Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

I just got back from the pool after my second 6 hour swim - I didn't quite make my goal of 19.7km, but managed 19.4km, which I was pretty pleased with, especially since I had to negotiate an invasion of leisurely breaststrokers into the lane for an hour in the middle when they compressed the public swimming space to accommodate a club swim. (Well, not really an invasion, since they had every right to be there too, but you know how frustrating it can be).
I was fine for most of the swim, but I really felt it towards the end, and last week's swim was still in my arms a bit. Lots of work to do, though.

While I was swimming, I was reviewing my year of training and swimming and am feeling pretty pleased with how things have gone. This year, I have:
  • completed a three-person relay crossing (and learned that I'm really better in the water than on it)
  • swum around Jersey
  • covered 881.6km in training (including multiple 6 hour training swims in a variety of conditions)

I feel like this has set me up well for next year's two key challenges:

  • Jersey to France (4-7 July)
  • English Channel solo

To get me to those goals, I've already confirmed places on long distance training camps in Malta and Jersey, and have my sights set on multiple weekends in Dover Harbour. All I can do now is stay as well and injury-free as I possibly can, work hard, and try to stay positive. I wonder if I'll be a Channel swimmer this time next year...

Monday, 28 December 2009


It's been a cold and icy Christmas week - beautiful blue skies and crispy mornings.... plus lots of black ice on the roads, so all cycling has been relegated to the turbo trainer in the kitchen, and early morning trips to the pool have to start 10 minutes earlier so that I can defrost the car. On Christmas Day, we drove down to Broadway in the camper van and went for deliciously crunchy walk in the sunshine in the beautiful Cotswolds hills. Then we had our traditional Christmas dinner of beans on toast in the van, attracting bemused pointing and stares from passers by as we tucked in to our lunch. The perfect way to spend Christmas - lots of fresh air, and the washing up gets done in no time!

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.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Research project, and swimming to Bordeaux...

I decided that it was time to relaunch my "Becoming a Channel swimmer" research project, in the hope of getting as many people involved as possible as early as possible in the training cycle. I posted a message on the discussion forum and got a really good initial response, and a number of people are already either letting me use their blogs, or sending me offline journal entries or e-mail updates, and quite a few have already offered to be interviewed as the year progresses. All very exciting. My funding bid is still with the Economic and Social Research Council - the decision should be announced by the end of Feb, so fingers crossed.

To make it a bit clearer what the research is about, I've written a brief project summary, including the key research questions and how people can participate. If you're interested in learning more about the research, or want to take part, you can find the summary here, or via the link on the right side of this page.

On a completely different note, I've been feeling fairly pleased with myself having calculated that I've swum 850km this year, which is not record-breaking, but will get you as far as Bordeaux in France, which is quite a pleasing thought. But then I watched the "Duel in the Pool" this morning (a swim meet between the US team and a three-country European team), and the commentators happened to mention that David Davies had had "quite a heavy" couple of weeks of training prior to the races ... Something of an understatement as it turned out - he'd done 200km in two weeks!!!! Okay, so now my 850km in a YEAR is looking pretty lame... not that comparing myself with elite swimmers is ever going to be a good confidence-building strategy, mind you...

Having said that, the swimming was just beautiful to watch. Those people are amazing. And it's great to see so much swimming on TV - the Robson Green open water documentary, the Great Swims, and now this.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Christmas swimming plans

With my contract signed and the money handed over, the whole Channel thing is starting to seem much more real, the positive outcome of which is that I've started to knuckle down a bit more to the training. Looking back at my training logs for this time last year, I'm doing less distance in the pool (usually between 10-15km / week this year, compared to 15-20km/ week last year), but the intensity has definitely increased now that I'm training with the club three times a week, and I think that's a positive exchange for now. I've also added in a LOT more cross training than I was doing last year - a couple of runs, a spinning class, a bike ride, and most recently, a pilates class each week. Plus, Penny and I are also doing a session of Total Immersion drills each week to work on our technique, which is really helping. I'm aiming for about 10 training sessions a week, with about half of those in the pool, and the rest doing other stuff. I sometimes panic that I'm not doing enough distance, but hopefully, all this cross-training, and high intensity pool work, will prevent injury, and in the long run, speed me up a bit (or at least give me the capacityy to turn on some speed if I have to when I'm in the Channel). And then I read other blogs and panic that I'm not doing enough training, full stop. It's just so scary to think that I could be blowing this whole thing by not getting it right now. 'Tis the season for self-doubt, apparently, but I'm trying to hold my nerve.

And so, by way of reassurance, and just so that I don't forget the joys of the long, steady swim, I've decided to set myself a little Christmas challenge and am going to do two 6 hour pool swims - one on Christmas Eve and one on New Year's Eve - with the goal of increasing the distance covered for the second swim by 5%. I'll let you know how it goes.