Inspiring Women 6: Angie Fisher

It’s been quiet for a while on my blog, but the lack of posts doesn’t mean I’ve not been doing anything. 2020 is going to be a big year for me: I’ve two new books due to be published and a fair few aquathlon and swimming adventures planned! I’ve been busy writing and training, but I’ve come up for air to share this lovely interview with talented triathlete and super-coach, Angie Fisher.

If you remember back to last December, I did my first aquathlon at Halesowen in England. Angie Fisher, head coach at Nuneaton Triathlon Club, gave me a lift to the event – and gave me lots of top tips too. On the way back from the event, Angie shared a little about how she got into triathlon. Her story is so interesting that I asked if she’d be willing to be interviewed for my adventure blog – and she said yes!

Angie ‘in a Nutshell’
Angie is 63, lives in Nuneaton and trains with Nuneaton Triathlon Club. She’s a retired police officer and has 2 grown-up kids and a dog. She used to be known as Angie Fisher the Swimmer when she was at work. (She  was World Police and European Open Water Swimming Champion!) Now she’s known as Angie Fisher Head Coach (of Nuneaton Triathlon Club) and ‘Ironlady’.

The Interview
1. It really inspired me to hear that you only got into triathlon in your mid-50s. Can you tell me about how you got into triathlon and about your triathlon journey so far?
I retired from the Police Force aged 55 after 36years (I drove the fast response car) and wanted a bit of a challenge. Someone at work was talking about doing a triathlon and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve always been a bit sporty: I swam at quite a high standard and had run a bit (at school!), so off I went to the bike shop and got a bike, having never ridden a racing bike in my life.

My first triathlon was a bit mad really, now I think about it. I couldn’t find my bike in transition and had to walk most of the 5k run, but I was hooked and just wanted to go back and do it better.

Around this time, a small group of masters swimmers started running on a Saturday morning at our local track so we got together and formed a triathlon club. All because I bought a bike!

We only had one coach, and he knew nothing about swimming, so I thought ‘well I could do that’ and went and did my coaching courses. Now I have people to help me with different aspects and I mainly take the swimming sessions and oversee the club’s training programme.

Having done a sprint triathlon, I wanted to do more. That meant doing an Olympic, and then a half Ironman. And then, of course, a full Ironman. I’ve done 2 Ironmen so far (Austria and Barcelona), plus the Long Course weekend in Wales.

I have qualified for the GB Age-Group Team a couple of times at Aquathlon and Middle Distance tri but only took up a place for the first time last year (its very expensive). I would like to go again. It is a good experience.

2. What are you training for at the moment? I have entered the Swimathon in March (5k), a marathon at Stratford in April and an Olympic distance triathlon in Majorca in May. I’m a bit of a fair-weather cyclist to be honest, so I’m doing most of my cycling on a turbo. I spend the winter running and swimming and use events like the Swimathon and the marathon to set me up for the race season.

3. Tell me a little bit about your training regime.  I train nearly every day for an hour or 2, with a longer bike ride at the weekend in the summer. I do have a plan but I like to keep it quite flexible. I prefer to train with other people and take a day off when I feel I need to. On average I do 3 swims a week, 3 runs a week, 3 bike/turbo rides and 1 strength and conditioning, mixing up the length/intensity/variation of each session. Sounds really boring but I love it.

4. What has the sport of triathlon given to you that you didn’t expect? I get so much pleasure coaching and seeing other people achieve something that they never believed they could do.

5. What’s the best thing about triathlon? The people. The social aspect. Its all about the people.

6. What’s the hardest thing about triathlon? Being Injured. It can be tough. I had a really bad accident 2 ½ years ago and came off my bike. I hit some electrical covers in the road and must have gone over the handlebars, I don’t really remember as I was knocked unconscious. I was air lifted to hospital with a broken neck, wrist, collar bone, 4 ribs, couple of fingers and a fractured cheekbone. I never even thought about giving up. I did Ironman Austria 12 months later although I still wasn’t fully recovered.

There are elements of triathlon that carry risks and lots of athletes do get injured. At least I’m in a position to be able to emphathise with them and encourage them to dig deep. And as a coach I can help them minimise the risks.

7. Do you think triathlon is a good sport for older women to take up? I’m fit. I’m healthy and I’m happy. All because I do triathlon. I get to travel – a lot; meet people – a lot; and have fun. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to do it. Age doesn’t really come into it. Its good for everyone.

Angie (far right) with fellow Nuneaton Tri Club athletes!

8. What advice would you give to someone thinking about giving their first triathlon a go? You can do it. All you have to do is finish. Do it for yourself. Do it for fun. Do it and enjoy it.

9. As a woman on the other side of the menopause, how do you view your body? I got the hot flushes and I put a bit of weight on. I think I always had cotton wool for brains, so I’m not sure about that one! Now I’m the same weight as when I was 18. I think I’m a bit more conscious of eating for energy, staying hydrated etc. although I can more or less eat what I like. That’s all down to the exercise. I feel so much fitter. I have virtually given up alcohol though, I don’t like the after effects of being tired and lethargic. It affects my training.

10. People talk about women feeling ‘invisible’ once they have gone through the menopause. What do you think about that? Is it true for you? Invisible? Me? 🙂

11. Are there any upsides for you about being on the other side of the menopause? I feel wonderful. I used to get debilitating migraines every month which have now stopped. I no longer care what people think and feel happy in my own skin.

12. What do you have in your sights triathlon-wise for 2020? I’m still waiting for confirmation that I’ve qualified for the World Aquathlon Championships in Holland in September. I will make that my A race this year if I have. I qualified last year and went to Spain (I was 8th in my age group) but was in the middle of training for Ironman Barcelona at the time and think I could have done better.

13. What’s your number one piece of advice for post-menopausal women? It’s a new chapter in your life. Make the most of it while you can.

I’m looking forward to catching up with Angie again in April (we’re both competing in the Air3 aquathlon at Warwick University), by which time I hope she’ll see an improvement in my swimming!  In the meantime,  I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

Inspiring Women 5: Nicole Morelli

In this 5th Inspiring Women post, I catch up with the brilliant Nicole Morelli, founder of Menopausal Mermaids, a local cold-water swimming group. Here’s Nicole’s  in-a-nutshell bio:

1. She’s a 49-year-old mum of two girls, Lucia (8) and Giannina (6)
2. She sells delicious ice-cream! (You can find her at Morelli’s To Go ice-cream parlour.
3. She’s based in Portrush, Northern Ireland.

And here’s the interview 🙂 :

1. You’re the founder of the Menopausal Mermaids, a local sea-swimming group for women (and the odd merman or two). Can you tell me a little bit about how it all started? I was recovering from a hip replacement and was feeling pretty rough (heavy medication etc.).  I was at a birthday party in the beautiful Arcadia in Portrush and I got chatting to a friend, Maggie Purdy, who has blood pressure issues. We couldn’t take our eyes off the sea: there and then we decided to meet the following day for a swim -the rough sea just looked so inviting! I think we lasted about 2 minutes but the buzz and laugh we had brought us back the very next day.

2. How many members do you have now and how does it all work? We have over 200 members now between our Facebook and WhatsApp group! Most of it’s been word-of- mouth: people have heard about us or seen us and have just turned up on the beach asking to join us. It’s fantastic!

3. What do you think the main benefits of sea-swimming are – in general and particularly for post-menopausal women? The changes I have seen in myself and others are night and day! The high you get on coming out of that cold water: you feel so brave you feel you can do anything! I’m off all of my pain relief medicine now (I have osteoarthritis). There are women in our group with many forms of arthritis, angina, blood pressure issues, depression, skin issues. Every one of those women is feeling the benefits physical  and mentally from sea-swimming.

4. If people want to have a go at sea-swimming themselves, what advice would you give to them? Never swim on your own. It’s much more fun and safer to have someone with you! Get changed as quickly as possible after and bring a hot drink with you to help heat up your core! Hooded towels are a must and a bottle of warm water for you sandy feet!

5. Sea-swimming seems to be really taking off. Why do you think that is? It should be on prescription! I think people are hearing and reading about the benefits and the best part is that it’s free 🙂 .

6. What has sea-swimming given to you that you didn’t expect? It has given me a confidence in my body that I’ve never had before. I feel strong and invincible when I leave the water – not to mention the amazing friendships I have made which I know will last a lifetime.

7. What are the most memorable Menopausal Mermaid moments from the last 2 years? Last June we all got together for a swim and picnic at East Strand Portrush. We brought our kids, our husbands,and our partners. We stayed for hours chatting, swimming, and eating; and our kids who had never met just played. It was a wonderful day, considering we were strangers to each other only a few months before.

8. What’s next for the Menopausal Mermaids? Our group is growing every week (we get at least 4 new member requests a week). We just want to keep on swimming! We have a golf group now also, we meet and play once a month; we also have cinema nights, dinners and lunches. I never thought it would become so social but it has and it’s fantastic.

You can find out more about open water swimming on the Outdoor Swimming Society websiteI’m yet to join the Menopausal Mermaids for an adventure, but I’m feeling the call of the sea 🙂 In the meantime,  I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

Last Adventure Reports of the Year!

It’s been a while since I last checked in and I’ve had a fair few adventures in the interim! As I’ve decided that 2020 will be my  #InForTheSwim year (obviously this was not by any means a rational decision, I just found myself on the British Triathlon Federation website and the rest, as they say, is history 🤣), I thought I’d better get the training underway. The aim is to do a few aquathlons (swim-run races, including open water events). I’m going for the sprint distance (750m swim and 5k run) and I’m going for something else …. *wait for it* ….  😱…. I’m going for an age-grouper (50-55) qualifying time for either GB or Ireland. This means I have to swim 750m in under 15 minutes and run 5k in under 23 minutes.

I’m not worried about the run. I am worried about the swim 🤣. After years out of the pool, I got back in on December 31 2018, swimming twice a week (as a recovery from 400m/800m track training and powerlifting). I was a 100% breaststroke girl. Total frog. Never deviated from it. And that’s because I couldn’t deviate from it. After a length of crawl I was completely done in. I didn’t even try backstroke. And as for butterfly … well that was for another adventure!

After the powerlifting competition in July things changed. I started my swim coaching sessions with David Graham of Trinetic, the aim being to swim a length of butterfly in respectable style by the end of October. The good news is I did it (you can watch me doing it here). And, more curiously, the unintended consquence of me learning to swim fly was that I had to improve my front crawl (you can’t do training sessions of only fly: it’s a power stroke and you’d never get out of a fly-only session alive!)

Honestly? My front crawl was in bad shape: kicking from the knees (it’s a running thing, apparently), arms crossing over in front of my head, thumbs in first, core not engaged, head too high, no rotation ….. I could go on 😳 David helped me make some initial fixes so I could get through the sessions and focus on fly.

After the butterfly race I was hooked on swimming. I’d built up to 4-5 sessions a week, and I loved being in the water, and I loved the gruelling aspect of the training: it really reminded me of the work I was doing for 400m/800m running. So, this is what I said to David: ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s see how far I can go with this swimming thing.’ And so, since the end of October, I’ve been working on my crawl with the aquathlons in mind …. and I’ve been keeping that there undulating going too because I’m going to give the NI Masters Swimming Championships a whirl next May too … and my chosen stroke will be : FLY 🤣 Yep. I’m a complete nutter. Tell me something I don’t know 🤣.

Davagh Forest 10k Results: Alice Got Me Home In Good Time!

First time out in my Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club vest!

#InForTheSwim means that I’m having to get back to running longer distances again. I threw myself in ‘at the deep end’ and ran in the Davagh Forest 10K trail race on 9 November (organised by the Sperrins Harriers). Conditions were grim to say the least (lashing rain, sludgy ice, frozen-feet cold) but I did manage to be 1st female finisher (in the F50-59 category) and the 4th female home overall . This was completely accidental because I’d started running next to another female runner, Alice, pretty early on in the race. Like me, she was a chatter (you don’t get many of those in the shorter, faster races) and I thought it was my best chance of getting around the course without losing the will to live (10K is a long way after racing at 400m/800m, I tell ya!) It was probably a good job hadn’t asked Alice how old she was at the start of our running partnership. If I’d realised she was a good 20 years younger than me, I probably would’ve never tried to keep up with her: I was suffering in the last 100 metres (she had a furious finish in those fast legs of hers and I didn’t stand a chance)!

November saw the close of the CrossFit Open 20.1, a 5-week challenge where athletes take part in a specified (pretty horrific 🤣😱)workout once a week. People from all over the world take part and it’s quite a thing. And quite hard. And quite helpful for the mental aspect of training. I surprised myself by topping the leader board in the UK for my division (female masters, 50-55, scaled). It was super to undertake this challenge with fellow CrossFitters from Team Causeway: big shout-outs to Gillian, Pete and Ivor. I did a fair bit of whinging over that 5 weeks (and used a fair bit of chalk too 🤣) and it reminded me of something that’ll help me with #InForTheSwim: the suffering is always transient and always (all-ways) worth it! (It also taught me that pull-ups come in handy now and again 🤣).

And that brings me to the last race of the year and my first aquathlon! It was a pool-based aquathlon organised by Halesowen Tri Club : 400m ‘snake swim’ and 5k run. I contacted the friendly folk at Nuneaton Triathlon Club to see if I could get a lift (I’d be in England without transport to Halesowen) and at 06:30 on Sunday 15 December, Head Coach Angie Fisher picked me up from my parents’ house and drove me to the event.

Angie Fisher: triathlon is a very serious business!

Angie gave me some top tips on race day (especially about breathing – oh yeah, and I learned that a hole punch is an important piece of tri kit!) and helped dispel pre-race nerves. She showed me the ropes (literally 🤣) at the pool and even cheered me on during the swim.

I was due to be in the water at 08:32 so reported to the poolside team just after 08:15. Phil Hall (Triathlon Redditch) kept me good company and also helped me to calm down a bit! (He did the run segment dressed as the Grinch!).

The event was marshalled brilliantly. I was invited into the water at my allocated time and given a clear countdown. I swam as hard as I could because I thought I’d get in Phil’s way. Turns out I swam so hard I caught up the swimmer in front of me 🤣. You can see me being non-plussed by the situation  in this video. I’m in lane 3 at the start of the film (dark blue tri suit and royal blue hat). When it comes to the turning point in lane 4, I’ve caught up the swimmer in front. I stop and wait and have a wee think about what to do before setting off again!

I managed my swim in 08:41. Transition was slow at 01:52 (and I really should have practised it, and I really should’ve toughed it out and not bothered with struggling to get my windproof on. Anyway, I don’t really wanna talk about it. Enough about transitions already. No one mention the T word, okay? 🤣). The run was also quite slow at 24:17 (I’d done a ‘dry’ run of the full event at home in lashing rain and strong headwinds earlier in the week and managed the run at 23:03) but conditions under foot were tricky: it was very icy indeed and there were sections that were barely runnable. I’ve made peace with my run time so it’s all good!

My overall finishing time was 35:50 and I was the second FSV 50-59 across the finishing line. The first female across the line in my category was only 15 seconds faster (no .. do NOT mention the T word .. don’t even THINK about it 🤣). It felt good to get it done!

After the event it was lovely to talk to other competitors and to other Nuneaton triathletes. It strikes me that this sport is very friendly and inclusive.

We stayed for the award ceremony and Angie won her category! On the way home Angie told me that she’d only started competing in triathlons in her 50s: this was good for me to hear 🙂 . Angie’s story is very inspiring – in fact, it’s so inspiring that I’m going to interview her for a separate post. (I’ll just say GB age-grouper vest, okay? 🙂 ).

Right then. I’m off to email Santa to see if he could manage a last-minute hole punch order. After that I’m going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Race Report: 25m Butterfly

A lot of good things have happened over the past couple of weeks! On 17 October I hopped over to England to see my folks for a few days … and while I was there I laid a few ghosts to rest 👻.

The Pingles, Nuneaton

As I was due to race (run) a very demanding 10k on the Sunday, I decided to go for a recovery swim early on the Friday before the race. This swim, however, would not be any swim. This swim would actually be in the pool where the slow-clapping incident occurred in my teenage years – when I’d been volunteered to swim in a butterfly race, even though I couldn’t swim butterfly!

The pool opened at 7am (which is a lovely time to swim and I really wish our local pools would open this early) and I was faced with a very busy ‘fast lane’. Undeterred, I managed to complete an 850m swim (front crawl) and I got a real confidence boost when I realised how fast I was going! My very last length was  25m all-out-effort butterfly: 40 years after attempting to swim a length of this stroke in this pool, I actually managed it! It felt like a defining moment.

On Sunday 20 October I ran with my dad in a hilly 10k race in the Cotswolds. There was, as promised, a very high hill content – and I can’t say I took in very much of the beautiful scenery 😆. My sortie into the world of track and field has meant that my ‘long runs’ have been at around the 3 mile mark. Couple that with no actual 10k-specific training for this event (and the race organiser’s glee as he kept mentioning the HUGE hill) and I wasn’t feeling that optimistic about getting around in a good time.

In spite of my doubts, I managed to cross the finish line in 50:36, which I was pleased with (and I reckon all that squatting and deadlifting must have kicked in #literally 😆). I was the 7th lady finisher in the 45-55 category : I was also pleased about that as normally I’d be in the 50-55 category and competing against ‘vintage’ runners closer to my own age! (You can see the start of the race here. When the video goes into slow motion, you’ll see me in my blue headband and knee-length blue socks.)

Getting ready to race.

Once the 10k was done that was me settling into my taper for the butterfly race with Samantha. The race had originally been scheduled to take place in my local pool, but the roof fell in! I’ve had to travel to the next town to train (Coleraine) and the staff (and my new fellow swimmers) have been brilliant.

I’ve been very much welcomed into the Coleraine morning swimming community, and I have to say it is quite riotous in the changing rooms in the morning. Patricia, one of the Duty Managers, at the leisure centre has been particularly helpful and made sure the race could take place on the right day at the right time.

Pre-race sportswomanship

On Tuesday 29 October at 11am, the race took place. It was lovely to see so many supporters come along. Special thanks go to my fellow CrossFit athletes who came to cheer us on (Cheryl, Janine, Marcella and Diane); to Siobhan, my Coleraine morning swim buddy, who popped in to see the race; and to Richard Lappin (one of the coaches at CrossFit Causeway) who officiated. Thanks also to the ‘Crawford Sisters’ (Coleraine swimming legends) who have given me such lovely (and kind) feedback about my butterfly; and to Sybil and Raymond at the Ballymoney pool who have kept me in order since January (and given me feet to follow in the early morning). Oh – and a BIG thanks to Samantha for coming out of her swimming retirement to race me!

I managed to complete the 25m in 25.1 seconds. I needed to get under 25.6 to reach Swim England Bronze standard, so I’m please about that. I’ll need to get an affiliated swim instructor to time and verify my speed in order to secure the award, but I’m still thrilled to have achieved that standard from a ‘standing start’ in 3 months. Samantha beat me by a good 8 seconds, and I spent most of the race chasing her feet. You can watch the whole race here:

Post-race hugs!

I’ve really enjoyed this particular adventure, and swimming is something that I’m going to keep doing, mostly because it feels so good to be in the water. I’m going to try a pool-based  aquathlon (swim and run) in December, and next year will be the year of mastering open water swimming 😱 (just a little bit worried about this) so that I can compete in an open water aquathlon. I’m also going to continue work on my fly with a view to competing in the masters championships here in Northern Ireland next summer. I’d love to knock a good 8 seconds off my 25m time. It’s a huge ask … but I’m all in 😎… I’m totally going for it … I’m going to give it my very best shot!

Patricia (Duty Mgr) and me with my silver medal!

And so my final official adventure of the year moves into focus: learning the tango. The first lesson is at the end of November – and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m just going outside and I may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Inspiring Women 4: Siobhán Sheils

You may remember from my last blog post that the roof has fallen in at the local pool! This means I’ve been travelling to Coleraine to swim and I’ve met lots of new people as a result of moving training venue 🙂 . The female changing area is very lively – even early in the morning. When I heard about Siobhán’s current challenge (swimming the equivalent of the Channel during the month of October to raise funds for Macmillan) I wanted to hear more about some of the other challenges she’d done. I was thrilled she agreed to be interviewed for my adventure blog, and here’s what she had to say:

In a nutshell:  ‘Siobhán is still evolving and learning on her journey to become the best human being she can.’
Age: 59 (and 6 months – isn’t just important for Adrian Mole!)
Trains at: Coleraine Leisure Centre
Work: Probation Officer. Specialises in working with those who have committed sexual, domestic violence and public protection offences

1. You’ve done several adventurous challenges over the last few years. Can you tell us what you’ve done and why you decided to take on each particular challenge? My first challenge was in 2015 and it was to climb the highest peak in each province of Ireland.  I fell into this by accident.  I’d always been interested in hill-walking but hadn’t really followed up on it during my married life.  I moved from Derry and made a New Year resolution that I would join a club and swallow any lack of confidence and ‘just go for it’,  Sod’s Law : I met a girl who has become a great friend/walking buddy and we discovered how similar our life experiences were.

Ironically she had lived a few streets away from me and we’d never met before my move out of the town.  Rhonda was uber fit and I just decided I’d just try my best.  We completed Lugnaquilla (Leinster) the last Saturday in May; Mweelrea (Connaught) – without a doubt the most arduous but most rewarding – June; Carrantouhill – highest in Ireland (Munster) July; and Slieve Donard (Ulster) Aug 2015.  Falling on your backside in front of everyone and having to run into bushes to pee is a great equaliser and a reminder we’re all alike.

My next challenge was a 2.5 km swim for Foyle Hospice.  Again, I just fell into this.  After the previous one, I liked the idea of challenging myself/setting a goal more and more.  It was for a very worthwhile cause and Foyle Hospice do incredible work for the terminally ill.  I went to the pool where lots of super strong swimmers were making it look so easy.  I completed it in 1 hour and 29 minutes.  It was funny as, at length 50, I was being clapped for achieving this.  The expression on people’s faces when I continued to the 100 lengths….  I was the last one out.

Without a doubt (in terms of camaraderie) the best challenge was walking the Dublin Marathon (October 2017).  I can’t run because of my ‘gammy’ knee, so thought I’ll try this.  It was incredible walking with others and encouraging each other on.  The laughs we had at ourselves were brilliant.  About 2 miles from the end the finishers in their shirts were out encouraging us to finish.  Brilliant.

2018 – Lap the Lough.  It was a beautiful summer and I decided to take out ‘Betsy’, my very heavy touring bike.  Each day I cycled about 25 miles before/after work.  I went with one of the guys from my spin class one Saturday and we did 40 miles in 3 hours and I didn’t get off my bike once.  Usually if I hit a big hill I get off and walk as I can’t stand up when cycling so everything is being done from seated position and that can be tough.  I thought I’ll  certainly give it a go and try my best.  On the day of the cycle it poured from the heavens and I was soaked right down to my knickers.  I did the 96 miles in under 8 hours.

2018 – Dulux London Revolution:  300 km cycle around London.  I was one of the ‘weekenders’ ( ie. we cycled 103.5 miles on the Saturday, camped overnight in Windsor Racecourse, and cycled 87 miles on the Sunday).  One of the girls in work saw this and suggested it for me.  In hindsight, while I’m happy that I did it, it was probably a bit too much in terms of my fitness levels at the time.  I spent most of the cycle on the Saturday berating myself about how silly I was etc. It was very difficult too knowing that there was more to come the next day.   After being frozen into the tent on the Saturday, listening to some man in another tent loudly singing his own praises, farting or snoring, I decided I was definitely getting on that bike and trying to finish it. It was funny I was dressed in my shorts and trainers with a bottle of Evian water on my hired road bike.  I initially felt very out of place amongst these incredible athletes who were putting on/taking off clothing in sections.  However on one particularly difficult hill at mile 85 on the Saturday a number of them were walking alongside me saying they wished they had trainers as their feet were killing them!

This year I also climbed Carrantouhill again – this time the Devil’s Ladder and descent via Heavenly Gate.  Not good for the knees!  Great achievement and a beautiful day.  To stand at the top of Ireland and be able to see all around – glorious.

I haven’t a notion what’s next.  Maybe next year (my 60th) I’ll challenge myself to no challenge!!

2. Your current challenge is a water-based one. Can you tell us all about it and let us know how you’re getting on with it? My current challenge is to swim the virtual Channel.  That’s 22 miles.  It’s in aid of MacMillan Cancer and I love the idea I don’t have to get into dirty water.  I’m completing a mile a day (I’ve cheated and have had a few days with a few extra yards in order to give myself some leeway).  At this point I’m officially at mile 13 (but in fact have 14.69 miles done).

3. Tell me a little bit about your training regime if you have one. (How often do you train? How do you balance the requirements of training with your work/life?) For most of the events that I take part in I don’t really follow a formal training regime.  For example, when walking and swimming I’m getting fitter each time – so there’s continuous improvement.    No matter what I’m doing I like to complete 15,000 steps each day.  It’s surprising how little of those are during routine things like work or housekeeping so it means adding some walks into my day.  I do this by parking my car about a mile away from work and walking back/forth – if my diary allows.  I really like mornings so I try to do something (walk, swim, cycle -not in winter).  I’m really lucky too that I own my diary, although there are a number of times when I just can’t factor in an exercise.  I no longer let that bother me.

4. What has undertaking these challenges given to you that you didn’t expect? I think my confidence as a person has grown as I’ve undertaken the challenges – not about winning but just about acknowledging my capabilities and willingness to push myself.  I try to incorporate some mindfulness into my exercise routines and feel this has improved my general sense of well-being as well as my ability to be more tolerant of myself and others.

5. I know you from the pool and I see you ploughing up and down at full force. It’s impressive and inspiring! Do you think swimming is a good sport for older women to take up? Swimming is amazing and, as you can see, I don’t do it prettily.  No Sonia O’Sullivan here lol!  I always laugh about the ways I can manoeuvre my body in the water and do moves such as lunges when sometimes I struggle with my knee holding me up.  I think swimming also improves female flexibility and is a great way of boosting confidence – not sure why the latter (maybe it’s having to fight off the men who nearly mow you down 😉 ).

6. As a woman on the other side of the menopause , how do you view your body? Who hasn’t said it?  If only I had a shred of the confidence/self-image that I have now when I was a teenager!  I think I definitely have more respect for my body – I also do a number of no alcohol challenges – September Dryathon; Sober for October; November; Dry January; Feb Fast; Lent and Summer Six-Pack Challenge.  My daughter says she’s given up trying to come home at a time I am drinking.  I think I know my limitations – and that’s not lack of confidence but because I’m aware of what I can/cannot do.

The menopause first affected me through night sweats.  At that time in my life, I lived alone and it was great!  I could throw the bedclothes off/on as I wanted without worrying about anyone else.  I also had hot flushes – generally whenever someone asked me a direct question – my face/neck went bright red as though I was lying through my teeth lol.

I think there was a period (before the challenges) when I became extremely emotional and weepy and fearful about things I hadn’t previously paid any attention to.  For instance, I would lock the car doors when driving through a town in the evening.  I had gained weight prior to starting the challenges but have since gained more muscle. I know I don’t have an athletic build and I’m not small – sometimes I laugh to myself when I see the reaction of people when I say I’ve done such and such.   I think weight is something that I will always struggle with but it doesn’t bother me too much.  I threw out scales about 7 years ago.   I’m a naturally greedy eater, although I generally try to eat unprocessed foods as much as possible.  I’m better at that during Lent – what’s that all about?!!

In terms of mental ability – I’ve never noticed any particular deficits – nothing extra anyway lol 😉 .

7. People talk about women feeling ‘invisible’ once they have gone through the menopause. What do you think about that? Is it true for you? I do think that, over a certain age, women are invisible.  I look back to when I was younger and trying to cross a road and firmly believe that as a woman gets older less cars stop.  Similarly the older I become I feel that males (swimmers) don’t see me.  However, I don’t think though that it’s a feeling that comes from menopause but I can see how if someone is feeling emotionally vulnerable they could connect events when in fact I think older women are invisible to men generally!  I don’t think women are invisible to women though!  I think most adults are invisible to teenagers!  Not sure if that makes sense.

8. Are there any upsides for you about being on the other side of the menopause?  Yes.  I’m glad the night-sweats have stopped and mostly the flushes too.  I think though that I’ve reached another stage of my life and I’m not 100% sure that’s attributable to being post-menopausal or whether I was at a stage of change anyway.  I think on reflection though the menopause is a great opportunity for reflection and moulding your world.

9. What do you have in your sights? (What will you do after your swimming challenge?) I’m not sure.  That’s what I like about this.  I just see something and think  will I/won’t I?  I like the thought/feeling though that the reason not to is not because I don’t think I am capable but rather that it doesn’t appeal to me.

10. What’s your number one piece of advice for post-menopausal women? This is not a rehearsal.  Have a blast.  Be the best you want to be.  Always remember you are incredible and all those experiences have not stopped you one jot.  Ditch the self-help books.

Siobhán’s answers certainly give a lot of food for thought! I’m just going outside to have  wee think about things – and I may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Pulling it all Together

It’s been a while since I checked in and lots has happened. The big pull-up challenge has taken place and the results are in! I’ve also had my final pre-race swim coaching session with David at Trinetic and I’m moving into the speed phase of my training, ready for the  #ClashOfTheTitans race on 29 October.

In spite of training pull-ups three times a week for six weeks, the final results don’t really reflect the promises made by most of the YouTube videos I watched. I’m glad I did it though, and I expect my butterfly will be helped by my new-found pull-up prowess 🤣🏊‍♀️.

As for my swimming, it’s still going really well and I’m completely in love with it (in spite of it being gruelling much of the time 😱). You can see how I got on at the last coaching session in the short videos below. The first is me trying for a wider hand entry with butterfly. The second is me working on my ‘roll’ for front crawl.

You might remember that Sharron Davies gave me some lovely words of advice about succeeding at butterfly a few months back. I’m thrilled to report that she took a look at my most recent swimming video and gave a little more advice: to slow down the catch and to undulate a bit more!

I talk a bit more about how my adventuring has panned out over the last couple of weeks in today’s video blog (below). I also give a few hints about the direction I’ll be heading in next year 😎.

Right. I definitely need a lie down somewhere, so I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

When you have it, you have it all over!

Elvis Presley apparently once said ‘Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.’ Fortunately, I was channeling ‘The King’ last week when I went for my third coaching session with David Graham at Trinetic 🤣.

The third session marked 7 weeks of butterfly training – and that third session changed everything for me. David said ‘Just focus on the rhythm. Forget everything else. Everything else will come if the rhythm is right.’ So I did what he said and this is what happened:

The rhythm changed everything! The week before the coaching session I had been managing sets of 4 x 25m of fly, but each length was taking me a good 35 seconds. When I returned to the pool last Friday, I was managing 25m at well below 25 seconds for most repeats!

David gave me a new training programme to follow, and I have to say it’s pretty challenging – but I’m going for it! I talk about my butterfly adventure and my swim training in today’s video blog. You can find details of the book recommendations I make below the video.

Right, then. I definitely need a wee lie down, and after that I’m going outside and may be some time 😉 .

JT 🙂

Clash of the Titans

I’m 5 weeks into my butterfly adventure and I have to say that things are going rather well. I’ve progressed from being able to do not a single stroke to 4x25m of full fly over that period of time.

With my other adventures I’ve always had an end goal and that has really helped me to keep motivated. For this adventure I’ve set myself 2 goals:

1. To swim 25m full fly in a race by the end of October.
2. To swim 25m of fly fast enough to qualify for a Swim England award by the end of the year (but October would be good too!). That means swimming the distance anywhere between 23 and 25 seconds. The good news is that my swim coach, David Graham, thinks this is completely possible. I completely trust him, so I think it’s completely possible too 🙂 .

With 8 weeks to go until the end of October, I’m thrilled to announce race details! I’ll be racing against Samantha Russell-Morelli at 11am on Tuesday 29 October at my local leisure centre.

Sam has come out of retirement especially for this event 😱. Here’s her athlete profile:

1. She swam competitively in New Zealand between the ages of 11 and 17.
2. During this period she  held several regional records for freestyle, butterfly and individual medley.
3. When she was 16 she placed 3rd for the Women’s Open 100m Individual Medley (that’s out of everyone in NZ) and 8th in the Women’s Open 200m Fly.
4. She’s currently a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt and a CrossFit athlete.

So …. I’ve got 8 weeks to get my act together! At this stage, if I were you, I wouldn’t be placing any bets on me winning. If I could swim a PB, though, I’d be pleased. A sub-25 second 25m would be brilliant!

Right, then. I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Pulling Another Trick Out of the Hat

This week it’s our wedding anniversary. Actually, we celebrate our anniversary on two different dates every year: one in August and one in September. That’s because we got married officially in the registry office in August (a very low-key affair with two witnesses) and then had a Celtic hand-fasting in a field on our farm in September (also low key, but there was dancing and a yurt and I was driven into the field, Boudicca-style in my wellington boots,  on the back of a Kawasaki Mule Pro DX).

As a couple, we’ve had lots of adventures together, but farming has got in the way of doing big expeditions over the last couple of years.

This year we’ve decided to do something a bit different to celebrate our years together: a pull-up challenge! On Sunday 29 September (which gives us about 6 weeks to improve our current pull-up performance 🙂 ), we’ll see who can do the most strict pull-ups in a row (completely unbroken). The one who does the most pull-ups gets to choose where’ they’d like to have dinner and the other person has to foot the bill!

At the moment I can only do 7 strict pull-ups unbroken, although I can do multiple sets of around 5. My husband is keeping his current performance standard under his hat 😉 . I’m going to aim for 20 pull-ups unbroken, which will be quite a challenge. I’m going to follow this 3-times- a -week training protocol and keep my fingers crossed/my overhand grip nice and tight 😉 :

Do feel free to join in. This particular programme works on the basis that you can already do 5 strict pull-ups in a row. If you can’t do a strict pull-up yet, there are LOADS of videos on YouTube which will help you to progress! #YouTubeIsYourFriend

I’m up for this challenge because, even if I lose, I still win 🤣. Pull-ups will help with powerlifting (yeah, I’m not done with this yet …) , CrossFit and butterfly. I can’t go wrong, really. Plus, it’ll be fun 😎. Let the games begin!

Right, then. I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

It’s All Going Swimmingly!

My front crawl is improving!

I’ve just entered the 4th week of my butterfly training programme and I’m pleased to report that it’s all going rather well!

Last Wednesday, after 3 weeks of following David Graham’s programme, I went back to Trinetic HQ for a progress review. I was quietly confident that David would see a marked improvement in my front crawl and in my undulating capabilities🤣 . I’d followed his programme to the letter and upped my training from 2 sessions to 4 sessions a week. On top of that, my body was showing me that it was adapting quickly to the demands of training: my back had grown an inch and my waist had shrunk an inch. (I put the shrinkage down to the kick drills which are extremely demanding on the core  😱.)

The first part of the session with David was a review and fine-tune of my crawl. My body was sitting much better in the water, but my pull was a bit wide. I tried pulling closer to my body, my palm facing backwards, and *WOOSH* (bit of a technical swim term there 😉 ) the game changed. Everything felt a bit odd but so much easier than before: much less ‘efforting’.

Actual butterfly, folks! Actual butterfly 🦋🦋🦋

The main part of the session was dedicated to developing my butterfly stroke. This session the arms were added. I have to say that when David mentioned arms and kicking at the same time, I was a bit frightened. I had my second ‘WOOSH* of the session as I was transported back to an experience I had at a  swimming club in Mildenhall (East Anglia, England) when I was about 10. Suddenly I was being told by the swimming instructor that I had been promoted to the next group up (the second promotion in two weeks) and I knew I wasn’t ready.

In spite of my fear, I (quite literally 🤣) dived in and got on with the first new drill: single arm butterfly arms with fly kicks. I found this drill hard to do on my left-hand side – it’s going to take a bit of work to develop a better feel for the water on that side, I think. Here’s me doing the drill on the right-hand side:

The next drill was 3-4 kicks and then one full double-armed pull. I liked this a lot more than the single arm drills, I can tell ya! After this drill, I had my first go at the full stroke and here’s what it looked like:

On Thursday afternoon I received my updated training schedule from David, ready for my pool session on Friday morning.  The programme is certainly far more demanding and I have to admit that I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be up to the job. I needn’t have worried, though. Once I was in the water, I was completely in my element. The front crawl portion of the session felt like a breeze, even though repetitions for some of the sessions are now at 100m (something I couldn’t have managed 3 weeks ago). The drills were challenging but doable. My favourite drill was working the arms and legs together: it was gruelling in a good way – very physical, requiring total presence to the experience. While I was doing that drill I felt completely alive!

So, I’m on my way. I’m making progress. In 3 weeks I go back for another review and I’m feeling quite confident. Powerlifting has taught me that as long as you’re consistent and follow an intelligent training programme, you will progress. I trust David and his programme, so – all being well – progress will happen!

Here’s a short video blog about my swimming progress:

Right, I’m off to do some pull-ups. (No, I actually am because, well, there’s another wee adventure brewing, which I’ll tell you about shortly 😉 ). After that, I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂