Well it has been a very bright and, at the same time, a very dark winter. The brightness came in early Autumn with the arrival of my beautiful daughter. The darkness came with what seemed like endless months of not sleeping at all due to the needs of a baby coupled with the never ending stream of colds and coughs my son brought back from nursery to share with the whole family.
Obviously this has all had a significant impact on my training. Through the Autumn until the end of the year I basically did what I could, trying my best to get to the pool 3 to 4 times per week. Some days I was literally swimming on empty, but was suprised that even though I couldn't keep my eyes opening, sometimes I felt great in the water. Other days though, I felt like I was swimming through treacle with concrete running through my veins.
I started to look on the really hard sessions when I had had very little sleep and no energy as excellent mental training for the Channel. I know there will come a time when I will feel so cold and tired that I will want to give up. Thanks to my children I have now come close(ish) to what I imagine that feeling to be, on a regular basis through the winter and have started to train my mind to deal with feeling like this. Plenty more mental training to do and I am sure the kids will oblige with many an opportunity!
In the new year I wrote myself a new training plan and set my self a goal - Eton 10km at the end of May, no wetsuit this time. I continued to struggle with consistent quality sleep and therefore training sessions until the end of February. Finally as the evenings started to get lighter we saw the last of the family colds disappear and we all started to get a little more sleep. Amazing how much difference this has made.
My plan had been to get into the open water in Feb to start accliamatising, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. The water seems so much colder when you're tired. I opted instead to follow each of my pool sessions with an ice cold shower. I was pleasantly suprised that it didn't take long to get back into the swing of it. Finally in early March I took the plunge and did my first open water swim of the year at the Serpentine in Hyde Park. The water was a civilized 8 degrees C. After the initial shock I was able to put my head down and cruise through just over 1km and around 17 mins in the water. Again I was pleasantly suprised that I could cope. Granted it took a good hour, a long hot shower and copious amounts of hot coffee to stop shaking but I had done it.
Since then I have done a 2km and 2:5km open water swim and my weekly average is now up to around 20km.
The plan this weekend is to extend the open water swim to 3km and eliminate the shakes within 45 mins!