Modern Pentathlon

After successfully negotiating my horse ‘Buddy’ over a minor fence today at Hewshott Farm Stables, I am now able to say that I’ve completed every discipline of the Modern Pentathlon and in doing soon, I have displayed the ultimate test of fitness, courage and skill. (quote: pentathlongb)

Modern Pentathlon

  • Fencing (completed 23rd Aug, 2013)
  • Swimming (completed 23rd Mar, 2013)
  • Pistol Shooting (completed 2nd Dec, 2012)
  • Cross-Country Run (completed 26th Oct, 2014)
  • Show jumping (completed 14th May, 2016)
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32nd challenge completed – Waterpolo

Having ran for 4 days consecutively between Saturday and Tuesday, cycled the London Velodrome on Wednesday, it was time for a bit of relaxation with the West London Penguin Water Polo Club. If only the last part of that statement was true, yesterday was anything but relaxing!

Having contacted 3 or 4 local waterpolo clubs, I was really struggling to find a club that was willing to let me come along to one of their sessions. That was until the West London Penguin Water Polo Club responded to a post of mine on their Facebook site. So this Thursday I was invited to go along and train with them. 8 – 10pm sounded like a relatively long time for a training session, but I assumed that there would be a few breaks, time to discuss tactics and technique so we’d probably only be active for about hour. I was very wrong!

After meeting a few of the team, we started our warm up session – Butterfly arms with breaststroke legs. Anyone that’s watched me swim can imagine what a shocking ‘Eric the eel’ type sight this must have been for the other swimmers. This was followed by various adaptations on traditional swimming strokes, totalling around 20 lengths in total. The final part of the swimming warm up was a whopping 6×6 frontcrawl widths, alternating between face up and face down – this was done twice, so 72 widths and 20 lengths just to get the heart rate up. It safe to say that I probably only managed half of these and was in awe of the speed and power of everyone else.

I just about survived the warm up, and we moved on practicing drills. These involved various passing and swimming exercises, which on their own were very manageable, but there were no breaks between each one and I was finding it increasing difficult to remain afloat and the odd minor cramping meant that I sought the sanctuary of the pool side on the odd occasion.

After about 90 minutes of pain and exhaustion (I was actually enjoying myself), it was time for some attack versus defence drills. This was seriously tough. Whilst everyone else was regularly involved in the play I was busy preventing myself from drowning, resulting in an inability to actually raise my arms above the water to catch the ball. Nevertheless, I didn’t let this affect me and I pulled on a blue swimming hat to take part in the concluding practice match. This was great fun, if not a little brutal. These guys were seriously tough.

So where is waterpolo going to rank in my Olympic experience to-date. Overall, I’ve found it really difficult to get involved, but West London Penguin have gone a long way to changing my initial impression of the sport. Everyone was very friendly and as far as respect level goes, these guys have got to be near the top. It was a tough day, but thoroughly enjoyable.

So where are the pictures – well the big downside to the evening came after the session. I’d asked one of the spectators to take a few pictures and there were some really good shots. Unfortunately and slightly scarily at the time, I had my phone snatched from me, outside the University by two people on a motorbike. It happened so quickly that I only realised what had happened after the event. At the time I was in shock, this soon turned to anger and now on reflection I’m just putting it down to one of those things that happens – just a shame I can’t get back those photos.

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Quick update

So I’ve been quiet on this site over the past few weeks. This is partly due to starting a new job, but mainly due to giving my body a bit of a rest after the marathon.

In reality the rest didn’t last that long and I started playing rugby a couple of weeks after the marathon. The first 2 matches, despite loosing, were really good fun and I’m in a team with a really good bunch of people. Unfortunately after playing the 2nd match, we had a bit of a practice and I managed to tweak both of my hamstrings. Luckily it wasn’t too serious and I’m back playing running and playing tennis and plan to play in my 3rd rugby match tomorrow. Technically I’ve completed the rugby challenge having now played a couple of matches, but I’ll save the full report until we’ve completed the season.

Hoping to start Water Polo this Thursday so watch out for updates shortly on this as well.

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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.

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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The plan for 2015

I started 2015 in a way that sums up the new me. Instead of the usual going out on new year’s eve, we stayed in as I prepared for the Serpentine NYE 10k run. In fairness we had spent a week on the road over the festive period and we’d run out of energy come the 31st. My early night was rewarded as I bagged myself a new 10k PB of 43.51.

The first 3 months of 2015 will largely be dedicated to training for the Greater Manchester Marathon and my goal of sub-3.30, although I have found time to schedule the volleyball and rugby challenges.

So this leaves an additional 13 and certainly not the easiest of 13.

The two aquatic sports of synchronised swimming and water polo will prove a challenge. Sychro is not a male sport in the Olympics and water polo is often played at a very competitive level.

Next is basketball, there are plenty of social leagues around London so it should be just a case of finding the time to take part in one.

Boxing, well I’m not particularly looking forward to this one and decided against anything that involves me getting punched. I’ll arrange a training session at some point.

Then comes the three equestrian sports of dressage, eventing and jumping. I’m still not exactly sure how this will be achieved but some sort of course or series of private lessons is probably on the cards.

Gymnastics is another sport split into three; artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline. We have a couple of friends that are coaches so the plan will be to spend a day learning various routines. Hoping to rope in a few others as well.

Hockey in a similar way to basketball has a number of social leagues in London so it should just be a matter of time before I can find a date in 2015 to play.

Modern pentathlon is a combination of:

  • Fencing (completed 23rd Aug, 2013)
  • Swimming (completed 23rd Mar, 2013)
  • Pistol Shooting (completed 2nd Dec, 2012)
  • Cross-Country Run (completed 26th Oct, 2014)
  • Show jumping

Once I’ve completed jumping as part of the equestrian sports this will be complete.

Taekwondo is available in a number of places across London but it would be good to find a proper beginners course and really get into one of the martial art disciplines.

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Diving – the report

As you can see from the post below I have ‘learnt’ how to dive – well I have achieved what I wanted to do, which was to dive off the 3m board. In truth, diving isn’t one of the sports that I thought I would enjoy. I’ve never been a big swimmer and before this course I could probably count on my hand the number of times that I’ve attempted to dive off the side of the pool.

I was really struggling to find somewhere that I could learn how to dive in an environment suitable for beginners. It’s surprising how few dive facilities there are in and around London and those that do exist are very much focussed on getting kids into the sport. This isn’t unique to diving and personally I think this is a bit of an oversight for a number of sports. Whilst it makes sense to focus on youngsters, who still have the potential to achieve something in sport, getting more adults involved surely helps to raise the overall profile of a sport and generate income that can then be filtered into other areas.

I eventually found a course at the Guildford Spectrum in Surrey, near to where I grew up. It was on Monday nights from 9.15 – 10.15 and ran for 15 weeks. Not an ideal location from West London but I had very few alternatives. The course wasn’t strictly a beginner’s course. In total there were 6 of us, 4 of which had been through the course at least twice before. This wasn’t a problem as the low numbers meant that the coach was able to spend a decent amount of time with each of us and I was able to learn at my own pace. Most of the time there was only 4 of us during a given week and I think I was only able to attend 6 or 7 of the lessons.

Our coach was Andy Budd, a former England International Team member. He was really good, very patient but also great fun and able to have a laugh with us during times of misfortune, which for me became an all too often experience.

The sessions were varied and we switched between learning the technique from the side of the pool and attempting the full dives off the 1m and 3m springboards. The others went through a whole range of dives, whilst I mainly focused on falling dives, back dives, hurdle dives with the occasional tuck or pike. The video below shows the start of an inward dive from the side of the pool. I found this extremely difficult and could never bring myself to attempt this off the board.

I progressed a lot more than I would have thought I could, despite my intermittent attendance and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was painful at times but a good challenge and ultimately that’s the key to the whole thing. If there was an option to dive a bit closer to home it’s definitely something that I would been keen to continue but with marathon training starting in a weeks’ time unfortunately I don’t have the time.

To see me attempting to dive, please see the video below or click on the diving tab. I even managed a dive off the 5m platform.

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Challenge update

Having injured my hamstring 3 weeks ago, I’ve been managing my recovery whilst still trying to progress with the Olympic sports.

For the first couple of weeks, I focused on gentle running to encourage blood flow and ensure that my legs were mobilised. Complete rest would probably have been more logical but I’m always conscious of losing fitness and especially in this case as I’d had a couple of easier training weeks prior to getting injured.

Luckily it hasn’t really affected the rowing or the diving too much. My first rowing lesson after the injury was on the ergo machines, so I could take it easy and I was able to dive without putting too much strain on the legs.

For the past week my hamstring has been feeling really good, so I’ve upped the effort. We had a great ‘learn to row’ session at the weekend. The 4 of us got into a great rhythm and I really felt like we’d made some significant progress. My diving lesson on Monday was also good fun. I started off with a lack of confidence, which is the worst thing you can do whilst standing on the edge of a dive board and unfortunately this resulted in some rather painful entries. I got it going though, towards the end of the session and completed a few hurdle dives, back dives and also a couple of falling dives off the 3m – all ready to be filmed next week at the final session! Yesterday I also felt confident enough to play in the Middlesex Winter League for Will to Win. We played indoors at Heston David Lloyd which was great, as the weather has been awful recently. The result wasn’t so good.

In between all of this the intensity of my running has started to increase in preparation for my 16 week training plan (starts 29th Dec) for the Manchester Marathon on 19th April. Yep – I’ve gone and made the challenge harder again by signing up for another marathon. I had told everyone that I wouldn’t be running a marathon in 2015 but the lure of potentially running a sub-3.30 marathon was too much to resist. It’s going to be tough but I’m going to give it a go. I’ve also decided that I might as well run a marathon every year of the Olympiad so 4 marathons in 4 years.

In the middle of this training I will also be tackling the rugby challenge. Rugby 7s is the newest sport in the Olympics (along with golf) and despite being a huge rugby fan, I’ve never played. I would like to compete in all of the team sports but realistically rugby as a contact sport could be a bit dangerous without spending appropriate time learning how to tackle and how to protect myself in contact. As an alternative I’ve signed up to ‘tag rugby’. Tag rugby is growing rapidly in London and there is a league starting at the beginning of March so for the last 8 weeks of my training plan I will be playing rugby every Monday in addition to running 5 days a week.

2015 is looking like a very exciting year. Watch this space.

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Diving challenge getting close

I’ve now had 5 diving lessons, unfortunately for a variety of reasons I’ve missed quite a few of the sessions and the gaps in between have slowed the progress a little. I spent the most recent lesson focusing on my technique off the 1m springboard. The instructor did film a couple of the dives and I’m at least a couple more weeks away for posting any footage on here. For now, here is the dive center I’ve been learning at.2014-11-17 21.15.44

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