I also did the first of my long Christmas swims on Christmas Eve - I did 18.8km in 6 hours, so I'm more tortoise than hare (or whatever the aquatic equivalent is), but kept a nice steady pace throughout (especially once the morning rush had ended and the pool was emptier, enabling me to settle a bit more). I was a bit tired that afternoon, but Peter and I went out and feasted on delicious Italian food, which really helped. I love these long swims - there is something hugely soothing about knowing that all I have to do for the next 6 hours is swim. Nothing else; just swimming. I love to just empty my head out of all of the nonsense that's usually bouncing around in there, settle into a rhythm, and swim. It's harder to do in a pool, I think, because you have to turn, and pay attention to other people in the lane, but I still find it hugely pleasurable. I've been thinking about this quite a lot recently, and think that there is a real tension in my training between my desire for the long, slow swim (and the pleasure I get from it, which in turn, helps me to keep up with the training), and my need to do more focused training to get my speed and efficiency up. Terry Laughlin has been writing a lot in his blog recently about developing training practices that "grow brain cells" - a very mindful, strategic approach to training that aims to cut out junk miles and maximise efficiency through constant awareness. I've tried a couple of his example workouts, and perhaps the most striking thing was how quickly my mind wandered off the task - an appalling lack of self-discipline, really. Something for me to work on more, I think, although this is always going to be a matter of compromise for me.
I'm going to repeat the 6 hour swim on New Year's Eve, and try to get up to 19.7km (a 5% increase on last week).
And in the mean time, I've had the most incredible response to my posts about the research project. It also got a mention on The Water Is Open, which led to even more people getting in touch. It's all really exciting.
Merry Christmas everyone.