Monthly Archives: January 2008

In at the deep end

Downham swimming pool

Originally uploaded by Cllr Chris Best

I went swimming for the first time today. Downham Leisure Centre and Library was only completed under a year ago, and as a result, is as clean and modern as a public pool is likely to be.

The pool wasn’t busy, and I had a lane entirely to myself. I was happy to find I could swim faster and further than I had thought I’d be able to after such a long lay-off. I swam for slightly over half an hour with rests, and managed 45 lengths of mixed breaststroke and crawl, which aint bad for a first time in over seven years. It felt good, but I’m feeling quite tired and a bit achey now.

My only real problem was that my swimsuit was slightly loose. I dove in and almost dove out. Need to sort that out fairly promptly.

I spoke to a chap at the centre about joining to use the gym. I told him that I was doing the triathlon, and he couldn’t seem to get his head round the fact that I wasn’t interested in treadmills, stationary bikes or spinning classes. I can get all the running and cycling I need outside, without feeling that I’m on a hamster wheel.

What a gym and classes might be useful for is focussed strength training and flexibility exercises, building core stability, adding variety and bringing my training together. I’ve done a very small amount of gym work before. I didn’t exactly find it unpleasant but so-o-o-o-o boring. I’ve never done a class, but I can see how the regular discipline of a class could be helpful.

I might consider joining later in the year, but I’m not sure that I need it yet. Fitting in workouts for all three disciplines is challenging enough for the moment, so I’ll wait until I’m accustomed to that before taking on any more.


Change of plan

No swimming today.

I got engrossed in the Roddick-Kohlschreiber match, the best match of the Ozzy Open so far, and it was past three when it ended, and the swimming pool would have been full of schoolkids by the time I got there.

I did, however go to the Pool. The Pool River, that is, along the stretch between Catford and Bell Green, where I had a nice little run.

Must. Swim. Monday.

Swimming pools

no goggling
Swimming kit, ready for the terrifying plunge

I love swimming. I really do. I like the shock of the cold water as I dive in, the way that I cut through the water, feeling the power and symmetry of my body.

I have the perfect tall, broad-shouldered, long-limbed frame for the sport, and a few spare pounds don’t impact on my ability in the same way they do in cycling or running. So why haven’t I swum for over 7 years?

Two words: swimming pools.

Yeuch. I hate the mingled smell of stale sweat, cosmetics and cleaning fluid, the distorted, echoing sounds, the slightly slimey feel of the tiles beneath my feet, the thought of the countless children who have peed in the pool, the lines round my eyes from the suction of my goggles, the chlorine making my eyes smart, my hair turn to straw, my skin to paper.

I feel exposed walking from the changing room to the pool in a swimsuit that compresses my breasts into some sort of bizarre monoboob, and equally awkward when shivering in the lukewarm communal showers.

I despise the little old ladies, and even youngish ones, swimming sedately up and down, sometimes chatting to their neighbours, in a waft of perfume and lipstick, gamely keeping their heads safely clear of the water. I loathe the show-off who insists in swimming speedy backstroke in an overcrowded session, forcing other swimmers to take evasive action, and I despair of anyone who is unable to work out the appropriate lane to swim in.

But just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Running because I want to.

It’s no part of my plan to run on consecutive days, at least not until I’m a lot fitter, but I just felt like a run today, so I did.

It should work out quite well in a way, as I’ve got to cycle into town and back tomorrow, and then I could try for my first swim on Friday, if I’m feeling brave. I really don’t want to swim at the weekend.

Triathlon training plans

I have 207 days, or nearly 30 weeks until the race. I don’t expect to record a spectacular time, but I don’t want to be struggling home in the last few. I wasn’t very well at the end of last year and haven’t exercised at all since October, so I’m starting from a low level of fitness.

Last year there were 602 entrants and 585 finishers. If I can complete the course in under 2 hours, I will be among the main pack, rather than the stragglers.

Triathlon results
Finishing times in the 2007 London Triathlon

30 weeks should be plenty of time, but I’ve started looking at a few triathlon training plans, and they’re quite bewildering in their variety, although similar in fundamentals. The ones I’ve looked at have varied from 8 -20 weeks in duration. I fancy leaving it as late as possible before getting locked into a program that will make me anxious if I deviate much from it, so I’ll probably be opting for a very short program, but I want to be as fit as possible when I start it.

In the short term, I guess that my goals are to get back to a reasonable level of fitness, to lose some weight and to get to the point where I can comfortably do the distance for each individual discpline.

Current state and short-term goals:

Swimming: I haven’t swum since summer 2000, but used to be quite good. Short term aim: swim 750m without breaks by end of February.

Plan: Join local pool, try to swim 3 x per week.

Cycling: I cycled for first time since October last Thursday, and have cycled twice more since then. It has been satisfyingly easy to get back into, and I have no doubt I could do 20km without breaks already. My spuds broke last autumn, and I’m using toe-clips, but I really want to get back into cleats.

Plan: use cycling as default mode of transport, get new pedals.

Running: I ran for first time for 6 months last Friday, and again today. I’m taking it slowly, as I think this is the discipline in which it would be easiest to injure myself if I try too much too soon. Assuming that the swim goes to plan, I’m fairly sure that running will be my weakest discipline, but as the last leg, I don’t need to leave anything in the tank at the end of it.

Plan: Gradually increase duration of run and eliminate walk breaks until I can run about 35 minutes without breaks by end of February. Try to run 3 x per week.

Weight: I’m fat.

Plan: Try to eat sensibly, a bit less, and at more regular times. Cut out sweets. Only drink at weekends, and not too much. Aim to lose 3 kg by end of February.

Elmley Marshes

Yesterday, we went to Elmley Marshes to look at birds, which involved about 17 miles cycling and a fair amount of walking.

The last leg of the ride to the reserve was down a semi-made-up track, and required quite a lot of care. So it wasn’t particularly energy-sapping, but it was tough on the hands and arms, and by the end of it, my backside felt like an endangered species, although there appears to be plenty of it.

It was a beautiful day, and we saw all sorts of birds, but the highlight was a short-eared owl, hunting among the long grasses and reeds, just before twilight. Then it settled on a post, and one of the other birders trained a spotting scope on it, and gave us a look. It was really a splendid bird, and so clear and easy to see with the scope. It made me hanker after a spotting scope, but I guess it’s too early to start making up this year’s Christmas wishlist already.


View from one of the hides at Elmley

So an enjoyable, if tiring day, but marred at the end by my neighbours’ decision to throw a party, in a terraced house, with a DJ and bass cranked up until it caused the pictures on my wall to vibrate, even in the rear wing of my house that has no party wall with their house. The music went on until about 4:30 this morning, and pretty much wiped out today for both Molecule Man and myself. Bastards.

Oh shit.

What have I done?

What possessed me? I have committed myself to half a year of pain. I’m not sure I can do this. I could do each leg in isolation, but in quick succession? I must be out of my mind.

Did I mention that I haven’t swum since summer 2000?