Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sea Swimming

Most people in the UK will have been in the sea at some time in their lives. Many will have kept their feet firmly on the ground and exercised great caution – instinctively knowing that they are putting their lives in danger by getting in any further. Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death for children in the UK. More than 400 people accidentally drown in the UK every year.

In 2013 fatalities at the sea, on the beach or shoreline accounted for nearly a third (115) of all UK deaths by drowning. A further 22 deaths happened at harbours, docks, marinas and inland or coastal ports.

It’s a very big sea. A dangerous environment that you cannot control

It’s a very big sea. A dangerous environment that you cannot control

‘There’s little to compare with the thrill of a stormy sea swim, diving and forging through teetering waves before bouncing in the swell behind the break.’ (Kate Rew – Wild Swim)

I have been swimming in the sea most of my life. I gained life guarding qualifications as a young adult. In the mid 1970’s – when we had those really amazing heat waves– I worked my summers as a beach lifeguard.
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Another New Bike

Rule #12
The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

This new bike was necessary to be able to ride with my husband in his new activity of Mountain Biking. Careful observation of Rule 12 justifies another new bike in the interests of marital harmony.

I had sold my first road bike, a Specialized Roubaix Elite SL2 2011 road bike as it was superseded by my Specialized Roubaix Comp Disc SL4 2016 – the black bike. To keep the numbers up, a new bike was necessary.

The new bike – Giant Anthem 27.5 1

The new bike – Giant Anthem 27.5 1

Ian bought himself a Marin Mount Vision C-XM8. This is a full carbon, full suspension mountain bike. Admittedly – a high spec for a beginner – but he needs all the help he can get. It’s blue.

Building the Marin

Building the Marin

My new bike is also blue but it is made out of aluminium but also has full suspension. It is a Giant Anthem 27.5 1. So not quite such a high spec but I also need plenty of help in acquiring new off road riding skills.

Our pristine new bikes looking very clean and shiny

Our pristine new bikes looking very clean and shiny

We have been riding together 3 or 4 times a week (when we are at home) and having a lot of fun. We are lucky to live in West Dorset with such beautiful scenery all around us.

Great views from local trails

Great views from local trails

Chesil Beach shingle is a challenge

Chesil Beach shingle is a challenge

We have been to Haldon Forest Park three times to build up our skills in a more controlled environment. We are getting better on the blue trails – but red is still a challenge.

Haldon Farest Park Skills Area

Haldon Forest Park Skills Area

Haldon Forest Park

Haldon Forest Park

Bridport Cycles have a MTB ride every Wednesday and we have been joining in with that to get to know our local trails better and pick up top tips from the experts.

Riding our new bikes with Bridport Cycling Club

Riding our new bikes with Bridport Cycling Club

I am really enjoying this new way of riding. I am still getting out on my road bike just as much. But – something has to go – I am running much less.

Swimming around Brownsea Island

GPS track of our swim

GPS track of our swim

Brownsea Island is spectacularly located in Poole Harbour. It is the largest of Poole Harbour’s islands and has been owned by the National Trust since 1963.

There is evidence of settlement, pottery production, agriculture and trade in the area since the 5th century BC. It has been a hideout for pirates and a gentleman’s estate. In 1907 the first Scouts came to camp on Brownsea and in 1963 a permanent 50 acre camp was opened by Olave Baden-Powell.

With regards to swimming around the island there is a large event organised by Poole RLSS which takes place in September. Entries for this event are booked up very quickly when they open in February.

A group of us swim regularly in the Bridport area and we decided to organise our own swim around Brownsea Island. We did a bit of tidal guesswork and Ian came along in his sea kayak to keep us safe and to carry the food and drink which would help us keep going for an estimated 3 hours in the water.

Ready to swim at the Castle slipway

Ready to swim at the Castle slipway

We met at Sandbanks and caught the yellow Brownsea Island Ferry.

On the ferry to the island

Waiting for the ferry to the island

Ian met us at the Island close to the Castle. We changed into wetsuits and loaded all our gear into the hatches in the kayak.

At the start

At the start – nutrition on the kayak deck

The essential jelly babies and isotonic drinks were kept on deck for easy access during the swim.

Loading supplies into the hatches

Loading supplies into the hatches

As we swam away from the Castle at Brownsea Island we had a strong push from the flooding tide and for a few hundred metres we flew along.

Swimming with the tide behind us was very fast

Swimming with the tide behind us was very fast

This was to be short lived unfortunately and for the next 2 kilometres up to Pottery pier it was quite a hard swim which became harder as we got closer to the top of the island. The wind increased and it got choppy and then there was more boat traffic so we got wash.

Approaching Pottery pier

Approaching Pottery pier

Once round the other side of the Island things calmed down quite a lot and we had wind and waves behind us. We still didn’t get much tidal assistance but it was a lot more fun. There was the added bonus that this side of the island is shallow with little boat traffic so we could stop and stand up to get our food and drinks from the kayak.

Our land support team member, Jane, swam out to meet us.

Jane swam out to join us

Jane swam out to join us

Navigation was easy with land on the left all the way and after just under 3 hours we found ourselves back at our starting point.

Another great adventure.

What is Ironman?


An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), a subsidiary of the Chinese Wanda Group, consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.16 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one day sporting events in the world.

Wanda bought Ironman Races for $650 million dollars in August 2015 and estimates it will bring in $185 a year. Ironman hosts 200 events in 27 countries and has approximately 250,000 registered athletes.

Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race. Any participant who manages to complete the triathlon within these timings becomes an Ironman.

Athletes range from 18 to over 80 and from all different walks of life and athletic backgrounds. The mind is a powerful element of triathlon and mental strength is vital. An Ironman triathlon is arguably the most difficult one-day sporting event in the world, but if you have an open mind and the drive, you can do it. Anything is possible!

The name “Ironman Triathlon” is also associated with the original Ironman triathlon which is now the Ironman World Championship. Held in Kailua-Kona, the world championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978 (with an additional race in 1982) and is preceded by a series of qualifying Ironman events. The Ironman World Championships have become known for their gruelling length and harsh race conditions,

Other races exist that are of the same distance as an Ironman triathlon but are not produced, owned, or licensed by the World Triathlon Corporation. Such races include The Challenge Family series, Challenge Roth and many other long course events that are now established as part of the racing calendar such as Race New Forest, Brutal Triathlons, Castle Triathlon, The Outlaw and Xtreme. The main rival to Ironman has been the Challenge Family. They organise 44 full and half distance triathlons worldwide. They are a smaller family company based in Roth, Germany.

So Ironman is a worldwide profit making company. It is an international brand. Your entry fee – (typically £240 for a 70.3 event and £450 for a full Ironman) is set at a commercial rate to make money for this company. Ironman also attracts sponsors. This year Sketchers are their shoe sponsor and Arena are their swim sponsor.

Nutrition is provided by PowerBar.

Powerbar are the nutrition sponsor

PowerBar are the nutrition sponsor

I think Fyffes must also be involved judging by the number of bananas that are given out.

So why is Ironman so successful? What does this brand do at their events that have athletes desperate to part with their hard earned cash to participate? Some popular events, which tend to be the easier flatter courses, sell out within 24 hours.

I have done quite a few triathlons mostly non Ironman events. The full distance event I did last September – i.e. Ironman distance in Weymouth was organised by Challenge. Compared to the experiences I have had as a competitor and spectator at Ironman events the Challenge Weymouth event was quite inferior in many ways. Ironman have now taken over the Weymouth full distance event so on September 11th 2016 it is Ironman Weymouth and Ironman 70.3 Weymouth. ( It will cost you £415 for the full Ironman and £249 for the 70.3. ) and I expect that the many problems with the 2015 event will be rectified.

So what do you get for your money? In short – a grand day out.

Ironman organisation is flawless. They are very experienced in putting on the events and have a depth of experienced personnel. Most employees are Ironmen! Many events have been going for several years so rolling it out every year is easier. Exmoor 70.3 in 2016 was it’s 11th year. All teething problems are long gone. There is attention to every detail to ensure that the athletes experience is as good as it can be. They aim to give every athlete a great day regardless of their time. At an Ironman event athletes can be fairly confident that basics like the courses being the correct distance are taken care of.

From the moment of registration Ironman takes care of everything. Once they have your money – they look after you and in my experience there are few problems. Information is accurate and available readily. They send you messages which have some individuality (computer generated I’m sure) but make you feel valued. Leading up to the event more information is sent and email from the race director is aimed to make the athlete feel involved. Car parking is taken care of (advance charge of £10 at Exmoor) and information is given to help your logistical planning on how to get to the venue and accommodation etc. Information on the bike and run routes and advice on the likely weather and road conditions together with the equipment you will need are given.

There is an online Athletes Guide, which contains many pages of information about the event. Everything you could possibly need to know is in there. There is also an extensive list of rules and the penalties that are incurred if the rules are broken. The rules are there to enhance safety and to make the race fair for everyone. Triathlon is an individual race and must be completed without any outside assistance.

In the sporting world the Ironman logo is immediately recognisable. At an Ironman event you enter a corporate world of red and black.

It's all about the brand.

It’s all about the brand.

The organisation is meticulous. Every minuscule detail has been thought about in advance and is sorted. The event schedule tells you clearly what you need to do on the day and when it has to be done. By 4pm on the day before Exmoor 70.3 every athlete had to have their bike racked in transition and their red run bag and blue bike bag on the numbered racks in the transition tent. You are encouraged to attend a race briefing. There is a separate more detailed briefing for 70.3 Ironman virgins.

To keep the party rolling, Ironman for the first time this year at Exmoor, organised IronKids races. There are races which range in length from 2km for Year 9 to 500m for the under 5’s. This takes place on Saturday afternoon and with all the music and razzmatazz that goes with Ironman. The IronKids event was fabulous and I’m sure it will continue and grow. The children had the experience of racing in front of a crowd and ran down the red carpet to finish just like the grown- ups. Cost £12 per child – rewards – t shirt, medal and a great experience.

As in all organised events the bottom line is everyone must be kept safe – athletes and spectators.Security is also very important.  Each athlete will bring with them thousands of pounds worth of kit. My bike is down towards the lower end of the range and is worth £2k. So security is vital.  Ironman have very strict security. Athletes can feel confident that their stuff is safe.

Transition – you won’t get past this guy without your wrist band!

Transition – you won’t get past this guy without your wrist band!

Many of the strict rules that athletes have to follow enhance  safety. Ironman are strict about their rules and disqualification is a real threat if rules are infringed. At Exmoor 70.3 in 2016, 7 athletes were disqualified – all for dangerous bike riding.

There is some tangible stuff that each athlete receives for their entry fee. All items strongly reinforce the Ironman brand. On registration each athlete gets a rucksack and their swim cap.

Race goodies

Race goodies

On completion each athlete gets a medal

Finisher's medal

Finisher’s medal

and a rather good finisher t shirt which is sponsored by Craft.

Finisher's t-shirt

Finisher’s t-shirt

Food and drink is copious at the aid stations on the bike and run and there is also lots of food after the finish – unlimited. For those who win their category there is a trophy –  25cm of plastic – re-emphasising the Ironman Brand.

Category winner's trophy

Category winner’s trophy

Overall my experience of Ironman is that although it is expensive – if I going to spend months training for an event, I would rather pay more money and participate in an event which is a safe as it can be with flawless organisation and lots of fun .

For non-athletes I can see why there is some incredulity that people pay £400 to suffer for a day.