Tag Archives: Team Bear

Triathlon Training Day

I’ve mentioned it before, but this July I’m doing the Isoman half and so I need to train for it. I’m doing the running and the cycling and the swimming (a bit), but one of the most important things will be putting all that together – learning how just to keep going all day and through the different elements.

So for that reason I want to do a couple of ‘triathlon-lite’ training days. All the elements together, but without the distance or intensity, but just to get the body and mind used to process of it all.

The first of those will be on May 22nd and I’m inviting any that wants to join me for any of the four (yes four) vital elements of a triathlon.

1. Swim

The swim will be the BLDSA Colwick Park event – it’s a 5km event near Nottingham. As it’s a lap course (5 x 1km lap) you don’t need a kayaker to support you – just turn up and swim.Most BLDSA events are skins only, but this one does have a wetsuit category, so you can enter that one if you like.

If you want to do the swim, then you’ll need to be a member of the BLDSA, so sign up via Entry Central here.

2. Cycle

We won’t rush the transition, but once everyone is ready (and warm and dry) we’ll cycle from Colwick back to Southwell. We’ll take a slightly longer route and try and do about 30km. Nottinghamshire is fairly flat, so it shouldn’t be too tough a ride – although there is one big hill we could go up depending how we’re feeling.

3. Run

Once back in Southwell we’ll do a c. 10-15km route around the village. For me this isn’t about pure distance, but about getting a decent run in on the back of the other two elements to see how it feels and how I cope. So I don’t want to kill anyone (me especially), but just get a ‘good’ run done.

4. Refuelling

The most important element of any triathlon surely? Depending how many people there are we will either find a local pub that will fill us up with good pub grub and a pint (or two), or we will come back to my flat and I’ll feed us all with copious amounts of bacon sandwiches and cups of tea.

I’m particularly targeting this at my Team Bear friends. Do any of you fancy coming along and joining in any of the four elements of the day?

But of course, it’s not restricted to Team Bear members. If you fancy any of this let me know and it will be great to see you – please get in touch so that I can estimate numbers and plan it a bit more, but do come along.

 

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Sunday was better

After the disaster that was Saturday, Sunday turned out to be a better day.

The kayak hire place (that hired out the kayak on Saturday with a broken seat, that made my experience quite a lot tougher) offered us an actual kayaker for the Sunday swim, so that we would have someone with more experience and skill if the water got as choppy again. What it actually meant for us was an extra body and Rach no longer had to kayak for me and could actually swim – getting back at least some of her lost swim from Saturday.

Originally Rach’s plan was to set off as a solo swim after the event had set off. She had informed the safety boats and had promised to keep out of the way of championship swimmers. They knew she was competent and would have a tow-float, so had promised to keep an eye on her too.

However, the BLDSA being what it is, as soon as the organisers were aware of this – coupled with the fact that they knew they had a spare kayaker – she was immediately placed as a late entry into the event.

So three of us from Team Bear set off to do the 3-mile one-way swim.

After the previous day, the berating of myself and a poor night’s sleep I wasn’t feeling on top form. But equally I had made the decision not to mope and attack it properly as I felt it would have been disrespectful to Rach to do anything else.

While the weather wasn’t as bad as Saturday, it was still a ‘little’ choppy. The first 500 or so metres across the lake from the start were certainly tough, then we turned to swim down the lake with the wind and chop [mostly] to our back. A breeze pushing us down the lake is predominantly helpful, although it can disrupt rhythm at times and increase the likelihood of taking in mouthfuls of water. So a couple of stops mid lake to spit out water and regain my rhythm aside, I pushed on and swam hard.

Rach beat me (as expected), but I was pleased with a time of 1:34.

And to top it off, Cathy completed the swim – her longest ever and after she had kayaked through the horrible conditions (and kayaked it all) the day before.

There are more thoughts to be had about the Saturday (which may well be blogged), but in the end it turned out to be a successful weekend and a lovely bunch of Bears to spend it with.

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Half a man

Sorry, that should actually be half an ironman. At least that’s what I hope I’ll be next year.

Team Bear LogoOnline I mix with a right group of nutters and some of them did the Outlaw half ironman this year – as it’s local to me I went to watch it. And although the swim bit is way too short and there’s far too much cycling and running involved it seemed like a fun event and a challenge that I’d like to take on. But you know… one day… not now.

My priorities are and always will be my swimming goals, but I realise that they are actually quite a long way away and the lack of a more immediate ‘big’ goal has seen me drift since the 2swim4life swim.

It’s not just the recent heat that has made me become a bit listless. I had a bit of a reality check the other day and realised that I needed to have a challenge, to start training again (for my mental wellbeing as much as physical), and lose that bit of weight that has started creeping back on. So I pre-registered for next year’s Outlaw half ironman.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve committed to it, but after more conversations with the aforementioned nutters, it my own mind I have committed.

Of course I have some worries:

– That I am as rubbish at cycling and running as I fear
– That it’ll break me for future swimming
– That I’m just doing this to distract me from my current single status, but it will actually restrict me from ever being not single – you know: “That was a lovely date, when can we do it again?” “Well, I have a gap in my training schedule in 12 weeks time.”
– That real life and work reasons will get in the way and I’ll be undercooked by event time – I’m not sure I have enough time to do all the swim training I want to do
– That it’ll get addictively expensive – have you seen some of those tri bikes?
– That I’ll just be the rubbish fat bloke at the back of the field

I’m pretty sure the nutters will help me with some of these fears. I think a bit more training will help me to overcome some of the others and well, who knows.

So, when the email comes through for registration it looks like I’ll be signing up.

*Gulp*

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A Change of Pace

I’m a big fan of the Team Bear ethos of “Suffer, but never surrender”. In fact I like nothing more than being the first into the lake and the last out, or pushing myself so that I can hardly breathe at the end of a sprint session in the pool, or using the weights and feeling an ache the next day in places that you didn’t realise you had, or doing a cardio session and almost literally having to wring your t-shirt dry afterwards. I love all that.

But I’m not sure I can do that anymore. Or at least not right now.

Let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger (none of us are, sorry to break that to you) and how I have adopted the suffer but never surrender mentality up until this point is to think that unless I’m suffering, then it’s not worth it. So, if I can’t run 10k, then why run? Or if I can’t swim at least a 3k pyramid session, is there any point going to the pool at all?

It’s that attitude [of mine] that has to change. Because it leads to one of two things: 1) not doing anything – “I’ll only manage a short swim, so why bother” or “the pool will be full and I won’t be able to do a proper set, so I just won’t go”; or 2) breaking myself. And the two are usually linked, as I break myself when I push too hard after not doing anything for a while: “I can do this, I’ve done it before, so what that I’ve not done it for three months… OUCH!”

Instead of suffering, for the next few months I want to just enjoy moving around. I’ve not got any big events planned this year, so no reason to suffer, and my previous mentality might have seen me become a bit of a couch potato. Instead I just want to be more active. It doesn’t have to be big and macho, but a gentle bit of exercise to counter balance all the sitting around I do for work.

Last night’s run was the perfect example. A nice 20 minute jog around a lovely village (I’m lucky to live somewhere beautiful) on a lovely evening – and all while my tea was cooking.

So from now on my plan is to take the chance to be active as much as possible and to ignore [some of the] goals and targets and just enjoy it. So more walking, more running, more gentle weights sessions at home and more quick dips in the pool and lake.

Of course it won’t last forever and at the back of my mind is the thought that I’m probably not all that fit at the moment. Instead of being fit I have trained my body to be able to perform one particular task – and even then I’ve broken it slightly as I’ve had a shoulder injury for the past week that will keep me away from swimming until at least the weekend. So a slightly more wholistic approach might improve my general fitness and put me in a much better position to be able to suffer in the future.

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Cheering, not competing

I may have mentioned that I’m a member of Team Bear – it’s a virtual Tri Club with members spread all over the country. As we’re virtual the support we offer (and lots and lots is offered) is usually over social media etc. Despite not having met each other (or possibly because of it) the team bond is very strong – in fact it a Team Bear member offered to support me in Guildford before we had ever met.

So when the chance came to support in person and to return the favour to other team members I jumped at the chance – especially when the event in question came through my village.

So that’s how my son and I found ourselves stood in the rain for about an hour and a half watching cyclists whizz past so quickly that we weren’t sure if they were team members or not – so they all got a cheer and a clap just in case.

What they were taking part in was the Outlaw Half Ironman event, organised by One Step Beyond, and in the end we managed to spot nearly all of the Team Bear entrants as they were wearing the ace team trisuits. And once we had cheered them all past we got into the car to join the rest of the cheering crew at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham – about 30 minutes away. Once there the Team Bear corner was easy to spot and hear – cowbells were the instrument of choice.

From our area we were able to see the runners twice each lap of their two lap half marathon (which was preceded by the 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile cycle ride). To see the combination of joy, pain, suffering, grit, determination and refusal to surrender was great – the competitors weren’t bad either!

Once we’d seen them all run past our vantage point we made our way round to the finish where the decibels increased and the emotions became even rawer. To see some of the people finish, often with kids joining them for the final ‘sprint’, and the look of joy and achievement on their faces was amazing.

I did a couple of sprint triathlons very badly last year and I’ve not really run since then, but the whole atmosphere on the day made me think, maybe… I’ve got more swimming goals to accomplish first, but once they’re done…

In the meantime, to read a proper blog post about the day, see Vikki’s here.

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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 (and 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 are. 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 weigh myself to see how many calories typing this has used up!*

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Ready to ROAR!

Next time I go for a swim, I’m ready to ROAR!

Look what arrived in the post for me today.

Team Bear swim hat

Team Bear swim hat

That’s right, it’s a Team Bear swim hat and I’m looking forward to wearing it in the open water soon (as soon as it warms up a bit!)

Mmmm!

If you’re interested in a virtual team that offers support and encouragement to anyone willing to ‘Suffer But NEVER Surrender’, then do enquire about joining Team Bear. They may sometimes not be the best at logistics (it took a while longer than it should have done for my hat to reach me), but they make up for it in customer service as these were in envelope too.

Just as research I had to open them and try them and they’re yummy chocolate covered marshmallow bears – perfect for a snack after training (as long I don’t tell my son about them as they’ll disappear if I do!)

On top of all that, I managed another 5km+ running this morning. The leg is getting stronger, the mind is getting used to running again and I’m starting to look forward to the Coniston 14.

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An hour of ‘running’!

Yay!

I’ve signed up for the Coniston 14, but got injured in December and so have been a little bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m keen to do it as I think it’ll be fun, beautiful and a great way to explore a lake I’ve swum twice.

So after slowly getting back into running on the treadmill in the gym I wanted to do two things today: run outside; be out there for at least an hour. I managed both!

I’m still calling it ‘running’ at the moment as, under advise from the physio, I’m interspersing running with a minute or so of walking. At the moment the aim is to do a 5:1 ratio of running and walking.

But today wasn’t about speed or distance, it was about time and getting my legs and my head used to just getting on with it for a bit. I wanted to put the Team Bear mantra of #SufferButNEVERsurrender to the test in running mode. And that’s why I set a goal of an hour (I’ve not done more than 31 minutes on the treadmill so far).

My hour of running, broken down by pace.

My hour of running, broken down by pace.

You can see from the graph above that the walks got a bit longer towards the end, but actually so did the runs.

Over the next few weeks I will lengthen my long run by 10 minutes per week until I’m up to 2 hours. By then I should be ready for Coniston 14. See you there!

 

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Psychological Strategy

I was asked this morning on Twitter by a friend of mine, “What psychological strategy do you use when it gets tough on a long swim?”

I was going to reply on Twitter, but I realised that it probably needed more than just a tweet, it needed more than 140 characters. So here goes…

Team Bear Logo I’ve recently joined a virtual team called Team Bear. One of the main reasons that it appealed to me is the motto they have, which is “Suffer but NEVER surrender.” And that is one of the things that gets me through. I’ve never yet had a DNF (did not finish) for all the swims I’ve done and I want to do all I can to make sure I don’t have one.

It’s the old question of, how would you feel the minute after you’ve stopped? If you can honestly say that it was the best decision (and in swimming that can be about health reasons, especially hypothermia) to stop then do so. But if once you’ve retired you realise that maybe you could have just carried on, then you’ll regret it – if I’m struggling I do that analysis… and then carry on.

Another thing I’ve learnt through experience is that I need to play to my own strengths. And although it’s tough in open water swimming I’m a talker, so that’s what I need to do even while swimming. I’m someone that likes to downplay the effort involved, downplay the hardship and make jokes / comments about the trivialities. One of the reasons that I didn’t do as well this year in Windermere was that I was trying to be too focused and that’s just not me.

One thing that did help massively during Windermere was when I took a break and started swimming breaststroke for a couple of minutes. My boat crew leaned over to see if I was ok. I shook my head and explained that I was finding it hard. “Of course it’s bloody hard,” was the incredibly caring and considerate reply. And actually that helped enormously as I realised that that was all it was – a bit of hard work. It wasn’t any more serious than that, it just required me to dig in. Well I could do that, so I did.

Mmmm carb loading before the Channel Relay

Mmmm carb loading before the Channel Relay

Finally, one of the biggest ways to stop yourself struggling in the first place is to feed well. If you don’t, then energy levels drop and if energy levels drop then you can feel the cold more and all of that affects your ‘head’. Just imagine starting the day without your normal cup of tea or coffee, then go to the worst work meeting you can imagine, now think what kind of mood you’ll be in. That’s what it feels like if you’re swimming without proper nutrition. If you can crack that, then most of the psychological battles become minor skirmishes. If you don’t crack the nutrition, then they become full-on wars which you may lose.

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