I'm not a big fan of banging out long pool swims. I prefer to save the longer swims for the outdoors, not least because swimming pools tend to turn me into a carnival of sneezing and snuffling for hours afterwards, and the longer I'm in, the worse it is. But while I generally hover around the 3-6km mark for my pool training, focusing on pace and technique rather than distance, on my birthday, I like to do my 'birthday 200's' session. And so today, in advance of my 45th birthday next Wednesday, I pitched up at the pool to celebrate my arrival at my 40's midpoint by swimming 45 x 200m.
The 'birthday 200's' has become something of a benchmark swim for me, and I am happy to report that things are looking quite promising. Two years ago (43 x 200m - the birthday between my Channel and Catalina swims), I started the set with a turnaround time of 3.45 / 200m, but couldn't sustain it after the first 3km, and dropped it back to 4 mins, which was fine for the rest of the set. So this time, I started with a turnaround time of 3.45, but soon realised that this was giving me way too long a rest period, so dropped it down to 3.40, and then, by the end of the first 2km, down to 3.30, where it stayed for the rest of the set (finishing in 3.20 + 10 secs of rest). I mixed it up with a bit of pull, plus some pace variations / builds / progressive sets to keep it interesting. And then I did the final 1km as a solid swim with the Tempo Trainer set to 1.40/100m, and cruised in comfortably to finish. I had a few brief breaks to run to the toilets, grab a drink or munch a jelly baby, but apart from that, it was pretty constant from start to finish.
By the standards of a lot of the speedier swimmers out there, this is peanuts, but I'm pretty chuffed, and feel like all that technique work I did last year is really paying dividends now. I'm not really any fitter or stronger now than I was this time two years ago (although the 90km I did over Christmas in Lanzarote has probably helped in terms of general swim conditioning). But I am really starting to feel the benefit of all of the drilling and stroke correction, and am quite encouraged.
I've never been particularly bothered about my age, or the ageing process, and while I feel slightly surprised that I'm nearly 45, I don't really mind. But I do feel faintly pleased that while the conventional expectations of especially women's middle-aged bodies are primarily focused on their anticipated decline, my swimming is still improving. This is mostly, of course, because I started open water swimming with so much room for improvement, but still...
And having said that, I fully plan to spend the rest of the evening engaging in the age-appropriate activity of nodding off while reading in the armchair in front of a roaring fire.