29th challenge completed – Synchronised Swimming

Today I took a break from marathon training to complete my 29th Olympic challenge. Along with Rhythmic Gymnastics, Synchronised Swimming is a sport that only women are able to compete in at the Olympic Games. I decided however that this shouldn’t stop me adding these sports to the list particularly as the ultimate aim of this 4 year journey was to gain an appreciation of each of the Olympic sports so that I can watch, understand and enjoy all of the Rio sports in 2016.

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to learn synchro or what I would constitute sufficient to complete the challenge, but luckily I’ve got a big mouth and I’m pretty sure that all my friends, colleagues, plus a large majority of people that have spent more than 5 minutes with me know about my challenge and most seem generally interested and keen to help out if they can. And this is how my synchro opportunity came about – a friend of mine from the running club, Tom Irvine, knew a member of the London GB 2012 Synchro team and put me in touch via Facebook and so my challenge was on.

20150326-synchro-1173So not only would I get the chance to learn synchro, I would be coached by actual Olympians, Vicki Lucass and Katie Clark. This was an incredible honour and a first for the challenge. We met at their training base in Aldershot – during the run up to the London Games, the entire team were based here and funded as full time athletes. Unfortunately like a number of sports, post London 2012 their funding has been cut, which has obviously had a significant impact on them as a team.

Profiles of Vicki and Katie are on the GB site below.

http://www.teamgb.com/athlete-search?field_sport_term_tid=Synchronised+Swimming

I turned up this morning, not really knowing what we were going to do and I was slightly apprehensive about my ability to do the sport, based on my shocking gymnastic agility, lack of grace, poor coordination, average swimming ability and my inability to point my toes due to my club foot. Surely these weren’t that important so I ran 19 miles yesterday to ensure that my legs were tired as well!

20150326-synchro-1022We began by going through a few basic skills, including sculling and ‘egg beating’, before moving onto some more complex moves (yes complex!). So was I natural? Instead of giving it away in this post – I’ll let you decide by watching the video below – although I think it’s safe to say that even if there was a male GB Olympic team they wouldn’t be worrying about their places on the team!

During our session, Vicki and Katie ran through a couple of short routines and there were also a couple of other girls in the water practicing so I could see how it was meant to be done.

20150326-synchro-1006 They were both really impressive, not just their demonstrations but their coaching was also excellent, with clear explanations throughout and positive, yet constructive comments. I’m not sure I would have been as upbeat about my performance though.

Overall I really enjoyed the session, much more than I thought I would, but I did find it really difficult. Being able to focus on technical elements that require a high level of physical strength whilst holding your breath is no mean feat. I’ve barely touched the surface (no pun intended) of this sport, but my time in the pool today was enough to develop a serious respect for the sport.

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Run, run, run

Can’t believe it’s the middle of March already and ages since my last post. 2015 has been pretty full on so far – so what’s been going on?

Well, I have a new job, which I start in a few weeks’ time – working as a Senior Brand Manager for a Pharma company based in Chiswick. Not only am I really excited about the role, but it’s 22 miles (ironically the distance of my long run this weekend) closer to home, which means that my work/life balance is going to significantly improve.2015-02-01 10.32.20-2

As far as the challenge, it’s been all about the running. I have an exciting post coming next week, but for now I’ll concentrate on my running journey.

I am 11 weeks into a 16 week training plan for the Manchester Marathon (or 15 weeks into a 20 week plan if you count my 4 weeks of mileage build up prior to the official training) and so far so good. At the start of the plan, I set myself a stretch target of dipping under 3 hours and 30 minutes. That would be 25 minutes quicker than last year and over an hour faster than London in 2013. So why did I think this was possible and how was I going to go about achieving this target.

2015-02-14 17.57.00My rationale for sub 3.30 was that prior to Manchester 2014, I was able to run a half in 1.46, got my weekly mileage up to 38 (max), but also struggled with patella tendonitis for a large part of the training. At the start of the plan this year, I had a 1.37 half, was planning to up the weekly mileage to 50 and also hoped to stay injury free (the latter is a bit of a lottery but I have and will continue to run sensibly to minimise any risk). I also weigh about a stone lighter. The numbers added up, the potential was there, but I felt there were a couple of important milestones that I needed to achieve in the run up.

2015-02-14 17.58.36The first was a sub 43 minute 10k, box ticked with a 42.41 on 1st February. A confidence builder but 10k’s are poor predictors of marathon times. The second a sub 1.35 half marathon. Great Bentley in the Eagles club championship was my target event and only a week after my 10k. Adam Wakefield from the running club, who was coming back from injury kindly agreed to pace me. We set off slightly quicker than target pace, but it still felt comfortable and with 4 miles to go I decided to pick up the pace and surprised myself with a 1.33.48. A PB of more than 3 minutes and more than 12 minutes quicker than my half time from last year.

So what did this mean? I always thought that 1.35 was going to be a push, so to run a time comfortable quicker than this I felt that my target of sub 3.30 needed to be re-evaluated, which has led me to my new goal of sub 3.25.2015-02-14 18.01.50 It’s not that I wouldn’t be ecstatic with a sub 3.30, I just needed to ensure that I stayed motivated during the final few weeks. The revised plan has been going well and I do believe that 3.25 is possible, the danger is that I push the target too much and end up blowing up and finishing much slower than 3.30.Over the next few weeks I will no doubt be going through the race strategy over and over in my head.

Oh and I also managed a Parkrun PB of 20.31 this weekend.

So 5 weeks to go, 22 miles this weekend, 20 miles the next and then taper time.2015-03-08 13.15.52

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