Aspire Channel Swim 2014

Medal:  Yes

Required distance:  22 miles

Actual distance covered:  37.4 miles

IMG_20150321_171444Ok, so this isn’t really a race, and it’s definitely not running, but it’s the first medal I’ve received since September, so cut me some slack.

A few weeks P.I. (post injury), I realized that I was going to have to make some drastic changes to my weekly workouts that were:

a.) not running, therefor possible for me to actually do; and

b.) taxing enough to burn enough calories to stop me from tormenting defenseless buttons once more:

19 year olds should not be twice the size of their moms.

19 year olds should not be twice the size of their moms.

After deciding on swimming, I became that person who gets involved in every possible forum that has to do with swimming.  This is where I stumbled upon a thread on the Fetch website dedicated to the Aspire Channel Swim challenge.  Despite already being two weeks into the 8 week challenge, I signed up, because all finishers’ were promised a medal, and I am weak.

Although not exactly challenging – you just swim a total of 22 miles in any pool, in however many sessions it takes you, at whatever pace suits you – it was still a size-able distance to swim, and I’m not sure I would have made the time to complete it if I still had running.  It did, however, create a spark of enjoyment for swimming because I was working towards something instead of just treading water with my training until I could run again.

Well, despite my complaints about swimming laps being about as interesting as watching someone in a coma attempt to knit a scarf, it turns out it ain’t half bad when you’re with other people.  And there I was thinking swimming couldn’t be a social thing.

Since the Channel Swim I’ve joined the local triathlon club that runs the lessons I’ve been going to twice a week, and I’ve started to notice some improvements in speed.  In December, my average 1000 meters would take around 20 minutes, and my fastest 5k swim was 1:42:00.  Yesterday, I swam 4k after work and was pleasantly surprised to see 1:13:39 come up as my total time.  Even if I took a full 25 minutes to swim another 1000 meters, I would have ended up with a 1:3x:xx time for my 5k.  Clear progress!

I’ve also joined a new ‘Fetch challenge’ to swim the length of the Thames – 210 miles – in 2015.  I’m at just over 65 miles so far, so definitely on track.

As concrete proof that I’ve taken swimming on as a steady mistress, Ian pulled through on his birthday promise, and my very first wetsuit arrived recently.  I’m pretty attached to it already, partly because the brand happens to be my childhood swim team’s name.  It’s totally normal to wear a wetsuit as lounge-wear, right?  Don’t answer that.

IMG_20150321_171727Anyway, the wetsuit will be necessary in a couple of months when the tri club starts outdoor swim training, which in turn will help me prepare for an open water 5k and a river 14k this summer.

Although I doubt my love for swimming will ever eclipse my love for running, I will openly admit that I am warming to it.  And speaking of eclipses, we were lucky enough in Scotland to be treated to a 94% solar eclipse yesterday morning.  I let my class out of the fire escape to soak up the experience, and managed to snap a single photo in between shouting calmly advising everyone not to look directly at the sun, despite no less that 15 reminders before we had even left the classroom…  Although my shot is very atmospheric, and caught the parking lot lights on because it was so dark, it sadly did not capture the natural beauty of this significant event.

IMG_20150321_171934Luckily, everyone took it upon themselves to upload half a million or so photos onto Facebook for my benefit.  I have no idea who took this photo, I just downloaded it because I liked it, and now I can’t find it anywhere to add a source, so if it’s yours, sorry.

11080636_994971023866033_7119917534890639330_o

Found out who took the photo: Isla Robertson

Maybe it’s about time to mount my medal rack in my new flat.

This is what progress looks like

Anyone that knows me in person, and anyone who happened to be within a 50 foot radius of me at the gym last night, will be aware that I hit a recovery milestone: my first 10k since I was injured. No, it wasn’t fast, and yes, it was on a treadmill, but it happened, and my knee didn’t crap out on me.

The fact that a 10k is no longer a distant hope is, for me, akin to being solicited by Leonardo DiCaprio (dressed as a dapper Jay Gatsby, and having recently decided he no longer gets a thrill out of banging Victoria’s Secret models), and being whisked away to live out the remainder of our days on a tropical island with people serving us cold beer and grilled halloumi every day.  Sorry Ian.

Me, basically.

As much as this thrills me, I am keen to practice some self-restraint (not of the Michael Hutchence – rest in sexy peace – variety).  I know that the only reason I am able to run that kind of distance is because I backed off of running entirely (for much longer than I thought I would have to), and I have been sensibly building back mileage s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’ve swapped over from logging all of my workouts on dailymile to fetcheveryone, and the dork inside me loves being able to analyze all of the graphs and statistics and stuff that is available, even though it is child’s play compared to Dan and his training log that is verging on obsessive.  Making sure I log all of my workouts means that it is clear when I am doing too little (never) or too much (almost always).  For the moment at least, my running is in check:

weekly run mileage up to marchThat 9 mile week last week?  Two runs.  One of them was even outdoors, like a normal person.

I can also peruse my training log, specifying a time frame if I like – so that’s neat.

Here's most of March.  Blue is swimming, red is running, black is cross training.

Here’s most of March. Blue is swimming, red is running, black is cross training.

What perhaps appeals to me the most, however, is the fact that you can compare yourself to everyone else who logs their training on the site by checking out where you stand in the ‘League’.  Obviously, I am opting to show you the swim league since my lack of running has me placed embarrassingly far behind.  And yes, that is 63+ miles I have done of swimming in a pool.

swim league marchHopefully I can now start climbing back up the running league slowly.  A month ago I honestly didn’t think that I would be anywhere near a 10k because I had pretty much lost hope with running, and the boredom of swimming lengths in a pool was getting very, very close to driving me to a state that looks pretty similar to this:

tumblr_n47cmgeUSn1ttw9tho1_500Thankfully that isn’t the case, so I’ll just keep plugging away at training and see how I go.  To everyone I ever eye-rolled when they mentioned online how ITB syndrome was stopping them from running, I apologize.  I am now a believer.

Longest run*

*Well, since September last year.

As per my plan, I had a 40 minute run, 5 minute elliptical break, and then 10 minute run on the schedule for Tuesday.  Excuses are for quitters, blah, blah, blah, but I totally have a legitimate excuse for not executing my Tuesday plan.

Well, Tuesday morning began splendidly at around 3am when I woke up in a cold sweat, heart racing, and that telltale watering mouth that indicates a violent vomiting session is nigh.  Wet-heaving ensued.

After a lengthy spell snuggling against the bathroom radiator for warmth with one arm resting on the toilet, just in case, I made it back to bed shivering.  Now, a normal person would have called in sick and spent the day recovering, but this was not just any old Tuesday.  Months ago, I had impulse bought a ticket to go and see Placebo – one of my favourite bands from my angsty teens – and I had been looking forward to reliving my reckless youth having seen them last play live when I was 16 years old.  I even had my questionable outfit set aside.  I didn’t care how wretched I felt, I was going to that gig.

(Fat) teenage me, in Belgium on a school trip.  I rarely did not wear that sweater.

(Fat) teenage me, in Belgium on a school trip. I rarely did not wear that sweater.

Speaking of my youth, I remember the rarity of school days spent at home sick.  My mother, a terrifying 5 foot woman who weighs about 80lbs., would require you to be on death’s door if you were to miss a day of school.  And if you stayed off school, you stayed off EVERYTHING for that day.  Much to my dismay, this rule has stuck with me into adulthood, and so I showered and dragged myself to school, riding the waves of nausea as they ebbed and flowed throughout the day.

Thankfully, by home time I was starting to feel marginally better, but I decided it would be sensible to bunk off my planned gym routine and head home for a power nap.  That was to be my last sensible decision of the day.

I had arranged to meet a couple of friends, Rhona, fellow runner, and Laura, famous published author, in the pub at 6 for a quick drink before we went to the venue, and I had toyed with the idea of not drinking to limit how rough I would feel the next day.  Well, the ‘quick drink’ turned into 2 pints of lager, and for someone who has a tolerance level of about 4 pints max over the course of an entire evening, this was bad news.

Luckily alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so I kind of didn’t care at this point.

We rocked up to the Music Hall at about 7:45, and headed straight for the bar, which was crawling with balding men and beer bellies.  I guess these are my people now.  The support band was on, and we heard that they’d be finishing up in about 15 minutes, which meant we had plenty of time to continue to make bad beer-related decisions.  Except it transpired that it was just me: Rhona is doing a post-grad degree and had nothing to be up for the next day, and Laura was catching a train to Skye, but did not have to work.  Thanks guys.

Shortly before Placebo came on stage, I wrestled myself in amongst the groundlings (Laura and Rhona had seated tickets), and made friends with a very outgoing Irish couple who told me they knew the set list already.  I was horrified to realize that many of their classics were not on this list, and even more horrified to learn that they had released an album in 2013, the songs of which would feature heavily.  The male half of the couple, who was obviously the bigger fan, bought me a Jack and coke to drown my disappointment, and it must have been effective as I thoroughly enjoyed throwing my hands in the air like I just didn’t care to everything they played (but mostly the songs I knew the lyrics to).

After the gig, and with limited hearing, Laura, Rhona, and I regrouped and started heading in the wrong direction, to a harbour-side pub whilst I remained in denial about having to work the following day.  We grabbed some breakfast later on in a kebab shop, and I went home to hug my mattress lovingly, though not before taking a bathroom selfie for no logical reason:

11024593_10155192090010234_4823654188428813525_nA few hours later I was showered and heading into work.  It was a long day.  For contrast, here is a bathroom selfie taken AFTER work, and before I went to spin class, and yes, I know I need to clean my bathroom mirror:

10413340_10155192122390234_7252588975435219224_nFor a band that basically took pride of place on my teenage bedroom wall, the pain was worth it, but I did not last very long after I got home from the gym that night before going to dreamland.

[Insert seamless segue back into running related news here]

Two days late, and without planning to, however, I completed my longest run since I was injured and nearly DNF’ed Crathes half marathon.  45 continuous minutes on the treadmill at 10 minute miles.  Although I would normally consider that to be barely the minimum distance to lace my trainers up for, or perhaps a quick distance to ‘squeeze in’ before some other plans, I was absolutely beaming after 40 minutes.  Add into the happiness mix the fact that I got bumped into the second fastest lane at swimming and managed to keep up, I’m counting Thursday as a massive success.

The knee has been a bit tender for the last couple of days, but to be honest, it was tender before the run.  I think my new aggressive cycling routine (which has seen the return of my Chris Hoy thighs) is aggravating one of the tendons behind my knee, so I’m trying to massage it/foam roll the muscles around it/stretch, and I may even take a second rest day for the week to allow me to try another 45 minutes on Monday.  A few more weeks of steady progress like this and I might even start browsing for hotels in Berlin!

Thanks, RG.

Thanks, RG.