2017

Boy did I cycle that year, in fact it started at the end of 2016. All I could think of was to beat Cullen Goodyear at the Ironman World Championships the following October. I was on a mission.

Then,  somehow I ended up in  Flanders in April with eighteen experienced cyclists  from Weymouth.  This was a chance to see the Pros and then ride the course ourselves with it’s notorious cobbled hills.

I was way out of my depth and yet again came a ‘cropper’.  It was after lunch, inattention, chasing the faster guys and on a cobbled cycle path.  My left buttock blew up like a balloon and turned black. A grazed knee nearly down to the bone. But it was fortunate it coincided with my appointment at the tattoo parlour upon my return – so out of the water for 4 or 5 weeks.

Swim sessions were still down to only two a week with Weyport Masters.  I had cut out the late Wednesday session as I found with my training for the Ironman it was just too much.

Although one hour sessions, I frequently only swam for 45 or 50 minutes, often taking time to get in, chatting and generally procrastinating.  Unlike in September 2016 when I had been so motivated to get my swimming back on track, after breaking my collar bone, that in addition to full one hour pool swims, I happily did several two hour open water swims a week, albeit in my 2mm sleeveless wetsuit.  And in 2006/7 for my previous Channel swim I was always first in the pool and last to get out and did many extra sessions.

All bode well when I caught a cold early in 2017 and happily had a winter dip in the sea just in my costume (something I used to do all year round) to relieve the symptoms and boost the immune system.  So once the Spring came, I’d be in the sea regularly, or so I thought!

Spring and summer came, but try as I might – could I swim barely more than an hour in open water.

As with all sports its about 20% physical and 80% mental and it was so true in this case.

My head kept telling me I was cold and no way could I continue.  Despite the sun being  out, husband on the beach with feeds ready, and even keeping my wet suit on, each time I did one circuit of the Tower and back I got out, unable (unwilling) to continue.   It was a round trip of less than two miles.   I didn’t even get to do a two hour swim.

I was cold – I had convinced myself it was because I was now a stone lighter due to the triathlon training – down to just below 9 stone – but in truth it was my head – I just could not get myself motivated.

However, once in Kona my swimming felt good in the clear warms waters.  I also took the opportunity to book a session with swim coach Karlyn Pipes – what a lady – look her up – amazing.  She lives in Hawaii but travels the world coaching swimming, which is when I first met her in London years previously.

Karlyn Pipes www.aquaticedge.org

The 2.4 mile non-wet suit swim went really well in lovely clear water with the fish and turtles – but I saw non of these as I had perfected my drafting.   I was in a sea of bubbles for 1.2 miles to the turning point where I then latched onto one swimmer just a tad faster than me and I got a ‘tow’, following her feet, all the way back to the beach.  I beat my previous times and the ‘new kid on the block’ in my age group by less than two minutes.  Phew, that was close.  Then I smashed her and all the others on the bike – I had achieved my aim and thoroughly enjoyed it the whole experience – unlike the previous year.

I’m at the front, about to be swum over !
No chance of seeing the turtle this year

A  cycling holiday was booked in Tenerife for November so I promised myself that in the New Year I would have to seriously start swimming – but would I be able to – would I be motivated to ???????

 

Swimming Preparation 2016 for a 2017 Attempt

July 10th 2016 saw me in a pickled heap on the verge by a roundabout nursing a broken collar bone.  It was the end of a cold and damp ride where I had continually had to work hard to keep pace with the guys. I lost them when we got back to Dorchester and should have called it a day, but ‘red mist’ clouded my eyes and my brain and I ‘went for it’ down the hill onto the roundabout in order to catch them up which proved to be much tighter than I anticipated so I chose what I thought would be a soft landing.

What a mess !

That was three months prior to my second attempt at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.  In my first, the previous year I had come 3rd in the 64-69 age group.  Being a Moto GP fan (motorcycle racing) I was not deterred as when my hero Lorenzo had similar injuries he was back racing in less than two weeks – I had months – no problem!

My specialist was rather sceptical to say the least but he did prioritise my operation for a metal plate and was much more supportive and positive when I went back seven weeks later for a routine check.

Walking, hill walking, jogging, turbo training (indoor cycling) were all possible, but swimming was a ‘no no’ until the middle of September when I tentatively competed in the Weymouth 70.3 (a half Ironman) that I had already entered and paid for.

Fell walking for two weeks in Scotland after the op

Despite everything the Channel swim was still on the cards for 2017 until I was in Kona, Hawaii for my second year  at the Ironman World Championships.

I had trained hard, I had moved up an age group, now in 70-74, so it should be ‘easy’.  How wrong could I be?  It was my hardest race ever, I was in a very black hole on the run and swore I’d never do another.  Despite that I beat the two women who had come first and second the previous year but they were still in the 65-69 age group.  I had not bargained for a phenomenal cyclist in my age group, Cullen Goodyear,  who left me standing and I ‘only’ came second.

Then serendipity took over – of all the thousands of volunteers, who should I chat with but someone who knew Sue Oldam, the then current oldest women to swim the Channel and apparently she was aiming to swim it again in 2017.  But being a year older than me – I wouldn’t get my title back – not that that was the only reason to swim it.  Well, perhaps it did help to motivate me.

Also, after a couple of days I had recovered from the race and resolved to come back and beat Cullen.  Little did I know there would be a ‘new kid on the block’ to beat – and beat them all I did.

In addition I hadn’t managed any long swims that summer, as I had done in the year previous to my last attempt.   So …………………..the Channel attempt delayed to 2018 with some long open water swims planned for the summer of 2017.

Cullen Goodyear the winner and myself, we parted as friendly rivals.

 

 

Why Am I Doing This ?

At 20:53 on the 25th August 2007 I stood up on Cap Blanc Nez in France with my daughter beside me having just accomplished a child hood dream.  I had swim the English Channel in 15 hours 11 minutes.

Nicola, myself & husband Nic after the swim in 2007

 

In doing so I had also become a World Record holder being the oldest woman to do so, at the age of 60 years and 10 months, narrowly beating Sue Oldham of Australia by one month!

Knowing that after such an event with all the build up and preparation comes an inevitable ‘low’  and I was sure Sue would try to get her title back, I immediately vowed to try again when I was 65 in 2012.

But my heart wasn’t in it and I had no inclination to ever swim the Channel again.

However,  a life changing moment turned my life upside down  when  I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in September of 2012.  I suddenly ‘woke up’, “Life is for Living” and within a millisecond I resolved to swim it again, but would do it at 70 with my chosen charity Cancer Research.  Oh, and in that same millisecond I decided to buy that new Triumph Tiger 800 that I had test ridden a few weeks previously.

Through all the checks I was also diagnosed as having osteoporosis,  I said I was fit as I swam regularly but  apparently I needed an impact exercise such as walking.  I said,

“Running?”

“Yes that’s good but not recommended you might fall and break something.”

So I started running.

Well sort of, not far, not long, more walking and running.  At school I wanted to emulate Roger Banister.    Whilst the under 15 boys had the full range of races including the mile, as a mere female we were restricted to the longest being 150 yards!  Even as under 17’s we were allowed neither the mile nor cross country running.

Toward my half century I had started Masters swimming and accompanying my daughter all over the country for Biathlons I decided I could swim better than the Seniors taking plart so I took up running.  Boy did I cough as I trained for the 1 km sprint.  And that was the extent of my running until…………….

My first triathlon April 2014

Weyport Masters Swim Coach Kate Mason, (who I had thought was far too old  do the Ironman in Austria that she had bought for her husbands 50th birthday), eventually nagged me into dipping my feet into triathlons in 2014 with the view to eventually do an Ironman myself.

Secretly I had been rather envious of the triathletes running the streets of Weymouth, but cycling! ……. The thought of cycling ten miles, let alone up or even down the slightest incline horrified me.

As it turned out I took to cycling like a ‘duck to water’ – running was my nemesis which took over three years to master in what I thought would be the easiest discipline.  (Boy was I gobsmacked when I learned I was the first female over 70 to cross the line at the London Marathon 2018, I feel I can now call myself a runner.)

Kona 2017 on the Queen K Highway

Having qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 2015 – I was well and truely ‘hooked’ and my Channel attempt would have to be delayed a year whilst I chased the elusive World Title for my age group.

Third attempt 2017 I made it World Champion 70-74 AG