Tuesday, 9 July 2013

June (T-Minus 1 month)

June started in a very good way, a family holiday to the Greek islands.  The perfect place to relax, do some water sports and of course, swim.  The plan for the week was to do some swimming but spend as time with the family, as the weeks of training ahead were to set to become all encompassing.  Still I managed to get in a good few sea swims in temperatures (late teens) that I could only dream of back home.   I also did my best to put on as much weight as possible by eating a ridiculous amount of food. 

The day after we returned home I was standing on the beach at Bournemouth with Marcus planning to do a 4hr sea swim in 12c waters.  I had suffered from a little food poisoning in the last couple of days of the holiday and still wasn’t feeling 100%, but thought I have to get some long distance swims in the cold waters otherwise I am not going to have no chance of getting across the Channel.  I was starting to get quite worried at this point, that my training was not going to plan.

So, in we jumped, it was a big shock and I spent most of the swim shivering.  I got to just after the 3hr mark and was really starting to struggle, it was as though the battery had been pulled out and the lights were going off, I had nothing left in the tank.  I tried to keep going to get to the 4hr mark, but with the swell and current picking up and my lack of energy I decided it was too dangerous to continue, so I headed to shore.  Still, I managed 3.5hrs which wasn’t bad in the circumstances.

Doesn't look too bad from up here, but trust me the waves were big enough!
The rest of the month has been all about swimming in the sea at the weekends, either in Dover or Bournemouth.  Well actually mostly in Bournemouth as I much prefer swimming off the sandy beaches of Bournemouth than the murky waters of Dover harbour.  Marcus worked out a good feeding strategy, swim course and has a good relationship with the local life guards, who kept an ever watchful eye on us.

Having said that I did spend a weekend swimming in Dover.  I entered the Champion of Champions (5 mile race, 3 mile race & 1 mile race) which became a bit of a farce with the course distance not being known and the late starts for each of the races and lots of hanging around in the cold.  By the time it got to the end of the 3 mile race (or whatever distance it was) I had spent the whole day there, with much of it standing around, I decided I could not be bothered to wait for the last race and headed home.  Looking at the results of the day, I came 4th overall for the 5 & 3 mile swims, which was pretty good.  

Champion of Champion race (photo from BLDSA website)
 The following day I was back to Dover to do a 4hr swim in the cold waters of the harbour.  I have to say that that was the most miserable swim I have done to date.  The weather was unpleasant, the water was unpleasant, it was cold, murky and full of jellyfish.  I shivered through most of the swim and had problems with my hip flexors which slowed me down and made me colder – apparently this is a common issue in cold water and shouldn’t be an issue once the sea warms up.

For most of June the water and air temp stayed pretty cool and the water pretty choppy.  One day there were 5 of us swimming together in Bournemouth, but the swell so big that it was difficult to see each other even just a few metres apart.  There is something about swimming in the waves that makes it more interesting. Something about battling with the elements, although there was never any doubt who the winner would be!  It is  pretty hard work swimming in those conditions, being pushed this way and that just to go forward, excellent conditioning for the core and shoulders though.  

Warming up after a cold swim on a blustery day (Photo: N. Adams)
Finally at the end of the month Marcus and I were ready to attempt our 6hr qualifying swim, a requirement of the  Channel Swimming & Pilot Federation to be able to attempt a Channel swim .  The weather could not have been better.  The sun was out, barely a cloud in the sky and the sea was calm, this was going to be a much awaited, ‘boring’ swim up and down the coast with no waves to battle through.  Prior to this the longest sea swim I had done was 4 hours, so I was a little apprehensive as to how I was going to cope.  Would I have the strength to make it to the end, would I have the energy to maintain a good pace throughout and would I feel like I could go on at the end of the 6 hours as the Channel is likely to be at least double that.

Well the swim was pretty good, its amazing how quickly time passes when you are doing something
repetitive, swimming.  You get into a rhythm and let the mind wonder, just focus on a good clean stroke every time, put one had in front of the other and just keep swimming. 

I use a visualisation technique to help with long swims like this, which I have developed over the years of doing endurance events.  Hopefully I can explain this.  I think of time as a movable line, that I can go back and forward along, so that I don't have to think too much about the present.  When I am in the swim I don't think about how long is left I go back to what I was doing just before the swim or the night before when I was brushing my teeth thinking about the big swim ahead of me the next day.  I think about how quickly that time has passed.  It only felt like a few minutes ago that I was getting in the car to head down to the coast and now I am here in the water swimming.  Then I jump forward to what I will be doing straight after the swim and then later in the day.  From those points I try to visualise being in the future looking back at the swim I am now doing and thinking how quickly that time passed.  I make sure that I actively do look forward to the swim in my mind when I am brushing my teeth and then look back at the swim when I have finished, thus connecting the points in time.   Not sure if this makes any sense, but it is a technique that works really well for me.

Whilst I have not swum as much as I would have liked this month, due to the bad weather, I am pretty happy with where I am.  I am feeling strong and very positive about what lies ahead of me this next month.  July holds the really long swims - 7hours on the Saturday and 6 hours on the Sunday, the dreaded 'Channel in a weekend' swims.  Something to look forward to then!

No comments: