The One That Wasn’t To Be

You’ve spent months prepping for the most intimidating challenge you’ve ever faced. You’ve prepped yourself as best you can mentally and physically. You are ready as you’ll ever be to swim 10,000m in a chilly Windermere. 

Then this happens:


Well, shit. 

I’d been obsessively checking the weather for a few days but Brian and myself were more concerned with Saturday for my cycling adventure and his 25km fell race at Keswick Mountain Festival. Sunday looked breezy but ok! Until I studied it again and saw wind gusts of over 30mph. Ah. Not terribly ideal for swimming in a huge body of open water. 

Bollocks. 

The email from Great Swim said that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate the longer events on the Saturday, but they would happily let us swim a mile. 

My initial reaction was total, utter disappointment. I have trained my arse off. I really have worked so hard for this. It’s like training for a marathon, travelling down to it and then being told it’s cancelled but please feel free to do a lap of this here park. 

Meh. 

I never make excuses. I finish what I start and I give it my all. I have happily never been in this situation, but I absolutely understand safety protocols and experience swimmers are ingrained with respect for open water. It can be a formidable beast. I think the only reason I didn’t descend into a Bean-Strop-Tantrum was because: this was no ones fault. Mother Nature decides. Mother Nature wins. 

Witnessing my heartache, Brian gave me a hug and we set about making alternative plans. 

Luckily, i had been advised by my lovely friend to stay in Ambleside. This turned out to be the saving grace of the weekend. Brian could drive to Keswick and do his run. I’d skip the spectating (it was POURING so this was FINE) and I would spend the day exploring Ambleside (also in the rain though) until I could wander down to swim in the afternoon. (Still in the rain) 

At least I’d get a chance to kick the arse off this smaller distance. As coach said “at this point you could fart out a mile”…… Even if it is only a SIXTH of what I’m capable of. I could do it justice and earn some bling. 

We woke up and had breakfast(s) with our lovely hosts. The rain battering off the sky-lights in their gorgeous kitchen. No tops of any hills visible. 

Brian set off with all his kit to tackle some insane Cumbrian fells and I decided to go for a walk up the falls. 

I wasn’t disappointed. This is such a beautiful part of the world. 


Note: Those pictures appear bright. However the light belies the truth. I was very much wetter than after 10km in Windermere. I was soaked. Despite quality waterproofs. I. Was. Soaked. 

I wound my way down into the village and stumbled upon a small cafe. As I trudged in, the young girl serving smiled and said “you definitely need cake” and proceeded to bring me a perfect latte and, quite probably, the best Victoria Sponge I will ever taste. 

To reach Peak Cake at 31 is sad. But I swear I will not let my attempts to find a better cake end here. No no. I shall continue upon my cake quest. 


I digress.

I wandered back up to the B&B where I was served home made soup and bread while we checked on Brian’s progress. He’d made excellent time and reported that he was still alive. 

Once it hit 2.30, I slowly set off and began the 45 minute walk to the start. It was still wet. My clothes were soaked but I was on my way for a dook anyway so fuck it. Off I went. Soggy. 

As I walked along the side of the lake I could see how choppy the water looked. The winds had started to pick up and for the first time I felt relief that I wouldn’t be having to pick my way through that for 3 hours on Sunday. 

Of course…. Due to Sunday’s cancellations, they had amalgamated TWO DAYS of swimmers into one. Those that could/wanted to swim the mile were allowed. The email stated that you should bring your original cap and chip straight to check in and go. 


No problemo. Or so I thought. 

I got changed. Couldn’t find my chip. Spent 8 frantic minutes searching before it mysteriously reappeared beside me, popped my bag in check in and made my soggy way to the start. I watched the wave before mine set off. I watched about 6 people miss their chance to swim through what I can only describe as sheer ignorance. Marshals were shouting them over but they were too busy faffing about to notice. Then they got shitty with the marshals. Silly, silly swimmers. 

They open your wave check-in 30 minutes prior to your start time. I was organised and one of the first through the gate. Except I was being pulled aside. Uh oh. WHAT HAVE I DONE.  “You need a pink cap for this wave.” Said the girl. I must have looked beyond confused.  “You need to go to Race Information which is over there”. She pointed to a tent about 50 yards away. Across stones. I was barefoot. Nice. 

I now refer you back to the above email. It was LIES. Not so amazing from Great Swim who usually have faultlessly slick communication. 

I had to peg it across stones in bare feet to the girl in the customer services tent who hurriedly handed me a new pink hat. Sakes.  I didn’t need that stressful few minutes at all. 

Finally through check in, I could get my fecking pink cap on and warm up in acclimatisation. Or cool down apparently. Windermere was 15.5 degrees. No colder than I’m used to but I’d have preferred something a little warmer having made the effort to travel for this race. 

Keri-Anne Payne was there to set us off and at 4.30 on the dot I wrestled my way into the lake. The start was violent as usual. I seeded myself with the other 10k rejects as I knew they’d be quick. I enjoyed the drafting as long as I could before we were clear of the marina and out into the lake. 

It wasn’t just a little bit choppy. 

Within about a minute I had already taken a face full of water. The wind was behind us and you could feel yourself being lifted by over a foot and then dropped. I felt sick but I was determined to PB on this distance. My previous best mile swim at Loch Lomond in 2015 was 34 minutes. In these conditions I knew I had to push hard. I wanted sub 30 but knew as soon as the first waves hit, that it would be a huge ask of my body. 

I battered on. Literally. Staying wide of the crowd and trying to relax into a fast rhythm. I felt panic on a whole new scale. Every time I lifted my head to sight I was met with a wave. I couldn’t see the beach or the pink buoy that marked half way. There was too much splashing. 

I powered through half way in 14 minutes. But I knew if the wind was behind me on the way out……….. it wisnae gonna be braw heading back. 

Oh. What. An. Understatement. 

As I turned parallel to the beach, the shallows meant the waves were breaking on us. I had to switch from bilateral breathing to LHS only. Even still every time I lifted my chin to sight the next buoy I took a lungfull. One hit me so hard I choked and for the first time in my swimming life , genuinely thought I was in trouble. After a minute of calming myself down, I bashed on relentlessly as swimmers who’d choked badly we’re being pulled from the water around me. I saw at least 3 swimmers get plucked out the waves. 

Heading back towards the finish, I became extremely uncomfortable. The waves were everywhere. Breathing one side was no better than bilateral. It was honestly quite frightening. I knew I was tight for my time so I tried as best I could to keep my pace strong. 

At this point the water is standing depth. Windermere has enough clarity that you can see the Lake bed fairly easily. I was giving it everything I had and the stones beneath me weren’t budging and inch. It was like swimming up a river. The final buoys took an AGE to appear. 

The field was pretty spread out so imagine my shock when, out of nowhere, a man swam over the top of me and then stopped immediately ahead to do breastroke. He narrowly avoided drowning me and kicking me in the head. I’ve always been told not to take anything personally in the swim, but this was total ignorance and despite the conditions he would have been aware of my proximity to him. He may have narrowly missed knocking me out but he did not narrowly miss a mouthful of my best Scottish swearing. What an absolute turd. 

As I reached the finish gantry I broke into as much of a sprint as I had left and clawed my way out of the water only to discover that their ankle chip beepers were not working. A very tired, very fed up volunteer, wrote my name down wrong three times before I was released, bless her. We were both frazzled. I was so genuinely distressed by what I’d just experienced that I almost forgot to collect my finishers pack (GASP). My watch said 30.20. I was gutted. I wanted sub 30 so badly. After the crushing disappointment of losing out on my main achievement, the sub 30 mile had been the next best thing. Sigh. 

I was worried about Brian getting back from Keswick. I knew he’d finished but his legs would be wrecked. His mountain race turned out to be extraordinarily mental. It was as I was climbing up to the changing tent that I felt the tap on my shoulder. And there he was. Bruised and battered and emotionally scarred. Alive though, so bonus. 

I changed, we hoovered (incredible) burgers, and then we trudged back to Waterhead to the van and a shower. 

As we walked, some thoughts began to surface; For the last few months I’ve been questioning my decision not to enter Ironman 70.3 in Edinburgh. I know I can comfortably do those distances but having just experienced actual real waves, I felt overwhelming relief that my gut instinct had said NO. There is not a hope in hell that I’m ever doing a Sea swim in a race. Nope. Fuck that shit. The thought of colder water, salty water at that, in potentially the same level of swell makes me feel sick. Good decision, Bean. And good decision, Great Swim. Safety first. 

Of course, it also dawned on me that I’d just swam a 4 minute PB in the most challenging conditions I have experienced to date. I finally felt like I deserved my medal. Like I’d actually raced. I left everything out there. That was 10/10 for effort from me. 

I still want to swim 10km. Like some kind of mental idiot. I want that achievement. I can do it (in less choppy water……) and I WANT to so……


Oops. 

Endurance swimming isn’t dead to me. I shall not be beaten by the weather! 

One final silver lining to the re-shuffles this weekend was that we were able to spend a day driving into the Yorkshire Dales to visit my grandparents old home. I spent most summers there as a child and hadn’t felt able to return after my granny passed away in 2002. I felt the pull to go back when Grandad died a few years ago now, but this weekend was the first time we were able to visit. 

The family that now own the house welcomed me in with typical Yorkshire hospitality and gave me a tour showing me all the TLC they’d given to that house I loved so much. 

It was emotional but so worth the winding roads.


Ambleside, you’ve been wonderful. ❤️

MoRunning, Mo Problems

Uh oh. Here she goes. Yet more moaning about running.

WRONG. You wish. This is a ANOTHER POSITIVE BLOG ABOUT RUNNING. While the title suggests otherwise, that is actually just because I found it really funny. No, you shut up.

Just after I got the all-clear from PhysioDan to start running again in July, I registered for the Edinburgh MoRunning 10k. Ambitious? Yes. Stupid? Probably.

As part of the whole Movember thing, all proceeds go to Prostate Cancer UK. It’s a brilliant event and a very deserving charity. This year I even managed to convince Sean (future bro in law and Cancer survivor at 24) to enter. He’d shaved an epic tasche for the event.

Pre-race pic….

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(He’s the one not wearing pink)

Sean, being a seasoned pro* (*lucky sod who just happens to be a very good runner) was set on a sub 60min and was as excited as me! It was really lovely to have a running buddy along for the occasion.

As a trained Marathoner, I couldn’t help but sit in awe at his pre race nutrition strategy: 2 bananas (barely chewed) and a giant hot chocolate from Starbucks. With cream. His efforts put my porridge and mint tea to shame. “Ha ha” I thought. “You’ll see that again on The Hill…”

Upon my gung-ho “it’ll be FINE” entry back in sunny July, I set the goal of sub 1hr. Equally ambitious. Equally stupid.
Or a PB. Sub 67 minutes. Less stupid. Still as ambitious.

I had to leave those dreams behind this week when mid Monday night 5k, my fabulously reliable and not at all annoying left knee (Medial Ligament. The bastard) decided otherwise. “Fuck you. No PB. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT”

I rested all week. Avoided bike which can sometimes help and sometimes hinder (remember how I don’t hold back very easily? Yeah…) and my mummy surprised me at work with my dad in tow on Friday and managed to K-Tape my knee in my office. Win.

With OH loaded like a pack horse with bags and coats, we set off for the start line.

I referred previously to the warning given to Sean regarding The Hill: The route consists of the roads up and around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. You climb around 400ft in the first 2.5k. And on the 10k you do two laps. Brutal both physically and mentally.

Last year, I casually ignored warnings of The Hill from the other runners. Boy did I regret that. Having shot off the line (like an absolute fud) I quickly learnt of this Hill and its debilitating and mortifying effects on the human body and up-chuck reflux.

This year I kept that delightfully horrifying thought in the back of my head and managed to keep running the whole way up the first time. Slowly, but no vomiting.

However…..

Because I hung back a bit at the start so as not to be immediately swamped by pros, I got stuck in traffic. Absolutely nothing against a fellow Plodder, (I’m still a 10-11 minute miler) But seriously. 5 of you lined up across the road so no one can pass? Annoying. Once I eventually hit the flat section by the wee pond (small – not a pond of pee, my non-Scottish pals) at the top of the hill, I almost twisted my ankle having to swerve suddenly to avoid a runner who had come to an abrupt stop, not due to injury, no….. Because she was fannying around with her phone holder as she wanted to take a fucking SELFIE. Now…. I’m cool with selfie-taking (You’ve all seen my Instagram… and we all love RunSelfieRepeat) But in the middle of a road packed with runners, 3k into a race? Don’t stand sodding still. Get out of our fucking way. I, along with several others who, having just come out of a brutal hill-climb and then had to make a quick and evasive manoeuvre, may have called a fellow runner a twat. Oops.

At about 3.5k you come to the 1.5k of downhill bliss. By this point I’d found Natalie. Fellow Maggie’s Centre marathon runner. Having been plagued with injury and loss of mojo since May, this was her first run since Edinburgh and she did brilliantly! Kept me chatting the whole way. Certainly helped the time fly by and was great to catch up with a pal.

We cruised through 5k at about 32 mins. Just below PB time but happy and feeling strong. I knew, however, that The Hill Take Two was looming. At about 6.5k I could give no more. I’d got passed the steepest part of the climb but my breathing wouldn’t regulate, I had horrible anxiety and I knew my HR was through the roof. We walked for around 500m and then set off again at a 6:30/km pace. Much better. The anxiety stuck with me till the end but happily, the rest of the run was without issue. The downhill was really fun. It’s quite steep at first and once over the line, my back was hurting quite a bit. (*makes mental note to start regular hill training*)

Chip time 1:04:57. A PB. delighted. I know I can work on improving that now as I head towards 2015’s goals.

Sean smashed it in 56mins. A brilliant time for a cracking runner and wonderful guy. Super proud. 2 years since his diagnosis and he’s kicking my ass already.

Fantastic weather was appreciated and, despite baggage, my OH managed to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat (as in, the actual Cairn, Scottish pals) and back down within an hour to watch us finish 8 minutes apart. He should probably also get a medal because the bag weighed more than a car.

So a very happy Bean this evening. Knee has shut up, anxiety has gone and I’ve eaten half a box of pastries. Good Saturday.

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Weekend of rest with VLM

Bugger. Spoke too soon. 

Almost as soon as the words “better not get an injury now..” left my mouth, I threw my neck/back/shoulder out. An old niggly injury that likes to rear its ugly head when I’m run down or tired. I woke at 4.30 am to the familiar and unwelcome breathlessness and pain shooting through my back and arm. FUCKING AWESOME. I’ve not had a real proper relapse for 2 years. Just little niggles here and there that I’ve managed to iron out with Pilates and yoga. This episode had been brought on by stress, burning the candle at both ends and generally pushing myself a bit too far. My body was screaming “STOP. I’M SUPPOSED TO BE A TEMPLE. THIS IS TOO MUCH”. Unfortunately instead of listening, I was shouting back, giving it “BE QUIET WE’VE GOT WORK TO DO”.

I managed to make it to work on Friday but pain levels were an 8 and not decreasing with movement. I realised I was also being an insufferable bastard. So I went home and luckily had pre-booked physio for my hip that night anyway. PhysioDan decided to leave the hip this week and focus on spinal alignment and sorting out the muscular tension. OUCH. Nothing quite like a man using his bodyweight to crack your spine… I swore VERY loudly. 

Rest was prescribed on the weekend I was due to complete my first 3 hour run. I have always been organised and the thought of now only having 3 weeks left before tapering starts to get up to 4 hours, fills me with pure anxiety. 

Friends and family are still full of encouragement and I’m about to break the £600 mark on my fundraising for Maggie’s Centres

I had planned on running on Saturday so I could have Sunday to chill out and watch the VLM. I’m watching it anyway with many tears, fears and nerves. I’m also getting twitchy. Desperate to get out and run again. Thursday night’s bad run is still fresh in my mind and it’s making me really anxious. 

The plan this week (back permitting) is:

Monday:Pilates

Tuesday: Easy Run for an hour

Wednesday:Gym – Core & Cross Trainer

Thursday: Race Pace Run for an hour/6miles

Friday: Gym – Core & Cross Trainer again

Saturday Physio/Rest

Sunday: 3 hours. 

Fingers crossed I can get back out there this week and nail it. Watching the VLM is incredibly inspiring and emotional. Fuck knows what state I shall be in 6 weeks today when I’m standing in my starting pen. I’m actually getting terribly excited…

 

Getting me through…

As you may already be aware, I’m running the Edinburgh Marathon for Maggie’s Centres. Everyone is aware of the Research based charities set up to fund the search for a cure for Cancer, but few consider what is required for those battling the disease, or their loved ones.

On Saturday, I was invited to attend a training day at their Edinburgh Centre. In the grounds of the Western General, a beautiful, warm environment welcomes anyone affected directly or indirectly by any form of Cancer. They do truly amazing work. It costs £2400 PER DAY to keep the centre running. So if I can raise half that, I’ll be thrilled.

Joel Enoch (British Triathlete and Iron Man) was there to examine our running technique and give us tonnes of advice on race prep (note: I’ve started calling it a race now…) nutrition and recovery. He also talked us through motivation and ways that we can push ourselves to train harder for longer and eventually complete the Marathon. 

I’m going to share a video he showed us with you. If you are training for an event, or just feeling a bit shit about stuff, I defy you not to be moved by this.

This is the story of Jamie. A young guy from America, who broke his neck on a submerged sandbank after jumping off a boat. Here is his journey. (Be warned. It’s INCREDIBLY moving)  

Pretty strong stuff, eh?

So. That’s the motivation. There’s many millions of people in the world fighting bigger battles than me.

But…. I can HELP. my legs are still good. I can still walk, run, stagger and crawl and as long as I can do those things, I will help raise cash for people who are fighting.

Music is also a massive motivator for me. I have VERY diverse taste and find different types of solace from different types of music.

I figured I’d share my current playlist with you on the off chance if provides some form of inspiration.

Sub Focus – Tidal Waves

If I’m struggling this one helps me get my pace back. It’s best LOUD.

Avicii – Adicted to You

Love this. Properly love it. Again, if I’m struggling this one pulls me out of the rut.

Coldplay – Every Tear

One of my most treasured songs.

Biffy Clyro – Biblical

Because Biffy. And Scottish.

Jay Z – 99 Problems

Takes me back to uni days and memorising the lyrics. I can zone out completely. This is a good one for when the pain kicks in.

Rammstein – Sonne

Absolute Belter. And another nostalgic one.

So now you can all judge my taste in music (let it be known that this is now wholly representative…) …

Injury status: acupuncture and physio last night for hip in prep for 14 miles on Thursday

#Bringiton