After the radio silence: The Watlington Diaries.

Perhaps Johnny got the sentiment spot on when he described his journey home.

Awaking back within the familiar four walls of our Melbourne apartment, if only it had been but a bittersweet dream.  Instead, it was a trip to say the toughest of goodbyes.

But Freddy said it straight, and the show must go on.

Although ironman training has been the farthest thing from the forefront of my mind over the past two weeks, it hasn’t been entirely absent.  Maybe this is the difference between a goal and a direction – previously my training would have crumbled beneath the crushing weight of grief.  But the ever-looming ironman seems to have given me something so solid in my future, that even being blindsided by life hasn’t put my training (too far) off course.  In fact, I found great solace in the time I spent trail running through the Oxfordshire countryside, and it has left me yearning for the beauty I’ve left behind.

Especially since the weather in the south-east of England promptly rose from 14 degrees to 29 degrees as soon as I departed.  Alas, the standard two-weeks of British summertime failed to coincide with my arrival yet again.

But seriously, I thought that my training runs here in Melbourne were pretty cute – a few trees here and there, bayside beaches, the Botanical Gardens, quaint cafe-strewn streets.  And on arrival in Watlington, I was concerned that I would’t be able to get too much running under my belt due to the narrow country roads, no pavements and 50mph minimum traffic speeds…

But Dad had my training all covered, and introduced me to The Ridgeway, the perfect setting for the most uplifting trail running of my life.

The whole time, I was thinking about how I could best convey to you this awesome trail run.  So I did the only thing I knew how – I instagrammed the sh*t out of it:

So there you have it.  England-1, Australia-nil.

Or do I speak too soon?

Remember when we discussed the plight of the English swimmer, and in jest, I mocked our lack of world-class swimming facilities and blamed this absence for my less-than-average talent in the pool compared to my antipodean counterparts?  Well, just like an elephant, England never forgets.  I suspect Old Blighty read my post, and decided to provide adequate payback when it made sure my nearest training pool was 15 miles away (over 24km in Oz-speak) from home.

And of course, it was only 25m long.

And of course, it was like the Brittas Empire Redux. (Bit of an obscure reference for the UK readers. This episode in particular resonates perfectly with the current Union Jack bunting hanging from every potential hook with the upcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations, so I thought it was even more appropriate).

On arrival, I paid my coins and got changed.

I approached the poolside.

I tied back my hair, and pulled on my swimming cap.

Gave the goggles a clean, and slid them over my head, fitting them snuggly into my eye-sockets – all the standard pre-pool-entry conduct.

Apparently not.

Everyone in the pool paused their splashing, and turned and looked at me as if I had jumped in dressed head-to-toe in a traditional Nordic one-piece ski suit.

What is this crazy girl up to?

As the pool patrons rejoined their splashtastic activities, I began training up and down the only lane in the pool.  That’s right, just one lane.  To be fair, they didn’t need more than one lane, as there was only one other person in the pool swimming.  And she was doing breastroke whilst at the same time keeping her hair dry (which is fine, it just places a bit too much pressure on the neck in my experience – but kudos to her as she was initially the only person in the pool actually swimming).

When I stopped at the end of a couple of lengths to gasp for breath (we all know how bad my swimming is), I noticed I was the only person in the pool wearing goggles.  Jeepers.

I also noticed that after only 50m of freestyle in the Brittas Empire-like pool, people had gathered in the cafe and WERE WATCHING ME SWIM.  Like some aquatic alien, I front-crawled the life out of that pool, bolstered by the cheering crowds (they weren’t cheering. They were eating donuts, but checking me out as if I were an Olympian all the same).

It was a dream come true, and I felt like the Goddess of Swimming (Amphitrite? Stephanie Rice?).

Until the life guard took the lane divider away after I had swum only 800m and told me that “lane swimming is over for the day”.

But nevertheless, it was ten minutes of swimming prowess that will never be repeated.  For back here in Swimgodland, I am but a mere plankter amidst a sea of dolphins.

So I guess that brings the score to England 1-1 Australia. (What can I say, they got the pools, they got the pools).

And that is how my swimming continued.  I did manage to try out the new world-class 50m pool that has been built in my home town, but every time I went it was divided in half into 2 x 25m pools.  But it was 2m deep, so it was much more agreeable than a shallow 25m pool.

I also took part in a ruthless spin class (those instructors are maniacs – she might as well have had a whip and a pitchfork, the crazy spinning demon) and did a lot of bike training in the gym.  Which was boring but at least it wasn’t raining inside.  (To get through the indoor-training-monotony, I tried to remind myself of a section in Chrissie Wellington’s book where she discusses the training room in the basement that was almost like a dungeon, with only a treadmill and no windows, where you could touch every one of the four walls whilst you were on the treadmill, and it was used as the ultimate in mental training – I guess you have to read it as she tells it much better than me.  But seriously, that was my primary motivation on those hour-long rides in the gym).

So in all honesty, I haven’t neglected my training too badly.  I suspect the biggest dint in my fitness will come from the other training that Watlington provided me; I now know for sure I can drink five pints of beer and half a bottle of white wine.  In one day.  I can also drink far more than a bottle of red wine in an evening, if I drink straight through ’til dawn.  White wine, red wine, beer, cider, a cheeky whiskey with my Grandad – you name it, I drank it in Watlington.

But what I lost in fitness, I can honestly say I gained in friends.  It would seem it takes only a few days of solid, consistent appearances at the local pub before you have all of a sudden become a local yourself.  And amidst the saddest of circumstances, I found  a haven that will await me each time I return.

England 2 – 1 Australia…


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5 thoughts on “After the radio silence: The Watlington Diaries.

  1. rchackman says:

    beautiful pictures !!

  2. […] 11:30pm, rehydrated, fed, and ready for the next morning’s long ride.  Now, based on my previously determined alcohol consumption limiting levels, I should have been fine.  Unfortunately, I didn’t account for my poorly liver keeping me up […]

  3. Peter Kaursland says:

    Lovely blog [never thought i’d use that ‘word’! Looking forward to Australia. Dont bother to book the swimming pool though. Reluctantly I’ll have to give it a miss.
    Peter

    • Haha thanks Peter! Are you sure you don’t want to swim a few miles in the pool before the first Wales match – it can be arranged… looking forward to seeing you both in a week or so. Little Piper.x.

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