…and so, back to Orca…

…and so, back to Orca…

When i first started triathlon back in 2008 I began with pool triathlon, not needing a wetsuit for my first year or so I lived in ignorance of the challenges of finding a suit that fitted "just right", didn't make me feel like I was suffocating and was not so inflexible on the shoulders that I was fatigued in 100m….

In 2009 I moved up from short course sprint triathlons to the UK 70.3, held at WImbleball. This meant I needed a wetsuit….

At the time we lived near Malmesbury in Wiltshire and my local triathlon mecca was The Big Adventure Shop (or "add link"), they were the guys who built and fixed my original tri-bikes, they were where I went and spent larges amounts of cash (every triathlete knows this is the reality). They were also the place I was first fitted for a wetsuit. I went in not really knowing what I wanted, but with some £s and an understanding I was a good swimmer…..I left with an original Orca Alpha.

It was a great suit, flexible on the shoulders, good buoyancy and fitted well (although at the time I felt that it wanted to kill me…..), the team at TBA did really well, it was the suit that got me out of the water usually in the top 10% of the field (sadly bike and run were never as good). At IM Switzerland it helped me to a sub hour finish for the 3.8km and ahead of 3 of the Pros…my last race in it was my first proper OW race (rather than Tri swim), the Great East Swim 1 mile swim which I completed in 24:XX, it was a great suit, but as with all suits the neoprene eventually wears too thin…

When the Alpha died I was a member of the BCTTT a Tri club with a difference, online only but with some great "sponsorships/deal" arranged through the founder Darren Roberts, Conehead. One of these was with Deano, originally a main player at BlueSeventy, but at the time he was setting up his own company, Huub. I bought a Huub Archimedes from him, originally a 3:5, but he changed it to a 4:4 as the buoyancy was way too much in the first one.

This lasted for a while, however it failed under the arms, there was a seam which was poorly placed and the inside of the arm rubbed on it with each stroke, leading to eventual failur. To his credit Deano shipped me a prototype suit, which would eventually become the Archimedes II, as an apology for such a quick failure…however I never really got on with this suit, despite my pool times getting faster it never seemed to be reflected in OW and I constantly felt I was fighting the suit. Finally after doing the 14km Bridge to Bridge in it and getting some pretty bad rubs I decided to look elsewhere.

In 2015 thin neoprene was just coming in, the only company with it was Orca and as I have a swimming background it seemed the right choice.

For flexibility and comfort the 2015 Orca Alpha was outstanding, however it was COLD……with so much 0.8mm neoprene used on the suit (basically, the arms, the shoulders, the chest and the back) despite its titanium internal coating it was cold, great for swimming but only in very warm waters. I swam the Bridge to bridge in it but over a season the neoprene on the shoulders wore thin quickly, so back to Wiggle it went, roughly a year after purchase. After looking at many option I tried a small company call Yonda, fantastic service, happy for me to try on and even swim in their suits. I ordered a Ghost from them, what a suit, flexible, warm and just the right buoyancy.

I swam all of 2016 in my Yonda Ghost, PBing at the Bridge to bridge and finishing the season at Windermere completing the 17.5km in 5hrs 20mins. It was a great suit with one slight drawback, when I finished Windermere I noticed I had worn through the underarm neoprene. I spoke to the head of Yonda and he was partly the seam lines along with the distances swum (apparently I swam further in my suit than anyone else they had sold one to), he offered me a good deal for 2017 and just before the 2017 OW season started a new Yonda Ghost appeared. They had improved the seam lines and it felt better as a result. Over the three months I swam in it from April to July (I was out with Shingles for a month) I swam nearly 100km in it, over 40km of that in the past 3 weeks. Sadly last week it developed the same issue my previous suit had, the neoprene just fell apart under the arms, I spoke to Yonda again and after some back and forth we decided that there was little reason to burn through another suit, it was probably just an issue with me, the distances I was doing (most triathletes will not swim 50 or 60km in a wetsuit in 2 or even 3 seasons) and the materials in the underarm area, therefore we decided to go our separate ways.

So "what now"? I knew thin arms/shoulders were a must, however buoyancy is always a bit hit an miss in buying suits. The options on suits are limited on the high end, bearing in mind I wanted something that could stand up to high mileage. I narrowed it down to ROKA, Orca and Zoot, the B70 Helix and Zone3 Victory being for stick insects. I really wanted a ROKA Maverick X but the only way to buy one was to import it from the US…which meant it was going to cost nearly £1k with import duties…way to much. I ordered a Zoot WikiWiki from Wiggle, think Neon Stormtrooper (see the image below):

A fabulous feeling suit but just too big in XL (and a L would have been waaaay too small), so back it went….and so, back to Orca…

I ordered an Orca Predator, their top of the range suit, like an Alpha but with thicker neoprene throughout, and slightly more buoyancy in the legs. I tried it out on Saturday and it felt good, still cold on the arms but nothing like my old Alpha…fingers crossed it will improve over swims,

I am looking forward to another swim in it on Friday when I get back from Chicago…

Starting to get my swimming mojo back

Starting to get my swimming mojo back

It has been a long road, Shingles absolutely wiped me out and it has only been in the last week that I feel the drive to swim long coming back. Until last week every swim over 3km was a chore and felt terrible, and then last week last week I managed, a Monday 4km swim (with 4×100 IM at the end – out of practice on these!!):

a Wednesday 10k swim:

a Friday 3km swim:

…and a Friday evening 2.1km swim


…and a Saturday morning 3km swim:

All in all a good week – the shoulders really felt it on Sunday and the 4km in the pool this morning was really tough for the first 1km…times are better than at this time last year – 1:33-1:40/100m, as opposed to 1:40/100m average, which surprises me as I still don’t feel it….I still feel in recovery mode…

This week’s aim is to beat the swims I had last week….so 4km today, 10k Wed, Fri/Sat OW but with a 3-4km swim somewhere on Tue or Thur…next week is Chicago week, so swimming will be limited albeit in the rather beautiful pool in the Intercon in Chicago…

The Intercontinental Pool

As to races, these are still planned to be:

Thames Marathon/Bridge to Bridge – 14km

Windermere One Way – 17.5km

Serpentine Super Six – 9.6km

The Thames Marathon will be my 4th time doing it, and Windermere the 2nd. The Serpentine swim is a new one though, and I am doing it for charity, a little more information has come out on this since I last posted:

Super Six: Swim six miles with a combination of one-mile and two-mile events during the day. All the ‘Super Sixers’ will start in the same one-mile wave, then how you complete the total distance is up to you. Choose to swim event after event, or take a break before you continue on with your swim

Sounds like fun – looking at it I think I will swim 4 mile swims and then do a 2 mile at the end… I think….regardless I am raising money for a small charity that helps disabled and disadvantaged children in the UK to participate and progress in sport. This is done via mainly small grants to help buy much needed equipment. If you can help at all please head over to my donations page, THANKS!!


Until next time,





the very slow road to recovery…

the very slow road to recovery…

After eighteen days of feeling totally wiped out I started to feel better yesterday. The neuropathic pain is still there all round my right side but I feel less fatigued, however this virus has not finished quite yet, I am still very tired and struggling to concentrate. Yesterday I tried out the turbo and kept my HR below 120….at the end of 20mins I welt all shaky…certainly not back to full strength and then this morning was a brief dip in the pool – 1k v. v. easy wow totally exhausted….I will keep pushing and gradually extending the exercise, however I think this might take more than a couple of days to get over….

So bored……

So bored……

When will this virus give up – now at the end f week two of having it and I have really had enough….the rash has all but gone, the bone aching fatigue and neuropathic pain has not however….I have never had anything quite like this….just shattered….currently I am due to start work again on Monday, how I am going to manage the mass of emails and the ton of time critical things people will throw at me I have no idea…currently I can manage to decide what to eat….

So frustrating….

PHN and Jesus Green Lido

PHN and Jesus Green Lido

So as I slip into week 2 of having Shingles my thoughts turn to recovery…the rash has scabbed over so theoretically I can go back to swimming and everything else…however there is a slight problem….PHN or Post Herpetic Neuralgia….this is the bit no-one really tells you about Shingles. I remember a few people I know getting Shingles and saying the rash was itchy and it wiped you out, this I can understand, however no-one mentioned the pain afterwards….my pain seems to have got worse since I finished the aciclovir, reading around the internet this is not uncommon. So last night I started amitriptyline for the pain, this can take anything from days to weeks to be effective….fingers crossed it is days.

On a positive note Jesus Green Lido (images courtesy of @JesusGreenLido) in Cambridge reopens this year and the great thing is they seem to have listened to people and brought back the early morning swims 🙂


it takes a week or so to clean every year and then five days to fill it but it goes from looking like awful to amazing –

It is a great resource as they don’t mind you turning up and swimming for thee hours in the lap lane plus being unheated it is a great alternative to the lake and is open more frequently – I did several 110×100 sessions last year – now I am looking forward to the when I can do it again – building to Windermere..

Training and illness…

Training and illness…

So, this month was planned to busy with a good solid build of four weeks, finishing in a 110x100yds at the Jesus Green Lido….sadly this is looking a long way off at the moment and the reason why is the dreaded word….SHINGLES….

Basically for the past 9 months I have be flat out at work, initially covering three jobs as my boss left and it took them ages to realise I should replace her, and then it took them a further age to appoint the two members of my team, anyway…I have been insanely busy burning the candle at both ends, this combined with training has pushed me over the immune system edge so to speak…to give you an idea in one week when I was at the office I worked over 74hrs….in five days….I only theorhetically get paid for 37.5 :-(….Anyhoo….we had a fabulous holiday in St Lucia over the Easter period, I totally relaxed, and then I got back to work and spent the next three weeks firefighting crisis and deadline after deadline…at which point I started to feel a little under the weather and then BOOM spots appear on my back and lower chest and the pain really kicked in….I have been on 800mg Aciclovir 5x/day for three days and a lot of paracetamol! The rash seems to have been halted and I seem to have got off lightly with that but the pain…wow deep, leaden pain really nauseating and not at all pleasent accompanied by some fun shooting stabbing pains for variety….not good

The rash – two clear lines of Shingles vesicles are visible as they run along the dermatomes T8 and T9.

I was meant to be heading out to Tokyo on Thursday but that is looking really unlikely, and currently all I can manage is one flight of stairs without breaking out into a sweat and feeling shattered…..

so there you go….alll training halted and lots of nerve pain….really hope my season is not too badly affected by this but it will have an impact, certainly to the earlier events….oh well….

In the meantime enjoy some of the photos I have taken whilst I have been travelling and the video I took of the daily commute into the office 🙂

Milton Country Park Lake – where I swim -it is a beautiful spot – they run OW swimming there on both Friday nights and Saturday mornings

Our back garden – now all officially a garden as the planning permission came through in the past few weeks

Our chickens lay a multitude of different size eggs…

Illinois is a little flat….on approach to ORD…

Sunset over the wing of the Queen of the Skies….love flying on BA747

Chicago by night, from the window of my 33rd floor room…

Chicago in the morning

The commute to the office

We got some new chickens too….

And a different type of egg arrives….

Finally my new wetsuit arrived – another Yonda Ghost (I wore through mine during the Windermere swim last year…) – looking forward to trying this out when I recover 🙂


New location….new name….

New location….new name….

So after 18yrs with PlusNet hosting my email and blogs I have decided to move to a new provider, this meant that I could shift to hosting my own blog, using my own domain name….so as I am no longer focussed on only triathlon (maybe in the future) I have renamed my blog….

Training is not going well…no sooner do I have a stretch of time at home does something stop me training…this time a chest infection…so annoying….hopefully this will pass quickly and I can back to it….


Also,  I have been given the chance to do something different in 2017. Whilst I had already signed up for the Thames Marathon and the Windermere One Way a few days ago I was approached by Chris Read the Chief Exec of a small charity, who asked if I would be interested in racing the Super Six for them at Swim Serpentine.

At the current moment,  full details are scarce for this event but it has been described as 6 miles swum across several races through the day, in the Serpentine, London and it is limited to 20 slots – sounds fun.

So in 2017 I will be swimming:

  • the Great East Swim, maybe 5 or 10km
  • the 14km of the Henley to Marlow stretch of the Thames
  • the 17km of Windermere
  • a day of races in the Serpentine


It is some time since I have swum shorter distances, fast – this could be a challenge….

Finally a little more detail on the A Smile for a Child (Registered Charity No. 1123357), the charity I am raising money for. The charity is a small grant giving charity, that helps disabled and disadvantaged children in the UK to participate and progress in sport. This is done via mainly small grants to help buy much needed equipment. The charity was founded by Chris Read after he was made redundant and runs the charity on a part time basis, his drive and enthusiasm has driven the charity forward with the help of the Read family to start and later with help from many of their many friends.

If you can do please pop over and click on the donate button – it is all for a good cause!




No Zurich Race, So What Is The Focus In 2017?

No Zurich Race, So What Is The Focus In 2017?

So despite being my 3rd entry into Zurich (which should increase my chances), yet again I am not going to be swimming one of the big European lakes in 2017. The confirmation came through late last year but with all the madness of Christmas and the start back at work (which has been insane) I have only had a chance to put finger to keyboard now, as I sit on a flight to the office in Chicago at 34,000ft….

So what am I going to do, what is planned…two races are certainly on the calender….

    The Bridge to Bridge, or the Thames marathon as it is now known -14km down the Thames from Henley to Marlow, a great iconic swim – this will be my 4th year

      Windermere One Way – over 10miles (17.5km from last year’s swim) the length of the longest lake in England. There are lots of ways to swim this lake, as a single swim, in the BLDSA swim, or with a group who don’t mind wetsuits….I am going with them and see if I can improve upon my 17/106 placing from last year 🙂

      So long distance speed is the name of the game this year….I know what the distance requires for training to complete…now I want to race. In addition I will probably do the Great East 5km as it is not too boring and a good pace swim, and I have said to Chris Read that if he can get me a super 6 slot (6 miles of swimming different distances in one day) I will race for him at the Surpentine Swim at the end of September….fingers crossed!

      So now this year is all about speed and pace whilst swimming so I need to start planning….periodisation and also nutrition….more to come on this…in the meantime – my view whilst I type this 🙂

      Zurich Swim entered….

      Zurich Swim entered….

      Eek…..not only have I already entered the Windermere swim for 2017 with the intention of going faster, but today I submitted my application to swim the Lake Zurich Race….


      This is a world apart from what I did this year, Windermere is a relatively short 10ish miles, albeit chilly……Zurich is 16.35miles/26km from Rapperswil to Zurich…that is a loooong way….over 1000 laps of a 25m pool…or in ultramarathon running terms about about 60miles…

      If I get in (and they prioritise people who have applied 2 or three times and not got in (I have applied twice before)) I think I will have to do some serious swim training….I blew up 8 miles into Windermere, this is twice as long….also if I do get in I will most certainly be raising money for a charity, I said I wouldn’t in 2017 but if I get a slot for an endurance event that will take 9-10hrs I might change my mind.

      Always like a challenge…now to wait until December to see if I get in…

      A Chicago commute…

      A Chicago commute…

      One of the good things about being based in the UK but working a lot in Chicago is that I have had the chance to drive around and explore the city a bit, I have also worked out a good commute 🙂 it takes the same amount of time as the Interstate but it is prettier and although not fast does mean that I am moving and not sitting in nose to tail traffic…

      As I was sitting in the car the other morning last week I thought I would take some pictures to show what some of the places I drive through are like…including some insane amounts of Halloween decoration…..sadly I missed taking a photo of the neo roman pad which had been swathed in fake cobwebs and 8ft spiders…I am not joking….enjoy….

      Rolling onto the runway
      Chasing the sunset across the pond
      Night overlooking the Tribune Tower
      Leaving the hotel garage and heading through the back streets of the city
      Michigan Avenue and the Water Tower
      The Hancock Tower
      Lake Shore Drive
      A bit Ferris Bueller….the ‘burbs
      The houses are not small….
      Northwestern Uni
      One of the Frat houses…they are HUGE….
      and another…
      the local Ba’hai Temple…the stonework detail is amazing…
      They take Halloween seriously here….
      The scary pumpkin man in a nursery garden…really….
      Another pumpkin collection (at a church???) along with a pumpkin person diarama around the tent….
      Cobweb wrapped hedges….
      and anything is better than the endless interstate…
      Heading back into the city along Lake Shore
      Getting nearer….
      The Drake and Hancock Tower
      Michigan Avenue from the other direction, almost back to the hotel