Weeks 39 & 40 Mediterranean Interlude II

A week in which I Cycle 61k, Run 18k and Swim 4.5k

and one in which I Cyce106k, Run 21k and Swim 6k

My home this fortnightOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two weeks of sea and sunshine (well, that was the hope). Staying at my usual haunt in the hostel at Plakias in Crete, which at this time of year has an end-of-season, winding-down vibe. The plan was to take a small (3k) run each morning before the sun got strong and to put in plenty of long swims to catch up with my target. The sea is far more enjoyable than my local pool – I particularly appreciate the extra bouyancy of brine and drying myself out in the sun afterwards. Swims are limited for me to about 500m, which represents about 20 minutes in the water and beyond which I get uncomfortably cold.  I brought my ‘secret weapon’ in the form of a mask and snorkel (no fins though – that would be cheating) to alleviate the boredom by having a few fish to look at. Naturally, not all my plans worked out; some days the wind blew and the sea was too rough to swim far. There were even times when I wished myself in the safety and comfort of Highbury Pool when the waves were chopping in my face and the shore seemed very distant. Towards the end of the holiday the days turned calmer and sunnier and I made good distances. One bonus was that my friend Henk has a new bike and let me borrow his old one for trips to the beach and shops, so bike mileage was at least getting some boost. On one day when the sea was unswimmable I even made a small circuit of some neighbouring villages as compensation.

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A roof with a view – looking south from the hostel

Diary

Thursday September 24th. Woke up in a hotel in Heraklion, Crete and made my way by bus and hitch-hike to my usual stop on the island – the ‘youth’ hostel at Plakias on the South coast – with still enough time for a quick dip in the sea and 300m swim.

Fri. Started the holiday as I mean to go on – with an easy 3k run before breakfast. Managed 3 x 300m swims, two with the snorkel to go past the 70k/70% mark :). Although the sea here is mostly over-fished, polluted with run-off and not rich in fish, I did spot a magnificent black-and-yellow eel about 1.5m long; very untypical for these waters.

Sat. Unseasonal thunderstorms in the morning. Damp 3k run.  Clocked up 8k cycling and managed to fit in 300m swim later in the day when the weather cleared up a bit.

Sun. A poor night’s sleep due to a drunken snorer in the dorm, so up at 6am for 3k run and 5k cycle ride. Cloudy weather made swimming unappealing, but put in 500m and another 10k cycling later in the day.

Mon. More rain but braved it for my early run. Afterwards the sun came out so I went to Henk’s for a game of chess and to swim off a different beach before lunch and then went to my usual rocky beach for the afternoon – the day bringing 900m of swimming and 11k of cycling.

Tue. A fine morning but a wet afternoon with only 600m swum, 13k cycled and the regular 3k run. Played chess on the internet until my eyes were seeing double.

Wed. More troubled weather – a rainbow at dawn as I went for  my usual 3k run. A stiff westerly breeze was running all day which made swimming or snorkelling tedious  but I forced myself to take advantage of the plentiful sun to swim 1k. 14k biked, mostly to and from the beaches.

Thu. Strong winds that made running strenuous, cycling dangerous and swimming impossible. Took my 3k run regardless and cycled up the beach-front a few times – very quickly one way and very slowly coming back. In the afternoon I ventured further afield than normal to find a sheltered cove where some snorkelling was possible.

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“That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea” – hard for swimming (NB nasty rocks!)

Fri . 3k morning run, but a rather grey and blustery day for swimming in which I only managed 700m but compensated with extra time on the bike to total 22k for the day. At one point on the beach I could just catch the twang of two very pale, elderly European gentlemen apparently talking Hindi/Urdu. Intrigued, I strained to catch the conversation and when I did it transpired they were a pair of Welshmen talking English. They were having a conversation about Pakistan and in my defence I think it’s impossible to say “Pakistan” in a Welsh accent without actually sounding Pakistani.

Sat. More clouds, so after the morning 3k run just lounged around the hostel all morning, chatting and chess-playing. Took a long bike-ride in the afternoon around neighbouring villages, finishing with a short (300m) swim before dinner.

Sun. 3k run again at sunrise and another cloudy morning that turned into a brighter afternoon on which I cycled to a far beach where the snorkelling looked promising. Unfortunately, I hadn’t allowed for the fact that a small stream entered the sea there and turned the water not only cloudy where it mixed with the brine but also cold. 700m swum, 13k cycled.

Mon. A fine morning turning dull in the afternoon and rainy in the evening. Only 7k cycled but a pleasing 1100m swum/snorkelled in three immersions and the usual (pre-)dawn 3k run, a little earlier than usual due to some snoring in the dorm.

Tue. More lovely, autumn weather. The water was so inviting I managed 1300m of swimming, although I did get rather scratched on some rocks and then managed to stub my toe when leaving the water, for good measure. 3k run, 8k cycled.

Wed. My last beach day and perfect weather. The usual 3k run in spite of my stubbed toe from yesterday turning black – luckily it doesn’t seem to affect my running. 1500m swum in perfectly calm waters and warm sunshine. 10k biked before returning the bike and packing my bags.

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