Saturday, 28 February 2009

2 months in, 114.45km done and kicked out of the pool

Good month of swimming, 114.45km of swimming. That's a satisfying average of just over 4km a day this month. This morning's session was the big one - a solid 8km straight. I have swum more than this in a day in 2 sessions but this was to be the longest single session to date. I headed down to the pool, stocked up with electrolytes and energy fuel. Started with a 2500m warm up and then ploughed through the next 3.6km in decreasing sets to bring up 6km in just over 1.5hrs. I finished with sets of 500m and felt suprisingly strong. As I pushed off for the final 500m I felt a warm glow of satisfaction that I was about to complete my longest ever session and round out the 8km. At this point I noted that the pool seemed remarkably quiet with the few remaining swimmers heading for the exits. I then spotted the lifeguard poised over the edge of my lane. As I pulled up he pointed to the change rooms and said "Time to get out mate, pool's shut", I paused momentarily and thought I would appeal to his better nature, "Do you mind if I finish my set, I've only 6 more laps to bring up 8km?" There seemed to be a flicker of sympathy and recognition of my achievement as he paused before he said "Nah, pool's shut". So that was it, kicked out 6 laps short of my goal. Still as annoying as that was I had a moment of smugness that I felt strong after nearly 8km in the pool, if it wasn't for the fact that that is not even a quarter of the distance across the channel I could feel genuinely pleased. In relative terms it is like running 10km in the preparation for running a marathon. Or more realistically it is like running 10km on a flat track in preparation for a marathon up a very steep mountain, in the snow...........with no clothes on.

Friday, 20 February 2009

At last, something to whinge about.

My shoulders have been aching these last weeks and I have had quite a few sessions where I have just floundered through the water. I did a 6km set on Wednesday and after 2km I had completely ran out of juice. I spent the next hour wondering whether I would bounce back from what felt like a hypoglycaemic fug, the answer was a resounding no. Fitness and physical fatigue haven't held me back but it seems my body has been struggling to provide the energy required for back to back to back sessions. I have somewhat surprisingly been sleeping badly. I assumed with the increase physical work out I would sleep like a baby but instead I find myself tossing and turning and waking up in the dead of night. Muscle cramps have caught me out a few times in the evening sessions and I am having to think more carefully about hydration and energy levels. More often than not I find I am eating as much as I can physically manage but I suspect I have lost weight in the last month instead of gaining it.

I popped down to the local leisure centre at lunchtime today thinking I could get a quick session in at a quiet time of the day. Foolish me, it was half term and I had to share the one lap lane with a dozen breastrokers with an average age of 87. After twenty minutes there was only three left, I'm sure it wasn't all because of me but I do wonder what sort of work out you can get when it seems clear your objective is to keep your hair dry and water off your face at all times. I suspect I splashed quite a few of the 'tea bags' as I passed them bobbing up and down, I noted several damp hair arrangements as they reluctantly departed.

Someone who voluntarily decides to train up to swim the English Channel doesn't really deserve much sympathy, it is after all a rather self centered exercise however you dress it up. It's just I think secretly I quite like having something to whinge about. My wife has been an elite level triathlete since I have known her and she gets to complain all the time. Now it's my turn to grumble about aching muscles and physical exhaustion. I can complain about poor lane etiquette and inadequate provisions for serious swimmers. I can whinge to my hearts content, it's really quite an enjoyable activity.

Vickie wants me to do some tiling this afternoon. Doesn't she know I am resting up for my next swimming session this evening? I can't waste energy on mundane DIY tasks. I'm a serious swimmer, I'm training to swim the channel after all. No, it's rest and recovery for me, gotta look after myself. The tiling can wait until after September.............

Monday, 9 February 2009

a little knowledge is a dangerous thing......

I should be feeling buoyed by another good week in the pool. 26.2km last week including 8.3km on Sunday. My fitness is good and improving, I am feeling stronger through the water and I seem to be making steady progress. Then I start reading on the Internet about other swimmers mad training programs, people swimming in near freezing water, people who have taken 3 years to reach this point of a channel swim attempt. I read about other people's failures, all the advice from experienced swimmers about how hard it is and how many people underestimate what's involved. I read about how the weather and conditions can scupper your attempt before you even get going. I read that only 40% of channel swimmers succeed. I shouldn't read these things but it's compulsive. I spend hours trawling through blog sites trying to garner little titbits of wisdom.
Today's a rest day, just a little run with the dog through the snow. Pushing negative thoughts to the back of my mind. I mostly feel good about where I'm at, I should top 100kms this month. Next month is back to Aus for a month of ocean swimming in preparation for the English ocean swimming which starts in May. I've given myself 9 months to get to a place where I can swim the channel. Seemed like a long time at Christmas. Now if you can just excuse me I've found another blog about a person who got within 2 miles of France and became delirious with exhaustion, must go.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

One month in - the cold and the fat?

So nearly 60km in the pool in January seems like a good base for my first month's serious training. Still a long way off what I should be building up to in Summer (at least twice that much). There are several issues that have occupied my thoughts though, the main one is the cold water acclimatisation. People have suggested that I need to start walking around in shorts and t-shirts in winter, sleeping under only a sheet etc. As the temperature this week plummeted well below freezing again I have not stuck to this philosophy with any enthusiasm. I have taken to running in the mornings without the gloves and hat that takes the edge off the cold and as I waded through the snow on top of Cleeve hill this morning I found myself questioning this decision also. The other part to this worry is the need to fatten up for the swim. How much fat is ideal when swimming the channel? I have read figures of about 15% body fat which is not a significant level. Pictures of the repeat swimmers of channel crossings tend to suggest that quite a bit more than that is not a disadvantage although there must be some trade off between extra weight and reduced fitness. I have not actively tried to bulk up too much yet, 78kg was my weight at the end of Jan and I am simply not being fussy at the moment about what I eat. I figured I could go up to 85kg quite happily, personally if the extra fat genuinely helps to keep out the cold I'll be more than happy to follow Renee Zellwinger's diet (in bulking up for Bridget Jones) and eat ice cream with every meal.