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Nowt to do with swimming.

"It will be fun" I said. To Kaz. Following the warmest weeks in October on earth. So I booked the Wiggle bike ride for Sunday 6 November. 

The day dawned misty and very cold. I had been staying at the van. It was so cold I had the heating and the fire on for a while. I had set the heating to come on at 6am on Sunday but had woken up at 5.30am feeling a bit cold. Thankfully I had the foresight to take the fan heater's remote to bed with me. So I switched that on. A caravan after all is just a tin can in a field. 

I had emptied the car the night before so it was easy to load up. I had optimistically brought 3/4 length cycle trousers but wore these with Ron Hills on top. 

At 6am I decided to risk getting out of bed for a shower. I put the kettle on and was just about to get in the shower when the electric blew. I had to put on my dressing gown and go outside to the fuse box. It was freezing. The car was covered in ice and the decking was slippy. It was not light enough to cope and in any event, when the electric goes, the shower runs cold (even though it is powered by the gas)

I get into the shower only to discover that the thermostatic bar has jammed and it is too hot for me! I dance around underneath but know that I will have to replace it. 

I have a temperature gauge in the car. I love it. When I had eventually scrapped and got in it read as 1 degree. It warned of possible ice on the road. Wohooo. Great for cycling along country lanes. 

I had arranged to pick Kaz up at 745 but arrived early as I was ready and she is notoriously late for most things. She will deny this. But I know. Time is a guide anyway. She was in fact ready when I called. She had been to the Channel Swim dinner the night before. Having not got to bed till 2am she was less than raring to go. Particularly as it was so cold. Still, as we faffed abit at her house, the sun came out. This doubled the temperature to 2 degrees.

We drove to Folkestone racecourse where we could park and register. I had already done this on line but the system had not saved the details so we both had to fill in emergency contact numbers. In the unlikely event of anything happening we used each others! 

I have to say that Wiggle events are supremely well organised. We were set off in waves. We found ourselves at the front of ours so we hung back to let the others go before us. 

It was a great ride. Kaz did great as she has not been on her bike for most of the year. I have been commuting and doing a few rides here and there. (including a 50 miler with my friend Emma a few weeks before) It was cold and we both had very cold feet. We had wrapped up warm and the layers stayed on. 

 

the layers stayed on
the layers stayed on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaz had gone for the eyes only exposed look. Whilst we did warm up and we did become aware that our feet were no longer blocks of ice, it did not really ever get warm in spite of the sun. 

Commuting on my heavy steel touring bike, laden with panniers and cycling up my hill has put me in good stead for this type of ride. The bike felt light and it was easy

The ride was 24 miles and it took us about 2 hours. Kaz averted catastrophe when her shoe lace somehow came undone, escaped from under the Velcro safety catch and caught within her chain. I missed this excitement as I had gone ahead. I waited at a turn for Kaz to catch up. She was some way behind and this was the reason why. How she did not fall off? It can only be described as good luck. We both managed the hills  (slopes). 

We have some other cycle events to look forward to next year. We are doing a hilly Bala cycle with our friend Emma next May and have decided to do another Wiggle event next September. 

So nowt to do with swimming. Except we did have views of the English Channel on a number of occasions. I do see it and want to get in. But alas there was no time for such activity today. 

Sabbatical part 2

Where does the time go to? It is Tuesday July 15 and I realise that I have no written for just under two weeks.
I am not sure how I managed to find time to work and to train. In reality the last few weeks have shown me that I did not really.

I am very lucky to have been granted this time off. Two weeks and a bit in I am realising that it would not have been possible to achieve my Channel dream if I had not had the time.
In the first two weeks I had swum 54 miles. I had also done weights and resistance between 3-5 times a week. Plus I had been up to Leeds to take my Dad to the hospital for his review after his surgery.

Day 4 – Day 7

The first weekend of the sabbatical was scheduled to be a double sea swim. 4 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. I was lucky enough that Kaz was willing to be crew for the whole weekend. The weather forcast sadly was not great. Rain was forcast and the temperature was due to drop. This is the UK after all and as preoccupied as we are with the weather (and I more than many I will concede) it is for a reason. In Australia if it rains one day people just put off they were doing until the next. Not so in the UK. You have to get on with it.

I managed to persuade Kaz that an early start on Saturday would be advantageous as we would then be able to use the afternoon to go and see the Channel Swimming exhibition in Dover. Kaz does like this sort of thing (honest) and in fact it was her who told me about it. I planned an 8.30am start.

It was absolutely chucking it down first thing when I went to pick her up. As she is not Australian she had packed her waterproofs. My sister Janet had re named Sunny Sands. She believed Rainy Rocks would be a better name. And on this day that was certainly the case.

Funnily enough, given the time and the weather we were the only ones on the beach. My friends Claire and Princess Fiona had agreed to join in about 10.30am. Kaz wondered if they would come as the weather was so awful. I anticipated that a bit of rain is not going to put off swimmers. You are wet already as it is.

The sea was quite bumpy when I got in. It looked quite calm from the beach but when you are laying flat the waves look huge. They were also “waving” (rolling) quickly. I had on my tinted goggles. They were a bargain at a fiver. Prescription lenses too. But the sea knocked them off a couple of times so I got out and got my trusty Eagle Aqua Spheres. Back in again. I swam the first hour and then asked Kaz to bring feeds in between 30 and 40 minutes. I gave her my watch so I had no idea what time it was.

Claire and Princess Fiona arrived. I had not noticed them arriving (as it was hard to see over the waves) and the next thing I knew they were beside me. Claire commented how bumpy the sea was. The tide was out and it was taking about 7 minutes to swim away from the harbour but 22 minutes to return. (I had timed it before I handed my watch to Kaz)

We were cheerfully swimming along and something crashed into my ribs from the side. It was another swimmer. (not known to us) All that room and we still manage to bump into each other! Well in fairness he bumped into me. It didn’t half wind me and I had to stop for a little while to catch my breath. But on the count of 3… we were off.

Claire got out as she had planned to do an hour. I had no idea how long I had been in. Time is a guide and I had no idea what time they had got in the sea. Fiona stayed in with me.

When Kaz gave the call for us to get out I had no idea. I thought I had been in just over 3 hours. I had not been able to count by feeds as she had delivered them between 30 and 50 minutes.

The sun was shining and it was really quite warm. The opposite to what had been forcast in fact. I was really hungry so Kaz and Stuart went to get me chips. I devoured them.
We were joined by Nicki and Ali (two other channel aspirants) who had been swimming at the Rotunda that morning. I do not like it there as it is a steep pebble beach. Hard to get in and out. I have swum there (and it is a really good long swim) but I avoid it usually and certainly on an outward tide.

We exchanged swimming stories and I agreed to meet them the following day.

Kaz, Stuart and I went to the swimmers exhibition to look at the photos of swimmers from a bygone age. We got in at student rate too as I was a channel swimmer! Stuart is a channel pilot and Kaz, well she is just a Channel groupie!

Sunday saw us on the beach by 10.30am. Nikki and Ali were already in the water. Kaz was coming down with the grandchildren for the day. And it was raining again. In fact it was tipping it down. We used the arches to keep the kit dry and I went into the sea at 10.40 and joined the others. It was flat calm.

I swam with Ali and Nikki. They had to get out as Nikki was returning to Edinburgh and Ali to Brum. I asked them to let Kaz know my feed would be at 11.40. And sure enough it arrived. I gave her my watch again.

It was absolutely tipping it down. Kaz had arrived with Jamie, Harry and Louis. Stuart’s daughter Serena was also there. They did not appear to care that it was raining and were having fun and games on the beach.

The schedule for drinks was every 40-50 minutes. Alan and Jamie arrived and swam for an hour. But for the most part I was alone. The sun did eventually peak out. I had no idea how long I had to go when Kaz told me it was my last feed. I said that I would like another in 30 minutes.

I had nothing in me. This was a valuable lesson. And one I really already know but had “forgotten”. I was able to keep going at this point but I had no energy at all.

I burn approximately 900 calories an hour when I swim. And that is in a pool. Factor in the cold water and the chop and it could be around 1000 or more. My drinks only have 120cals per 500mls and that is all I was drinking every 30-50 minutes. It is just not enough.

I could keep going but if I am swimming for 15 hours + I am certainly going to have to take more on board. I like tinned peaches, kendal mint cake and bananas. I can also experiment with making the drink ab bit stronger. And I came to the conclusion that some of the gels may be a good source of fuel.

I chose Honey Stingers (other energy gels are available) mainly because as the name suggests they derive from honey. Which I like. Well at least on porridge. I ordered them from Amazon that evening so they would be ready for my next long swim.

My first week saw me clock up 44km of swimming over 17 hours. In other words, I swam the equivalent of the Channel in a week!

Tamsin Swims!

It has been a long time since I swam with Mr Earthquake. Certainly before his own successful Channel Crossing in June of this year. (It has to be said the sea had not warmed any and the temperature was around 12 -13 degrees. Possibly warmer in parts) He was successful in an epic time of 21.23. (That was his official time, unofficially it was 21.25 which is the time Dan published)

 

The weekend of October 12 was to change this. The forecast for the weekend was not great. Rain and wind was predicted. As tradition dictates we met at Sunny Sands at 10am. This is quite late for my first swim of the day, being as I am an early riser but I was happy to have a bit of a lay in and a leisurely breakfast. Feels like my holidays then.

 

I arrived at 10am and Dan was already there. Tamsin, Lex and Max were playing on the beach already and there were three other people. John, whom I have met before. He is a Swan Lake swimmer and a friend of Dan's. His eyesight has deteriorated but he does not let this stop him from enjoying the sea. 

 

Neil Kapoor and Grantley Bridge were unknown to me. Both are planning  and it has to be said training for an Enduroman events next year. (Arch to arc which involves a channel swim) Coincidently both are swimming on a similar tide to my solo. 

 

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Imagine my amazement when Tamsin got into her swim kit. I had heard she could swim and have seen pictures of her allegedly swimming in Swan Lake. But I have never seen this with my own eyes. Within seconds we had a two way relay of six women planned for 2015! We just need to find 4 more women who are not sea sick!

 

We went into the water. It was still a balmy 15 degrees. The waves were rolling and we all swam with smiles on our faces. Dan had beach butler duties although Lex executed the towel duty like a seasoned pro meeting Tamsin with her towel as she got out. I stayed in and Dan joined me. Neil, John and Grantley had already got out. Dan and I stayed in for a swim and a bob and of course the proverbial chat. Who us? Of course!

 

The sun had come out and I was truly too warm in my dry robe. It will be great for when it is truly cold but is a bit much when the air temperature is 15 degrees and in the sun. Nevertheless wearing it was easier than carrying it. 

 

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The plan was to go to the Lifeboat for lunch.  I needed to nip to the bank in town. On my way I passed Frizbees. Not being one to pass an opportunity by, I went in to discuss future hoody requirements. The equation N+1 applies to hoodies as well as to bikes, bags, shoes and Captain Webb memorabilia. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the life boat. Laura as ever accommodating was able to provide me with Heinz tomato soup and chips. Lovely. 

 

We then went back to the beach for a double dip. Tamsin got in first having to put on the cossie she had worn earlier thus indicating that she had failed to follow the motto "be prepared". No longer part of the Guiding, Brownie or Scouting movement, I showed that this was still part of my code of living. In fairness I think it helps that I am the proud owner of about 7 swimming cosies (remember N+1 – it applies to swimming costumes too). Tamsin on the other hand was wearing a costume that was too big for her having already lost a considerable amount of weight. She told me she had asked for a swimming cossie for her birthday which had been the day before. However requesting it the day after your birthday is not going to improve the chances of receiving it for the big day!

 

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John had disappeared. He has said that he was going for his swim kit but we suspected he may have been having a lay down. So the four of us, Tamsin, Neil, Grantley and I all went in for a second dip. The weather forcast proved to have been wrong and there was a beautiful sunshine that really warmed the back while we swimming. Smiles all round. Again Lex demonstrated her beach butler skills. 

 

It was a great weekend. I was invited to join the group for dinner that night but declined. I had suspected that they would go the All you can eat buffet so had made a chilli. I was correct. It is not my favourite place to eat and I was once poorly after eating there and have not been back. 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was great to see them. We discussed the prospect of a Christmas dinner. Laura is not sure she is going to do it this year at the Lifeboat. Never the less we will find somewhere to eat on the December weekend. 

 

The plans for the following day for me were dependent on the weather. The forcast again was for heavy rain and wind. I had a contingency to swim with Ali. Because of her shoulder injury she was not ready to swim in rolling waters ands the sea was not smooth enough for her to swim safe from injury. . 

 

Sunday dawned with heavy rain as predicted. I arranged to meet Ali at 10am. The plan was to do our CSS sets. 

 

Critical Swim Speed is the speed at which you are destined to swim 100m repeats. This is calculated by swimming a timed 400m (16 lengths of the pool) having a rest and then swimming 200m (8 lengths of the pool)

 

Ali was cautious about how wise this would be for her. We agreed that a compromise would be for her to swim steady and use this as a baseline for future efforts. 

 

I set off first. I did not have my watch and so Ali was timing me. I swam my little heart out and managed to count the laps. At 14 lengths (350m) she tapped me on the shoulder and told me her watch had stopped. 

 

What did I do. Nothing. I treated the news with a calm acceptance. You see I knew this was going to happen. The watches we both use turn themselves off if you do not move for a while unless you have them in pause mode. I always time other people in pause mode. I knew as I set off that Ali probably did not realise this. She is not the most technically proficient person I have met! And Miche was not there to help her. 

 

I accepted this for what it was and realised that after a rest I would be doing it again. 

 

And so we timed each other and took our times. Mine was slower than i have been for a while at 2 mins dead. Ali (who bear in mind was not really trying) managed a 2.02 per 100m. 

 

That is our baseline. From here on in there will only be improvements. 

 

 

We returned to Miche's bistro for sausage sandwiches. It has been a while since the bistro was opened. As we arrived I was relieved to notice that the sign said "Bistro open".

 

 As we ate our sandwiches we planned our menus at the bistro for future swim training adventures.

It’s not boring. It’s beautiful

happy feetA week off and at the nest with Melton. I was sure to get in a few swims! Mel's birthday (and the day we met) are within a few days of each other so we had booked the week off together. Where better to stay than at the nest? An impulse buy for sure, it has to be one of the best buys I have ever made. I love going down there. It is one place where I feel truly relaxed. The lack of reliable phone reception I chose to see as a bonus!

 

Being a bit of a lark, I have a liking for early mornings. Alas with the days drawing in it was too dark to swim and catch the free parking in the harbour. It becomes residents only from 8am. As I swim alone I do like it to be proper day light. Safety first and all. (I do understand the incongruence of swimming alone in the sea and my saying safety first. I do draw the line at swimming alone in the dark!) 

 

I did not set an alarm and I do normally wake early. But at the nest I do sleep very well. (that would be the carbon monoxide poisoning Kaz!)

 

With out wanting to set a time (and really due to the available light) I decided to go on Thursday (the first morning at the van)  when I was ready. That still saw me in the water by 8.15am.

The tide was high and rolling. I had flo (swim safety device) and my car key attached to my cossie. With the swamket and towel tucked into the railings (too high for dogs to wee on as they are now allowed on the beach) 

I set off for a swim. 

 

The water felt warm. The sun started to shine.  The sea was rolling. It makes for an interesting swim. Catching  the swell just right can move you along at a rate of knots.  With the sun on my back and a big smile on my face I felt fantastic. I had not been in the sea for an age. An absolutely excellent start to a few days off with Melton.

 

Friday sadly was too rough to swim. There was a storm brewing and the wind was up. The weather bouy indicated that the waves were upward of 1.5 to 2 meters high. On an inward tide with the strong winds it would not be safe for me to swim. If the waves break at more than shoulder height I do not go in. Having been dumped a few times (it hurts) and hearing some horror stories of paralysis I always think it is best to watch the sea in those conditions.

 

Saturday however was the exact opposite. I had arranged to meet Claire and Princess Fiona on the beach at 1pm.  Sadly Ali had to decline. She had not been well all week and was still recovering. 

 

Melton and I met Claire and P.Fiona under the arches. The tide was on its way out (just) so there was room for us to set up base camp .It was warm and felt like summer. Without further ado we got into the water. 

 

Those of you who know us will see that for the big fat fib it is. We met at 1pm ish (time is a guide) and it was 30 minutes before we even got our feet wet. Melton was on hand to take photos (and a video of our entry) He said the pictures were good but we never got to see them as he inadvertently deleted them before we had seen them. I will take his word for it. He said (and I am sure this is another big fat fib!) that we are photogenic. 

 

the bled muskateers

 

Claire and Princess Fiona were keen to know my plans. I have not yet written my swim plan for October (deciding to enjoy swimming for swimmings sake whilst on my hols). They were relieved that I had not planned a big 3 hour set. Instead we got into the water. And there we stayed for 45 minutes. We swam for around 10 minutes of that time (well perhaps 15) but enjoyed  chat and a bob! It was lovely.

 

The sun was shining and the sea was as flat as a pancake. Fiona was not happy with this. She loves playing in the waves. "its boring" she said. 

 

"Its not boring its beautiful" I quipped. I then almost immediately took that for this posts title. It looked beautiful. The sun was reflecting off the sea and the waves were gently lapping the shore. We exited with a bit of a swim show. Princess Fiona executed a glamorous back stroke and looked just like Ester Williams (when she was alive!) 

 

Claire swam as near to the shore as she could without beaching. 

 

I did a bit of moth. Its like butterfly. Well, ok,  it is not at all like butterfly. It is the ugly version. And I know some of you will be upset that I am implying that moths are ugly. But I stand by my words. Or in this case I swim by my words. 

 

The sun was out and I tried the new Dry Robe. It was roasting.  WInd proof and water proof with a fleecy lining (a bit scratchy to be honest)  it is most definitely a winter accessory. The air temp was around 22 degrees and the sea 16.5. The equivalent of a summers day. There was no need for it!

 

beach geri

 

We sat on the beach drinking hot chocolate and sharing our supplies. I had taken donuts. Claire had croissants and Fiona had a selection of cheese and biscuits. It was Mel's first taste of a baby bel. He was not too keen on the wax wrapping! 

 

princess fiona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday was my last day at the van. Another early one, it was a chilly start. I went down in my cossie and the dry robe. I then left my things on the rocks (out of the reach of the dogs) and went for an hours dip. The sun came out as I got in. If yesterday was calm and flat, Sunday was like a mill pond. The tide was well out and I entertained by self by swimming from the harbour arm to the end of the prom. I suspect it is about 450m or so. It was taking me approx 10 mins each way. I swam toward the harbour at pace and then long and smooth concentrating on rotation towards the Warren. 

 

A big smile on my face. It was strange swimming in a flat sea. It is not often so calm. And whilst the waves are fun, it was strange to be able to see the shore when I turned my head to breathe. 

 

I drove back in my dry robe (and swim hat) and was roasting again. It certainly is for winter!

Bala Part 2.

Saturday dawned overcast. The plans today involved cycling to Dolgellau approximately 17 miles away from the camp site. I decided that I would swim upon returning from the bike so that we could set off and make good time.

We did more bike faffage. My speedo still did not work and Bob was still poorly. The malfunctions had not righted themselves. We hummed and ahed over what to wear. It was over cast and the wind had a bit of a chill to it. Min had her shorts on and off and finally settled on longs. She would rather be too warm than too cold. Kaz had 3/4s on and I chose shorts. Mainly because I have a rule that if the temperature is above 12 degrees, shorts are ok. It is totally arbitrary and I have no idea where it comes from. But, the temperature was over 12.

We set off along the country lane. It would be fair to say that Kaz was a little nervous. She is relatively new to road biking and has been riding a mountain bike as a commuter. She has entered the event in October and was using the ride today to help her get used to riding with unfamiliar traffic. It seems vaguely potty that someone who rides through London may be a tad nervous on the roads of Wales. But the traffic is faster (and moving!) and not as frequent.

The country lanes are ok (although you never know what is round the corner). They were well maintained and easy to ride on.

We talked about the bike shop in Dolgellau. Kaz wanted to look in it incase they had some bike shoes. I also suggested that they may buy some tubes as I was the only one with a spare. It would be too thin for Kaz's bike anyway which runs 700 x35s (mine is 700 x18) .

The A road from Bala to Dolgellau forms part of the Bala olympic triathlon. It is known as a fast course. And it is absolutely fabulous.

The sky remained overcast. We cycled together for a while until the A road. Then I decided that I wanted to go for it. I took to my tri bars and was off. I soon lost Kaz and Min who decided to cycle together. Kaz's bike is not as fast as mine and Min (a much faster cyclist than I chose to say with Kaz) I did not mind. I peddled and was going pretty fast. No idea as my speedo still was not working. Peddling down a hill on my bars I was aware that my tyre had punctured. I suspect I was going at least 25 miles an hour. Fortunately I was able to stay upright, return to the drops and steer the bike to the safety of a lay-by. I set about fixing the puncture.

Approximately 5 minutes later Kaz and Min pulled in. They decided to wait for me to pump up the tyre. But alas – the tyre would not pump up and it was apparent that the new tube had also blown. Oh how my words came back to haunt me. The only one with a tube and 2 punctures.

After a fairly lengthy conflab we decided that Min and Kaz should cycle back to camp and bring the car back and then we would head to Dolgellau. Although they felt bad leaving me on my own, it was safest in case one of them had a puncture too. (Bearing in mind neither of them had a spare tube) I am still mystified by the irony.

We had travelled about 12 miles or so by this time. I thought that they would be about 2 hours getting back.

The day was grey and miserable. I was soon a bit cold. It had been raining and the ground was wet. It was damp and a little bit miserable.

Approximately an hour later I received a text. 17 and sunny. They are having a laugh I thought. I had taken to walking up and down the lay-by to keep warm. Reception on my phone was intermittent so I could not entertain my self with Facebook.

Kaz and Min arrived to pick me up about 1 hour 45 later. They had thoughtfully brought food and drink and some warm clothes. I put on the clothes only to get round the corner from the lay-by to find a bright sunny and warm day. How can that be?

As she cycled back to camp Min discovered that her garmin (which she had charged all night but it had lost all power by the morning ) was no longer working. Another malfunction. She had wanted to keep an eye on how far she was away so she could keep me informed of likely arrival times back. While I waited I examined my tyre. There was a hole in the side wall and so it was unlikely that I would be fixing a puncture anytime soon. The bike needed a new tyre really.

We drove into to Dolgellau and had a wander around the shops and a nosey around for an hour or so. We were lucky and secured a free parking space.

shopping in dogalleau

We then returned to camp via the Spa.

More milk was needed (and evening provisions) as the tent had got very hot during the mini heatwave.

That evening I had a swim in Bala. I swam for longer (about 35 minutes) and enjoyed every bit of it. The chop was great fun but it was also good to swim with the tail wind and be carried effortlessly along. Kaz and Min crewed and kept an eye out for me from the shore. Neither could be tempted in citing a lack of swimming kit as the reason. I swam past the Wiccan camp site. They had pegged out an area where they may enter the water so I swam around it. Min and Kaz later reported that they remained as unfriendly (if not less friendly as they did not make eye contact or attempt to even be civil) when they walked by. In spite of both calling out a cheery greeting.

choppy

The evening was relaxing and we sat and ate and drank and chatted. It is a wonder we can find things to talk about for the whole time. There was drumming and chanting from the Wiccan camp but they did not disturb us. Although not even civil they were no trouble or bother either, preferring to keep themselves to themselves.

The next day saw me having a quick morning dip before we "struck camp". We decided to take a ride on the Bala steam train. It is a very expensive excursion along the side of Bala. Most of the lake is obscured by trees but there were points when we could see the flow of the River Dee within Bala. Min had previously read that the Dee flows through Bala but the waters do not mix. Approaching this news with some scepticism we were won over. You can clearly see a smooth river of water flowing into and for the length of the lake. It looks a bit like a rip tide (for want of a better expression) but is well defined.

striking camp

One of the other campers had pointed out the phenomena to Kaz and Min as they walked on the shore spotting for me. It was clear from the train.

The steam train ride took about an hour or so and then we headed to the Holly Bush for dinner. I stopped at a local garage and bought a tenners worth of petrol. I planned to fill up at the Sainsburys in Wrexham but did not want to risk running out as I had hit the red mark. And with the mechanicals I had already experienced did not want to risk it. Train ride

This is a pub in Cwagerle which serves brill food that is fairly cheap. Min and I opted for sunday roast and the best apple and cherry crumble I have ever had in my life. Kaz had a sizzling sweet chilli salmon which looked beautiful.

Kaz and I set off back to London. Only to notice the bikes (that had been ok from Bala to Cwagerle) were now moving around in a disconcerting fashion. We stopped for fuel and whilst I filled up Kaz had a fiddle. But we had to stop in a car park and take them off and start again. And so it was about 1745 when we set off back to London. A great time to be on the M1. And we did have a slow ish ride home. I eventually dropped Kaz off just after 11pm and arrived home myself well before midnight.

It was a fabulous weekend. Swimming and cycling. With a few malfunctions.

Funnily enough my bike computer started to work again when I got home. I am sure Bob will work too when I get to plug him in. I think that perhaps the voltage at the camp site was not quite enough to power him.

Bala Swim Bike Camp Part 1

Arrival and day 1.

The plan had been for a group of Blue Tits to swim Bala and have a bit of a jolly after Ali's channel swim. Sadly her injured shoulder not only prevented her from attempting the channel but also put paid to any long distance swim plans.

The group of 10 or so became 3. Min, Kaz and I decided to bring forward our October jaunt and do it in Bala.

Min found us a camp site. We had been warned that there would be 66 druids staying there and did we mind. Min decided we would not and booked us in. The campsite has the advantage of a water side location which makes swimming easy. It was also about 17 miles from Dogellau. We planned to cycle there.

Kaz and I set off around 10am. It is the first time that we have travelled with the two road bikes on the back of my vehicle. It took us 8 goes to get the positioning right and then a mile down the road we had to stop to readjust again as inexplicably the boot open warning sign had come on.

We eventually left Woolwich (where we had stopped for further bike faff) around 1045.

And joy of joy the roads were clear. We went on the M6 toll. Although it takes you slightly past where we needed to be, the double back takes less time than fighting with the throngs through Birmingham. At £5.50 it is expensive but well worth it not to be stuck in stationary traffic for hours.

We arrived at the camp site just before 4pm. Well it would be fair to say we arrived at a camp site at just before 4pm. There was no record of our booking under the names, Emma, Kaz, Sarah, Tilston, Bunce or Dodsworth. The receptionist showed me that her book had no bookings what so ever for a tent and two cars for that night.

Back down the lane we went where the Sat Nav had suggested we should go anyway.

We eventually arrived at camp. We went in to pay and ummed and ahed about using the pop up. I was convinced that we would be to cramped. But as the receptionist worked out the cost at over £50 a night (not sure how many friends she thought we had but there was an imaginary 4th person with us for most of the weekend as it happened!)

Kaz and I pitched the tent and sorted out the bedrooms. It was obvious that we would all fit in so we decided not to bother with the pop up and go with it. Min arrived just after 6pm just as we had finished. She had been working (to be fair) but I could not help but noticing that last time we had pitched the tent just as Min arrived!

camp site

 

 

 

 

 

We trucked into town and bought some provisions hoping Bob (the fridge would be cold). Alas he appeared to be broken. The light was fading so we could not sort him in the dark. We decided to have a look at him properly in the morning.

Bob was the first malfunction of the weekend. Several things broke down or behaved erratically during the 3 days we were there.

Chicken surprise for tea with pasta that Min had made. There truly was a surprise. Normally the surprise is the added tin of sweetcorn. Min had sourced the chicken supreme from another outfit and they surprised us with the addition of potato. It is very nice and washed down with cider it hit the spot. This is not a dish we would have had if Ali had been there. She thinks chicken and pasta is wrong.

The next morning we all slept in til around 8.30am. Regular campers will know that this is incredibly late for camping. We surprised our selves. We had all slept well. I had been assaulted in the night. Min had thrown Augustus at me as she said I was snoring. Apparently I had woken up briefly said "am I snoring, sorry" then dropped back off into a peaceful snore free slumber. The irony as I had wanted to take the pop up as I believed Min snored (she did once in Roth!) and I wanted to ensure a good nights sleep for myself.

Sorting Bob was the first activity of the day. A 3 way fridge we plugged him into the car and he was immediately cold. It would seem that the problem was with the electric lead not Bob himself. With Bob incapacitated for the weekend we were going to have to rely on the cold weather to keep our milk cool. And the Strongbow!

The next activity was swimming in Bala. Cossie on and with Flo for support (my swim safety device) I went into the water. It felt cold. Much colder than Leybourne or the sea. I thought about 13-14 degrees. Leybourne has been over 20 up until recently and the sea reached 17. But refreshing and once I was in it was superb. At the point at which we were at, Bala is shallow for about 10 feet then there is a bank and it becomes very deep indeed. So deep that you can see the line from the edge. When swimming there is ground then black. It is eerie.

getting in

 

 

 

 

 

Given the lateness of the hour and because we wanted to do cycling activity too I only swam for short while. I had a shower (far too hot for me. I had to dance in it to avoid the water) Kaz did not think they were hot enough and Min thought they were ok. Just like the 3 bears and the porridge!

After the shower and a bite to eat we did bike faff. This involves fiddling with tyres and generally getting ready to go cycling. When I was doing Ironman distance races I had a Msc in Bike Faffology. Min had the PHD. We had fine tuned our faffing and could pump up tyres and go. Not so this time. It seemed that we had regressed to our former cycling faffolgy selves.

We eventually left the campsite. The plan was to come out of the campsite turn right and cycle around Bala. And this is what we did. 3 miles of country lanes led to a village and then onto the A road back to Bala. I took myself off on the A road. Long and clear it was a great opportunity to give the carbon a run for its money. I had a great time. I waited for Kaz and Min to catch up and then we pooled into Bala for a nosey around.

If you want anything unusual Bala will sell it. The shops are an eclectic mix of every thing. We did buy fuses (just in case it was a fuse issue for Bob – it wasn't). We then went to a cafe for a bite to eat. We had cycled 12 miles at that point. I knew because my speedo was working. But after the cafe stop it inexplicably stopped working. I have no idea why. It had just and new batteries, magnet and sensor. Strange. it did not work for the rest of the trip.

The food in the cafe was great and we sat for while. The temperature was dropping so we headed back to the campsite. We also wanted to wrap up warm and experimented with different buff configurations, settling on balaclava as the warmest. It would have to be a bala clava given where we were staying!

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In the evening we decided to go for a walk along the shore to look at the lake. The real reason was to go and see if we could see what the Druids were doing. There was a cauldron on the lake side with a stick with some writing on. A man appeared and he was chatting to someone. I said I would go and find out what was what. It was like getting blood from a stone. We were able to establish that they were there for the equinox and were celebrating the goddess of Bala. But he was cagey and reluctant to tell us too much. A younger woman appeared, staked her claim on her man by taking his arm and proceeded to tell us they were not an inclusive multi faith sect but rather an exclusive group. (I am not sure what threat the three of us posed to anyone, but she may have seen our inner beauty!)

The trees were spooky. All roots at the bottom and really old. It would seem that the lake floods and takes away the top soil. The area is a site of scientific interest. It seemed fitting somehow that the Wiccans were camped at this spot. 

On balance we thought them an unfriendly lot. And this proved to be so as our friendly overtures when washing up or in the toilet block were ignored for the whole weekend. The other campers however were as friendly as you would expect fellow campers to be.

We surmised they were not Druids following a google look up. They appeared to be a group of Wiccans who were celebrating the equinox. Each to their own I am all for that. But they were not even civil in the end and we wondered how they would get on in daily life.

A dinner of hot dogs and pasta followed this excursion. A camping favourite. And strong bow. We were finding that opening one can and sharing then repeat meant that we did not drink all that much. We managed about 3 cans between us that night but it felt like more.

We sat up till at least 10.30pm that night. It is the carbon monoxide poisoning that does it you know. (really the fresh air of course) We had 212 lights between us as Kaz had brought some fairly lights. It was pleasing to sit with just those on and they looked really pretty from outside.

The camp site was filling up by now. Lots of wilder camping and fires. It is an excellent site although in the height of summer it would probably feel over crowded. It was not too crowded however this weekend. Even the 66 "druids" did not crowd us out. Although they had been placed in an field on their own.

The night was a bit chilly just for sitting and we were glad of the electric fan heater. We sat with the door open but the fly net down and decided it was just like having a flat screen TV. Only more entertaining.

1 day post op

Meeting Ali at the lake for a chat and catch up was on the agenda for this particular Wednesday afternoon.

The sun was shining (after a few miserable days) and it was lovely to sit and look at the lake. On Tuesday Ali had had a rice crispy removed from her back. It was irritating and had already grown. Right on the strap of her cossie it had to be gone.

The GP had done an urgent referral to the dermatology team as befits an unexplained growth. He was not too concerned about it and neither were the dermatologists.

Ali’s shoulder had also settled. We chatted about whether we would swim or not. I think we both wanted to but probably both realised it was not quite the most sensible thing to do. I was at the back end of a cold which had developed into something more chesty. Ali was 1 day post op.

I picked up a small stone and said pick a hand. If you pick the hand without a stone we will not swim today.

Ali picked my left hand. I secretly discarded the stone in my right hand and we decided to swim. Ali did see that. It is a truth known to OW swimmers that there are more days when you want to swim and cannot so you have to make the most of it.

Due to our previously described ailments (not to mention Ali’s dodgy shoulder, we were only going to do a little swim. 400m no more. And that it was we did. And it was great. And were were smiling when we came out.

The lake was still a balmy 16.9 degrees. The sun was shining and Ali had a plaster. It could hardly count as training. But it was fun. And if swimming is no longer fun surely that is the time to stop.

Great swimming bud.

GP blues.

 

The best laid plans eh? 

I have not been able to swim or cycle for a week. I have a grotty chest and get breathless when I walk. This put paid to my 6 hour swim on Friday 13 Sept. Some may believe this is a good thing.

It is frustrating beyond belief.


But not as frustrating as trying to get a GP appointment. I called my GP at opening time on Friday morning to try to secure an on the day appointment. By the time I got through the first appointment was 4 October. 

When I got home from work I went to the surgery website. It said of the 9500 appointments offered in July and August 10% had people not attend so this was why I did not get an appointment. 


Firstly it seems odd to blame your service users for poor service. It also struck me that if people had to wait 3 weeks they would have either forgotten the appointment, got better, been admitted to hospital or died. 


I have written to the practice manager to complain. 


It is not a great service for working people. Ringing at 8am means that you have to not travel to work incase you get an appointment. Then if you don't; get one on the day, you will be late for work. 


I am lucky. I have a great employer and can work flexibly. What about this that have to clock on and off. 

It is the automated appointment system that is the issue I think. Those that get a better service call their surgery and speak to someone. 


I will have to go to walk in centre somewhere as I am sure I need anti biotics. I have a productive cough. Stacey my friend thinks this is a good thing. But she is an entrepreneur. Sometimes it is good not to be productive.


Being sensible and not doing training type things has resulted in me having quite a lot of free time. I have to confess I have not used this to dust or clean my house. Life is too short!

It’s not all about the bike.

Thanks to my boss Patricia I still am able to have Wednesday afternoons off to swim. This week I can definitely say it was to train.

Ali was at the lake and she casually asked me what my "swimming intentions" were.  "Oh I just thought I would swim for a bit" said I.


WIth a glint in her eye she said "I know something you can do!"


The arrival of Claire Russell saw us sit down for a cup of tea and a chat. 


Then let the pain begin. 


A 750 m steady warm us was easy. Claire and I matched each other and swam together.

We returned to begin the spider.


This involves swimming as fast as you can to each of the bouys and returning to the pontoon. Only when you have swum there and back to each can you have a minutes rest. 

Then you do it again

And then we did it again.

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The Critical swim speed sessions have certainly helped with the faster swimming. But it was hard. 


I executed a perfect double V sign to Ali as she stood on the jetty daring to shout directions!


I may have even called her a rude name.


There was a silver lining however as we heard that there is a "Swim Shop" in Faversham. Where you can go and look at and see all things swimming.

Guess where we are headed as a Tits Trip out? 



Now dear Reader, you may be feeling somewhat mis led by my posts title. "You said it's not all about the swim and you are still banging on about swimming" you may well say. 

But even if you don,t think that I am about to prove that I actually do more than swim work and sleep. 


For on Saturday 31 August I actually helped (or hindered) my friends cycle training. 


Stacey decided that she wanted to cycle 100 miles. And so in July (some 8 weeks before the event) she entered a 100 mile cycle challenge. Kaz who has recently bought a new bike (N+1) decided that she may like to join her. 


So they have both booked to do the same event. Different days mind, but the same event! 


With 8 weeks to go the training has had to ramp up quickly. And 31 August saw us setting off to cycle on Route 2 to Rye. 


Kaz said it was 30 miles each way. (I think that is on the A259 but certainly not the way we cycled).


Route 2 is part of the SUSTRANS national cycle way. A range of routes which take you usually on quieter roads from A to B. In cities the cycle lanes tend to run out just as you most need them. At busy junctions, roundabouts and the like. The intention is there but in the UK we are still a long way from accepting cycling as a viable means of making a journey. Not that you would know that in London. There are loads of cyclists. But, the cycle lanes still run out just as the less confident need them. 


As an aside I follow the Highway Code when I cycle. I stop at red lights and cycle on the road. It irritates me beyond belief when people castigate all cyclists for riding recklessly. First of all, cyclists are people who do push and bend rules. Pedestrians do it when they cross the road 20 metres from the zebra crossing. Motorists also jump red lights. The thing that they all have in common. They are people. 


We all do stupid things from time to time so I would like to give cyclists a break. But  it also does irritate me when cyclists jump red lights. Particularly where it is a pedestrian crossing. Have some respect for others please. That said when you do the same in a car, the respect is more likely to be shown at the graveside.


But onward.


THe plan was to leave at 10am and cycle to Rye and back. What could be simpler. Of course we had to have bike faff. Having taken Stacey's wheel off to get it into my car, the brakes were rubbing. She had never taken the wheel off in the whole time that she had had it. That means she has not had a puncture. 


We eventually set off at 10.30, got half a mile away and Stacey realised she had forgotten her medication. We pop back for that. She didn't really want to but it is all time in the saddle.


And so off we went. 


I met Stacey and Kaz at the Rotunda in Folkestone having gone ahead down the steep hill. I am a bit of speed queen down hill. I love descending. The fastest I have ever ridden was 52 miles an hour down a big long clear hill near Pevensey. Fantastic. 

Kaz and Stacey are more cautious than I (but then both can beat me up hill but more of that later)


Cycling is cycling. Along the sea wall we went and we bumped into Phillip Williams. He is walking round the coast line of Britain in aid of  The Alzheimers Society. With 2 weeks to go he will end his more than a year long walk in Brighton. He had been through 7 pairs of boots during that time. We stopped for a chat (us chatting .. never!) and Stacey made a donation. We wished him well and then was on our way.

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Just as we were exiting the Royal Military Canal road we chanced upon a lady dressed in a long skirt and a blouse. She was either a member of a cult or there was some other explanation. She had been providing sustenance to a group of Edwardian cyclists she told us. We may catch them up she said. Well you definitely will given the bikes they are riding. 


We were not exactly sure of the route they were headed but were delighted to catch them up when they were paused for their next stop. 

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Another stop and a chat and naturally a photo opportunity and we went in opposite directions. 

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 I had thought that the routes were erratically sign posted but Route 2 only had one point where we were not sure. We plumped for straight on at that point as in the absence of a sign post why would you leave the road you were on? 


 We arrived in Camber. At this point we had already risen 33 miles and Rye was further on. We decided to stop for food.  The Tubbys Cafe provided us with chips, pins, mushy peas and for me a strong cup of tea in a mug.


We decided to head back. We had done a cycle path along the road into Camber but I decided that I wanted to ride on the road. It would be faster and the surface was tarmac rather than than the gravel on the bike route. 


Following route 2 on the way back (an out and back for us) I spotted a gentleman in yellow some distance ahead. I decided that I wanted to catch him so off I went at a greater speed. I over took him and then passed him. As I waited for Kaz and Stacey to catch up they arrived with the gentleman cyclist. We stopped for a chat. (again) We explained that we were on route 2 and we had only been confused about the way once remarking it was well sign posted. 


Not so, as the point at which I over took and Kaz and Stacey caught him up were were no longer on Route 2. The roads eventually joined up but we had missed a turn. Not to worry as we had a delightful ride. He had riden LEJOG  (Lands End John O Groats) aged 71 and was planning a ride to Paris with his grandson next year. Kaz and Stacey set off but I stayed to chat for a bit longer. 


We eventually regrouped. Stacey was not feeling the love. In fact she had not been feeling the love since Camber. But she found her mojo and went off ahead. Kaz and I meandered for a while and eventually we were all together again at the military canal. 


WIth 9 miles to go I had really had enough. I wanted to be home. We were all at the point but were faced with the big hill up to Capel Le Ferne. 


With Kaz ahead and me not far behind we rode off valiantly. Stacey had stayed behind to ride round in circles at the bottom of the hill! Lunatic! Did she not realise what we were faced with?


I followed Kaz up the hill. Neither of us got to the point we had hoped but we turned and watched Stacey do it. Shouting encouragement to her, she did it. 

We pushed our bikes to cross and then decided to follow route 2. It takes you off the main road up a country road. I said I would go off for a reccy. I cycled off stopping abruptly when the road surface appeared to have crumbled. Kaz was right behind me so she was also forced to dismount. No sign of Stacey as yet but we pushed for a bit. Kaz got back on but I just could not get a start. I could not push off and clip in fast enough so I continued to push. Stacey passed me and cycled right to the top. Her gym training is certainly paying off.


I have to confess to being vaguely (i don't know what the word is). Ok I was well jell. 

Stacey did it through brute strength and determination. I am sure the 100kilo leg presses have certainly helped her. 

stacey conqured the hill

I lack the brute strength to push my weight.


Kaz is like a mountain goat and has realised that she likes hills and climbing. In the past she avoided them but there is no need for her to do that as she can climb. When I say mountain goat, I should say mountain goat with a phone. With only 5 minutes cycling left, she had to get her phone out and make a call. It would be fair to say that she had withdrawal as there was no reception in Camber! 


A grand day out. We cycled 65 miles in total (100km) It took 6 hours and 20 minutes of cycling time. 


Sadly I did not get the stats from Runtastic. It had measured the duration, just not the distance or speed or anything else. 


Stacey has a garmin. Which is how we know.    

52 Weeks

It has been a while since I last wrote. Predominantly because my laptop was taking 45 minutes to load. Then the keys stuck. Then it would not save properly. Then it would not cut and paste. It was all too much effort. And you know what? I would much rather be swimming.


But with a year to go I decided I wanted to start writing again. So I went to my website.  It has disappeared. I contacted Stacey to see if she knows what I need to do. She usually knows about these things. And as if by magic it was all working again. Channel support moves in mysterious ways. Thanks mate! 


On top of that I also decided to buy a new laptop. I did not for a into think that I would buy a Macbook but sure enough I did. And I have to say I love it. 


So how does this help with the swimming.


Well it does not really. 


My training plans are as follows. 


Ali is going to be my swim bud for the next year. Unfortunately she  injured her shoulder which has cut short her channel aspirations for the next year or so. She is currently waiting for  scan to see what the damage is. 


So rather than being my swim buddy, she will be my swim coach. The emphasis this year is on power, strength and speed. Building on the endurance. So more gym work. More longer speedier swims and some more cross training too. 


So watch this space for what is next. 

As soon as the website is up I will be writing more regularly. I have kept a training journal in runtastic.com. A brilliant mobile phone app that means I can fill it is as I complete the training 


The wonders of modern technology eh?