Sunday, 24 October 2010

Look what I got....

Look what I got today.....

The Sandwell Lifesaving and Channel Swimming Club (based at Swan Pool in Walsall) have an cup, awarded annually, for the longest swim by one of its members, and my 16 hours and 9 mins in the Channel took the prize this year! There is a pleasing symmetry to "the long swim" winning "the longest swim", and I couldn't be more delighted.

And well done to Ali Longman, who won the "swimmer of the year" award this year for her all-round fantastic performances and hard training.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Research podcast

I was interviewed about the swimming research last week for the online journal, Sociological Imagination, which is edited and managed by a group of post-graduates at Warwick University. You can find the podcast here.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Getting going again...

Two very different pics of objects, each of which are providing inspiration to get back to swimming / training as the darker days of winter approach.

Firstly, the jelly-baby necklace that Rachel made for me before my swim, and which I promised I would display in all its glory. Hilarious.

And secondly, the outstandingly stunning North Sydney Olympic Pool - a 50m, heated, salt-water pool overlooking Sydney harbour, and overlooked by Sydney bridge. What more could a swimmer ask for. I spent most of my last day in Sydney there, swimming, then sitting in the sun reading, then swimming some more, before walking back into Sydney across the bridge.

And so, back to the present. The good news is that I'm feeling heaps better physically and am starting to recover my enthusiasm for training. I've been going to the gym, or doing some gentle running, plus 2-3km swims every other day, and am starting to get back into it all. In some ways, I am the fittest I have ever been; in others, I am woefully unfit...especially when out running (which I really stopped doing around April). But you have to start from where you are, so I'm building up slowly, mixing up activities to get a good cross-training effect and avoid injury, and am generally taking it easy. Plus, Peter's now working in Bath during the week and has the car, and it's almost impossible to park the van at the university because of height barriers, so it's the perfect incentive to get on my bike. It's only 15 mins each way, but every little helps.

The really good news about all this is that where it used to take several hours of swimming to exhaust me, a 45 minute workout pretty much does the job now. This is great because, especially in term time, I tend to have trouble sleeping, especially if I don't exercise, but where it used to take a good 2-3 hours of swimming to do the job, my recent idleness means that a 45 min workout will have me out like a light at bedtime, so I get extra free time and a good night's sleep!

I'm still very unsure about what to do next, and depending on what I decide, how to train. Last year, I trained with the Masters section of the local swimming club, but this has become increasingly oriented to pool competition, which really isn't my thing at all. I don't mind the training, especially over the winter, but I really don't want to compete - something which there is a growing pressure to do. Consequently, I'm not sure how sustainable it is for me to keep going, or whether I should train on my own. This is something which I'm not sure I can be trusted to do - I'm very good at training regularly, but not so good at pushing myself in terms of pace outside of coached sessions. And, as I discovered in my Channel swim, these things matter.

I'm also now thinking quite seriously about having a go at Catalina next summer while I'm over there with the research. But I have two reservations which I still need to think through: firstly, that you have to get over to the island by boat over several hours, and with the likelihood of me being seasick, I'm not sure how I would cope with swimming after that; and secondly, the wildlife....and especially the kind that bites. I've been communicating with Jen Schumacher about this and she has suggested some good ways of managing what is essentially an irrational fear, given the extreme unlikelihood of an attack. But I need to think about it some more. At the end of the day, I don't want to pay all that money and then spend 12 hours in the water, all stressed out, thinking that every shadow is a shark. Mind you, as Jen pointed out (not exactly comfortingly), the ones you see are not your problem, since they've already seen you and decided you're not dinner. It's the ones you don't see... Hmmm.

But whatever I decide, the important thing is that I feel much more like my old swimming self. I feel great, and am starting to really want to get back into it, rather than just feeling like I should.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Back to swimming...?

Well, it's that time of year, and suddenly the university is bustling with students and the frantic final preparations for teaching are underway. In the midst of it all, I decided that a month post-swim was enough time to recover and that I should get back to training, but it turns out that I was being a little optimistic. I've been to two club sessions in the last four days, including the 5.30am session this morning, but I wasn't able to complete either session, and was horribly slow; even more worrying, just over those two sessions, I developed a nasty niggle in one shoulder, and some lower back pain, plus a partial recurrence of the wrist problem. But aside from the flurry of little injuries, I feel very fatigued....not in my everyday life, when I am full of beans, but while I was swimming. It felt as though fatigue had got right into my body; the only way I can describe the sensation is that my bones and joints felt sick when I was swimming. So, even though some of it is probably just from not having trained, I'm sure that my body is still dealing with the exertion of the swim (plus the jetlag etc), and it's probably better to rest up some more. So, my plan for now is to not go to the club sessions, but to stick with the local gym / pool for now, doing some more gentle maintenance-style fitness work. Not very exciting, but just what I need for a few more weeks, I think. Perhaps I'm just showing my age....