13. Just…keep…swimming

Last week began with something, personally, momentous.

I attended Halifax Pool for my Improvers swimming lesson, and after arriving, kitting up, showering, and carrying out warm up exercises, I got into the fast lane of the main pool for my now-customary 15 minute main pool workout. I took a deep breath, and pushed off into my front crawl.

I was turning to the side with a little more grace, and keeping my stroke technique efficient. As I reached the other end, I didn’t reach for the side, per se. I pushed off the side, and began to swim back.

The last time I attempted this was in April 2015, when I could barely swim, and it ended with my kick vanishing and having to be dragged out by the lifeguard, rather embarrassingly. Here, I was in control. I got to 40 metres. I could feel myself tiring, but I knew I was on a cusp of something amazing. I didn’t stand up. I kept swimming, and completed the journey back. Then I stood up, almost in disbelief. I’d actually done it – for the first time ever in my life, completed an out and back in a 25 metre pool!

I did manage to calm myself and the rest of the time swam single lengths, but I couldn’t stop smiling about what I’d managed. In the context of my long-term ambition to get into aquathlon and triathlon, this is a massive stepping stone. I want to now get into the habit of nailing 50 metres in one go regularly, and building up to go further. If I can actually swim 200 metres without stopping, then I can seriously consider, at the very least, pool based multisport. The dream seems suddenly realistic again.

As for the week’s running, the tapering phase is well and truly in motion by now, and compared to the eventful last few weeks, this was, in comparison, the very equivalent of miles in the bank. 5 miles on Tuesday after swimming, and then another 5 miles doing loops of Wellholme Park, again in my headtorch, again in the early hours. This time, my torch picked up one noticeable difference. The area by the outdoor gym, at the far end of the park, had an area cordoned off with red tape, covering a significant section of the trail where the parkrun course runs. And behind it, piles and piles of stones and gravel.

I was able to continue around to where the trail resumed, but as a runner and a lifelong resident, I felt a sense of disappointment. They were turning another section of the park into hard surface, presumably as part of the parkrun’s development. I always considered the charm of Brighouse parkrun was that its pretty much a trail throughout, in comparison to other local parkruns, which take place predominantly on concrete or asphalt footpaths. Its not as though the trail wasn’t visible – it was worn away clearly by years of human footfall or environmental progress as a flood plain. Can’t a trail run be a trail run? As in, just mud and grass (and the footpath that runs along the bottom of the woodland). Colour me mildly disappointed. Still, it was a good run out, a negative split to boot, and it kept things ticking over nicely. And, muddy, but not too muddy! 

The weekend’s long run was a 12 miler, which took me up to Roberttown via Clifton and Hartshead, and back through Hightown, Hartshead Moor and Bailiff Bridge, before looping around Thornhills to drop back into town to complete the final couple of miles. It was a misty morning that took ages for the cloud to lift – there’s normally a good view of Castle Hill, in Huddersfield, somewhere in the distance on this run, but it was nowhere to be found today.

After running around the 7:40 mile mark for the first five miles or so, I ran a little more conservatively than the week before and found myself more or less in the 8 minute plus area. I opted not to barrel down the big 14% drop that is Birkby Lane, instead easing down and almost sluggishly running down Bradford Road. Mile 11, partly uphill, went of something like 8:52. So having saved myself a little, I felt I should try and push on. Only to have my progress impeded by a very friendly cat! It approached me and was very affable and endearing. I managed to break away into my running again and for a brief moment in time, the human-feline synchronicity was in full flow, as the cat dashed to run alongside me – for about 15 yards, and then just stopping and remembering it was supposed to be aloof all this time.

All in all, a solid week of running, punctuated by that fantastic personal progress in the pool. I’m just eager to get away now. 

The last cup of caffeinated tea I’ll touch til race day (taken 15/10/2016)

The caffeine cold turkey, which I tried out for London, gradually working down to a miserly week before the all important pre race brew, is now on for the next two weeks starting from that same Saturday. Up to Sunday, it was going well, though of all the days to attempt a beef mole, it had to be during my caffeine strike, which meant I had to leave out dark chocolate, a prime ingredient of most moles! So I compromised with cacao and chilli seasoning to taste. My word though, what a treat – pasilla chillies, diced beef, tomatoes, cumin, garlic, onions, cinnamon, it all came together wonderfully. Combined with a couple of good nights of sleep, its gone OK so far, and my hashtag of #caffeinefree for @marathoneryri even got the eyes of a decaffeinated coffee company, to whom I could only apologise – as I only have eyes for tea!

As the nights draw in, so does my training for the 2016 Snowdonia Marathon. I’m ticking down to it. The commute becomes ever worse. Work is good, but not without it’s bad days. I just want to be free, away from the sturm und strang of weekday mornings, to focus on my family holiday, and the race itself. I’m not quite in holiday mode, but unquestionably hard to ignore. For now, there’s one more week to go, and that means continuing the taper and absolutely NO withdrawal symptoms. Aside from maybe caffeine. And chocolate.