London Marathon Memories

Like many people I’m sat watching the London marathon this morning. And I guess like many people I’m remembering when I was there taking part. For me it was eleven (11!!) years ago that I ran it.

A lot has happened since then. I moved house three times, ran another marathon (Dublin that October), started a business, had a son, stopped exercising, put on a couple of stone (those last two are probably linked), started and ended a marriage and done a bit of swimming.

Despite all that happening between now and then it’s great to sit down with my nine year old and remember some of the events of that day.

As we were watching the people queue for the portaloos I remember having a pee behind a tree in Greenwich Park (my nine year old thought that was funny). I remember jumping into an earlier pen at the start (I was originally booked into the very last pen), but it still taking over 12 minutes for me to cross the line. I remember the pain I felt along Embankment. The fact that I wasn’t really aware of my surroundings at the end (I only realised that I’d run past Buckingham Palace when I watched the highlights on TV that night). And I remember sobbing at the end as I was overrun with emotion and a little boy walked past me and said “Well done.”

I’m not sure I actually enjoyed my day at the marathon. I didn’t run in glasses and so the crowd was just a bit overwhelming for me as I couldn’t see anything or anyone. And it was bloody hard work. But I finished and in the end I’m bloody glad I did it.

This year I know a few people running – people I know in real life and people I know virtually (mainly through Team Bear). Good luck to them all.

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Swim hats

I’ve banged on about this often enough now, but I’m swimming the 2swim4life event in a few weeks time. If you’ve never read this blog before then it’s a mile swim on the hour, every hour, for 24 hours.

I’ve been trying to pull together everything I need for the event. I managed to borrow a tent. I’ve bought new trunks and goggles. I’m thinking about the feeding routine and preparing myself for that. I’m even planning to pack pain killers and caffeine tablets as well, just in case.

The only thing that is left on the list are my swimming hats.

Swim hat collectionAs you can see in this picture, I’ve got a few already – mainly from my BLDSA swims over the course of the last couple of years, as well as Swimtrek, SwimCanaryWharf and Team Bear (not in the photo).

I see this swim as a chance to remember / promote / pay homage to people, swims and institutions that have helped me over the last few years – I will also hopefully be able to draw strength from them as I face the inevitable lows. But not only to the people that have helped me – to any swimming inspiration.

I’ll be doing 24 separate swims, so I’d love to have 24 different hats and wear them each for specific miles.

If you have a particular hat that you’d like to lend me (I’m happy to return them), and a particular mile that you’d like me to wear it for (with a story as to why), then get in touch. I’ve got specific plans for miles 23 and 24, but other than that you can ‘have’ any mile you like.

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A right fat git

BLDSA dinner

BLDSA dinner

I’ve had a few people recently tell me that I look like I’ve lost weight. In particular after I posted this photo online. And while that’s nice to hear, my immediate response is “maybe, but not enough.” And then I think it over a bit more, realise that I’m still nowhere near what I want to look like / weigh and just assume that I must have been a right fat git before if people think that this is better.

It’s funny how we react to things like this isn’t it? I’m the same when anyone tells me that my swimming is better / faster, it’s nice to hear but I react with a combination of not quite believing it and seeing just how much more improvement there is still to make.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks and then on the Facebook page of Team Bear someone posted a link to a great article by Chrissie Wellington about Beating Body Confidence Issues. Then we started discussing it in the group.

In the article itself a couple of lines jumped out at me:

“…really, our bodies are not the external form, but the internal – muscles, bones, blood, tendons and, of course, the mind… Our focus should be less on what our bodies look like, and more on what we can do with them each and every day.”

“Whether or not we have a spare few pounds around our waist shouldn’t define us, or our emotions. So please – be kind to yourself.”

And then the Facebook discussion yielded some excellent insight:

People make the mistake of judging by physical appearance.

“The godlike men and women at the lake turned out to be relatively normal and very nice people.”

I get far more inspiration from reading running and triathlon blogs from the average people that you describe, who are fighting similar battles to me, rather than the fitness models and the professionals that are on another level.

It’s interesting to learn that some of you have those negative images that I would look at and think I wish I looked more like that.

So here’s my attempt to say something clever about it all.

I can’t say what things are like from a girl’s / woman’s perspective, but I think that body confidence issues are ones that most people (regardless of sex) suffer from. The media is particularly cruel to women, but is rarely positive about any ‘normal’ shape. I know that I always had issues throughout my younger life and still do now. The difference now is that while those issues are still there, they aren’t anywhere near as important as some of the other issues – some which are genuine life stuff (work, family, money etc) and some which are training related (I’m more concerned about my swimming times than my waistline).

I like the sentiment that my body should be defined by what it can do, rather than what it looks like. And I’m very proud of some of the things that it has done – that doesn’t stop me wanting to be slimmer too.

For many people a very positive step to having a better body image (both a better body, and a better image about it) is to take part in sport and to realise just what your body can do with a little bit of pushing / training / effort.

However, it can also be very intimidating to get involved initially. And unfortunately sometimes articles like this one by Chrissie can be part of the problem.

For any competitive person (me included) you are always comparing yourself to people better than you. I’m the same with my swimming as I am with my weight. I know, deep down, that I am both a much better swimmer and a much fitter person (an I can even admit to being a bit slimmer too) than I was when I started all of this three years ago. However, at every stage I am comparing myself to those that are one step ahead of me – those swimmers who are still faster than me, those blokes at the gym who are slimmer than me. The fact that it is now different people (and I am faster / slimmer than the people I was originally comparing myself to) doesn’t really register in the dark, negative recesses of my brain that seem to take over my thought patterns in times of self-doubt.

As an aside on this, I do it all the time with my swimming. If I mention swimming Windermere to people most are amazed at the feat. However all I do is compare myself to the Channel swimmers I know and think that I haven’t even done (literally) half of what they’ve achieved.

The problem then becomes that we become the people that newbies are looking up to. I can’t quite believe this emotionally, but I can accept it rationally, but there are people out there who are wishing they could swim as fast as me and are wishing they had my body shape. And yet all I do is moan that I’m not like the people over there. How disheartening must that feel to newbies?

And the answer – I don’t claim to know how to solve this for everyone, but a little bit more love wouldn’t hurt.

Love of yourself. Take Chrissie’s words to heart – it’s about what your body can do. And don’t forget to celebrate those achievements. When people tell you that a particular thing you did (sporting or otherwise) was amazing then try to believe them, try to feel amazing, even if only for a few minutes. Cos, you are amazing!

Love of our kids, friends, teammates. Tell them all how amazing they. Don’t tell them that they look amazing, tell them that they are amazing. The looks bit isn’t important, the being bit is.

And even love of strangers / celebrities. You know what, let’s not buy the mags or click on the links that tell us about “the shocking cellulite” of an actress that plays that character who’s name we don’t even know in Emmerdale. Who cares? We shouldn’t. She shouldn’t.

And if we just try to love ourselves and everyone else a little bit more, maybe we can all be a bit less concerned with how we look.

*Right off to weight myself to see how many calories typing this has used up!*

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Money and fun

Not a swimming blog, but I’ve been chatting to a few people about my ‘philosophy’ for work recently, so I thought it was time to blog about it.

– – –

I used to run a traditional, medium-sized PR agency – back in my London days. And when it was good it was great. We had a great team, we did great work and we went to the pub nearly every Friday.

However, when it wasn’t so good it was bloody hard work. We still did great work and we still went to the pub, but the team became a struggle to afford and it would weigh heavily on my shoulders. We had some work for them all, but not quite enough to make them profitable, but too much to get rid of anyone.

It’s the curse of medium sized businesses, especially service ones.

And too many businesses are wedded to this way of thinking. It means that if new business opportunities come in the only criteria they are judged on is income. Everything else is deemed irrelevant.

How can it be done differently?

I don’t know about you, but there are two reasons why I work – money and fun.

Money is important, it pays the bills, puts a roof over my family’s head and allows me an occasional nice thing. I like nice things, they make me happy and when I’m happy I work better – which is also why fun is so important. I don’t mean fun in a ‘wacky’ kind of way, but plain and simple enjoyment in what you do. I think that’s pretty important, especially as we all spend so much time working nowadays. So ‘fun’ also means doing a good job and seeing the results of your efforts.

But that’s it – money and fun.

I set up a different kind of agency to work in this way – and that’s how we judge whether a new project is for us: will we make money (and the best clients are those that understand that we all have to make a bit of profit along the way); will we have fun (which includes getting good results)? I’ll be honest, if one will be high, then we can accept sacrificing the other a little.

But money and fun, why else do you work?

 

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April Training Plan

So, I’ve done a training plan for April. This is also the plan that will take me up to the 2swim4life event on May bank holiday weekend.

I estimate that I’ll do about 45kms in April if I stick to the plan, which feels at least 15kms light if I’m honest. Just like any other event though I have to manage life stuff as well and right now that all comes before swimming.

Here’s the plan:

April training plan

April training plan

The trick now is to stick to it and make it effective.

The swimming will be a mixture of distance sessions (I’ll aim to do a kilometre every 22 minutes to give me short rests in between them) which I’ll do in the mornings, then still some drills and technique work in the evening sessions. I’ll need a mixture of both on the day itself, so I need to practice both.

As it gets closer I must admit I’m getting a bit more nervous about 2swim4life!

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Another one inspired by Sally

Swimming with Sally the other week has opened my eyes to the possibilities of London swimming. Normally when I come down for work I write the days off as non-swim days and leave it like that. Chatting to Sally and reading her blog made me realise just how many pools there are in London and how with just a tiny bit of effort I could swim in them.

Last night I was staying near Liverpool St. I nearly decided to go up to Swiss Cottage again as I knew where the pool was and had enjoyed my session, but than I decided that it would a) be cheating (going to a ‘safe’ pool), and b) be an unnecessary trek across London.

A little bit of Googling and I discovered York Hall baths in Bethnal Green, just one tube stop away.

York Hall Baths

York Hall Baths

A grand old building, a well maintained pool area, cool water and three wide lanes that were segregated by speed but also offered plenty of room for over-taking. What more could you want?

The pool was 33m long and my early morning brain couldn’t work out how many lengths I needed to swim to swim a mile, so I just kept going for 80 lengths (2,640m). And it was lovely.

The I spent most of the post-swim changing time chatting to another guy that was swimming in the pool for the first time. The conversation soon moved on to how much, then how well we swim and so technique was quickly mentioned. As always in these situations I was happy to recommend Swim Canary Wharf. Ray, I think you may have a new customer!

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Life decision made – I’m gonna be an MP

I’ve been watching a lot of the election coverage with interest – partly because of a natural interest in politics, but mainly because of a deep seated conviction that I could do better than most of the muppets that appear on my TV screen every day.

So I’ve decided… I’m going to become an MP.

Obviously not at this election, possibly not from the next one, but I will do it – it is now my new ambition and I am deadly serious about it.

As you can see, I’ve got some fairly strong political ideas / ideals (Basic income for all and I know how to stop radical extremists…). It’s now just a question of working out how I can best to fit these views into the current parliamentary structure, or if I need to try and stand as an independent.

It’s going to take some big changes to life and work (I hope I can still swim – Parliamentary Channel Relay Team anyone?), but I can no longer sit around and let other people do this important work that I feel I can do better.

As soon as I have got my head around a more concrete plan I’ll let you know. In the meantime, watch this space…

UPDATE

No I’m not – it was an April Fools! :-)

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Need a Tent

Has anyone got a tent I could borrow?

Ideally I need 2 or 4 person tent that I can use for storage, shelter and possibly a quick nap during the 2swim4life event. I’d rather not buy one as not being a camper I suspect that I wouldn’t ever use it again. Do you have one I could borrow?

Do you have a tent similar to this one available from Amazon?

Do you have a tent similar to this one available from Amazon?

UPDATE

Love the internet, love the kindness of strangers (and some friends).

Looks like I’ve now got a tent sorted and possibly some in reserve if need be. Thanks to anyone who read this and said to themselves “I wonder if we’ve got one of those…”

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Hair…

I’m going to get my ‘summer haircut’ soon. I’ll also have a ‘summer beard’ too.

It just means that both will be shorter and a bit easier to manage. It’s partly to remove any extra and unnecessary resistance I create in the water with all that extra hair getting in the way. But to be honest it’s mainly just about making it easier to manage if I’m in and out of pools and lakes more regularly.

Here’s as an example as to why it’s necessary.

This morning's hair - mad professor!

This morning’s hair – mad professor!

I went for a swim late last night, so went to bed before it had fully dried, then when I got up this morning to swim again it looked like that!

Office hair - a bit more normal

Office hair – a bit more normal

I didn’t actually do anything with it, just went to the pool and swam it into normality. I did spend a little bit of time after the swim trying to look less Yeti like for the office though!

Anyway, there will soon be less of it and I will hardly have to spend any time worrying about it.

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Inspired by Sally

I really really enjoyed my swim last week with Sally as part of her 50 swims. And part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was the experience of trying out a new pool and swimming in ‘new’ water.

So when I found myself in Bristol this week visiting friends and colleagues I thought I’d try and swim here too.

We checked pools and there was one both near where we were working and near where they lived. Hmmm, decisions decisions. We couldn’t decide, so I decided to swim in both.

Bristol South Swimming Pool

Bristol South Swimming Pool

The lunchtime swim was at Bristol South Swimming Pool – a great, old-fashioned swimming hall. The paint was peeling, it needed a good spruce up, the changing cubicles on the side of the pool were cramped and in general it was a long way away from its former glory. But I loved it. It felt like ‘real’ swimming. And not only did I love it. All three of the lanes were full of swimmers – there were probably at least 30 people in the pool at the same time as me. But the lanes were wide enough to allow easy overtaking and I had a lovely swim.

2015-03-26 19.26.04

Horfield Leisure Centre

After work I went to the pool local to the house. It couldn’t have been more different. A big, modern leisure centre – Horfield Leisure Centre – with lots of sporting facilities including an 8-lane 25m pool. It was bright and modern and brash with all mod cons, but not the same soul as the baths at lunchtime. However, it was equally (if not even more so) as busy and the water was still water, so I swam again.

And it’s funny isn’t it? Neither swim felt great in terms of the swimming, both felt a bit sluggish, but I enjoyed them for the experience. I timed them, not because I was after a good time, but more because I had my watch on anyway.

At lunchtime my mile was 32 minutes. A bit slow, but I could live with it. In the evening I actually felt more sluggish and as I was finishing I was thinking that if I’m going to start doing more than 32 minute miles then 2swim4life is going to be tough with very little rest between swims. So when I finished and realised that I’d done the evening swim in 29 minutes I was pleasantly surprised.

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