Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Planning spontaneity – canoes, beer & lycra!

What could be finer than a weekend of record breaking temperatures, getting your canoe out, drinking beer and watching men in wet suits and lycra get really sweaty? 

In many households, weekends are for relaxing with a good book or a spot of DIY. Not in ours. We have to be out and doing!

I should know by now, but it always catches me on the hop. “What do you want to do today?” he’ll ask. 

While it’s a simple enough question, it always manages to generate a huge surge of pressure to come up with an itinerary for the most exciting day out in the world ....... ever. 

Unfortunately, instead of turning into The Rough Guide to Red Letter Days, I always seem to get brain freeze, turn into a goldfish and open and shut my mouth while nothing comes out.

What to do? Which path to take?

I know I should be prepared and have a few destination gems tucked up my sleeve, but I’ve never been very good when someone puts me on the spot. 

However, with temperatures reaching nearly 30 degrees, staying at home would have been a crime. 

“The canoe, we can take the canoe out!” I was deliriously happy to have thought of something funky. And breath – the pressure was off – for this time.

Tris' Christmas canoe.

I bought Tris a super smart inflatable canoe last Christmas, but with our crazy year of weddings and stuff, we’d only managed to launch it once so far. It was an outing of mixed success. 

For its maiden voyage we took it for a spin down the Bridgewater Canal. We got as far as Altrincham, before I noticed that we seemed to have taken on quite a lot of water. I then became convinced that we were sinking and insisted on getting out and walking back. Tris carried on paddling. It was only later when we got home and read the instructions that we realised we’d only actually inflated half of the boat. I suppose we really should have read the instructions earlier.

Reviving the canoe on a hot sunny Saturday afternoon was a genius plan – and I felt confident that this time, that having read the instructions, we were unlikely to sink.

Once again we decided to tackle the Bridgewater Canal, but this time we plumped for something a little less urban and chose the stretch from Dunham to Lymm. This also took in a couple of pubs on route – bonus!

Fully inflated and ready to go.

We were taking no chances and inflated everything with a valve. The difference was dramatic as we flew along the canal, past narrow boats and ducks, paddling like a single well oiled unit in complete harmony. It was like something out of Hawaii 5-0.

Bridgewater loveliness.

I'm like Dora the Explorer!

Bridge and water - on The Bridgewater Canal.

The engine!

“You do realise that every man that we pass on the tow path is looking at you with envy in their eyes?” I said to Tris. “Not only have you got me in the front of your canoe, you're the owner of the ultimate boy’s toy.”

"I want your canoe."

Tris just smiled. “Keep paddling,” he said “while I have a rest!”

Taking things a little too literally.

On the way back we stopped off at a pub for a drink. I stayed in the canoe. For me getting in and out are the two danger moments (especially with my knees) so I like to minimise the risk by only doing them once. Still, it was kind of cool drinking beer from below the Plimsoll Line.

Canoe service!

Twit - twoooooo!

Chin chin! I promise I've not wet myself.

When I was little I used to think it was the Plimsoll Line meant that you couldn’t wear your gym plimsolls above it.

Hurrah – successful, spontaneous afternoon in a canoe accomplished.

Excellent canoeing expedition.

The following day the alarm went off at 6.30am. On a Sunday! 

Tris was due to compete in his first Olympic distance triathlon. He’d tried earlier in the summer but was thwarted when the sea swim part of the Llandudno triathlon was cancelled due to a tropical storm and tsunami. Well that’s what it felt like!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with triathlons, an Olympic distance triathlon is as follows:

  1. Swim = 1.5Km
  2. Bike = 40Km
  3. Run = 10Km
  4. State of mind = mental
The triathlon was at Capesthorn Hall  near Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

Capesthorn Hall.

Jodrell Bank in background - at least time keeping should be accurate.

“Can you not get the bus?” I asked, groaning at the thought of leaving my duvet.

But he brought me tea and made me a thermos of coffee, before finally running off with the duvet in a last ditch attempt to get me to move.

Tris’ objectives for the day were:

  1. To finish.
  2. To finish in under 3 hours.

My objectives for the day were:

  1. To stay awake.
  2. To find somewhere that sold bacon butties.
  3. To loiter by the transition area and watch fit men change in and out of their wet suits. 

Objectives 2 and 3 achieved.

Paul - a fine figure of a man.

 “You do realise that picture will end up in a blog,” said Tris.

“It’s OK, no one reads them!”  said our friend Paul.

Well – I wasn’t going to – but I will now!

Tris, Baz & Paul.

View of swim course and transition.

The swim was frenzied with competitors swimming over the top of each other. Four times around the lake and through the arches of the bridge in the middle. Us lazy spectators got a fantastic view from the top of the bridge. It was like watching rats escaping from the sewers as the swimmers ploughed out from beneath us.

Sizing up the course.

Get ready.


It’s not easy spotting your man in the water, especially when they are all wearing the same colour hats. But once you get your eye in - I can usually spot Tris in a swim - he has a very distinctive style. 

The man from Atlantis.

Get out of the way!

But not so much these days as his parents and I bought him swimming lessons with ‘Ironmangav’ for his birthday this year. The clue is in the name – he knows what he’s on about and you don’t mess with him. Although Tris’ stroke has come on leaps and bounds, unfortunately on this occasion I could still pick him out from the crowd. He was the one swimming in a different direction to everyone else, towards the opposite bank.

Safety vessel.

Sprint swimmers coming under the bridge.

The bike course was beautiful. I found my spot at the bottom of a long hill and settled down to watch my boys do three laps of the circuit. This wasn’t a triathlon for ‘fun-try-ers’, this was for people who had ‘gear’. There were bikes with tri-bars for extra velocity, solid racing wheels that made a ‘whooosh’ as they flashed past you, people with pointy reverse Mr Whippy helmets for improved aerodynamics and lycra – a lot of lycra. 

English countryside at it's best.


No hands.

My boy.

The speeds on these narrow country lanes were frightening. On one of the circuits, our friend Paul arrived slip streaming (but not drafting) a Citroen people carrier.

Baz in transition - as it were!

40K bike ride done, only the 10K run left. It was all go. I was exhausted. Four laps of the running course this time. I positioned myself at the top of the hill to cheer my boys on as they ran down towards the hall. I always find that a well timed “Come on, Hurry up, Whoop, Whoop, Whoop,” is met with a warm reaction.

Whoop, whoop, whoop!

Paul storming towards 8th place.

The finish was perfect in front of the hall, and according to the results, our friend Paul was a very respectable 8th. Not bad for an ‘off day.’ While Tris not only finished, he did so in 2hrs, 56 minutes and 49 seconds (37th place). Our other friend Barrie who took part in the sprint event finished 20th out of 65.

Crossing the line.

So there you have it. Tris did it. His first Olympic distance triathlon in under 3 hours. He was ecstatic and I was thoroughly proud of him.

The calm after the storm.

Not such a bad weekend after all! 

There’s nothing in the diary for next weekend, so I’m off to plan. This time I’m taking preemptive action – I’m going to be prepared for when he asks me the question, “So what do you want to do today?”

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