Great British Beach Clean

Great British Beach Clean

Since I started swimming in open water, the environment has become more and more important to me. Having to pick my way across a beach covered in litter or sharing the sea with discarded plastic bags really takes away from the pleasure of swimming outdoors.

Unfortunately the problem of plastic litter on beaches has increased 140% since 1994. Plastic never biodegrades, it breaks down into smaller pieces but does not actually disappear. It’s estimated that their will be more plastic in our seas than fish by 2050- a very worrying statistic. The waste comes from many sources- the public, fishing activities, sewage pipes and shipping, but it’s all preventable. Litter kills marine life as they often mistake it for food and it blocks their stomachs. It breaks my heart to see images of seals with plastic packaging caught around their necks.

 

Wanting to take a more proactive role in keeping the environment litter free, I heard about the Great British Beach Clean. Organised by the Marine Conservation Society, the Beach Clean campaign takes places on over 300 beaches around the country over the 15th-18th September. Volunteers are invited to spend a few hours cleaning and recording the litter found on their local beach. Many of the plastics removed from these events are sorted and recycled.

I went along to the Great British Beach Clean at Thorpe Bay, which is where I took part in the Southend Triathlon earlier this year. It was great to see such a huge turnout of volunteers- far more than I’d expected. We were issued with gloves, bin bags and clip-boards for recording the types of litter we found.

Great British Beach Clean

We spread out along the beach and began sifting through the sand and pebbles to pick up stray pieces of trash. Before long I’d picked up handfuls of bottlecaps, straws, wet wipes and tin foil. Much of it was tangled in the seaweed or around the beach huts. A babies dummy and a plastic spade were two of my more interesting finds!

We logged everything we found so that the Marine Conservation Society can build up a full picture of what exactly is on our beaches and how we can prevent it getting there. Surprisingly, the most common item on Thorpe Bay beach was cotton buds- they were everywhere!

Great British Beach Clean

It’s not a particularly glamorous way to spend an afternoon, but it felt good to do my bit for the environment and leave Thorpe Bay beach in a cleaner state than when I arrived. It’s important that we all take responsibility for keeping our beaches and seas clean- you don’t need to wait until next year’s campaign. At home, we are also endeavouring to cut down on our use of plastic bottles, by buying a Brita water filter and SodaStream machine.

Did you get involved in the Great British Beach Clean? Are you trying to cut down on plastic waste?

Recovering from race season

Recovering from race season

The triathlon season is coming to an end for another year. Unless you still have a very late season race, chances are your calendar is now looking a bit bare. The medals have been hung up and the wetsuit packed away until next summer.

The off-season is a chance to rest, recuperate and repair your body. Depending on how frequently you’ve raced, it is advised to take 1-2 weeks off from formal training- some coaches even recommend an entire month. Of course, some athletes find it difficult to break from routine, but pushing through to next season can result in mental burnout and injuries. We underestimate the toll that racing takes on our bodies and minds.

Use the time to reflect on your race season- celebrate your achievements and consider the areas which could be improved. Did you accomplish your goals? There’s always something to be learned from every race- start planning ahead for next season using the knowledge you’ve gained.

If you’ve been plagued with niggles or injuries, now is the time to book a physio appointment and work on strengthening those areas. Focus on core work and flexibility. A gait analysis at this time of year is also worthwhile.

Catch up on sleep- make the most of not having to get up at 5am to race!

Relaxing spa breaks are perfect for recovering from race season and switching off both mentally and physically. Treat yourself to a much deserved massage and chill in the jacuzzi rather than ploughing up and down the pool.

Spend time with friends and family- we are all guilty of neglecting our social lives during an intense race season! Shift your focus away from triathlon and catch up on the projects that you’ve been too busy for. Try different activities which complement triathlon- mountain biking, yoga, pilates, hiking. Keep active and get outdoors without the mindset of training for a race.

After a period of rest, it’s time to get back into some unstructured, easy training. Make your sessions shorter than normal and at a lower intensity, with a focus on technique as you head into winter training.
Personally, I’m enjoying a well-deserved break from swimming and cycling. I’ve raced in 6 triathlons this summer, plus a 24-hour relay race and my big swim so it’s definitely time for a rest. I’m still running three times a week, with the focus on an Autumn half-marathon but I’m not being coached until the new year. I’ve got a much-needed holiday to Croatia coming up, where I plan to relax on the beach and in the spa then I’ll ease back into training when I return. Around this time of year, I like to volunteer at a few races and try out some different outdoor activities. I’ll see my physio for an end-season MOT and begin to plan for next season.
Written in collaboration with Champneys.
How are you recovering from race season? What are your plans for the off-season?

Swimwear for Bigger Busts- plus Bravissimo giveaway

Swimwear for Bigger Busts

Recently I had a request from a reader for recommendations on swimwear with more support for bigger busts. Personally, I don’t have particularly big boobs so it’s not an area I have much experience with, but I wanted to do some research and suggest some options for her. Feeling comfortable in your swimwear goes a long way towards feeling confident in the water. There’s nothing worse than a swimsuit that needs adjusting at the end of each length!

Here’s four of the best swimsuits for bigger busts…

Swimwear for bigger busts

  1. Speedo Premiere Ultimate Swimsuit

The Speedo Premiere Ultimate is available in E-K cup and has internal underwire, full cups, a low scoop back and extra support in Xtra Life soft Lycra. The fabric is comfortable, stretchy and quick-drying so that you can get the most out of your swim.

2. Aqua Sphere Chloe Swimsuit

The Chloe by Aqua Sphere is available up to bust size 46. It has bust lining for support, a tummy control panel, criss-cross back and low leg. It’s made in Aqua Infinity fabric which is a breathable yet highly chlorine resistant fabric- capable of lasting over 200 hours in chlorinated water.

3. Speedo Fit Kickback Swimsuit

Another Speedo suit which comes highly recommended- it features bust support, wide comfortable straps and chlorine resistance Endurance+ fabric. The higher back provides more support than open-back swimsuits. Available up to bust size 42.

4. Zoggs Brisbane Wire-Free Sports Swimsuit

The Zoggs Brisbane has wire-free integral bra support and a lower leg for more coverage. The X-Back pulls the straps to the centre of the back, allowing for greater freedom of movement in the shoulders. I’m a fan of Zoggs swimwear and actually have this suit myself and have found it lasts incredibly well without fading or loosing shape.

 

I’m giving away a £30 voucher for Bravissimo, so if your swimsuit needs replacing enter your details and visit my Facebook page for a chance to win. Bravissimo have a huge range of lingerie, swimwear and clothing for women who are a D-L cup, their mission is to inspire big boobed women to feel amazing!

Giveaway ends midnight on 16th September 2017. Winner announced 17th September.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Swimming the Solent- I did it!

Swimming the Solent

I did it, I swam the Solent! It was an incredible experience, I’m still on a high a few days later.

For those who are not regular readers, I’ve been training to swim from mainland England to the Isle of Wight as my main challenge for the year. The big day came around on Saturday and we were incredibly lucky with the weather. There was bright sunshine, a gentle breeze and flat sea- we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

Here’s how the day went..

The Aspire swimmers met in Haslar Marina, Gosport at 11.30am, where we were issued with a number and coloured swimming cap. The 12 swimmers had been split into 3 groups, based on our mile swim time. The idea was that the slower swimmers would set off first, followed by the medium then fast swimmers- we would eventually meet up and come into Ryde as group. I’d been allocated to the fast swim group based on a predicted mile time of 32-33 minutes. I hoped I hadn’t overestimated myself! There were only two women in the group… #thisgirlcan

Swimming the Solent

Next, we were given a Tupperware box to hold any mid-swim snacks and other items. I packed a bag of Jelly Babies and a spare pair of goggles. These would be kept on the kayak, incase we needed to access them during the swim. We were also given a dry-bag to hold our clothes to change into after the swim. It was soon time to slip on our wetsuits and listen to the safety briefing. Glen headed off to board the spectators boat. Things were starting to get very real!

The swimmers were then loaded onto RIB boat which would transport us to the starting point at Fort Gilkicker. Having to wear a life jacket on the boat was quite ironic, given what we were about to do! The boat sped out of the marina and into the Solent creating waves- suddenly the water didn’t seem so calm! The Isle of Wight, our final destination was clearly visible across the water although it did seem quite a distance away. There was a nervous atmosphere on the boat as we all questioned what we were about to let ourselves in for. There were jokes about borrowing the outboard motor to give us a helping hand!

Swimming the Solent

The RIB brought us close to the shore as possible, then we were transferred onto another smaller boat which moved us to onto the beach. Here, we were introduced to our kayakers (I think mine was called Pete). My dry-bag was loaded into the hold beneath the kayak and my Tupperware box and drink bottle were placed on top. I asked my kayaker to stay to my right and slightly ahead of me. He would be guiding me and keeping me on course for Ryde beach. I wouldn’t need to worry about sighting- just keep following the kayak. It was quite nice to have my own personal navigator!

Swimming the Solent

Wetsuit zipped up, final adjustments made and a short dip in the sea. Just after 1pm, the slower swimmers slid into the water, shortly followed by the medium group. Finally it was time for my group to begin our swim. I hit start on my Garmin and took my first stroke. I felt as though I set off quite quickly as I was excited to be moving- I tried to slow down and pace myself.

Turning to breathe, I could see the white sails of the yachts on the water. Below, all I could see was a turquoise haze. I sensed the spectator boat on my left with Glen snapping photos, but I was breathing to the right so I couldn’t see him. Occasionally, my kayaker would tell me that we were turning slightly right. I kept the yellow point of the kayak in my sight and tried not to drift too far away. Later I found out that the swimmers ahead had been stopped to let a tanker and container ship pass, but fortunately I had been guided away from that.

Swimming the Solent

I wondered if I had caught up with the other swimmers or whether I was at the back of the pack. It was difficult to tell where I was in relation to others. Occasionally, I’d look at my Garmin under the water. I passed the 1 mile in around 32 minutes- at least my predicated pace was correct!

I didn’t think about too much as I swam. I just focused on turning my arms over and pulling as strongly as I could. The water wasn’t choppy, but there were waves moving me up and down. I felt as though I was swimming diagonally, which I actually was as the path of the swim forms a curve. The weather really was gorgeous- the suns rays shone through the water and bubbles trailed from my arms like glitter.

I’ve visited the Isle of Wight for school trips as a child and again for a wedding in 2011. I’ve always gone on the ferry like a normal person, so it seemed very bizarre to be swimming across the Solent. It’s something I never would have considered when I started swimming lessons four years ago, but I’ve really fallen in love with open water challenges.

After some time, my kayaker told me that I’d reached halfway. He pointed out a buoy but I couldn’t see it! I stopped for a quick glug of my drink, then carried on.

Swimming the Solent

Swimming the Solent

Swimming the Solent

Sometimes I would feel seaweed brush against my hands and feet. Fortunately I didn’t come across any jellyfish, but later my kayaker told me he had spotted them although they didn’t come near me. My hands started to go numb and my goggles felt tight against my face, I was looking forward to taking them off. I felt like I needed to sneeze as the salty water was irritating my nose.

Meanwhile, Glen was having great fun on the RIB. Every time a boat came in the direction of the swimmers, the RIB would speed away to warn them of our presence. He felt like he was in Miami Vice! It was the jetskiiers who were the biggest worry as they were driving erratically. I must admit I was totally oblivious to any traffic in the Solent, I just kept on swimming.

Sometimes I would look up towards the island. There are two church spires and we were aiming between those. I saw 4km pass on my watch and wondered how much further it would be. The swim was starting to feel very long! I swam through some very warm patches of water and almost wondered if someone had just pee’d there.

Swimming the Solent

Swimming the Solent

Swimming the Solent

More seaweed appeared in the water and I swam through big clumps. Suddenly sand appeared below me, I had almost made it! The sandbank comes out a long way from the beach at Ryde, so it’s possible to walk the rest of the way in. I stood up and thanked my kayaker as I waded through the shallow water to the Aspire flag on the beach. I hit stop on my Garmin, making it 4.6km in 1 hour and 48 minutes.

Several swimmers were already on the beach, but more were still out in the water. It turned out I had caught and overtaken some of the slow and medium paced swimmers. I unzipped my wetsuit, ate some Jelly Babies and sat down in the shallow water. I looked back at where I’d just swam from, it felt surreal. I saw hovercraft launching from the port beside the beach, gliding over the sand and into the water.

Before long, it was time to get back on the smaller boat which took us to the RIB. We congratulated each other on our successful swims- everyone had done amazingly well. We held on tight as the boat bounced across the water at top speed, taking only around 10 minutes to get back to the marina. That was the most fun part of the day!

Swimming the Solent

Swimming the Solent

Aspire had organised a celebratory meal back in Gosport Marina. Unfortunately only two swimmers were able to attend, which meant we got double-helpings of the chicken curry.

I must admit I’m now quite tempted by a channel relay. Definitely something to target in the future. Aspire were a great charity to swim for, everything was perfectly organised and ran smoothly. I’m delighted to have raised nearly £1300 for people with spinal cord injuries, everyone had donated so generously. There’s still time to add to my fundraising via my Just Giving page.

Have you even been to the Isle of Wight?