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6 Jul 2009

Week Nine

Week nine has has been enlightening and enourmously satisfying. On Tuesday evening I joined forty or so other serious looking 'tri-be's' in Hampstead Lido for a swimming session organised by the Serpentine club. I had been put onto the session by a colleague and it was with some trepidation that I headed up after work on Tuesday evening complete with wetsuit and a growing sense of terror. I rolled up on my trusty commuter bike in jeans and shirt to be greeted by possibly THE most arrogant and self procrastinating Antipodean I have ever met. It turned out that swimming was his strongest discipline and he regulalry left the water in 7th or 8th place only to drop several over the course of the run and bike to finish 10th overall, horrible for him I'm sure.

Admittedly as more and more carbon fibre began to arrive so too did a number of green looking newbies such as myself and I began to relax somewhat. There was no way I was backing out so I got stuck in and started chatting with a few of the regulars. It soon turned out that superman couldn't have been further from the norm and everyone else I spoke to was supremely friendly, approachable and happy to share their experiences. Having received a free swimming hat we struggled into our wetsuits in the blistering heat and slipped into the beautifully cool water a mere sixty metres from the deep end. We were told to align ourselves depending on 'speed' but a bit unsure as to the standard (and characteristically under pitching myself) I stuck to the slower end.

We warmed up with 10 lengths which in itself scared the beejesus out of me but once I settled down they slipped by quickly enough and after a few sprint lengths we set off for the main session of six sets of five lengths or 1800m. We ploughed up and down until before long began to pass each other mid length as everyone settled into their own rhythm. At first this was horribly unnerving as green heads and flailing arms appeared out of nowhere but I soon got used to it and despite a few near misses and head on collisions I finished my set unscathed only to be told that along with a couple of others I had finished too early for my end of the pool and must continue. Obligingly I ploughed on for another 6 lengths until we were stopped (with several down my end not even having completed the desiganted number) and although pretty tired I was chuffed I had done so well. We continued with a few sighting exercises before finishing on start practice which was ridiculouusly good fun as we were told to just go for it and kick like crazy. I started relatively near the front and gave it the beans and managed to avoid being swum over. Result.

The final distance tallied something like 3,300m over an hour and a hlaf and barely able to lift my arms to wriggle out of my wetsuit I struggled slowly home with water pouring from my rucsac and down the back of my jeans. It was a bizzarely satisfying feeling. I was utterly destroyed and felt great for it and will be back next week for sure.

The rest of the week saw me running at lunchtime on the hottest day of the year so far, a really silly idea, another pool swim and then a cycle to Brighton with friends. Although we took it relatively easy I made sure I was the first up Ditchlin Beacon (on my old mountain bike and not Jessica I might add) and that I pushed myself on every hill. On arriving in Brighton we stripped off and cooled down with a quick dip in a sea that lay as still as a mill pond. As the others headed out to dry off I went for a 'quick swim' deciding that the open water practice was too good an opportunity to miss out on. I struck out to the edge of the swimming area with relative ease and although most was done with eyes clamped shut (no goggles) I was able to practice sighting my target bouy and arrived there unscathed. The return swim however was slightly more eventful as I began to feel the effects of the tide pulling me sideways towards the pier and panickingly slightly swallowed a load of salty water mmmmmm. I changed course to run parallel to the shore and was soon able to stand up in the shallows wishing that I hadn't gone out quite so quickly and glad to be back with pebbles under my feet.

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