So here we are, over 2,800km into my 'trip' and it is time for my end of month 'wildcard challenge'! It seemed fitting to Coach Tom apparently that as I was nearing Lima, overlooking the Pacific Ocean that it was time for a 'watery week'. The challenge?
"To cover at least 10km of your distance this week in, or on water - and it must be outside"
Quite the opposite then of last week where I was told to do at least one indoor pool session! But that suited me, as I am much preferring my open water swimming. That said, the April weather had taken a bit of a turn, with the water temperature dropping back down again by about 0.5 deg per day. Add in the cold wind and my distances swimming outside were going to be a bit less than last week I thought. How to make sure I achieved my challenge? Well of course my newly added in sport of paddleboarding!
But before all that, let's check in with where I am in terms of distance, and did I manage to achieve my challenge?
The distances this week are looking like this:
So that's a yes to achieving my challenge - covering a total of 11.6km in the water!
I had decided to take a full week off running given the training time I was having to spend on my other disciplines, and also it was an unusually busy week with work. Not a bad idea too to give my niggly achilles a bit of a break now and again.
But onto the watery activities! Well as a GoPro novice, not only have I been navigating how to set up the various shooting modes, but also getting my head, quite literally around how and where to attach the camera for my various activities. I really wanted to capture the joy I feel when swimming and looked at various YouTube videos for inspiration. I wondered why no-one was using the headcam attachment for this and we are probably about to find out why...
I felt very creative adding an extra layer of security to my new camera friend by cutting a hole in an old neoprene swim cap to make sure that the head strap (think miners helmet type affair) wouldn't slip off my head mid swim. Much as I am keen to capture the beauty of the Serpentine, I thought my lovely solo swimming buddy, Nerina, would be a lot more forgiving of my camera experiments at a swim in the Thames at Teddington.
So here is the aforementioned 'seasick' footage'! I now realise why headcams are better suited to sedate breaststroke swimming, and not so much to the side to side breathing motion of front crawl! This clip shows both perspectives, from the slow dip and front moving stroke as I enter the water....through to 'whoah, the river is upside down!'
But watch it through to the end if only to see our life guard doggie appearing for duty.
I'm loving the various capabilities of the GoPro, including the ability to capture any frame of a video as a photograph. I went a bit 'arty' with some of these, but also looking back at them realised how brown the Thames is! Best not to think about it...
Well that was 4.2km done in the water, and so now to make up the distance by other means...
I like to think I am making another tenuous South American reference by the fact that I went paddleboarding in Paddington. I mean wasn't that little bear from darkest Peru?
I hired a board to go along Regents Canal, although paddleboards can only go west on this water channel so as to avoid the long tunnel at Maida Vale. I was happy with that option as it means avoiding the numerous 'Go Boats' full of people drinking and not really looking where they are going as they head towards Camden. I definitely didn't need any more obstacles to navigate as the board I was given seemed to be a lightweight racing one, which certainly challenged my balance! In fact at one point as the board went over a piece of floating driftwood and it caught the fin at the back I was thrown forward and almost went into the canal. Quick check, no-one looking? Phew.
Needless to say there are endless videos I have to go through courtesy of my GoPro, but here are a couple of the photos which I think captured the serenity of this afternoon.
And the other water themed highlight of my week? During a wardening shift at my beloved Serpentine swimming club I checked in Duncan Goodhew for a swim.
He's a bit of a childhood swimming hero of mine, and what a lovely man too.
Well what an exciting week! Not only did I finally manage to introduce a fourth sport into my challenge, but I also got to play with my new birthday toy.....my GoPro!
But before I literally fill this blog with excitement about that, over to the logistics of the challenge....
The past seven days have seemed quite full on in terms of training, but of course not all disciplines are equal and the water based activities take a lot more time. I covered at total distance of 201.7km. The breakdown is looking like this:
I reduced my running this week as my Achilles was up to it's old niggling tricks, but a bit of downtime usually sees that right. In another change to the norm, I also took the opportunity to book a swim session at my local indoor pool. When I say 'took the opportunity' Coach Tom actually told me to do it to get an accurate check on my current swim speed. I am pleased to say that all of my open water winter training has paid off as I haven't lost my swim fitness at all. Not so pleased to report however that I found the whole experience not that pleasurable. From the booking system and Covid rules in place, to the fact that there is always someone swimming slow breaststroke in the fast lane, it just wasn't that much fun.
I realised that swimming indoors now just doesn't bring me the same joy as my open water pursuits. Happily, now that the temperature is steadily going up, currently at a balmy 12.5deg, so I am able to do some swim sessions in the Serpentine which are over 1,000m. So, open water swimming will go on the list as one of my 'Covid Keepers'.
Having completed a total of over 2,500km, I would now have just passed the city of Barranca in Peru. Just north of Lima, this is a small coastal port with its economy largely based on fishing and agriculture. It is also host to the Albuferas del medio Mundo -coastal lagoons with high bird populations & rustic restaurants which run along a beach which is several kilometers long.
So it is very fitting that I would be in a location dominated by it's site on the coast of the Pacific Ocean as I enter a very 'watery week'. Not only has my swimming distance increased, but I managed to partake in the 'Paddle and Pick' session which had been rescheduled from a frosty 2 weeks ago. It was very poignant that we did this on World Earth Day as it involved paddling along the Thames around the Kew Bridge area and clearing. up the plastic and litter along the shores and water. I was amazed to see the effect of things like plastic bags on the environment, wrapping themselves tightly around tree branches, and stubbornly entrenched in the ground around them.
In fact we got so distracted that our attention was broken by a passing rower who alerted us to the turning tide which was moving some of our paddle boards from the shore. And guess who's had actually drifted out into the Thames? Doh! Thanks to the nice rower who rescued it for me 'as a thank you for the work you are doing'.
It was such an amazing time to be on the river though as the sun was going down, and there was such a wonderful feeling of calm. The silence was possibly only broken by me trying out my new voice activated gadget with commands of 'GoPro, start recording' and 'GoPro, take a photo'.
And of course I had to share a little video of the paddle. Some adjustments need to be done to where I have the camera from my various box of attachments, and the 'slo mo' section wasn't intentional, but I kind of like it.
Of course I couldn't resist also taking it out on my weekend bike ride with my cycling buddies. I will spare you the endless videos of that, but I am super impressed with the quality of the images it captures and am loving my new toy! Next challenge is to try it out during my open water swimming....
Well how did this happen.....I'm 53! It doesn't seem that long since my 50th birthday party, and I'm so grateful I managed to celebrate that in a room choc full of people, which seems like a strange concept now.
In a week where I was aware I had been training quite hard, I gave myself permission to ease off a bit as a 'birthday treat'. But then I realised that most of the things I really enjoy particularly involve being outside cycling or swimming and so still I racked up just under 160km this week and the breakdown is looking like this:
The discipline I did cut back on was running, possibly prompted by an eventful one at the start of the week where I had to 'break in' to my partners flat complex by climbing over some very tricky 8' high security gates which had locked shut when I was out on my run. I learned something here - those spiky elements on wrought iron gates aren't just for decoration and can be very difficult to navigate! I am still half expecting the a clip of me perched on top of a column looking worried before I dropped over to the other side to appear on "You've Been Framed".
And so real life can be just as exciting as pretending you are in another continent it seems! Speaking of which, having covered just over 2,400km, I would now be around the town of Pomabamba in Peru. Known as the 'City of Cedars' this town is located on the left bank of the Pomabamba river and is a popular resting spot for trekkers.
But the best part of the week had to be my many forms of birthday celebrations. It's not everyone's idea of a perfect day to start it with strength training on Zoom with a friend from Aberdeen, and then go on to cycle a round trip of over 55km to swim in the Thames and then meet friends at Regents Park. But it did involve some of my other favourite things too: friends, cake, cava and cute dogs! We were appreciative that our little lifeguard dog at Teddington doubled up as a perfect hand warmer after what was a chillier swim than we expected. I'm not so sure pure little Mira appreciated my cold hands on her and was probably thinking I should keep my distance. But then in every other way social distancing was being observed, even by the slices of lovely homemade carrot cake!
We took advantage of the latest easing of restrictions to actually go OUT for dinner!
It was exciting to put on proper footwear (not trainers) for the first time in months, and get the tube into Green Park to a great little Lebanese restaurant where we could tell everyone was as delighted as us to be back to some sort of normality (albeit still eating with my jacket on. Then the next day it was snacks, cava and cakes on Hampstead Heath with some friends, and a very red face for Ian and I, who never quite remember that it doesn't take much sun to do that to our Scottish skin.
And then there was the highlight of it all, the best present ever from Ian.....a GoPro!!
Not only that, but a case choc full of adapters of all types to use with it so that I can record all of my adventures, and I can't wait!!
After last week's spell of summer-like weather, the past seven days were in stark contrast with temperatures plummeting to -1deg!
I think I might have cursed it last week when I was getting changed at the Serpentine and commented that I felt 'cheated' that I wasn't shivering. Well not only had the water temperature dropped by a few degrees this week, but my swimming costume and flip flops froze to the ground when I took them off. The shiver factor was well and truly back!
Sadly the change in weather also put paid to the introduction of the fourth discipline in my challenge - paddleboarding. I had booked a 'paddle and pick' session on the Thames which would have meant I was not only getting some more mileage on the water, but also clearing the river of plastic at the same time. Ah, but it wasn't to be. The organisers rang me on the morning of the session to say that it was 'too cold' which made me chuckle having just spent 20 minutes swimming in it! BUT, the session has been rescheduled for 2 weeks' time, so fingers crossed this challenge which is currently stubbornly remaining as a triathlon will get a boost then.
The distances this week are looking like this:
I was also pleased to be back at the 'Be Fearsome' bootcamp in Hyde Park this week. Following the recent easing of Covid 19 restrictions, we are once again able to join the early HIIT/HIRT class on Wednesday. All socially distanced of course, it was great to be able to do my strength training around others. The photo above shows that the chilly 6.45am start was worth it for the view of the sun coming up over the Serpentine.
By now I would just have passed the city of Cajamarca in Peru. Situated in the Northern Andes, 2,750m above sea level it is known for its numerous examples of Spanish colonial religious architecture, beautiful landscapes, pre-Hispanic archaeological sites and hot springs in the nearby town of Baños del Inca.
Yet again there are few similarities between Cajamarca and London in terms of climate. Apparently in that part of South America over the course of the year the temperature rarely goes below 3deg or above 21deg. Whereas in London we have gone both below and above that over the course of one week!
And with 2,254km completed I am now officially one quarter of the way through my challenge. My next milestone will be next week when I hit my 53rd birthday, eek, how did that happen!?
This is a week that made me happy for many reasons!
The clocks going forward meant that the days seemed brighter and longer, and we actually had two days which seemed like summer at an unseasonable 22deg.
But the main excitement had to be that the latest easing of Covid restrictions meant that outdoor swimming officially opened up! So instead of a 3 hour round bike ride to Teddington, I could pop down to my lovely Serpentine within an hour. It was SO good to be back and what's more the temperature was now actually just tipping into double figures too! I could hear the shared excitement as the members giggled and even sang as they got changed after their much awaited Serpie swim. That's one thing about Covid, it really makes you appreciate the simplest things in life.
Having said that, I have made some really good connections during my swims in the Thames, so I couldn't resist a Good Friday trip back there. Well worth it if even just to meet myself in dog form - this is Dash in the video below (Dash by name and by nature) endlessly diving into the river enthusiastically after his ball.
So my totals this week are looking like this, with the swimming distance now creeping up:
Swimming 3.06km (whoop!)
It also sees me reach another milestone of covering over 2,000km which is a satisfying feeling.
This would see me arriving at the town of Bagua Grande in northern Peru. Known for its agricultural trade, the economy is based on the production of very high quality rice, corn and coffee. It is affectionately referred to by the locals as Coraźon de Amazonas (Spanish for 'Heart of the Amazonas') due to its location. Set on a hillside by the river Utcubamba, means that it is warm and rainy for a good part of the year. Yet again my challenge doesn't quite match the local conditions in London where we fluctuated between a sunny 22deg one day to anticipating snow in the next few days!
However, all being well, that riverside location might just come into play next week as I (hopefully) add a fourth discipline into my challenge which for the past 3 months has definitely been more of a triathlon than pentathlon. Watch this space.....
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.