Swim Kit Review - Spring 2018

It is that time of year when the lidos become packed like sardines, and anyone who is trying to train for a triathlon, well can't because in London we don't have beaches so they head to the swimming pools instead. Therefore, in a bid to helpful amidst my frustration, please find below a review my current spring kit which you may find helpful:

Swimsuit This is one of my main suits. I will most likely be wearing this during the 6k swim in October:

It deals with compression, the straps maximize flexibility, however one thing I found with this swimsuit is that if you have shoulder problems, it does pull down on them, and particularly where the 'kite' muscles are. This is obviously not a problem when swimming though, except in long distances.

I did have to purchase the following suit this year when I temporarily went back to indoor swimming. It is not lined, which unfortunately means it is also not supportive either. It is a great swimsuit, it is the usual Speedo quality, it is not see-through given how thin it is, but if you are heavier busted, then this will become uncomfortable when you are walking around outside of the water.
Here is another suit I purchased this year. It does not have the shelf bra, like the first suit, but it is fitted and has thicker lining. I use this more for leisure swimming, and when I am taking Monster swimming. Even though it could accommodate a long distance swim easily, it does lack support and compression.

Goggles

To keep the brand consistent, I use the Speedo Aquapure IQ fit women's goggles. I have used these for years, and my only gripe with them is that the straps loosen easily when swimming. Luckily the sockets stay fixed to your face once they have settled and you don't have to readjust them, but the gradually loosening straps can become unsettling during the swim as you think they are going to fall off.

These goggles are contoured to fit a woman's face, and if you have a small or narrow face, these are ideal in my opinion.

They are good with regards to anti-fog, as with all of the leading brands, and of course make sure you fit them before getting into the pool, as then you shouldn't have to readjust them inside in the pool. Though they may move slightly when you take off for your first lap.

These on average last me three-four months, but I have found with regular upkeep they will last longer. I find as soon as I take them off post-swim, to put them in a mesh pocket of my swim kit bag, then they air out ready for the next swim. This is especially good if you are, like me, a commuter and your bag stays in your car at the train station following your morning swim.

On that note.....

Swim cap

...I have learnt recently (after 35 years of swimming), not to leave my kit in the back of my car, which does not have a compartment shelf cover. I was greeted by a strong smell of rubber when I got back to the train station car park the other evening, after a particularly hot day in the city.

To keep the brand consistent, again, I use the Speedo swim caps. I do not go for the cheapest, but even the more budget caps are more than sufficient. In the warmer months I do tend to move over to latex as it is thinner, but often I will opt for the silicon caps which I find much more comfortable and secure. However, they can be unforgiving if you wear protruding ear plugs or an underwater MP3 player, as there is not much give around the ear area.

Keep in mind that there are moulded swim caps for earphones/ear plugs and of course long hair caps, which are great if your hair falls below your collar-bone, or is very thick.

Other aids

Like many long distance swimmers, I use other aids to help with my training. Many will use weights, fins or floats, I use an underwater MP3 player to keep me going. I have reviewed the one below several times. I have had it for nearly a year and works like a charm. Love it.

If you would like to read the review for this MP3 player, please click here to go to the old blog site.

Goodbye lido, hello indoor swimming again, goodbye indoor swimming, hello lido again

In my rather tainted wisdom late last year, I went back to indoor swimming to increase my distances. I really don't like it but needs must.

The alternative was to spend most of my pre-work time in the morning stuck in traffic, which then only meant a short 30 minute swim, hardly worth it really. I started going to my local council run swimming pool in December 2017. I tried it out a few times before taking out the membership, and it seemed acceptable. I was not expecting miracles, I just wanted my distances back back to where they were.

Well the opposite happened. My distances took a nosedive, excuse the pun.

It is very difficult when you have a two year old, to fit in all the things you want to do, but somehow I manage, though I have always been good at bending time. But, if I want to continue being a long distance swimmer I need to work on it, and bend time some more. My distances were salvageable, but I knew that if I delayed any longer, then I would be at the point where a lot of remedial work was required, and considering the years of long distance swimming, events and charity swims I have taken part in, it would be a shame for it to all end.

On the subject of Monster, I found out last year that they do not like wetsuits. Of course this became apparent after I purchased one. But, they clearly follow after their mother when it comes to swimming. Cooler temperatures do not bother them, and several weeks ago my hands were pushed out of the way so they could swim by themselves. You could tell the freedom of me not holding them was liberating and exciting. From my perspective, it was also very exciting, I had taught this little person to swim, but at the same time I didn’t want to let them go.

My new membership with my local pool in November had ended a long relationship with the lido at the same time, and while I was expecting good things to come from it, not much did unfortunately. All I received was an uncomfortably hot pool, over crowding, and Monster continuously falling over in the changing village. It was a hazard waiting to happen. I was drinking over 750ml of water per half an hour because the water was so hot, that cannnot be healthy to say the least. I had to change my kit so I wore the thinnest swimsuit Speedo did, so I had to sacrifice support and compression, and most of the time I wanted to go without a swim cap just to try and keep my temperature down.

Don’t get me started on lane etiquette either.

It is a swimmers’ responsibility, irrelevant of their level to ensure they can swim properly in the lane, and this includes knowing how to overtake. You wouldn’t put a person who has recently passed their driving test on a Formula 1 track, so why do people act erratically in a swimming pool?

By the time March came around I was ready to leave. I entered formal complaints to the leisure centre, mainly regarding their changing village being flooded with puddles which was causing Monster to fall over. But, I was assured that the floor sloped downwards and that there were grips on the floor so these things didn’t happen. Clearly these were working. Monster fell over on every occasion we went and Monster is not the type of child to fall over. They are very sturdy on their feet.

There were no replies to my complaint emails, and I had to go to the council in the end just to get a response from the centre. The intention was to complain in person to them, but when you are subject to tight deadlines, and a toddler that just wants to go home, the last thing you want to do is raise a grievance with your leisure centre. Rather ironic really, a ‘leisure’ centre that causes stress. But of course, because none of these occasions were reported to them, they were not going to take it further.

I said to them that if I had to pay for the membership until it had reached it's end then I would, but as soon as that last direct debit payment was taken, the membership would be cancelled. Since April when my last complaint was entered (this was the third with no previous reply), I decided not to go back at all. The whole experience had been terrible, and no one should ever be subjected to customer service of that level, not to mention potential injury that could have happened.

So while I waited for a response I rejoined the lido. Some may call this hasty, I on the other hand was fed up with being ignored and dealing with a below standard facility.

I have been back at the lido for the last few weeks, the husband and I have become more organised to ensure that I can get there on time in the mornings, and I couldn't be happier. I have amazing colder swims in the morning, I don't get barged out of the way by people who do not adhere to lane etiquette, which again is there for everyone's safety, and there is a lower risk of me falling over in the changing village, because they actually keep it clean.

I regret leaving the lido and going to my local pool, and I am glad this all happened as it made me appreciate the lido more. I knew I was going to miss it, now I don’t have to. I can continue to swim with the pigeons, see lido dog (his owner is partially sighted and a fantastic swimmer) and swim with the sunrise (except in summer).

There are a few additional useful points to add to this, and that is the changes in equipment.

I mentioned the thin swimsuit, well here it is, Speedo. It is basic, it looks good, there is minimal support which is not great if you are top heavy, but it keeps you cooler.

I have reviewed this before, and I am still raving about it. It is my trusty MP3 player. For months it sat in a cupboard while I was indoor swimming and after a quick charge it was working with not glitches again. It is comfortable and the music quality is good. The below is a slightly variation to what I use.

I have had a slightly problem with the goggles though. I normally use the Speedo IQ Womens goggles, but the strap always comes loose, so I tried the following:

They are not as comfortable, they rub on the nose for me, and there is little flexbility so they do not stick to the face sufficiently. They are not as bad as some I have used by any means, but they are not the best either. The price is very good though.

In my mind Speedo goggles have not been as good as they could be. I love Speedo but the goggles often let the kit down. Considering I used to be one of Speedo’s testers, it is a shame they can’t improve the visual aids more, but hopefully that is on the horizon.

No doubt there will be new kit for review come the winter months, especially when the next SwimFor is due to take place.

In the meantime the following have proved to be fantastic for those budding toddler swimmers:

Reach for the stars. What would be your message in a bottle?

There are so many things I would like to tell Monster, even though I am not sure if my advice is right, so I recorded a living will video, with a high level message about 'achievement'.

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Achievement is subjective and it is different for everyone. I do not think it can be measured as it is personal. What I have achieved in my life so far, many would not want to do, where others have done so and more. I think everyone can agree on this.

I am happy with everything I have achieved so far, because I have surpassed all of the expectations I have set myself. It is a great feeling, and it is a feeling that no one can take from me.

I have reached for the stars on many occasions, sometimes I have grabbed them, sometimes I have failed miserably, but I tried, and I learned from it all.

So, my message, not only to Monster but to anyone, is to reach for the stars. Go out there and achieve. It may take you minutes, or decades but go out there and do it for you. The only barriers you have are the ones you put in your way. People will be jealous, they will criticise and we are in such a judgemental world at present, but if you achieve something you are happy with, then they cannot do anything. It's yours, you earnt it and they cannot take it away.

Many of my achievements have been through taking part in projects, completing courses (long ago, I set myself a target to complete one course per year). I have written several books, all fictional which have puzzled family members, some think that science-fiction is for the young. I wear Star Trek t-shirts, I incorporate Trekkie slogans and metaphors in my work and personal life, to me science-fiction is fun and it is the future – how can it be unrealistic when we send rockets into space.

At the same time, I love learning about our world. There is a dark blue world underneath us, that still has more to be explored, but at the same time I hope mankind leave it alone. We do enough damage.

The imagination is limitless, and I love exploring the different avenues it can take me down.

So if people are holding you back, let them, if they have time to talk about you in a non-positive manner then you have either offended them or intimidated them. If it is the latter then carry on with life, find people who support you, be all you can be. No one can really argue with that deep down.

There will always be obstacles such as family and work, these are inevitable, like taxes, just plan accordingly, you will be able to achieve, there is no time limit on achievement, only what you set yourself.

Furthermore, if your goal is making you unhappy, perhaps it has an unrealistic timeframe or it is just not for you. You do not have to see something through. If you have tried something, and it is not making you happy, then do not feel like you have to continue with it. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

Achievement, reaching for the stars without setting yourself chores. There is no age limit, time limit or physical barriers. Be all you can be, for you and no one else.

Mega Blok castles in the sky

Given my last post, I thought a visual representation of the work which has been carried out on our house, would be helpful. I fully endorse data privacy (notice I did not mention GDPR...oops, I did), so in the interests of not displaying anything about my humble, and rebuilt abode, here is a model I created earlier.

This is what our house was like before the work was carried out:

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This is what our house looks like now:

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For those who do not know, our house has undergone emergency renovation work over the last two months. Considering the upheaval, we have been told that we have dealt with it very well. The work consisted of taking up all of the flooring on the lower level of the house, rebuilding the support walls and creating foundations, and then adding several tonnes of cement for extra stability. We had to move ourselves (and the small human), into temporary accommodation for 5 weeks at very short notice. This meant an increase in train fares for me to get to work, extra mileage for Jack and taking our annual leave with the childminder, as well as taking annual leave from work to try and keep costs down.

Keeping in mind that the insurance company were not obliged to pay out, we are now in the process of finding out if we can carry out a negligence claim for all of the work that was required. I stress that the work was required, it was not optional. It was either carry out extensive work, or watch our floors fall in.

We have only owned the property for 3 years, and given the stature of work, we cannot help but think that someone would have noticed there was a problem with the support and foundations of the property during the purchase.

Overall it has meant that work as in careers, has been placed on hold, we have had to take unplanned annual leave and personal days, live with family members, spend several weeks apart from each other as there was no room for all of us in one location. We have also had to cancel plans such as anniversary, and scrape together for birthdays, because of course that happened at the same time everything else was going on, and while I have tried to keep a positive attitude and remember that at least we have a roof (or several roofs) over our heads, and we were not apart from each other that long, it has been incredibly difficult. Though I now have had a taster of single parent life and have made the executive decision that if Jack and I ever broke up, Monster would need to be older.

Also I am not convinced by Jack’s taste in decorating music. How did it take me nearly 10 years to find this out.

Watch this space, I am sure there will be further developments on this, even if they are minor.

What to do when your house needs an overhaul. Emergency building work edition

Reducing down a very long story, in March 2015 we had the interior wall taken down, which separated the dining room and the kitchen to turn it into a kitchen/dinner. Bearing in mind that the dining room could hold the contents of our previous property, the room looked ideal as a combined unit.

In March 2016, one year later, the new kitchen was installed, as up until that point we had been dealing with next to no appliances and a cooker that I think was older than me. With minimal appliances it meant less weight on the floor (this is key later on).

All seemed well until six months ago, when we noticed a bounce in the floor, and the floor had dropped, which continued to get worse. We called another builder who did an analysis and found that the RSJ which was supposed to be fitted where the wall in 2015 was taken down, had mysteriously disappeared. Or more to the point, it had never been installed in the first place, but paid for. Of course.

Then, the builder pulled up the floor and found that all of the support walls under the property were shaking and could literally be moved with hands. There was the reason for the bounce, and there was also one big ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment, pulling down the floor, and anything or anyone standing there, not to mention the potential impact on the house joined to ours.

As the days went on more bad news came. It was confirmed by two builders and a structural engineer that all of the support walls under the house had to be replaced, and the foundations didn't look good either. We also discovered that significant work had taken place on the property fifteen years before and in 1982. The council only had record of the underpinning work in 1982, but this was never mentioned to us when we purchased the house by the surveyor, or the conveyancing solicitors.

Most at this point would be asking about buildings insurance. Well yes of course there was building insurance in place, but they were not prepared to pay out, this was classed as a maintenance issue, and if anyone checks their building insurance, unless you have asked for a specific addendum to be put in place, and unless the work is subsidence, heave or landslip you will not be covered for support wall foundation work. It is incredibly unfortunate, but this is general wear and tear, in other words we are paying for previous owners' lack of upkeep.

So, how was this not discovered during the purchase of the property, considering how substantial the work was?

This is a good question. The argument for accountability is also a tricky one, there could potentially be two claims for professional negligence but at the same time, to find that out it would also be costly and we were already spending enough on the remedial work as it was, but it is something we are definitely instructing a solicitor to look into. I also feel I will be brushing up on my professional negligence law in the near future.

The steelwork to the exterior of the property was sound, and while the first interior wall that was taken down did not necessarily need an RSJ, we came to find, it did put pressure on its neighbouring interior wall. To cut the costs, we opted to remove said interior wall which separated the kitchen/diner and the living room. On the upside, the open plan look really works with the living room and kitchen/dinner, but it was still work we were never intending to do while we owned the property.

Before the work could be carried out, we needed to move out, it was the most efficient way for the builders to take down the interior wall, and build new walls under the length of the whole house. We were given 12-18 hours' notice, as the work was that urgent, and with a toddler, the whole situation was not going to be hassle-free. But, we are proactive people, we get things done quickly, and when you have a floor that could fall in beneath you at any moment, there was no other choice.

So, we moved in with Jack's mother for two weeks (as that was the estimated timeframe), but then the bad weather hit and commuting from West Sussex to London became very costly, so I and the small human moved in with my mother for another two and a half weeks.

We moved back into our house after five weeks of disruption, but the work was noticeable, not only because of the wall coming down, but you could feel how secure the floor was.

While we suffered an unexpected bill of nearly £20,000, out of our own pockets, on a property we have owned for just 3 years and thought the big jobs were done, we still stand to make a substantial profit on the house, which is slightly comforting. Now it is open-plan, it may even increase in value, who knows.

In situations like this you reflect on things. For us, we realised how lucky we are to financially be in the position to sort this work out quickly, we could have had no option but to leave it and face the inevitable, or we would have a crippling loan that we would be stuck under for many years. We also learnt who our friends are and who buries their heads in the sand.

Hopefully there is some useful information above, and it is good to learn from others experiences.

So that is the main reason for longer than usual radio silence, and even though it looks like I haven't got up too much, I have actually been quite productive, which is a miracle considering. The new blog is up and running, the SwimFor site has been migrated to a new portal, Lotus Magma, well has not really moved, but things are in motion, and No Food Limits is moving along nicely. In addition, there will be a new book out soon called Death Comes from Above, you can view the details and pre-order that from here.