Monday, 16 February 2015

Conquering the dreaded swim

I've always admired, envied even, the people you see at the pool powering effortlessly up and down the lanes. Sadly, I've never been one of them.

Even though the swim will be the smallest part of the triathlon, it's the part I'm dreading the most. It's fair to say that I am not, and have never been, a good swimmer. In my younger days, although I played in school netball, rounders and hockey teams, I was never, ever picked for swimming.  In fact, the only time I was chosen for anything swimming-related was for neat breaststroke in the inter-house competition. Obviously that doesn't count!
The open water venue on a February morning ... brrrrrrrr

At the beginning of last year I started to teach myself front crawl, a skill that has always eluded me. This was not entirely my choice as knee surgery to fix a torn ACL meant I wasn't allowed to do breaststroke for a while. So, off I went to the pool armed with a kickboard borrowed from my seven year old and a strategy to copy some of the drills I'd seen him do in his swimming lessons. Sure enough, as the weeks and months went on, my technique began to improve and my breathing started to get a bit easier. It's taken a while but I'm quite proud of the fact that I can now swim front crawl. I'm not brilliant at it, but it's a start.

I have now decided to take it to the next level and have started coaching sessions with S4 Swim School to improve my technique and stamina. I've had three sessions so far and (I never thought I would ever say this) I'm actually enjoying them. It's £12 for an hour-long session which, although it's not cheap, is definitely money well spent. The sessions are tailored to our individual needs and goals and there have never been more than two swimmers to one instructor so it's almost like private coaching!

In my third lesson I did a timed challenge to see how far I could swim in five minutes. I was exhausted at the end of it but I managed 200 meters. It might not sound much but I was happy with it and it gives me a benchmark to work from. The aim is to double this to 400 metres in five minutes by the end of the eight-week course. Perhaps a little ambitious but it's something to work towards!

So far so good, but there is one drawback - my triathlon swim won't be in a pool but in a lake, a whole different, scary ball game. The thought of being surrounded by other swimmers (and their thrashing arms and legs) and not being able to touch or even see the bottom fills me with apprehension. What if I panic? What if I can't get my breath? What if the water's choppy? What if I get kicked or hit? These are just some of the questions preying on my mind about the open water swim.

Some open water practice sessions in the Spring will hopefully help dispel some of my worries but I will need all the encouragement I can get to conquer my fears. Please consider sponsoring me to give me a boost - click here to go to my fundraising page. Thank you.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

My triathlon challenge for Pregnancy Sickness Support

The challenge

In July I will take part in the City of Birmingham Triathlon, my first ever triathlon, to raise money for the charity of which I'm a trustee, Pregnancy Sickness Support.

This is a BIG challenge for me and it's way out of my comfort zone. You see, I have never been a swimmer, a runner, or a cyclist.

At the beginning of last year I couldn't swim front crawl at all and even now I am pretty mediocre. I have never swum in open water and, to be quite frank, the thought of swimming in a cold lake without the security of a lane rope to grab terrifies me. I haven't been on a bike much in the last few years and as for running, well, at the beginning of last year I could only jog for a couple of hundred meters at a time.

My embarrassingly low level of fitness is the result of a knee injury which has plagued me for over 20 years. However, after surgery to reconstruct my anterior cruciate ligament, I began a programme of physio in 2014. Gradually, I started to run a bit (gingerly), swim a bit (slowly) and ride a bike a bit (in the gym). Little did I know it at the time but this was the start of my triathlon journey.

Inspired by my wonderful son, who completed his first triathlon last year at the age of 7, I have decided that 2015 will be the year that I complete my first triathlon. I will do this to raise much-needed funds for a charity close to my heart.

The charity

Although a nation-wide charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support receives no external funding and relies entirely on donations from kind individuals. It is desperately in need of funds to carry on providing support and information to women suffering from the relatively unknown condition, hyperemesis gravidarum, and to improve the medical care they receive. I have suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum twice and so I understand only too well the devastating impact of the condition.

How you can help

I can't quite believe that I am planning on doing my first triathlon at the age of 42, particularly having been inactive and unfit for so long. I have been working hard over the last year but I know there is also a lot of training ahead of me.  I know that I will be spending many lonely hours over the next few months in the gym, in the pool, running or cycling and I will need all the encouragement I can get to keep me going.

You can keep up to date with my progress by following this blog.

If you would like to support me in my efforts, you can sponsor me by clicking here. Thank you.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Swim, Bike, Run for Pregnancy Sickness Support - Give it a TRI!

I have set myself a challenge for 2015 and I need your help.

The challenge

I am going to take part in my first ever triathlon to raise money for Pregnancy Sickness Support.  It's a cause that means a lot to me as I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) during both my pregnancies and I am now privileged to be a trustee of the charity.



So why a triathlon?

I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone and, believe me, a triathlon is definitely that!

It also seems fitting that, after suffering from HG for three very long and tough trimesters, I will be putting myself through three gruelling disciplines as part of a triathlon. But if my body can survive HG (twice) then I figure I can cope with an hour or two of pain in the triathlon!

I have never been a swimmer, a cyclist or a runner and so this is going to be a BIG challenge for me.


How can you help?

I do not want to do it alone. I want a team of amazing HG survivors (and anyone else who wants to) to join me in doing their own Swim, Bike, Run for PSS.

It's not as daunting as it sounds.

Many events have a shorter distance fun or super sprint event for people like me who have never done a triathlon before.

Lots of events have a pool-based swim so there's no need to worry about swimming in a lake if you don't want to.

It doesn't matter if you have never mastered front crawl  - breaststroke is absolutely fine.

If you really don't fancy doing one of the disciplines then there are many duathlons (bike and run) or aquathlons (swim and run) you could do.

You can even enter some events as a team with one person completing each leg.

Check out the Go Tri website which is aimed specifically at novices wanting to have a go at a triathlon and which has details of some shorter events.

So, what do you say? Will you give it a TRI and join the Swim, Bike, Run for PSS?



Friday, 14 November 2014

Royal College of Midwives' Annual Conference 2014

On Tuesday, I attended the Royal College of Midwives' Annual Conference, representing Pregnancy Sickness Support with my fellow trustee, Caitlin Dean (aka Spewing Mummy). It was my first ever RCM Conference and it was a great (but very tiring) day.



From 9 o'clock in the morning until after 6 o'clock in the evening, Spewing Mummy and I talked, and talked, and then talked some more to the delegates as they wandered past our small stand. I soon lost count of the number of times I had explained that PSS gives support and information to sufferers, has a volunteer peer support network and online forum, provides education to healthcare professionals, carries out research into the condition and so on.

By the end of the day my legs ached from standing up all day (with only a quick sit down for lunch and to fold more information cards when we ran out of supplies) and my mouth was dry with talking. But it was a day very well spent. The Conference was a fantastic platform for the charity. We were able to speak to hundreds and hundreds of midwives and student midwives and increase awareness of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and the charity.

Spewing Mummy
It was a really positive day, with the vast majority of midwives and students being extremely receptive to what we had to say. Many had not heard of Pregnancy Sickness Support, but they listened and willingly took our information cards away with them to hand out to any sufferers they come across on their ward or in the community.  We also made some great contacts with some of the other exhibiting organisations and charities.

Charity Chick
Sadly, there were also a few not so positive comments, such as the lady who professed to understand what it's like to have HG and then added  "... my sickness always kicked in at 3.30pm when I was driving home". Sorry, love, if it only kicked in at 3.30pm (and you actually managed to drive anywhere) then you did not have HG! Or the young midwife in the queue for the shuttle bus who had bought a whole load of ginger lozenges for a friend who was suffering. When I commented that ginger wouldn't help, she added "well, to be honest, I think it's mind over matter for her". Grrrrr!

I am well aware that many sufferers encounter such unsympathetic and ill-informed attitudes from medical professionals but I had been fortunate not to have witnessed them myself. Thankfully though, these moments were few and far between at the Conference and the positive conversations by far outweighed the negative ones.

And in a strange way, even the negative attitudes have a positive side to them in that they reaffirm the need for the work that the charity is doing. They demonstrate that we do need to increase awareness of the condition and how to treat it; they demonstrate that we do need to do more research into HG; and they demonstrate that we do need to work with the medical profession to push for more HG day centres and home IV fluid services across the country.


None of these changes, which the charity is working so hard to achieve, can happen without financial resources. Sadly, the charity does not have very many resources, in fact it is largely run on a shoe-string by a small number of individuals in their spare time. This is why the charity campaign currently being run by Ebay could give us a much-needed financial boost.

If you would like to help us, you can do so by making a few clicks and "favouriting" Pregnancy Sickness Support on Ebay during November or December. It won't cost you anything but it could help us win one of the three cash prizes (£7,000, £3,000 and £2,000) that are up for grabs in Ebay's "My favourite charity" campaign. You will also stand a chance of being one of ten people selected at random to win £250.  It's very simple. All you need to do is click here for the Ebay leaderboard, scroll down until you see Pregnancy Sickness Support and then select the charity as a favourite.

 Please do it now! We need your help!



Pregnancy Sickness Support needs your help!


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Go-Tri Aquathlon

Now I must point out that I am not in the habit of wearing an all-in-one lycra suit, but as I stood on the poolside sporting my newly-purchased tri-suit, I was wondering what I had let myself in for.

I was about to do my first Go-Tri aquathlon organised by Stafford Tri ClubGo-Tri is an initiative set up my Triathlon England to give people the chance to take part in a triathlon, duathlon or aquathlon and is aimed mainly at newcomers. I have to say though that some of the participants looked a little too professional for my liking!


An aquathlon involves a swim plus a run. I had decided to sign myself up for it as a way of dipping my toe into multi-sport events before taking the plunge and doing a full triathlon.

First up was the swim which unfortunately didn't quite go to plan. Since January I have been teaching myself to do front crawl as my usual breaststroke was a no-go after my knee op. I thought I was doing pretty well, but it seems that swimming in a very small hotel pool alongside ladies who do not like to get their hair wet has lulled me into a false sense of security. It turns out I am not quite as competent as I thought I was.

Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the race environment, maybe I just set off too quickly to try and keep up with the speedy bloke in the next lane but I just couldn't get my breathing right and a little bit of panic set in. For a moment I actually thought I wasn't even going to be able to finish the swim. I discovered that panicking and front crawl don't mix and, after a taking a couple of large gulps of water instead of air, I switched to breaststroke to regain my breath and my composure.

It was then that I caught sight of my little fan club looking though the large glass window at the end of the lane. There was no way I was going to let them down. Spurred on by my children grinning and waving at me each time I swam in their direction, I made it to the end of the swim, hauled myself out of the pool and ran to the transition area to put on my trainers.

The swim had exhausted me much more than I had expected and I found the run really tough. My limbs ached, my heart pounded and I felt a bit nauseous but I pressed on. I was very relieved when I saw the Leisure Centre coming back into view as I knew I was nearing the finish line.


When one of the organisers asked me straight after the event if I had enjoyed it, I couldn't honestly say I had as it didn't feel like a lot of fun at the time. "Er, sort of", I replied. But now, looking back, I feel a huge sense of achievement that I did it. I was pleasantly surprised by my result - I didn't come last as I had feared might be the case - and I am even starting to think about my next one!

But it also made me realise that I have a long way to go before I am ready to tackle a triathlon and there is some hard work ahead. Bring it on!



Saturday, 11 October 2014

A girl's gotta tri

Earlier this year, I was looking for a goal as part of my recovery from knee surgery when I joked about doing a triathlon. Well, you'll never guess what. I have decided that next year I will actually attempt my first triathlon!

There. I've said it. It's in writing. So I can't chicken out now, can I?

Have no illusions though, I am no health-conscious fitness fanatic. Far from it. I have to force myself to go to the gym and I am just a little too fond of cakes and chocolate.

So, this is a pretty big deal for me and I will not find it easy. You see, it's not just a run, but a run straight after a gruelling swim and an energy-sapping cycle! I am out of breath just typing it!

This is not me!!

To show I mean business, I have decided to throw myself in at the deep end and have just signed myself up to do an "aquathlon" next week! For the uninitiated, an aquathlon is a swim followed immediately by a run. So it's two out of the three triathlon disciplines. And yes, you did read that correctly, it's next week!

You would be forgiven for wondering why I have chosen to put myself through this. Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, because I can.  It's over 25 years since I tore my anterior cruciate ligament and it has stopped me doing so much over the years. I feel as though I have been given a second chance and I have a lot of catching up to do. OK, I have to admit I was a little disgruntled to discover that I now fall into the veterans' category, but, hey, who cares?

Secondly, I am a firm believer in setting goals. When I was training for the Race for Life (my first 5k run) in June, I was so much more motivated at going to the gym and for a run. I need a goal or else there is a real risk that my new-found fitness regime will lapse and all the hours of physio over the last year will have been wasted.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to show my children that you don't have to be the best at everything, but you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it and work hard.

It's 12 months to the day since I was sitting in a hospital bed having just had my knee fixed and with a long road of physio ahead of me. Today, I start a journey of a different kind.

Let the training commence!