sandi. “What about Hadrian’s Wall?”, she responded.  Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.  *googles The Wall ultramarathon*.  What have I become??

IMG_20151004_160920Anyway, what I had in mind was a nice, flat 30 mile ultra.  Then the ultra box would be ticked and I could go back to burgers and beer. However, and with some regret in hindsight, I read that anything under 50k is really just an extended marathon.  And that is a reasonable point given that in Rome and London I have managed to start a 28th mile.  So where does that leave me?

Scotland has magnificent ultras, and I feel I should do one on home turf.  However, and let me be absolutely honest, they terrify me.  WE HAVE HUGE HAIRY ARSED MOUNTAINS HERE!  The one that I think I could cope with is the 36 mile Speyside Way Race.  But the dates may clash with other “inked in” events.  The Glen Lyon ultra which is yet to be announced looks interesting, the timing Is about right and I quite like the cut of the organiser’s jib. And then I found myself back at The Wall.

I may only have one ultra in me and doing it properly seems like something to consider.  Running Hadrian’s Wall starts in Carlisle, finishes at the Newcastle Quayside has a 24 hour time limit and involves night “running”  For some inexplicable reason I find these 69 lumpy miles tempting.  The googling isn’t over, I need some advice from the kind of people who do profoundly silly things just for fun.  But I think I will be running more than 26.2 miles in 2016 and the thought doesn’t fill me with horror.

Finally, triathlon.  I’ve kinda lost the love for triathlon as it becomes more about selling and buying sparkly shit than it does about honest endeavours against myself and the clock.  But the daft paddy Iron Nessie keeps on chewing my lug about another euro expedition.  Nothing has really floated my boat to combine a trip with a triathlon but then yesterday Ironman tantalisingly tweeted about Rome 70.3.  We. Shall. See.

And that, my friends, is the current state of 2016.  It would appear that I have taken temporary leave of my senses.  Recommendations, advice and meds are welcome.

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Slaying Demons

Posted on August 30, 2015. Filed under: great scottish swim, swimming, wetsuit |

I’m not particularly demonstrative. You’ll rarely know if I’m up or down unless you know me very well and can read the signals.  So no-one really knows how traumatised I was left by a 5k swim I did in 2012.

No matter how unpleasant an event I’ve done I have almost immediately declared I want to do another – the first marathon where I was so dehydrated I picked a fight with a blind man (I WANT TO DO ANOTHER MARATHON), the first Ironman where I spent most of the bike and all of the run with a stomach like Vesuvius  (MOOOOOOAAAAAAAR), but not the 5k swim.

I won’t go into it again but it is the first event where I said, “I hated that and I will never, ever do it again.”

As time dulled the memory, it remained my bête noir but I saw it as limiting.  I wanted to do more stuff but this mental block was holding me back.  I had to MTFU and put this demon to the sword.

And today, the morning after, I find myself uncharacteristically excited. I. Can’t. Stop. Smiling.

Everything about yesterday was wrong. It should have been a horrific reaffirmation of everything I thought about a 5k swim. But it wasn’t.  It so wasn’t.

Firstly, let me set the scene. I am a swimmer.  I was a swimmer.  Whether through evolution or development I have an ideal build for swimming.  For swimming very, very short distances.  Like 50m of front crawl or butterfly. I have shoulders so wide and biceps so big that six “normal” sized triathletes can take a draft in my Bismarkesque wake.  I have evolved to swim short distances, fast. I have no business swimming very long distances.

Secondly, I may have had suboptimal preparation.  At 1am the night before I was in a taxi in a drive thru McDonalds, 180 miles from the start line.  And I was full of gin, mojito, beer, German sausage and the dronings of Spandau Ballet.

And thirdly, I haven’t swum much.  In fact I have swum 41.6km since Ironman Austria in June.  June TWENTY FOURTEEN!  Honestly, it felt like more. And half of it was done in one week.  But it was clearly not enough for big time demon slaying.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. I love the Great Scottish Swim. I’ve done it every year from the dark days of Strathclyde Park (the blue green algae was the nicest thing in there), I did it the year it didn’t happen and it has been my favourite event, anywhere in the world, since it moved to Loch Lomond.  It seemed a fitting, if chilly, spot to kick a demon square in the balls.

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Panicked by the prospect of a 3 hour drive I arrived early.  Very early.  Kinda three and a half hours early.  I bumped into a heap of people I knew including my buddy Bean, newly knighted as a half ironman and ridiculously invigorated by her mile swim.

I used my spare time wisely rehydrating and saving children. These are in fact both true. At one point the rain came on heavily and a mum grabbing for her raincoat let go of her buggy, the weight of her bag tipped the buggy, catapulting her daughter into the air.  I caught the child on the half volley and presented it to the mortified mother as she emerged from fixing her hood.

Several hours of watching pass and I start to think I should get on with it.  Twenty minutes before registration I head to changing. The clear strangle marks on my neck the target for two compeeds and thirteen litres of baby oil gel. (The strangle marks were not from some weird autoerotic asphyxiation event but a swim with Ironman Andrew in the stunning Eccleston Delph the weekend before)

At 15:01 the announcer calls “registration is now open for our last swim of the day, the half marathon swim”.  Twenty nine minutes to go.  I reach round for the zip.  It, unusually, moves freely. Then detaches from the wetsuit in three pieces.  HOLY SHITTING FUCK.

In my head the outside world falls silent.

Life goes into seriously slow motion.

There is a man standing in an Aquasphere gazebo. I walk towards him.

“Is there anything you can do to close this wetsuit”

“Sorry, that zip is completely broken

Everything slows further. Och well a bit of a waste of a drive.  Then I am offered a lifeline.

“Get over to the other tent in the main village and they will lend you one”

Twenty eight minutes to the start. Surely I can’t make it?

The outside world re-erupts in my head. The noise and the bustle escalates as I break into a barefoot sprint dodging ice cream lickers, wheelchairs, strollers and shitting dogs.  I start stripping the wetsuit.  Bean’s words from earlier reverberate in my ears “people were buying wetsuits; I can’t imagine swimming a mile in a wetsuit that was brand new”.  TRY THREE, BEAN!

I get to the wetsuit stand. And let me say this now – Ricky and the guys from thetristore.com saved my race – seriously, buy a cervelo or something from them. They size me, dress me, now dripping sweat and send me on my way. My feet are killing me from the barefoot sprinting.

I see registration. Despite the sweat now flowing freely into my eyes I see the clock.  15:11.  HOW FAST DID I RUN? My fastest transition ever.

I have no time for contemplation. I show the demon no respect.  Registration. Acclimatisation. Ooooooh chilly.  Race briefing. Horn.

We go.  I slow everything down. I have no time for breathlessness.  I pass the Maid of the Loch.  I am into my stroke.  It’s all going to be ok.

I sight.  Our caps are yellow.  The marker buoys are yellow; like giant smirking minions.  I can’t distinguish between cap or 8ft tall buoy.  I follow the crowd.

The half mile comes quickly. Then the mile.  This is fun.

Half way. Still crowded. Usual bashing. You can’t take it personally.  I think the 5k was the busiest wave of the day. I feel chafing. New wetsuit, new chafe marks.

Two miles. This feels surprisingly easy. I dig in and pick up the pace.

Two and a half miles. At the big pink buoy.  I stop. I tread water. I enjoy Loch Lomond for a moment.  A unique view.  A swimmer’s view.  I push on.

The final marker buoy. The elite’s finish gantry. Shallow water.  CRAMP.

SWEET JESUS THAT IS BIIIIIG CRAMP.

I’m done. I sit in the water. 1:37 on the watch. 5000m done.  Imagine if I’d trained.

The volunteer looks at me and extends a hand. I’m smiling. It’s infectious, he smiles back.  I try to stand but I’m laughing too much. Out loud too much fun laughing.  The announcer offers some encouragement to cross the finish line. I don’t care.

In your face 5k swim. I win.

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Pool Streaking

Posted on June 23, 2015. Filed under: great scottish swim, swimming |


READER WARNING

IF YOU HAVE FOUND THIS POST BY GOOGLING “STREAKING IN POOLS” BACK UP RIGHT NOW.  I CAN ASSURE YOU YOU WILL END UP AS DISAPPOINTED AS THE 275 PEOPLE WHO GOOGLED “BULGING SPEEDOS” AND FOUND THIS

NOT A GOOGLE PERV?  CARRY ON…..


The idea came to me on Saturday night. Like most of my ideas it could not be described as a good one. In fact it was boss-level, top shelf, championship half-wittery. However, to it’s credit it was at least an idea.

I am a reluctant swimmer these days. Once I am in the drink I normally get on with it without incident except, of course, if the crabbit old bitch is in. But getting in is always the challenge.

With that background, consider this – I have entered the 5k Great Scottish Swim. Five fecking kilometres. Five thousand metres. 200 lengths of yer standard Great British, council sized pool. Idiot.

It’s not unknown territory. I tried this foolishness before in 2012. And it did not go well. In fact, as a direct consequence, I promised never to stick my head in swan shit infested bilge and swim that distance ever again. In fact, also, I vommed a sausage bun with brown sauce in my own mouth and managed to gob it out, to present a floating obstacle to the drafting swimmer on my toes, without missing a stroke. But, like the kind of fool that signs up to do a second Ironman, the painful lessons were conveniently forgotten. And so it was, I entered on a whim. Romantically post rationalising my stupidity as some kind of macho desire to exorcise the demons. But in reality demonstrating that I was a simpleton.

With this in mind I got in the pool seven weeks ago and swam 1200m. I hadn’t swum since Ironman Austria 11 months before. Two weeks later I swan a beautifully symmetrical set, a pair of 1200s, that got me to 2400m. But that trajectory was not going to get me through 5k in Loch Lomond. And right there was born The Idea.

A STREAK would get me going. Not a baws oot, white fatty dash round the jacuzzi, you understand, but some continuous days of swimming. How many I thought?  Seven seemed a challenge given my track record.  What distance I thought? 3000m a day, I replied impulsively and unsurprisingly foolishly.

Now some context here. I was a swimmer. Theoretically I think any distance is swimmable. This is very unlike my run philosophy where I firmly believe that I will spontaneously combust if I run over 26.3miles. Even on my base training of bugger all, a 3000m swim would be no problemo. Hell, back in my teens I would be swimming 50k week in week out. 21k is the kind of distance that Brett Sutton gets swimmers to do every morning before breakfast. But I am old. And fat. And lazy. So 21,000m in a week for me was a demonstration of a whole new level of swim fool.

I tend not to apply a 10% rule Iike we have in running to swimming. If I did apply that logic then last week I would have swum 5250m instead of 21000m. Do I fear injury? Not at all. And to be honest my old, battered and aching swimmer’s shoulders could actually hurt less after an injury now than they do without an injury. Such is the wear and tear of the teenage years of pool bashing on a middle aged body.

Nothing really left to do but get on with it.

Day 1 – MONDAY

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My Speedo Jammers as modelled by my body double.

Found my speedo jammers. Noticed the Lycra had pretty much perished down the arse crack region. Daren’t look in a mirror to confirm there is full arse exposure. I proceed with haste across pool deck to the lane exceptionally conscious that everyone loitering outside the steam room will be exposed to faded worn through Lycra arse in every tumble turn.

Remarkably survive day 1 of swim streak without launching toys from my pram and declaring swim streaks are a bloody stupid idea.  Probably aided by having a lane to myself.

Swam: 15 x 200 with 15s rest

Highlight: longest swim since Ironman Austria

Day 2 -TUESDAY

I remember the state of my jammers and opt for tri shorts. These are my lady tri shorts that I bought by accident a couple of years ago (there is a story that can be read here) and are now reserved for pool use. They aren’t that bad for swimming except the gusset feels a bit waterlogged for push-offs and drags behind.  In fact, all things considered, they are actually pretty awful for swimming.

To be honest the Monday 200’s involved a bit too much pool end loitering.  Tuesday’s 300’s were a much better choice of set. Less hanging about and more getting on with it, finishing faster and getting the feck out of Dodge.

Swam: 10 x 300 with 15s rest

Highlight: biggest training week since June 2014 pre Ironman Austria

Day 3 – WEDNESDAY

Forget about the state of the jammers and put them in the bag. Putting them on I discover how frail the Lycra actually is. Thankfully there are no children in the pool.

While searching for an alternative form of pool clothing modesty I discover I have 5 pairs of identical goggles in my kitbag. Only one actually provide a window on the world that I can see through. Therein lies my kitbag Russian roulette that leaves me thinking my eyesight is failing in 80% of swims

The set got unnecessarily complicated. And for some reason I decided that mid-way through a swim streak 1200m with big paddles would be a good idea.  Duh.

Swam: 1 x 600 with 15s rest, 12 x 100 paddles on 2 mins, 6 x 200 with 15 secs rest

Highlight: put my big toe through my jammers and exposed my arse to the world 110 times in 110 tumble turns.

Day 4 – THURSDAY

This was a tricky one.  Through various procrastinations I found myself getting in the pool 1 hour and 10 minutes before I needed to pick Rory up from nursery.  3000m takes me about an hour.  If I didn’t give it some welly I was going to find the wee laddie sitting outside nursery with a glum look on his face. Or with the cops or something.

So welly it was.  400s proved to be a bit on the long side for my fitness level.  Still feeling remarkably sprightly in the water.

I got to the nursery with time to spare, albeit sweating indecently.  I now look like a chlorinated Stan Laurel.

Swam: 7 x 400 + 1 x 200 with 15s rest

Highlight: chlorine has now made my hair stand up permanently, like some extra from The Muppet Show stuck in a wind tunnel.

Day 5 – FRIDAY

I’ll be honest, it was getting tough.  Although the shoulders were holding together the back muscles were definitely feeling the distance.

Once again I decided to just go for it.  It was Friday evening and I had a cold beer in the fridge.  They switch the lights off at night and it feels a bit like the Playboy Mansion. In my ladyshorts, and with lots of preening Geordie Shore types in the jacuzzi, I was not entirely comfortable with this development.

300m sets are fast emerging as my favourite training distance. An ideal compromise between rest time and endurance.

Swam: 10 x 300 with 15s rest

Highlight: in a swimming pool on a Friday evening for the first time since my last squad session in 1989

Day 6 – SATURDAY

I am joined in my lane by a sizeable unit swimming breastroke. It is like encountering the bow wave of the Bismark every few minutes. If you have ever swum in foul weather open water and had the sensation of waves battering down on your head, it was like that.  I was left concussed and disorientated.

Everything was hurting.  300s felt too far, backing down to 200s felt like an admission of weakness.  So I invented a new distance like a modern age Archimedes in a giant, chlorinated, pish filled bath.  But it was no eureka moment – 250s were dull.

Swam: 12 x 250 with 15s rest

Highlight: officially the biggest training week since records began. I suspect.  Probably.

Day 7 – SUNDAY

8am.  A whole new demographic of swim fwends for my last day.  I encountered my first pool triathlete.  No wonder people think we are tools.  Seriously, the only reasons a male swimmer should ever wear a swim cap are if they are in a race, the water temperature is near zero or if they have grown their hair all the way down to their mangina.  He was also wearing speedos.  And, to paraphrase Bill Hicks, I took too many breaths that ended up facing a hairy bobbing man-ass.  Or worse.

As I neared 3000m I knew I couldn’t settle for 21,000m for the week.  I wanted 21,100 metres.  Metric runners will understand the significance.  A half marathon of swimming in a week.

And how to finish?  Butterfly, of course.

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Swam: 10 x 300 with 15s rest, 50 backstroke, 50 fly

Highlight: the swim streak was over and I can still swim fly!

So, what was the outcome of the swim streak? Well my jeans are looser. Despite getting a bit fatigued towards day 7 I was averaging 2 seconds per 100m faster than the start of the week. My arms now feel quite muscularly functional and no longer like Beomax with a slow puncture. Oh, and I need some new swimwear.

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I would like to make it clear these are my own views and speedo have not paid me for this blog. Neither have Aquasphere even though I have 5 totally scratched pairs of their goggles. The buggers.


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It’s a Rollercoaster

Posted on May 7, 2014. Filed under: Austria, brain training, computrainer, escape from alcatraz, escape from alcatraz 2012, great scottish swim, Half ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, shakey, swim, triathlon, Uncategorized, virgin london marathon, virgin london marathon 2012, vlm 2012 |

When I wrote Picking Up The Pieces on Friday night I had already picked up the pieces.  Whingeing is not really my style and it is a blog I would never have written while I was on a low ebb.  It was a catalyst, however, to remind me that I am an Ironman and an Alcatraz Escapee and to re-grow a pair, get my kit on and hit the road.

However, that said, it is fair to say that I was totally overwhelmed by the support that I received which was not all of the HTFU variety.  Chest infection aside all I really needed to do was get some consistent miles into my legs to top up the confidence tank.  This afternoon I realised the confidence was flooding back – but I’ll come back to that.

 

Since Friday I have:

Swum 6km;

Cycled 153km; and

Run 48km

 

20140505_093717And I still have my long ride to come tomorrow so that, frankly, is a mere drop in the ocean.

That is the kind of mileage that finally gives an old guy confidence.  Saturday morning had a very hilly 21.5km, the longest run that I have had in quite some time.  Sunday then saw a 55km ride which started in glorious sunshine with short sleeves and ended with me feeling that I had been waterboarded.  With hail and snot and ice.  And then on Monday with all of that activity already in the legs I enjoyed a stinking hot (19C, I am Scottish after all), flat, midgie infested 25km.  The midgie clouds were so thick that I resorted to the bank robber look and someone actually asked if they could have my saliva and sweat soaked mask after I was finished.  Pervert.

 

So, the rollercoaster is on an up.  Undoubtedly.

 

I would love an extra couple of weeks until Ironman Austria but, I have to face it, they are unlikely at this late stage to move it for me.  So it is when it is.  Which is cool.

 

So, how did I realise that my iron-confidence was back?  A text exchange that I had with Shakey today.  If you are new to the ironman39 blog you may wonder who Shakey is.  Well, let me explain that first.

 

Shakey is like my brother from another mother.  Except she is a chick and she is Irish.  Sister from an other mister doesn’t really sound right; but I digress.  Since I started jogging and stuff like that, me and Shakey have been through a lot of scrapes – I dragged her from the bottom of a pool and taught her to swim, Pam and I took her for her first open water swim, I escorted her to her first and second swimming medals, we did a half ironman and we ran VLM.  She is kind, she paced Pam round a half marathon when she was preparing for the London Marathon, but if you read only one of those blogs to get some idea of the eejitry that I have to deal with make it the VLM one.  I am not giving the game away to tell you it involves a daft paddy being taken away in an ambulance.

Anyway, the only other two things that you need to know about Shakey is that she has found some poor bugger to marry her and she is also doing Ironman Austria.  So, cue text banter today:

 

Me: Need to check – are you planning tears in Austria or at wedding?  Because you need to HTFU.

Shakey: Austria.  Defo.  Want me to bring tissues for two?

Me: Eff off.  I am an Ironman.  I’m just topping up my AWESOME.

 

IMG_20140507_130815And then I realised I hadn’t been quite so cocky for a few weeks and that the confidence is definitely back.  Less grumpy, more AWESOME (hopefully the English language will forgive my use of the word awesome because it is really reserved for Americans) and ready for the weeks ahead when the battle is as much head as it is body.

 

In other news The Sultry Temptress was unshackled from the turbo today.  After Ironman Regensburg I hated her.  She wrecked my legs and made my arse look like a baboons.  So, today after a long winter and many, many static miles she is being treated to a compact chainring to save my ageing legs on the rolling Austrian mountainry.  All outdoor rides from here until I climb off on the afternoon of 29th June will be on The Temptress.

So, it’s really just a short update to say the rollercoaster is heading upwards.  Of course it will crash down again but the miles are being banked day in, day out both into the legs and into The Brain.

I expect the updates will get more frequent now, if only to allow me to remind me what is going on in my head when I ever contemplate doing a long distance event again in the future.  😉

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The Sting in the Tail of a Saturday Morning Swim

Posted on August 26, 2013. Filed under: great scottish swim, Ironman Austria, Loch Lomond, race report, race review, swim, wetsuit |

“You just swim until someone tells you to stop.”

So said prolific German marathon swimmer Alex Studzinski just before I set off for a two mile swim in Loch Lomond.  He knows a thing or two about open water swimming having won the German 25km championship a massive seven times.

And that about sums it up.  Open water swimming is not for the faint-hearted or for those that like to be distracted by scenery.  It is a tough mental grind but if you focus on your stroke and your breathing eventually someone will tell you to stop swimming.

THE HISTORY

I have been a supporter of the Great Scottish Swim since it started in 2009.  But I have not always been a fan of the organisers.  I swam it in 2009 with no cold water training or wetsuit experience and thought that my lungs were going to burst – I wanted out after 100m but I carried on anyway.  In 2010 it was cancelled due to blue green algae in the water at Strathclyde Park – but I went out and swam the distance anyway!  In 2011 it was shortened because the water was cold – cold water in Scotland in September?  No shit Sherlock!  And then last year it was cancelled because of blue green algae in Strathclyde Park – noticing a pattern here?  It is fair to say my confidence in the organisers was dented.

But this year?  WOW – these guys pulled off a magnificent event.  Changing the venue to Loch Lomond was inspired – the crowds were bigger, the location was stunning and there was a proper carnival atmosphere.  Finally, the Great Scottish Swim had the venue it deserved; I have never had a great swim at the Great Swim – would I have the swim that I didn’t really deserve?

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WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE

Always one for a bit of planning; albeit always last minute planning, I had a quick look in my race pack the night before.  Yup, it was definitely at Loch Lomond.  Yup, timing chip was  there.  Yup, numbered cap was in the big envelope.  “Oh, what’s this?” I thought.  Tucked away in the envelope was an instruction book – how to get there, location of the changing and luggage marquees, a few last minute tips and………a course map.

20130823_194840Now normally, as a simple minded fella I like simple instructions.  Keep the buoys on your left, for example, works for me.  But for some reason, with time on my hands I decided to look at the course map and then thoroughly confused myself.  How would I remember where to turn, what colour of line was I following.  What colour are the turn buoys?  My head started to hurt.  How could I possibly sleep?  Quite easily it turned out.

With my swim at 0930 and check-in and acclimatisation at 0900 it was going to be an early start.  The alarm went off at 0630 and I had some cold porridge that I had made the night before.  Wee Roar was then rudely awakened for the second Saturday in a row and we were well on the way by 7am.  We paused only for a drive through Costa Coffee (how civilised is that?) and we were loch side to watch the 0830 wave start.

There is no time like the present when it comes to open water swimming so I got my ass into my rubber suit straight away, checked in and was ready to acclimatise.

Following Aberfeldy I have said out loud a couple of times that my 35min 1.9k should translate to about a 1 hour 2 mile swim.  I have no right whatsoever to make that extrapolation given that I have now had a total of 11 swims since training for Ironman Austria started and only one swim in a wetsuit in 13 months.  But, hey ho, we all need stretch targets!

The problem with having no open water experience this year is that my body isn’t toughened for icy Scottish lochs.  The great news, though, was that Loch Lomond was 16.2C compared to Loch Tay which was only 13.8C (but was still considered pretty toasty in Loch Tay terms!)  Anyway, I got into the small acclimatisation area early.  Early enough to have a “heart-warming” pee in relative privacy (I am pretty sure the 6 lifeguards knew what I was doing) and to swim lengths comfortably for 10 minutes before it got busy.

THE SWIMMING BIT

We were called out for an undignified warm up (like a hippo my grace is only evident when I am in water) and then  the horn went.  And then we swam, until someone told us to stop.

20x30-MEDB0099That really is about it – compared to Ironman, there was loads of space in the water and I never found myself in a stramash.  By the time we turned for the first time the sun had come up and was low in the sky meaning that we were swimming pretty blind in the water.  The whole thing was just an exercise in focus – left arm, right arm, exhale through nose, left arm, sight, breathe, right arm.  Over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  Occasionally I had to stretch some cramp out of my toes but I never really had any sensation of discomfort.

I had set my vibrating alarm on my watch to go off every 15minutes so I was pretty sure that I was on 1 hour pace and as I stepped on to the beach I was delighted to see that I had finished in 59 minutes and 3 seconds.  Perfect pacing.  No effort wasted!  I’m not sure how much harder I could have pushed – but the 59 minutes was a really positive omen.  I felt I could have swum at that pace for longer which would have been a 1:10 Ironman swim – only 4 minutes slower than Regensburg in 2011.  With consistent and focussed training through to Klagenfurt it feels like “Project Sub 60 swim” is very much on.

A TRIP TO THE MEDICAL FACILITIES

The drama for the day, however, didn’t end there.  Oh no, I only went and booked myself into the medical tent next!

IMG_1433As the excitement was building and the ladies elite race was reaching it’s crescendo others were watching the race; kids were probably watching the TV helicopter.  I was watching both and the nasty little wasp that was persistently hovering about my can of Fanta.  Just as Keri-Anne Payne touched the finish as victor, the aforementioned nasty little fecker decided to sting me right on my lip.  Cue spitting, slapping my face and grabbing at the sting.

This was all clear to me and my fight for survival but everyone around me, who had been focussed on the race, became quite distressed at my punk like, Tourettes inspired behaviour.  Pam explained apologetically that I had been stung by a wasp and the whole crowd parted and evaporated in a cowardly act of self-preservation.  My lips meanwhile were blowing up like a particularly bad collagen enhancement.

I haven’t been bitten by anything since I started school and didn’t have a clue what to do with a wasp sting so I did the sensible thing and headed to the medical tent.  They put ice on it and that really was the end of the drama.

Bloody sore though!  I can’t recommend it.

THE SPOILS

It is unclear why the medal format has been changed from the popular "Jim'll Fix It" style for 2013 ;-)

It is unclear why the medal format has been changed from the popular “Jim’ll Fix It” style for 2013 😉

And the bling? Well, yes there was booty to be had and I proudly added the 2013 Great Scottish Swim to my other three.  Oh yes, I have the hugely rare 2010 version of which I think there is only one other in circulation.  This was the only bling for the year – the worst haul since 2009.

Well, that’s all the events for 2013.  Serious training for 2014 coming up next.

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Ironman 2: The Sequel

Posted on August 14, 2013. Filed under: Austria, great scottish swim, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, Klagenfurt, shakey |

“Oh, how cute”, I hear you saying, “We hear nothing from him for months and now he writes a blog to tell us what DVD he is watching.”

Oh no, it is far more serious than that.  Far, far more serious.

Untitled

Yes, I am getting off the sofa, dusting down the bikes, squeezing uncomfortably into a well lubricated rubber suit and setting off on the long and winding road towards my second Ironman.

“Why?”, I hear you say.  “You have nothing left to prove.”

Well, howsabout the first blog of Project Austria 2014 explains why?

REASON 1

Why? Because I want to fulfill my potential.

I am proud of becoming an Ironman. I learnt more about myself in that year than the previous 39.  Losing 5 stone, seizing back my life and travelling 140.6 miles under my own steam was a herculean effort.  But I can do more.  My bike training was not as effective as it could have been, I barely went in a pool in the last 6 weeks before Regensburg and inexperience with nutrition meant that I very, very slowly shart my way around a marathon course.

I have 11 months to apply science and experience before putting my toes in the Worthersee and swimming, cycling and running to my best Ironman.  Before I get any older!

REASON 2

Why? Because I’m not getting any younger.

As a big boy I don’t know how much longer my body will tolerate me taking part in extreme endurance events.  But Reason 2 is only partly for me.  In Regensburg there was a wee, three month old lump was part of the entourage.  In Austria he will be a bright, active three year old – and while I still have it in me I want him to have the experience of sitting in the bleachers in the finishing tunnel, knowing that his daddy is coming round the corner soon, watching the lights, hearing the music, seeing the very best of humanity and human spirit and being there when the announcer, supported by the crowd, screams at his daddy “YOU………ARE………AN……….IRONMAN”.

That will be one proud daddy.

REASON 3

Why? Because there is nothing else like it.

Ironman is an incredible event.  Ordinary people go out and prove that they can do extraordinary things.  Unlike any other event an Ironman will sacrifice his race to help a struggling competitor.  The camaraderie, the immensity of the distance, the wretchedness of the lows, and the irrepressible spirit of the finishers differentiate Ironman from other events.  It focusses me like nothing else.

When I talk about Ironman I always come back to this passage that I blogged about the night before Ironman Regensburg:

“The water laps your toes and envelopes your skin. Close your eyes. The masses become silent and your heartbeat thunders. You have planned for today, talked about today, trained for today, imagined today, dreamed today, and yet you still don’t know what to expect. A cannon blows and you remember, as you dread the uncertainty and the harsh duration to come, to savor every second because in your memory it will be over in the minutes it takes to recount or reread from your journal.

Move, breathe, drink, eat. Move, breathe, drink, eat. Move and move. One hundred forty and six-tenths miles. Know tenderly, intimately every fiber of your being that propels you forward only because your brain says, “Don’t stop.” And don’t stop. Move, breathe, drink, eat.Manage your day. Stick to your plan. Be flexible. Just finish. Float when your mind and body detach and watch your body move with you – pushed by the crowd, the volunteers, who lust for your finish as if it were their own. But it hurts. And you don’t know for sure why you are doing this and what it will mean when you do. And then you see it. A banner, a clock, a frenzy of applause. And you know you made it happen through whatever means and power source you draw strength from.

Ironman will trivialize past hardship and prepare you to minimize those to come. It makes dreams come true. You have what it takes to bridge aspirations into accomplishments. Crossing that line embraces self: confidence, sacrifice, reliance, invention, worth. Finishing makes you your own hero.”

So that’s why!  Now I just need to work out how!

“How’s it going then?”, you may well ask.  Alright, I think.  Since entering I have cycled 450km and swum 18km.  “The running?  Well, it’s not an Ironman campaign without an injury drama so I broke my big toe immediately upon entering.  I can confirm that a broken toe is a sore thing.  A very, very sore thing.

So, I’m back doing a bit of the blogging.  What have you got to look forward to?

  • This coming weekend I should have been doing a Half Ironman.  I should also have been fitter.  The outcome of  the combined broken phalange and general corpulence is that I have become a relay.  This is not a weight penalty because I weigh the same as a relay team – no, I am bringing in a ringer with 10 fully functional toes for the half marathon.
  • Next weekend is the Great Scottish Swim.  Like a complete dumbass I learnt not a jot from the Great Big Nottingham Swim in a Shit Swamp and have entered the two mile swim.  Oh no, not the nice, cold yet challenging, mass participation 1 mile swim but the complete mentalists sensory deprivation two mile swim.  Oh yes, I am a fool.
  • My goals and my plan.  If you say it you do it, they say.  If you blog it, it is frozen for posterity and the embarrassment of not doing would be mortifying, I say.
  • And if that lot feels a bit serious I can almost guarantee that in the next 10 and a half months there will be illness, injury, and public decency things to tell you about.  As if that lot is not enough Shakey has also entered Austria.  Swims like a brick that girl.

So bike ready, body in recovery, let’s get going.

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