Saturday, 18 August 2012

In which I go for a swim

After the excitement of meeting Paula Radcliffe last Wednesday, you'd have thought that my week couldn't get any better.  I certainly didn't think it could. But boy, was I wrong.

Last Saturday morning I was on Twitter and saw a series of tweets from Australian Olympic legend Ian Thorpe saying that he would be heading to Tooting Bec Lido on Sunday morning to give swimming tips to people, to get the London 2012 legacy started before he headed home.  Well who would turn down an offer like that?  So I enlisted R, a friend of mine from my swimming days and we arranged to get the train and head up there together.

So Sunday morning saw me get up at five o'clock in the morning to walk Murdoch before I left to get the train.  Oof, super early for a Sunday, it wasn't even fully light, but luckily I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.  What a great start to the day.
Good morning!
I had just enough time to feed Murdoch, run in and out of the shower and drive up to Guildford station to get the first train of the morning heading towards London.  I met R outside the station and we got on the train.  Once again I found myself getting off the train at Clapham Junction, but this time the connections were much smoother, no delays and we got on the bus towards Tooting Bec.  And got off it a mile too early.  Oops.  But luckily we had plenty of time to walk to the lido, so no harm done.  

We arrived at around 8.30, in plenty of time and got to watch a weekly race that has apparently taken place for the last 100 years.  Great stuff.  Then Ian Thorpe arrived.  Wow.  What a guy.  On TV he's pretty great, but in real life, he glows.

He gave swimming lessons to all kids that wanted them and then he let a couple of groups of adults have a go.  And one of them was me.

First of all we had the chance to chat to him and ask some questions and then it was time to get in the water! We swam a short way so that Ian could see our stroke and give us some tips.

There I am in the yellow hat!
He advised me that I need to get more movement in my hips, so the next length, I tried to do exactly that and promptly swam in a diagonal line across the pool.  When I raised my head and realised that I'd done that, I treated Ian Thorpe to my loudest cackle.  Oops.  But it was great advice, I'm already getting better extension with my arms.  R also got some great tips and we had an amazing girl in our group who had only learned to swim breaststroke at the beginning of the year taking the first few tentative steps towards front crawl.  Phenomenal.

All too soon it was over, but we had enough time for a quick photo with the Thorpedo.

*excited face*
What a great day.  Ian was really kind and patient, brilliant with the kids and a genuinely nice bloke.  What a fantastic way to kick of a fantastic UK swimming legacy after 2012.

Monday, 13 August 2012

In which I go for a little run

In my last post, I gave you a little tease that I would be doing something exciting.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will already have a very good idea what happened, but here it is in all its glory.

On Wednesday evening last week, I (briefly) met Paula Radcliffe.

How did this miracle come to pass? I saw a post from Nike Running UK on Facebook about the event, which was held at the Nike Fuel Station on the south side of Clapham Common.  I knew I'd kick myself if I didn't, so I sent an email asking for a place.  And I got one!

I'd guess that Nike had loads of publicity planned around the fact that Paula would be running the London 2012 marathon and when she had to pull out, they had to change their PR plans. It was quite simple.  They asked everyone to go running with their Nike+ app and log it on Twitter with the hashtag #legendsrunforever.  Simple as that. Go run in Paula's honour.  So I did, we did, in our thousands.  And some of us got the opportunity to go to London to see her.

I had a bit of a fraught journey to get to Clapham Common.  I managed to leave work promptly and get the right train which then got delayed.


So I arrived at Clapham Junction later than expected to find that I'd missed the bus I needed to get.

*double sigh*

Just as I was standing at the bus stop dithering, a couple of runners approached the bus stop.  Their train had also been delayed and we decided to grab a cab together and head to the Fuel Station.  What a couple of nice chaps - Martin & Miguel - and we had a nice chat about running as we hurtled towards our destination.  Thankfully we arrived in time, queued up to get our free running t-shirts (white, with Legends Run Forever written in gold letters, very nice) and then sat down on the grass and waited for our heroes to appear.

First out onto the little stage was Carl Lewis.  How exciting.  A genuine Olympic legend and quite a witty guy to boot.  Then came Paula, to enormous cheers and excitement.  I hope she felt the love there that evening!

Look! It's Carl Lewis! and Paula! (and some guy asking them questions)
A half hour Q&A session followed, which was great, as it was Paula's first public appearance since she announced that she would not be competing.  One thing that really stuck with me was Paula's response when she was asked what inspired her to go out and run.  She replied simply that it was she loves to do it.  She just loves it. I think that's wonderful, and I really hope that her recovery goes well and she can get back to it soon.

After that Paula came down onto the grass and was very patient while everyone scrummed around her clamouring that get their picture taken.
Hero Worship
Paula was very gracious, and had the same lovely smile for every picture.  She is a complete inspiration on any number of levels.

I was so excited to get my picture taken that I nearly missed out on the run that was taking place!  I just managed to tag onto the back of the last group to set out around Clapham Common.  It was great fun, with people from the Nike run club escorting us around the Common.  Then there was a barbeque before it was time to head home.  I got directions back to Clapham Junction from a lovely friendly Nike Run club member and walked back.  As I got to the station, I heard "It's you again!" from behind me - it was Martin and Miguel, my taxi buddies!  I had to wait a while for my train, as the line was still a bit messed up, but got home without issue.

What a great evening, massive thanks to Nike for putting this event on (did I mention that there was no entry fee, it was all completely free, including the food) and for giving us the opportunity to connect with not one, but two sporting legends.

I didn't think it could get any better than that, but Sunday's events proved me wrong (another teaser!!! I'm so mean to you guys).

Separately, I'm loving the Nike Find Your Greatness ads - this one in particular encapsulates everything that I believe about sport.  This is Nathan from London, Ohio being Great.  Enjoy xx

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

In which I do some sport

Everyone, something exciting has happened!  You know that sporting legacy malarkey that we're all supposed to catch, except that none of us has, because we can't stop watching the Olympics long enough to get off the sofa and do the hoovering? ("No, it's really important that I watch the Greco Roman wrestling, I'm really into it now!").  Well, in your face Beeb 24 channel red button sport watching addiction, because on Friday evening I actually went out and did SPORT! (I know! Wow!).  

For a few years now, I've been aware of a series of local aquathlon events based at the Guildford Lido. Every year, I've thought about entering and then have never quite got round to it, for one reason or another.  So this year when a friend suggested entering, I took it as a sign that it was time to stop titting around and just do it.  So we did.  I shan't bore you with exhaustive detail on this.  Suffice to say that we swam 500m in the outdoor pool (tiring, as there was odd current pushing back at one end - breeze? I don't really know) followed by a 5k run around Stoke Park (which had been ploughed after the massacring it got for Guilfest, very uneven underfoot).  

I'm not going to lie.  The whole thing hurt like a bitch.  The swim felt good, but the run was tough.  My left shoulder hurt throughout, my left calf was really tight and I had a stitch in my right hand side.  But despite all of those things, I really enjoyed it and we have already signed up for another one in Hertfordshire at the beginning of September.  

I plan to actually train for this one (if only so that it doesn't hurt so much), so I have already hit the pool and shall be going running once I've posted this.  In actual fact, I would have been running anyway, as my training plan for the Great South Run starts this week, so it's all tying in together nicely.

Please note that Murdoch is not joining me in my sporting endeavour.  He is currently doing this....
Oofy oof
... lying in his bed blinking and making his best tired "oofy oof" noises, as he has been at the Dog House all day and as a result is knackered. If there were a gold medal up for grabs in a "lying on your back huffing" event, he'd win it.

In other news, I'm off to do something even more exciting tomorrow evening.  Eeeeeeek! That's all I'm telling you for now, I'm a tease!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Playing the Game

I've been thinking quite a bit about the Olympic badminton fiasco.  You heard about this, right?  In case you haven't, this is the story about eight badminton players being disqualified from the competition for "not using one's best efforts to win".  I didn't watch the matches, but essentially these players were deliberately playing badly so that they would lose their doubles match and therefore get an easier draw in the next round, easing their way through to the final.  I agree wholeheartedly with the disqualification because the actions of these players have annoyed and upset me considerably.  This is why.

We talk about athletes across all sports and disciplines "representing their countries".  For many people this is quite an abstract concept, but for me, it feels much more real.  I believe that these athletes, their effort and endeavour, truely represent the people of the country that they are competing for.  They are our finest, our best and they are competing on behalf of each and every single one of us.  Why else do we get so much joy and excitement from their success?  Why else do we feel so deflated when they do not perform as well as they and we had hoped?

In contrast to the attitude we saw from the badminton players, earlier this week we had the British men's rowing eight competing at Dorney, aiming to win the gold medal.  They gave it everything they had, went out like the clappers and risked going home with nothing as a result.  Thankfully they left with the bronze, making the nation proud in the process.  

So I guess my question is, who would you want representing you?  Who do you feel better represents you as a person, as a citizen of your nation?  The participants who seek to make their way through the competition by taking the easy option?  By choosing the path of least resistance?  Or those who hit the finish line leaving everything they have on the floor?  Those who strive for excellence?

I know my preference!  Bring on the British bulldog spirit - grab on and don't let go until the job is done.  Go Team GB!