Sunday, 22 June 2014

An award-winning short story as submitted to the Colliers Wood Arts Festival competition. Beginner's luck!

She shivered again.

Shuffling her feet to keep warm was tricky in four-inch peep toe sandals. Sideways glances from the polar bear doormen didn't help how self-conscious she felt.

She drew her thick fur coat around her shoulders more tightly. She clicked open her clutch bag with acrylic talons to retrieve her phone. No messages.

Flicking her blonde hair away from her face with a practised move she surveyed the busy road through her lashes.

Groups of friends were making their way to bars arm in arm, taxi drivers hovered by the kerbs waiting for the next fare and young families hurried into warm living rooms to escape the chilly night air.

She checked her phone again. Nothing.

He had text earlier to say he was looking forward to it. She hadn't replied, wanting to play it cool, now she was wishing she had in case he didn't show. Getting ready she had been careful to look like her profile picture – young, carefree and soaking up the sun with friends and cocktails in ready supply. She couldn't help the lack of sun tonight but she had had a few cocktails already, to take the edge off her nerves.

Where was he? She loved this coat, it was so warm. Mink was a real statement. She only saved it for special occasions; dates, a night out with the girls or movie premieres on the arm of a celebrity millionaire. One day, she sighed. For now she was stuck with trying to find love online.

She hoped he would turn up.

Emerging from the tube station Jack paused. He could see a familiar looking woman shuffling nervously from spiky heel to spiky heel as he ducked behind the crowd. Was that her? It couldn't be.

That woman had a fur coat on, it couldn't be her. He was sure they had discussed his work as an environmental campaigner, he knew they had. She wouldn't wear a fur coat to their date, surely.

He shook his head in disgust.

He couldn't go out with someone who would condone the killing of innocent animals for fashion.

He looked again at the dead beast on her shoulders, imagining the blood dripping down the lining and onto those ridiculous shoes and nearly threw up. Was it a deliberate dig at him?

Plucking his phone from his pocket he looked again at her profile photo. It was her. God. She was much older than her picture, more … tarty.

Sighing, he thought he hoped she would have been different.

He turned, letting the crowd take him back underground and on to the next tube home, hoping the next date would be better.

Monday, 2 September 2013

We did it!

I can't believe we are now triathletes! It's official, we have done a triathlon, so we are triathletes.
Now, the day after, we are amazed at how little we ache! All that training definitely paid off, and I am so glad we did train, as without those extra bike rides and swim sessions I would not have got as far as I did.

James did it in one hour 14, and was 11th overall in the men's category of 61 men so he did really well. I did it in one hour 44 minutes and came in the top 50% for women, so I was really pleased with that.

Now for the dissection: The swim was more of a flail as I tried in vain not to kick others in my lane. There were five of us squished in there, all going hell for leather in a bid to be first out, each in a different coloured (skin tight) hat to identify us to the marshals.
People were over-taking each other at the end of the lane, and marshals called out when people had two - of sixteen - laps left. The swim part was fine really. I was really nervous before as it was the first event, and I made friends with a lady that looked more scared than me. We later saw each other on the run, so it was nice to catch up and compare notes as we jogged along. 'Jogging along' makes it sound quite idyllic but in reality I was exhausted by then, had a stitch and my calf muscles were tightening, making it very labourious.
After the swim was the first transition. I ran out of the pool and into the huge transition area to collect my bike from the rack. My transition time was pretty good, although in the second one (bike to run) I nearly left with my helmet on so had to turn back.
I enjoyed the bike stage, and this is where our legendary family and friends were amazing with their cheering as we went past. I started half an hour before James, so we didn't get to bike together but we did see each other on the route once.
It was quite a hilly route at times although there were some nice downhill bits where I got a leg rest and picked up speed. Hazards included members of the public and tree seeds or something on the ground, that made parts of it a bit bumpy. I did get congratulated by a man who was walking in the park for getting up the hill, which was nice.
The marshals along the route were fantastic. There was one lady particularly on the run route who was lovely, and really helped to encourage me when I was flagging. They were all really enthusiastic and encouraging, calling out to us as we went past, and I tried to say thank you to all of them.
Despite feeling completely exhausted afterwards, I really enjoyed it. The support from family and friends was amazing, and to think we have raised nearly £1,000 has made it all worthwhile.
The best bit was crossing the finish line. There was a man with a microphone who called you by name and was really encouraging. With everyone cheering and the fatigue after the race, I wanted to cry at that point but I held it together just in time to get a free massage and a handful of cakes in the registration area.
I never thought I would be able to do a triathlon, but now I have I think I could do anything if I put my mind to it.

The technical bit:
Swim - 12mins 33 seconds (personal best)
T1 - 2mins 54 seconds
Bike - 44mins 22 seconds
T2 - 1 minute 19 seconds
Run - 44 mins 8 seconds.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A little too close for comfort

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who has sponsored us so far. We have reached our £500 target, but to be honest I'd love to get up to £800 if I can - is it too much to ask for a few more quid? Pretty please?
Here's why.
On the day we will be running, swimming and cycling alongside wheelchair users, who have been given the opportunity to take part alongside able-bodied people on a level playing field, and I think that's a lot more impressive than what we are doing.
Plus we have been training for literally months now, and feeling ready to take on this beast. We have been injured, recovered, and it has been a lifestyle change for us because we have been taking on more exercise and different sports that we were perhaps only vaguely familiar with before.
I have never pretended to be the best at any of them, or the quickest, but as it gets ever closer I am proud of what we have done so far, and just hope to make it round in one piece (and in a semi-decent time, or I'll never hear the end of it!)

The tri suit got an airing in Wales this month too. As part of the ongoing training we ran across the beach and went for a swim in the sea as well. I love it, it is so comfortable to wear! It will certainly make things easier on the day. By the way, spectators are welcome, just let me know if you'd like to come.

I have been taking advantage of my press connections to spread the word, of course.
I had a piece published in my paper the Surrey Herald this month with the picture James took below, which has lead to a few contacts on my patch giving donations. That was the plan, so that's good. We have a photographer coming from the South London Press this weekend too (Saturday 24th)for a piece on our fundraising, as they cover Crystal Palace and Wimbledon so it's doubly relevant for them. James isn't keen on the attention but it's my day job so I'm happy and as long as it boosts our total it will be worth it.

Here it is again:

Sunday, 28 July 2013

All the gear and still no idea

Now that we are just over a month away from the triathlon, it is getting a bit close for my liking.
The training is plodding on but we are both a bit bored of doing it now and are looking forward to having the autumn off and a week long holiday in the sun afterwards!
In actuality we probably won't be able to have the whole of autumn off, as we will quickly put on weight if we stop going at the level we have been. A happy bonus of all this training has been weight loss, but I have definitely noticed that I have been getting a lot fitter as the months have gone on.
Today for example I tackled a b*stard hill on the bike that I always get off and walk for. This time I didn't stop or get off, not once. Now whether this is fitness or stubbornness I don't know but it seemed like a milestone to me.
This was part of an 18k bike ride, and a jog afterwards - that brick thing again.

Some good news is that the fund raising is well underway and we are already up to £350 (£412 with Gift Aid) so we are well on the way to our £500 target. Thanks to everyone who has donated so far, it really helps give us an extra boost in the training to think we are raising so much as well. I know we can surpass the £500, so fingers crossed.
A cake sale at work was a particular success and thanks to everyone who enjoyed the many cupcakes, cakes, cookies and slices to help raise £80.01!
We have so much more training to do, and talked about putting all three disciplines together at some point soon - something I am not looking forward to.
But before we know it the day will be here, and it will be too late.
To sponsor us, visit the website on Thank you!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Bricking it

Now that we are less than three months away from the triathlon we are making more of an effort to push ourselves in training. That is why I made the ludicrous decision to go swimming today and then run the two miles home. Just like that I had done my second brick!

We have learnt so much about this type of event in the last few months, and ‘brick’ is one of those terminology things we just chuck out there every now and then, along with ‘transition.’ A brick is when you do two or more disciplines simultaneously in training, obviously.

I had a good swim today – sometimes I don’t enjoy it and struggle to get very far without tiring, but today I did 44 lengths - 44! I did the race distance (16 lengths) in 14 minutes (yes I was checking) and carried on, with a few breathers of course.
The run was tough with my bag and the wind against me, and I seem to have pulled something in my lower leg. This same thing seems to happen after a long run, so may need to get it checked out.

A few weeks ago we had a triathlon training day run by Leonard Cheshire Disability in Crystal Palace where the event is being held on September 1st. I was nervous as I thought it would be a bit of a shock to the system, a reality check, but I really enjoyed it and so did James. We learnt so much about triathlons, including the rules, and tips, and we got to swim in the actual pool and cycle partly round the actual route. I even got a free triathlon suit – yes I have caved! I was not sure what to wear on the day, and at the training session I tried one on and it wasn’t as horrendous as I thought. It is cycling shorts and a top all in one, with padding in the rights places for the cycling, and made out of material that is quick-drying after the swim. It was really comfortable! And no, there will be no photos on here.

We finished the day looking forward to the event, and feeling a bit more confident that we knew how to get the bikes off the racks properly and line up our shoes and towels in the ‘transition area’ to make things quicker when we come out of the pool and try to get on the bikes super quickly.

Speaking of bikes, I was too late to order a hire bike for the day so presumed I would use my £50 Gum Tree mountain bike. But today I had a go on my dad’s road bike, which is slimmer, lighter and quicker than the mountain bike, so I think I will use that. As long as I can get used to it in time – it is a strange feeling to be so far forward and on such a thin frame and wheels, so I will need to practice.

In conclusion, things are ticking along well, although we still have a lot of work to do. On the to-do list (along with everything else...) is to start our fundraising, so hopefully we can count on your support. :)

Monday, 6 May 2013

Putting it together

This weekend we did an accidental 10 mile bike ride, then added on a jog at the end - why the heck not.
But now we hurt, but are secretly a bit pleased that we did the 10 miles without realising. That's the length we have to do on the day, and the reason we didn't know is because we didn't plan the distance before we went so we merrily biked along then looked it up online when we got in.

And I must say, it was alright! The problems began when the jogging did.

I got as far as the park (half a mile maybe?) then lay down on the grass, exhausted. Having re-gained some breath I managed to get my jog on and caught up with James who was a bit ahead. But then glory of glories, he said he couldn't go on, so I got out of finishing the circuit!

Unfortunately his shin pain had come back so we didn't think it was a good idea to continue. I was very happy to go back, as I was ready for a rest, so go back we did.

But now we have technically put two disciplines together, and although the second didn’t last long, it’s a step in the right direction.

Getting out for the run after the cycle made me want to quit the triathlon. There, I said it! It was really hard and I don’t think I am fit enough yet! Will I ever be fit enough? Ok, I have seen some improvements over the months but it’s difficult to measure.

A couple of days on and I seem to have pulled something in my lower leg, as it hurts a bit when I walk. Let’s hope it’s all ok by the weekend, as we have a triathlon training day at the actual venue on Saturday. Then we will really see what we are in for.

Wish us luck!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Swimming hats and spinning.

Now the weather has started to pick up and I have had my puncture fixed on my bike, there is no excuse not to ride around town this weekend. But I need some cycling shorts! Essential kit for serious triathletes ... and me.

So far I have seen some expensive ones, some far-too-tight lycra ones, and some that are cleverly disguised as normal shorts. If those weren't £50 I would get those, but I am hoping to find some cheaper ones elsewhere.

Despite being away for the weekend last weekend, we managed to lug ourselves to the hotel pool for swims in the mornings. Feeling quite dedicated and pleased with ourselves, we even got swimming hats, which we attributed to the super quick speed we completed lengths in. It was probably more that it was a much shorter pool to the one we are used to, but let's stick to the hats.

The running has slowed up a bit recently. Admittedly I was too hungover to join James on a Saturday morning run this weekend, but endeavour to do better next week. I did however go spinning last week. It was really tough on the legs, but I felt good after. It was worth the pain and amazingly I didn’t ache too much after!

I think spinning is a good way to build up my legs before the triathlon, especially when I don’t seem to have time to get out for a proper bike ride. Now the weather has perked up, it is a lot more likely we will be taking to the saddle once more.

Friday, 29 March 2013

A confession

I confess it has been a few weeks since my last post. I could make some excuses- all of which are true, such as work has been hectic, the weather has been terrible, and weekends have been busy. This adds up to the sorry conclusion that our training has slowed a little since last month, for the reasons aforementioned. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Plus we still have six months, so plenty of time.

But you will be pleased to know that my ankle is completely healed. Taking it easy for a few days seemed to do the trick, as well as the ice and elevation jazz.

So far I haven’t had any other injuries just the odd aching muscle, touch wood.

Today was quite a momentous day in preparation terms. I got my bike puncture fixed! Now there’s no excuse not to go out riding, but I’m sure I’ll still be able to think of a few. I had been putting it off for months, then completely forgot to do it. I have no idea about bikes so I didn’t know what type of inner tube to get, or that I even needed an inner tube, but again thanks to James I finally got it sorted.

Getting it sorted involved wheeling it over a mile to Halfords, and the kind man there sorting it (for a small fee!)

In other news, James ordered himself a triathlon suit. I admit to being very unsure about it. I haven’t seen it on yet, but I am sure it looks great. The thing I worry about with a female version is how unforgiving it is. I imagine the lycra doesn’t do one any favours, but it seems like a practical thing to get. Another problem is when else would I have cause to wear it after the event? A fancy dress party? Unless we go on to take on other triathlons of the world, it may be an investment too far.

I will hold off on getting one while I peruse the options. What are everyone else’s thoughts on what to wear?

Lastly, we had more than 420 hits last time, so thanks for reading, and good luck with your own training!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Not sure what to call this one

I am currently sat on the sofa with my ankle resting on a chair and it has an ice pack on. Yes, I have a sports injury - a real one! Does this make me a proper athlete now?
Last Monday when I went running I twisted my ankle and for a few days afterwards I had pins and needles in that part of my ankle. This didn't ring any alarm bells because I thought I wasn't being active enough, and pledged to go out for a walk on my lunch break, or at least go for a lunch break. After some advice from someone who knows about these things I put it on ice and elevated it and it was fine. Until tonight.
Another run and although I didn't twist it again, the pins and needles have come back, so now so has the ice pack. Brilliant in this freezing weather. Not.
Holler to my friend Mike who has just done a 31mile ultra marathon with Tendonitis. Now I feel lame...
But it hasn't all been doom and gloom. Swimming is going well and we're looking forward to getting out on the bikes when the weather gets better.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Transition pondering

Velcro trainers or no Velcro trainers. Now there's a dilemma I didn't think I would have past the age of six. But I have been weighing up the benefits of the former for The Day, as Triathlon day has now become known. Apparently there have been many books written on the transition from one discipline to the next, and although I have never seen let alone read such a volume, I figure that Velcro will knock off a few vital minutes of tying shoelaces, surely. Do they even make adult trainers with Velcro? No idea.

What I also have no idea about is whether it is acceptable to swim breast stroke in the swim stage. After another swim today where we managed almost one kilometre (one kilometre!) in the pool, I found it a lot easier than front crawl and a lot more relaxing.
Front crawl often resulted in being a lot more worn out after a length, as well as getting the odd mouthful of water along the way. Others in the ‘medium lane’ managed it a lot more gracefully than we did – arms dipping smoothly into the water and the fish-like flicks of their legs hardly rippling the surface.

On the run front, a bad cough is preventing me from going out, but James has been a few times.

A quick thank you to the events team at Leonard Cheshire Disability who have been promoting this blog on their Facebook and twitter pages.

As a reminder, here's what we're doing:
TriTogether. The triathlon is in aid of Leonard Cheshire Disability. It is on Sunday 1st September 2013 at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in south London.

Swim: 400m
Bike: 15km
Run: 5km