Usually I write on here about triathlons and fitness training, but for now something a little different. The last month has seen two of my most regular events – the Dorney Triathlon & Great Birmingham Run, which I have completed 7 times in the past between them – have come and gone without me. I do enjoy both events, but last year discovered that part of the fun of competing is to find new races around the country to experience different courses, crowds and competitors.
My plans for this September & October had initially revolved around the Rugby World Cup, but after England’s dismal performances that ended rather earlier than expected… so I have been keeping busy doing a few other things.
First up was football. Now those of you who are avid readers (Hi Mum) will know I tend to play twice per year against my colleagues from our Manchester office, but we managed a bit more this time in persuading some other teams to take part in a mini tournament. The venue was the lovely Power League, in the shadow of Spaghetti Junction in Brum.
Despite the extra teams, we were only actually five actual players for the team, meaning we had just enough to play, but also it was gong to be an absolute killer! Using a round robin format we were able to play 4 x 20 minute matches each, alternating in each position, with the keeper usually reserved for whoever was most exhausted. Fortunately our opponents were also light on subs, but on the downside most had around ten years age difference on their side, and these were the sort of games where youth won over experience.
To be fair we did start well, going ahead in the first game, but we probably started a bit too hard, and over time ran out of steam. The ‘kids’ managed to pull back to a draw, and to be honest it was a bit downhill from there… Still it was a good laugh, and certainly good for fitness. There is a massive difference between team sports and individuals, where the stop start nature of running around the pitch is hugely important, and any opportunity to take a breather and recover a bit of energy is worth its weight. Even so, the team aspect really spurs you on, to the point that where at times where you would otherwise want to just stop and rest, you are able to keep yourself going in the same way the crowd can spur you on towards the end of a triathlon or marathon.
A few weeks later we managed a second match, up in Manchester against our old enemies. The team was exactly the same, so arguably we now had some decent experience playing together, however we were once again up against a fairly sizeable age gap. It is funny that in triathlon the peak age for longer distance racing is in your 30’s. Well believe me, in five aside football it is definitely in your 20’s! This was a full hour match with just a 5 minute break in the middle, so by the end of it our team looked a bit like the walking dead, with one literally needing to check back into hospital soon after. Still we had a pretty close game at something like 14:12 and it was for charity, so technically everyone was a winner.
The other way I managed to district myself during the weekends was scuba diving – something most people enjoy a lot in warmer waters – but which needs a certain type of lunacy to get into in a British quarry in October! Funnily enough, this has actually been a slightly warmer time of year for these parts recently, and inland waters tend to be warmer in Autumn than Spring after having all Summer to get the temperature up.
But this was no laid back diving experience, but a two weekend Padi Rescue Diver course. As a brief explanation, this is a diving qualification based around safety, providing training to be able to help both yourself and other divers who are having problems. After a fairly intense first few days learning first aid, CPR and various rescue methods in the classroom and pool, we hit the lake for the second weekend.
As mentioned, most scuba experiences tend to be very relaxed, in fact deliberately so, but this was about as full on as you can get, From the first minute it was clear we were being assessed, getting immediate bollockings for taking too long to kit up and any minor issues with our set up such as lose air hoses, etc. The fact is, that in a water emergency, every second literally counts, so you need to be both quick and accurate.
From then on, myself and my four colleagues were well and truly put through our paces, going through numerous rescue scenarios, both at the surface and underwater. One aspect of this was needing a decent level of fitness, as there were a number of times where we had to tow our instructors across the lake (nearly 10 minutes swim in parts) whilst simultaneously providing rescue breathing.
After an exhausting first day, things did not let up on the second. This was our ‘live’ scenarios, which were sprung upon us in increasingly devious ways. Without going into too much detail, and example was that after a fairly intense practice session we all got out, de-kitted, and settled in for a hot drink at the cafe. A few minutes in and a random stranger approached us to say they had lost their dive buddy and was getting worried. We twigged on of course, but had to rush into action like some sort of Baywatch rejects, rushing to get on our kit whilst asking questions to work out what had happened. We then had to swim the lake in pairs, descend and search the bottom until we could find our ‘body’, bring them to the surface, tow them back whilst providing breathing, get their scuba gear off, lift them out of the water and then provide further CPR and emergency oxygen. About 5 minutes after we finally finished and dragged ourself to the cafe, someone else appeared and we had to go through it all over again!
Still, it was all worth it, and I am proud to have passed the course and can now call myself a Rescue Diver. My next step may well be Divemaster, but I need to see how I can balance that against the triathlon season. Still I certainly feel more confident, and whilst it is one of those things that you hope you will never actually have to use, at least if I do I will be that bit more capable.