Monday, 15 June 2009

Goole Splashers

I have not long returned from Goole Swimming Pool where I have just had a very humbling evening with the Goole Splashers. I went along to their swim session to present them with the sponsorship money I raised from competing in Ironman Lanzarote. It was a warm feeling to be handing Val (the Secretary of the East Riding Of Yorkshire Disabled Sports Association, and organiser of the Splashers Swimming Club) a cheque for £550. What is brilliant is some of the money will go directly to the organisation of the 2009 Swimming Gala for all swimmers from the district.

When I met Val this evening I was instantly struck by somebody whose week revolves around organising activities for children and adults with various physical and learning disabilities. I would guess most, if not all of her work is voluntary. Whilst I was there tonight she was asking who would like to come along on Saturday to the Indoor Curling they had organised. They have got some adapted Curling Stones with ball bearings so they roll along the sports hall floor, sounds like great fun. Her energy, enthusiasm and dedication is clearly in huge abundance. Tonight at the pool there were 70 swimmers. Some had severe physical disabilities and required the hoist to get into the pool, wore armbands and had a helper with them in the water. Some were there independently mixing in and having fun with the others, some were physically fine and excellent swimmers, but had quite severe learning difficulties. Chatting to Val revealed that many had travelled as small groups from local care homes, some had come with their parents, and some had travelled from further afield, all because of the specific session organised by the Splashers. Tonight was a quiet night, apparently when 120 turn up things can get pretty noisy and boisterous!

There were smiling faces to be seen and laughter to be heard all over the pool. The water slide got a great deal of action, I can vouch for it's fun factor as I took Ellie down it a number of times, she loved it! Volunteers were throwing beach balls to whoever wanted to play, and care workers were helping hold and guide those who found floating difficult. The session was clearly a big part of the week for all there. They have access to the pool for 2 hours and I am sure some of the early arrivers were still there as I dried off at 8.15, they couldn't get enough of it.

I have offered my help, and intend to get down on more occasions over the next few months, getting in the water and helping out where I can. I will take Ellie with me some of the time, she did ask why the adults were wearing arm bands, so it will be a good experience for her. Ellie had a great time splashing around and soon made a friend with a little girl who she played on the mini slide with, they then played a throwing and collecting game with some floating foam animals.

It is always nice to give or do something for others. When I drop a few pennies in a collection pot in town and get a small circular sticker I feel good. Giving presents nearly always makes me feel as excited as receiving them. It was great tonight knowing that my efforts in Lanzarote, something I love doing, combined with the generosity of many of my friends, family and work colleagues will allow many there tonight to enjoy a competitve Swimming Gala and further sports activities over the coming year.

Watching all those people there tonight smiling, laughing and having fun reminded me that having fun is what it's all about. Sometimes it's all too easy to get wrapped up in our quests for personal bests or our pursuit for 'more', (more money, more strength, more fitness, more houses, more bikes, etc, etc) that we forget to enjoy the experience. Sure, we will set ourselves targets and goals, we will strive to achieve personal bests, we will want to see progress but along the way we must all make sure we have fun.......

Monday, 8 June 2009

Birthday Girl...

Evie was 2 years old on Saturday, now where did those years go? The change over the last year has been incredible. I wish I could learn and master as much as she has done in a year. All sorts of locomotion skills, walking, running (she's fast), jumping (just), eating with a fork, spoon and knife (sort of), drinking from a big girls cup and glass, communication (although most communication is in a language only understood by Evie, a language Sarah has called Evish) teeth cleaning, sitting on a big chair or kitchen stool and bossing your big sister around, (Jevon, is this normal behaviour from the youngest sister?) Happy Birthday Evie you have given us many sleepless nights in this last year but you have made our hearts glow on so many more occasions.

As Evie progresses at an alarmingly fast rate so does her sister Ellie. My brother and I took Ellie swimming on Sunday morning. After buying her a swimming sausage (6ft long foam swimming aid) and a sinking stick (the equivalent of the black brick) we went for it. Ellie is confident in the water, she spent most of the holiday in Lanzarote in the pool and loves jumping in, face planting (she calls this diving) being launched high in the air, however, all whilst wearing her armbands. After the usual fun and games, playing sharks etc etc, she then wanted her arm bands off to swim with her new sausage. She then wanted to pick 'Fred' up from the bottom of the pool (her name for her sinking stick) with her sausage for buoyancy. She then got rid of the sausage and with some great encouragement from Uncle Max managed to kick her legs and swim down a little deeper for 'Fred', and then finally she ended by really trying to swim between Max and I with her head up kicking and paddling like mad :) She was a STAR, had great fun and has made real progress, it wont be long before she is swimming for real, do they still do the 5m badge. She has now given Evie her armbands, and can't wait to go next weekend. Well done Ellie, you also fill our hearts with so much happiness and laughter.

The Garrard family has joined the world of the garden trampoline, a 10ft beauty. This was Evie and Ellie's Birthday presents from us and my Mum and Dad, thanks Mum and Dad it's ace fun. Needless to say most of the weekend was spent bouncing. 7am on Friday and Saturday we were bouncing, a great way to start the day.

I finally finished marking the 275 pieces of A Level Coursework, a job I do for the exam board each year. It is a small piece of work that should demonstrate the students ability to write 6 short essays chosen from a variety of topics from the 2 year Sport and PE Course. The standard of work from some students is incredibly low, it makes you wonder why they are doing A Levels. Why are they doing A Levels? Well it's a complex issue but I think the pressure from society, teachers and parents to study beyond 16 years is immense. There is also so little else to do. Apprenticeship positions have all but dried up and practical courses still have a stigma attached to them and many students don't fancy that option. So what happens, students stay at school or go to college and study subjects they were fairly successful at GCSE's (not really a true reflection of their intellect) Some subjects, Maths and Science modules can be taken over and over again, and many other subjects have turned to multiple choice style questioning or short answer style questions. Students then stay on at school and find themselves hugely out of their depth, unable to cope with the style of questioning and extended writing required for most A level subjects. They of course will get plenty of opportunities to retake the modular exams they fail to perform in and eventually at the age of 18 will most likely progress to a University (Universities now need to put bums on seats, so anybody will do) to study a degree course that probably won't lead into a related job, and then what???? I think employee's have already started to look at the path taken to get there as well as the end grade. I suppose in some cases it might show perseverance and determination but I still question whether it is the correct route for these students to be taking. It's not all doom and gloom, I have also come across some very clear, concise, accurate pieces of work at very high levels.

I have started training this week. I have ridden to work each day, thoroughly enjoying the weather and the steady no pressure riding. I have laid down the foundations for my 'get strong' weights campaign. Feeling the effects of a Chest session for a couple of days and an over enthusiastic weighted abbs session for a number of days. In also went swimming, an activity I have in the past simply forgotten about after completing my Ironman race. This year however things are going to be different. I intend to continue swimming, working on my technique and putting together some interesting pool sessions, building my swim speed and endurance. It's been a very enjoyable week of training (maybe exercising is a more accurate term)

I have plotted some rough plans for the rest of the season starting on Sunday with a 10 mile TT on the V212 course. This is the stretch of road where Tom, Helen and I have done multiple loops in our mega brick sessions, so I know it well. I hope to get my heart rate sky high and see what the clock stops on. I will then build on this adding in some serious intensity into my training. I am really motivated to take my fitness forward and enjoy some more races this summer and into the autumn.

Dad continues to make good progress and is now on the road to recovery. He has driven the car, ridden his mountain bike down the road a short distance and completed plenty of short daily walks. The specialist doctor doesn't think it is Labyrinthitis, but more likely a small blood vessel in the middle ear that has been affected by a lack of oxygen. The great news is that he should make a full recovery, he must walk, ride, practice balancing and start doing everything that requires balance and locomotion. In other words his progress is in his own hands, which is just where he wants it to be.

Great to see you this weekend Uncle Max and Auntie Rachael . Brilliant to see you having so much fun with Ellie and Evie, they had a wicked weekend with you guys. Fabulous Birthday Cake Rachael (I have eaten so much of it the last couple of days!)

Have a great week, I hope next week to report on a fast 10 mile TT.......

Monday, 1 June 2009

Fun times in Lanzarote

I don't intend to write much this week, I think I will let the photos do the talking. Following my Ironman experience on the 'Island from Hell' as my good friend Steven Hobson (10 times Ironman Canada finisher) calls it, I have enjoyed kicking back and spending mucho time with the girls. An added bonus was landing at Leeds Bradford on Thursday to be greeted by blue skies and warm weather, this continued throughout the weekend. Making the most of the brilliant weather I started my day at 6am in the garden and didn't really leave it until 9pm, excellente. 8 days of total recovery (apart from walking, pushchair pushing and messing around in the pool with Ellie) was just what the doctor ordered. Anybody out there who struggles to properly recover from an Ironman, and is lost without the training just needs some wee little ones. Perfect for forced recovery :)

My beautiful wife and me

Ellie and Sarah in the Fire Mountains

Pyjamas, rubber rings, sun hats what more do you need to have fun

Kite flying on Puerto del Carmen beach

Holiday hair

Top of Mirador del Rio climb

Ellie launching herself into the pool

Lunch at a great restaurant in La Santa

Breakfast in my Garden

This week I am riding to work, swimming (yep I intend to keep it going from now on) and starting my 'get strong again' weights campaign, the following week I might slot in a few runs. I intend to enter a few 10 and 25 mile TT's, and aid Tom with some time in the 'hurt box' as he ramps up some interval intensity on the bike before Ironman Switzerland.

HUGE congratulations to my best buddy Ben who race Hawaii 70.3 on Saturday. He had a really great race finishing 3rd in his age group, also earning a Kona Ironman Slot. The World Championships will be his 10th Ironman and 3rd visit to Kona, inspirational stuff as always mate, wish you were still here in England so we could train together.

Hope you enjoy the family snaps.