Category Archives: Aquathon

Operation swim-confidence week 1

I ended the last blog with the question of whether or not to continue with swimming, specifically open water and triathlon. As much as I would like to walk away, I just can’t quit. I know if I quit now I will regret it and, if truth be told, I have dreams of going further. So with that in mind the next few blogs will be about the tears, triumphs and tantrums that come with facing my swimming fears.

Tuesday nights are TriBB’s swim session, an hour of attempting to transform my “swimming” into something that resembles front crawl. I’m in lane one, it’s relatively safe, the wall is right there and there is no crazy long sets. We work on technique, well we’re supposed to, I work on trying to relax with occasional snippets of technique. It’s tough, the sessions break down aspects of breathing, kicking and arm stroke whilst building our fitness and speed. I’m often at the front, though I prefer not to be, for this makes me panic more and more, I try and relax, I remind myself of the coaching point – Popeye breathing, turning your head just enough to breathe keeping one eye in the water – I try it, 20% air, 80% water, not enough air, I’m panicking! 3 strike breathing is quickly failing as anxiety levels rise, I need more air and resort to 2 stroke breathing, this achieves nothing, I’m shaking my head trying to refocus only to forget to breathe. I’m 34, how do I forget to breathe? Then the wall of safety appears, I grasp it quickly, stand on the steps, “1 minute until you go again”….I smile trying to fake enjoyment, trying to trick my head into relaxing, trying to believe I’ll get it right next time: 3,2,1 go… the cycle restarts.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone at TriBB is ace, supporting each other’s journeys whether it be to your first sprint or to an Ironman. It’s good to see other people on that journey working hard to make progress, pushing each other along.

The weekend brings the dreaded open water session. The lake (Blue Lagoon, Darlington) is lovely but that doesn’t stop the nerves from kicking in as soon as I’ve left the house. They build as the drive progresses, why am I doing this? We arrive get our safety red wrist band, get changed into our neoprene coffins and slowly wade into the water. The water seeps into the wetsuit, I wait for my body to warm the water between suit and skin, I tell myself to work on my breathing, 1 small lap focusing on relaxed breathing! I set off the first marker never gets closer, in my head I’m panicking, arguing with myself to relax. At the first buoy I take a moment to talk to myself, set a new target and then get moving. Breathing every 2 is my go-to strategy but makes swimming straight tough. Second buoy down I wait for a large pack to pass, then set off, 1 lap is only 200m but might as well be 200 miles, I’m knackered as I reach the final buoy, breathing is all over the place and I feel sick. It takes all my resolve to set off for lap 2, I try and focus on 3 stroke breathing, it’s tough, a head battle but it’s almost working, occasionally I realise I’m actually swimming, not relaxed but swimming. Second lap done and I’m out of there! First week of operation swim confidence done, water is definitely winning but I’m still in the battle.

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Winter training phase 1

Another week down on my back to basics phase. The exercises are still pretty dull but the progressions are coming. I’m at a similar point to where mistakes and impatience slid into my training post-op. I know I can do more, push past it, muscle through but taking time now will payoff long-term, well hopefully! Keeping my ego in check in pilates classes or at the gym, keeping the tantrums and frustrations to a minimum is the challenge but the long-term goals are there. 


With the chill in the air there’s no denying that summer is over. The daylight is getting shorter the high visibility tops are out and the open water swimming has come to an end. I never thought wading into a cold lake squeezed into a less than flattering wetsuit would be something I’d actually miss. There I was dodging other swimmers in a lane, staring at the black line going up and down, back and forth boredom building and I’m wishing I was in a lake. There will be many more sessions in the pool over winter. The plan is to build on my technique and endurance so that come next year the swim will be just a little more comfortable and I will be just further away from dying when I leave the water.


Cycling is still off the menu, and will be for another week or two minimum. The spin classes and Turbo are calling my name, I’m so tempted to answer the call. I’m pretty sure that when I reintroduce cycling this drive will shrink, after all who actually enjoys spending hours on a stationary bike or turbo. Isn’t it strange how you always want to do what you can’t. 


Time for the run talk. Running is going well, distances are on the up, times are coming down and most importantly I’m enjoying it. Running with a fibroid felt horrible, feeling it bounce around, the pressure on my bladder and bowel, the fatigue from the sleepless nights. I ran because I had too to keep some normality in my training, some control in my life. The feeling was so far from the enjoyment I feel now. Here’s hoping this enjoyment continues. Running will need to be a staple in my training with the challenges I’m setting for next year. 2018 is going to be a big year to make up for 2017!

Trying to find balance. 

At some point in the last couple of months I had the bright idea of booking onto a second triathlon just three weeks after the Aquathon and 2 weeks into my PGCE. 

This week hasn’t been great training wise. Starting my ITT has been a shock to the system. I’ve gone from training being the focal point of my week to having a To Do list the length of my arm. Combine that with my first ever couple of days in a mainstream nursery (shock to the system!!) Training has been a battle, intensity hit and miss and actually getting to the gym took a fair amount of will power. Triathlon specific training has been virtually non-existent, my focus has been just on getting moving. Sessions have included more weights and functional training and boy have I felt it.

I’m realising more and more that post-op my focus wasn’t on recovery but I getting fit for the triathlon. Yes they should go hand in hand but in reality my core work has suffered and I’m paying the price now. More and more I’m discovering things that I should be capable of doing but because I’ve skipped steps in recovery those things are still a challenge. The main areas that suffer are cycling and lifting. This is something I know I need to address after the tri.

One Tri-specific session I have managed this week is an open water swim. Yes the wetsuit still fits, yes the fear is there, and no im not feeling overly confident for the swim portion of next weekend. Queen mermaid assures me she wants to do it together, a big part of me really wants to complete it solo but in reality the fear is creating a wall I’m not sure I can climb. 

Great Scottish Aquathon.

Spoiler Alert:!!! We finished. 

The day started with the queen mermaid completing her 5km in 1:32hrs, around 20 minutes faster than anticipated. I was so proud of her, the 5km is swimmings equivalent of a half marathon and she has trained so hard for it. She left the water with a smile on her face and there it stayed all day.  


I was so nervous all day but standing in transition in our wetsuits with running kit laid out I was literally shaking. Those around us discussed their previous conquests while I buried my head into Becky’s shoulder questioning my sanity. As we warmed up the Great Swim staff were packing up, I remember thinking why would they pack up now. As the event progressed it became more clear that the Aquathon was the poorer relative of the Great Scottish Swim, close enough to be invited but not quite part of the family. 


As we entered the waters of Loch Lomand we stayed at the back, clear of everyone, I wanted my own space to try and swim. 150m in I felt pretty good, I was even contemplating telling Becky to go off ahead. Then out of nowhere the fear and panic exploded inside my head, everything was going wrong. As calm as ever Becky talked me down, waving the safety boat away, 600m to go I was refocused on each buouy. As ever Beck stayed by my side coaching swimming and psychology. The water was choppy, and this combined with swimming alongside the giant Maid of Loch my brain was fried with fear and emotions. 


The swim finished (and breath) we were into transition, changed and off running. Looking at my watch we were running at a decent pace which shocked me knowing how much energy I’d wasted panicking. We kept the pace going, enjoying the scenic park, focusing on on people in front of us, working to overtake them. Before we knew it we were back over the bridge, rounding the corner and running towards the finish line. Crossing the line I was relieved, happy and grateful. Looking at my watch I was only a few seconds short of my PB, this time last year I watched Beck at the same event my immediate future and health was in turmoil yet here I was surviving swims and chasing PBS. 


It was disappointing that so much of the event village had been dismantled, they had ran out of small and medium tshirts (I’m 4’11 a large tshirt just won’t work). As we collected our kit and made our way back to the car the announcer talked about those left on the course while even the photographer packed away.  To the organisers, everyone has worked towards this event, yes they may be slower but they are working, putting the hard work in, please treat us ordinary people with the same respect as those guys and gals finishing in impressive times. 


As for us, we have another triathlon in a couple of weeks, I’m aiming to swim without my personal lifeguard by my side. I’m loving this journey back to fitness, im probably fitter in many areas than I have been in over a year, there’s still some areas to work on and goals to be set!