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        Becoming a swimmer was difficult to avoid. Most of my childhood memories contain various public swimming pools, damp chlorine scented hair and beach towels hanging on the line to dry ready for use the following day.

        My mother was a pre-school swimming instructor, so I spent a lot of hours splashing in the water while she taught other people’s children to swim. I was deep diving to the bottom of the deep end before I can recall starting school.

        My older brother was a swim club captain. He was a more disciplined swimmer than me and much faster. Still, I followed him to club swimming and for a time both parents were our coaches. We could be at the pools for training by 5.30am before school, and again after school 4 times a week.

        Although encouraging of our sport, our parents were not pushy. They did not force us to swim, but they did sacrifice many hours and weekends to trainings, time keeping, driving us around the state for competitions and endless days sitting poolside cheering.

        I loved swimming. As a teenager it had the benefit of being a social outlet. Teammates were best friends, opposing clubs became friendly rivals. I trained as hard as I could and found a way to be comfortable in discomfort during particularly hard gut-busting sessions.

        Swimming was not the only sport I enjoyed. There was netball, basketball, touch football, a longing to try Aussie rules football (at that time girls we not allowed to play), a short foray into cross country running. Team sports were a highlight on my teenage development years, but individual athletics event was not for me. A high school teacher once told me ‘You’re like a fish out of water’ as I attempted a low-bar high jump. He was not wrong.

        The water has featured prominently in my life. My preferred holiday destinations are close to water, self-care usually involves water somehow – often as a long hot shower - both my children were water births. If I’m landlocked for too long, I get anxious. I need to see the sea.

        For a long time I didn’t swim at all. Life had evolved and there wasn’t much time. There was a focus on having fun, being with friends and working, exercise really wasn’t a priority. Then there were little babies to look after, more studying as I changed careers and a general lack of time for anything. Two pregnancies and numerous unrelated health issues – including a giant cell tumor taking residence in my right femur bone under my kneecap – suddenly changed the way I could exercise. Impact was out. My knee surgery required lengthy physio and strength re-building exercises at the gym.

        A feeling to be back in the water during this time of rehab came over me. I emerged myself into the local lap lanes and just started swimming. It felt so good, like freedom.

        Although I have never completed a full triathlon, it is my spirit sport. About a year before my knee flared up, I completed the swim leg in a team triathlon at Maraetai, Auckland. The team aptly named Blame the Wine consisted of two girlfriends – both keen sportswoman who have completed full tri’s by themselves. I took my role as swimmer seriously, I wanted to be a strong member of the team. Training for this event felt fabulous. I’ve always been a pool swimmer - a keen surf beach body boarder, yes - but never much of a long-distance ocean swimmer. This was new to me.

        At the start of the triathlon, I was so nervous I very nearly burst into tears and refused to swim. The beauty of being part of a team is you can’t let the other members down. So, I started at the very back of the pack in a borrowed wetsuit and just started swimming. My stroke felt strong, my breathing calm and kick consistent. This wasn’t so hard, my self belief grabbed hold and off I went. Blame the Wine finished third.

        Taking my knee rehab to the water was natural. Since the surgery and my first team triathlon I have now completed numerous ocean swims. Bucket list before I turned 40 included the Auckland ‘Swim the Bridge’ 2km crossing. I was part of the inaugural pack in 2019 to do this swim. Covid put a stop to the 2020 event, but in 2021 I did the double crossing again. This swim was the most challenging of all. Conditions were horrible and my time ballooned way out. Battered and breathless I finished. It is the most rewarding swim I have ever done.

        Teaming up with Laura and Shaun for my second team-triathlon in 2021 was super fun. Laura was the cyclist in Blame the Wine. This time, with Team Lush, she put her boots on for the run. Shaun cycled his heart out, his first ever Triathlon event. My swim was slightly slower than I was aiming for, but Team Lush still managed to claim third in its category.

        We have our sights on the Tauranga Half now.

        I don’t swim as regularly as I should. Some weeks are better than others. It’s not really training anymore either. I don’t do many drills or push myself too hard. Swimming is now about enjoyment. I’ll swim until I’m happy.

        My life doesn’t give me much time for exercise, but I know it’s important. For my physical heart and my emotional heart. Beyond swimming I walk, although I’d like to do more. As my children get older, I know I’ll return to more physical exercise in my life, but I also know it will be different. What I’ve learned as my body changes is to adapt with those changes. I might not be able to run a marathon, leg press my way into the record books, but I can still move, stretch and of course, swim.

        If this sounds a romantic gesture, it’s supposed to be. Find your fun in the physical and keep doing it. For some it will be running, cycling, gym work or social team sports. For people like my sister-in-law its pole dancing (she’s a two time national champ). It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you move and improve.

        Team Lush is a perfect example. Tauranga, we’re coming for you!

        Xterra Series - Race 5

        Xterra Series - Race 5

        Penultimate race day took us three to the lovely Totara Park, only a zippy twenty minute drive away. Shaun and I were feeling a little tired after our 90km cycle the day before! Josh was feeling fired up to get a good time on way fresher legs. 

        The weather was good, bright and blue skies, a little light wind but overall pretty appealing conditions. Josh ordered his usual hot chocolate and then we headed over to race briefing after a quick stretch and warm up. 

        The race felt easier than the Hunua three weeks ago - mainly due to the shorter course. But as our legs were pretty beat up from the 90km cycle the day before, I didn't notice the relief too much! The trails were quite steep in parts but also bent and cornered onto some flat hard and fast sections. Every race in this Auckland calendar brings some exceptional views and it is always such a delight to turn a corner and see some gorgeous skyline or hear a new birdcall. The series has rewarded us the privilege of experiencing Auckland's best of nature and it has been a thoroughly sensory delight. It was a shame that the series had to complete without the final race in Riverhead - this was the one that Josh was looking forward to most of all due to the fun mud slides! Alas Auckland lockdowns put an end to that dream. But we will be back racing again next year and I might even take on a longer distance.. Saying that now that the memory of Hunua has long receded! Haha.. Till next year Auckland Xterra - Thanks for making Winter extra awesome :) 

        Thanks for reading 

        LH x 

        Xterra Series - Race 4

        Xterra Series - Race 4

        Sunday July 25th saw us up early to head off to Hunua for Xterra race number 4! We were excited to race amongst the Hunua Ranges, another East Auckland location made it feel like a "home" race and Hunua is a magical slice of wilderness that we love exploring on our weekends off. This time I made sure to eat a little breakfast - a banana and a protein bar as I knew this race was going to be the longest race in the calendar so proper fueling was essential! 

        We didn't give ourselves much time to spare before the race start, I think when you live a bit closer you leave it even later to leave the house! So we did end up having to rush to catch the end of the race briefing and then we were off! Leaving the Mangatawhiri Campsite for the woodland trails heading out toward Blackberry trail and then snaking alongside the Managatawhiri river in it's neighbouring dense bush. 

        The first half of the race was mainly flat and packed trails, passing some neat little streams and feeling utterly lost amongst the magnificence of the ranges. I passed the aid station at 2.9kms with just a wave and a smile but regretted it later, for the next aid station was after 8kms and my legs were really hurting! This felt like a very long race. Perhaps I was a little more tired than previous weeks but the trails seemed to just keep forging out in front of me, with each laboured step I didn't feel like I was making great progress. The three of us had splintered off at the very start and my mind drifted to wondering how Josh and Shaun were coping with the course and if they shared my mental fatigue with the distance. 

        The second half of the race was more promising of challenges. The open gravel track narrowed into single trail and rose and fell in waves of undulating rhythm. I mentally shut out the nagging in my knees that told me they had gratefully had enough for the day. I kept climbing and falling with the forest and kept looking at all the amazing fauna along river road. Eventually we wound our way to a final downhill and the faint sound of finishing cheers could be heard some way off. I was slumping my legs along with me at this point and I could have cried when running into the final paddock before the finish line the course was telling me to run in a circle rather than a direct line to the finish! It really did feel like it wasn't going to end and I was a little relieved when I crossed the line to the sound of Shaun and Josh cheering my name and it was good to hear that they too had found this course felt longer than the kilometres on our watch told us it was. I was grateful for the fair weather though, mild conditions meant we didn't have wind and rain to battle with along with our legs. 

        It doesn't take long to recover though and we treated ourselves to home-cooked roast pork and crackling, with gravy, roasties, veggies and Shaun's specialty - Yorkshire puddings! Until next time Xterra - thanks for the awesome challenge! 

        Thanks for reading 

        LH x 

        Xterra Series - Race 3

        Xterra Series - Race 3

        Xterra race number three took us to Waiuku forest on a cold and frosty morning. It took us a while to get a park as the queue into the forest was fairly long, so it left us putting a jog on to make it to the start line on time for race briefing. 

        We set off in our usual formation with Shaun out front, then Josh and then me at the rear. Josh was determined to keep his cotton longs on to race even though I tried to talk him out of it knowing he would quickly warm up and they would just drag in any wet weather, but he insisted on comfort, of course when I saw him at about the 10.5km mark they were rolled up to his knees, so stylish! 

        The course was really fun, plenty of soft trail underfoot that I was happy about. The frost burned off as the morning wore on and we ran under beautiful blue skies and crisp sunny fresh air in our lungs. This course was the longest of the series so far but the kilometres fell away without much of a struggle. There were some hilly sections - about 230 metres of climbing all in, but they gave way to fun trails and never really felt like a struggle.  

        We all really did think that this was a super fun course and all had the fantastic post-run feels and good vibe takeaways. And the best moment of the day? Well the giant mud puddle around the 10km mark of course! What a blast that was, and thankfully the course cameraman was on hand to capture the fun. Josh got photo of the day, definitely! 

        Hot chips and choco milk at the finish rounded off a truly stellar event. We are absolutely looking forward to race #4 in Hunua! And we are definitely coming back to Waiuku for a hike soon 


        Thanks for reading 

        LH x