Thursday, 31 December 2015

End of 2015

I only managed to blog twice in 2015 which was a bit of a shame really as I achieved quite a few good things which would have merited writing about.  I never wrote up the day that I managed to swim under the hour for the first time only a fortnight after my two way Windermere, and I didn't write anything about my 3 half marathons, including what proved to be quite a spectacular PB at the first one in Bournemouth.  Oh well.

Anyway, if nothing else, it's time for the annual end of the year round up post that I have been doing for several years now in different blogs.  You can see what I wrote in 2014 here.

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Swam a double length of Lake Windermere; swam under the hour for 3.8k for the first time; got a job not working in libraries; went to a yoga class (and indeed Body Pump, Body Attack and Body Balance classes although these were only attended a couple of  times); slept in a VW camper van on Tristam campsite in Polzeath; started taking trazodone; had a course of CBT; had my hair dyed.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Last year's resolutions were:
1. A two way Winderemere swim - achieved this!
2. Plank a day in January - didn't achieve this, maybe give this another go in 2016?
3. One sugar free day a week for at least 6 months - did and didn't achieve this.  There were a reasonable number of sugar free days but not
4. Raise £2246 for Mind - yep!  And more!  I think the total for this year was £3105 by the time I had held another crafternoon too.
5. Engage with CBT and get discharged. Mixed success here - tried to engage with CBT, proved to be wrong therapy at wrong time, got discharged from the AMHT anyway.

So, goals/plans for 2016.
1. Complete a marathon (umm, might actually have entered more than one and the Atlantic Coast Challenge)
2. Plank a day in January
3. Keep up with yoga
4. Try to do a sugar free day a week
5. Read more books than I read in 2015 (I'm up to 222 as 2015 closes)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No - we're obviously through the peak that was 2013!

 4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.  But I was sad that David Willcocks did.

5. What countries did you visit?
Spain (Tenerife).

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I feel like I have finally achieved the better mood that I was hoping for at the end of 2013 and 2014, I'm still hoping for a little more zen.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
5th July - two way Windermere swim
17th August - was very unwell
17th November - started new job

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Completing a two way Windermere swim in July in 10h46 minutes - well under my target time of 11 hours despite not great weather conditions.

9. What was your biggest failure?
At times, being in control of my depression rather than it being in control of me.  Plus the many job applications that I submitted which didn't even get me an interview.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was pretty lucky with regards to not getting injured despite the huge training load in the first 6 months of 2015.  I did get some tendonitis in my right elbow which still hasn't really gone away.  Otherwise just a few niggles.  Thanks to my amazing sports massage lady for making sure that niggles didn't get worse.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Without doubt, my reindeer dressing gown.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Last year I said my GP, and I think that she can have the credit again.  After being discharged from the AMHT at the end of June, I became very unwell in mid-August.  There was talk of sending me back to the AMHT but she ended up managing the situation in primary care and I felt a lot more cared for than I had been under the AMHT.  Sadly she left the practice in November to move to Australia in the New Year.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The Tory government towards the NHS.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and swimming related things (costumes, pool memberships, cost of 2WW swim)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My new job!

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Ooh, this is hard, not sure there is anything especially stand out this time around

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?
probably a bit richer in that a bit more of the mortgage is paid off.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Trailing around various NHS establishments.  This totally applies again, although it looks like 2016 there will be less trailing around now that I am on 2 month scripts and 3 month follow ups!

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my husband.  My parents on Christmas Eve, over to the inlaws on Christmas Day for a bit.  Home alone with myself on Boxing Day.  Same again in 2015, seems to work well as an arrangement although I would love to have Christmas at home together

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Carried on being in love.

22. How many one-night stands?
Absolutely none.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Enjoyed Bake Off again; otherwise watched random things on iplayer.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

25. What was the best book you read?
Things that got 5* on Goodreads were: Skeleton in the Cupboard by Tanya Byron, Miss Carter's War by Sheila Hancock, The Biscuit Girls by Hunter Davies, I let you go by Clare Mackintosk, Irrelevant Experience by Spatch Logan, Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, The Mistake I made by Paula Daly, One by Sarah Crossan, Five Farthings by Monica Redlick, Tricurious by Laura Fountain and Katie King.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I loved the Sunshine from Leith film and spent most of May and June listening to the soundtrack.

27. What did you want and not get?
I think I was pretty lucky and got most of what I wanted in the end. 

28. What did you want and get?
A new job! Discharge from the CBT.  Happier wedding anniversary memories (I was very unwell on our wedding anniversary last year).  Bit better from depression!

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
We loved The Lady in the Van.  "Would you like a cup of coffee" "Don't go to all that trouble, I'll just have half a cup".
At home, I loved Sunshine on Leith which I'd not seen before.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 31 and it was also Good Friday.  I had a nice swim in the morning at Ferry Pool with Helen, then Becci came around and brought me cake and a cushion shaped like a biscuit, then I lay in bed for a bit before we went out for a Starbucks and to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2 at the cinema.  It was a bit of a miss (the film), but it represented an achievement for me to get out on a day off rather than just lie in bed.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I would say not having had 9 months of depression but I don't think the respite from the depression would have been so much more satisfying without it.  I should have liked to complete my first length of Windermere in the two way in under 5 hours however!

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?

33. What kept you sane? 
Swimming and running and finding a new job, plus my GP and in the earliest part of the year, G-the-care-coordinator.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The future of the NHS.

35. Whom did you miss?
As ever, missed my beautiful friend Emily.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Met Helen properly in 2015. 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
"Not to take good mental health for granted, nor to expect everyone to understand mental health issues.  You'd think I might have learnt these lessons previously, but it turns out that I hadn't.  Hopefully they will stay with me a bit longer this time."

- wrote the above in 2012 and I still think they are a valuable lesson.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I get knocked down, I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down...
Must have quoted that in a previous year but I do like those words!

Or how about a bit of Elton John - I'm still standing, after all this time...!
39. So in as few words as possible, how would you sum up your year?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Post Windermere Blues

On Saturday night I had a lovely dream about doing a Two Way Windermere again, we ate ice creams on the way and when I finished it felt truly celebratory.  As time passes from my Windermere swim, I do increasingly get a sense of achievement from it, but I also find that I can barely remember any of it apart from the embarrassing meltdown at the end which I still feel embarrassed about. I keep finding out more titbits about the swim whenever I talk to H at the pool in the mornings but it almost feels like a dream in that I can't recall any of the details. At least I have my special trophy.

Despite another amazing success last weekend (needs a separate post) I feel pretty flat and directionless. 3 weeks since the swim today and I struggled mentally (and possibly physically..) to swim 5k in the pool today. And I'm the girl who swam many many pool swims in the last couple of months of 10k and more.  I'm struggling to gather my thoughts about this - I've got plenty of things coming up to look forward to, I need to get quality swimming in as there is less time available for swimming.

I guess it doesn't help that there are other things preoccupying me. I put on some weight in the run up to the swim and after it and shaking it off means a bit less surplus energy which might have affected my swim this am. I'm struggling terribly with the thought of the end to my reduced hours at work and having to try to function 5 days a week which will inevitably compromise my ability to do anything at weekends.

I'm not sure I've written what I hoped to write, but it's something.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Two Way Windermere

 I haven't really blogged this year which is a shame as I have been preparing for a really big swim and it would have been fascinating to have a record of what I was doing and what it felt like.  But I'm here now to summarise some of the training and write a little bit about the day.

2015 so far
2015 saw me start some new medication which has on the whole been pretty helpful.  I also, finally, after 15 months on the waiting list, got my CBT.  However, the CBT has been hard work, and although I think in general things are a little bit better than this time last year (evidenced by my discharge from the AMHT at the end of June), they are still bloody difficult.  As ever, having a challenge to focus on got me through some sticky spots and even helped me with some good patches.  I've been fortunate that work let me reduce my hours last November which has also been helpful; unfortunately this can't be permanent and I am back to full hours soon which I am dreading.

Training for Two Way Windermere
I have always found doing plenty of volume comforting for long swims, knowing that if I can get the kms in then I have a good chance of success.  However, with such a long swim it did mean that the longest efforts had to be broken over several days.  It also needed to be mixed up a bit:

January saw me at a Swim for Tri Fitness Bootcamp where I swam nearly 17k across 2 days - all good quality work under the eye of Dan Bullock.  January finished out at 120k.

In February, I went to my annual swim camp in Tenerife (above with two of my swim twins and the lovely Boo), where I added onto the beginnings and ends of sessions to get in more km-age and finished up the week with a pool 10k.  That really boosted my confidence. February finished out at 111k.

March was just a keep on plodding month; finishing at 111k again, but also incorporating some running.  In April I attended another Fitness bootcamp, but really struggled due to mood issues and ended up leaving early.  However, the following weekend, I was back and completed 5 x 5k swimathons across 2 and a half days!  I PB'd twice, taking my best 5k pool time to 1:20:21.  Not bad given that really I was concentrating on volume!
In May, the openwater season kicked off and it was absolutely freezing!  However, I was anticipating Windermere being cold so I just needed to get on with it.  It was not very pleasant swimming outside in May.  However, I raced my first race since 2013 - in 11C water! - a 3.8k distance, and whilst I was 40s outside the time I wanted to get (under the hour...still eludes me...) I got a second place which I was very pleased with [I'm looking forward to doing a bit more racing soon].

May and June were basically big volume months.  I struggled to get enough lake time, so there were a lot of very long pool swims - including all the way up to 17k in a 25m pool (genuinely not as bad as it sounds).  I did get the opportunity to do a 5h swim in the lake which I really enjoyed and didn't feel that tired after.  I regularly split the 33k distance of Windermere across 3 days (well, often it was 35k) and that made me feel a bit more confident.  I was a bit worried about the water temperature but entirely out of my control.  May and June came in at around 175k each month; I found myself needing sports massage every week and the occasional osteopathy treatment, but in the main I mostly stayed in good shape.  The end of June saw the training suddenly fizzle out as I was exhausted; it was taper time anyway so I tried not to worry too much about it.

I was due to swim on 8th July, however, like last year, the weather had other ideas.  Luckily, like last year, Colin from Chillswim who was taking me, was very flexible and made sure that the best possible day out of the not such great options was selected which was Sunday 5th.  This necessitated some last minute changes to travel plans but on the plus side, it meant that I was able to slip off under the radar without too much stress as everyone was expecting me to go later in the week :)

The swim

We met at 5.45 ready to set off at 6am.  After all of the worrying, the temperature was pretty warm - it was about 18.5C at the start, going down to about 16.9C and must have been 19/20C back at the finish.  As well as Colin, I had my friend H and Mr Just Keep Swimming on the boat.  Mr JKS was in charge of in swim catering and communication with me, H was an extra pair of hands with that and in charge of communication with the outside world.  I was also raising money for Mind with my swimWe set off pretty soon after 6 from Waterhead, the water was incredibly still. My arms were very fresh for the first hour, second hour was a little flatter and then I had an excellent third hour, the highlight of which was being asked if I'd got lost from the triathlon which was also going on on the lake!  I was feeding on the hour for most of the way; first feed was water and breadsticks (I was feeling sick from excessive sugar consumption the day before), second was water and breadsticks, and third was water, banana and breadsticks. 
I said brightly at the 3 hour feed, I'd be jolly happy to get to the other end in 5 hours - and I really think that would have been on the cards but the weather deteriorated and was against me which made for a very hard 1.5 hours which also seemed really cold.  However, I switched to hot chocolate feeds which were lovely! I hit the turn point at 5h6 mins, which is about 11 mins slower than my one way PB. I did a tumble turn (obligatory) and then we turned around... I felt ok at this point as with 17k left to go that was a distance that I had tackled before. However soon after that my arms started to feel sore and by about 7 hours into the swim they were really painful.

Along the way, the team put some of the Facebook and Twitter messages on a white board for me to read. Until the end when I was shouting at my arms, I wasn't thinking about anything much, I looked at the scenery, but when I got the messages I took the time to think about the person, how I knew them and to send them positive thoughts which I hope got through.  I never found it a tough mental challenge, I just knew that I needed to keep swimming and that as I had completed such thorough training, I would be able to do it.
From hour 8, I started feeding on the half an hour and I switched to coca-cola to try to give me a bit of a boost.  I also had some sweets at around hour 8 which helped me through the only patch where my blood sugar felt a bit wonky.  It did get pretty tough the further I went at this stage as my arms were so sore.  The last stretch did seem very long and I felt compelled to ask Colin if he was taking us the shortest route possible (sorry about that!); we seemed to be hugging the western shore for longer than I was expecting!  However, eventually I saw the Low Wood bay hotel, and the Low Wood bay where I swam the Great North swim in 2009 which all kind of started this outdoor swimming malarkey.  The crew told me it was a mile to go and apparently I picked up my pace a bit.  But no sprint finish like when I did my one-way!  I was still really struggling and with 500m to go, I asked how far it was.  I misheard Mr JKS and thought he said 400m to go.  100m later with 400m to go, I stopped, accused him of lying and said that I couldn't swim any further.    The crew managed to persuade me to keep going, and I did a little breastroke as that was easier on my shoulders, before a bit more front crawl.  I then stopped again and burst into tears and said that I didn't want to do it anymore :(  My arms just hurt so much.  I did however finish, or I probably wouldn't be writing this.  10:46:41 and it was all over.  I couldn't even swim to the shore but had to be pulled onto the boat...

I was expecting to feel as jubilant as I had done after my one-way.  It felt like a bit of a damp squib to be honest after that meltdown in the final throes of the swim.  10:46:41 is really a pretty good time, but apart from a few odd moments I haven't felt especially excited.  There are a few wow moments, such as when we drove from Ambleside to Windermere as part of the trip home and I was looking at the small bit of the lake that we went past (which is pretty big) and when I saw the photo at the top of this page which H took on a walk the day after.  It's difficult to work out what's post event blues and what's the b***** depression really.
My arms were so very sore on the night after that I could barely wash my hair and I couldn't dress myself.  We had some lovely fish and chips to eat and then went to bed, but my sore arms kept me awake a lot of the night!  Bizarrely I didn't feel that hungry for the next couple of days, the hunger kicked in only on Tuesday.  Tuesday am saw me back in the pool, but still unable to properly lift my arms which meant breastroke and kicking on my back only!  However, after a sports massage on Tuesday afternoon, I was able to do a front-crawl motion as soon as I got off the couch, and Weds am saw me alternating 50m FC with 50m breastroke and swimming 2.5k.  This morning, I felt almost back to normal although I did throw in a bit of breastroke as my right arm is still a bit sore and completed 3k in a fairly good speed.  My mood is still pretty low but my appetite has settled and I'm kind of glad that the swim was much earlier than planned as much more time to recover before going back to work, where I need my arms!

What next?
I am pretty sure that I have got Very Very Long Swims out of my system.  17k is FUN FUN FUN; 33k is not so much.  I think anything up to 25k would be enjoyable, probably with a bit less training than I did.  Less painful but still challenging.
I'm taking it easy now for a bit and planning in some non swimming things - I've been making loads of cards the last couple of days and am hoping to start some yoga.  Mr JKS and I are going to give Stand Up Paddle Boarding a go, and we have our first non-sports-event-related trip away in several years to look forward to in a few weeks.
However, I have a number of races entered and if I can get some speed back, maybe I can get that elusive sub 1h 3.8k...I'm looking forward to being back in the lakes to swim Coniston again in September, and I am wondering about an Ullswater swim for 2016... watch this space.  I also have a space in the Brighton Marathon for 2016 so some running is on the cards.

Thank yous
Colin Hill did an excellent job as pilot with a perpetually cheery expression and didn't get upset when I asked him if he was sure that we were taking the shortest route home.  I really recommend Chillswim for doing a Windermere swim!  H stoically sat on the boat in the pouring rain without a loo for 11 hours in order to prod frustratedly at various phones to get a signal and communicate with the outside world. Last but not least on the boat and probably the biggest part of team Verity, Mr JKS who put up with being called a liar, mixed lots of hot chocolates, passed out sweets and breadsticks and generally was all around super husband both on the boat, during the training and whilst I've been unwell...
Thanks to Liz D who helped coordinate communications from home despite being poorly; thanks to Martin Boddie and Daniel Bullock for Tenerife swim camps and fantastic coaching, the results of which you can see in the video that Colin posted, thanks to Paul Smith for being my wingeboard over the last few days, thanks to Joanne O'Donovan from Complete Massage Oxford for prodding my arms back into shape on a weekly basis, and Ben the osteopath from St Clements Osteopathy for fixing the really broken bits, thanks again to H and my other two swimming twins V and F for their moral support and company and huge amounts of fun in the pool this year, K for organising the 5h lake swim and all the people like A who do safety support at Queenford.  Thank you to M at Mind for all the support with fundraising. And thanks to everyone who is reading this for their support, whether you have sponsored me today, whether you bought and ate cakes or helped to make them (like B!) whether you have left kind messages, or whether you have put up with me being flaky from the combination of depression and very long pool swims.