One amazing day

So, we come to Saturday. The Swimathon Ambassadors launch event…it really was a once in a life time event.

After enjoying a substantial breakfast, I rarely have a cooked breakfast, but today was day, that called for such start to the day.

I headed to the vast catherdral like structure, that is St Pancras Station.

she features on the launch video, but she spoke of a nurse, who bought her patient oranges, with the aim of bringing the orange groves of Spain, to him.\nT

There I met with, my fellow ambassador, Cadi, and also Melanie Berry, who I am grateful to, for helping it all to happen.

For there, it was on to Stratford

We tried, to meet up with a fellow ambassador, Stephen, but somehow we missed other, with Stephen arriving sometime after us.

Then it was onto the London Aquatic Centre and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. When it came in to view, I found it utterly awe inspiring. This was, in 2012, the world stage. The place where the Olympics and Paralympics were held, where elite athletes, who had trained and worked so hard, for many years, to earn “the right to be there” had come together, each representing their own country, to compete in there chosen sport. It was truely was, ne of many amazing moments, that day.

Stepping inside, we were greeted, by someone representing Swimathon. This was it, this really was it!

We were shown to the room, we were to be using that day. There was tea, coffee, juice and water laid out, along with an array of sandwiches, crisps and fruit. We really were, looked after. Some ambassadors had already arrived, others came in after us. It was so fantastic, to meet my fellow ambassadors, each with their own, inspirational story. I was so nervous!.

We were soon joined by Duncan Goodhew, the 1980 Moscow Olympics Gold medalist, who is president of Swimathon, having supported the event for many years. He was quickly followed byKeri Anne Payne, the Olympic silver medalist and Double World Champion, along various people from the charity partners and other agencies working with and supprting Swimathon.

After spending time, meeting and chatting to various people, including Duncan Goodhew and Keri-Anne Payne. It felt very surreal and I was pent up with nerves and running on adrenlin. I kept bursting into uncontrollable fits of giggles.

We then began with a round of introductions. Duncan, gave a very inspiring speach, which I regret not recording. It was brilliant! Duncan alao brought along his gold medal and i couldn’t help, but wear it myself. It was suprisingly heavy!

Then we heard from a number of other people. Those supporting the project and also from McMillan. One thing many people do not realise, is that McMillian support anyone requiring palliative care, not just those living with cancer.

Moving on, it was time to head to the pool, a quick change, and I was good to go. This is when I noticed something very important missing, my medic alert bracelet, which never leaves my right wrist. I thought I’d lost it in London. It later transpired, much to my relief it was at home.

I headed to the side of the pool, attired in my gorgeous swimming costume, courtesy of Zoggs, dropping stuff as I went. I have no idea why I didn’t just use, my “Finding Nemo” pool bag, to carry it all in.

We were asked, if we needed googles. I couldn’t remember where I’d put mine, I was so flustered and neevous. I wasn’t even sure, if I needed to wear Zoggs ones, as they are a Swimathon supporter. It was to transpire, that they were more comfortable, than my present ones!

Swimming masterclass

This was delivered by Keri-Anne Payne, Olymic silver medalist and double world champion. We started off, with a theory session, which I found incredibly informative and from which, I wrote copious notes and then it was into the pool. Having never before, swam at the London Aquatic Centre, it was an awe inspiring experience!

To start with, the focus was on “aquatic breathing”. Something I’m relatively comfortable with. Keri-Anne then spoke to us about rotation and how that leads in to the arm pull. I learnt a lot from this and it was reflected the following Saturday, when my coach pointed out, that my rotation was noticably improved.

She then asked each ambassador to swim, half a length, as to allow her to assess what we need to work on, on our front crawl. For me it was the fact that my arms, aren’t straight, at the beginning of the pull, but rather crossing over, in front of my head. Keri-Anne offered some really useful advice, on how to work on improving this.

We then were offered the opportunity, to have go at coaching each other. This I enjoyed, but found challenging at the same time. I feel like I’m being critical of someone, if I tell them what they could improve on.

Combined with the above, there was lots of fun and laughter, including a handstand challenge. Handstands, were never my strong point, having never mastered them on land. With a bit of practice, I cracked it. I’m yet to see the video!

It was an amazing, if slightly terrifying afternoon. Being videod and photographed, at every turn. Giving interviews, the results of which I, like many people who hear their recorded voice, I cringe at, really pushed out of my comfort zone, but I am proud of myself of doing it.

I count myself aa being immensely blessed to have been offered, such an amazing opportunity! It was great fun and I learnt a great deal and I wil cherish the memories of such an amazing time.

On completion of the masterclass, I headed to the changing rooms, but before heading off to get changed I was asked, by Mel, if I would like to swim a length in the 50m competition pool. The answer was an unequivocal yes!

I was taken aback, as to how cold the pool was and it took my lungs a few seconds to adjust. Then I set off down the pool! It was a “scrappy length”, but it was still a special xperience, for me, to swim in a pool that a few years ago, featured on the world stage. A pool where amazing things were achieved, dreams realised, records broken, medals won and for some, hopes were dashed.

It’s also a place where, for me, I was given a fabulous opportunity. I could have never have forseen 3 years ago, that learning to swim, would lead to a day, such as today. It was such a special day.

On exiting the pool, there was further filming to be done. I would love to know what people thought, as I casually walked through the chalnging rooms, with an entorage of people in tow, including photographer and a camera crew.

One hilarious momemt happended, when two boys came charging along, heading to the pool, only to come up short, stop suddenly and subsequently nearly fall over each other. I ended up, desperately trying to stop myelf from laughing. On film, Im sure I look like I’m laughing at myself, in the mirror!

We finished with a further question and answer session, a quick de-brief. The it was time to begin thr long journey home. I got completly confused on the journey back to Kings Cross, but eventually I made it and then on the train, arriving home, close to midnight. I was tired, but the happy tired that follows a fulfilling day.

Before I left though, I summoned up the courage to asked Duncan for his autograph, for a good friend friend of mine, who regards him as her hero. I also asked for his autogragh, for myself!

I walked back to Stratford Station, with another ambassador. We relived the day, neither of us could quite believe what had happened.

I met a number of inspiring and amazing people, that day. People who I know.regard as friends.

I leave you with a few more photos

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Persistence pays off…

Today is “World Cancer Day”

It goes to say it’s may not be a day to be celebrated, but it is a date that needs to be marked. Huge strides have been made, over the years, through research as to the treatment of cancer.

The majority of people, in the UK, who recieve a diagnosis of cancer, will successfully undergo treatment. Treatment that can be long, painful and protected, in length. When I swim, my swimathon, I will be supported by M, herself a survivor of cancer.

Some people however, are much less fortunate. Cancer remains a thief, stealing mums, dads, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents and so forth, leaving a trial of heartache and devastation in it’s wake. I have lost, two grandparents to cancer, my grandpops and my beloved “gang-gang”, my shadow!

Nearly every person, knows someone affected by cancer, either having lost a loved one or know someone, who thanks to research, treatment and the care they recieved, are still with us. Cancer Research is one such charity that enables this.

Cancer Research, along with Marie Curie; are this years charity partners for Swimathon 2018. They are hoping to raise £2million this year, for these two amazing charities.

There are still 12 weeks, till Swimathon Weekend. Plenty of time for people to sign up and train. This year there is the new 400m distance, perfect for beginners and less confident swimmers. Twelve weeks means that you will have sufficient time, to train, irrespective of the distance of your challenge.

This week, I’ve has found me working hard on my training. On Thursday I swam a total of 2km, in the pool. This included 250m, where I used tumble, rather than open turns.

I am swimming, to 400m challenge, which will be relatively easy for me. To increase the challenge I have decided to use tumble rather than open turns. It may however, prove to be difficult to achieve this, on the day, depending on how busy the lane is!

Friday saw me spending over an hour in the gym, first on the cross trainer. Then it was on to the treadmill, for 20 minutes, though I cling on for dear life, it feels strange to be walking, without the aid of my stick. Finally, I moved on to a machine that is essentially a bike, but instead of peddling with your feet, you use your hands. The peddles are, of course, higher. After this, I ran out of time to have a play on other machines.

Yesterday it was up at “stupid o’clock” for swim training.

It was a great session, in the pool, my coach gave us a challenging, and varied, set to complete. It was also great fun, with lots of laughter involved. Learning to swim, offers frequent opportunities to make right ejit of yourself. Don’t ever be afraid to laugh at yourself (and others).

In the afternoon, water was also involved. I went for a walk, it was pouring with rain! My hair was dripping, coat soaking and my shoes, squelching, it was still to prove great fun! I walked a mile, rested, then completed the return leg, heading for home and dry clothes!

This morning, it was Aquafit. It was a great session, with the teacher introducing some new excercises into the routine. For reasons, I can’t fathom, Aquafit seems to be, largely the preserve of women. There is only gentleman, who partakes in Aquafit. Good on him!

As today is World Cancer Day, I proudly wore my Swimathon T-Shirt, Zoggs costume and Swimathon hat.

Then it was to my final swim, of the week, 1500m. My “Gang-Gang”, my dad’s dad, whom I was very close too, loved to swim, but he gave the sport up, long before I was born. He often told me, how he’d swam “The River Humber”.

Sadly I never thought on, to enquire, did he just swim in “The River” (it’s actually an estuary) or swim from one side to the other. If he had, I would assume he’d swam from Hull, to New Holland. Again, I have no way of knowing. Unable to ascertain, the distance from Hull to New Holland, even with aid of Google, I was however, able to learn that it’s around 1.5km from Hessle to Barton upon Humber, my home town and where my grandad, worked and lived for most of his life.

Swimming 1.5k is now relatively easy for me. Today, it was prove hard work. I couldn’t get my breathing right, a fundamental element of freestyle. I felt like I was fighting the water. At 350 meters I climbed out, munched my way through a protien bar, took on some fluid and electrolytes. My thinking was that I was tired and needed hydration, after having had completed Aquafit.

Ten minutes later, I re-entered the water. There was little improvement, it felt like a slog. Nothing seemed to be coming together. It just felt such hard work.

Clambering out at 800m, I considered my options. Get out and go home or keep going, aiming for my orignal target. Going home, meant giving up. I wasn’t prepared to do that! I pottered over, to the sauna.

A sauna that was packed! I then proceeded to be an unwitting audience member of conversations relating to failed relationships, dumping your fiancee, for another woman, heavy drinking and cannabis smoking! I sat, rested a while, while these converations, swirled around me, trying not to judge others and the lives they choose to lead.

I headed back into the pool, I had decided to swim 1500m, 60 lengths, and that was what I was going to do. It still felt, like it was far harder work, than it should be, it still felt challenging. I had however, come to the acceptance that this was going to be, one of my “bad swims” and to getnon with it!

I was at 1200m, with just three hundred to go and suddenly, it all seemed to click in to place. I was swimming comfortably and with ease. It was fantastic, I was so happy I’d stuck with it, not given up. I reached my goal of 1500m and decided to continue to a mile, after all, it’s only 100m more and the tide might of been a bit higher, on the day my grandad swam it!

I did contemplate considering going on, to 2km, but it was rapidly approaching 2pm. The time when children are allowed back in the pool after the lunch time “Adult only Swim”.

This week is deemed, according to my training plan, from Keri-Ann Payne, to be my “rest week”. It doesn’t mean no swimming, it just means less swimming. It’s time to give my aching muscles and sore joints a rest.

Friday night

Back in the 90’s Whigfield sang about “Saturday night” the song often blasted out, in my student halls, while it’s residents, often tipsy on Lambrini, acted out the moves, along the corridors. That was the 90’s, that was Saturday night…this was my Friday.

I made plans, early on, as to what to do that Friday night. I was pretty skint, given that my last pay day, was a distant memory and I’d had to pay for both Christmas and New Year. There were no wild parties, just lots of trips to visit my family, who reside in various parts of the country.

I already had a swim planned, at my hotel. I did think, that I would maybe meet up with a others involved with Swimathon, but as it transpired, they were staying in a different hotels.

My first consideration was food, but my budget was very limited! I decided to go for a walk, get my bearings, enjoy some time to myself, some fresh air and food for tea!

It was already growing dusk, but the weather was a considerable improvement, to home. For one, I could walk, without risking falling over and making an idiot of myself. Staying on your feet, is always good!

I really enjoyed my walk, taking in the sights and sounds of London. I sorted myself out with some food. I decided on a bit of picnic tea: salad, fruit, yogurt and other bits of nibbles. Having a fridge in my room, was certainly of an advantage!

Tea bought, i headed back to my hotel. After enjoying a bit of a picnic, in my room, was time to head to the pool.

The pool area was really lovely and relaxing. There was also a sauna, jacuzzi and steam room, which unfortunately out service. The pool, was at most, 15mtrs. More like a bath than a pool! This however, cost me the nominal fee of £3.50. Cheaper than what it costs, to swim at my local leisure centre, the day before.

The pool was, initially empty, I was joined, from time to time, by others. Once the were six of in the the pool, it was packed! I decided that as the pool was small, not to concentrate too much on distance, but rather use it as technique and tumble turn practice session.

I am aiming, to complete my 400m, as all freestyle and use tumble turns, in opposed to open turns. Tumble turns, are those used in competitive freetyle. They also help to improved your time. I am being realistic however, in recognising that with others in the lane, some of whom may be less experienced, than I, it may not always be safe.

Tumble turns, once learnt, are relatively easy to execute. They must, however be taught by an professional swimming teacher, because there is a risk of injury, if they are not carried, correctly. My swim coach, knows of a swimmer who burst both his Achilles tendons, while doing a tumble turn. Ouch!!!

Although I can now, complete a tumble turn, correctly, I still get water up my nose, which hurts! This leads to streaming eyes subequently, I can’t see where the hell I’m swimming.

The next hour, was spent practicing tumble turns, without getting water up my nose. It wasn’t always successful and i knew my sinus’s would play up, if I wasn’t careful, leading to me sounding like I had a heavy cold. This wouldn’t be a great outcome, come the following day, when I was being filmed

Overall though I was happy with my progress, I realised that if I consistently breathed out, through my nose, as I turned, it prevented water, from going where it shouldn’t!

I also decided, when the pool was empty, to practice butterfly. Butterfly, is an anti-social stroke! The pool, was empty of people, when I started. At the end, I think I had nearly emptied the pool of water and three people had joined me in the pool. Oops sorry!

Swim completed, it was time to head back upstairs to prepare for the following day….

View from my hotel, at night

#Challengeaccepted 

It’s been nearly three months, since my last post. Obviously, I have been very neglectful, of my blog, that’s not because I haven’t been swimming, far from it. I have been swimming lots…

There is little point in me doing, as originally planned a post about every single swim, for Arthritis Care,  but I will summarise the past three months.

It’s been amazing!!!

On the 8th April, I partook in Marie Curie swimathon. My swim, though, didn’t go quite as I’d planned. On the day in question I woke with the start of, what wato transpire to be, a heavy cold which then developed in a chest infection and resulted in a severe exacerbation of my asthma, This swim, was to be my last swim, for three weeks. Despite this, I still swam it, in 1 hour 24 minutes and three seconds, smashing my previous PB for 2.5km and swimming nearly six minutes, under the time my coach, told me to aim for. My previous PB was 1 hour 50 minutes and 28 seconds.

I have my tee-shirt and my medal, the medal I display with pride and the T-shirt I wear with pride. Unfortunately, it’s white and on the first wearing, I dropped curry down it, no amount of soaking and washing, have shifted the stain!

Going back, to the swim itself. I swam it at “Chester le Street Pool” near Durham, the dated interior and freezing waters, where more than made up for, by the amazing staff. They shouted, cheered and hollered me, to the finish line. 

I was the only one, taking part, but that didn’t stop them making an effort. My final lengths were swam with, “Calvin Harris, This is what you came for”, blasting out. it was particularly meaningful, as the pool who I had previously booked it, to swim it at, cancelled at the last minute “as not enough people “had signed up”.
Then, it was on to the next challenge.,,

This was planned, to start on the 13th April and was my much anticipated and planned “marathon challenge”.  I reluctantly, had to pistpone this challenge, due to my asthma. 

Finally, on the 4th May I started, only 5 days after my enforced 3 week break, on account of my asthma. It goes without saying, it was incredibly tough. 

I had to make a lot of sacrifices and I hated, how it led to me feeling that I was putting swimming, before my friends. I had to be so focused and disciplined.

Arthritis Care Week was the 8th-14th May 2017, my plan was to swim at least 10km, during that week. This equates to an Olympic Swim Marathon-in the end I swam 13.1km during AC week. 

The other aspect, of this challenge, was to swim the  equivalent distance of the London Marathon, from the 4th May-4th June. Two and half weeks, into my challenge, I came into contact with two people, with colds. I knew a cold, would destroy any chance I might have of completing my challenge, so I made the decision to complete it as quick, as I could.

I pushed myself hard, to hard, swimming 15km in just 5 days. I also finished on Tuesday 30th May-5 days early. It was a brilliant evening , several members of the branch, sat at the side of the pool encouraging and supporting me to the end. Then the celebrations began, wine and procesco was drunk and congratulations given.

I totally crashed, after this. I slept much of the following  and mt arthritis went into a massive flair up, but it was so worth it. The sense of achievement, is amazing. 

My coach often states that we often don’t do things, because our mind tells us, we can’t, but often we are capable of doing far more than we believe we can. This was certainly true, of this challenge. Despite severe asthma, for which I’m on 10 different medications, polyarthalgia/osteoarthritis, gluteal neuropathy and significant muscle damage to my back, I swam over 26 miles (42200m) in three weeks and two days. I couldn’t, however of done it without the support of my friends and members of Arthritis Care.

During this challenge I threw in lots of micro challenges, I improved my front crawl distance, from 200m to 1500m and I am regularly doing half a mile, freestyle sets, now. My next plan, is to add tumble turns, into this.

My one mile PB is now 47 mins and a few seconds and my 2km PB sits at just over a hour, by a few seconds. Fourteen months ago, my one mile PB was one hour and 8 mins, so this represents, huge progress.

I also completed my longest distance swam, in one session, 4km. This wasn’t swam, without stopping, but only took 2 hours 50 mins to complete. My next aim, is 5km. 

 Then, finally, in the middle of May, I took part in the “mile in an hour challenge” for the Alzheimer’s Society. I swam this, un memory of my amazing grandma, who suffered (and I mean really suffered) from Alzheimers Disease, prior to her passing in 2003. 

I was, initially, a little disappointed with my time of 50mins and 35 seconds. My total swim distance, in the hour was 1900m, I’d aimed for 2000m, however it was a tough swim. The pool lacked “anti-wave ropes’, with at least 12 people in the pool, it was, at best, choppy, making swimming harder work. It also meant, that when freestyle  (frontcrawl) breathing, I was often hit, with a faceful of water.

It also didn’t help, that midway through, someone swam into me, head first, resulting insome minor bruising, it was more of a shock and took a while to get back into the pattern of swimming. 

So that is currently, where I am up to. Hopefully, my next post will appear, a lot quicker than it took me to post this.

Holidays..

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last week, I’ve been on holiday.

To Clacton…

Clacton, UK in March is not a particularly warm place to be, so no outdoor swimming, but the the holiday village had an indoor pool, so swimming  was an activity option, that was taken.

What the holiday village didn’t have, was a reliable mobile internet. The mobile connection was at best, variable, slight movements of my phone, saw me go from a half decent connection, to absolutely no connection so I gave up on any plans of updating my blog.

I had a great holiday, throughly enjoyed myself. It was a much needed break.

I went on holiday with my friends Lucy and Peter Barrett, Peter very kindly agreed, with the permission of the lifeguards, to take some underwater photos of me, as I swam, which I will share on this blog on a future post.

I am heading home tonight, so I will update my blog, properly, over the Easter Weekend.