Hooray, the sun finally came out this week! And then inevitably it poured with rain a few hours later, but hey, there was a glimpse of summer for a day or two.
The break in the weather offered an opportunity to get out paddleboarding again and in true nnoodl style (gently encouraging others to try new things) I managed to persuade my cycling buddy Giovanna to give it a go too.
She took to it literally like a duck to water, and continuing that theme, we were rewarded with this lovely image of a swan gliding by with her little cygnets on her back!
The paddle along Regents Canal contributed 5.6km to my overall distance this week of 185.8km. The breakdown looks like this:
This total distance of 3,564km would have be arriving at the town of Azangaro, quite a notable location in terms of Peru's rich history. The colonial church in Azangaro, known as the golden temple had a bell tower which exemplified colonial decorative adobe before its collapse due to rain disintegration. The gold interior of the church is a magnificent example of rich colonial art.
In the adjacent Plaza San Bernardo, Pedro Vilca Apaza was drawn and quartered for his role as a General in Tupac Amaru IIs attempt to liberate Perú from the Spanish government. His last words were, "Por este Sol aprended a morir como yo." (Translated as "For this sun that shines on us, learn to die like me") After Tupac Amaru II's execution, leadership of the revolution shifted to Azangaro.
My final piece words of wisdom came unexpectedly as I was cycling through Richmond Park on my way to my weekly Teddington Thames swim. I was aware of a group of men cycling behind me talking about the weather, wasn't it great that the sun was out.
I immediately tuned into a Scottish accent as one guy said how great it was to have his legs out as 'back home we hardly get the sun on our skin, it is like alabaster'. I chuckled to myself recognising this as I was wearing my full length leggings to hide my white legs. Then, as we peeled off in different directions at the junction I saw that the guy who had been talking had a prosthesis from his knee down on his left leg. It really gave me food for thought. How insignificant are our insecurities about our bodies, around things like legs that are too white/too big etc. I should be proud that my big white legs are strong and can carry me for miles of challenging hills and kick me through endless cold swims.
And now, to round off another month, it is time for my 'Coach's Wildcard Challenge'!
What could it be next, after hill climbs, weighted walks etc.? Well this is proving to be the hardest for me yet. Coach Tom. for weeks has been advising me that I have been putting in too much mileage. Not only am I hitting my interval and heart rate sessions on the bike and swim in expectation of an aquabike event, but I am also adding in the K's on the bike to get to and from swims etc. His challenge? "Reduce the mileage by at least half next week, and make sure you include the fifth discipline of the pentathlon (i.e kayak)"
Arrgh, why does the thought of this freak me out more that the others? I recognise that I have become slightly obsessed with the distance factor and I must admit that my body has been feeling it. But the thought of doing LESS is psychologically difficult for me to comprehend. Added to that, I need to find a kayaking opportunity pronto....
Watch this space!
It feels like this week has been a case of 'rinse and repeat' from last week, quite literally given the quantity of rain that fell!
Just to add insult to injury, a photo memory popped up from this time last year when I had managed to swim for the first time in over 8 weeks when the Victoria Docks Open Water swimming centre opened. The air temperature was 27 degrees and the water was 20 degrees. Not a Dryrobe in sight as I got changed in the sunshine, very unlike the howling 40mph winds gusting by the Serpentine after a 13.5 degree swim this week.
What is going on??
Very similar distances in just three disciplines again this week as I covered a total of 205km, looking like this:
Running: 5.3km (still going easy on this)
As I become more aware of which disciplines are bringing me joy this year, I am going to concentrate on aquabike (swim/run) events when the opportunity arises, so my mileage is all money in the bank here.
With a total of 3,390km now covered I would be just past the city of Cusco in Peru. This is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and is known as 'The Navel of the Earth'. It is as if time stands still with curious little streets with names like "Coffin", "Siete Culebras" (Seven Serpents) and "Harpies". It is also home to the only South American camelid 'theme park'. Camelids cover the family which include the llama and alpaca so often associated with this part of the world. The Awana Kancha, is a beautiful textile and camelid exhibition centre which displays the beauty of this family of animals and also showcases the products obtained from them through a combination of traditional and modern techniques.
If only I was actually there - having reached the milestone of now having completed a full 365 days learning Spanish on Duolingo I'd be feeling pretty confident speaking with the locals!
So what is this 'Mind over (waste) matter all about? Well about 15 minutes into a swim in the Thames at Teddington this week, a lady came over to the water to speak to us. As she seemed a bit concerned, we thought it might be about the river flow which was high again for the first time in months and causing that 'endless pool' effect. But no, it was to let us know that there was sewage coming into the river just upstream, likely to be in this area too. There was a moment where Nerina and I looked at each other slightly concerned and then said "Are you getting out? No, are you? Definitely not!" We had another 15 minutes of swimming to do! So off we set again saying how it might be immune boosting...?? Three days later and I haven't got dysentery yet, so I hark back to my old mantra that if you don't think it will make you ill, then it probably won't.
And besides I'm pretty sure the Thames harbours all sorts of stuff like that most of the time, best not to think about it!
Mind over matter came up again this week when my good friend Dawn led me through a Yin yoga session to demonstrate her newly acquired teaching skills. These stretches, held for long periods of time are definitely what my body needs and I really felt the benefit. Although I think my mind has a lot to get over before it can get into this pose she demonstrated. Yes, she is so low to the ground, you can hardly see her, nice one Dawn, I will work on it!
Here's hoping for some better weather next week, maybe then I won't have to do 67km of my cycling going round Regents Park at 6.30am on a wet Saturday morning...
Well the week got off to a positive start as I had my second Covid jab, and I have to say even as an events specialist I was super impressed by their efficiency at the local vaccination centre. It's not often you can say you have had an appointment of any kind completed 10 minutes before it was due!
Yet again the weather was very up and down for training, however I managed to get one run back into my training as my achilles seemed to have settled down a bit. I even managed some additional shuttle sprints at a bright and early HIIT class in Hyde Park.
Sadly the timing of the rain (as in, nearly every day) meant that the paddleboarding took a back seat again this week. But I still managed a respectable total of 200.5km.
The distances look like this:
(Hillwalking with a bike 2km....)
I was delighted to have at least one of my swims in the Serpentine before the clouds broke, and luckily had my new friend the GoPro with me to capture the mood. It is moments like this that really make me love open water swimming so much. Even the next day when it bucketed down with rain and I sought refuge under a temporary BBQ station by the lido to try and keep my clothes dry. I still loved it!
With a total distance of 3,186km now covered, I would be approaching the world famous area of Machu Picchu. Shrouded by mist and surrounded by lush vegetation and steep escarpments, the sprawling Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site on the continent.. This awe-inspiring ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards and was virtually forgotten until the early part of the 20th century.
But of course much as this archaeological gem is very much on my hit list, there isn't much chance of me actually being there anytime soon. There, was however a rather intriguing set of hills which I often pass in the car en route to my partner's in High Wycombe. Northala Fields is a park located in Northolt consisting of four artificial hills overlooking the rather salubrious A40. Perhaps I could set myself a mini adventure to get there?
So on a very wet Saturday morning (yet again) this was my destination. Despite it's location, the best bike route there was along the Grand Union Canal path which is always a nice change from the London traffic. And in fact the rain even stopped for all of 30 minutes!
Some helpful signage gave me the opportunity to finally find out more about this intriguing site. Apparently the hills were constructed using rubble from the demolition of the original Wembley Stadium in 2003. The name ‘Northala’ is how the old manor of Northall (Northolt) was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086.
The rain once again started to close in as I wheeled and carried my bike up to the summit of one of the hills. Well, it had to be done, even though I knew what view was awaiting me at the top. Kind of surreal to feel like you were hiking, but with the sounds of major traffic whizzing by! The fun continued as I decided to take a 'short cut' back down the hill. I now saw why the winding path was a better option than skidding down a vertical muddy path holding onto a bike!
As if the week wasn't exciting enough, the highlight for me had to be my latest video conversation. Very topically, being Mental Health Awareness Week, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, highly acclaimed sleep and energy expert and author. I met Nerina purely by chance just a few months ago when I was swimming in the Thames at Teddington. Joining her for a cold water swim and a chat has become one of the highlights of my week, and it was great to be able to speak to her 'properly' (ie not shivering on a riverbank) and hear some of her wonderful insights and tips.
It's been a weird week! Sunny one minute, freezing cold and hailstones the next. It reminds me why there is a saying where I am from of “Ne’er cast a cloot till May be oot!”
I believe it also translates across various dialects in the UK to basically not taking off too many clothes until May is over.
Sound advice this month, even though I did finally take my neoprene gloves and hat off for my swimming this week. In my mind the water was 12deg, even though I was informed that the temperature in the Serpentine had actually dropped almost two degrees over the past few days. I am a great believer in mind over matter - if you think it is cold it will be!
Much as I would have loved to incorporate some paddleboarding this week, time was against me as much as the weather. Something else conspiring against me at the moment are my hormones, which amongst other things made the idea of running not that appealing. The more research I am doing into this area though the more fascinating I am finding it, and going with the flow of what my body wants.
My total distance this week is still a pretty respectable 183.3km, and breaks down like this:
I was also pleased to be able to finally put my TRX strength training qualification into practice and delivered two coaching sessions this week to clients.
Yet this mesmerizing colonial city has a dark past. Its name, originating from the Quechua aya (death, or soul) and cuchu (outback), offers a telling insight. Ayacucho’s status as isolated capital of a traditionally poor department provided the breeding ground for Professor Abimael Guzmán to nurture the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist revolutionary movement that caused thousands of deaths in the region during the 1980s and 1990s. But the city’s historically poor links with the outside world also fostered a proud, independent spirit evident in everything from its unique festivals to its booming cultural self-sufficiency.
It was also a positive week in terms of wrapping up a three week event for Circle (the Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities). Using a highly interactive platform we managed to create some great stage, breakout and exhibitor networking sessions. It was fascinating to hear the content from academics across the world speaking on topics around caring. I was delighted to hear the resoundingly positive feedback on the event and to hear comments like 'it is the best platform I have used'. This past year has been a never-ending learning curve but outcomes like this make it worthwhile.
So through all of the ups and downs, I remind myself of my resilience and soldier on!
Waking up to the wind howling and the rain battering down on Saturday morning I gave myself a blast of 'Titanium', one of my favourite songs and pushed myself out the front door. It might have been a very different experience to this time last week on the paddleboard, but it's all good (and you can't really use a GoPro on a turbo trainer!)
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.