Monday, 23 July 2012

A marathon is a long way to swim!

In my experience of long distance swimming it's never just about swimming. If it was then it would be a simple matter of training and fitness. More often than not it's the other stuff that makes it really challenging. For example - the repetitive strain injuries to the shoulders and arms. The tightness in the back and legs that builds and builds the longer the swim goes on. The cold that slowly works its way into your core until your fingers are clawed and your head feels faint. The nausea from swallowing salt water in the sea or the build up of energy gels and drinks sloshing around in your gut. All the other intangibles that you can anticipate but never really practice until they hit you at 7, 8, 10 plus hours.
Swimming 12 hours in the pool presents some additional challenges. 844 laps means 843 tumble turns, that's 843 abdominal crunches and 844 calf springs off a wall or, in other terms, a lot of lactic in a different set of muscles and the physiological effect of tumbling on the stomach while digesting whatever energy gels and drinks you can keep down.

My strategy to manage this swim was, as always, to break it down to small manageable chunks. Contemplating swimming 844 laps continuously or for 11-12 straight hours is mentally very hard, so I devised a session to break the swim up to small bite sized pieces and, instead of thinking about swimming for 42.2km, I just thought about completing the next set in the session. With the assistance of other swimmers coming down during the day to keep me company and short sociable breaks between sets, the kms ticked over quite quickly at the start. I kept up a fast turnover at the start and knocked off the first 20km in almost exactly 5hours. By this stage I was suffering from the expected calf cramps and tired arms but my back was starting to really tighten up across my shoulder blades. It was an unusal feeling and one I put down to the excessive tumble turns. I slowed the tempo down a little at this stage and was happy to be paced by the other swimmers who joined me. By the time I reached 28km I was a bit over the swim. The back was constantly aching and the monotony of the laps was wearing me down. I found myself starting to wonder whether I could wind up early and still hold my head up high. At times like that you have to try to stay in the moment and not think about how much further there is still to swim. Just focus on the next little set or few laps. When I hit 32km I knew I was about 3/4 of the way through the swim and only had 10km to go, that's a long session but quite manageable mentally.

I paused with about 5km left and gratefully received a brief back massage while sitting on the edge of the pool from Jane Rackham, who regularly helps me with my various shoulder and back niggles. The aching muscles loosened for a few kms. I finally hit 41km and decided to gun the last 10 x 100m. It's a bit hard to gun after 41km but I ticked them over as quickly as I could manage and hit the magic 42km. The last 200m was my 'swimdown' and with a small audience gathering to watch me finish I swam the last 25m butterfly. I don't think it was very pretty but it was fantastic to finish (in just under 12 hours) and receive a round of applause from the lifeguards, friends and family that had hung around to see me complete my marathon swim. I suffered some severe nausea post swim and revisited most of the energy gels/drinks I had consumed in the latter half of the marathon; think I'll avoid the huckleberry flavoured gels in the near future.

This swim was all about raising money and the profile of the Sandford Parks Lido. Long distance swimming means a lot of training, and for much of the colder months in England that means indoor pools, often heavily chlorinated and over-heated. Come April however the Lido opens and that all changes. Swimming in a pool like the Sandford Lido makes the training a lot more enjoyable. Apart from the rich history of the 77 year old pool it is just lovely to swim outdoors in such a beautiful setting. Wide grassy lawns and pretty flower beds are easy on the eye and when the sun is out there's hardly a better way to start the day than getting down early to fit in a quick session before work or set up the weekend. One of the comments that several friends and family members made was how nice they found the Lido when they came down for their first visit to see me swim.

As always the support that I receive makes something like this doable and so much more fun. Vickie was again my rock and chief help, she swam about 10km herself. But the constant procession of swimmers that came though the day really boosted the energy and helped to pass the time. Big thanks to Phil, Maude, Dave, Mark, Sarah, Jason, Brian, Penny, Karen, Colin, Tom, Nick, Jayne, Andre, Leigh, Geoff, Steve, Kim and all the others that swam that I am too water logged to remember!


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

42.2km Swim Set

All right these are the projected swim sets to make up a 42.2km pool session -

6am -  Warm up = 4km

7am - 100 x 100m; 10 on 1min 35s, 10 on 1.30, 10 on 1.25 repeat = 10km

9.30am - Swim squad 100m, 1x100m, 200m, 2x 100m, 300m, 3 x 100m, 400m, 4 x 100m, 500m, 5 x 100m, 600m, 6 x 100m, 700m, 7 x 100m. 400m easy = 6km

11am - Main set! 1000m x 1, 900m x 2, 800m x 3, 700m x 4, 600m x 5, 500m x 6, 400m x 7, 300m x 8, 200m x 9, 100m x 10 = 22km

Whenever200m swim down

Total = 42.2km/26.2miles.

Anyone fancy joining me?????