Monday, 31 January 2011

Guest post

Nicola Joyce invited me to write a guest post for her blog about open water swimming - you can see what I wrote here.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Strength and conditioning

I went to a session on Strength and Conditioning last night, run by Mark Jarvis of MMJ Training, who provides S&C coaching to elite athletes preparing for the Olympics, as well as working on a small group and one-to-one basis with more normal mortals. He gave a free seminar and taster session to members the triathlon club to explain the virtues of S&C in terms of performance and injury prevention. He was fantastic - he really knows his stuff, as well as being funny and extraordinarily positive in the face of our manifold inadequacies. He had us doing some of the basic movements and tests that expose inefficiencies, structural problems and "energy leaks", and was clearly itching to dive in and start coaching as we tilted, over-compensated, collapsed and wobbled our way through the exercises. In many ways, it was a sobering experience in that I feel really strong bodily a lot of the time, and especially when I'm training, but at the same time, was unable to do many of the simplest-looking movements that he set us. That feeling of capacity and control that comes from training can be very deceptive. But it was a very thought-provoking lesson in rethinking what good training is, and where our time might be best spent. I'm not sure how to mobilise this in terms of my training practice yet, but many thanks to Mark for a really great evening.

swimming documentary

Have a listen to this gorgeous documentary about the swimmers at Sandycove. It's made by Kevin Keane, and is a beautiful evocation of the joys of sea swimming, as well as a very particular celebration of the community at Sandycove and their swimming achievements.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cold Water Swim Champs pictures

There's some great pictures from the Cold Water Swimming Championships in the Guardian today - what fun... it does all look a bit chilly though.

UK Cold Water Swimming Championships

Off to Tooting Bec Lido yesterday to take part in the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships. It was a cold, grey morning as I trudged across the common towards the lido yesterday, and I have to admit that my heart wasn't really in it. This cold water business is not really my thing, although regular readers of the blog will remember that I rather enjoyed a chilly dip in Parliament Hill lido in December. Consequently, my swimming involvement in the event was rather modest - just the 30m freestyle. The rest of the time was spent watching the races and catching up with old and new friends from the training camp in Cork, Swimtrek, and from those summer weekends down in Dover.

I performed with my customary mediocrity in my race - I think I came about 13th overall in the heats, and consequently, was spared having to get back in again to swim in the finals! To be honest, although I enjoyed the event as a whole enormously, I didn't enjoy my race much. Like all the races, when the time came for my heat, we had to jump straight in, then wait, holding on to the wall with one hand, and with shoulders submerged. Once everyone was ready, we were counted down and off we went. It was only a few degrees in the water, and I found the combination of putting my head in and then sprinting quite unpleasant - much worse than at Parliament Hill, which had been colder, but I had kept my head up. My hands, feet and face quickly went numb, my whole body was stinging and tingling and the 30m seemed to go on forever; it's amazing that even over such a short distance, I could feel the cold sapping my strength and slowing my stroke. I was very relieved to have it over and done with when I finally touched the wall and hauled myself out; I grabbed my stuff and headed straight for the sauna, which was packed with bright pink swimmers warming up and chatting.

I was certainly relieved that I hadn't got carried away when registering and signed up for the 450m endurance race. For someone like me, with very few opportunities (and very limited inclination) to acclimatise by training in very cold water regularly, it would have been a very tough challenge, and not one that I think I could have completed. But many congrats to those who did it - amazing.

But the day as a whole was great fun - it had the feel of a country fair (a hog roast, children selling cupcakes, a hat competition), but at the same time, was run like absolute clockwork, with swimmers assembling, changing, being briefed, and being taken to the start in a slickly organised and friendly, well-practised routine. The whole thing was managed and executed by a large troupe of volunteer marshals and safety crew - many thanks to all of them, who stood around in the cold for hours keeping things running and making it a fun and safe day for everyone.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Interviewing....and back to training...

I've finally got myself back into some kind of training routine after a bit of a hiatus over Christmas, and then being ill at the beginning of Jan. Fully recovered, my training is getting back on track, with a much greater focus on landtraining (in the gym) than last year, plus plenty of quality sessions in the pool. I'm feeling it a bit after the break, but feel good for getting some consistent training done. Plus, the return to hard training has sorted out the problems I tend to have in term-time with insomnia! The next short-term challenge is my birthday swim on Sunday, postponed from last Sunday because I had a cold - to celebrate (?) turning 43, I'm going to do 43 x 200m.

Alongside that, and as term gets underway again, I've restarted the interviewing process for the research project, kicking off the year with Nicola Joyce (The Fit Writer), who wrote this lovely report on our meeting on her blog. And while you're there, have a look at the physique photos that she posted recently - amazing. All in all, the interviews are going well and I'm really enjoying doing them. I've done 12 so far, with another 5 in the, I'm giving my first seminar on the research in a couple of weeks, which is a bit terrifying, but a good opportunity to start thinking about all this great data. I'm hoping to post a podcast of the seminar if my limited technological competence allows...