Thursday, 25 April 2013

April (T-minus 3 months)

This month the focus of my training has shifted toward a more immediate goal of doing the 24 hour swim, again.  I have continued to do similar training sets, but have worked towards doing multiple swim days.  At the beginning of the month I did my normal daily sets but added a second swim set in the afternoon on 2 consecutive days.  The following week I added a triple swim day followed by a double and finally started to taper with a double swim day in the middle of the week, on top of the normal swimming routine. 

The sessions were mixed, some of them I felt great and some I just felt awful and had to really drag myself to the end of the set, with very little energy.  These sessions are always worrying as they are a big psychological hit and make me question my ability to complete the challenges I have set myself.  However, on the 5th swim session within a 36hr period I finished the set with a PB over the 1km reps, knocking a couple of seconds off of my previous time.  This gave me a massive positive boost and increased my confidence for the 24 hour swim.

I also did my first couple of open water swims this month, which were long awaited. The Serpentine finally warmed to a swimmable level – 7 Celsius in the middle of the month, so I headed down and did a 2km on the Saturday and a 3km on the Sunday.  I was very happy with how well my body coped with the cold water.  It was obviously a bit of a shock getting into the water, but after a few seconds my breathing was under control, I got used to the feeling of my skin burning and I could get into a rhythm and almost enjoy the experience….almost.  After both swims I the shakes kicked in, but not too badly and I was able to warm up much quicker than I had last year, all good signs that my acclimatisation to the cold has been getting better each year.

Over the duration of this month I have started to notice quite a few new aches and pains, mainly in hands and elbow joints.  I suspect these are overuse injuries that just need some time to heal. This is a bit of an issue as my training is due to increase with the sea swims starting next month and the 24 hour swim isn’t going to help matters.  I’ll just have to go carefully and try to be sensible and not push myself too far before it gets serious – easier said than done.

With this in mind I have to be very careful going into the 24 hour swim.  The last time I did the event, completing it was all important and not too much of a problem if I overdid it a bit, as long as there was no long term damage.  This time however, nothing matters except the Channel.  I cannot jeopardise the Channel by going all out in the 24 hr swim and doing some serious damage. 

So, going into the event I had this to think about, as well as a dilemma as to what to do if I got too cold to finish the event.  Last time I managed 12 hours without a wetsuit and then donned the neoprene to get me through the cold and dark hours to successfully complete the event.   This time I had been told that to put the wetsuit on would be severely frowned upon by the Channel swimming community and would not really help my Channel preparations.  I had to wrestle with these thoughts at the expense of perhaps not completing the event, which was tough.  On the other hand I could also focus on the positives, I have 2 years of long distance swimming under my belt since the last event, I am a faster, stronger swimmer and I am fatter, well a few kilos heavier anyway…..hoping this will make all the difference!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


This has got to be my best month of training so far, in fact I would have to say, ever!  After a couple of months of focusing on the 5km sets and doing a lot of pace work, my times have come down significantly over a number of distances.  I have knocked 30secs off of my 400m time, over 45 secs off of my 1km time and more than a couple of minutes off of my 4km time…… this just shows how effective my current training is.  During the middle of the month, every time I got out of the pool, I had set a new PB.  I had to double check the times to makes sure I wasn’t making a mistake.

This has been a fantastic boost to my mental training and has really helped to keep me motivated in the pool for every session.  My positive state of mind was reinforced at the end of the month at an amazing Channel training camp held by Nick and Sakura at Eton.  We did a series of benchmark tests as well as the dreaded 100x100m on 100secs and I was right up there with the faster swimmers and able to comfortably hold the pace for those sessions.  It was a very good weekend full of plenty of swimming, a massive amount of information from those that had succeeded in swimming the Channel and a lot of food….I did my best to pile on the pounds in those 2 days eating every sugary snack available!

On the weight front, I had been gaining weight nice and steadily by eating lots and often, but I started to tail off the eating once the pounds started to pile on.  At the ‘Camp Eton’ we were given a number of examples of people that had run out of fuel when they got close to France and had to give up, because they had not fattened up enough.  The phrase, 'don’t be too vain to gain', was used a lot over the weekend.  This has renewed my motivation to put on the pounds and I am eating with vigour again…My target is to try and break the 88kg barrier by the end of April….Easter should help!

The only downside to this month of training is that I have still not done any open water swimming, the Serpentine is hovering around 0-1C which is just too cold to do a descent set.  I’d rather not sacrifice the option of a quality set in the pool for a few mins trying to get through a couple of hundred metres whilst swimming in an ice bath of duck poo… The plan was to start doing sets in the Serps once it hit 10C, which was supposed to be around the end of Feb, over a month on and that is still not the case. 

My biggest concern at the moment is the weather.  If we don’t get some sun soon it’s going to be a very cold training season in Dover, not to mention the crossing itself!