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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

ASICS FrontRunner UK Launch: Friends, Flying & A Canada Goose

You know how sometimes you get involved in something and you’re not sure how you get there? And ANY MINUTE NOW someone will realise you’ve somehow sneaked onto the invitees list?

Photo by ASICS

That was me this weekend.

I was at Manchester surrounded by inspiring people … all of whom appeared to be incredibly talented at running. And triathlon. And blogging.

And then there was me. Good at falling in hedges. Gets lost in car parks. I’m pretty talented at snacking though. Maybe that was how I made the cut.

“Gazz. We need someone who can eat 6 crème eggs in 10 minutes for our ASICS FrontRunner programme …”

“I know just the girl…”

Nah ... don't even like crème eggs. Honest.
After a rather lengthy journey on the M6 which involved several audiobooks, some dramatic sighing and eye-rolling at the traffic and lots of snacks, I arrived at the Britannia County House Hotel. Now I’d scoured the Facebook profile pictures of my ASICS team-mates and was pretty sure I could recognise most of them so long as they were wearing EXACTLY what they had on in the photo. I was hoping for most of them to be in either wedding dresses, lycra & mud or beachwear so I could make a positive ID.

One of the big benefits of being an ASICS FrontRunner is the amazing kit and I spotted Gazz and David  easily in the hotel fully decked out in ASICS gear and made my introduction. EVEN BETTER, I was promptly handed a black rucksack and loaded up with 2 shoeboxes containing some extremely pretty kit.

The black rucksack appeared to have the same magical properties as Mary Poppin’s carpet bag and from it came a huge amount of the most amazing apparel.

Yes. I know it’s pretty. No you can’t touch it. Its mine. MINE. 

No touching. Not even with your eyeballs.
I’m not much of an athlete compared to a lot of the ASICS crew (the only way I’d manage a sub 5min/mile is if I fell off a REALLY high cliff) but I like to think that I’m a useful team member at pub quizzes. Give me a drink, a pen and some interesting questions and I’ll be able to listen REALLY hard to the next team’s answers.

I was in a team with Nick, Jools, David and Marcus and despite having me as a bit of a handicap (and whose inability to keep quiet meant we had to have the questions repeated) we managed the top score in the pub quiz! Who would have thought that being able to identify famous Mancunians and know whether the high jump world record or the length of a javelin was longer would come in handy! See. Multitalented.


Saturday

I had to make a serious decision.

Lie-in and a frugal start to the day … or a run AND bacon and eggs for breakfast?

No brainer.

After a 6:45am start (I KNOW, right? We were all a bit enthusiastic!) and a short guided running-tour by Liz, we left the elite runners to a longer (and much faster!) run and came back to the hotel for our well-earned cooked breakfast. My coach had given me a rest day today so I planned on compensating for my extra miles with extra bacon. That’s how it works, right?

We had a busy day planned but first we had to entirely take over 2 tram carriages in order to get to Home Cinema in the centre of Manchester for 9am. With all of us in new ASICS kit, it looked like we were SO enthusiastic about Manchester Marathon the next day that we’d decided to get an early start ahead of the traffic. Can’t have all the non-organised people getting all the good gels …

We got to the Home Cinema and got straight to the exciting stuff. And finally it was revealed what the ASICS Frontrunners was all about. Every person in the room had been chosen because they were passionate about running and ASICS felt that they were focused and authentic.

*Blush*

I felt a bit special. And not in the way I usually do when I’m struggling to get out of a hedge I’d just fallen into or was being chased by a goose on a long run.


Special Guests

We also got to meet a special guest: Mara Yamauchi!! As you probably already know, Mara is the UK’s second fastest female marathon runner of all time with a PB of 2:23:12 (WOW!) and a two-time Olympian. She was incredibly inspiring especially because she didn’t become a full-time athlete until she was 33, before that she had to juggle running with working as a diplomat! I was far too shy to ask her any questions although we had a chat while waiting for the others to get some photos and she is not only incredibly speedy but also incredibly nice. 

Mara and Me!

I was totally starstruck as not only did I get to meet Mara, but also the legendary Ron Hill who set world records at 4 distances and was the 2nd man to break 2:10 in a marathon! Ron had recently had to break his 52 year run streak due to illness but prior to this had been running every single day!

It's Ron!!


Kit Overview

We got an overview of some of the kit we received from the ASICS experts. I was very interested in the shoes (as I always stick to the same ones for road running – the ASICS GT200s and I wasn’t sure whether I should be using them for everything) and also the sports bra (it’s supposed to be very cool with thin mesh while being high impact – expect a review from me!)

Check out how much bounce you get back from the shoes! The Gel-DS Trainer is on the left and the Noosa on the right. Which would you rather wear for speedwork?

video


The ASICS Frontrunners got a choice of FlyteFoam shoes for the launch, either the Noosa, Dynaflte,or Gel-DS trainer. The FlyteFoam is important as it’s 55% lighter than the usual foam and it bounces back into shape. The weight alone can knock crucial seconds off in a race.

GEL-DS Trainer - I chose the Gel-DS Trainer DS Trainer which was designed for overpronators. (Me and 70% of the population!) Designed for road racing but also have a dotted sole grip if you wish to use their lightness for speed or track work too. They also have a thick mesh to keep out the British rain!

Dynaflyte – Designed for 5k, 10k and speedwork. You can usually spot these from the shop doorway as they’re so bright. There’s a different design for different cities so if you’re racing Paris, Tokyo or Barcelona you can take the colours with you.

Noosa –Designed to be a primary running shoe – the one you’d do most of your running in on a weekly basis. They are perfect for triathlon as they were designed to keep traction on a wet surface such as in a triathlon transition (or British summertime!) and are the quickest drying of the 3 shoes. They also have a sock liner and an internal heel clutch so can be worn without socks.


Social

One of my favourite parts of the entire weekend though was having the chance to meet the other runners. Everyone started their running from a different place - had all been running different lengths of times, counted different achievements but everyone shared a passion for running whether it was road, mountains or over obstacles and it was so great to hear. I had an entire weekend of running chat – perfect!


C'mon SQUISH! We can all get into the pic!

Challenge Manchester
However, we were made to earn our dinner! We were split into teams of 8 and sent off with a list of famous landmarks we had to visit in order … and an hour to take an imaginative photo with each of them! Eeek! Lucky we were all into running as otherwise we’d be a bit short on time!

Our first location was the Manchester Town Hall which involved lying on the floor in various positions trying to avoid the glass on the cobbles. God knows what the locals thought we were doing but the tourists LOVED us. We even had an elderly Japanese couple taking photos of us. Possibly they assumed we were a troupe of particularly inept gymnasts.

My well-dressed toesies ... and the Town Hall

The next stop was the National Football Museum which is apparently the largest in the world! We immediately made a beeline for the kids playground and spent a happy 10 minutes on this (Becca appeared to be in her element!) before Liam reminded us all that we were supposed to be taking photos. We compromised by lying on the metal slide and pretending to be an S.


Becca's FAVOURITE thing!
We found the Brush and Shovel statue on Thomas Street. And were enveloped in clouds of smoke from the happy smokers sat around enjoying the sunshine. We took the photos before we developed the munchies and ran on to our next location in …

Piccadilly gardens! We were at a bit of a loss for our imaginative photo … then spotted a cake stall and all shared a chocolate brownie. Absolutely nothing to do with breathing in clouds of fragrant smoke at the last stop.

No idea what's going on. Core exercises?
Our final and most picturesque stop was the Wharf on theLocks pub. The sun had come out and we decided to get a lovely waterside photo of us all dangling our feet in the water … until an INSANE Canada goose decided what it liked best about sunny days was EATING RUNNERS! We took a very quick photo before fleeing the scene and leaving the pub diners to the mercy of Duck-of-Death.   



We looked at our photos and decide that for the win (this WAS a competition between the teams after all) that we’d suck up and spell ASICS with our bodies. Now this was a LOT easier to say, than to do and despite usually being quite fit and healthy, runners aren’t particularly known for being bendy. A passing traffic warden stopped to marvel at our idiocy and we patted ourselves down and pretended that weren’t trying to be letters AT ALL.

Photo by Petra McEntegart

Back to Pizza Express where I was so hungry I virtually inhaled my starter and pizza and back to compare photos with the other teams. I couldn’t help noticing that while theirs were beautifully executed with perfect composition … they hadn’t found the football museum playground OR been chased by an insane goose OR tutted at by a traffic warden. Therefore we should win by default.

The finished Masterpiece!  (Photo by Liam McEntegart)

No time for pudding (despite my begging!) as we were chased onto a coach and whisked off to a mystery destination! Indoor skydiving!

ASICS new campaign is ‘Don’t Run, Fly!’ and this was such an entertaining way of interpreting it! I’d never tried indoor skydiving before although it was something I’d always wanted a crack at so I was extremely excited!

I was in one of the last groups to go in so it meant I had a chance to watch the others try. It actually looked pretty tricky! One small twist or if you had your hands in the wrong position and you’d swoop towards the (thankfully soft & bouncy) floor or spin in a circle or potentially end up in an awkward grapple with the instructor.

Finally it was my turn! Flying suit – on! Helmet – on! Earplugs – in! Goggles – on!



The noise was astonishing. You had to kind of bellyflop into the air chamber where luckily a competent instructor was waiting to kind of guide my bellyflop into more of a glide so I could pretend I was flying.

It was AMAZING! And I was really enjoying it. I even seemed to be getting the hang of it. I was going higher and higher and then ...

I bumped the wall, tucked my arms in reflexively and dropped like a stone.
… Straight into the arms of the competent instructor who most have twigged early on that I wasn’t to be trusted with flying. And that I had all the natural staying-alive instinct of a lemming.

However, because my team won the quiz – we got an additional go! I could almost see the instructor rolling his eyes in his helmet as he prepared for more nosedives from yours truly, but I managed to stay mostly airborne and as a treat on the last go we got taken up to the very top of the air chamber in a swoop before finally exiting the chamber for the last time.

WOW! What an amazing day! And tomorrow … Manchester Marathon!!

[To Be Continued] … dramatic music …

Friday, 17 March 2017

Duck-Of-Death: The Scourge of the Warwickshire Canals

Decided I was going to have a long run on Sunday. London Marathon is creeping up and my miles run have been sadly lacking … well me. Running them.

The weather was perfect, bright and cool. The trails weren’t too muddy (except for one small section which I had to long-jump over – I like to think of it this as cross training) and I had the whole afternoon to just run.



Everything was going perfectly, until with the daylight fading I got to the 20 mile point. This is a long stretch on the canal, a bit muddy but a nice flat path. I was 2 miles from the end of my run and a MASSIVE dinner … until something glimmered whitely in the distance.


A swan. The scourge of the canal-side runner. And not only one, but two swans, one of whom appeared to be sitting on a nest. The closest swan spotting me in the dusk, arched its wings menacingly in the standard ‘I-will-kill-you-and-all-your-family’ way that swans do.


A swan. A bloody swan. 
I retreated. The swan smugly (it was practically smirking) sat down next to its mate on the nest and put its head under its wing.
Aha! Maybe it’s gone to sleep! I took a tentative step forward. No movement from Duck-of-Death. A second step … out popped its head.
Crap. I retreated again. What were my options? The canal was on my left, on my right was a very steep drop and a river. The drop was so choked with weeds and trees, I couldn’t creep around that way. I didn’t want to go back. It was a good few miles back and then I’d have to go onto major roads and take about a 6 mile detour to come back to this point and it would be full dark.
I eyed the swans. The one on the nest was about 4 feet from the canal, the other one about 3 feet from it. There were ducks sitting almost opposite the pair which if I tried to run for it might act as an alarm and make the swans go mental and eat me.
Argh! Decisions, decisions … and they all involved either death by swan, drowning in the (filthy) canal or running ultra distance in marathon training.
Maybe if I tried the creeping up thing again? I surreptitiously moved up the canal path, but the guard swan kept LOOKING at me. In a threatening way. In a “You just try it, sunshine” kind of a way. In a “I EAT joggers for ALL my meals” way.
I HATE being called a jogger.
I kept my eyes averted and kept creeping. I was now about 8ft from Scary Swan. I kept very still and it tucked its head under its wing.
GO GO GO!!!
Legs spinning and arms pumping, I flew past the ducks who clattered into the air, squawking their displeasure, the swans’ head popped out like a beaky jack-in-the-box but I kept going – expecting to feel the bite of a large bill across my arse any second! But I just kept going ...!
I turned back, still running to see it, large on the bank behind me but not catching me when I tripped over something grey and HISSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! In my shock, I jumped about 6ft towards the canal and nearly falling in just kept my balance while the Canada Goose I’d tripped over and it’s mate hissed and did smug duck face at me.
I bloody hate wildlife.

Enso Running Skirt: Feeling Like a Lady

Running through the industrial estate, the sky was overcast, the buildings grey … but I felt like I could have been on a beach. Why? Because I was wearing a running skirt. Just a little change to my usual run shorts, but it made me feel completely different. I felt feminine and pretty … even if I was probably covered in sweat and dust from the road, I felt like a lady.







Enso sent me their running skirt to review. I tried it on several mixed terrain runs and here is my unbiased review.

Mud on my legs from the trails!
Pros
  • Compression shorts underneath the skirt – so no worries about chafing or accidentally flashing a passerby!
  • It had a very flattering fit and clung in the right places and was looser in places I'd prefer it didn't cling!
  • I liked the design. It was longer at the back and more importantly had plenty of pockets Including 2 with zips for secure items such as keys and 2 open pockets which could be used for gels or a small music player.
  • I chose the blue skirt and it was a lovely bright colour, very summery! It made me feel like I was heading out to the beach rather than for a run!
  • The shorts fit nicely around the waist and hips but there's a drawstring for additional security around the waist.


Cons
  • It's quite short. I like this in a running skirt – I don't want to have lots of material clinging to my legs - but this could be less appealing to people who prefer to be more covered. There are cord ties to adjust the length of the skirt but of course this would make it shorter rather than longer!
  • Sometimes when I'm running particularly at night or in quieter areas, I like to wear more asexual kit, rather than something pretty and feminine. While I know that in theory I should be able to wear whatever I like whenever I like, I'm also aware that as a woman, running on my own I don't want to make myself a target. This doesn't necessarily apply to the Enso skirt in particular but to any running skirt.

The Built In Shorts - it's all one piece of kit

Like it? Available from here

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A Tough Old Day: Bikes Don't Run on Fairy Dust

At the start ... before the hills

A hill. Another stupid hill. I couldn’t even see the top of this one. My legs were aching from pedalling, my shoulders were sore and I was cold and wet from the wind and rain.

I was down to my last half a flapjack.

And then I did something I said I never would do.

I unclipped my feet from the pedals. Climbed off my bike and started pushing it up the hill. It was a mistake. I knew that immediately. My calves started burning, my feet in their cycle shoes were sliding on the leaves and debris at the side of the road and worst of all was the sense of disappointment in myself.

I followed the man in front of me who was also pushing his bike as other cyclists flowed around us. The blue jacket and wide shoulders obscured the view of the hill ahead and reinforced the feeling that the hill was a never ending spiral, fringed with high dirty verges. And that it was stretching higher and higher, making me work harder as a penance for being a coward and climbing off my bike.

I was NOT having a good day. I was on the 3rd of 5 hills in the Rawlinson Bracket, a sportive set in Warwickshire, a county not known for its horrific hills or large climbs. I was cold, wet from a shower of rain, running out of water and snacks and tired from a bug which had been plaguing me for far too long. Most of all I was sick of cycling.

However, I WASN’T sick of sitting. Nope. I was perfectly happy to carry on doing the sitting part. It was the having-to- work-to-get-the-bike-to-move part which was becoming tiresome. Also bike rides usually involved cake and I had seen NO CAKE. Just hills. Lots and lots of hills.

Stupid hills.

Everyone else seemed to be in merry little groups. Granted some of these groups were at the side of the road fixing punctures or having arguments over whose job it had been to pack the snacks and “Why aren’t there any KitKats, Gerald?!” but at least they had someone to bicker WITH. I knew full well it was MY fault I hadn’t packed any cake.

Me telling my friend, Rich off for not telling me about ALL THE MASSIVE HILLS. (He sped off and made it look very easy. Damn these good cyclists ...)
The route would probably have been very pretty if everything hadn’t been obscured by a layer of drizzle or if I’d been able to pedal forwards without feeling as though I was trying to go through treacle thanks to the headwind. While my logical brain told me it wasn’t possible to have a headwind the whole way around a looped course – my legs told it certainly was. And that the wind was doing it on purpose.

Stupid wind.  

And now I needed a wee.

I had seen no other cyclists for ages, just hedgerows and the occasional village pub out of whose windows wafted the most amazing Sunday Roast Dinner smells. I could be in the pub instead of on a bike like a dripping-wet, lycra-clad Bisto twin.

Just as I finished my last mouthful of water, I spotted a quill flag and about 100 other cyclists all piled into a damp looking carpark and pulled in. The feed station. Finally.  I refilled my water bottle (with water as there was no sports drink left) and the only food that was left was green bananas which I was recommended by the volunteer NOT to try as you needed a knife and some special ninja skills to open them. Possessing neither of these things, I left the green bananas to the next samurai.

I like to think I’m usually a positive person but I was struggling to find many positives today. Right. Have a think. I hadn’t been eaten by a T-rex. I still had half a flapjack left. I had reached this feed station before my water had totally run out …

At least there were toilets. I went into one of the cubicles and started the lengthy that is involved when you need a wee while dressed in bike kit. It’s like unwrapping a multi-layered Pass-the-Parcel but in an enclosed space and while trying not to touch any surfaces.

All my kit was damp – from rain not badly directed wee – and it was not a pleasant experience putting it back on again. I was like the grumpiest and dampest Egyptian Mummy ever. And not made any cheerier by the thought I had to keep wearing these wet clothes for another hour or so.

I was cold, miserable and I’d had enough. I had no idea where I was but I was going to call for a lift home.  

And then I heard a familiar voice. A voice belonging to a friend. Linda my friend from running club was outside. I was treated to a massive hug and she told me she was cycling with another friend of mine, Fiona and they invited me to cycle the rest of the sportive with them.  

I’m sure there’s something inspiration or clichéd I should say here. Something like “A bike ride with friends is even better than cheese (except for that blue soft cheese that smells of socks)” or “cycling with friends magics the rain away and means you get pushed up hills by fairies” or something but cycling with Fiona and Linda really made ALL the difference.

We chatted the next 25 miles away and the distance flew past. We laughed when we got hailed on, we sped down the hills all together and had a grand old time. Even the hills seemed to shrink. There were 5 hills on the course, 2 of which I cycled with Linda and Fiona … and we were so busy chatting that we didn’t notice them until they were halfway done. It was a VERY different experience to the first half of the course.

We got to the finish full of smiles and were promptly fed huge amounts of cake by the lovely volunteers. The perfect finish to a tough start.

Thanks for the company, girls. You were AMAZING.

Fiona, Linda and me ... full of cake!

Friday, 10 March 2017

ASICS FrontRunner *SQUEEEEEEL*

I am SO excited to tell you that I’ve been picked to be an ASICS FrontRunner! 

*bounces up and down in excitement* 

Running has been such a large part of my life for the last 7 years and I am SO EXCITED to be part of a community who loves it as much as I do!


The team is made up of very different people: Olympic athletes, triathletes, trail runners, obstacle course runners … and me. Me who has a creme egg addiction and falls in hedges rather too regularly. (I think I might keep quiet about that until it becomes glaringly obvious!) Luckily diversity is one of the points of the team (phew!)

The ASICS FrontRunner team launch is at the end of March up in Manchester and I’ll keep you updated about what’s going on! Speak soon!





If you want to find out more about the ASICS FrontRunner team you can take a peek at the website here.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Swimmer: 13 Miles Run ... and 4 Outdoor Swims

It's January. Therefore the sensible thing to do would be to have a 13 mile run across London and 4 outdoor swims. Right?

Oh.

Unfortunately the short video only shows the first and last swim as this Brain-Of-Britain left her video camera at Hampstead Pools after trying to get dressed in a hurry (the changing rooms are outdoors and it was snowing) but it was returned to me in time for he dip at Brockwell Lido thanks to the brilliant organisers of The Swimmer.

The video is on YouTube (it's 1 min 20 secs long)





(Pic by The Swimmer)



Fancy a crack? You can have a look at the event here.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Tuvizo Reflective Vest: Look like a 90s Raver While You Run. Glow Sticks Optional.

Tuvizo offered me this vest to review. As usually I've said exactly what I thought (90s raver) and took no payment (not even in creme eggs). 

First of all, vest is a misnomer for this piece of kit. While it does the work of a vest, it’s actually an easy-to-use hi viz elastic strap system. It’s neon yellow but also has silver reflective strips so you’ve got the benefit of both at dusk and at full dark when there’s light to catch the strips.



A brilliant piece of kit (spoiler: I may have liked this product!), I really liked this for a couple of reasons: 1 - that you didn’t have to choose your kit around whether you’d be out when night fell - you could pop this on over your normal running kit and you wouldn’t notice it was there. It’s nicely adjustable and the straps are elasticated so it can fit snugly without flapping around and 2 - it’s just so VISIBLE. In the daylight you’ve got the hi viz yellow and when the cars start putting their lights on, you glow like a 90s raver. Brilliant for safety, whether you run with a club on the roads or whether you run on your own, you can be sure of being seen. 



As an additional benefit, the vest comes in a pack with 2 multi-purpose bandanas, also bright yellow and with the reflective strip across the middle. They're comfortable, highly visible and as everyone knows you can’t have too many neck warmers! 



The hi-viz vests come in 3 sizes, but are very adjustable and easy to make comfortable. Another benefit of the vests is that over the years I've collected some lovely run tops which I can’t wear in winter as they’re too dark coloured and therefore not visible enough. It’s frustrating - they’re lovely and comfy but black with long sleeves is no good for the gym (too hot!) or winter running (too dark!) but I can stick my hi viz straps over the top and wear it without worrying about not being seen by other road users. Same with some of my darker cycling jerseys. I suspect that this reflective vest is going to be a favourite piece of kit. It has an easy open clasp which really makes a difference to me as every winter with cold hands I manage to shut fingers (or even more painful - BITS of fingers) into clasps, buckles and zips so anything which makes it less easy for me to bleed is a winner in my book.   



You can get your own from Amazon (details at bottom of post) or you can win one here.

COMPETITION
For a chance to win email me a winter running pic and I’ll tweet out the winning picture and send you a Tuvizo Hi-Viz pack containing a Hi-Viz Vest and 2 Multi-Purpose Bandanas!


Websitewww.Tuvizo.com 
Price: £17.99

Available from Amazon here

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Swimming in the Thames: The River That Burns Cold

So here I was again. Wondering what the hell I had got myself into.

I was TOTALLY blaming Rae for this.

She had mentioned a swim that sounded pretty good that was happening on the 2nd January. 

I definitely had not totally invited myself along. Well. I might have done.

A bit.



And here I was standing in a car park in Oxford with my breath steaming into the freezing air and trying not to slip over on the ice that coated the puddles and concrete. 

Did I mention that the swim was outdoors?

In our swimming costumes? No wetsuits today. 

And across the River Thames and back?

Well it was.

And here I was, in a carpark. Waiting for the other nutters who were going to do this with us. And Rae. 

Had I mentioned that I was totally blaming Rae for this?

Well everyone else turned up and actually looked quite sane which is always reassuring in strangers off the internet. No sign of stabby knives or other killing-Rae-and-her-friend-off-twitter type equipment. Although of course they wouldn’t ned to actually be violent per se. Just wait for us to get in the river and get hypothermia. Maybe very passive killers then. Killers from a distance. 

I suspected I was overthinking this.

Actually everyone was very nice. We all got chatting and there were some amazing stories and adventures that had been had. Channel swims, leisurely swims along the River Avon before a trip to the theatre and ice swimming. It was all quite reassuring, that should I dip one toe into the water and refuse to get in any further, I would be laughed at by PROPER swimmers.

We all walked down together, alongside the river, our feet cracking the ice in the puddles and crunching on the frozen grass. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was bright and there were plenty of people out, mostly walking dogs or pushing prams, all wrapped up well against the cold January morning. The only things visible in the water were the ducks. 

We walked along the river bank until we got to a place where there was a tiny sandy bay, just about big enough for one sun lounger should you wish to catch some January rays. Rae and I looked at each other. This was it.



We got changed quickly, relieved that our swimming costumes were on under our clothes so we didn’t inadvertently bare flesh at any of the people walking along the footpath who were looking at us curiously, wondering why on earth these people were REMOVING layers, rather than adding extra on this chilly day. 

I added 2 swimming hats (the extra hat is important - it keeps a bit of heat in and stops you losing your goggles in the river!) and briskly walked the 10 steps to the river. I walked in without hesitating. I didn’t want to give myself the opportunity to change my mind and stood in the river water up to my ankles. 

it wasn't as cold as I’d expected.

I quickly ducked down, covering my shoulders and the cold water took my breath away. My feet were obviously made of asbestos. It was freezing. I huffed out, the water stealing my breath in cold puffs.

Ok. Swim. You’re here to swim. 

I swam across the river towards the opposite bank. It burned. The cold burned. My limbs didn’t stop moving or freezing, but the cold burned like fire. I moved across the current in the direction of the brown banks and green grass bordering the other side of the river until it became shallow again. I stood, my feet sinking into thick mud. The mud squeezing between my toes, smooth and thick. It seemed that it should be warm but it was cold, frigid as the icy water rushing past my legs and tummy. 

I stood and smiled. I was standing in the River Thames in January. In my swimsuit. Yep. Completely bonkers.

I turned. The trees and the bay I had come from seemed further away than I remembered coming. I sank down again, the water covering my shoulders and put my face in the water, blowing bubbles and moving my arms, front-crawling towards the shore. The freezing waters gave me a headache, a bubble in the front of my mind like pressure. I concentrated on swimming towards our bay and my warm clothes. The cold burning was more intense now but there was warmth and socks on the river bank. 

I swam. Then my hands touched mud of the bottom of the river and I raised my face to see the grassy banks of Port Meadow. 



As I climbed out and started adding warm layers on top of my swimsuit, I noticed our little group of swimmers had gathered a small group of onlookers. Onlookers in thick coats, scarves and hats. Onlookers dressed for the weather and marvelling at this small gang of lunatics who were smiling and laughing as they swam in the frigid waters of the Thames in Oxford.

I smiled too. Who would want to do a thing like that?

I wonder if Rae knows of any other adventures I could invite myself to?