Struggled, Tickled and Inspired

Running and therefore blogging seems to have turned into quite a struggle recently. I get to the 2k point and feel as though I can’t go any further. My body feels like lumpen clay but I think my battle is as much mental as physical. Running can be a tough nut to crack sometimes.

With only 9 weeks to go before the Great North Run, I can’t afford to be struggling with 2k runs, I need to take a grip of this thing. I set out this morning on a 6k route, started whining at 2k but pushed on to the final turn off point where I managed to persuade myself to take the extended option which brought me home after 8k. A small battle won, and one that must be built on over the next few weeks.

There’s plenty of inspiration around at the moment, Speedracer has just completed her first Ironman distance tri at Vineman after months of badass training, and Rosie Swale-Pope features in this months Runners World after completing her run around the world (well she hasn’t quite completed it yet but is back on British soil after running for almost 5 years). These are people who know how to tame the quitting demons!

While I may not be running very much I’m certainly getting in plenty of cycle practice on the Brompton – I’ve got to get some speed training under my belt as I now have competition at the Brompton World Champs, Emma’s Dave has thrown down the gauntlet and must be beaten.

Brooks Saddle

I’m still struggling with that saddle though. It’s beautiful and all but it’s a weapon of torture. I have it from good authority that it will weather in time, moulding itself to my own personal contours, thereby morphing into the most comfortable saddle in the world. In the meantime it is leaving me with day long pins and needles – most disconcerting.

I had an appointment with the ortho surgeon last week about my dodgy back issue and I was grilled about possible neurological complications. One of the questions put to me was “Have you experienced numbness or pins and needles in the saddle area?” Well, what could I say?

I obviously answered incorrectly as I ended up flat on my back having my bits and pieces tickled with a feather! When a guy came into the cubicle with a gloved hand and a protruding finger, I leapt off the couch and backed out pointing at my Brooks saddle and begging for mercy. I avoided the internal interrogation but still have to go and have an MRI – it would be much cheaper to invest in a gel saddle cover.

Garmin Forerunner 405 – The Review

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As you all know, I think the Garmin Forerunner 305 is the best thing since sliced bread but I’m so fickle it’s taken barely a thought for me to stick it on ebay and swap it for the new version – the Forerunner 405.

I’d like to say the new and IMPROVED Forerunner 405 but is it?

Reading the spec list it’s hard to see where Garmin made any attempts to improve on what had gone before, they missed out by not making it fully waterproof and therefore tri suitable, for example. Instead they appear to have simply repackaged the existing 305 as a sports watch that can be worn all day with the bonus of a nifty touch sensitive bezel control.

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Out of the box, I decided I liked the look and feel of the watch very much. Garmin put a lot of effort into design and the strap closure is ingenious, a big improvement on the 305 which kept coming loose, snagging on my clothing and risked falling off. A minor point maybe, but Garmin are big on the little details.

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The watch charged fully in 3 hours by the use of a strange bulldog style clip that slips snugly into a couple of recesses on the back of the watch. Another neat design but I fear it is just going to prove an inconvenience. With the 305 you uploaded data to the PC by slotting it into a USB docking station and it would charge at the same time as uploading. I’d leave my device in for a few minutes longer and thereby ensure I always hard a fully charged unit. With the 405, uploading data is automatic and will occur while the watch is still on your wrist, which now means I’ll have to remember to charge the unit separately.

In standby mode (ie time display only) the watch will supposedly last 20 days, although I’m down to 89% charged after 1 day so I doubt it will last much longer than a week. When used in active mode the battery life is expected to be in the region of 8 hours. So that’s another charging gizmo to be added to my pile of wires under my bed.

I thought the software was a bit of a faff to install, it didn’t happen automatically and I had to hunt around to see what it was that needed to be loaded up. It comes with Training Centre but after installing it I immediately removed it again because I remembered how pants it is. Instead I’m using the ANT uploader linked to Garmin Connect which is quite a neat online training log.

Setting up the watch is a doddle and it takes you through the process quickly with a mini tutorial that teaches you the basics of the bezel control. Basically:

  1. press and hold on the relevant label to access either time/date, training, menu or GPS functions
  2. slide around the bezel to move through menu options
  3. tap to accept
  4. tap in two separate places to activate the backlight

Forerunner 405 Virtual Partner

All very easy really. I had no problems using the bezel on the run, not that you need to use it much, you can tap to nudge the screen to a different view and in virtual partner mode you can increase/decrease the pace of your partner by sliding the bezel. I’m particularly fond of that feature as it means I can ensure I win every race now.

I’ve heard a few people fearing that accidental touches of the bezel would mess up the data but they shouldn’t worry. The start, stop and lap functions are all controlled by the big side buttons. Pressing the bezel during a run just alters the view – not a big deal. I haven’t tried it with gloves but as long as they aren’t massive affairs it shouldn’t be a problem.

For my first run I decided to set up a simple interval session, run 90 secs, walk 60 secs. I know that’s lame but I’ve got a cold and needed the walk periods to retrieve my hankies and have a good blow! Easy enough to setup, you don’t even need the manual. Features and settings are much more intuitive on the 405 than with its predecessor.

The intervals were well “signposted”, I was given a 5 second warning of loud beeps followed by a clear “chirrup” that marked the start of the next interval. I didn’t miss one and I appreciated the warning. A good feature.

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I personalised the display I wanted to see on the run, you can choose upto 9 features to be displayed on 3 screens. On my main screen I had pace, time and distance and I accepted the defaults for the other screens. It’s well worth playing around though as there appear to be some great features. This is available on the heart rate screen for example and shows progress within your heart rate zones.

I had set the screens to auto scroll but will turn this off for the next run, I think it is more convenient to control the screen I view by tapping the bezel, that way I don’t have to wait for it to get around to the bit I’m interested in.

Back home, I was just unlocking my door, when the watch beeped to say it was uploading data. By the time I’d staggered through the hall to the laptop, my stats were already displayed on the Garmin connect website.

As a simple everyday watch its functioning fine, but I would have preferred the power save mode to be the time and date screen, not just the time display. It’s a fiddle unlocking the bezel so I can access the date feature. Its also quite chunky so if you have a small wrist you are unlikely to find it very comfortable and it will probably overhang a little. I don’t have a small wrist though so I’m alright Jack.

I’m pretty pleased with it so far and think there are clear signs of improvement, I’ll be scrutinizing it further though and am particularly keen to see if there are any improvements with the speed in which it locks on to a GPS signal.

*UPDATE 22 July*

If you are in the market for a GPS running watch, this is the leader in my opinion but as for pros and cons of the 405 vs 305 here goes:

Pros:

  1. Faster GPS pick up, I’ve seen responses within seconds even when I’m moving but it is still not perfect. In heavily built up areas of London the reception is slow.
  2. Louder volume on the beep/alarm so you can actually use it for interval training.
  3. You can wear it as a watch all day – should last about 2 weeks before charging.
  4. There are a lot of new screens available and it is very easy to adjust – more intuitive than the 305.
  5. You can adjust the speed of the virtual training partner while you are on the run.
  6. Easy wireless upload.
  7. Smaller, lighter and more inconspicuous.

Cons:

  1. Sometimes the bezel seems to be a little unresponsive, so if I tap the edge to get to a different screen it may not respond, so I tap again and eventually it goes crazy and skips thru multiple screens.
  2. Because I don’t want the useless training centre on my computer I have to be quick if I want to upload the run to Sportstracks, as it doesn’t seem to save the file on my pc.
  3. When the watch gets wet – say from splashing at a water fountain – the bezel goes nuts and the forerunner generally doesn’t respond. Wipe it dry and its back to normal again. See comments 22-25 and here’s a link to one bloggers frustrating although amusing communication with garmin about the issue.

Not many cons really but maybe I’ll to them later.

The Garmin Forerunner 405 currently retails at Amazon for just under £210: Garmin Forerunner 405 with Heart Rate Monitor and USB ANT stick – Black

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

Racing with the Surrey Housewives – Loseley 10k

This post should be subtitled “Portaloo Anxiety”, if only to warn you that what follows will be somewhat focussed on bodily functions. However thats giving the game away before I’ve even started, so lets crack on.

Loseley Park 2007

Todays race involved me gate crashing the elite Surrey Housewives Set (SHS) for a trog around the muddy woods of Hawley Lake.

At some ridiculous hour in the morning, visibility was down to 10 yards or so, a little worrying for a back of the packer who has a tendency to lose sight of the back of the pack very quickly. Still, I had chance to build up the anxiety a little as I needed to pay a visit to the little ladies room.

When I first turned up the portaloos were empty but I thought I’d put it off as long as possible. Not sure what I was waiting for, did I really expect someone to pass by and spruce the cabin up, deodorising and leaving a selection of Moulton Brown toiletries? Nope, as any seasoned event attender knows all too well, these places only get worse the longer you leave them – much worse. I blame SHS member no 3 (names withheld to protect the innocent) who horrified me when she returned from her foray into the cabin, completely smeared in some strange slime.

In the end I decided to start the race with a full bladder, hoping that my body would just learn to reabsorb. I also thought it might make me run a bit faster, it always seems to work when I’m on my bike. I break all my records cycling home from the pub as the quicker I go the sooner I get to use the loo. For the record, it doesn’t translate so well for running, especially not hilly, uneven, cross country running – the first downhill section reminded me of the importance of pelvic floor exercises!

I do apologise for the banality of this post but I did warn you, I was preoccupied. My playlist selection for this event was last sundays omnibus edition of the Archers. Perfectly timed to last my predicted 1:13:00 time and the ideal accompaniment to keep my mind off more pressing matters. Well it would have been if I hadn’t somehow managed to load up an edition that I had already listened to. I like the Archers but I cannot listen to Eddy snogging his girlfriend for a second time in a week and they had the cows mooing so loud in the recording that I kept having to make sure I wasn’t about to be attacked from the undergrowth.

So I was left with my thoughts which oscillated between, “I need the loo”, “That’s a pretty mushroom, do you think I could just stop and pick it?”, “Christ I’m gonna wet myself!”, “Check out that flippin puddle – am I supposed to swim?”, “How come I’m always behind the walkers?” and “ooooh I NEED the loo!”.

You get the picture. It was lovely though. The marshalls were very pleasant and I got a great cheer from the SHS crew as I reached my final sprint for the portaloo.

Loseley Park 10k

Special mention goes to Suzan (SHS member no 1) who stormed home, breaking the 60 min barrier with 1 1/2 mins to spare! I think members 2 and 3 are still trying to fathom out their precise time (give or take 5 mins) as they were relying on a rather interesting timepiece, one lacking a second hand and minute markers.

Race t-shirt here.

Fancy a Bottle of Dog, Pet?

The Great North Run has got to be the most self-indulgent running event in the race calendar, I personally could handle this kind of ego boost on a monthly basis, I would say weekly, but as I’m still unable to walk so I think that might be pushing it.

Happy

Look how happy I am barely seconds after the finish. I work hard to be permanently grumpy but this race had infectious happiness thrown in – I was smiling at every mile, even at mile 12 when my quads seized up badly and I had to be rejuvenated by a tumbler of vodkaless vodka handed to me from the sideline.

The Great North run is a very special event, the organization is flawless and the support from the crowd is amazing. I ran the route hugging the left hand side, I therefore got very familiar with a lot of locals (I also came close to having an unwelcome shower from the guys caught short and relieving themselves on the overpass above me). Every one of those 13 miles ticked by so quickly, I must have slapped the grubby hands of at least a thousand kids and I have to admit its not an everyday occurrence for kids to high five me.

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We had to set off from my parents house at 5am, so there was a 4.15 am rush to the loos, enough to put anyone in a bad mood you’d think. OGB and myself have managed to be grumpy for every race we’ve attended over the last year but we surprised ourselves by feeling upbeat for the whole shebang on Sunday. We were a bit nervy at the outset as we were right at the back and it felt a little uncomfortable to start with the sweeper van clipping at your heels. Still, it only took us 25 mins after the starters pistol to reach the start and we set off at a sprint (unmaintainable) to escape the van.

Thats the last I saw of OGB until we were re-united at the family meeting spot. You’d be forgiven for thinking he just hitched a ride to the end as he looks so fresh and spritely but his official time was 1:58:33 so I suppose he had plenty of time to freshen up.

Me and OGB

I had a lovely run from the start, I was just raring to go and set off a bit too swiftly but I was enjoying myself. Despite sharing the motorway with 49,999 other runners, I didn’t feel too constricted. I had to do a little bit of weaving in and out but mostly I followed my line.

The red arrows stormed across our path just as we crossed the start line and then appeared above South Shields again when I reached mile 10 and kept me fairly occupied with their acrobatics til mile 12ish. That was jolly good timing as I was suffering quite a bit from the tenth mile. I still had plenty of energy but my legs (quads specifically) were tightening up like crazy. I had to hop off to the sidelines at mile 12 to try and stretch out my legs a bit so I could carry on. I ran the whole way but in the latter stages my running was no faster than other folks walk. Every now and again the crowd would call out “Go on warriorwoman!” and I’d manage another appreciative burst. Such good fun.

We recovered from the run with a plate of fish and chips served on the seafront with a bottle of dog. Such bliss.

GNR Route

Here are my splits from the garmin:

GNRsplit

I suppose that shows that I need more training. I had plenty of energy at the end but my legs cannot cope with the strain. I sooooooo hope I don’t get accepted into the London Marathon this year, I only entered so that I can start building up my rejections for the 5 strikes and you’re in rule. God help me if I get accepted first time. Instead I fancy cramming a few half marathons in for the new year, I think thats a good challenge distance.

I’m back home now and am suffering quite badly, not sure how I’m going to get into work tomorrow. My quads are completely shot and I’m practically descending my flat stairs by shuffling down on my arse. In fact the only reason I’m not bouncing down on my bum is that I wouldn’t be able to drag myself back into the upright position. What a state! Mind you, I’ve made progress, this time last year I was crippled by the Nike 10k run, at least I’ve doubled the distance to knock myself out. This time next year…..who knows?

Official time: 2:56:07

T-shirt shot over here.

Great North Run – Race Tips

This time next week I ought to be sitting in a South Tyneside pub celebrating the end of a half marathon. I’m pretty apprehensive about the event, the travel arrangements are just mind boggling and both me and OGB have decided to just arrive and hope we get dragged in the right direction. Every time we read the official magazine and try and get our head around the details we end up quaking in our running shoes. At least we will get to Newcastle though, my dad has kindly offered to drive us there at the crack of dawn.

I didn’t run at all last week, I thought it was more important to ensure I got over the cold than attempt any endurance training while I was ill.
Now I’m not sure what to do with this week – cram in a long run mid week or just aim to keep the legs ticking over with the mileage low? I suppose I’ll play it by ear and just try and relax.

As for the race itself, I haven’t much of a clue how to play this either. Still not sure what pace to aim for, I’m thinking it’s going to be so crowded back in my race pen that I should just aim to keep going and not stress too much about hitting any specific splits, I can leave that for the *next* half mara. I’ve picked up some great psychological tips for dealing with the Great North Run from the runnersworld forum. XL-man kindly let me repeat his 4in1 race strategy here:

Run 1 – 5 miles (8 km). (DON’T think about anything further) Huge crowds, great atmosphere, bands. Take it steady, not too fast, you’ve run five miles or further loads of times. Enjoy the spectacle, and remember you are part of it. Those inspirational pictures of thousands running across the Tyne Bridge? You’re in them this year. Yes, you’re in the Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Enjoy!

Run 2 – 3 miles (5 km). Forget the 5 behind you, they’re done. Think only of the next three. Three miles? Piece of cake, you’ve done 9, 10, 11 .. much more in training. These three are all downhill, wheeeeeee !! Great news for those of you after PBs for the event, or even if it’s your first time and you have a target. Go for it here, within reason. Unfortunately, the road narrows, so you may notice it feeling a little more congested. Be careful.

Run 3 – 3 miles (5 km). SLOW DOWN. This is where you need your mental toughness and/or your MP3 player. It’s a bit of a slog up the John Reid Road etc and there’s not much to enjoy, but hey, if it was easy, the medal wouldn’t be as important to you would it? If you’re a run/walk person this is where you may want to be taking extra walks, and psych yourself up, but don’t start thinking about the finish yet. Just get to 11 miles

Run 4 – 2.1 miles (3 km) That’s nowt! Of course you’re tired but you’re nearly there. Now, start to tell yourself that you’ve done it (almost) the goody bag is waiting for you, go and get it. The last mile and a bit up the sea front is fantastic. Huge crowds yelling at you, the end is nigh. Let your spirits fly, even if you’re knackered. You can stop soon. If you’re after a time, push, you know you are fit, you have prepared well, and as knackered as you will feel when you cross the line, the elation will speed your recovery. Well done, you’ve finished the GREAT NORTH RUN 2007

Good stuff eh? Now do I switch the garmin to miles so that I’m in-sync with the road markers or do I stick to what I know?

Better Late than Never

Pigeons Trafalgar Square

As usual I wake up on race day, filled with absolute dread. Looking back it seems quite an appropriate apprehension. The British London 10k had already been billed to me as being just about the worst race in the UK calendar and with just moments to go before the start I found myself enveloped in a Hitchcock movie wondering just how bad this day was going to get.

OGB finally came and rescued me from the tramps and the birds and dragged me off to the baggage drop. More angst followed, as he joined the longest toilet queue in the world and I decided that using a portaloo after 20,000 nervous runners wasn’t high on my pre-race agenda.

Where's Dan?

By the time OGB made it out of the potty zone, the holding area was deserted and we had to hot foot it to the start – 1.5 km away. By the time we arrived I was absolutely desperate for the loo but we’d missed the starting gun by 30 mins so I had no option but to clench and start running. I spent the next 10k looking around for toilets and wondering how the heck I was going to get to the end without an incident.

It was a fantastic route through central London, taking in Picadilly, the Embankment, Westminster Bridge and Millbank. It was my first road race and I did find it quite peculiar, it was hard not to stop everytime one of the traffic lights turned red. Stacks of supporters lined the streets and helped to generate quite a festival atmosphere, encouraged by the strange dad’s army style orchestras – very last night of the proms.

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Apart from needing to wet myself from the very start, I had a great run, not a pb but not far off either. I felt comfortable throughout and I was able to walk at the end, which is just as well as the nearest toilet was another 2k away.

Garmin records 10.3 km in 74 mins. No official times will be reported as the organisers could only manage times for the first 400 and I would guess that I fell just outside this ranking.

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Early morning runs aren’t the best, obviously you have to get up ridiculously early but more importantly you end up finishing before the pubs open. We did find somewhere open but they were only serving soft drinks til midday – what hapened to 24 hr licensing hours? My mum rang while we were waiting for the clock to strike 12 and we had a strange conversation:

Mum: Where are you?
Me: London, I’ve just run in the British 10k
Mum: Oh thats nice, were you walking?
Me: Did you just ask me if I was walking?!
Mum: Well yes because you couldn’t drive it could you.
Me: I ran – it was a running race.
Mum: You ran? How many metres did you say it was?
Me: That would be 10000 metres.
Mum: Did you finish it?

I was thinking to join in Lardathon for July but after an afternoon in the pub I had a slight hiccup in an otherwise exemplary day (beer being classed as legitimate carb replacement therapy) and polished off a twin pack of cream doughnuts. In my defence, I went shopping for the weeks groceries on Saturday and actually put back my multipack of hula hoops as I couldn’t face confessing my sins every day on the blog. I therefore claim that the two net each other off and I’m in the clear.

Chuckles Like Muttley

Stratford 220 Sprint Triathlon
400 metre Swim – 23 kilometre Cycle – 5 kilometre run

Did I give the impression I was apprehensive about this tri-affa-lon thingy?

‘Twas a piece of cake and an absolute buzz to boot! My legs are killing me but I have had such a great day and I didn’t have to strip off in public once! I’ve been beaming all day.

I really didn’t think I was going to make it. My mum was suggesting I ought to throw a sickie and I was seriously tempted! Then I hired a Streetcar which hadn’t been filled with petrol and found myself coasting down the M40 in dire need of a petrol station – the car literally conked out as I pulled up at the pump. I had a bit of moral support though as Shakti decided to come along with me and that really does make all the difference, along with all the positive messages sent my way via the blogosphere – thanks so much folks!

In the end I arrived safely in Stratford but I was still near shaking with fear as I allowed someone to scrawl some number on assorted parts of my body. I think this number will have to become part of my life now, it is practically tattooed into my flesh! Still, I’m prepared to live with it, I felt such a pro walking out of that hall with my arm suitably tagged.

I didn’t actually get round to drawing up a transition list but I did stay awake til 3.30am “visualising” and the result of this was pure exhaustion when my alarm went off at 5.30 but a hassle free transition – you takes your choices.

I snook off to the start of the swim in my tracky bottoms and t-shirt and it was here that life started getting a bit more comfortable for me. Everyone in the 59 min estimate zone was terrified. There were even tales of people vomiting. Nothing like a bit of terror to make people chatty and nothing like other peoples fear and paralysis to make me feel cool, calm and collected!

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The swim went like a dream, never mind 59 mins – when I popped out of the other end my declared time was 7 mins and something. Woohoo! Great start and now on to the bit I was looking forward to.

It was raining, but as an all weather commuter I think this acts in my favour. I’m also a seriously competitive biker! I had a blast but in the end I had a bit of a too and fro with a woman who finally got the better of me. You can’t draft in triathlon so you either have to overtake or drop right back, a shame as I think we were well matched for a bit of mutual support. I finished in just under 50 mins, I think. The approximate times are due to my complete incompetence with todays gadget of choice, the polar RS800SD. I’m hoping that the 220 guys are going to release official times soon so that I can actually see how I did against the pack.

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The run was slow and seriously slippy but at least it was flat and so didn’t cause my knee any bother. I found it difficult to get in my stride, my hamstrings were really tense after the bike slog. I’m used to running after riding but maybe the intensity and distance made all the difference, it all felt quite peculiar. There was a great atmosphere on the run, the double loop meant you passed the same people at least twice and there was plenty of positive banter flowing. The marshalls were great too.

My time for the run was around 35 mins so now I just need to find out the overall time to get an idea of how efficient the transitions were.

I finished before the worst of the weather hit but those starting after me had a terrible time of it. Rodeogirl set sail through an absolute torrent that didn’t let up til it was all over. Didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit though and it made those hot showers at the end so much more delightful.

Just need to book myself into the next one now!

Cold Cold Feet

I’m having a fairly serious anxiety moment. I always get cold feet during the build up to a race event but this weekends triathlon is a whole new kettle of panic and paranoia.

A typical running event will see me pitching up in full running attire and in a state of planned dehydration so I’m not tempted to use the stinking portaloos. All I need to do then is concentrate on avoiding the forced team bonding/stretching exercises for half an hour, until the whistle/gun/man lets rip and all I have to do is plod forward til its all over and I can go home.

With this triathlon thingy, the worries just don’t seem to stop. First thing I’ve got to concern myself about is how to get there. When the whole Stratford triathlon joy was first mooted I felt as if I was signing up for a little jaunt across to East London. Not a 100 mile expedition towards the Stratford of Shakespeare fame. I suppose I can cope with this though, at least it gives me an excuse to pull out the nicely spoken GPS lady.

overloaded

When I get there I have to register and pin my number to both front and back of my running shirt but I’m gonna be pushing my bike and carrying about 30 different outfits and bottles and pumps and puncture repair kits and rucksacs and towells and as yet undetermined stuff cos I can’t park my bike up until 30 mins before the start of the swim. Its going to be a a complete baggage disaster zone.

Next is the worst bit. I get to my racking area and allow all the rucksacs and trammel to spew out onto the floor around me. After frantically trying to organise all the junk into some kind of prescribed T1/T2 efficiency combo I have to get prepared for the swim. So I’ve travelled down in my costume so it can’t be so bad but do I really have to strip off and parade around in my swim wear for 30 mins????? I can manage 30 secs I think, but no way can I manage this sort of exposure for 30 mins.

I made a bit of a mess of my entry as well. You had to put in your estimated swim time for 400m. Not knowing whether I could swim a length or how long a length was, I didn’t have a flippin clue. I tried entering my time as SLOW hoping that it would mean something to the organisers but it wasn’t accepted. I then opted for the largest number it would accept, this was 59:99 mins. I have since discovered that 12 mins is slow but 59 mins would take a monumental effort. This number was also the decider in your race starting position, with all the slowies going out first.

naked biker

So it’s fair to say that I am not looking forward to Sunday.

I am going to have to stand half naked in public for 30 mins before jumping into an empty pool as all the other swimmers will be jumping in at least 47 minutes after me. Either that or I’ll be behind a bunch of swimmers who will actually take 59 mins to do 12 laps and I’ll be dead of hypothermia before I get to the good bit.

Can I go home yet?