Sunday, 28 April 2013

Swimathon 2013

Swimathon - London, United Kingdom

Well, that's that event down! Big thank you to everyone who sponsored me, much appreciated, and thumbs up to Darwen Leisure who were well-organised and made it all run smoothly. No report from Salford yesterday since it was cancelled due to cold weather (highly annoying - the dock owners were afraid of newbies getting into trouble, not that it was actually too cold for anyone to swim at all).On the bright side the cancellation meant I could take Eldest to a karate taster, which she loved and I secretly wanted to join in with. Maybe I'll get to do that over winter!

I completed the 5k in 2hrs, 4mins 2secs - drat! I was trying to get under two hours, but it's hardly surprising not to, given the amount of illness/busyness/general slacking that's been going on. However, the work I've put in over the winter - albeit patchy - has certainly paid off. When I did this distance at 18yo it took me 2hrs 20mins; admittedly in breaststroke. I really hadn't trained enough then either, and ended up with a horrible screw kick through tiredness which damaged my right knee. I didn't swim properly for many, many years after that.

The last time I was able to swim for a solid 2hrs was in September at Salford, and whilst I'm wary of comparing pool vs open water, I only completed 4k then (and got my Iron Fish, so "only 4km" is relative!). A whole km extra is enough to suggest I've sped up a fair bit. I didn't take proper split times, only looked at my watch when I could, but I also seem to have had a small negative split going on - my first couple of kilometres were slower than the last. At two miles I was at 1hr 21, which is 1min faster than the last time I made a note of it. So allowing for stoppages and so on, I seem to have maintained my speed since January. I'm presuming this is an effect of slightly better technique because I know my overall fitness has dipped significantly.

In terms of the swim itself, the first km was difficult, just getting to grips with being back in the water after so long (25oC was way too warm!). I didn't take my MP3 player, which I regretted at first but once I'd got into a rhythm I knew I'd just have knocked it out every time I pushed off (I made a lot of use of my long glide today to save energy!). I got lapped about six times by a very speedy young lad, but since he was only doing a mile and I knew he was a club swimmer, I was happy to let him go by. It was good to swim in a numpty-free zone - lane rage is something that's really put me off going lately.

I felt properly warmed up towards the first mile and the second was fairly fluid; I took the time to try to correct a nasty thumb-entry-first issue and that helped quite a bit. The third mile started well but I lost my focus a bit between 3.5-4.5km, when I had some neck pain on the right. I really must try to solve my over-turning problem - but thanks to all the winter training I was able to switch to breathing to the left or bilateral for a few laps to allow myself to rest. Completed the last half-km fairly quickly with much encouragement from the pool staff (who were probably just keen to get away, since I was the last in!), and now I have a shiny medal to show for it. Not sure what my ranking is yet, they don't all seem to be up.

All in all, it was a good experience - I've lost surprisingly little speed and hopefully got some oomph back to start working on dropping my two mile time down for Great North, which is seven weeks away. I have a training session booked at Windermere the weekend before, which I'm really excited about. On the other hand my hip is playing up no end, which isn't a problem for swimming but it does affect running, and to that end I have a session booked with Media City Physio this week to see if I can iron out some of my issues. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Back In The Big Pool

Crappy phone pic from Dock 9 this morning

Woohoo! We're back in season, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. Literally - I just don't have the words to describe how it felt to be back in the water again, and specifically this water. I mean, I had a great time at Tynemouth, but this is home, with familiar buildings all around, people I know, horrible coffee and the steps to slouch on in the sun afterwards.

So. It was 8oC in the water and 8oC on the land according to the car. The sun was shining, this week's vicious winds had dropped completely, and all in all it was the perfect start to the season. I had it easier than a lot of people because I came equipped with neoprene gloves and boots - I just don't have the acclimatisation to go without at that temp, and rubbish circulation as it is. I'd rather look silly and risk the odd sneer than not swim at all. Not run into any sneers yet, though! As soon as I can I'll be dropping the extras, anyway, because my socks have a tendancy to fill up with water and my gloves are rather thick. I am full of admiration for those who can go without.

Today we just had a short course laid out at 250m, which was more than enough for quite a few brave folks coming out for their first try. Goodness, that must be hard to have your first go at open water in such cold! I feel lucky that I was able to start in waters of 16oC or so and have the pleasure of 20oC last season. It meant I got over the face-in-the-water fears without having to deal with brain freeze as well. That was pretty much all I found difficult today - my limbs were fine, but getting my head down was hard. I did most of my first lap in breaststroke (more difficult than it sounds because my wetsuit seemed awfully buoyant!), with frequent pauses to let my face and ears get used to it. And to just stop in the water and stare around, delighted to be back!

One thing I learned very quickly, once I could swim properly, was a good reason to exhale through your nose and not your mouth. Water that cold really makes your teeth ache!

For the second lap I was able to do much of it in front crawl. I think I may have been ok going for a third lap, but my left foot was really quite cold for no reason I can work out, and I was worried about ear pain. My youngest daughter's just had the most awful ear infection and I'd rather not risk that, so having forgotten to put in ear plugs (again) I decided to quit whilst I was ahead at around 25mins in. I wasn't particularly cold or stiff when I got out and the water should be much warmer next week if the weather holds. That'll give me a nice warm-up for Swimathon 5k, which is next Sunday! I feel like I've done barely any training and Easter certainly took a toll in terms of poor food choices. I'm pretty sure I can do the distance, though I'll be very surprised if it's close to 2hrs. I just hope it's not too boring.