I think it would be fair to say that The Long Swim has been taking things fairly easy. The crew down in Dover knocked out their first brace of 6 hour swim this weekend, but I settled for two 6km swims instead - both at Lake 32 at the Cotswolds Water Park. This is a new venue for me this year (following our move to Bath, where we live for part of the time), and it's working out really well. The water's pretty shallow, so I imagine it'll become soupy-warm as soon as the sun comes out (remember the sun?), but for now, and especially following all the rain, it's a perfect temp and I've been enjoying my laps.
There is something extremely civilised about swimming for just a couple of hours a day, 5-6 times a week. It's enough to give me an appetite, ensure a sound night's sleep and generally leave me feeling fit and strong, but without wiping me out. And I have to say that although the Dover trips were always fun, and great training, I really don't miss the 5 hours each way on the motorway. So, the upshot is that although in distance swimming terms, I am a shadow of my former self, in every other way, this works really well for me and certainly gives me pause for thought about whether or not to do another big swim. (Although, having said that, I know that once I'm in training for a big swim, I really get into it, so I'm not writing that off yet).
But apart from the reduction in training time / distance this year, the biggest change has been that I have been working on swimming at a higher effort level. I know that I can plod away, but while I'll never be the speediest of swimmers, I"m trying to put some steady effort in (whilst holding on to my slightly improved stroke technique and efficiency). This is a work in progress, and I still don't have as much fitness as I would like, but there are signs of improvement; I've signed up for a couple of 10km swims later this summer to put this to the test. The Finis Hydro Tracker is a perfect, if slightly tyrannical, tool for this project - while I'm swimming, I'm not clock watching, but rather, concentrating on perceived effort and stroke rate / rhythm; then I can evaluate later based on the stats. It's hard not to let the Hydro Tracker become a bit of a slave-master - my heart always sinks if I've clocked a slower pace than I was aiming for. But it's an engaging project that stops me from slipping into two-hour plods that aren't really contributing anything...other than the simple pleasure of being in the water, which is also nothing to be sneezed at.
And next weekend, it's off to Dover for the BLDSA Champion of Champions - 5 mile, 3 mile and then 1 mile races in one day. I think it would be fair to say that I'm approaching this with some trepidation - my first sea swim of the year, a lower temp than I've become accustomed to in the lakes, and a distance far in excess of anything I've managed this year. But given that I've signed up to do the BLDSA Torbay event (8 miles) on July 7th, it's probably about time I ventured into the sea to get a bit of distance in. With luck, I'll get through the day in one piece....