home      my running story      races from the beginning      talk to me       product reviews      

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?


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.

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! 
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?